An Open Letter to the Congress of the United States

HELLO. AMERICAN CITIZEN HERE.

Question. What’s wrong with you people?

Congress, I disown you. I disinherit you. You are dead to me.

I am not up to date on the latest five-minute news cycle. I don’t know what happened yesterday or this morning, but I know without knowing, it was atrocious. I speak only for myself when I say, I can’t take any more. I cut myself off from the news like a guillotine due to high blood pressure, mental health concerns, and the right to pursue happiness. Self-defense mechanisms demand I never again expose myself to that smarmy-mouthed pumpkin-headed creature until he’s escorted out of the Oval by the FBI. If I scroll by his image on the web, it sends a shiver down my spine. The kittens app doesn’t always work.

I write to voice my dismay, disbelief, and disgust

that the dangerous charlatan D$%#^@ T%$@*  has retained office despite displaying every kind of bad judgment and behavior since Day 1. It’s not only disappointing, it’s insulting; I can’t tolerate your tolerance of him. There’s a cartoon that asks, why is T&^%$ not being impeached? Because Congress likes to carry a baby to term. I am astonished, sick at heart, and furious that he has had as long a run as he has, after the grotesque electoral “victory” that catapulted a delusional dishonorable reality-show clown into the highest office in the land, where he would immediately begin proving he was unfit for that office, or even to run for it. The man is the Orange Plague of the 21st century, who either poisons or kills anything infected by him.

Women’s March on Washington, 2017

His presidency is not viable.

At first, every time T&^%# committed yet another violation of basic decency and humanity, or demonstrated his lack of respect for others, his lack of vision or reason or understanding of the role of presidency, I would think, his gig is up!

Yes I stupidly thought

grabbing women’s pussies was enough to destroy his candidacy, but oh who cares if he’s an admitted sex offender! What powerful good ol’ boy do we know who isn’t? Gotta stick together! Punishing women who’ve had abortions? Pfft! Courting Putin, his personal ally and campaign manager? Admiring Kim Jung-un because “he speaks and his people sit up at attention”? Tearing families apart, shoving children in cages and not taking responsibility when they die? Children dying! Not giving a whit if a journalist ­is murdered and dismembered if it interferes with raking in money and bonding with MBS? History of family fraud, refusal to submit taxes, backing out of the Paris Accord and the Nuclear Arms Treaty, demeaning LGBT citizens–not one of these has been deemed egregious enough for official censure, none of it deemed treasonous, yet somehow Clinton gets impeached over a blue dress, for committing two acts of perjury, one act of obstruction of justice and one act of abuse of power to commit perjury. Where was the hand-wringing over that decision?

Now, apparently, anything goes!

T%#&%’s midterm campaigns were interrupted by “the bomb stuff”! Talk about an epic fail! Thirteen high-profile attempted murders—and HE is the victim of false news and hostile treatment. Tiny violin. When we most needed strong guidance and peacemaking, he is missing in action ranting away as usual at rallies that massage his vanity. Given the great opportunity to demonstrate leadership through a national security crisis (albeit one provoked by himself), he prioritized once again his massive ego.

Source: NBCNews

His litany of bad-to-criminal behaviors

refreshes so often we can’t remember the last one. “If this were a normal presidency,” pundits pronounce, “this would be the scandal of the century.” No. If this were a fully functioning Congress, it would be. “Anyone else would be taken out in handcuffs.” OK, well why not him? Has he been granted special behind-closed-doors dispensation to be a complete ahole and get away with it? The fact that this not-normal presidency is by now just a sound-bite of what-has-he-done-now? IS the scandal of the century.

If this were a fully functioning Congress,

“unacceptable” would be not just a buzzword but a reality. You would reject the DOJ guideline (not law) and establish a protocol for indicting sitting presidents. Eliminate the electoral college. Challenge and revoke nepotistic top-secret appointments of the unqualified. Enforce subpoenas. Establish a Secretary of Transparency who safeguards the public interest over the private interests of its elected officials, like the police OIA. Too bad it’s needed!

Things in T&^%$-land called “unacceptable”

Close the Camps, Philly 2019

that have, for lack of consequences, been deemed indeed acceptable include gun deaths, mass shootings, murdering children, teachers, folks just doing their jobs or practicing their religion; fraternizing with the enemy; secret meetings with foreign powers; treating asylum seekers like animals (or worse than); crystal clear security breach of refusing to give up his iPhone; giving his daughter a pass on personal email use; giving his feckless relatives top security clearance jobs; sexual predation; lying every time he opens his sewer mouth; demonizing the “enemy of the people” press whose job it is to monitor his performance; sanctioning the gruesome murder of a journalist because the killer is a paying customer of his he needs to bond with; zero concern for the planet and its present or future inhabitants–ad nauseum. To what a hateful disgraceful SOB have we given the keys to our freedom! And he is said by the top Democrat to be “not worth” impeaching! Maybe you are, Speaker Pelosi!

GOOD OL’ BOY NETWORK

After Brett Kavanaugh’s crybaby woe-is-me testimony

at the confirmation hearing (he is so put upon!), I had to wonder how the many of you who confirmed him had achieved the offices of senator or congressman despite being blind deaf and dumb. He did not even show Dr. Blasey Ford the respect of watching her testimony, though his future and career depended on it! After that pathetic display, it was no longer about the truth of her accusations or even his qualifications, it was about his blatant unsuitability as a hysterical whiner for the post. Hundreds of law professionals and a former Supreme Court Justice agreed. Guess they weren’t Republicans!

And so it is with Trump.

It’s no longer about his poor performance, lack of shame, or whether he instigated the bomb scare or Tree of Life tragedy with his hateful rhetoric, hypocrisy and constant lying. He is not a “very fine” person with a few flaws. He is a raging megalomaniac, misogynist, narcissist, sex predator and coward who glorifies violence and delights in making a mockery of democracy. He is (literally) an international laughing stock and makes us look like a bunch of daft suckers. How dare you allow this fracker to retain office and represent the good people of this country? He obviously can fool a lot of people a lot of the time, but you’re way past due ending the reign of the Great Pretender. He is better suited to roastmaster than president.

Time to Impeach!

I am gobsmacked

by how much deference is granted to T&^%$ just because he’s president. He doesn’t merit the office, the title, or the consideration. One instance alone: He threatened Michael Cohen, slated to testify against him, and his father in broad daylight, on the air. Cohen cancelled his appearance before Congress out of concern for his family. Witness tampering, obstruction of justice. Just another news bite? No—that’s enough. Impeachable. Forget everything else. Start the proceedings. Yesterday.

Oh, that’s right. Only Democrats get impeached for obstruction of justice.

You’re letting him get away with unthinkable things!

Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated and adopted.

The detention camp debacle alone!, children dying, people!, his delusional idée fixe of the border wall, kissing foreign ass, inspiring Americans to put their worst foot forward and Make America White Again, the disastrous snit of shutting down the government as a political strategy—obnoxiously demonstrating his lack of concern for the everyday American’s situation and well-being. Why does his vanity project affect a person’s ability to pay their mortgage? Because he does not care about anyone but himself and doesn’t care who knows it. Because nobody stops him! What on what’s left of God’s earth would it take to be worth impeachment? What a loser this “winner” is!

Of all the infuriating things

about T@#$%, the worst is the constant references to “beating Trump,” and “who can beat Trump?” You are betraying this country by keeping this incompetent, morally bankrupt joker in power. “He’s not worth impeaching?” He does damage every damn day! Whoever you may be who bows to T&^%$, smooths the way for T$%#&, enables him, ignores him, are you thinking “This is a good look for me”? “This will get me reelected”? Reelection concerns have no place in the policy/confirmation/law-creating decision-making processes of Congress. You know what does? The overall welfare and benefit to the American citizenry, who by the way are not corporations.“The best way to rid ourselves of T#$@^ is for the American people to vote him out of office,” it’s been said. WRONG. Are you nutz? Can the Republican Party be so brain-dead as to sanction him again? WRONGER. Not when the incumbent is Satan with a spray tan.

He cannot be nominated again, he cannot be allowed to run again, he cannot be given a .01 chance of winning—again! He cannot be allowed to complete his term. The world has to witness the United States of America removing this chancre sore from the presidency. The world has to know we will not tolerate his contempt for the American people, the Constitution, the rule of law, and the whole rest of the world.

Why? Why? Why? Someone tell me why.

How any educated, humane individual

can continue, after his many misfires in terrorist emergencies and internationally sensitive scenarios, to offer him the respect of his office, which he has so grievously failed to earn, is beyond belief. This has been a hopeless, wearing, depressing two+ years for this country; this blatantly un-American bully needs to be called out—AND BY REPUBLICANS!—on every transgression of office he has ever committed, and no more chicken-shit looking the other way. He needs to be told, by Congress, you cannot act like this! You’re embarrassing the country and your party, and disgracing our reputation as a world power and it’s intolerable. You can no longer allow him to get away with it; otherwise you are putting party or perhaps cowardice above country and betraying billions of Americans and citizens of the world. If this phony fraudster makes it to 2020, it will be your, Congress’s, fault.

IT IS YOU, CONGRESS,

I hold responsible for this travesty of justice

we call the T&*%$ administration. He may have with smoke and mirrors finagled his way into a job, but it is your solemn and sworn duty to get rid of him. He has made a farce of his oath of office and the office itself. There is no political consideration more significant than cleansing the soul of the nation of him. Can he even be held responsible for himself, this delusional narcissistic psycho with barely a grip on reality? I pity him, because despite being surrounded by devoted family, staff sycophants, and ass-kissing Republicans, he does not have a trusted best friend (who might have warned him about the toilet paper on his shoe on the plane), because your best friend is the one who tells you what you don’t want to hear. That person would take him aside and calmly advise him, “D%$#&*, the best thing you can do for yourself, your family, this country and the world, is to step down, and take Pence with you. It’s the only way you will leave office with a shred of dignity. After that, I recommend you commit hara kiri. It’s the only way you will leave this earth with any honor.”

Short of that, let him buy his own private island, move all his “base” supporters there, and reign as Supreme Leader for Life with his own population of rallying AK-47-bearing chanters sucking up to him. Then the Trumpeters can trumpet his glory unto the heavens and leave the rest of us alone.

Often when I sign petitions

the personal comment I add is “Straighten up and fly right.” You know that song. Or the other, Accentuate the Positive. “Don’t mess with Mr. In-between.” That’s Congress for you: Mr./Ms./Whatever In-between–because D@#$% T&*%# is somehow! after 900+ days! still! in office! Of the dozens (100s?) of things that have been a national disgrace for the past few years, his continued occupancy of the Oval is unconscionable. He is the fourth worst person in the world. The first three are Kim Jong Un, Putin and Mohammed bin Salman—his heroes, his loved ones. He no doubt envies their superior positions and won’t rest ‘til he’s at the top of the garbage heap.

