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New Orleans Diary: Week Eleven

13 Feb

Goal: To write a weekly blog post about the nonsense that I notice as I go about my life here in the Crescent City. I have decided to move my weekly posting to Monday since I work all weekend. So in case you were wondering, I post on Mondays now.

A New Word: This past Tuesday there were tornadic activities! And through these activities I discovered that tornadic is, in fact, a word (although one that is not identified as such by my WordPress spell checker since every time I type it out I get one of those bright red squiggly “you spelled this wrong” lines underneath it). Who knows, maybe with the environment being all fucked up there will be more tornadic actitivities and it will become the American Dialect Society Word of the Year (WotY) for the United States. Let us take a trip down memory lane and explore some past WotY’s, shall we? (Oh my god I am looking down the list and it is hard to just choose a few because they are ALL SO STUPID and also oftentimes not just words but phrases. I will try though. And I will include some phrases.)

1991: “mother of all” (as in Saddam Hussein’s “mother of all battles”)
1992: “not!” (meaning just kidding) <—- this is not a joke
2006: “plutoed” (demoted or devalued, as in what happened to the former planet Pluto) Although I think Pluto might be a planet again? Or maybe it was a planet again and then it got redemoted to dwarf planet. It’s really hard to keep track.
2013: because introducing a noun, adjective, or other part of speech (e.g., “because reasons,” “because awesome”) <—- This is really dumb.
2016: dumpster fire (an exceedingly disastrous or chaotic situation)

Apparently in 2012 the WotY was almost YOLO which would have made me spit my coffee angrily all over the kitchen because never has a stupider thing existed. YOLO. So dumb. Drake and I are in a serious fight about that one.

Since I am down this particular rabbit hole, did you folks know that in 2009 PETA attempted to rebrand fish as sea kittens? I didn’t. Clearly that effort failed. But! I can add it to my list of reasons as to why PETA sucks. Also, the American Dialect Society decided that the 2015 “most outrageous” word was “fuckboy” or, alternatively, “fuckboi.” I would like to respectfully disagree with this categorization, especially as seeing it is in the company of other words/phrases such as 2010’s “gate-rape” which is a pejorative term referring to the invasive airport pat-down procedure and 2014’s “second amendment” as a verb. I’m sorry but anyone who uses the word “rape” pejoratively needs to have a conversation with me and also I wish people would stop verbing things all the time (see what I did there?). Alternatively, I find the term fuckboy(i) to be incredibly useful and I would ordinarily trade it with the actual WotY for 2015 except that the word for that year is, amazingly, a good one:

2015: Singular they (as a gender-neutral pronoun, especially for non-binary gender identities)

Good on ya, American Dialect Society.

Just one more thing though before I move on. I decided to double-check my spelling of tornadic just to make sure that the red squiggly lines were in fact due to WordPress not recognizing the word and not me being unable to spell it. While I was doing my research I discovered the Urban Dictionary definition of tornadic. It is as follows:

when your titties start bouncing so hard in a tornado circular motion you are jet propelled off of the ground, often landing in unfamiliar areas.

You’re welcome.

Speaking of the Weather: There were actually tornadoes here (thanks to all those who checked in!). It was weird. Here’s the thing: in the northeast we don’t really have weather events, by and large, which is one of the big appeals of living there if you ask me. There is an occasional super storm or frankenstorm or snow-pocalypse or arctic freeze (is that what they called it or is that some sort of delicious frozen beverage from DQ?) but for the most part we never get the real deals. Not many hurricanes, very infrequent tornados, the blizzards can be intense but not like how they are in the midwest, no creeping lakes of ice that appear at your back door. So getting alerts on my phone that said

Tornado warning in effect. Do not go outside. Take cover.

was alarming to say the least. And you better believe I took cover. I do not fuck around with weather events, especially ones I know fuck all about. Luckily for me and my friends we were all safe in the end but it was really scary. A lot of people in the area lost their homes and businesses, had properties that experienced severe damage or sustained injuries. It’s really fucking awful and my heart goes out to all of the people impacted. Orleans and Livingston Parish were both seriously effected by the storm which was categorized as an EF-3 tornado. For those of us not all that familiar with tornadoes (such as myself), let me fill you in on some information that I gathered.

  1. The EF scale is short for the Enhanced Fujita Scale and it is used to rate the intensity of a tornado based off the damage they cause. As an EF-3, this was the strongest tornado recorded since record keeping began in 1950.
  2. The winds from an EF3 tornado reach between 136 and 165 miles per hour. Wow, that’s fast. The strongest tornado, rated as an EF-5, have 3 second wind gusts reaching over 200 miles per hour. Jesus fucking Christ. Stay away from us please EF-5 tornadoes!
  3. Even though tornadoes happen in different countries around the world, they are most devastating here in the United States and specifically in Tornado Alley which includes Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi and, you guessed, good old Louisiana. This area is impacted due to the effects on the atmosphere of the Rocky Mountains to the west and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. Basically, and I don’t actually understand this fully so I am going to quote from this tornado guy from the University of Oklahoma, “a strong westerly jet stream across the Alley creates instability and a trough of low pressure that draws in warm, moist air from the Gulf. Conditions for the supercells [large, powerful thunderstorms] that spawn tornadoes require strong vertical wind shear [changes in wind speed and direction with height] and lots of instability — as happens in Tornado Alley.

I did some more research and it all basically led me to the following conclusion: tornadoes are scary as fuck. And they usually don’t come until the spring! But we got one this past Tuesday, February 7th which is decidedly not the spring time and supports the fact that global warming is actually a thing and the weather is going all bonkers now. Did you hear that SCROTUS? Scott Pruitt? Are you assholes listening? Watching the weather channel? Visiting Tornado Alley? Anything at all?!

