Tag Archives: Donald Trump

That Time a Lady Told me to Smile

7 Apr

I had a weird moment last night at work. It was this response to an interaction with this woman where I was like

Wow, Rebekah, you’ve changed!

but then at the same time

Ew, lady, aren’t we supposed to be on the same team here?

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to recount the story and then I am going to go ahead and address these two simultaneous reactions that I had to it. Ready? Break!

Part One: The Story

It is French Quarter Fest here in New Orleans. Anyone who has been here for any sort of fest at all knows that shit is cray. There are people everywhere. There is confusion. Costumes. Glitter. Music. Tourists. More zombies* than normal. It’s a whole thing. Not a bad thing, but a thing. To add to the drama let me inform you that I work in the French Quarter which, if your powers of deductive reasoning are on point, means that I work in the exact area where the French Quarter Fest is occurring. That means that my bar is busy busy busy.

I walked in last night at 5pm to a busier-than-average Thursday night. And the thing about a busier-than-average night in my place is that we have “steps of service.” The steps of service at the spot I worked at in Brooklyn basically involved getting drinks out as quickly as possible while avoiding the limes and clipboards that miffed customers could potentially hurl at your head. No joke. At this place the steps are more involved and less potentially dangerous. I am telling you all this just so that you know that getting people food and drinks at the spot I work at now is something of a process.

Alright so now imagine this. There we are during dinner on a busier-than-average Thursday night and all of a sudden me and one of my coworkers realize

Hey, why hasn’t any of the food we ordered come out? It’s been a minute.

And by a minute we meant like 45. We then come to find out that the printer in the kitchen has stopped working and they didn’t get any of the tickets. So this might lead one to ask ones self

Self, there is a full restaurant out there and yet there are no tickets coming through the printer. Has this city declared a moratorium on food or is something amiss?

But I don’t think anyone asked themselves that. Or maybe they did, I don’t know. But either way they didn’t keep the bar in the loop and we had two ladies on a 45 minute wait for a salad and some shrimp. Anyway, I was in the midst of discussing this fiasco with my manager when I heard from the other side of the bar a very curt and impatient

Hell-loooooooo.

I looked over to see a blonde lady staring at me with what I can only describe as crazy eyes. You know the eyes.

Me: Hi.
Lady: Gesticulates wildly to the space in front of her.
Me: What can I do for you?
Lady: Well, we just got here and….. (gives me a meaningful look that invited me to read her mind but really just made her look even crazier.)
Me: Here’s a drink menu. Would you like food also?
The lady looks at her husband and they share a communal huff and make moves to get up. I shrug my shoulders and take the menu back and go back to the conversation about the broken ticket printer in the kitchen which I was in the middle of having when she sassed me in the first place.
Lady: Smile.
Me: I’m sorry, what?
Lady: Smiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiile. You would make a lot more money if you smiled. Mo-ney. Smiiii-llleee. (All the while she is using her hands to demonstrate what a smile the size of Texas might look like and staring at me as if I had somehow committed the largest offense ever.)

They then left. But not after telling me that they live in the city and would never be back to this restaurant ever again if their life depended on it. I shed a silent tear. And then I went back to doing my job. Meanwhile, all the people around this couple were shocked and could not understand what had just happened. I told them I also couldn’t understand it. They said they thought I was nice. I agreed. One guy said he thought they came in with a bad attitude. I said he was probably right. We all laughed and laughed. And then we carried on with our evenings, largely unaffected by the bad attitude cloud that had momentarily descended on the bar.

Part Two: I’ve Changed!

Have you ever had some big experience and then afterwards noticed a large change in yourself? This is totally stupid but when I came back from my year abroad I noticed that, as a result of the countless hours spent in various modes of transportation, sometimes for hours and hours longer than expected, I was completely unfazed by being stuck in traffic or being on long car rides. This is still the case all these years later. I used to get a little impatient but now I’m like

Eh. Whatever. I’m sitting here.