Really, what is wrong with you people?

Close the Camps, Philly 2019

What kind of sick codependent abusive relationship do you tolerate with this jester? How has he entrapped you? What does he have on every one of you who refuse to toss him on the junkyard of history? If you betray your loyalty, will he sic the Russian Mafia on you? You should have “wrong side of history” reverse-tattooed on your foreheads to remind you in your morning and evening mirrors just how low you have sunk.

Gone are the days

of “anyone can grow up to be president.” This is not an entry-level position. Requirements: 10 years of tax returns and proof of citizenship to be submitted with application to Dept. of Elections. Literacy test. High school-level reading comprehension test. Psychiatric assessment before nomination. Desirable: Degree in law, political science, economics, history; demonstrated leadership in prior elected office or public service positions.

Disclaimer:

Pardon my generalities, those of you to whom this tirade does not apply. I exclude any decent, honest, educated, science-savvy patriot Rep or Senator (you know who you are) from my despair. You have my respect and gratitude, all you who have the best interests of the American public at heart. The Republican Party clearly does not. They want to make it as difficult as possible to be a human being on earth so they can keep their boots to our necks because no amount of power is ever enough power, just as no amount of money is ever enough to ensure that humanity continues to want and suffer.

The literal heel of oppression

They want to keep take, take, taking

from others no matter how pretty they’re sitting, just in case we ever get well off enough or educated enough to rise up and render them irrelevant. For instance, the tiresome and misplaced threat to defund Social Security, erroneously called an entitlement but already paid for by American citizens. Could it possibly not be against the law to raid those funds belonging to those who put them there? No one calling themselves public servants could be hypocrite enough to deprive our most vulnerable citizens of basic survival care, or conspire to restrict the vote.

Unfortunately the genuine public servants among you are part and parcel of a wasteland of namby-pamby bloviating blowhards who mouth platitudes and give our criminal president a free ride, an ineffectual body of vascillating wimps who are not getting the job done–the #1 job being GET RID OF D$%#^& T$@%&. I don’t care what else is on your agenda, Congress, straighten up and fly right. THROW THE BUM OUT, or resign your office.

So many American problems

could be solved by reversing T$$$$’s tax breaks for fat cats (but as someone put it, “he has to repay his donors”). But guess what? We don’t need to raise taxes or cut programs to solve our budgetary challenges. Where’s the money going to come from?
Out of that big blue slice of pie will come across-the-board raises for all teachers and first responders, funds for infrastructure repair and replacement, Medicare for All, Social Security expansion, retraining fossil fuel workers for solar and wind energy jobs, habitat restoration, and your pet project.

Let’s start with this premise:

An American citizen should be the most privileged, protected, and proudest in the world. America should be the world leader in education, conservation, public transportation, pollution remediation, sustainable farming, habitat preservation, species protection, homelessness and starvation solutions, ecological restoration, medical research, industry and manufacturing, and civil rights protections. We should be proud to subsidize our citizens to become the best-educated in the world. Instead we are foremost in corporate greed and corrupt political shills. We should be ashamed–I am ashamed–that any American citizen can risk bankruptcy over an illness, or end their life in squalor with no guaranteed long-term care and minimum-wage attendants in some subpar facility. Did you know, Medicare is health insurance; if you are going to require Medicaid coverage for long-term nursing, and you gave your daughter a $25 birthday gift within the last five years, you (someone) has to pay it back before you can get coverage? I’m not making that up! Don’t be giving all your money away without considering the “five-year look-back.”

We should be assured

that American citizenship shields us from foreign interference, natural and climate change disaster losses, poverty, starvation and homelessness, not only because of our oft-heralded status as richest country in the world (that’s hype) but because our government values and respects our humanity and believes every American, by virtue of their citizenship, is entitled to the opportunity to pursue liberty and happiness. Isn’t that how this country started?

A friend remarked

that his 75-year-old grandmother still works in the floral shop down the street. Oh, she doesn’t want to retire? She can’t afford to! No one can! Have you been to the Giant store down the street? There’s nothing but seniors bagging groceries. If that’s the case, we have failed. We, as a society, have failed.

He’s right, all right.

If a senior can’t afford to retire and enjoy home security, guaranteed health care, long-term care, and funeral benefits, we have failed.

Oh my Grace I got no hiding place

Has anyone ever dared

to say to T#$%^ to his face: “Mr. President, you are lying. What you just said is an easily demonstrable lie. What gives you the right to tell obvious lies to the American people? What kind of fools do you take us for?” “Hah! The kind who would elect me.”

If he said to me, an ordinary citizen, as he did to a CNN reporter, “You are a rude, terrible person,” I would say, “I guess the rudest and most terrible of them all would know! I don’t care what your job title is; you do not speak to me like that.” We all deserve the ordinary respect of civility, but that does not exempt us from the right to confrontation when we are abused. Trump is “wrong all over the place” and must be sanctioned every single time he crosses the line, if there are any left to be crossed.

There’s no doubt America’s founders

committed genocide against native inhabitants to seize this land and there’s no doubt that white male racist slave-owning landowners seized control of voting and lawmaking. Those are facts. There’s no doubt that racism, discrimination, and oppression are still going strong here in the US, as we have a president who champions these things, embodies them, promotes them, and reinforces the “rights” of the privileged to feel superior to others.

There’s an active shooter instructional video

at 30th St. Station in Philadelphia! How to (try to) save your own life and perhaps others’. What a crying shame. Anyone accepting contributions from the NRA, you have so much blood on your hands you’re now swimming in it. How does that work? They make a campaign contribution so you “owe” them, and if you don’t act in their favor, you won’t get any more money from them next time? Or do they pass actual stacks of bow-tied cash under your desks? I did hear some good news though. Aren’t they on the verge of bankruptcy? No more campaign contributions and suddenly you’ll be all about gun control.

Perhaps guns are part and parcel of the good ol’ boy mentality that maneuvered K onto the Supreme Court despite his obvious juvenile flaws of character and temperament.

Attention: Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham, Justice (hah!) Kavanaugh—your GOB network is being dismantled as you sleep on your 1000-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets. Oh, you put up a valiant defense of changing the narrative with history-making hysterical men’s tantrums on national TV. Can you imagine the blowback from a woman of color acting like that?

Of course eventually getting your way was worth the cost of making complete fools of yourself on the world stage. No one will remember that once Fracker K is wearing that robe. And perhaps good ol’ boys are the father to the warrior?

That is the T%$&# era in a nutshell—

the need for citizens to protect themselves from terrorism and often from law enforcement, rather than sane and sensible laws keeping us safe—that and the horrific shameful sickening image of a smiling border patrol officer emptying out water bottles humanitarians have left for the refugees. He was high-fiving his crew over Budweiser Light that night. If I didn’t have family obligations in the US, I would already be gone.

If T%#&$ has a shred of concern

for the country for which he so lamentably and incompetently serves as figurehead (he doesn’t), he will admit (he never will) that HE is our greatest security risk and resign his office without delay (he won’t); if he cannot be convinced of this by rational advisers (he can’t be), I call upon the House of Representatives to initiate impeachment proceedings immediately (now, today). I beg you not to waste one more second of America’s time accommodating this insane fracker. You owe it to Hatice Cengiz (who?), a doctoral student in Istanbul and Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancée, and to Jamal Khashoggi, to every refugee and asylum seeker on the border, to every lover of peace and decency around the world, to show this joker the door.

 FRACK YOU-FRACK YOU-FRACK YOU-FRACK YOU-FRACK YOU

(Fracking is more offensive than f*cking.)

That was my instant reaction when this alert showed up on my phone:

What does this have to do with me, our families, the ordinary citizens of the US or Iran? Hey armies of the world, call a strike. Don’t show up for work. Why should a country’s citizens fight the senseless hateful wars of its leaders? Let them duke it out mano a mano in a boxing ring. World “leaders” who lead us only into disaster, death, famine and war, we are sick of your lust for land and money and power and world domination. What are you so lacking in that you can’t stand anyone else having it, or anything at all? No amount of resources you can commandeer will fill the void of your hunger for control of others or the hole in your soul. It’s a sad, sad situation.

Source: Flobots [published pending sanction from Flobots]

I encourage the billionaires of this world

to prioritize some of the obvious challenges calling for immediate resolution. Some of you have, and made quite a difference, but there is so much more the lot of you can do to advance human progress. Your piles of wealth extend for generations into the future of your heirs and beneficiaries, but guess what—the planet does not!

THE COST TO END WORLD HUNGER

is all about priorities.

“World hunger and its devastating effects can be eradicated with a fraction of the United States Federal Budget…— $30 billion per year [estimated by the UN] is needed to end world hunger; $737 billion per year is the amount Congress spends on Defense.” (borgenproject.org)
How many 000,000,000s of dollars got wasted on T$#@%&’s July 4th ego fireworks?

 

No, we didn’t need that for anything else. Certainly not to reunite refugee families, provide them with medical care and basic supplies, and offer them the future they came here looking for. Had I been asked, I’m sure I would have preferred the funds go to an awkward rained-out personal party for the president (I don’t actually know anything about it, I didn’t pay attention). Reminds me of Bush II’s frivolous reelection inauguration ball ($150M+). Inauguration costs are split by private donations to inauguration committees (fun) and the taxpayer (security etc.), but I would be super impressed if they just called the whole thing off. $150M? Too much! Let’s build some hospitals instead in our first 100 days in office.

CRAZY EXPENSIVE WARS

Why is there never, ever

a lack of funds to build a $152,000,000 Raptor fighter jet?

This is the worst time in human history

to have a loose cannon making decisions about our future, assuming unabated climate change does not deprive us of it. What a hateful, embarrassing, shameful face we put to the world!

HEL-LOOOO-OH!

Humanity is at a crossroads

in our evolution. Either we are going to prioritize the quality of life for all people and all species living in this volatile environment, or we devolve and doom ourselves. The #1 emergency condition is the state and fate of our planet and the immoral incompetent who has jurisdiction over much of it. This is where we live, fools! All our lives, all our own futures and that of coming generations (would) take place here. Is a $7B border wall more urgent? Frack you T%^&$#! Constantly manufacturing “illegal and unconstitutional” wars for war’s sake, which somehow still manage to be waged? Look at all the species and habitats we have already wiped out! Are we ourselves next? “In the end, nature rules. We’re just a part of it.” – Jose Martino Amoedo, wilderness survival expert.

