Monday, June 25, 2018

These Days

Driving to our new favorite Mexican restaurant Friday evening,  the conversation turned to 23&Me's donation of genetic testing kits as a means of reuniting separated children and their parents.  Of course, issuing matching hospital bracelets would have accomplished the same thing, but that would have implied planning and forethought as opposed to a hissy fit to placate the base.

Too brown to be in town, TBG muttered, shaking his head, scowling, squinting his eyes in that way that signals Danger, Will Robinson.  The cruelty to children is driving him to distraction.  He's angrier than I can remember seeing him, and I've been seeing him for a long, long time.

We try to leave politics far from the dinner table, but we couldn't contain ourselves.  We were casting aspersion left and right, denying the humanity of those who were party to the awfulness.

Those children are already damaged - we kept coming back to that.  No matter what we do, they are different than when they arrived.  Eve  Sarah Sanders wouldn't take the podium to defend it; she had Homeland Security take her place.  Then she went out to dinner.

The restaurant freaked, called the owner, didn't know what to do. How could they profit from Sarah Sanders?  The owner arrived, polled the staff, and the Sanders's were asked to leave.

They were polite.  I wish she had made a stink about it.

Nasty is nasty, no matter if you are supporting the President or the Resistance. If you are open for business you are open for business, even if you are a couple of black guys who need to pee while waiting for a friend in Starbucks

Do unto others comes to mind, too,

But I always end up in the same place - what if she asked you to bake a cake for her wedding?

You disagree with her politics, think she is immoral, don't want her in your space.  You refuse her service based on her beliefs.  The Supreme Court agrees with you; you have nothing to fear.

But living in our separate silos has contributed to the sorry state of affairs in America today.  We are so angry with one another that we cannot be in the same room with one another.  That's no way to reach a compromise, no way to govern, no way to live.

I would rather have had the staff be salgubrious* with her, meeting her every need with a smile and good cheer  When the excellent meal and fine service is rewarded with a generous tip, one of the servers could explain that they can't keep her money, but that they will be donating all of it to RAICES, where it can do the most good.
*****


*salgubrious - overly friendly, often ridiculous or feigned (newly minted by TBG in 2010)

RAICES promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families and refugees in Central and South Texas.  They are putting up bail money for asylum seekers.

Friday, June 22, 2018

I Tried Not To Do This

thefootballexaminer.com
I spent all afternoon and all evening and a good part of the night thinking about this image.

Ben's Bells is one of my favorite places in Tucson.  It's all about kindness.  Most of the cars driven by Tucsonans have one of these stickers on a rear window:
:
Kindness.  The notion has been rattling around this country as our President rips children from their parents and blames everyone but himself.  It's just not kind.  You know, that whole Do Unto Others business that the Bible, Mike Pence's bedtime reading material, talks about.  The What You Do To The Least of Us You Do To ME.

That ME..... am I incorrect to assume that refers to the Son of God?  Even Herod's minions didn't pull  him out of the manger and relocate him while his parents checked in with the government.

I know. I know.  They weren't checking in.  They were trying to move in.  They ran from chaos and instability to El Norte, where there are rules.  Yes, rules that they were trying to follow, except that the rules changed while they were en route and they must have missed the memo.

Yeah, the memo.  The one the Border Patrol got telling them to direct migrants to sections fo the border where they would be arrested and prosecuted as felons, rather than given a misdemeanor ticket and a request for appearance in the future.

And then?  Then those grownups would leave their little ones with relatives while they cleaned houses and bussed tables and dug trenches for irrigation lines in 117 degree heat.  How many chef's have chimed in, how many landscapers are reminding us that native born Americans don't want those jobs?  There are no government benefit checks coming their way; they live in the shadows, driving carefully, obeying the rules (ah, those rules), waiting for their day in court.

These aren't people who are crossing illegally.  They are people asking for asylum.  They are looking for shelter and safety.  Many, like the tearful 6 year old we heard on the smuggled tape, want to reunite with family, just like my grandparents some 100 years ago.

Can we take everyone?  Why not?  There are swaths of empty land in our country, miles of distressed housing in Detroit that could be turned into an urban oasis if refugees were trained and put to work creating their own homes.  I bet Habitat for Humanity has a few ideas on how to engage them.  There are signs outside every care home in Tucson, every construction project, looking for workers.  Anybody who's walked hundreds or thousands of miles seeking refuge from kidnapping and rape and murder, who's carried a child looking for a better life over all those miles, certainly that person has proven to have perseverance and fortitude and desire.  Aren't those the basic qualities sought in an entry level position?  