In the grand scheme of things that isn’t such a big thing but it certainly does make the amount of traveling I do significantly easier. AND I think it makes me a better car partner. So anyway, in the past if I had an experience like the one with the lady, I would have gone down this whole rabbit hole of emotion. I would have analyzed every single second of our interaction and tried to figure out what exactly I had done to cause her to behave like such an asshole. But sometimes, people are just assholes. Or, they behave like assholes in a specific moment for no real reason. And sometimes there is nothing you do to cause it and nothing you can do to prevent it and so your only solution is to shrug your shoulders and be like

Alright cool what’s next.

And that’s just what I did. I sort of figured if they wanted to be Bad Attitude Bears all around town that was on them and I certainly didn’t need to let it effect the rest of my night or the service I provided to other people. So, fuck ’em. I hope they went home and stewed in their own unhappiness rather than raining it down upon the rest of us people just out trying to have a good time or make a buck.

Part Three: Teammates? No?

I should have learned this already following the presidential election but a lot of white women suck. And beyond that, all us women are not on the same team. Okay, fine. But here’s the thing. Men tell me to smile a lot. A LOT. I’ll be walking down the street and hear some dude be all

C’mon, honey, it’s not that bad. Smile.

Or

You’d look a lot better if you’d smile.

I find that super offensive. It very well might be that bad. And maybe I don’t feel like smiling. But either way shut the fuck up my face is not your concern. Basically every woman I have ever spoken to about it also finds it offensive. The thing about it is I know a lot of women and none of them, not a single one, goes about life with a smile plastered on her face at all times. And I get it, work is different, especially when you work in service. You have to smile more. It makes people feel welcome and people who feel welcome have a better time and tip better. Yadda yadda yadda. The funny thing about it is that I smile at work a lot. I smile so much that some of the dudes in the kitchen call me sunshine. I smile so much that when the barback heard that some lady told me to smile he looked at me and said,

You? Jesus. I think you should smile less.

And so, yeah, I know we all don’t see life the same way but, come on lady! Get a clue! It’s like, I expect men to be condescending assholes and tell me how to live my life down to my every facial expression. I don’t like it but I expect it. I do not, however, expect it to come from a woman who has most likely had a similar experience and felt disempowered or spoken down to or whatever. It’s like, way to drink the koolaid, bitch. Way to just swallow, full stop, normalized sexism and misogyny and throw it in the face of someone 15 years younger than you because you didn’t get a menu and a glowing smile the very second your ass hit the barstool. And I’m sorry that I wasn’t willing to ignore your impatience and rudeness and discern exactly what you needed at that exact moment. I’m pretty good at my job but I am not a magician.

***

And with that, I must away. another 3 days of French Quarter Fest await and I have to do my facial exercises, you know, so I can smile more.

* Zombies, New Orleans style (n): zom-bie
(1) a. a will-less and speechless human (as in West Indian voodoo belief and in fictional stories) held to have drank too much on Bourbon Street and been supernaturally reanimated
b. the supernatural power of the Hurricane or Hand Grenade that according to voodoo belief may enter into and reanimate a dead body

New Orleans Diary: Weeks 13 and 14

7 Mar

Goal: Fuck the goal. I missed another week (I blame Mardi Gras) and now rather than writing on Fridays and also Mondays I am randomly posting on a Tuesday. Things are all out of whack. Also I don’t think anyone really reads these posts anyways so it’s become sort of like that thing about the tree. You know the thing: if a tree falls in the forrest and no one hears it does it make a sound? If my blog gets published and no one reads it do the words in fact form sentences? (I need to work on that but you get the picture.) So in summation I am just going to write when I want and not hold myself to any sort of schedule which is counter to the original purpose of this series (to force myself into a publishing schedule) but whatever. Fuck it.

Face Tattoos: There are a lot of face and head tattoos here. A lot. In April of 2004 I made out with a dude in Mexico who had a face tattoo. And one time when I was in the Poconos visiting The Aunties the craziest thing happened. We were walking through the parking lot towards the We-Is (local supermarket actually spelled Weis) when we found ourselves walking behind this guy who had his own face tattooed on the back of his head. But really. I know it was his own face because I ran around the front of him (by way of ducking behind cars because I figured someone with his own face tattooed on the back of his very own head was maybe scary) and confirmed. There he was in the front and the back. Very weird.  I’ve never really been the same.

