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Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly. ---- Harry Lime

The Plans They Made

sky


I’ve been oddly disheartened recently, a gauzy layer of discontent interposing itself between me and the world, but, you know, clouds – always beautiful. The sky with its infinite stars on a cold, clear night – always beautiful. And when the trees are bare, one sees a lot more architecture.

###

Phone conversation with Max left me sad. Among other things, we talked about my mother’s family. Thinking about my mother’s family always riles up uncomfortable emotions. They were so insane and so dysfunctional. And yet so brilliant and so observant on many levels. They left me with a weird behavioral tick: I always expect to be patted on the head whenever I behave in a perfectly normal fashion because I’m defying my crazy behavioral conditioning. See? I’m a real human girl!

“But they had some good points!” I said to Max. “As batshit crazy as they were. They were really, really smart, and they saw the world through a really unique cultural lens –“

Max laughed. “They were complete narcissists. They were characters in their own novel.”

He didn’t say it meanly.

And in a way, that’s what hurt my feelings the most. Not My Drama, he seemed to be saying. Turning the central, defining, unalterable tragedy of my life into a fuckin’ hashtag.

“As nutty as they were, they had a real sense of cultural true north,” I said. “A real instinct for what’s true and good in literature, painting, music, film –“

“Oh, Mom,” Max scoffed. “They were elitists.”

“You don’t think some literature, painting, music, and film is intrinsically better than others?”

“Well, I know that I personally like some of it better than other. Does that make it better in some intrinsic sense? No. It’s just a matter of personal taste.”

I’m sorry, Max. You're just wrong. There is no universe in which John Le Carré is not a better writer than Tom Clancy! That’s a constant – like the clouds, like the stars.

But there was no way I could argue that fact with Max. I guess he’s learned something at that elitist, prestigious, fancy-dancy law school of his.

###

“So, is Robin graduating? Or is Robin not graduating?” Max asked toward the end of the conversation. By then, the conversation was lapping into the middle of its second hour, which was some kind of record for phone conversations for me.

“I don’t know,” I said.

Shouldn’t you know?” he asked.

“Absolutely, I should know,” I said. “But I’ve been scared to ask.”

So naturally I had to follow up, which meant another half hour on the phone – this time with Ben.

No, Robin is not graduating in December.

Sigh.

Though not through any obvious fuck-up of his own.

Turns out that all those creative writing electives he took last year – Syracuse University is a serious creative writing school, Raymond Carver used to lead the department, and Mary Karr and George Saunders teach there now – don’t count as electives towards the Environmental Science & Forestry degree. (ESF is actually a SUNY land grant college housed on the Syracuse University campus. The two schools share a lot. But not everything.) So now he has to take a semester of electives that will count toward the ESF degree.

His academic advisor hadn’t bothered to fill Robin in on any of this when he met with her last spring.

I’m disappointed for purely selfish, financial reasons: I contribute a not-insignificant-to-me amount of $$$ to Robin’s schooling on a monthly basis, and I was so looking forward to stashing that money in a traveling fund. I have a Major Birthday coming up, and I wanted to go to Iceland or Amsterdam or Timbuktu to celebrate. This is another one of those situations where I want to be patted on the head for recognizing the obligations of a normal parent, I suppose.

Last week was a tough week for RTT all around. It was also the fourth anniversary of Justin’s suicide.

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I always think of that James Taylor line when I think of Justin: Suzanne, the plans they made put an end to you.

Justin was a sweet kid. A wacky kid. All he really wanted to do was ride his skate board, smoke a little ganja, make a little love, listen to music. His family was even crazier and more dysfunctional than mine, and in the end, he couldn’t survive what they did to him.
G sent me a “Dear Jane” text, which kind of made me laugh.

I’ve never texted with anyone before! he’d texted me early on in our friendship.

No, but apparently you’re a quick study, and understand the true use of the technology!

Later on that evening, the Soldier called.

I didn’t pick up the phone.

###

Despite multiple entreaties, I didn’t sleep with G, so I wasn’t at all emotionally invested.

I didn’t sleep with G becawse… Well. Men my own age aren’t in and of themselves particularly physically attractive to me.