White Dudes Gonna White Dude: (I cannot take credit for that statement. It came from my friend Beth but I pretty much use it all the time now.) As it turns out, stupid, young white dudes are the same everywhere. When I was in Brooklyn I worked with this kid who drove me bananas because (a) he sucked at his job but still thought he should make all the money and be promoted; (b) he was insanely lazy and spent more time on the phone, smoking and bullshitting with people than actually doing what needed to be done; and (c) he would not take instruction from women, under any circumstances, ever. One time I yelled at him for disappearing for over and hour and he asked me if I was on my period. Because, you know, that’s relevant, his business and not sexist at all. I was so pleased when I stopped working there and never had to deal with his stupid face ever again. Until now. Because I have a new coworker who is basically exactly the same. Lazy, know-it-all, loves to benefit from a tip pool because he can make half the money and do less than half the work, and he will not take instruction from women, under any circumstances, ever. So, in conclusion, this particular brand of white dudes are the same in Brooklyn and New Orleans. Raise your hand if you’re surprised. What, no hands? Shocking.

Actually Not Done with the Tornado: While I was watching the weather channel, one of the things that the meteorologists kept talking about was how the weather was going to effect those living in FEMA trailers. Where they have been living since Hurricane Katrina. Which happened in the year 2005. This summer will be 12 years since the storm and some people are still living in FEMA trailers. This is something I already was aware of but the thing that is shocking to me here is that it was just mentioned so nonchalantly on The Weather Channel. That particular population is obviously a serious concern when it comes to such powerful storms because there is nothing really keeping those trailers on the ground except their sheer weight. And as I learned through my research, when a serious storm touches down nothing above ground is safe.

Nothing above ground is safe.

I don’t really have the space in this post to go through how incredibly fucked up it is that in this country we have people living for over a decade in disaster-relief housing. You would think that there would be room in the national budge to help these Americans, these people, who have been treated as subhuman for the past going on 12 years, after they were entirely overlooked in the time leading up to, during and directly after Katrina hit. It’s really sickening. But yeah, sure, keep the Muslims out. Build a goddamn wall. Make abortion illegal. Make America White Again.

Oh, and also, FEMA is pledging aid following the most recent tornadoes. That is until SCROTUS further defunds it. Kaaaaaay.

Conclusion: This was an intense one. I learned a lot about words of the year and tornadoes and I got mad about white dudes and the fact that our country doesn’t give a fuck that people have been living in FEMA trailers for over a decade. Maybe next week I will return to plastic bags and nutria rats. Either way let me say this: there are a lot of ways in which this world impresses and amazes me, and a lot of ways in which this world, the one we all inhabit day in and day out, makes me absolutely sick. That the earth is capable of creating such intense weather events seemingly out of nothing is scary but incredible. And that we are able to forget the suffering of others and decide, through either our action or inaction, which people are valuable and which are not, is really disheartening. But here we are, folks. Living in this world for better or for worse.

How I’m Dealing

26 Jan

This has been a really rough few days, friends. Hellish, I would venture to say. And I am going to be completely and totally honest with you, as I normally am, and tell you how I have been handling it. Not well. Not well at all. Here’s a recap:

Thursday: Trained at a new job from 9am to 4:30pm. I tried to gage where all my coworkers stood on the issues by asking them some questions that I will not divulge here because I am actually afraid that some agents for the government might arrive at my door and whisk me away under the cover of night. That’s where we live now, folks. After work I headed off to a bar that my friend works at and had a few very necessary drinks in preparation for the end of the free world.

Friday: Trained again at the job. This time for 12 glorious hours. The benefit was that this allowed me to entirely miss all the fracas surrounding the inauguration of Tr*mp or, as my friend Ben suggested we call him, SCROTUS. My friends Emily and James came into town so that was great, but there was still just a very heavy gloom that hung over everything. When I got home that night I turned on The Internet, read a few things and cried myself to sleep.

Saturday: Women’s March day. I went to the march with Emily, James and Emma. I wore my “unpresidented” shirt (thanks Beth!) and we all carried signs. I would like to acknowledge here that there were some problems with the marches in general (underrepresentation of POC being high on that list and something I will get into in another post because it is way too important to be just a talking point in an overview) but overall it was nice for me to be in the company of friends and surrounded by a bunch of badass women and men who disagreed with the inauguration of SCROTUS and were just as apprehensive of what the future would likely hold. This was especially important for me seeing as how I just moved to a new city and lack the sort of support system I had in New York. Also, the South is different.

Sunday: Had to be at work to train at 8am.  At a restaurant. I know, I know. But the people must have brunch, after all. It was a really hard day. I hadn’t slept enough, but I had certainly read a lot about what all has been going on. I had the time to have conversations with a lot of good friends who feel similarly to me and it was all just crashing down. The reality of it all. Like a giant, horrible wave teeming with dead sea creatures who could no longer survive in the increasing temperature of the oceans. The shift was awful. Not because of my coworkers or the managers, who are all lovely, but because everyone is politically charged these days, and down here a lot of people voted for Tr*mp. It isn’t like in New York where those people are few and far between. They are everywhere here. Especially when you work in a restaurant that is in a highly touristed area and has a lot of domestic tourists from cities and towns that are significantly less progressive than New Orleans. There were some things said. Like the young white women who insisted that women (read: them and the white women they know) already have equal rights and what the fuck were all those idiots marching for. (I summarized.) I had to keep my mouth shut. It felt like my soul was just melting. Luckily Emily and James were still in town so I was able to run to them after work and decompress. I also called my dad and started crying on Canal Street amongst all the normal New Orleans revelers. No big deal.

