Hope Never Dies

I am still here.

I honestly don’t know when I’ll feel like writing again about the antics of cats, garden insurrections, the droll wisecracks of my Engineer sweetheart or gym idiocy. The dumpster fire (yesterday I saw the term “diaper fire”) of our current rolling crisis has eaten my brain alive, what is left after adjusting for stubborn post-injury pain that I don’t even want to talk much about. I spend way too much time on Twitter, hoping to make an early catch of good news when it does happen. Concentration is hard.

But every once in a while something comes along:

I used to faithfully read a series by Elliott Roosevelt, yes, that Roosevelt family, featuring his mother Eleanor as the Miss Marple-like sleuth in a series of pulpy murder mysteries. They weren’t terribly good, but they weren’t terribly bad either, and featured striking cameos like a house party involving Humphrey Bogart, or an open air fish fry where poor Southern African-Americans dynamited or telephoned the fish (I forget which) and entertained the First Lady to dinner. They were just cute, friendly books, the kind that telegraph that nobody really got hurt, this is just made up, we’re playing let’s pretend.

Hope Never Dies is a lot more noir. But funny noir, even with its glum reminders of why our heroes Barry and Joe are private citizens now, free (except for a disapproving Secret Service detail) to be pursuing a string of clues in a suspicious death. The cliches are all there and they’re delicious: the surprise midnight appearance at Joe Biden’s home, the mysterious woman, the planted stash, the hard-boiled similes (“I crossed the yard as fast as a dog licking a dish”). Shaffer can write. I’m devouring this thing, but not too fast; I need some time out from the nonstop battering of the Trump administration. And having written local politicians into a murder mystery myself, I feel like I now have a posse.

On the other hand, there is this, from the same author.

Creepily, it was published before the 2016 election. What did he know and when did he know it? Can I stand to read it?

And I am really not sure about

I think it deserves a read for the pen name alone, though. News as I get it.

 

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America

It’s the Fourth of July and I can’t, I just can’t. My neighbor across the street, who two elections ago had a big orange “DEFEAT OBAMA” sign in his shrubbery, and during the last election interestingly displayed no sign at all, has a honking big American flag hanging in his porch entry, as sort of a flyscreen I guess. I ought to tell him it doesn’t work that way.

My country is taking kids away from their parents and giving them back, if they’re given back, broken, and I can’t do a lot more about it than write kiddygarten postcards to voters begging people to vote for anyone who will act to stop this insanity. I don’t even like kids, but you don’t do this. You don’t.

There’s a link there at the word “broken.” Read as much as you can stand. Goddammit.

Nonetheless, I’m an American — not a Brit, though I almost did that once (and they have their own problems), not a Canadian or anything else. When I was born Eisenhower, aka the Last Honest Republican, was President. My father played in the Army Band, Pershing’s Own, and I learned first hand how full of shit the rah-rah-red-white-and-blue could be, but still, here I am. I have to find something that I can still love.

I reverted to Arthur Foote. A Unitarian kapellmeister, who studied in Europe and channeled Dvorak, Brahms and Mendelssohn, he is the only American composer I can entirely embrace. Fuck your folksy Aaron Copland first grade orchestral settings and your Charles Ives cacophony. Here is a beating heart.

Unitarianism is an interesting faith, if it is one. I don’t really understand it much. I think it basically follows the rubric “be a good person.” We could use that.

Here is the Foote piece that I always come back to. Tell me if the world isn’t redeemed at about 1:24 when the B section kicks in, or if not there when the melody comes back dancing on the roof of Creation at 7:35. An American did that. So we’re not all damned to the outer dark.

Sorry, but those are the thoughts I think these days.

Bag It

So all over the Internet, according to my Twitter feed, there seems to be a rash of weeping and hand-wringing because a fashion designer named Kate Spade was found dead. Holy priorities, Batman.

