TOWOIT #223: Love and Trouble

August 31, 2017… Day 224

I got carried away and wrote three blog posts for one day.

4:45 am: Morning Edition makes me cry in the shower again

The radio takes on a different quality, early in the morning, when you’re alone and brewing coffee and it’s dark outside.

On NPR this morning, they ran a story about a reporter in Houston driving a woman named Angie back to the home she was evacuated from when the flood waters got near it. They ran into some water in the road that the reporter’s car couldn’t handle, but a Latino man in a big jacked-up truck came along and drove them the rest of the way. The Latino man talked about how in Houston during the flood, it has been everyone helping everyone—it hasn’t been about white, black and brown.

For a reason that I missed, the reporter and the other man went in to look around inside the house while Angie waited outside for them. They came back out and told her everything was dry. She’d been especially worried about her clothes, but they were fine. The water had come up to her doorstep but no further. The men had snapped pictures of the rooms to show her they were dry. As they drove away, the woman looked through the photos. She had a low, raspy voice and you heard her say—sort of to herself—“I know my house is junky, but…” and then she just trailed off.

When that recorded story ended, the reporter and the host talked briefly about how Angie was one of the lucky ones.

Although I was emotionally affected by the story, I thought “This is fine. It was a happy ending. I didn’t just see a video of a wet dog afraid to be rescued, or a senior citizen stranded in waist-deep water, or a baby floating in a storage tub. I’m fine.”

Then those tricky bastards at NPR played the first several bars of “The Water is Wide.”

The version they played was instrumental but unfortunately I knew the words. So then I was crying into my coffee, followed by crying in the shower. All the way to the bus stop, I was still humming the tune, thinking about Houston folks and sniffling.

If you don’t know that song, the verse I know goes like this:

The water is wide… I cannot cross over

Neither have I wings to fly

Give me a boat that can carry two

And both shall row, my love and I

 

6:25 am: Love and Trouble 

On the bus to work I read Claire Dederer’s Love and Trouble. I was on the chapter that’s a letter to Roman Polanski, telling him what it’s like to be a 13-year-old girl. At one point she asks Polanski if he only sees holes everywhere. We have to point out, because people don’t get it automatically, that a girl is not an object. It’s devastating.

Dederer takes into account the idea that Roman Polanski was a tortured genius, that the 1970s were a weird time. She’s as generous as she can be, but you couldn’t read her paragraphs out loud without tasting piss in your mouth. All the feelings she packs into that chapter—they are what saturate everything now. Rape culture and misogyny are lain bare, retroactive, stinking everything up. It’s in the Oval Office. Every day Gallup tells you what percentage of your compatriots are cool with it, although it’s really more. 53% of white women voted for it. It’s stinking up the Democratic party too.

The founders of the start-up Witchsy invented a male co-founder (hilariously named Keith Mann) to correspond with people who were brushing them off. My social media feeds are full of women I know talking about how real it is — the disrespect, the brush-off, the battle to be recognized as a viable professional. It discouraged me more than usual. I’m turning 40 next year, and I want to take risks and move toward freelancing and my own creative projects. I want to Be Excellent. How clever will I have to be, and how bright will I have to burn, to compensate for my gathering invisibility, for my high voice, for my eyes welling up sometimes when I’m frustrated, for having a woman’s name and being a woman? Because I honestly don’t know if I’m up to that level of witchcraft. (It is worse for women who aren’t white like I am.)

When I was an ecology student 20 years ago, our professor’s wife—also an ecologist—told a group of us women students that the field was changing, turning female. We beamed—sounds great! She scowled. “Oh no, don’t get excited,” she said. “All that means is that ecology will be devalued, trashed, dismissed… and the pay will go down.”

At work, I’m on the outer administrative edges of a prolonged bureaucratic snafu involving a woman my boss is trying to bring onto our team from another team. I don’t know the details myself, but there’s been some thorniness that’s above my paygrade.

Today I wrote up a statement announcing that she would be joining us, and then I took it to her. I asked her if she thought it represented her well, if she was happy with the tone and the details provided. My boss was a little surprised that I’d done that since he’d signed off on it already. I said, without thinking, “I want her to feel a sense of control over her situation, and I want her to know we respect her.”

This has something to do with us being women. And something to do with Trump.

Everything is related and it’s exhausting.  

 

12:00 pm: One of the lucky ones 

At the White House Press Briefing today, the reporters returned again and again to just two themes: Are undocumented immigrants in Houston really going to be ok? Can their safety from ICE at shelters really be ensured? And what about the 800,000 young people in this country who are protected by DACA to study, live, and work in this country despite their immigration status? What is happening with DACA?

Fox News reported earlier in the day that Trump had already decided to kill DACA—something he’s been teasing and flirting with all week. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s stonewalling took on a new cruelty as she refused to confirm or deny or give any real answers. The repetition of the reporters’ questions was like bells tolling, in my mind. These were the humane questions. These were the urgent questions. These were the questions of conscience. This wasn’t grandstanding for TV. Don’t jerk people around about this. There’s no such thing as other people’s kids.