Monday: I woke up crying and basically didn’t stop all day. I tried to quit my job because I felt like everything was horrible and I wanted to just hide in my house forever. My managers would’t let me quit, though. Apparently I’m okay at my job. Who knew. But in the process of trying to quit I entirely lost my shit in front of not one but TWO managers at work and, if my estimates are correct, about a third of my coworkers and now I feel sort of like a crazy person. Lots of tears, lots of eyeliner running down my face. Great first impression, Rebekah. Luckily my friend Carie is awesome and I called her and we spent the day doing fun things interspersed with me crying. By the end of the day it dawned on me: there was a good chance that, for the next four years, whenever I wasn’t otherwise occupied (or even sometimes even when I was) I would likely be crying. That seemed to me rather unsustainable.

Tuesday: Woke up still feeling like everything was totally fucked. Kept reading The Internet and panicking (but at least I wasn’t crying?). Carie and I ran some errands which helped to take my mind of our impending collective doom. I was supposed to go to running group but didn’t because I am pretty sure I had cried out the entire salt content of my body and was exhausted. I went to bed early.

So, I mean, needless to say if you are wondering how I have been handling all this the answer is, as I said before, not well. I have sat down to write about 5 different blogs in the past few days and nothing comes out how I want it to. I think that is partially because I am so overwhelmed with the onslaught of information and, honestly, an intense feeling of loss. It is like I am in mourning. And, you know what, I am. I am in mourning for the world I thought that I lived in now that I live in one that operates under a completely different set of rules, if we can even call them that. Here’s what I realized (with a lot of help from friends) and how I am going to operate going forward.

I cannot longer assume that I live in the same reality that I always have. Our government operates largely through precedent and the moral foundation of those who work within it. Regardless of whether we agree with the politics and whether we feel the person him or herself is of good moral character, there was a general area in which people operated, and that area was largely predictable and normalized. We might not agree with it, we might find the actions themselves morally bankrupt, but there was still, for lack of a better phrase, a general code of conduct within which people operated.

That is no longer the case. The code is gone.

We have been shown, throughout the campaign itself and now during these first few terrifying days, that Donald J. Tr*mp does not abide by any code outside of whatever one is guiding him in that particular moment. And for those of us, myself included, who believed that there was something codified in law that required a certain level of behavior, there is not. So all those times we scream

But how can he do this? Can he really do this?

The answer, it seems, is that he can. The rules of the game have changed. He can remove information from government websites regarding climate change and LGBTQ issues as if they no longer even exist. He can demand that the National Park Services stop tweeting from their official handles, but he cannot stop them from making a new one that is not associated with the government, and he cannot stop the 1.8 million followers and counting from supporting that action. He can appoint cabinet members with little to no relevant experience and they can somehow get questioned and confirmed regardless of the fact that many of them have not yet passed ethics screenings. He can become President of the United States of America without releasing his tax documents and he can repeatedly say that the only people who care about that information are reporters, which is patently untrue. I am not a reporter and I would like access to those documents. He can shut down the media and send us all into a tizzy with these fucking “alternative facts” which makes us doubt every single bit of information that we read. If this administration is known for one thing, it will be known for the number of synonyms for the word “lie” it uses on a regular basis to justify the man that they, and Russia, and James Comey, and all those fucking white people, empowered.

Our President, is a man who has never heard the word “no.” People have said it to him I’m certain, but he has never heard it. “No” is simply not a word that applies to Donald J. Tr*mp. And when you have a man for whom the word “no” doesn’t apply, you have a man who can not compromise, you have a man with a huge temper, you have a man with the social mentality and awareness of a 5-year-old. That is who we are living under. We are living under a 6’3″, 240-pound toddler who pouts and stamps his feet at the mere smell of any sort of negative feelings cast in his direction. And yet he is quite possibly the biggest bully to ever darken the doors of the Oval Office.

So no, this is not normal. But it is even less normal than we previously thought. There are no rules, there are no precedents, there are, it seems, no laws that can touch Donald Tr*mp. And so then the question becomes:

What do we do now?

We cannot use the normal routes, we cannot take the same actions, we cannot think this will change or our displeasure can be registered in the same ways they have always been because this is not the same reality. This country will never be the same. We will never be the same. It’s as if we have been living in a world with a ground that is made of rubber, only before we thought that it was made of steel. And he is pushing that ground, stretching it, and we are all off balance and we have to walk differently. Because you cannot walk the same way on something that moves and changes and thins out as you can on something strong and flat and secure. So again I ask,

What do we do now?

And honestly, I don’t really know. I wish I fucking knew. But for me just wrapping my head around the fact that everything is different, and that I mean that word everything to be all encompassing, is helpful. Because it means I have to open my mind and stretch it and challenge it to respond to all the changes that are coming at me, at all of us. Because we, friends, have brought knives to an unregulated gun fight. So we have to be smarter and quicker and we have to use our bodies to keep coming at them again and again and again. And honestly, as much as I loved to hear Michelle Obama say “when they go low we go high,” there is no low or high anymore. There are those with morals and those without morals and those are two completely unrelatable realities. There are those who care about the future of the world and those who care only about the immediate future of themselves.

So, what do we do? Seriously, what do we do?

We Spoke in Hushed Voices

20 Dec

Yesterday was the day of the electoral college vote. Yesterday was also the day I decided to go to the National World War II Memorial here in New Orleans. This was premeditated.

***

I have been somewhat quiet these past few weeks on issues outside of my observations of life here in New Orleans. I’ve been mulling over a number of different things, unable to really put into words what was happening around me, around all of us, and how it has been making me feel. I cannot speak for anyone other than myself – did you hear that, Libby Chamberlain? – and so I will use this space, my space, to share with you, if you care to listen, about what’s been happening in this confused brain of mine.

I have felt silenced.

I am not entirely sure why this is. Is it because Tr*mp was elected? Is it because of all of the hate that he unleashed in this country over the past 18 months, give or take? Is it because I left my comfortable, knowable home in Brooklyn and moved South? Is it because I realized, once again, the seemingly unending depths of misogyny that exist in this world? Is it because I am Jewish and, for the first time ever, I feel markedly unsafe in my own skin?