As I was saying, there are a lot of face and head tattoos here. And I’ve been thinking about it and it seems like a face tattoo is a larger commitment than tattoos other places. Your face is the first thing people see. And usually the thing people remember you by. I mean, do you for sure, but it’s a commitment is all. Anyway. There are so many face and head tattoos that I almost don’t even notice them anymore. Back in Brooklyn there was one guy with face tattoos. He had some sort of tribal something or other that covered his whole face and whenever I saw him I thought to myself

Wow. That guy does not give a fuck.

I also thought to myself

That guy is on a whole lot of drugs.

Which had more to do with his style of walking and his glassy eyes than the face tattoos.

I got distracted. The point is that there are a lot of people with face tattoos here. I don’t know exactly where I was going with all this so I guess I will sum it up thusly: I have never seen more face tattoos in one place ever in my life.

White People Dreadlocks: There are so many White People Dreadlocks here it’s unbelievable. So many. I have to say that I try to stay away from their congregation areas as best I can. That might make me an asshole but it’s the truth. They all have pitbulls which normally would be like whatever but I think they have the pitbulls for protection so I don’t really want to fuck with them. Also I am pretty sure they are armed. Not the pitbulls, the people. As far as I can tell they spend a lot of time (all of their time maybe?) on the streets and the streets here are not safe and so I am certain that they have knives and things. I want nothing to do with knives unless they are being used to cook me food so if I believe someone has knives for reasons other than cooking me food I stay away.

Let me be more specific. Because this is what it really is. Yesterday as I was walking from one job to another I saw a White Boy Dreadlocks sitting on the street and he was holding a cardboard sign that said

I need a guitar

and I literally almost lost my shit. Like no, mother fucker, you need to chop off your culturally appropriative haircut, get a goddamn job, get out of my fucking way and buy your own guitar! Or call your fucking parents. I don’t know but give me a fucking break. Give me a break! You are white. You are male. You are able bodied. The system is built for you. If you need food that’s one thing but a guitar? You are on the street with a cardboard sign begging for a luxury item? Like, what, should I sit down next to you and hold up a sign that says

I need a plane ticket to India so I can fuck off for awhile

Or

I need to go out to Pesch for dinner

Or

I need a new computer.

No, asshole. What you need to go is get a fucking clue. Ugh that shit makes me so mad. It’s like, you can’t be all “woe is me I have no money” but also look at me I am so privileged and I am owed this thing that I want. I don’t only want it I need it and therefore I will have it and you will help me to buy it. The privilege is what gets me. And now I will stop being that old white lady yelling “get off my lawn!” at the neighbor’s kids.

Antisemitism: It is real and there is a lot of it here. I hear casual antisemitism at work on the regular. I am not going to really go into it because it is the same bullshit. You know, Jews are cheap, Jews run the government and the media, Jews are basically trying to take over the world. Nothing ground breaking there really. My favorite though is when one person makes an antisemitic comment like “oh you’re so cheap…you’re such a Jew” and the person next to them then starts discussing the first time she met a Jew and how the Jew was actually a lot nicer than she had expected! Little do they all know that their drinks were made by a Jew in person right then and there! That’s right, folks, that Sazerac was stirred by the horned devil herself! The Jewess! You sure you still want to drink that? I used the cheap whisky, you know, like a Jew would.

I don’t know, it’s crazy. It’s crazy in part because there has been such an uptick in open and unabashed antisemitism since SCROTUS took office. A friend of mine actually texted her dad to see whether the cemetery in which her grandparents were buried was one of the ones vandalized (it wasn’t). But that’s a real concern right now. Shit is fucked. It’s also crazy because I grew up in a very Jewish area. I am used to being around Jews all the time. I am used to feeling normal. But down here, and in this current political climate, I feel everything but. I have never been more aware of my Jewishness in my entire life. For the first time ever it actually feels like a liability. Which I suppose it always has been. That’s part of the fun of being a minority.