HOW T^%$# ROLLS–BACKWARDS

There is NO MORE CRUCIAL consideration

than the actions we must take to admit our mistakes and correct them. At this specific time in the history of our species, all of humanity must cooperate to reverse the stunning damage we have done in our short history as the top of the food chain. We can’t be out there stupidly threatening each other with aggressive actions. How we respond determines our fate as the human race! If ever there was a time and motivation for the peoples of the world to come together, is this not it? Come on people now! Smile on your brothers!

Source: Know Your World

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Oh big whoop. OK, so you had a fancy red chair. Where are you now, fracker? Someone or other’s throne, The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

We are the custodians of the earth. We are obligated to manage and shepherd our resources. It is our duty to future generations to maintain them and perpetuate them. We must exhibit respect for all people, all species, all habitats. Earth is where we make our stand.

Where do you stand, Congress?

Let America Be America Again
Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed–
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home–
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay–
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose–
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain–
All, all the stretch of these great green states–
And make America again!

Close the Camps march passes the Museum of the American Revolution, Philly 2019

This column was brought to you by the First Amendment and my desire to reclaim my country before Congress gives it away.

“The most violent element in society is ignorance.”
Emma Goldman

 

An Open Letter to President Trump

Mister President,

My hometown of Philly

is home to the Museum of the American Revolution, and that in turn is home to George Washington’s war tent. When the curtain went up on that thing, I cried, and cried all the way out to the street­–not out of reverence for what our founding fathers went through to get this newborn nation on its feet–but because it somehow tragically and ironically led to your being elected president.

How far we have fallen from grace!

Do me two favors please.

The first is see “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” In it Fred Rogers explains he went right from the seminary to television because he could see how useful a tool it could be and it was being squandered on cheap entertainment. You are also possessed of perhaps (no pun intended) the most powerful tool in the world–the presidency of the United States–and you are squandering it with your own ego, ignorance, and intolerance.

Mister Rogers

was criticized for raising a generation of entitled spoiled brats who felt they didn’t need to work or achieve anything to be loved. They’d been taught by him that every human being is inherently, by inalienable right, entitled to love, support, acceptance, guidance, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Revolutionary! He said,

Let’s take the gauntlet and make goodness attractive…That’s the real job that we have. I’m not talking about Pollyann-ish kind of stuff, I’m talking about down-to-earth actual goodness. People caring for each other in a myriad of ways, rather than people knocking each other off all the time… What changes the world? The only thing that ever really changes the world, is when somebody gets the idea that love can abound, and can be shared…No matter what our particular job, especially in our world today, we all are called to be tikkun olam, repairers of creation. Thank you for whatever you do, wherever you are, to bring joy and light and hope and faith and pardon and love to your neighbor and to yourself.

Tikkun olam

(Hebrew: literally ‘repair of the world’) is a concept in Judaism of the aspiration to behave and act constructively and beneficially. That is what being a role model and setting examples is about. The only example you’re setting is how to start the second civil war and the third world war.

The second favor is,

straighten up and fly right. Show respect for yourself and the citizens of this weary land by resigning your office without delay, so the healing can begin. Accept the consequences of your behavior and take it like a man. It is the only way you will leave your office and legacy with any semblance of honor. And you will generate the sigh of relief heard ‘round the world.

Sincerely,

Alexandra Jones
American Citizen
Philadelphia, PA
@AlexandraRight

Mommy mommy

MY NOSE CAN BREATHE AGAIN!

Mommy mommy my brain can read again!

I have a friend in his 50s who has not read one book since high school. And what might that book have been? Of all the titles in all the world, Jude the Obscure.

JUDE the OBSCURE?

I howled with laughter.

I know someone in her 60s who, though she is a writer with a degree in English and had been a ravenous reader, was unable to finish a book or even a comic strip, for several years. She–I–had formerly picked up another book as soon as I–she–had set one down.

I DIDN’T KNOW HOW BAD I FELT

until I felt good.

Loving What Is is a self-help–motivational book (as identified on the ISBN label) that caught my eye as I passed a bookstore’s outside sale table. In it Bryon Katie describes waking up from her miserable life on the floor of a halfway house, and presto change-o, she was a new person.

Jambi’s wife Jambalaya

MEKA LEKA HI MEKA HINEY HO

I had a similar awakening

not long ago, whereby I realized that a string of heartbreaks, misfortunes and instability had built into an eight-year-long depressive episode, which one day magically lifted. I feel lighter, nearly buoyant, closer to the peace I have always sought, that everything’s going to be OK. With me–not the country or planet; that’s still up in the fossil fuel-ridden air. But it’s on me and me alone to enjoy and be grateful for my one wild and precious life, yes?

I’M SO HAPPY TO HAVE READING BACK

All loners know

what a great companion a book is. You can enter a stranger’s mind via a book. You can learn physics from Einstein. You can take the pressure off your own story and indulge in someone else’s. You can learn how to knit, how to strip wood, how to dress a wound, how to sew a French seam, how to rebuild a carburetor. You can learn ballet positions and tantric sex positions. But my favorite use of a book is to take joy in beautiful language artfully arranged. I also love laying a book on my chest, closing my eyes and smelling the pages. And then having a cat come sit on my head.

So I’m devouring books again. They are plant-based, zero in calories, and leave you feeling full.

Excuse me, John Waters

“Did I just ask John Waters to excuse me?”

I asked John Waters, getting up for my stop on the F-line. I had! Apparently he has an apartment here in [SF], and was nice enough to let me snap his picture just because, hey, John Waters had sat next to me on the trolley. Proof. The empty space on his right is where I had previously sat next to him.

“If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ’em!” – John Waters

SO WELCOME BACK

to yourself, my dear.

I’m reading and writing again. Just like I did as a kid when I hadn’t gone to sleep yet and the ‘hood was not yet awake. Just as I did as an overly zealous English major.

I’m surprised I couldn’t find that mommy mommy commercial on youtube. Here is one to hold its place.

Source: chuckiesjamochashake

♦ ♣ ♥ ♠

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”– Mason Cooley

I could be a lot more broken

THAT’S MY TAKEAWAY

from my encounter on the streets of Philadelphia

with the bruised and broken Karl, who’d said to me, “God sent you to me.” While pondering whether there was some tailored life-lesson or conclusion to be drawn, I got this email from my friend C.

C: A sad sad situation indeed. Your kindness and persistence are remarkable, you probably showed him more caring than he’d received in a long time. And maybe helping someone whose life is so broken was just the support group you needed. Helping others is always good therapy.
Me: You brought a tear to my eye. Maybe God sent him to me?

I had forced myself
out of bed and my comfort zone (also known as bed), thinking I don’t know how to live life, heading for a dreaded intimate confessional meeting with strangers–but in doing so demonstrating to myself I had the strength to make the move. And then, in contrast to Karl, I was all kinds of competent. First obvious advantage: I have legs I can walk on. I have a cell phone and know to call for help. I can figure things out, explore options, pay for breakfast, and remove myself from an onerous situation. All of which suggest what Byron Katie posits in Loving What Is:

YOU ARE THE TEACHER AND HEALER YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR.

Often I ask myself,

of the mysteries of my childhood, “Why can’t I just ask someone who was there?” Well sugar plum, you were there. Ask yourself! Someone in a movie, I don’t remember which, referenced William James’ idea that “memory is not like a well that you dip into, or a filing cabinet. When you remember something, you remember the memory. You remember the last time you remembered it, not the source. So its always getting fuzzier, like a photocopy of a photocopy. It’s never getting fresher or clearer, so even a very strong memory can be unreliable, because it’s always in the process of dissolving.”

Perhaps I will never know the truth.

But will I stop seeking it? I would rather look to myself for guidance and leave God out of the equation. Too much baggage.* God is a romantic notion, like astrology, whereby things out of our control dictate our lives. It’s darling to think we are the way we are because the stars were where they were at our birth, or because God has “a plan” humans know not to question because we’re only human and can’t know the mind of God.

* Oh wait, didn’t I decide that the expression in Goof City would be “too much luggage”? “I’m not going out with him, he’s got too much luggage.” Yes, there’s too much luggage around God.

It’s too easy peasy to believe

in an anthropomorphic figure who created man in his own image. Well isn’t that convenient, because how could we know what God looks like? Turns out, just like us! It’s astonishing the extent to which mankind revolves around the concept of God. More plausible to me is “the energy of the universe.” I do believe in “putting it out” to the universe and being “answered” by the universe. Ever think of a friend and they call you later that day? “I called you out.” There’s something floating around out there connecting things up in weird, wild, wonderful ways.
 
Just as Karl and I connected on a Saturday morning in Philadelphia.

♦ ♣ ♥ ♠

It is as impossible for man to demonstrate the existence of God as it would for even Sherlock Holmes to demonstrate the existence of Arthur Conan Doyle.
 – Frank Buechner

 

I’m a loner

ALWAYS HAVE BEEN

That’s the way, uh-huh, uh-huh, I like it.

Apart from 20-something delusional fantasies of the Platonic meeting and melting of souls, I’ve always known I am not the marrying kind. I never as a girl envisioned anything like a dream wedding or the possibility of children. High school Saturday nights passed without thought to the date I didn’t have. Prom? What is that, even? Not this gal. Once upon a time when I was on a date with Some Guy, we walked by the Academy of Music, where the evening’s program was Dvorak’s New World Symphony. He was not one to spontaneously go to the orchestra with me, not even with $2 nosebleed seats. I briefly contemplated palming his chest and shoving him into the street with “This is where we part ways.” In my mental script, as I pass into the theater, he almost gets hit by a car.

I don’t want anyone

interfering with me and my one lifetime. I do what I want and go where I want whenever I want. I’ll buy a house, sell a house, move to another city, another country, and change jobs, quit jobs, without consulting anyone or compromising. I’m not going to wait for someone to be ready to join me before I do something. And never will I tell a friend, “OK, I’ll check with Jim and get back to you.”

I, however,

reject the designation single. Single implies half of double and I ain’t half anything, beeyatches; I live a whole life of my own. Despite my continuing career as a chronic depressive, I find, in my upright lucid moments, that curiosity and appreciation are all it takes to be more happy than less happy, no matter who is or isn’t by your side. That’s my recipe for an interesting life, and the secret ingredients are music, cats, and friends.

FORGET THE TUNNEL OF LOVE

I live in the tunnel of affectionate friendship.