It is, in a lot of ways, that last one. Although the other ones are notable as well. I have lived a privileged life, all things considered, and so I do want to underscore all of this by stating that I do know it could be worse. I am 33 years old. I have been Jewish for every single one of those 33 years. And now is the first time I feel unsafe sitting in my own reality. This has not been true for a lot of people. And so before I continue, I just want to express my knowledge about my own privilege and express my sadness about the world that so many people have occupied their entire lives, and my respect for them for getting up day after day and moving forward, and keeping on, and for writing and speaking and sharing and singing and for simply living. Being afraid sucks. And so with that, here goes.

***

Yesterday I decided to go to the National World War II Museum because I recalled an article I read in The Washington Post following Richard Spencer’s Nazi-inspired speech in DC. In it was a statement put out by the Holocaust Museum following the conference which read, in part,

The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words.

Just to give you an idea of what exactly is meant by that, here’s an excerpt from the Museum’s piece on the Nazi rise to power.

Hitler was a powerful and spellbinding orator who, by tapping into the anger and helplessness felt by a large number of voters, attracted a wide following of Germans desperate for change. Nazi electoral propaganda promised to pull Germany out of the Depression. The Nazis pledged to restore German cultural values, reverse the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles, turn back the perceived threat of a Communist uprising, put the German people back to work, and restore Germany to its “rightful position” as a world power. Hitler and other Nazi propagandists were highly successful in directing the population’s anger and fear against the Jews; against the Marxists (Communists and Social Democrats); and against those the Nazis held responsible for signing both the armistice of November 1918 and the Versailles treaty, and for establishing the parliamentary republic.

Sound familiar? Because it should.

Words and propaganda were what brought the Nazi party into power in the 1930s; they were what created an environment in which an entire infrastructure could be built with the express purpose of shuttling people to work and, ultimately, their deaths; they were what emboldened a population to exterminate 11 million people. The words and propaganda of Hitler and his Nazi Party were what led Raphael Lemkin to coin the term used to describe what had been done to the Jews and other groups during World War II. He called it genocide.

The article from The Museum came out around the same time Jessy and I were in Chattanooga, Tennessee, about 3/4 the way through our drive to New Orleans. We had spent a lot of time sitting in the car, in our Airbnbs and hotel rooms, walking through national parks all the while talking about the election, what it meant, how we felt, what world we were living in. It had all been sort of academic. Analyses of things we had read and heard, fears we had about how empowered some people suddenly felt to disempower others, how groups that had existed only in the deepest recesses of the Internet were suddenly mainstays of the news. But then, our first night in Chattanooga as we sat at the bar eating dinner and having a much needed glass of wine, it all became suddenly more real. I looked up at the screen and on CNN during primetime I saw the Nazi salute. And then I saw it again and again and again as it was played and replayed. And I watched as the hosts talked it down, rationalized it, normalized it, tried to make it less that what it is: an expression of unbridled hatred and antisemitism and an embracing of all that the Nazis stood for and did in the 1930s and 1940s. And it made me wonder. Have we forgotten our own past? Do we owe nothing to the 11+ million people lost?

There is a word that is used often when talking about the Nazi era. It is Gleichshaltung and is translated from the German as “coordination” but more often refers to the act, politically speaking, of getting in line.The political theorist Hanna Arendt, who escaped Germany in 1933 explained it well in one of her last interviews. She said,

The problem, the personal problem, was not what our enemies did, but what our friends did. Friends ‘coordinated’ or got in line.

Shawn Hamilton expannded on this idea in his article published by The Huffington Post.

People rejected the uglier aspects of Nazism but gave ground in ways that ultimately made it successful. They conceded premises to faulty arguments. They rejected the “facts” of propaganda, but not the impressions of it. The new paradigm of authoritarianism was so disorienting that they simply could not see it for what it was, let alone confront it.

This is what scares me. Every time an act of hatred or violence is talked down, is normalized or excused, those acts, and the people that carried them out, are empowered. The problem is that when we make concessions for the small things, we are accepting the larger message. Remember: before there were the camps, there were the words. The words prepared people to accept that which would previously have seemed unimaginable. In his book, Germany: Jekyll and Hyde, Sebastian Haffner said,

Outside of Germany people often wonder at the palpable fraudulence of Nazi propaganda, the stupid incredible exaggerations, the ludicrous reticences concerning what is generally known. Who can be convinced by it? They ask. The answer is that it is not meant to convince but to impress.

It is not meant to convince, but to impress.

From where we sit in our discussions of history and in the comfort of our homes, Nazi propaganda seems utterly insane. How could this have come to pass? How could people have swallowed their morals, their ethics, their humanity and gotten behind such a hateful, murderous regime? A solution to all their problems. We are living it right now. We are seeing it again. Otherwise decent people willing to accept this lie of why we are where we are, and who specifically made it come to pass. And to then hold those people accountable for something which was not their doing. As Hamilton points out, it is not illegal immigration that is to blame for the downfall of the white working class, it is mechanization, globalization, the disempowerment of unions. Blaming immigrants is demagoguery, not reality. And deporting immigrants will not bring those jobs back. Those jobs are gone. But continuing to propagate this argument, continuing to excuse those who stand by it through silence or the ballot box, can only prepare us for words to become action.