Tom Bossert from Homeland Security was at the briefing too. Tom often seems like a decent person in these situations, but he works for Trump so he’s made his bed. He took two Skype questions from Houston. These Skype questions—new with the Trump administration—have been a handy way to run down the clock on the reporters in the room. The Skype calls often feature cheesy, over-eager personalities from right-leaning outlets who praise Trump and then ask a pompous-sounding question that comes across as either extremely ideological or extremely pork barrel-ish.

Today it was two white guys from Houston, at separate outlets. They were both unshaven, haggard. The first guy was from Fox and he kind of leaned in and barked a question at the camera about the reservoir infrastructure and the army corps of engineers. His craggy head took up most of the screen when he leaned in, and he didn’t care. The second journalist seemed a bit shell-shocked that he had put himself on national television in bad greasy hat hair and a short-sleeved Under Armour shirt. His question was also about the immediate safety and survival for the people of Houston. Both those guys looked like they were sleeping at the station.

After the older guy’s question, Tom Bossert signed off with him by saying, “—and I hope your house hasn’t been affected.” It sounded so inadequate. That was the end of that call, the guy was effectively hung up on right at that point, so who knows about his house. But the guy’s life is probably scrambled. And he’s one of the lucky ones.

TOWOIT #221

August 29, 2017… Day 222

I love Twitter. I follow so many interesting people, especially reporters. But it’s all getting to be too much. The constant scanning and refreshing. The threads, the dipping in and out of bombshell reports, think pieces, and explainers. I have to put myself a little farther behind the flow of Twitter, start absorbing more things by listening to the radio and podcasts while I’m cooking or cleaning or walking or updating spreadsheets. Start consuming news in digest form. Miss some headlines. Miss some hot takes. Be a few hours or even a few days late on new developments.

After the election, I was like “throw all long-term personal goals out the window, hunker down, shelter in place, and shovel all discretionary funds and some of the savings toward non-profits full of professionals who can try to do something somehow to alleviate the sufferings and indignities of marginalized people in this administration. Bear witness, pay attention, watch, wait, look for opportunities to do something. But most of all, DO NOT LOOK AWAY.”

A few months of our national shit show seems to have hastened whatever mid-life crisis was already coming down the pike. Suddenly I’m taking classes, making big decisions, taking risks, starting projects, trying to change myself into a better version of myself, trying to expand.

It’s partly just the impostors everywhere. If Donald Trump can be President, I can accomplish A FEW of my fairly modest and sadly neglected life goals. I MEAN COME ON.

Also, there’s the sensation of impending doom. Authoritarianism. Climate change. Blah blah blah.

Also, there’s the hope that a bigger version of myself will have better ideas, more energy —  in some as-yet unknown way. This is probably bullshit in the same way that couples think maybe that extra baby they’re having will be the brilliant scientist that makes a crucial breakthrough, so it’s ok to people the earth further. Probably won’t even be a scientist. Your special scientist dream baby will probably just be average and befuddled like the rest of us, maybe even afraid of math! But you never know.

Also, there’s the feeling that other people who were already living their artistic dreams when Trump showed up have societal approval to make their art as if they are living the resistance through their craft or whatever BS you want to say about it — but for some reason I have to be a stooge in my cubicle tithing until it hurts? I’m going to make stuff too. I have things to say too, damnit.

So anyway, I’m too hooked on Twitter. I love it but I hate it. The time just slips away and disappears. I’m going to try to listen to national news and podcasts and just keep my eyes open for what I can see in my own city. Like what’s happening HERE. Not just have my head buried in the phone for every second of every bus ride, watching left-wingers battle each other to death via tweet.

(P.S. follow me @lilwould, obviously)

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TOWOIT #220

August 28, 2017… Day 221

I’ve mostly just been watching Harvey and Houston stuff. I picked away at my day job and then my personal writing project afterward, and I listened to some grisly podcasts that focused on Arpaio’s deeds. But mostly I just watched what was happening in Texas.

A woman is rescuing bats that are stuck under bridges and starting to drown as the water reaches them. Other people are rescuing dogs. Most people are rescuing humans. I’m really worried about all the people in their houses.

Over the weekend, I exchanged a few words with a man in Houston I don’t know at all–I found his tweet by scrolling through the Twitter hashtag, #HoustonFlood. He’s stuck in an apartment building in downtown Houston. He tweeted a video of cars beneath his window, stuck in the rising water, lights still on, people still inside. “People are dumb,” he says matter of factly, and then pans over to a big dog beside him, who is also watching out the window. He seems to have been addressing the dog, not his human Twitter audience.

I replied to the tweet to ask if he and the dog were still doing all right. He responded yesterday with information. And then tonight, out of the blue, he gave me another update. Still doing all right, and they were the lucky ones.

Here’s a thing that a U.S. president said:

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I’m tired of living inside a quirky comic book about a troublingly daft future.

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