The Tunnel of Affectionate Friendship, Penn Station, NY

The best things ever to happen to me were menopause, retirement, and social security, which all freed me from so many dreary or conflicting aspects of life, like tampons, libido, alarm clocks, and jobs. Men? Forgettaboudit. That’s over. Not that I haven’t loved any, or might not still, but anyone of any persuasion quickly finds I am near impossible to live with. Ask my best friends. I would caution any guy—I’m a bad pony; don’t bet on me. I can have people around me for only so long. I don’t want to engage with someone just because they’re in my field of vision. I want to eat, sleep, go out, and ­travel in my own time, not in coordination with someone else’s. I want to play the same Scriabin étude on a loop for five hours. I prefer a quiet room to chatter. You do things with people you wouldn’t do on your own, like watch a rerun of Veep because why not what else are we doing? In silence, creativity calls.

Loving, supportive, loyal,

half-cracked friends is the way to go for me. Bonus points for gay guys. But you’re leaving out love, lovey, you might say, the riches of partnership—but even in love, I crave solitude. I can’t be alert and responsive 24/7. I need room to breathe and freedom to crash. I need to know no one’s coming through that front door. I realize most people seek companionship; I know I’m an exception, and I told a friend my lack of interest in the pursuit of love makes me feel an outsider to the human race which seems obsessed with it. He shot back over our Thai lunch, “You are an outsider.” Nothing special about it, it just goes against the grain of ordinary society. Some people are at a loss for being alone, but I enjoy my own company, bless my soul. I may die alone, like the hooked-up always forecast—but so will you after your partner croaks. I know I can live a satisfying life on my own; anything else is a crap shoot.

LISTEN TO BACH

and the world will make sense. – Mayor Jones

Music is my saving grace. If Whoever’s in Charge had asked, I’d have begged, make me not a writer but a musician.  We all know music beats the living daylights out of other modes of expression. It is pure communication through sound waves.

There is nothing I love more

than music—but I don’t speak the language, I only hear it.

John Coltrane’s illustration of the mathematics of music

It might as well be calculus. It’s just sound to me, either pleasing or disturbing or undistinguished, or boring, and the structural framework upon which it is built eludes me. It’s a club I’m shut out of. I am unspeakably jealous of all musicians. It actually hurts. Sure I could learn more than I now know, in the way I was proud of myself for going from an F to an E in Algebra, then back down to an F, but some things don’t come naturally and I wouldn’t have the confidence of real understanding.

I mean: “Under the latter definition, a diatonic scale comprises five non-transpositionally equivalent pentachords rather than seven because the Ionian and Mixolydian pentachords and the Dorian and Aeolian pentachords are intervallically identical (CDEFG=GABCD; DEFGA=ABCDE).”

What?

Or…OR—get this:

Maybe I’m lucky that way, that it’s an abstraction that goes in both ears and evaporates, because though I forced myself to learn to read music so I could mangle Bach on the piano, I found that when I later listened to pieces I’d studied, I didn’t like knowing what the notes were, or seeing the skeleton of the sheet music it began as. That was too of this world, and music is not.

Music barely exists,

in a practical sense. There’s no such concrete thing as Beethoven’s 9th. It’s not in the notes on the page; they have to be played and heard and you can hear only so many at one time. There’s no cloud of sound waves hanging in the air that contains the whole of Beethoven’s 9th. It’s not contained in the score; that’s just paper. Its wholeness is something we take on faith. When the second movement begins, the first one is gone. You can’t keep music and you can’t chase it. Tempus edax rerum. Time, the destroyer of all things, destroys music as it’s happening. With every note the previous note dies. It’s continually deconstructing itself into silence. You can only hear it in waves which advance and retreat. It comes to us like the wind and, like the wind, blows away.

My response to music is purely emotional.

I’m not knowledgeable enough to be a critic, and when I read online quibbling about fine points and nuances, I don’t know what they’re talking about. Rubato comes up a lot. I focus on the pleasure hearing something gives, it’s visceral and sensory, not intellectual, à la “I know what I like.” A piece can make me hyperventilate (Grosse Fugue), weep (Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Symphony), swoon (Brahms’ 3rd), dance (Wir eilen mit swachen), smile (Fugue à la Gigue), wrinkle my brow (Rochberg), space out (Glass), pound the floor for mercy (Parsifal), transport me to another realm (Bachianas Brasilieras No. 9), gasp (Resphighi’s Ancient Airs), shiver me timbers (any Bach Mass), or sometimes gag (most contemporary schlock).

Music even saved my life. Deep in depression and grief months after the murder of a friend, I went to the Academy of Music to hear Schumann’s Rhenish Symphony. By the light-hearted 4th movement I was reconciled to the reality that J was dead but I was not.

Someone asked me

what are my greatest pleasures in life, and without thinking I said long-distance train travel, a live symphony orchestra, and my cats. Apart from perhaps the thrillingly ominous creaking of the train as you climb Soldier Summit in the Wasatch Mountains on a snowy moonlit night, or having the earth drop out from beneath you riding the edge of Pineview Dam in Ogden, there’s nothing more

© James A. Castañeda

exciting than near-on 100 virtuoso musicians playing as one, the electricity of the hall crackling in the air. I’m addicted, and the treatment center is but a train ride away, because I live in the city of the glorious Philadelphia Orchestra. They’re our #1 asset, ask me. I grew up with them. They were my first orchestra and Ormandy my first Music Director, in the era of Concertmaster Norman Carol and flautist Murray Panitz, cellist William Stokking, the de Pasquales of course, and violist Renard Edwards, the first African American member of the orchestra, back in 1971. Forty-eight years later, he hasn’t retired.

Maybe it’s brand loyalty,

or simply the first live music I ever heard, but “music’s most sensuous sound,” the fabled “Philadelphia sound”— is the sound I crave, whatever other orchestras have to offer, for “its warmth, [its] rich enveloping sound.” “The signature lava flow of [the] magnificent Philadelphia strings is…memorably ravishing.” I hear Muti disrupted this tradition, and I didn’t pay much attention to the intervening conductors between him and Nézet-Séquin, but I can’t remember ever not being ravished by today’s Philadelphia Orchestra.

RAVISH ME!

One of the first concerts

I recall was in 1977, with André Watts and featuring Beethoven’s Fifth; I think I’d just graduated from  Temple. (Yes, I do still have the program and those of virtually every concert I have attended since college. I collect memories.) I must have chosen that because it was the Fifth that introduced me, amidst my nonmusical family, to classical music. I’d asked myself, “What’s the big deal about Beethoven’s Fifth?” I listened to it, and found out. Soon after, I acquired the 17-volume Beethoven Bicentennial Collection and was all about LvB until, after hearing Glenn Gould, I became the Bach freak I am today. As I like to say, “Buddha is my mentor; Bach is my religion.” Though I’ve no idea how often the players have shifted over the years—could be a whole different animal—I’ll hear Nézet-Séquin do something, Schubert’s Great Symphony, go home and listen to Ormandy’s 1969 recording, and they both feel familiar.

Frontier Airlines, a whole different animal

I found it sad,

though, towards the end, that the orchestra seemed to lose its heart for playing for Ormandy; sometimes the audience would stop clapping before he even got off the stage. Then when that spitfire Riccardo Muti showed up, things got exciting again. I loved his youngblood energy, but I left town not long after, and had no worthy successor orchestra to devote myself to. I got out of the habit of going to live shows, and was once brought to nostalgic tears in my living room listening to the Academic Festival Overture, but years later I hit the jackpot at Davies Hall, home of Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony. I loved them to death for 17 years (15 Grammy awards, 21 nominations) but couldn’t bring myself to call them “my” orchestra.

Ormandy gets mixed reviews

on the web. I don’t hear him lauded as one of the greats. I’m no doubt not discerning enough a judge. He gets a lot of flack but I don’t give a damn. It was his orchestra that taught me as a teenager to love Brahms, Beethoven, Dvorak, Tchaik and Rocky. They’re better than ever, and as I wrote of a performance in May 2017, “I don’t know where in the world you are but did you hear it, the ‘Philadelphia Sound‘ that just blew the roof off the Kimmel Center? Tchaikovsky would never have had doubts about his own 5th symphony if he had heard MY orchestra play it. Woôöòóœøōõow! They killed that 5th so dead, in my concert notes tonight I wrote ‘Why the Philadelphia Sound is the sound heard ’round the world.’ ” (conducted by Cristian Mâcelaru)

Here is a letter

I wrote Eugene Ormandy on October 30, 1981, shortly after fleeing the humidity, slush, and unrequited love of Philadelphia for Portland, Oregon, and here I am reading it to my pal Beau in my San Francisco apartment.

Dear Maestro Ormandy,

As a native Philadelphian (of 26 years’ habitation) who has recently transplanted to Portland, I am confident that while I miss my friends and city, a new life will develop in their stead—but what can fill the void formerly occupied by you and your wonderful orchestra? In the two months I have been making a home for myself, my constant companion has been your exquisite, incomparable recording of the Rachmaninoff 2nd Symphony. Is there a nobler, grander, more fearless piece of music, and could anyone embrace it with the warmth and fullness you alone achieve?

The 2nd is very meaningful to me. I first heard you conduct it at a 1977 Dell West concert, where I and my great love shared a single umbrella while the misty blue night descended and your strings soared over Fairmount Park like my own triumphant heart. I am a writer and I can only hope to one day compose a sentence that can fly straight into the heart like the motto of the E minor.

After I decided to leave Philadelphia (and my great love) in the summer of 1981, I went to see, one last time, Eugene Ormandy conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Dell. What was on the program but Rachmaninoff 2! As I do not know when, if ever, I will return, it was for all I know the last time I will have heard you together, and so I felt impelled to pay my respects and to thank you for the beauty and splendor you have given the world like a gift of magic. I happened to see you walking on Locust St. the opening day of the ’78-’79 season; I said good morning and you tipped your hat to me and asked, “How do you do?” I must confess I have been in love with you ever since!

In gratitude and admiration,
[the young] Alexandra Jones

I returned to Philadelphia

in 2016 to be with my family, and who was now on the podium but international sensation Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He and the Philly crew are a perfect fit. I have a soft spot, called my heart, for MTT, but Yannick might just be the pinnacle of my concert-going career. After all this powerhouse—“the greatest generator of energy on the international podium”—is conducting my personal orchestra. Though he directs Philly and no less than the Metropolitan Opera, Orchestre Métropolitain and five or ten other ensembles, he is the farthest thing from a diva. Of course I sit behind him, not in front of him; I have it on good authority Ormandy “was a tyrant.” But Yannick—I would call him pure of heart, a decent, humble man who lives his passion and his beliefs, and spreads his own joy around the globe. He’s grateful for how lucky he is to be living the life he is, doing what he loves.

His energy excites

and exhausts me, canceling each other out and allowing me to sit quietly in a chair for two hours without attracting attention. But mostly, it inspires me. He does more with the 86,400 seconds in his day than anyone I can think of. And as one with a limited number of spoons  at my disposal, I don’t know how he does it with travel thrown in; yet he took the time to make a 36-hour playlist of music for the homeless animals at the SPCA.