That doesn’t mean I won’t sleep with them! But it does mean that I won’t sleep with them until I’ve developed some kind of emotional attachment to them.

Most men over a certain age don’t have bodies that inspire lust independent of the mind/spirit/personality that inhabits that body.

And I’m absolutely certain that works both ways! I know after two children and half a century of gravity, my own taut and perky parts may not be inherently lust-worthy anymore. One can argue endlessly that physical imperfections are only illusions created by air brushing marketers paid to make people unhappy, but the fact remains that standards of beauty in every culture, however variable, have one thing in common: They favor the young. I know of no culture in which stretch marks, drooping breasts and dry skin embody beauty.

Nonetheless, many older guys I know are stuck in the male myth of their youths: Hunt and Conquest. (Of course, there are exceptions.) The conquest part of the equation these days often requires them to rely upon pharmaceutical boosters. And even with Viagra or Cialis, it entails a lot of work for the woman.

Now, if I’m into the guy, I like the work. It’s intimate. It furthers the connection, and it’s an erotic game.

If I only feel a casual interest, then the work strikes me as boring and more than a little bit ridiculous. Hey! If I'd wanted to be a fluffer, I would have pursued a career in the exciting porn industry, right?

One thing about the Soldier: He has the most gorgeous body still – he’s obsessive about working out. On a mental level, he kind of reminds me of the autodidact survivalist Ray Hicks in the novel Dog Soldiers (another of the many characters based upon Neal Cassady.) So I feel for the Soldier what I felt for so many guys in my misspent youth – lust unalloyed by complicated emotion. I like him just fine, but I don’t entertain fantasies about visiting the Fertility Clinic so that at the age of 64 and a half, I can give birth to his babies.

Dog Soldiers remains a brilliant novel, by the way. Well worth reading today. Some might say more worth reading now than ever.

Although like most 20th century novels, it’s completely forgotten.

###

Somewhere in a moldy box of papers in a storage facility in San Francisco, I have a trove of love letters from Robert Stone – the author of Dog Soldiers – with whom I conducted an affair for several years.

One of them was written on the day following Ronald Reagan’s election. It was filled with despair! The same despair I see now in the far more voluminous communications presently disseminated by the left. (The Internet is such an effective distribution channel!)

So, I’m thinking: Right. Pendulums

I’d participated in a lot of protest marches and events in the decade or so preceding Reagan’s election, but I was surprisingly unalarmed by the actual election itself: I was in my 20s, and my real life – lovers, art, job (in roughly that order, too) – was not going to be affected by regime changes.

Possibly twenty-somethings feel that same way today, and this accounts for why so relatively few of them feel compelled to loan their voices to their elders’ strident protests regarding the current regime change.

One exception to general Millennial apathy is my own son. Max.

Who has made the wise decision not to show up in North Dakota, in the middle of a blizzard and against the advice of the tribal elders, to defend the water.

For the present, at least, Standing Rock is a legal battle.

Max will be contributing the donations he raised to the cause – thanks to those of you who contributed! – and of course one imagines that the present hiatus will end abruptly once Pussy Grabber puts his tiny hand on that Bible and pretends to take that oath. So I’m sure Max will have many, many other opportunities to fight that particular good fight.
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The real process of government takes place at the most micro level. So I had a very good time last night watching the Dutchess County Legislature in session. I’m just a policy wonk at heart, I guess.

It really helps to have a name that’s easy to pronounce if you wanna get ahead in politics.

In the elevator going up to the 6th floor, a tall, middle-aged linebacker type beamed at me and announced, “John Forman, Fishkill/Beacon.”

At first I figured he thought I was so pretty that he wanted to ask me out! (Good call on that red sweater tonight, Treetz!)

Then I realized, He’s a pol! The elected legislator from Fishkill. And you’re a prospective voter.

So that’s how it’s done! Every time you’re in an elevator, you get up close and personal.

Sounds exhausting.

###

The big item on last night’s Dutchess County Legislative session was the Dutchess County item pricing law.

The Dutchess County administrative code requires merchants to put actual price tags on the products they sell.

But some rogue stores have only been putting prices on the shelves.