Sure, we'll have to educate those children, but if their parents are allowed to pay taxes on the work they do then it ought to be a wash.  But they can't pay taxes if they sneak across, and those separated families were not trying to sneak.  They were trying to be saved.

Yes, unrest in their countries of origin is the bigger problem. Perhaps Mexico should secure its own borders so migrants cannot pass through, as DJT bloviated yesterday.  But I like thinking of the United States as a sanctuary, as a loving, welcoming, accepting, thoughtful, kind place.

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one........

In any event, no matter if you agree with me or not about all of this, can you think of a better way to radicalize a 13 or 14 or 15 year old than caging him?  There is only one thing that might push that kid over the edge faster, and that's seeing FLOTUS announcing to the public how she really feels.

Seeing her sitting in front of a Kindness Matters sign made it all just a little bit worse for me.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Coming to America

My Bubba wasn't the person chosen to come to America.  Her older sister, Dora, was the one who was supposed to make the trip, to meet family in New York, to become an American.  But Dora was too scared to leave home, so Ida went in her stead.

Everyone who knows the details is long dead.  Piecing things together from randomly remembered bits of family history, it seems that my maternal grandmother, an accomplished seamstress, looked quite elegant when the steamship arrived at Ellis Island.  They lifted her eyelids with a button hook, checking for she knew not what.  They asked her name, and wrote a semblance of what she said in a big book, then sent her across the harbor on a ferry to meet her distant cousin, the one who sponsored Dora-now-Ida.

That was chain migration at the turn of the 20th century.  There wasn't a lot of vetting for terror suspects, unless you were an Asian immigrant held on Angel Island off the coast of San Francisco.  There had to be an anchor person on shore, someone who would guarantee to the authorities that the new arrival would have a place to sleep and a job to hold.  Without those two pieces in place, you couldn't come over.

Families sent the oldest, the strongest, the most resilient members to brave the new frontier.  Once established, they'd send for more cousins.  My paternal great-grandparents had 9 children; the oldest accompanied their parents,they brought the rest over, slowly but surely.  He sent my grandmother and her younger sister to London, but they refused to stay with those cousins.  Frustrated with their behavior, the unknown English cousins put the two little girls on a boat in the care of a stranger; they floated to America, 8 and 10 years old, alone.

There were quotas and there must have been paperwork, but that side of things is lost to history.  Titanic showed how Leo took the ticket he won and jumped on the ship without any vetting at all.  Somehow, our nation survived.

Then came World War II, and Roosevelt sending the St. Louis and her refugees back to Europe and certain death.  If my relatives could have swum across the ocean, they'd have fled the Nazis and begged for asylum.  There was no walking to safety for them.  They died because of American immigration policy.

But it is possible to walk from Central America to our southern border, and fear has a way of making the impossible possible. Can you imagine the strength it takes to bring a toddler across thousands of miles?  Can you imagine the hope and the longing for safety that impels young parents to undertake that journey with nothing but an image of a shining city on a hill at the end? 

What I can't imagine is the Border Patrol agents sending people away from the designated safe crossings.  What I can't imagine is officials referring people to stations they know will break up families.  What I can't imagine is how those people sleep at night. 

A worker in a detention facility was told not to hug the crying children.  Parents are being deported while their children are held here; I can't imagine how they will ever reconnect.  Where are the girls and the babies?  DJT says that Ivanka told him that this was not a great policy; I can't imagine believing him.

Friends went to represent me at Senator Flake's D. C. office.  They were treated with disdain.  I can't imagine a rude Congressional staffer; didn't he realize that he was talking to his employer? 

Coming to America means something different these days, whether it's on the border or in the halls of Congress, it seems.  It makes me very sad.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Perfect Response

I finally found a spin bike that fits my frame, doesn't hurt my butt, and lets me feel safe.  I rode one morning, Fox News on the personal tv to get my blood going.  There are no toe clips on this bike; I have to concentrate on the upstroke in order to keep the ball of my foot on the pedal. On the downstroke, I have to remind my right knee that it has no business traveling off the mid-line.

Up and down, around and around, I was focused on feeling the bone moving in the socket.  The synovial fluid loosens up and starts to flow, blood nourishes the muscle, and real work begins to happen.  I was happily considering the delicious warmth in my hip when a friend stopped by.

Normally, I wouldn't take out my earphones.  I'd smile and wave and go back to my routine.  Serious gym rats understand and appreciate that; it's not rudeness, it's dedication to the workout.  But for her, I made an exception.