Who’s cuter?

Just as you put your Goodwill stuff in your trunk and drive it around for four months before dropping it off, I’d had a cache of rejected cat food and surplus items in the pantry for donation for quite some time, only I’d been waiting to deliver them for a day when a famous conductor happened to be there. It wasn’t a public event but a press junket, so I just barged my way in and introduced myself as the “designated audience representative culled from [his] worldwide posse of admirers” (or something like that). I was so nervous I might make some kind of fool of myself I took a Xanax before I left the house.

When I thanked him

for this adorable gesture he spoke in his gentle Québecois accent of the need of animals and humans to love and be loved (or something like that). I noted, because I could look straight into his eyes, that I wouldn’t have to tippy-toe to hug him. I always scope that out when I meet a man. Huggage is a mainstay in the tunnel of affectionate friendship, ya know.

I once wrote

if ever I lived with a man he would have to be companionable as a cat, just in the room sharing air, rather than the space invaders I’d been used to. I have three furry tranquilizers—Zazu, Zzyzzy and Zahra (who are utterly oblivious to music unless it wakes them).

Zzyzzy gives me the stink eye

I named Zzyzzy after the last entry in the Philly phone book when I was a kid, Zzyzzy Zzyzzy’s Ztamp Ztudio. They called it that to make it easy to find as it turned out to be a front for a prostitution ring. I’ll never tell Zzyzzy that.

Zazu has a bright idea

MUSIC IS HEALING

Kimmel Center, Verizon Hall, Seat F106

is the address of my happy place. F106 is my metaphor for where I disappear into the music and all is right with the world. “I” more or less ceases to exist, and the world with its travails.

The other night Yannick and the gang served up the most thrilling orchestral/theatrical experience of my life, no exaggeration—Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet accompanied by the magical acrobatics and aerial ballet of Brian Swanson’s JUNK. My front orchestra happy seat mainly had a view of principal cellist Hai-Ye Ni, but it was such a striking presentation I went back on the last night so I could watch the dancers from the conductor’s circle. From above, the spacious Kimmel reminded me of Noah’s ark, and the lighted rectangles of sheet music glowing embers on the hearth of humanity.

Zahra says, “Amar es un combate”

My review: Most spectacular and auricutacular [my word] outrageous exotic erotic display in memory. I can’t convince anyone to go, but those who do will not regret it and will never forget it.


They blew my mind and the roof off the house. Again! Charles Darwin used to wander Cambridge campus to hear hymns coming from King’s College Chapel. “This gave me intense pleasure,” he wrote, “so that my backbone would sometimes shiver.” This was truly a spine-tingling performance, with waves of Prokofiev washing over us like warm ocean currents. I’ve suggested they film it and I hope that would come to pass, for medici.tv or Great Performances, for it deserves to go down in history as an extraordinary one-of-a-kind tour de force.

MUSIC PRESERVES MY SANITY

I’ve gotten my life back since I turned off MSNBC and turned on my stereo.

There’s a charming documentary

on medici.tv, Christiaan van Schmerbeek’s “Yannick Nézet-Séguin, a Portrait.” My favorite part is Yannick collapsing onto a chair and eating a banana. So, he’s not Superman, huh? I’m proud he’s ours. I dread the Met will seduce him away. I’m jealous, in fact. I want him all to ourselves. When I heard of his appointment I thought, should one person get to occupy two of the most plum positions in classical music? There are only so many to go around, right? I was only defending my selfishness. Who on planet earth would have said no? All part of his meteoric rise (career “rises” are always “meteoric”—a neat trick because meteors don’t rise, they fall).

New York has gotten the white tie and tails treatment from him. Hm. I guess Philly’s more like home court. Ormandy held sway for 44 years; I hope YNS will stay put, well, until I die. Because I’m an addict, and I need my fix.

IF YOU LOVE THEM SO MUCH WHY DON’T YOU MARRY THEM?

Not the marrying kind;

nevertheless, I confess, the Philadelphia Orchestra is the love of my life.

It happens that Yannick is starting the ’19-’20 season with the New World Symphony. I’ll be going by myself.

♦ ♣ ♥ ♠

Music will heal our hearts, will bring us together. – Lang Lang

EPILOGUE:

It happens that (I’m not making this up): July 23rd the Philadelphia Orchestra will be performing, at the Mann Center (formerly Robin Hood Dell), Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Symphony. I won’t be going alone. I’m bringing (drum roll)–my great love from 1977! That brings my life full circle. He’s married, to someone else, which worked out great, ’cause well, you know…

Maestro Eugene Ormandy
Director, the Philadelphia Orchestra
1936-1980

When I think of composing, my thoughts turn to you,
the greatest orchestra in the world.

 – Sergei Rachmaninoff

It’s a sad, sad situation

BEHIND THIS STATUE

of Benjamin Franklin

at his printing press, out of frame, is a homeless man unable to piss. On the street he had excused himself to take care of business but, perhaps self-conscious at my proximity, could not complete the mission, he confided.

We were on our way

to The Hub, a social service agency beneath Suburban Station in Philadelphia, whence we’d been referred by the EMT personnel who’d picked him up off the street some ten minutes earlier. I’d spotted him passed out in front of the JFK Behavioral Center I had just visited, and was about to take a picture, as I am a street photographer (aka social documentarian); then I noticed a walker lying on top of him and thought he must have fallen over.

I crossed over and snapped my fingers in his face. “Excuse me sir,” snap, “excuse me, excuse me, sir,” snap, “do you need assistance?” snap snap “Do you need to go to a hospital?”

He had just come from a hospital.

He’d been admitted to Hahnemann the night before with various cuts and bruises, and they must have needed the bed. They awoke him at 5:00 a.m. and told him he had to leave. He still had his hospital ID tags on his wrist.

He was in a daze.

He had been walking around since dawn, five hours, and figured he must have fallen asleep on his feet. Down he went and clunked his head. It took him a minute, confused and blinking, to realize someone was talking to him. I snapped my fingers repeatedly to rouse him as he attempted to sit up. No, don’t try to get up, I told him, I’m calling 9-1-1. A paramedic from Hahnemann happened to pass by, gave him the once-over and said he’d be OK until the EMT arrived.

“Thanks for caring,”

he added as he walked off.

I had come downtown because the night before I was on the web investigating support groups and it so happened the next monthly meeting for one I was interested in was the next day at 10:00 a.m. I am a rabid night person and didn’t get to sleep until 5:30 a.m. that morning, but I still set my alarm for 8:00 a.m., thinking what if it changes my life? It would have been super easy and so very like me to blow it off, but maybe I’d meet someone who would tell me something I need to hear. Before I left that morning, I called all four phone numbers on the website, including the national office, and only one, someone’s personal voice mail, was in service, but she did mention the name of the group in her message. She may have already left for the meeting herself.

I explained I was trying to determine if the support group was still active, though it seemed unlikely, and more unlikely that she’d return the call in time to catch the train for the meeting that was even more unlikely would happen. I was up and dressed so I decided to take a chance and head over there, because the facility was near the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and I figured I’d go see the Chuck Close photo exhibit if nothing else.

So on 2 ½ hours’ sleep

I took the 8:49 and walked over there from Suburban Station. I was not surprised to find the door chained and padlocked, but there were several phone numbers posted on the glass door so I called the first one.

I said I was looking for a support group meeting supposedly happening there at 10:00 a.m.; they told me they hadn’t met there in seven months. OK fine, I’d expected that, but PAFA doesn’t open until 11:00, so I went off in search of breakfast. Nothing doing north on Broad, so I doubled back and spotted, right in front of the same padlocked door, Karl (I’ll call him) lying on the street.

When the EMTs arrived,

they helped him wobble to his feet and I explained he’d been ejected from Hahnemann, collapsed, and knocked his head on the concrete. I handed him a SEPTA token he had lost. They gave him a cursory examination, determined there was no obvious critical injury, and suggested we head over to The Hub where he could get coffee, shower and change his clothes.

“You’re not going to drive him there? He’s on a walker.”

“No, we’re not allowed to do that.”

Apparently 9-1-1

is not a taxi service for homeless people.

“I was just unconscious on the street! What more would it take for them to help me?”

They took off and I said I’d escort him to The Hub. It wasn’t far but between his slow gait, dazed condition, and his failure to pee, it took about 20 minutes to traverse the couple of blocks. He apologized for moving so slowly and thanked me profusely for stopping to help.

“God sent you to me,” he said.

ALL I KNOW ABOUT GOD

is that my pal Pete’s and my nickname for him is “God who does not exist.” I’d once spontaneously exclaimed to him, “Thank God!” and hurriedly tacked on “…who does not exist.”

Karl told me his many injuries were the result of having been kidnapped and beaten for the past month. Though he was generally lucid and even personable, this of course sounded nuts, and I left it at that.

When finally we got to The Hub, there were two flights of stairs to navigate. I held his walker and he grasped the rail with both hands. Life was moving in slo-mo. At the landing I told him to wait there while I checked the place out. At the bottom of the stairs was the second padlocked door of the day. Closed on Sundays. What kind of social service agency is closed on Sunday? Doesn’t society need to be serviced every day? I apologized for making him come down the first staircase without checking it out beforehand.

I was at a bit of a loss.

I called 9-1-1 back and explained that EMTs had directed us to The Hub but it was closed and did they have any suggestions. I said the fellow had had a head injury and I wanted to get him somewhere safe.

“No, it’s not a medical emergency—it’s a human emergency.”

There was a pause on both ends of the line. She did offer two phone numbers to try; the first was out of service, the second continuously busy. Wow, now what? He said he had a lot of friends in West Philly and would likely head over there.

“Well can you make it?

Should I put you on the trolley?”

He wouldn’t admit he was homeless, but 9-1-1 must see cases like his all the time, though I hate to reduce him to a “case.” Is that what you call a broken person? I had come downtown myself feeling like a broken person. I could be a lot more broken. I stood on the sidewalk perplexed and helpless.

He suggested coffee at the McDonald’s, where I bought him some oatmeal and he revived a bit. He was rather gabby and repeatedly expressed his gratitude that I’d come to his assistance. I pointed out the restroom where he didn’t have to pee behind a statue. I felt responsible for him and while he was gone researched men’s shelters on my phone, called a place named Sunday Breakfast and spoke to the chaplain, a patient, caring sort who gave detailed instructions for how to gain entrance on Pearl Street. He could have lunch there.