I have no idea what operational advantage exists in not putting price tags on actual products – I mean, they’ve gotta track their inventory anyway, and it takes approximately .05 seconds to stick a price tag on something with a price tag gun. (I was once a small business owner, so I know.)

But this is apparently a heated battle in the City of Poughkeepsie. The Associated Supermarket where I used to shop when I was doing my AmericaCorps Vista stint is the biggest non-complier and has paid $80,000 in fines this year.

Associated Supermarkets has carved out the ghetto grocery niche in eastern New York State. Here’s a photo of an Associated Supermarket I took when I stayed in Brooklyn last month:

associated


The chain’s architecture is a constant from location to location. Note the big, grilled, black metal doors through which one must pass to get access to the store – very Dante Inferno-esque touch! I’d like them even more if they had metal detectors and a big scowling guard who did full body searches before they let you into the store.

Anyway, you figure that if Associated Supermarkets doesn’t like item pricing, it must protect the poor in some way!

Associated Supermarkets is currently suing Dutchess County over this law, charging that it violates freedom of speech. (Huh?)

Rhinebecks’s swoon-worthy legislator Joel Tyner is leading the charge to prevent this law from being overturned: It’s difficult if not impossible for a senior citizen — let alone me, I'm 51 — to try to memorize all the prices of the items in my shopping cart from the aisles in the supermarket once I get to the front of the supermarket.

Opposition seems to be based on the assumption that some big box retailers will refuse to operate in Dutchess County unless the law is rescinded – thereby limiting the ability of Dutchess County residents to purchase the Same Old Shit to fourteen stores instead of thirteen!

Local government!

It’s where it’s at.

###

On the Mrs. Hare V. 2.0 front, the various millennials have been checking in to inform me – affectionately, of course! -- how immaturely I'm behaving.

To which I nod and reply, Yep, yep, I’m immature!

Immature but unrepentant.

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Special Effects Department was busy last night:

snow


Over in Facebookland, I got into a deathmatch with Mrs. Hare V. 2.0.

Really, I should know better than to:

(A) Ever log on to Facebook for more than 15 minutes

or

(B) Indulge myself in disclosing political opinions in front of a potentially mass audience

But I am ever the fool who rushed in because the angels were too busy darning their wings and watching Real Housewives reruns.

I posted a link to this piece, which says bluntly what I’ve been thinking all along: Hillary Clinton blew it!

And I was having a fine and dandy conversation with my old buddy Axon who’s read everything Winston Churchill ever wrote and so is convinced 2016 is a historical reenactment of 1938.

And then fuckin’ MaryAnn shows up out of nowhere.

Is she stalking me? I swear! I deliberately un-followed her so that I would not be tempted to write rude things on her wall. Can’t she at least extend me the same courtesy?

Apparently not.

Anyone who didn't vote for HRC, voted for racism, misogyny, Christian biblical law, climate destruction, MaryAnn announces.

MaryAnn, fuck off, I’m thinking.

Of course, you realize you're insulting me, MaryAnn, by writing that, right? I wrote. I didn't vote for Hillary Clinton, and I am sure as hell not going to be judged by you.

I’m not judging, just stating a fact, sez MaryAnn, and I’m thinking, Fact? What universe do you live in?

I’ve put up with MaryAnn for 20 years. She married my first husband after I left him. She’d be more comfortable around me if he’d dumped me, but that was not the case.

Do I like her? Well. There are times when I’ve felt affectionate toward her. Is that the same thing as liking?

We also effectively co-parented Max for a long time, so there was a lot of shit I knew I’d just have to pour hot sauce on and choke down somehow because I knew how hard it was for Max to be an emissary between our two households and because there were battles I needed to save my strength for since I knew I had to win them. There was no way in Hell, for example, that I was gonna allow my kid to be raised in Orange County, California. Also, the eight-year old Max did not have ADD and did not need to be started on Ritalin!

You are NOT stating a fact. You are stating YOUR OPINION. Just because you think something does NOT make it a fact, I wrote.

Duh!

I really would prefer NOT to have negative conversations with you, MaryAnn, I continued. I like you, I respect you, and I consider you part of my extended family; I hope you feel the same way about me. But really, the finger-pointing is counterproductive.