***

Yesterday I went to the National World War II Museum because the Holocaust Museum is in Washington, DC and I am here in New Orleans. I went there because I wanted to be in a place where I was free to remember, to grow teary and tired, to educate myself. I know there was more to World War II than The Holocaust. But I needed to be in a place that actively recognized that The Holocaust happened, that was just steeped in an acknowledgment of what humans are capable of doing, of what we can grow accustomed to, of what we normalize. And I wanted to be angry. I wanted to be angry about all the lives lost and angry that, all these years later, all these lessons later, all these deaths later that we could still, as humans, Gleichshaltung. That we could, again, fall in line behind the propaganda. But instead of feeling angry, I felt physically ill when I saw a few swastikas on the side of the airplane of a Tuskegee Airman who had, as the tour guide explained to us, had “a few German kills.” Those swastikas almost made me vomit because all of a sudden they don’t feel like a relic of the past anymore, they are a part of our present.

Tearful I turned to a woman in the group who stood next to me. A woman who had family who had fought in all the wars starting with World War I. A woman who had traveled down from New Jersey with her family to enjoy New Orleans, to visit this museum and to remember. And, in hushed tones, we talked. We talked about Tr*mp and the election; about racism and sexism and antisemitism; we talked about our fears for the future of this country; we talked about all the lies, the propaganda and how people were just eating them up. It was good to have an ear, to have a conversation with someone who was feeling some of the things I was feeling. But still, we spoke quietly. And today I am forced to ask myself why.

New Orleans Diary: Week Two

9 Dec

Goal: To write a blog post every week that I spend here in New Orleans, talking about the things that happen and the things that I hope happen but sometimes don’t. But sometimes do! But also sometimes don’t. I will try to keep my discussion of plastic bags to a minimum. Read my week one post here.

Driving: So I’m still on about the drivers mostly because I grew up in New Jersey and we always got such a bad rap for our driving (and signage) but the driving (and signage) here are way worse. For example, the other night I was driving around with my friend Carie and I drove near two people in like a 5 block span who were not using their headlights. And it wasn’t like it was 6pm and the sun had recently gone down and these people had just not turned their lights on. It was 11 at night. It was full on darkness. And all of a sudden I look in my rearview and see this thing speeding up behind me that looks like a UFO or something but then I realize that, no, it isn’t a UFO at all (imagine my surprise), it is a matte black car without headlights. I nearly had a heart attack and died right there. Thankfully I didn’t. But seriously, driving here is not for the weak. Shit is lawless as fuck.

The Loudest Lady Ever: As previously stated I have been staying with my friend Carie on the West Bank while I look for a spot. The area that we’re staying at is really historic and also quiet. Except for this one lady who is quite possibly the loudest person to walk the face of the earth. The other day I was doing some writing on the balcony and I heard her talking, no yelling, to her poor little dachshund. She goes “OH MY FEET HURT SOMETHING FIERCE” and then she goes “WELL IF EVERYONE WASN’T AWAKE BEFORE THEY’RE AWAKE NOW.” (You were meant to yell those things I wrote in all caps, btw.) So it’s like, she knows she is the loudest person ever. The good thing is that because she is so loud you can hear her approaching from 5 blocks away and quickly retreat to your home which, I suspect, everyone in the neighborhood does because there is magically no one out on the block when she goes for her walk. Maybe this is all part of her plan. Maybe she likes to imagine that the world belongs to her and her alone and by scream-talking all the time she can make this dream a reality, at least in the block-by-block sense. She is the Queen of Ghost Town!

Foster Campbell: There’s a pretty big deal run-off for a Senate seat here in Louisiana between Foster Campbell (D) and John Neely Kennedy (R). It’s sort of the last chance for the Dems to flip a senate seat in advance of our upcoming fall into tyranny, I mean…wait…no, that’s what I meant. Campbell is over here campaigning all by himself, meanwhile Trump is taking some time off from his “National Thank You for Ruining the Future of this Country and Maybe Even the World by Electing Me” tour to give some speeches on behalf of Kennedy. So, yeah, we all know how 2016 goes. Anyway, the reason I am writing about this is that I am from up North. I am from a place where most democrats campaign on a platform of some degree of gun control and are not often photographed or videotaped holding any sort of weapon. It’s like, our thing. Not so down here in Louisiana. Foster Campbell, known, by the way, to be socially conservative, ends his campaign ads by shooting a rifle. Could you imagine a democratic senate nominee in the North shooting off a rifle as like a pivotal part of his or her campaign ad? I sure can’t. So, I don’t know, no judgement or anything. You do you, Foster. That was just a thing that I noticed and thought to myself “you know what self? I think maybe your readers would find that interesting. Or if not interesting, at least notable.” I hope I was right. If not, then kindly disregard the previous paragraph.

Running group: This week we did hill repeats. This is actually kind of funny. If you didn’t already know this, New Orleans is incredibly flat. So, via our Facebook group, I was sent the address for the meet-up point. Carie and I were hanging around in the Quarter so when it got time for me to head over, I left her at a spot where our friend Brian was working and I drove to the starting point for the running group which turned out to be the side of the road of some busy avenue. I sat there in my car for a few minutes, looking around. I called my mom. There was no foot traffic. I didn’t see anyone else from the group. To be honest, I was a little bit nervous. New Orleans is not exactly the safest city in the country. Did I get the address wrong? Did I somehow end up in a neighborhood that I shouldn’t be in? What was a girl to do?! But then, as if sent from above, I saw another person in running clothes! I kept my mom on the phone (for safety!) and walked over to him. It was his first time meeting the group but, having lived in New Orleans for longer than me – which admittedly is not hard – he said that this meet-up spot made sense. You see, there was an overpass that crossed above route 10. And that was to be our “hill.” I chuckled to myself, thinking back on the hill in Prospect Park that I have run up countless times. This one was more like a little hump. Until you sprint up it a dozen times and your legs turn into noodles.

Bags: I know I said I was going to keep the discussion of bags to a minimum and I fully intend to keep my word. I just wanted to say that the other day I went to the store with a giant canvas tote like an elitist fuck and the dude at the store packed it totally full of things. But then I had some left over items that wouldn’t fit and so he put each one of those things in its very own plastic bag home. So I think that my previous theory about a deeply intrenched distrust for bags is actually the correct conclusion. More research pending.