She's a world class athlete, an age group champion (more than once), and the leanest woman I know.  Her muscles are right there, proud and strong, and she's always been more than generous in sharing how she got them.  We met before I was shot, over the squat bar.  We've shared family stories and hairstylist recommendations.  It's never going to be more than a gym rat relationship, and that's perfectly okay with both of us.  What it is is quite enough.  She's a Before And After person; that makes her special, too.

So, when she stopped, I did too.  We hugged, sweatily, and updated our workout status.  She wondered about the bike, I told her I finally felt safe and comfortable on one and her response was perfect:  That's Great!

She didn't offer suggestions.  She didn't ask why I chose that configuration versus one that would more nearly approximate true bicycling, using the muscle to its utmost, making the most of my time (I had TBG for that when I got home).  She was thrilled that I was accomplishing something new, that I was moving, that I didn't hurt.

Then I put in my earphone, she hoisted her gym bag, and we waved goodbye.  She told me I inspired her.  I told her she gave me confidence.  Two perfect responses, two happy women, one lovely Father's Day morning.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Dear C J

I've known Rep. McSally's District Director since he was Gabby's Communications Director, back in 2011, when we were shot.  I smiled when I heard that he'd "gone over to the dark side," the phrase I used when I called to ask for a meeting.  Since McSally's election, we've met half a dozen times, alone and in the company of others sharing my political bent.  

He's always been open and honest and forthright.  He calls me on my over-reactions and I don't allow him to avoid the hard questions.  We agree to disagree.  

He knows that I don't feel represented.  He knows that I don't admire his boss.  He's a staffer, enjoying the workings of government without attaching a personal bias to his day job.  I'm fine with that.  He spouts the party line, the Congresswoman's inability to take a coherent stand on the issues tormenting and torturing his answers at times, but he's always tried to hear what I'm saying.  He promises that he conveys the messages upstream.

We've shared our love for America, a country that welcomed our recent relations as immigrants.  We've managed to laugh around our differences.  I hope that's still true after he reads these words, which I sent to him in an email Monday morning:

Dear CJ,

We've talked about the Brits and your people - the ones who were bullied and tormented and pushed aside, abused and sent running.

We've talked about civil discourse and respect and seeing the other side.

We've wrangled with the distinction between speaking truth to power and getting something done.

I'd love to have something to discuss about the Congresswoman's stance on separating families at the border, but, alas, there is NOTHING.

NOTHING.

This is the office that represents me.  This is the office that speaks for me in Washington.  This is my voice, and it is silent.

How does Ms McSally feel about this policy?  She was just at the border with Sec. Nielsen.  She knows her.  What have they discussed about this issue?  Where does my Congresswoman come down on this policy?

I'm not making any assumptions about her reaction.  That would be unfair.  Just because her home page is filled with pictures of her cozying up to the President and the Vice President does not necessarily mean that she agrees with everything they say.  I will give her the chance to prove that she can establish some distance between herself and the inhumanity that is besmirching our international reputation, that has gotten us a slap from the United Nations, that tears at my heart when I wake up and when I go to sleep.

This is NOT my America.  Is is Congresswoman McSally's?

Inquiring voters want to know.  I await your response.


Monday, June 18, 2018

Not My America

Among the benefits of getting shot (and yes, there have been benefits) are the connections I've made with people I would never have encountered otherwise - news people.

It started with Amanda, your friend at the Associated Press.  She started every conversation that way.  It made me smile.  She was writing the first draft of American history, and she wanted to get the facts straight.  Then there was Brian Williams, now semi-disgraced for embellishing a story but then very much in high esteem.  He was genuinely interested in us, in how we came to be the people we are, how the shooting dented that construction.  His questions opened new ways to think about The Event.

And then there was Sarah Garrecht Gassen.  She waylaid me in the hallway outside one of the first court hearings, identifying herself as a stringer for the New York Times.  Since the NYT had just printed an error filled article  (starting with misstating my age)  about me, I said No, thank you. I'm not interested in talking to the Times, and kept going.  I also represent The Star, she went on, and I stopped.  I'll always talk to the local news.

And so it began, an unlikely friendship between a short Jewish grandmother from New York and a blonde, small animal loving, tri-athlete from the midwest.  We found ourselves finishing each other's sentences.  She didn't mind lengthy answers and I didn't mind intrusive questions.  She quoted me directly and placed the quotes in context.  She never made me look like a fool.

That was 7 years ago.  We continue to have breakfast crepes at Marcel's even as we've stopped trying to improve our gait. 5K's were fun, but life gradually overtook our free time.  We discovered Bananagrams and now her journalism students are addicted.  She's gone from reporting to editing to becoming the Editorial Page Editor.  I read her columns and her editorials, laughing with her using my What's not to love? rant about Christmas (c'mon - babies, farm animals, love, stars, visitors with gifts - what's not to love?) and sagely nodding when she touches directly on the truth.