No Kumbayah moments for MaryAnn! She was on the warpath.

It is a FACT that the votes for Stein, and Johnson, had they gone to HRC, in PA, MI, and WI, would have resulted in an HRC win, MaryAnn said.

You're speaking about those votes as if they have some kind of existence independent of the people who cast them! I said. Those people did not WANT to vote for HRC and those people did not WANT to vote for Trump. HRC was not ENTITLED to those votes. She did not make her case to those voters. End of story.

And now Trump is President Elect, sniffed MaryAnn.

Because Hillary Clinton was a bad candidate! I said.

So now you are insulting me since I have been an HRC supporter and voter all along, right? wrote MaryAnn.

Are you fuckin’ kidding me? I thought. Do you honestly believe that I make an extensive study of your political reactions? That I care?

No, MaryAnn, I not insult you, I wrote. Unless your psychological fusion with Hillary Clinton is so complete that you get defensive when I assess Hillary Clinton.

And then I unfriended and blocked MaryAnn.

This is going to have serious ramifications for my family life. But you know what? I don’t care.

###

Maybe it’s genetic, this capacity for blinding rage I seem to have. I am Sicilian by bloodline if not by culture; many other Sicilians I know seem to get triggered similarly. And then there are all those Godfather movies!

When I get angry, I really would like to pick up a brick and beat somebody’s head in with it.

It’s not a reaction I approve of at all, but there you have it.

I always feel deeply ashamed of myself when I get angry. Anger is the least acceptable of emotions in today’s culture. And for a very good reason: We can’t live safely if we’re crowded in so densely, and there are those among us harboring homicidal feelings, however transient.

But hey! I am what I am. And at least I won’t have to put up with MaryAnn anymore, right? There’s always a silver lining.

Although the MaryAnn surrogates have already begun their lobbying.

Sigh.

The Ghost Story About the Oakland Fire

oakland


When the former Future Mother of My Unborn Grandchildren posted “Safe” in Facebookland, I immediately thought, OhmiGAWD: What if Max was there?

I mean, of course he wasn’t.

But that’s how mothers think.

I lived two and a half miles from the site of the conflagration for several years. Right up the hill. Oakland is a city of micro-neighborhoods: My neighborhood was utterly adorable, but two blocks away sprawled the urban horror that was Fruitvale Boulevard.

When I lived in Oakland, I hadn’t yet developed an interest in what BB calls “economic geography.” I vaguely understood from the huge, decaying Victorian mansions that lined Fruitvale that it hadn’t always been the way it was when I lived so close to it, but I wasn’t obsessive the way I am today about looking for the clues to its decline.

I see that they renamed East 14th Street “International Avenue.” I wonder what they thought that would accomplish?

Again, one might think that living close to the water would offer so many aesthetic advantages that the wealthy would have pissed collectively along the length of East 14th Street to demarcate their views and their Bay breezes. But that is never the case. The wealthy always head for the hills; the poor are left with the gulches.

###

I did absolutely nothing yesterday, but for some reason, I was very popular, so my phone kept going off all day long.

In the afternoon, I finally roused myself enough to go off for a short tromp.

Along the way, I met this guy:

deer


Can you see him?

I don’t think I ever realized before that deer are the color they are because they blend in so well with the colors of winter.

###

Come to think of it, I was probably so out of it yesterday because I’d drunk a third of a bottle of expensive pink champagne the night before.

Caro and Benito invited me to join them for dinner. Benito made ramen from scratch:

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Benito also made an elaborate English trifle:

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And bought a bottle of expensive pink champagne.

A delicious meal but a strange meal.

But that isn’t what I want to remember.

Caro is a nursing assistant at a very tony Assisted Living facility in New Paltz.

Well. They call them “Assisted Living” facilities, but actually, they’re Assisted Dying facilities.

Caro recently transferred to working nights, so we were batting around the pros and cons of working nights: For the first two years of my nursing career, I worked nights.

“Well, they pay you more, and of course, there’s usually absolutely nothing to do on nights,” I said. “Except struggle to stay awake. But have you noticed that when people die, they always do it at 4 o’clock in the morning?”