We chatted a bit about our lives. He’d been married to a decent woman and lost that to drinking. He assured me this was a temporary phase and once he was healed and back on his feet things would change. He took his time over coffee and I felt the pricklings of impatience. I said I wanted to walk him to the shelter and make sure he was looked after.

“Let’s get some ice cream!”

“No.”

Let’s go to a movie!”

“Not gonna happen.”

“Let’s just have coffee and chat.” I said look, there’s coffee at the shelter, but he was resistant.

“They’re just going to lock me up.

Don’t you know that’s what those places are for?”

Feeling not at all streetwise I said, “I think it’s a social service agency and a shelter where you can gather your wits in a safe environment. You may have a concussion. You need to be somewhere you can be monitored.”

“I just want to finish my coffee,” of which 3/4s remained. I wanted to help but this was becoming a career and I was exasperated with his lack of cooperation.

“I’m not going to adopt you!”

I said firmly.

“Well I didn’t ask you to burp me, I just want to finish my coffee!”

He started to slump a bit and I was wanting to leave. “Do not put your head on the table. You can’t fall asleep in a restaurant, they’ll call the police,” I said with a bit of edge in my voice. “Now you have a choice. Either you let me escort you to the shelter right now, or you’re on your own.” He didn’t budge and picked the coffee up again.

“OK, if you need somewhere to go,” I said, writing the address of the shelter on a newspaper and placing it in front of him, “go here.” I picked up my stuff and turned to go.

“Give me your phone number!”

I ignored him, and walked out the door.

What a relief!

It’s not every problem you can just walk away from. I’d done all I could for him: woke him up off the street, called 9-1-1, walked him to The Hub, bought him breakfast and found a shelter for him, but he was resisting me. Basta! I’m not good with impatience; I start to get mean and defensive.

And that was that.

It was time for him to go back to being his own problem. He couldn’t possibly follow me; it would take him five minutes just to get up. Suddenly “outside” became “the air of freedom.”

I called Pete up later

and told him it’s possible that I myself am proof that God exists, because someone had said to me, “God sent you to me.” We still agreed he does not.

But I find myself remembering the episode with wonder. It had started the night before with looking for the website. Without that, nothing. I’d forced myself out of bed and taken the train to Center City. I didn’t go to the meeting I’d sought, I didn’t go to the Chuck Close exhibit—in effect I’d gotten up and gone downtown and walked to the very spot I would find him collapsed a scant few minutes later.

Had God sent me?

I think it was just something that happened.

The woman never did call me back.

♦ ♣ ♥ ♠

Source: fritz50312

You again?

IT’S BEEN YEARS!

You trot out the new

and not necessarily improved Ax Files (Redux) back in September of 2016, using your “September 1st is the most hopeful day of the year” initiative, pound out five columns, all in September, then nothing.

I WAS SUSPENDED

from my own disbelief

of current events. I was a lady-in-waiting, for two things: the presidential election, and the death of my mother. They both happened in November of 2016, and both threw me for a loop.

I had arrived in Philadelphia

in July of 2016 on the heels of personal turmoil, if not crisis. For the second time in three years, I was on the verge of losing my apartment. That did happen in San Francisco in 2013, due to lack of sufficient work, and again, nearly, in Portland, Oregon, after losing my job and not finding another. It so happened that at that time, my mother had gone into long-term care, leaving vacant her apartment in the duplex she shared with her brother, my uncle, which I now share with him.

So back to my native Philly

I went, after a 35-year absence and residencies in Portland (1981-1996—interrupted by a six-month pit-stop with my sociopathic and now dead boyfriend in Whidbey Island, Washington—in  Berkeley (1996-2003), San Francisco (2003-2013), and Portland (again—2013-2016).

I’M OKAY

with being back to my eastern roots in Philly. I never thought of myself as a left coaster, always an easterner. This intro to NYPD Blue encapsulates the urban edge I missed out there—density, chaos, unsightly infrastructure, crumbling facades, rawness, generic unpleasantness. That barreling of the subway train into blackness feels right. BART was not nearly gritty enough, Portland almost too lovely.

Source: TVTunesQuiz

Though I’d thought

San Francisco was my city, where I was meant to be, it was that city only while I had the means to be there. When I ran out of them I became a black hole waiting to be filled by someone else’s money.

SO I’M BACK

While weary of writing I took up photography. Photos are immediate; it takes a finger-snap for a first look, whereas printed pages require work performed upon them. They all look more or less like ants in formation. The words could say anything. They need to be scanned, absorbed, digested—read. Though I am or have been a writer and have a degree in English, as I age I quickly tire of reading, rarely finishing a book, article, or even paragraph. But now I find that I miss telling myself things in words, or just marking time as the years pass. Now it’s my compulsion for taking pictures I’m growing weary of—thousands sitting in wait to be edited, if ever.

It’s not a disorder.

It doesn’t disrupt my life; it is my life. It’s what I do. Take photos. Write about stuff. Document what I observe.

HERE.

Here are some pictures I took “while I was gone.”

20th Century in the 21st

“Grumman Greenhouse”, Jordan Griska, at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

This one looked like a wartime goodbye with battle remnants heaped on the street. That is a Grumman Tracker II, a 45-foot-long Cold War-era naval plane with a 73’ wingspan, a submarine bomber. Sculptor Jordan Griska obtained the decommissioned plane and folded the metal of the nose and body so that it appears to be crumpling into the platform. And he turned it into a greenhouse!

Reflecting on Reflections

Senior thinking her thoughts, Barnes Foundation Reflecting Pool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bible Study Hour

Bible student, N. Independence Hall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fashion Finest

South street staff photo opp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK CRASH BANG

that’s it for now. Where to scope out my stuff:

Street photography:
http://goofcitygraphix.tumblr.com/

Other goofy stuff:
http://mayorjones.tumblr.com/

Instagram:
http://instagram.com/mayorjones/

Goof City.com is regrettably under reconstruction

About my (dumping ground) flickr stream:
http://www.fluidr.com/photos/alexandrajones

My flickr stream is my free-for-all photo farm. This is not the cream of my crop–it’s the whole 40 acres and a mule, including fine dining, light snacks, totally non-nutritive filler junk food and outright garbage. Stuff that perhaps should never have been harvested and left for compost, but here it is, for your consideration. May you find something to your taste. Food for thought, at least.

I began my column The Ax Files in 2005 with the broad announcement: I am here to write whatever I want, whenever I want, for whatever it’s worth.

Same with photography. “I photograph anything that can be exposed to light,” as Imogen Cunningham put it. More specifically, I photograph anything that catches my eye–because it’s lovely, sad, tragic, boring, there.

Some of my obsessions are pigeons (the underdog of the bird world), abandoned shoes (all the lonely shoes; where do they all come from?), bulldogs (because some of my best friends are), X for Alexandra, 55 for the year of my birth, and the soulless people known as mannequins. They are dead yet alive.

I practice street photography as social documentation of both political and human conditions. I take photos only in public spaces and situations. If you see yourself here and do not wish to be included, please send me a flickr mail.

If you take a photo of something, you are saying, “This is worth looking at. This is how I saw it.” I hope you enjoy seeing what I saw. Cheers!

I BID YOU ADIEU

’til we meet again.

♦ ♣ ♥ ♠

I have scarcely left you
When you go in me, crystalline,
Or trembling,
Or uneasy, wounded by me
Or overwhelmed with love, as
when your eyes
Close upon the gift of life
That without cease I give you.

My love,
We have found each other
Thirsty and we have
Drunk up all the water and the
Blood,
We found each other
Hungry
And we bit each other
As fire bites,
Leaving wounds in us.

But wait for me,
Keep for me your sweetness.
I will give you too
A rose.

 

 

 

– Pablo Neruda

The Hook

AH YES, ONCE AGAIN I AM OFF IT.

Is there any feeling more satisfying

or relieving than being off some hook you didn’t want to be on, usually involving something you don’t want to deal with? There are hooks you hang your coat on, hooks you latch your screen door with, hooks you catch a fish with, and there are the grappling hooks that snare you for life.

A hook. As seen in Punta Sam, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

I’ve just been let off twice.

I called my uncle I live downstairs from to see if he was ready to visit my mom at her senior facility. He, her younger brother by seven years, goes every afternoon to spend an hour or two with her, “because she’s alone, and I don’t want her to feel forgotten.” I go with him or my sister several times a week, but sometimes, as has been the case all my life, I just can’t get myself out of the house. I was set to go today, but she’s just been taken in to physical therapy, and he’s going to skip it.

Aaaaaaaaah.

Getting out of bed, my roommate Molly once told me, is the hardest thing I do all day. That’s good, right? Because then nothing harder will happen to you all day. And truly if that’s the hardest thing you endure, your life is blessed for sure. First of all you have a bed that is under the roof over your head.

AH YES, HOW OFTEN

have I let myself, or gotten myself, off the hook? Every chance I get. There are hooks everywhere you look and some you can’t yet see. Once I set my alarm for 5:30 and again 6:00 to keep an early appointment.  The cats woke me around five anyway, awaiting the tick-tick-tick-tick-ticking of kibble bits cascading into their feed bowl. So I could have stayed up and taken a shower.

It's empty, human!
It’s empty, human!

But I went back to bed to await the 5:30 alarm, hit snooze, hit snooze, hit snooze again until the 6:00 alarm. Then I scuffled to find my appointment slip, and calloo callay o frabjous day, the appointment was for the next day! Back to bed, back to bed, back to bed!

I try never to leave anything to the morning. Before sleepytime I iron my clothes, gather my effects, place needed items strategically by the door, but there were some papers I still had to print out for the appointment. But lo! Behold! Now I didn’t need them till the next day, a whole 24 hours leading up to the next last minute. Life is good! As long as I don’t have to live it.

St. Francis Hotel display window, San Francisco. How cozy. Now if they would just get that bus outta there.
Do not disturb! St. Francis Hotel display window, San Francisco. How cozy. Now if they would just get that bus outta there.

The former friend

who announced I was the most neurotic person she ever knew (you mean besides yourself, beeyatch?) was right on target when she called me a “horizontal personality.” I am never truly comfortable unless and until I’m lying down. Preferably in front of a movie or something that demands no response from me. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, will I strut and fret my hour upon the stage, then go back to bed.

BED!

Is there any solace greater, any arms more embracing, than your own bed and bed covers? “I love bed,” I would sigh to my amused friend Larry, as if the bed and not any lover in it were my paramour. Bed is the ultimate outpost of avoidance. Therein is nothing you can’t not face.

I love bed.
I love bed.

Sometimes I wonder,

does laziness disguise itself as depression? But that is ungenerous. Depression is not a pretend hypochondriac ailment. It kills people. I liquidated a portfolio of valuable real estate properties in Portland, Berkeley, and San Francisco just so I wouldn’t have to get out of bed.