The other day a dude came into my bar. He was down from Philly, originally from Newark. We identified one another right away. It was the accent (or the lack of accent as he assured me), the look and just, I don’t know, the way. It took us about 30 seconds to get into what has been happening. I mentioned to him the antisemitism I have been experiencing since being down here and he just looked at me and said

Yup. Everyone hates us.

Just matter-of-fact. Just like that. And I was like, yeah, it’s true. He said what I have been thinking, what a friend of mine and I have been talking about for months. The fact that everyone hates us. It’s a quiet hatred, made louder recently, but it is always there. We thought we were safe. We’re not. And people make sure to make it known. Especially down here. And what can I do?

Conclusion: I should have posted about Mardi Gras and all that because it was really fun. Maybe I will save that for another week. This one took a somber turn and after all that it just doesn’t feel appropriate. I did, however, put on a lot of glitter. I think it probably entered my blood stream through my pores. I hope it did. We could all use a little more glitter these days.

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?

An Open Letter to the Girl Scouts of America

17 Jan

To whom it may concern,

When I was a young girl growing up in suburban New Jersey, I was a Girl Scout. My mother was the Troop leader. Although I did not participate past elementary school, the camaraderie I felt with the other girls in my troop had a lasting influence on me. When it comes to being female in this world, I have always been a believer in the importance of surrounding myself with other smart, caring, strong, empathetic women. It is, honestly, how I have managed to live what I consider a successful life. So you can imagine my dismay when I was informed that the Girl Scouts of America, a group I have always respected and felt played an important role in the healthy mental and emotional development of thousands of women, announced it would be participating in the inaugural ceremony of Donald J. Tr*mp.

Donald Tr*mp simply does not respect women. He has demonstrated this time and again through his vile language, his proud admittance of sexual assault and his objectification of anyone with a pair of breasts and a vagina. To think that you, an organization that has always celebrated the strength and abilities of young girls, would parade them in front of a man so heinous is unfathomable to me. There have been a lot of statements and actions taken by organizations that have made me question their moral standings and ethical foundations but this? This takes the cake. How dare you dehumanize our girls like this? I thought you were better.

Sincerely
Rebekah Frank

New Orleans Diary: Week Five

30 Dec

Goal: To keep a weekly diary of my time here in New Orleans. This is Week 5! Which means I have been living here for over a month. And also it has been almost two whole months since I left Brooklyn which is pretty crazy. Hi, Brooklyn. Do ya miss me?

Waterbugs, Information: You may recall that last week I saw a waterbug in my bathroom and subsequently hid from the bug, also the bathroom, for a considerable amount of time following the sighting. Then the bug mysteriously disappeared. Dun dun duuuuuun. I then posted about the bug on my Facebook page at which point I received all kinds of comments. Some of them were full of concern, some were full of disgust and vomit emojis, and some were from people welcoming me to Life in the South. As a result of the post, I also received a few bits of information.

  • My friend Heather told me that New Orleans-style waterbugs fly at your face. AT YOUR FACE! Which, since my face is the face that is currently here, means that they will most certainly fly at my face which is not something I hope to experience. She told me to get the Raid in the silver can because it is full of chemicals and the shape of the nozzle allows for pretty good aim which means that you can, from a distance, spray that noxious shit and hopefully hit the attacking bug in mid (at my face) fly. That sounds like a really great idea until one remembers that time I accidentally maced myself in the face. I decided, as a result, to forego airborne chemical warfare and simply go for some traps.
  • My friend Rob told me that here in New Orleans they call these bugs “palmettos.” I am glad to know what they are called here so that when I tell people about The Bug and they think I am talking about silver fish (also ew!) I can use the appropriate regionalism to correct them so that we are all on the same disgusting, flying-at-my-face page.