“Yep!” Caro nodded.

“And have you noticed that you can always tell when they’re going to die?”

Definitely,” Caro said. “Even if they’re lying there motionless, you can always tell if the person is still in there somewhere, or if they're getting ready to make the jump. Plus –“ She exchanged a glance with Benito.

“Tell her!” Benito said. “She’ll like it!”

“One of my primaries died a week ago. And all day long, she kept asking me, ‘Who are those children laughing in the garden?’

“’What children, Mrs. Bethel?’ I asked.

“’The children! The children! I don’t like that game they’re playing –‘”

“Weird!” I said.

“But she isn’t the only person who heard those children,” Caro said. Caro began reeling the names off of various patients.

“Is there a backyard at the place where you work where children sometimes play?” I asked.

“No. Oh, no,” Caro scoffed.

“Did all those patients die?”

“Oh, no! Of course not! Only three of them.”

Only three of them.

I love the detail of children’s laughter as a prognosticator of death.

###

Those photos of the Oakland fire victims are heartbreaking.

You could write a really eerie ghost story about them. If they were characters in a story.

Vignettes from their lives. As they go about their days. Always with the echo of children's laughter in the background.

One of them, a conscientious boy, goes to visit his aging grandmama in a decaying mansion off Fruitvale Boulevard. "I swear, JT, if I could still walk, I'd march out there, scare off them kids," she tells him. "They making too damn much noise."

"They ain't nobody out there," says JT.

At night, the characters all go to the rave...
fountain_Venus (1)


G and I strolled up Warren Street.

Eighteenth century merchants were big on grids, and Hudson's original grid is still intact. In fact, Warren Street is the best-preserved 19th century commercial district in all of New York State, a strange mélange of architecture, mixing Federal, Victorian, Queen Anne, and the odd post-60s Bahaus. It’s one of the few towns that still has alleys. (I’m not sure what function alleys performed exactly back in the day, but I do know they were once an important aspect of municipal topography.)

You’d think that the most upscale establishments – antique stores (as opposed to junk shops), restaurants whose chefs kinda, sorta know someone who was once nominated for a James Beard award, perfumeries offering organic botanicals – would all be close to the water, but no, they’re all higher on the hill, close to Fountain Square. A statue of Venus graced this fountain through the late 90s until it was replaced by a more generic fountainhead. Now, there’s no statue at all. Just a really ugly plastic Christmas tree behind a tangle of green fencing and yellow Caution tape.

“Well, that’s kind of a drag,” I fretted. “A fountain if not the fountain was definitely here last time I visited.”

“When was that?” G asked.

“Maybe two years ago?”

“Well, you’re exactly right,” G said. “This is a fascinating and passingly strange place. And exhausting somehow –“

“Yes!” I cried. “Walking through Hudson is always like walking through molasses!”

“You feel that, too?”

“Oh, yes! It’s like the place exerts a kind of backwards force pushing you into the river –“

“Indeed,” he said. “I want to eat something sweet. For energy. Otherwise I’ll pass out.”

We ducked into this very tiny chocolatier in an ancient, wooden, federal-style storefront close to the water. During the American Revolution, when the Brits shut down the Nantucket corridor, two enterprising brothers named Seth and Thomas Jenkins sailed into Hudson, then called Claverack Landing, to establish a whaling industry. The river bays had not yet silted up, there was land for the ports, and farmers in the surrounding countryside to provide whaling ships with provisions. The Jenkins Brothers dickered with the Dutch landowners – this was 20 miles out from the northernmost boundary of the Livingston land grant – and bought their waterfront property at a miserly price. They laid out a town grid. They renamed the place Hudson. An old wagon road was upgraded and turned into an east/west artery so that the brothers could travel by land back to Massachusetts whenever they got homesick.

Hudson became the first incorporated city in the new United State of America after the 13 original colonies won their independence from the U.S.

There was only one problem.

There are no whales on the Hudson River.

I rather like to think the Jenkins Brothers solved this problem by selling their souls to the devil.

In exchange for whales!