In Conclusion: That is it for week two. I have some visitors coming. Also a few friends and I are going to see the AcroKitties perform on Sunday (HOORAY!) so I bet next week’s entry will be exciting. Hold on to your seats, kids. This is gonna get wild.

New Orleans Diary: Week One

2 Dec

The goal: to write a weekly reaction to my time here in New Orleans. To be honest, reaching arbitrary goals that I set for myself isn’t exactly my strong suit but, who knows, maybe the fact that I can sit outside with a vest rather than a winter coat on the 2nd of December will breath some new life into me. So, here goes.

The Story: I have been in New Orleans, without my road trip companion Jessy, for a week now. It’s been pretty good. Just to catch some people up, I made the decision to move down here just after the presidential election on November 8th back when I visited in May of last year. I just decided that it was time to take a more active role in my own life. Shake things up a little bit. Change my environment. So on November 10th, after crying on and off for two days following the elections, Jessy and I hopped in my car and started on a two-week long trip down South during which we cried on and off about the election. We zig zagged a bit, to put it lightly. And then last Friday, after a really fun Franksgiving Outpost involving the race tracks, an amazing dinner cooked by friends and a few too many drinks at one of my favorite New Orleans bars, I dropped Jessy off at the airport and started my time here for real.

Some feels: As someone who is massively social, sort of to a fault at times, being somewhere that I know a very small handful of people has been…challenging. I have grown pretty accustomed to being surrounded by people that I know and love and while, in ways, getting away from my over-active social life was one of the reasons to move down here, I miss it. I miss walking down the street and seeing people I know. I miss going out with pals to drinks and dinner. I miss popping in to visit my friends at work. I miss sweating it out on a bike next to a buddy exchanging winces of pain when the class gets extra hard. I miss my customers. (Well, most of them.) I miss my kitties. I miss my apartment with its brightly colored walls, shelves full of books, awesome art on the walls and surfaces littered with plants and kitsch. I miss Brooklyn, I really do. (Although I have to say that watching the weather drop day after day up north while I am still able to run in shorts and a t-shirt is pretty killer. Not to brag, or anything.)

Running Group!: But, I am adjusting. I joined a running group that meets on Tuesday nights and is full of really nice people. One of the things that I had a hard time with in Brooklyn, especially after my long-time running buddy and good friend Monica moved her family to the Hudson Valley, was finding a running community. There are a lot of people who run in New York, it’s true. But I have found many of them to be a little too competitive for my taste. New York, at least in the way that I see it, is a Type-A city, with a lot of people taking everything that they do pretty seriously. And I think that’s great! But when it comes to my running, and let’s be honest, pretty much everything that I do, I’m a little more…relaxed about it. And wouldn’t you know it, this group seems to have the exact same mentality. Everyone comes to work hard but there is just, I don’t know, a really positive vibe about it all that I really enjoyed. The workout this week was to run 3-5 by 1 mile repeats at a 10k pace. (Don’t worry if that made absolutely no sense to you, the specifics aren’t important.) Initially it was supposed to be like 65 degrees but instead it was almost 80 and humid as fuck. Everyone was struggling. Some people cut their workouts short because it was hard to breath but everyone stayed around until all the other runners finished, offering high fives, words of encouragement and big congratulations to everyone who managed to get through the entire planned workout. The vibe of the group was like a giant hug, only a figurative one because everyone was too sweaty and stinky and hot to really deal with any human contact.

Bags: This is sort of a weird thing but people here love bags. I mean, LOVE bags. So in New York people tend to be careful to bring their own bags to stores. I think some people do this because they care about the environment. A lot of people, however, do it because in NYC there is a little bit of shame associated with walking out of a grocery store with like 15 plastic bags in tow. People look. They have thoughts; judgy ones. They proudly hoist their own tote bags higher on their shoulders, proud that they were helping to alleviate the pressures of climate change and litter one little white bag at a time. They and their canvas Trader Joe’s bag will save the world! Here in New Orleans people love bags. They give bags out like candy! You practically have to argue with the checkout people to get them to put more than one item in each bag and then, when you succeed, they double bag it. I swear I feel like I end up with more bags in one visit to the store here than I do in like 3 months in New York. It’s very bizarre. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they don’t love bags. Maybe they just don’t trust bags. Maybe there is a higher percentage of faulty bags here in Louisiana than up in Brooklyn. Maybe there was a spate of defective bag handles, handles that snapped without warning and sent the contents spewing willy nilly through the aisles and the parking lots, leaving the residents of the city doubtful of the quality of their disposable totes. I’ll keep you posted.

Driving and Parking: I drive quite a bit down here. Public transportation is, shall we say, slightly lacking and so the best way to get around town is by car. So I go here and I go there. Most of the places I go seem to be about 20 minutes away from most of the other places that I go. And so, like the good New Yorker I am, I leave myself extra time to get places to account for traffic and parking. Only there is barely any traffic and I can almost always find parking right in front of where I need to be. I have spent quite a bit of time wandering back and forth down a street, looking for signs about street cleaning or parking restrictions but there are none. And the days of like 6 fire hydrants per block are long gone, too. Obviously this indicative of some bigger things that I don’t really feel like getting into right now so let me just say this: I have been early to basically every single thing I have had to go to since being here even when I have gotten lost which happens a lot because the signs here are confusing and also sometimes simply not there. So to those people who think that New Jersey signage is confusing, I invite you to shut the fuck up and drive around here for a minute. Also, people in the South drive like maniacs. And don’t believe in blinkers.