At age 61 I had to set up a Go Fund Me campaign to move back east to be near my mother. I had just lost my job in Portland and, consequently, my apartment was next in line. How did I ever summon the energy to gather my crap and transport it 3000 miles–well, it just had to be done–but boy did I crash once I got here! And though I love the smile of surprise on my mom’s face when she sees I’ve arrived, I was happy when my uncle let me off the hook and once again I did not not have to raise myself from my default prone position to confront the outside world. Thank God who does not exist!

THE OTHER HOOK

I got off of today

was pretty damn silly. I will be attending a live-stream performance by Opera Philadelphia (“Land of the Free. Home of the Bravo.”) of Puccini’s Turandot at Independence Mall this weekend. It was scheduled for tomorrow and I wondered if my little folding lawn chairs ever made it here from Portland. Just thinking of hunting for them was tiring, so when I got an email that the event is postponed until Sunday on account of rain–yay!

It’s odd

I keep myself so house-bound when my biggest kick is traveling the world. But as Lauren Sharon Schwartz put it in Not Now Voyager: A Memoir, “The stillness and stasis of bed are the perfect opposite of travel: inertia is what I’ve come to consider the default mode, existentially and electronically speaking. Bed, its utter inactivity, offers a glimpse of eternity, without the drawback of being dead.”

♦ ♣ ♥ ♠

My head aches, my eyes burn, my arms and legs have given up, and my face in the mirror has a grayish cast. The bed, across the room, calls in its unmistakable lover’s croon, Come to me, come, only I can make you truly happy, oh, how happy I’ll make you, don’t resist, remember how you moan with pleasure the instant we touch….
– Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Fatigue Artist

 

A Knotty Dilemma

ONCE UPON A TIME

at Burning Man

a nearby burner helped me erect my shade structure. As we worked at undoing the knots in the guy wires, I told him the story of the mother who had her own foolproof method of judging her son’s three prospective brides. She gave them each a knotted skein of yarn and asked their help in untangling it. The first yanked here and there impatiently and finally threw the yarn on the floor in disgust. The second concentrated for a few moments and abruptly concluded she couldn’t do it, and the third loosened and followed one thread all the way through until the mass fell easily apart and she smiled as she handed it back to the mother. “That, my son,” she said, is the wife for you.”

I love that story!

I think of it when a knotty dilemma comes up. Is there some way to break through to the heart of this matter and have the problem fall apart like a relieved sigh?

My mother might find a thin gold chain at the back of a drawer, wadded into an impossibly tight knot, and give it to me to untangle. It would have a shiny, sweaty smell, and excite me: Gold chains linked you to the great fairy tales and myths, to Arabia, and India; to the great weight of the world, but lighter than a feather. – Anne Lamott

In packing to travel to the next phase of my life, I encountered the very skein of yarn that might have challenged the three bridal contenders. Now and then I decide I’m going to get good enough at knitting to wear something I made without embarrassment, or become an expert crocheter like my mother. But I have a hard time holding my own attention at things I need to improve at. I tend to spend more time on and apply more energy to things I’m already good at. Part of it is my tendency to “crash,” i.e., drop whatever I’m doing and blink at the darkness while remembering how to breathe.

img_3944img_3925

For instance,

I bought myself a ukelele for my 60th birthday; it was a “60 after 60” thing I thought I’d pick up on as part of later-in-life new horizons. But when I discovered how hard it was (for me) to change chords, I, knowing myself, sold it to pay my electric bill. I knew I wasn’t interested enough to put in the time required to get good at it. Same with pottery. My instructor told me, “You’ll make 1000 bowls before you’re satisfied with one.” No, deary, I won’t.

Children and lunatics cut the Gordian knot which the poet spends his life patiently trying to untie. – Jean Cocteau

img_3952img_3948

If a sailor expert at every extant knot

had made a career of tangling this yarn it could not have been more convoluted. If all three of my cats had pounced on this, wrestled each other and united their 12 paws of claws to confound me, it might have been easier to unravel. Some interloper, rogue element, banshee or succubus entered my lair and fucked with me.

Even though I knew

it was pointless, that I could have cut the mess apart, that I could have recrocheted the piece in less time, that I didn’t even want to continue the piece, that there were any number of better uses of time, I had to unravel this yarn, I just had to. It took me several evenings of dogged Netflix-binging obsession to work it out, and I did, but there was no great satisfaction in it. I just had to prove to myself that I am that patient, thorough, determined, marriageable, heart-of-gold gal that won’t give up. (That was a joke on myself. The very last thing I am is marriageable.)

img_3953 img_3955

Not that that has ever mattered to me. After growing up with front row seats to my parents’ marriage, I never once imagined my own wedding day. ~shudder~ But I do believe many problems can be deconstructed by looking at the individual elements, how they interrelate, and finding a path to resolution. They may be less convoluted than you think.

Now if I could just untangle my brain the same way…

 

♥ ♣ ♠ ♦

Keith Haring, as seen at The Political Line, De Young Museum 1/15, San Francisco c. Keith Haring Estate
Keith Haring, as seen at The Political Line, De Young Museum, San Francisco, January 2015, © Keith Haring Estate

When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.
– Franklin D. Roosevelt

A Screaming Came Across the Sky

IT WAS THE SOUND OF SUNDERING MYSELF FROM FACEBOOK

And then, the silence.

You could hear it. Peace descended upon the earth with a great silence like the inherent silence of the Apocalypse. (As Jack Kerouac described what would happen if men fell to their knees and begged forgiveness of their women—a line deleted from the original 1951 scroll of On the Road.)

A year ago I decided I’d had enough of Facebook. The bald shock that registered on a friend’s face when I told her I had deactivated my account lingered a bit. Is that a big deal? I asked. Only because I was pretty active on there, she clarified.real life

If I’m active on there it’s because I spend many hours online most days editing photos on PicMonkey and posting them to flickr. It’s my job I don’t get paid for. And when you’re online for long periods of time, you want to distract yourself from the task at hand every so often. Or always. Five minutes on Facebook is a nice online break from being online. Except when it turns into an hour every time I get a case of the fuck-its (A condition whereby you’re content to spend nine hours on YouTube watching a cat flush a toilet–Dana Carvey) and don’t want to be responsible for creating my own mind food. Now and then one needs a social media cleanse, a high colonic of the mind.

Everyone likes to be served.

Here! Instead of planning and cooking and eating a nutritious meal of your choosing, here’s an instant plate of junk food handed to you piled with ideas you don’t have to have yourself. Kind of like the free cell addiction I acquired instead of dealing with renting my Portland house out and moving to Berkeley.

It’s my understanding that all games of free cell–open-faced double solitaire–are winnable if you make the right moves. You’ve got to look at the big picture and map out strategies. Free cell is one of my McDonald’s substitutes. I don’t eat meat so I need to replace it with other junk food. All the crap out there, says comedian Jim Gaffigan, is someone’s McDonald’s, whether you read Us magazine, or track Jennifer Anniston’s love life, or weigh in on Beyoncé’s new haircut.

When I was planning my move from Portland to Berkeley in 1996, I racked up 148 games of free cell that I won by in some cases starting over and changing my moves. I would never go on to a new game till I’d solved the one at hand. There’s a satisfaction in seeing a course of action to a “successful” conclusion, of solving the puzzle and watching the auto-play pile the remaining cards into suits–let the game do the rest of the work!

And it’s relaxing.

It engages my mind and problem-solving faculties just enough to occupy me but not challenge me too much. But mostly free cell is a time waster. He who kills time, as Thoreau put it, slays eternity, and I am a serial killer. I could just as well be surfing the web for Kate Middleton’s or Kate Upton’s last outfit, flipping through Entertainment Weekly, or contemplating whether I should lose respect for Benedict Cumberbatch for appearing in Star Trek into Darkness. But mostly I play free cell as a distraction from something I have tired of doing, something, usually, of importance or at least time-dated urgency. You know like when the taxes are due and it’s suddenly crucial that you clean your oven.

As one who was arrested in the anal stage of psychosexual development, I do derive pleasure, feelings of justification, perhaps, at watching things fall into place and summarily wrap themselves up, as when you remove the one remaining obstacle to victory and you can sit back and declare, “My work here is done!”

At my age (I summited the hill quite a while ago) one is advised to keep one’s brain active. Mahjong is another mental and visual dexterity-enhancing time waster. But however relaxing and/or stimulating these pursuits are, they’re still junk food. I prefer I’d spend the time in nourishing pursuits, not repetitive ones.

Clearly I have nothing to prove to myself,

but time-wasting is a manifestation of my time-honored practice of avoidance–procrastination that feels like doing something that is so clearly nothing. À la Facebook. [Time does not honor avoidance. Time spits on avoidance. -Ed.]

Of course it’s not exactly nothing, you are communicating with people who mean enough to you to take them on as Facebook friends (which inherently is worth a nickel minus five cents), but it’s a trade-off. We abandon more personal interactions and more time offline for the convenience of mass announcements. And also, one feeble set of ears hearing what we have to say is not enough. The whole world needs to know what we’re thinking. It’s that important.

The programs Freedom and AntiSocial turn off the internet or social media for a specified amount of time, but they’re like a Flintstone band aid on a blood-gushing wound. I sought to heal that wound—the rift between myself and my life as I used to live it. It used to be I never turned my computer on unless I was going to write something—never to surf the web or consult the Oracle of the Book of Face or even check email—certainly not for entertainment or something to do. I joined Facebook when it was still not all that pervasive, but it started happening that you wouldn’t hear about stuff going on around town because people were posting it to Facebook as the default manner of announcement. Why didn’t I hear about that? I don’t know [I did my duty] I posted it to Facebook…

Political rallies or local events might pass you by because you weren’t on there. Kind of an “it’s-how-people-communicate-now” vibe and aren’t you with it? If everybody played by the same Facebook rules, it would be cool to know about that upcoming fundraiser, who has signed up to go, and the person among them that you either do or do not want to see. To know for sure that if they are there, you would either go or not go. 5000 is the Facebook friend limit, but a great many of those 5000 turned off your feed as soon as they added one more digit to their friend total.

Initially I joined Facebook

in order to write a column, “I’m Not Really on Facebook I’m Just Spying on Those Who Are” (not available at this time). A friend shut his account down as soon as he had a child. Good on him! It might feel like you’re taking a stand. I’m not wasting any more time on Facebook! But it’s no moral crusade; it’s just a choice. We don’t have to buy into the inevitability of social media even if it does surround us. We sign up for it. We willingly devote our time to it. We derive enjoyment or emotional support from it or use it as a crutch or outreach or publicity tool. It saves stamps and smartphone minutes. We control our use, and now and then I choose to control mine by ceasing it.