If they did, they got the bad end of the bargain since within 60 years, the entire whaling industry was kaput. Natural oil seeps are common throughout Pennsylvania, a mere 150 miles to the south. Kerosene is a much more efficient fuel for lamps than whale blubber.

hudson3


The nature of the town began to change.

There’d always been bawdy houses and grog shops for the sailors and traders and wagon train drivers passing through town. By the mid-19th century, alcohol and prostitution had become two of the most important of Hudson’s industries. Not that the two-day traveler would know it unless he’d come into town specifically armed with that information. Warren Street continued to be a boulevard that reflected prosperity. The town had ironworks, foundries, a couple of cement plants, and textile mills.

One gridline over sat Diamond Street – now Columbia Street – where all the real action took place. Hudson became upstate New York’s dirty little secret. By the 1920s, there were something like 15 brothels in Hudson and numerous gambling establishments. In Hudson, the saloons didn’t even go underground when the 18th amendment passed. Bootleggers prospered. It’s rumored that Joe Kennedy got his start here.

In the 1950s, the reform-minded Thomas Dewey – the New York governor whom Alice Roosevelt Longworth referred to as “the little man on the wedding cake” – decided to shut down Hudson’s red light district. Whether this was coincidental to Hudson’s subsequent decline or a catalyst, industry petered out. Boom and bust. Bust and boom. By the early 1990s, the few storefronts on Warren Street that hadn’t been turned into low-rent bodegas had been boarded up. The hotels had been turned into low-income housing. One imagines Hudson in the early 1990s looked much like Poughkeepsie’s Main Street looks today. Awful!

And then the artists began to move in.

Followed shortly thereafter by the hipsters.
My son Max is off to Standing Rock at the end of this week.

To that end, he's soliciting donations. The money will not be used to finance his trip, but will be donated so that it can be used for the critical gear and firewood the camps will need to survive the brutal North Dakota winter.

If you feel this is an important issue, please consider donating. Even a five-dollar donation can do a lot of good.

Thanks!

Max's fundraiser page is here:

https://www.gofundme.com/yn-fundraiser

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Oh, what a virtuous human being I am! I revel in my own virtue! I’m a regular Mrs. Jellyby. (Though I did steal some of L’s laundry detergent without asking first – is that a blot on my escutcheon? )

First meeting of the DCPAA steering committee last night. I begged a ride from Mike and Maria, who are even more virtuous than I am – if that’s possible (snort) – because it was pouring rain, and the ground fogs are still high, and I’d had enough of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow reenactment the night before.

I’m not sure the meeting accomplished all that much. The Big Question is legal structure: Are we a 527 tax exempt? A 501 C4? A 501 C3? A Political Action Committee (PAC)? And how do we raise the $3,000 to $5,000 a year we’ll need for office supplies?

At the one hour mark, we broke into smaller groups. And that was where the real fun began! I joined a sub-committee that was supposed to be looking at ways to vet potential candidates for the 2017 county legislature election. Among the participants was a woman called Elisa Sumner, who’s the head of the Dutchess County Democratic Committee. A regular Debbie Wasserman Schultz in training. She’d come to suss us out. To conscript us into the Democratic enclaves.

I have zero interest in joining the Democratic Party myself. The Democratic Party is moribund and delusional. This morning, for example, the great Democratic rallying cry is that the oligarchic Trump administration is stripping the U.S. for parts. It’s a shakedown!

And I am thinking, Uh huh. That’s right. But how exactly would that have been different if the Dems had won? You don’t remember Nancy Pelosi’s insider stock trades? You don’t remember Hillary Clinton accepting what to me amounted to a $680,000 bribe from Goldman Sachs?

I’m all for vilifying Trump because of his hateful and racist Cabinet choices.

But, I mean, c’mon. Trump may be stripping the great candy-red ’55 Chevy of State at an unprecedented scale.

But I’m not sure that “scale” alone is grounds for moral outrage.

Anyhoo, one of the participants in the sub-committee is a very brilliant young man named Ranald Adams who’s running for the county legislature from District 2.

“You didn’t even set up an appointment with me,” Elisa Sumner told him dismissively.

Subtitle: You didn’t kiss the ring!

Republicans are comfortably in control of the county legislature.