I’m actually not done talking about bags: I had intended for this to be a little bit more serious of a post than this but I lost my way a little. Mostly because this whole week has been peppered with me being really taken by the situation with the bags. I don’t know why I find this so interesting but like every time I go somewhere I either mention to my friend Carie — who has been kind enough to allow me to stay with her while I look for a spot — about the number of bags we end up with or I just say something aloud to myself as I walk back to my car like a total weirdo. I’ve done other fun things, too. I’ve run quite a bit along the levee, wandered around the city and gone to see some live music with a new friend but I just can’t get over the bags. Hopefully I will have more interesting things to discuss next week. Stay tuned.

 

An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton

22 Nov

Dear Hillary,

Hi.  Hi. Hi. We don’t know whether to start by saying ‘Thank You’ or ‘We’re sorry.’  Mostly right now though, we’re sorry.

We’re sorry that we live in a world that casts aside the most qualified candidate based solely on her genitalia, genitalia that, by the way, is more evolutionarily sound. We’re sorry that we didn’t do enough. We’re sorry that we didn’t knock on doors, make campaign calls, call enough people out. We’re sorry that we didn’t believe in the real possibility of a Trump presidency. We’re sorry that we  asked you to change who you are so many times to reflect our own absurd value system and when you emerged on the other side we called you disingenuous. We’re sorry that the young girls of today still have to live under the shadow of that glass ceiling. We’re sorry that years of lies about you became truths. We’re sorry that people still don’t understand the things you have done for us over 30 long years of hard, selfless work. We’re sorry that as women we’re not enough to combat someone as hateful as Donald Trump and we’re sorry that if you were a white male this probably would have turned out differently.  We’re sorry that the media portrayed you as impersonal, insensitive, inauthentic, shrill, dishonest, and weak. In reality, we’re sorry about how little the media acknowledged you at all. We’re sorry that a less qualified, less accomplished politician might have been able to secure The White House based solely on the fact that due to his masculinity he was not threatening to the status quo and we’re sorry anyone made it seem like you weren’t groundbreaking. Which, by the way, you are and always have been. We’re sorry that people who supported your opponent in the primaries couldn’t get on board with you on election day.  We’re sorry that your opponent in the primaries himself had a hard time throwing his weight behind you when it mattered the most. We’re sorry about the electoral college. We’re sorry that you got 2 million more votes than your opponent and it still wasn’t enough to secure you the presidency. We’re sorry that we, the American people, didn’t get the president that we wanted, that we deserved. We’re sorry about Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. We’re sorry that some of your votes might have gone to someone who didn’t even know what Aleppo was. We’re sorry about the fuckers who didn’t vote, especially the white men who were guaranteed this right from the jump. We’re sorry that the Voting Rights Act was gutted. We’re sorry that the emails plagued you, even though all you did was follow Colin Powell’s advice. We’re sorry about James Comey and Anthony Weiner and your husband and Julian Assange and Vince Foster. We’re sorry for all the men who intentionally or unintentionally stood in your way, even, somehow, in death. We’re sorry that being qualified isn’t enough, that being prepared isn’t enough, that being experienced isn’t enough. We’re sorry that you had to work so hard to overcome your gender and it still wasn’t enough, that you had to work 100 times harder and by no fault of your own you still couldn’t get it done. We’re sorry that you had to be a level headed adult in a world full of distractible toddlers. We’re sorry you had to stand in front of the cameras and concede an office that should have been yours to a demagogue, a bigot, an asshole.

But Thank You. Thank you for being so fucking classy. Thank you for getting up over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, putting your head down and getting shit done. Thank you for being an amazing senator and a baller secretary of state.  Thank you for showing us that there’s a place for us in all walks of life and that our dreams are possible. Thank you for being unapologetically a woman.  Thank you for being smart as fuck and for not being ashamed of it or hiding it.  Thank you for your Wellesley commencement address in 1969; not only was that awesome but it still inspires to this day, almost 60 years later.Thank you for fighting tooth and nail and doing so with poise; you might not have broken the ultimate glass ceiling but you certainly paved the way for one of us to smash right on through. You did so much to weaken the patriarchy that soon enough we will dismantle the whole damn thing and for that we are eternally grateful. Thank you for never giving up. Thank you for inspiring Pantsuit Nation. Thank you for inspiring a nation period. Thank you for holding the torch in the women’s movement for so damn long.  We know that people complained about your shifts in policy and opinion over the years but, seriously, thank you for listening and changing your approach according to what the people needed. Thank you for being a force to be reckoned with. Thank you for being an unapologetic policy wonk. Thank you for being prepared. Thank you for absolutely TROUNCING Donald Trump in every one of those three debates. And because it bears repeating, thank you for listening even when people didn’t give you the same courtesy. Thank you for your seemingly unending well of confidence because we all know that as women in this society confidence is hard to come by and even harder to hold on to. Thank you for ALWAYS taking the high road. Thank you for being a role model. Thank you for being a Nasty Woman. Thank you for being a badass bitch. Basically, thank you for everything you’ve done.

We see how hard you worked. Believe us we know, we acknowledge it and we strive to work as hard as you.

Hillary, we wanted to hear your voice and see your face for the next four years. We wanted to see another first in The White House. We wanted to continue to be proud of the person who represents every single one of us at home and abroad as we have been over the past 8 years. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Instead we will follow your lead, pick up the torch and keep on fighting until we are equal. And then we will wake up the next day and fight some more so that every single person from every background and every walk of life has the benefit of equal opportunity. We’ve got a long way to go, but thank you for getting us just a little bit closer. Every little bit helps.

With unending respect and admiration

All of the ‘thank yous’ we have

Love always and forever

Jessy and Rebekah

This is NOT a Peaceful Transition, Stop Playing.