Waterbugs, The Update: Following the initial sighting I was living if not a carefree life at least one seemingly free of waterbugs. That is until the day before yesterday! I walked into the kitchen to grab something when <BAM!> There it was! Sneaking around on the floor like the huge and disgusting flying hunk of roach that it is. Naturally, I screamed, ran into the bedroom and jumped onto the bed which clearly wouldn’t have helped me one bit if the bug had decided to fly at my face. Luckily for all involved it did not. I’m pretty sure it actually also screamed and retreated under the refrigerator. What to do?! I quickly mined my brain for information and remembered a story my friend Carrie had told me in which her basement apartment became ground zero of a short-lived waterbug infestation during a huge rainstorm and she lined the inside of her doors with duct tape. It worked! And so I snuck into the kitchen and, looking out for monsters (AKA waterbugs), I retrieved some gorilla duct tape – extra sticky! – and laid it out all around the refrigerator so that if the bug decided to try and sneak out it would get caught! Inhumane, I know, but it was the only way I would be able to sleep.

And then I waited. And slept. But also waited.

When I woke up in the morning I went into the kitchen to see if the bug had in fact gotten stuck. I discovered the most awful thing. Not only had the bug not gotten stuck, but it had used its brute strength to actually move the gorilla tape a good 3 inches away from the fridge and then somehow dislodge itself to live another day. It also left behind one leg on the tape. So gross.

In summation the waterbugs down here are like other fucking level. They are like terminators. Seriously if we could train waterbugs to do our bidding we could use them to fight wars. These fuckers are no joke. And this said by someone who now has a 5-legged waterbug wandering around her house, waiting for the next opportunity to fly at my face.

Clothing: I have lost all my pants. I was putting my clothes away yesterday and I can’t find them. I know I had them because I recently wore them but now they appear to be missing. Has anyone seen them?

Driving: But seriously, people cannot drive here. Or, well, they can’t drive in a different way from the ways in which people up North can’t drive. So here is the new thing I have noticed. You’ll be moving along at a steady clip with all of the other people except for the one guy who is driving 25mph above the speed limit and is, like everyone else, allergic to the use of blinkers. And then, as if from nowhere, there is the person driving 20 mph below the speed limit. I don’t think I have driven on a highway in Louisiana once without encountering this person. And he/she is always in the middle lane. ALWAYS. Which is an extra big problem here where the right lane oftentimes goes from lane to exit only lane and back again with basically no warning whatsoever. So it actually isn’t really a lane at all. But the slow person isn’t in the next lane over, oh no. The slow person is in the other middle lane. So this is what happens:

  • The right lane is oscillating between exit only lane, new cars merging in lane and regular right lane where slow drivers are supposed to live so they don’t bother the rest of us.
  • The middle right lane becomes this lane where no one really wants to be because you have to be aware of the constantly changing status of the right lane. That being said this would be the perfect lane for a slow driver because all the other drivers who are merging and exiting and generally confused by signage can easily move into the slow driver lane because the slow driver is, well, so slow.
  • The middle left lane is where the slow driver now lives for reasons that I am not entirely clear on. This messes up all the other lanes because now there is a serious slow-down in the middle left lane resulting in a lot of tailgating. People love to tailgate here.
  • The left lane is basically the only lane that operates under normal lane procedures from what I can tell. The slow driver generally doesn’t venture over there. Although there generally is someone in a mini-van using cruise control at exactly 8 miles over the speed limit which can be problematic.

The result of all of this is a complete and total free-for-all. Every lane is a passing lane. Every car is tailgating some other car which means that every car is simultaneously tailgating someone else while trying to lose its own tailgater. And then there is the asshole who drives like he/she is from New Jersey. You know the guy. Driving really fast, weaving in and out of traffic with no warning whatsoever, squeezing into teeny tiny spaces. This person is almost always in a busted up coup with tinted windows. This guy has watched Fast and Furious too many times. I don’t not like that guy.

Conclusion: That’s all I’ve got for right now. The New Year is fast approaching and everyone seems pretty pleased that 2016 is over since it gave us Tr*mp and pretty much killed everyone that we love. And I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but unless 2016 flexes its muscles yet again, we will be inaugurating Tr*mp on the 20th day of January. And then we are stuck with him for the next 4 years unless he gets impeached at which point we are stuck with Mike fucking Pence. So I am sorry to say that 2017 is not looking like it’s gonna be all that much better. But there will be more New Orleans diary entries so that’s something, right?

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.