Elisa Sumner thinks that’s because Democrats won’t get out to vote in local elections.

“So-o-o, your expectation then is that Democrats will vote the party ticket without really evaluating the candidates?” I asked. I was struggling to understand.

She ignored the question.

“And candidates need us,” she said. “We have access to funding sources to help you with –“ She rolled out a number of things that candidates need to do. One of those things was phone banking. Another was polls. A third was those slick, glossy election flyers that most people dump in the recycling bin without reading. Some people throw them in the trash.

Now, I’m all in favor of slick, glossy election flyers. They’re the only thing that keeps small local print shops in business.

But phone banking?

I’ve never understood why anyone thinks phone banking accomplishes a goddamn thing. I mean, maybe it did back in some halcyon, bygone time when lonely people relished every opportunity to talk to someone, anyone, on the phone. But this is 2016. Millennials don’t like talking on the phone. I would actually be disinclined to vote for some candidate or his/her surrogate who incessantly called me at dinner time.

“So-o-o how many people actually vote in county legislature elections?” I asked.

Elisa Sumner snorted. “Are you talking Democrats?”

“Uh, no. I’m talking voters.”

She reeled off a number that I now can’t remember and am way too lazy to look up.

“And what’s the margin of winning?”

“That depends upon how well we mobilize the Democratic vote.”

“So, again, your expectation is that people will come out to vote for Democrats as opposed to voting for candidates with some sort of name recognition. That’s an awfully retro Tammany Hall approach, don’t you think?”

Elisa Sumner glared at me. Shortly afterwards, the subcommittee disintegrated into heated post-game election analysis.

“Trump won because Democrats didn’t get out to vote! And because of Jill Stein!” cried the liberal lawyer to my left.

“No. Trump won because Hillary Clinton was a hugely flawed candidate and the Democratic Party was too arrogant to see that,” I said.

Well, that didn’t go over very well!

Mike and Maria had stepped out early, so I begged a ride back to Hyde Park with Ranald Adams.

Really, really smart kid.

“There will be a decade or so of political freefall,” he said. “The death agonies of the Democratic Party. It won’t be pretty. But we’ll survive it.”

You will! I thought. I might.

“How old are you?” I asked.

“Twenty,” he said.

“You’re playing a long game, aren’t you?” I asked.

“I am,” he said.

“Where does your game end?” I asked.

He looked at me and smiled. “The White House,” he said.

Maybe there is hope.

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I woke up thinking about the curious contractile properties of time; how when I first read Scott Fitzgerald’s flapper stories (for example), their characters seemed to exist in a chronological epoch as distant from my own as the American Civil War or Catherine the Great. But really, The Great Gatsby was written a mere 27 years before my birth, and 27 years is nothing, 27 years is 1990, which I remember, though not vividly – I suppose it’s a condition of my particular form of PTSD that I don’t remember events sequentially though individual moments, unanchored from time, float up with an almost hypnagogic intensity.

What interval has to pass before a particular time period is mythologized by the present tense?

Maybe 30 years is the magic number. Lotsa 90s nostalgia websites out there. But nothing from the oughts.

###

Incredibly thick ground fog when I drove home from Dutchess Literacy last night. It’s been super-warm and raining hard. Quite the Washington Irving landscape with the enormous, looming, and now quite bare trees. I was driving so slowly, I expected to be overtaken by the Headless Horseman.

Attendance at my Intermediate English Class is still hugely – or should I say yugely? – down.

We did nouns and questions. They had a really hard time differentiating proper nouns from common nouns.

Allison, my predecessor with this class, avoided grammar altogether, but I told them I liked grammar.

“It’s like learning to cook!” I said brightly. “When you first learn to cook, you learn to make one dish! But when you get better at cooking, you learn rules! So you can make many dishes!”

Not sure this metaphor really plays, but it’s my metaphor, and I’m sticking to it.

###

I’m finding just about everyone in my day-by-day life incredibly annoying.

Could be lack of exercise.

I hate gyms.

I’m thinking of scoring a cheap Xbox, a cheap monitor, and a used copy of Dance Central. Making that my exercise routine for the coming winter.

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Every Day Above Ground

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