Sunday's editorial landed there, solidly, emphatically, with passion.  I liked the print headline better: 
Out of ideas, US leaders give child cruelty a try.  Using words like feckless, desperate, complicit, and traumatizing, the editorial agrees with me - Is this the United States we want?  We say loudly and firmly: No.  Taking on Jeff Sessions and Congress, the Star places the blame where it belongs (emphasis added):
The broken immigration system and the need for change are adult problems  Adults separate ourselves into countries, with borders.  All children know is they reach for their parents with the same heartbreaking, human cry.
Can't you see why I love her?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Something To Think About

Thomas Mullen wrote a one-off story, the first of his books that I read.  The Last Town on Earth has cut all ties with the outside world, hoping to quarantine itself against the flu epidemic raging through World War I America.  It doesn't really go as planned.

Several small towns actually tried this, with about as much success as Mullen's fictional burg. 

What happens when someone approaches?  What happens if that person needs help, or poses a threat?  Worse, what happens when the town runs out of liquor?  Amid musings on relationships and permanence and family and good and evil, I found something that stopped me in my tracks. 

It gave me something to think about.  I give it to you.
And even if so much was stripped away that you no longer recognized yourself, the thing left was the part of you that you never understood, that you always underestimated, that you were always afraid to look at.  You were afraid you'd need it one day and it wouldn't be there for you, but in fact it was the one thing that couldn't be taken away.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Flag Day

First published in 2015, upgraded in 2018. 

Today, Flag Day, June 14th, is Linda's mother's birthday; why I know that fact remains a mystery.  I've known Linda since first grade.  I know none of the birthdays of my other friends, from then or now, let alone their mother's birthdays.  

Flag Day, though, has always been Linda's Mother's Birthday.  Just ask TBG. He doesn't know Linda, but he, too, celebrates her mother's birthday.
*****
Image result for gabby giffords christening battle ship
timesofsandiego.com
This is the weekend, in 2015, when Gabby Giffords helped to christen the US Navy's newest littoral combat ship (designed to patrol in shallow waters), the USS Gabrielle Giffords.  Two years later, Little Cuter and I helped her celebrate the Commissioning.

At both events, she was gorgeous and happily wind-blown, leaning against her handsome husband.  I know the effort behind each one of the steps she took, from the bow to the stern.

It's not only the doing which inspires me, it's the attitude : There is no yesterday.  There is only tomorrow.  Be bold. Be courageous. Be strong.
*****
Which has gotten me thinking about the The Star Spangled Banner. 

I've never liked it, as music or narrative.  Then, Col. Bill's wife sent me a video from Smithsonian Magazine which told the story of the very real night when the continued proof that our flag was still there meant the difference between the survival or failure of the fledgling United States of America.

I'd still rather sing America the Beautiful or God Bless America.  
*****
Daddooooo was quite annoyed at the American flag patch on my jeans shorts, back in 1970 or '71. He felt that using the flag to cover my tush was the height of disrespect.  

Of course he was right; the Flag Code prohibits such behavior.  Then again, it also prohibits all the machinations the NFL puts it through in the name of patriotism.  I wonder what he'd say about that.  

Back in 2015, though, I wondered how he'd react to soccer fans, with their flag capes
Image result for usa soccer fans
and their flag faces
Image result for usa soccer fans
futboler.tv

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Kindle vs Hard Back - The Argument Continues

I read a new-to-me series on an e-book loan from the library.  Thomas Mullen's David Loogan struggled with identity and loss and truth and justice, while I spent three days complaining about reading on a screen.

I never knew how much further I had to read before I found out who dunnit.  There was no shifting of weight in my hands as I made progress.  I had to make a conscious effort, stop concentrating. click twice, then readjust my eyes and  oh, wait, where was I?

Worse than that, opening the download brought me directly to Chapter 1.  The device didn't need to ease me into the book, to let me feel the pages (Dick Francis's bright white, Joan Didion's vellum like ecru), have me get used to the font.  Furthermore, it decided that I didn't need to see the cover, didn't have to read the copyright material and the dedication and the chapter headings.  It decided I wanted to start reading.

If There Are Words, I Will Read Them could be embroidered on my pillowcase.  I read cereal boxes.  I read the Chipotle bag.  I read the warrants in the School Board Meeting Packets every month, even before I was elected.  I read No Parking signs down to the code numbers in small print on the bottom.  I also read the ISBN information and the publishers' and editors' imprints and the other verbiage in the front of the book.  Apparently, I'm an outlier.  The Kindle app doesn't recognize my pattern at all.