When I first shut down my account, I had been on Facebook complaining about Throwback Thursday. “I would like to take the nitwit,” I had posted, “who thought of Throwback Thursday and throw him back to last Thursday.”

Someone quickly responded, “Aren’t you just a ray of sunshine.”

“How does the Internet,”

I continued, “co-opt something as basic as a day of the week, and convince the world they all need to be doing and thinking the same thing on it?”

Another friend weighed in, “Much ado…”

In the scheme of things, it is nothing. If you enjoy it, go ahead and enjoy it. No harm, no foul. Not the crucial issue of our time. But it strikes me as some feel-good sheeple group-think thing. It’s Thursday! Everybody gather ’round, rifle through your lives and share it with the others! Come ’round! Wiggle your ears! More s’mores!

Source: karoshiga

Maybe we should wear a looney-toon hat

on Thursdays in case we go outside, so fellow throwers-back will know we are participating in the throw-back, just to reinforce that it IS Throwback Thursday, that whatever else we do that day, fear not, we will be sure to throw back. The first friend suggested I needed a break from the internet and I realized she was right.

Deactivating your Facebook account is not that satisfying—all one need do to reactivate it is log back in. Still my immediate response was physical, mental, and emotional relief. Something cracked wide open. I used that phrase to describe the line from the George Pal film “The Time Machine,” “He has all the time in the world.” It cracks everything wide open. Marcia Gay Harden said it to Ed Harris in “Pollock,” “You’ve done it, Pollock. You’ve cracked it wide open.”

I’m wary and weary of this age of homogenization,

this let’s-all-be-on-the-same-page mentality, experiencing and reacting to and discussing the same things at the same time. There are too damn many pages! Facebook. Facebook Live. Twitter. Instagram. Instagram Live. Reddit Snapchat Foursquare Google+ LinkedIn Tumblr Pinterest Periscope YouTube Vimeo Vine Skype Meetup Tinder (“Tinder is how people meet. It’s like real life, but better.”)

How does one even define real life anymore? Is there any interaction between people that hasn’t been coded? What happens anymore that doesn’t go through an app? Photography is not what it was, as seen through the framework of Instagram—the resulting picture is not so much a free-standing result of photographic choices but an “instagram,” an instance of application use. I’ll crop my photo square if I want to after I see it.

One has to shield oneself

against overexposure to unfiltered information. It’s practically radioactive. It weakens and sickens one over the long term. I have turned off Yahoo as my home page so I don’t boot up to that day’s filler crap.

  • DJ Tanner (aka Candace Cameron Bure) just chopped off all her hair, and she looks SO chic. OMG, girl! Could you be more fabulous?
  • Kelly Ripa’s 10 Most Probable Co-hosts, Ranked From Most to Least Liked (Most: Morris Chestnut [who he?]; Least: Fred Savage)
  • The Do’s [sic] and Don’ts [sic] of Wearing Eyeliner
  • Chris and Liam Hemsworth’s Dad is a TOTAL hunk but we are not surprised
  • Brock Turner Going Free Is the Best Thing to Happen to Rape
  • And oh yes, the President of the Philippines called Obama an SOB.

The greater part of the click bait we click on we would never investigate if we had to trouble ourselves to look it up. All that info is waiting for us there on the web. You’re not going to take the time to search for how to dip a t-shirt into Portland cement to create Halloween lawn ornaments, but you might click on it (I did–to see what it is people will SO be doing after learning this trick). My mind is cluttered with things I didn’t need to have seen. Clutter—as in a room of suffocating stuff you should just get rid of. Don’t rearrange it—ditch it!

Facebook is always there

for one’s use. Go on it, go off it, whatever. But I’ve been ensconced in such childish and churlish confrontations and misunderstandings with folks (many of whom I’ve never met), I’m tempted to throw the baby out with the bath water.

I’m conflicted about Facebook

because of carbon dating. I’m so old I date back to the days of carbon paper, mimeograph machines and white-out, party lines, telephone exchanges, and two-digit zip codes. Face-to-face relationships were the norm at one time. Getting a phone call and not knowing who it is. Someone showing up at your door. Meeting someone through a “personal ad” used to be an embarrassing anomaly.

In other words, I’m a fuddy-duddy. I prefer the way things used to be.

When a friend wanted me to meet a friend of his via Facebook, I forced the issue. I forced us all out of the house to meet at a coffee shop. Haven’t seen either of them since. I still use and like Facebook because I find lost friends, meet new ones, get turned on to a lot of creative output and new information, but I don’t like the changes in personal communication it has wrought worldwide. Other than emergency and volatile political situations, I don’t see an inherent value in the 21st century status quo of being constantly communicative, constantly up on the latest means of following people around online.

There is a need for Facebook, or it wouldn’t exist. But is it healthy? Is it enabling us to distance ourselves from each other?

Look at this: Are you sure you want to deactivate your account?

FB deactBecause your 179 friends will no longer be able to keep in touch with you.  What arrogance! It reminds me of a sing-songy Time magazine ad that claimed “Time lets you care” about current events. As you see folks are crying, screaming, and pleading with me not to go. But if Facebook is the default way to interact with people in the modern age, what a pathetic statement about today’s human relations.

What about Fear of Missing Out?

You are always missing something, and always will be. Even if it’s all you do you can’t keep up with the pace of social media—the danger is it does turn into all some people do. There are levels of engagement, and you’re in control of them—until you’re not. Then you might as well face it, you’re addicted to Facebook.

The Checking-in Phenomenon

What is that about? Why track your minute movements throughout the day and broadcast them to your friends at large? X is with Y at Z. You’re already with the friend you want to be with, enjoying a personal interaction. “Hey everyone else: I’m here without you. I’m sharing this with someone else, but you still have to know about it.” Is it an invitation for anyone reading it to join you? I doubt it. I saw one such posting of a crowd of friends at a concert I would like to have been included in. That has probably happened to everyone. “We didn’t think of you when we made these plans, but here’s a smiling selfie for you to enjoy.”

My subtle commentary on the matter was to post that I was at a gas station with a friend. Who could possibly care? One mundane post covers them all. Though some bored soul might ask, “Oh really, where are you going?”

One brilliant guy, a chemist and teacher and an amusing conversationalist, would post along the lines of “Stopping for a bite before the show,” as if we’re keeping a logbook of his movements. Hold on, I show a gap between 7:10 and 7:14. What were you doing? Walking to your car? Let me get that down. I was about to unfriend him for being boring despite his advanced education (how does one work that?) but he beat me to the punch. (Don’t you hate it when someone unfriends you before you’ve had a chance to unfriend them?) Do we think people are that interested in our minute-to-minute activities? Do we think we are that interesting? Do our egos need such constant bolstering? It’s great news for stalkers, though.

THE CONNECTED GENERATION

I guess I am one

who doesn’t need to know everything about everything everyone I know is doing at any given moment. But I am also one who values solitude above constant companionship. I treasure my own place, my own silence, my own bed, my own insistence on doing whatever pleases me at any time. Some folks must enjoy constant worldwide fraternizing, but as a homicide detective put it in “The Fall,” “Modern life is such an unholy mix of voyeurism and exhibitionism. People perpetually broadcasting their internal and external selves.”

As soon as I graduated college and was on my own, I decreed that I would never wait to do something until someone wanted to do it with me. That’s how I ended up by myself on the Trans-Siberian Express. I routinely attend concerts and events by myself; it usually doesn’t occur to me to invite anyone along. I go to movies by myself so I won’t have to talk about them later. I recognize that most people don’t want to be alone, they want companionship and family on a daily basis. I realize most people have a greater capacity for talking than I do for listening to them.

But some of these people don’t know how to be alone, or how to enjoy their own company. And Facebook is somewhere to meet up with others needing something to do.

People sound off,

lament, announce an event, or post random observations instead of calling a friend, because then only that friend would know about it. That’s not nearly enough attention being paid to us. Not to say I haven’t participated in these practices myself, because they’re the accepted language of Facebook and you fall into the rhythm.

There’s the passive-aggressive cry-for-attention post—some obscure, mysterious statement begging to be asked what it’s about.

Fuck, shit, crap.
Never gonna do that again.
Everything’s going to be fine.
Only three more days…

Prompting responses like: Are you OK? Hugs! I’m here if you need me. You are beautiful. Stay strong. Etc. Sometimes you feel like you’re constantly ministering to people. Are people not getting this support from the humans in their lives, or do they just want more? Is our need for validation so pervasive?

Did I miss keeping abreast of my friends’ daily lives while deactivated? Even if so, I’d rather live my own daily life. It’s like the voices in my head stopped talking. It took a while for the reverb bouncing around my skull to settle down. Anyway, we know who our true-blue friends are, and those who are mostly avatars–the madding crowd we invite into our homes. It’s hard to resist taking advantage of a platform to say anything you want. But you don’t know who’s turned your feed off, who’s not “on” that day, who’s not paying attention. In a way it’s still yelling into a void, though the world be at your feet.

Diamond Dave
The Dave Wave, Diamond Dave, Dolores Park, San Francisco

When my attention gets too scattered by stimulus on the web, I eliminate the option to choose from it. Say I click on 50 links in one day. 45 of them are trash. But I still went through the motions and have nothing to show for it. Look at your browsing history, if you want to be appalled. There’s groovy stuff out there, no doubt. But it’s in you, too, waiting to manifest.

I’m in an insulated bubble of privacy,

writing offline in Word at midnight, crickets sounding off at the window. No one knows where I am, what I’m thinking, what I’m doing, reading, eating. Freedom! Have we forgotten what that feels like? How much time do we spend showing off to people, some of  whom we don’t even care about, because we’re on a public forum?

The Misfit Cafe
Is where I take my tea
When I’m trying to impress others
Who don’t impress me

 – Mayor Jones, Postcard Pomes, 2001

I, of course, am the biggest show-off of all, a writer.

LIFE AFTER FACEBOOK

If you’ve read this far, you wouldn’t have read this far if I hadn’t written this far, and I did so in the beatific space left by the expulsion of social media. But my cold turkey experiment of last year didn’t work. Facebook is a facilitator of friendship but it is not a substitute for friendship. The sad fact is, I don’t stay on Facebook because it’s the de rigeur way keep up with my friends. It’s because if I leave, they will not keep up with me.

♥ ♣ ♠ ♦

face deactTell me you remember you are still a human being…Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence.

Put your hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and connect with me for one second. Tell me something about your heart, and awaken my heart. Help me remember that I too am a full and complete human being, a human being who also craves a human touch. Omid Safi, “The Disease of Being Busy”