19 Nov

To start off, please read this article by Teju Cole. I know that I already linked to it the other day, so I am sorry for being repetitive. But, honestly, sometimes things are good enough to require repetition. And this is one of those things. I sort of want to link to his article in everything that I write for the next few years that in any way relates to the complete and utter horror show that is our in-coming presidential administration. I want to link to it and I want to send it to people and I want to slide it under doors and fold it up in holiday cards and mail it to my elected officials. I want to keep telling people that no, this is not normal and that no, we should not fall in line. We should not stop protesting and talking and writing and calling our senators and representatives to register our sheer disbelief, despair and dread that there is now a white supremacist mere feet from the Oval Office. That Donald Trump has just made Jeff Sessions Attorney General. Jeff Sessions who, by the way, opposes both immigration reform and bipartisan efforts to cut mandatory minimum prison sentences. Oh, and he also thinks the NAACP is communist inspired and anti-American and once referred to an African American prosecutor as “boy.” And while we’re at it how about that time he was rejected by the majority Republican Senate Judiciary Committee to be a federal judge in the 1980s, back when we used to disallow racists from holding high posts in the judiciary. He also doesn’t like the Voting Rights Act which makes sense if you think about it, because his chances of re-election most likely decline with every person of color that has access to the ballot box. Oh how far we have fallen.

And then there’s Mike Pompeo. So for those of us who find President Obama and Hillary Clinton too hawkish, we should be pretty upset about Mike Pompeo. And for those of us sick of hearing BENGHAZI screamed over and over and over and over again as some sort of sick rallying call against Obama, Clinton and the entire current administration, we should be prepared for a new uptick because, despite hours of hearings and a panel that found no new evidence of wrong-doing by the Obama Administration, Mike Pompeo and Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio are still convinced there was a cover-up. Much like the email fiasco, it seems as though evidence doesn’t hold quite as much weight as a hunch does with some of these guys. And they are all being assigned top posts in the government. It makes me feel as though the next four years are going to be much more about evening a score and much less about the effective governing of a multi-cultural, multi-racial nation that is in the midst of a serious crisis.

But I guess I already knew that.

So through all of this I keep thinking about Hillary’s concession speech and how she said,

We must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. We don’t just respect that. We cherish it. It also enshrines the rule of law; the principle [that] we are all equal in rights and dignity; freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values, too, and we must defend them.

On Wednesday the 9th when I watched this speech in utter disbelief, it seemed like the right thing for her to do. I was impressed by how well-rested she looked; how prepared to do the unthinkable; how poised and eloquent she was in the face of a result that must have been even more shocking to her and her team than it was to a lot of us watching from home. (Except for maybe those people who called a Trump win weeks or months ago and are bragging about it. It’s like, great, you were right, but you still have to live here in the shit with the rest of us so shut up.) In that moment, while watching her encourage us to demonstrate the democracy we want to live in, I thought to myself

FUCK! This is exactly why she should be our goddamn President!

But now that over a week has passed and we have Donald Trump and Mike Pence and Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions and Mike Pompeo and a whole host of other angry white men who just won’t fucking go away I am starting to think that maybe that speech wasn’t all that I thought it was. Maybe it wasn’t the right thing to say. I mean, I still think she should be our President, that remains unchanged (duh!), but the speech? I don’t know.

Here’s the thing. I totally agree that one of the hallmarks of a democracy is the insistence on a peaceful transition of power. It is one of the things that makes our country great. I mean, just look at this letter that George HW Bush left for Bill Clinton when the former was bested in his re-election campaign. It exemplifies true class and is a perfect definition of a democracy in action. But I think that one of the important things about a peaceful transition is that it must be peaceful on both sides, and that simply has not been the case. I am not talking about how Donald Trump essentially said he would not accept the winner of the election unless that winner was him. In an alternate, superior universe in which the popular vote fucking mattered and Hillary was our commander-in-chief we would all be prepared for some long, drawn-out bullshit legal charade that Trump would have used to jumpstart his media empire. No, what I am talking about is that there is nothing peaceful about the appointments that Donald Trump has made so far. There is nothing peaceful about appointing documented bigots to some of the most important posts in our federal government. There is nothing peaceful about a man who believes in conversion therapy; there is nothing peaceful about someone who publicly declared that he didn’t want his children going to school with Jews; there is nothing peaceful about someone who jokes about the Ku Klux Klan by saying that he thought they were “okay until he learned that they smoke marijuana;” there is nothing peaceful about someone who has ties to the Koch Brothers.

So I don’t know exactly what I am proposing here. I feel like living in the United States over the past week has been this incredible process of emotions. It’s like, every day there is a new absolutely terrifying thing to accept, a new asshole to read about, a new way that so many of us are realizing we are going to be governed by people who hate us. Because it isn’t just that I don’t like them, it’s that they don’t like anyone who doesn’t look and sound like they do. Anyone with a different skin tone, a different accent, different genitalia, different abilities, a different religion, or different ideas about romantic partners. It’s that they are not going to try to Make America Great Again. They are going to try to Remake America in their own image. And that image is repressive and violent. Because repression is violence.

So, no. Maybe on Wednesday November 9th when there was still a dying hope that all the bigotry and hate that Trump spewed during his campaign was smoke and mirrors and he was really not as bad as we all thought, maybe at that point we owed him an open mind. Although I am reluctant to say that after all the hate he stirred up he was owed anything good from us. But now, on November 19th that time has passed. We tried and he made us look a fool. There is nothing peaceful about this transition and it is about time that more Democrats in power, and that more private citizens, start making that point. We are not a country at peace, we are a country in complete and total turmoil; a country in which people feel afraid to be themselves.

As far as I am concerned we owe Trump nothing but what we owe ourselves: a fight.*

 

*And to stop reading his fucking Twitter feed. Seriously. How can we expect his staff to do fucking anything if they can’t stop him from making a fool of himself on Twitter every goddamn day like a giant, orange-colored toddler in tasteless neck ties.