And then there's the end of the book.  I watch the credits - did you walk out before the end of Robert Altman's Nashville?  You missed half the movie.  Did you watch them in Black Panther?  The real ending occurs in the middle of the rolling credits.  There are nuggets of information - stars' children in cameo roles, the real names of the animals used - that make me smile, that would be lost if I walked out before the words were finished telling me stuff.

Apparently, Kindle disagrees.  Before you can get to Acknowledgements, the app switches to the Rate This Read page.  It's a pop-up. Instead of sitting quietly with the closed words cuddled in my lap, I'm jarred out of my reverie with a demand to tell others how I feel.

It's not a book club, for crying out loud. It's me, alone, enjoying the moment.  It's reading for pleasure, for my own sake, without being connected to anything except the words.  Again, Kindle does not agree.

I love the convenience of downloading the books immediately.  I love being able to read on my phone while waiting for a prescription to be filled.  I love looking up unfamiliar words with no more than the touch of a fingertip.  I love making the type ever larger as my eyes tire at night.

Still, I'd rather read a real book.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Best Road Trip, Ever

"Mama, don't you want to come with me?"

I'd offered to cover all the expenses if SIR, then merely her best friend, would drive with her from IU to Marin.  Her new-used-car had to get back to California, and he was a better mechanic than I was.  Plus, he was there, in Bloomington.

"But, Mama, don't YOU want to come with me?" 

And so I flew to Indianapolis, landed near midnight, checked into the airport Marriott and tried to sleep.  Little Cuter packed herself up and met me the next morning at the hotel..... and once we managed to get out of the parking lot (lost before we started!) we were off.  

My job was simple - take a photo of every Welcome to (Insert State Name Here)! sign.  I managed to get Illinois and Iowa and Wyoming, but we stopped for those.  The rest I missed, fumbling uselessly with her Canon.  This was 2005; cell phones were telephones not cameras and computers back then.  Her little SLR was more than I could successfully manage, aiming through an open sunroof, trying to frame it perfectly, and, more often than not, failing spectacularly.  

Illinois to Iowa, where Little Cuter got locked in the bathroom and had to be bludgeoned out by a maintenance worker with the world's biggest hammer.  Passing an open Adult Bookstore in an otherwise shuttered outlet mall on Mother's Day, trying to find something to do (and failing) in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, running into two of her classmates at a random gas station in Cheyenne, Wyoming..... the little things were our Big Events each day.  

I drove in the morning, she drove after lunch.  She held onto the keys.  We all have our strengths.

I called ahead for reservations ("Hello, Chamber of Commerce.  What's the newest hotel along I-80 in your town?)  We stayed in chain motels that still smelled of fresh paint, the first ones in newly finished rooms.  We wandered around the University of Wyoming and an Ace Hardware in Laramie - it was the only thing open on that Monday evening in May.  

And then there was Salt Lake.  Speeding down the mountain, 8-lanes-in-each-direction, everyone racing home after work on a Tuesday, needing to be there immediately, ignoring the speed limit, passing our little Honda with impunity, me behind the wheel begging my map-impaired child to figure out where to get off the highway.  It was terrifying.  My thighs were sweating.  

Our reward was a fancy Marriott downtown.  The problem was getting there.  No Left Turn.  No Right Turn.  No U Turn.  We were not in the mood for Salt Lake City that afternoon.  Finally arriving, valet parking the car, checking in, Little Cuter headed for the shower.  Her hair in a fluffy towel, her body wrapped in a luscious bathrobe, she plunked herself on the bed with the tv remote in one hand and the phone in the other.  While I worked out in the fabulous gym, my daughter struck up a close personal relationship with the Room Service Order Taker.

The next day started out bright and sunny, until it began to snow.  Visibility was next to zero.  We were dressed for May - flipflops and shorts.  Crossing a mountain pass in a blizzard was no fun at all; we hunkered down in a gas-station-cum-diner until the worst had passed.  Then it was off through Nevada's miles and miles of nothingness to our final stop - the Resort at Squaw Creek, in Tahoe.

We were just a few hours from home, but we deserved pampering.  A candlelit dinner with white tablecloths and pressed napkins, massages, clean mountain air and tall, deep green trees - we were back in California at last.  We zoomed, stopped for lunch at an outdoor cafe and met the motorcyclists we'd been following down the mountain, with their tiny chihuahua in an even tinier cut-off t-shirt.  

Then we were home.  2,358 miles.  7 states.  4 nights.  5 days.  0 arguments.

That's right. 0 arguments.  No grumbling, no snark, no pouting.  Just two people in a car, moseying across America.  

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