Don’t get me wrong: suicide from depression is always a sad thing. Take it from someone who lost a best childhood friend that way, largely, I’m fairly sure, because her mother loved a bunch of retarded kids more than her own brilliant daughter and continually forced the daughter to interact with them. I remember the hushed explanations, the mealy platitudes reported to me from the funeral service — thanks to dysfunctional everybody, I didn’t know she was dead till she had been in the ground for a month — and the posthumous denigration of someone who was suffering. I remember clearly that the parent who had all the time in the world for the feeble-minded curtly told her own daughter to “do something about herself” when her first year in pre-med went down in flames from her emotional struggles. I have enough bitterness about the way depressed people are treated to curdle the sea.

But all this sentimentality about handbags? There are people online rhapsodizing about the “aspirational” nature of the designer product and what it meant to them — some sort of image of “adult womanhood” — as if a handbag were more than just a fucking container to carry things around in, and as if we need to carry so many fucking things around.

I have two clear memories of people who cared jack shit about handbags. One was an epicene overprivileged blonde skinny woman in a toy job at the first gym where I ever worked, who drawled “I found a wonderful sale on Anne Klein. Are you into Anne Klein?” “I’m heavily into Sears and Montgomery Ward, myself,” I replied, thinking of my $3.60 an hour part time paycheck which for Skinny Blonde was just the garnish on a placeholder gig so she could say she was a real! working! person before going home to her parents’ fancy mansion. The other was a sad matter of someone who had only been able to survive, after escaping an abusive family, by finding generous gentlemen. Things that money bought were earnests of permanence to her. I was nicer to her.

Bags? What the fuck even is it about bags? A nuisance, a drag, a thing to look after, something that no man in history has ever felt he had to own. I went from a backpack to a hip pack to a key wallet over the last thirty years and I never really looked at who designed the things. You use them. You try to find something that doesn’t drag you down. It isn’t your identity.

There are these women at my gym who drag bags around. One day soon I’m going to go up someone’s nostrils just because the idiocy of it ticks me off. You’re in the gym, lady: first off, get yourself some real gym clothes and shoes; second, if you carry something around — I do — it should only be the stuff you need to have with you to work out — this is the US so you came here in a car and the car has a trunk. Stop leaving that horse-nosebag-handbag on the floor for me to trip over. Aside from, it makes you look stupid and focused on things other than the reason you are here. Please get your day tripping self out of my sight.

But here we are, with the world and especially America burning down around us, unjust deaths by the quire piling up among our veterans and our poor people, and someone needs to grieve over a person they never knew because handbags.

America will bullshit itself to death. Been happening for years. Just putting up signposts.

Phew

A while back I wrote a frustrated, distressed post about a #MeToo accusation of George Takei. The story was disturbing, given that all political progressives and sci fi geeks love George, but it also sounded way too like the kind of thing that, well, happens. Hollywood is a weird place and can bring out the worst in people who seem admirable.

It begins to sound as if the whole thing was much less fraught than the original story suggested — an almost classic tale of mixed signals. It doesn’t have heroes, but neither does it have villains. God love persistent reporters.

A fabricated coffee meeting. Key facts withheld or walked back. A “great party story” about a sexual assault—which the accuser now says may not have actually happened.

What happens when an activist’s legacy is tarnished by the story of an old friend who later says it could have all been a misunderstanding? And how do we process such an anomaly in an era of overdue social justice?…

It all makes plenty of sense to me. Yikes, if I had a nickel for every time I thought someone was interested and put the blocks on him… oh well, I’d have a handful of nickels. But there it is. No one else has had a thing to say about Takei, gay culture of that time was known for impulsive hookups, Takei is still happily Tweeting away; meanwhile, Harvey Weinstein has turned himself in. The wheels grind slowly but exceeding small.

 

 

 

 

America

I tried to get a photo, but the light was either blazing through or reflecting off the windows of the station wagon. Also I was trying not to be too obvious. With luck I’ll never see the damn thing again, but if I do I’ll have another try.

It was in the parking rank right beside the door of my gym, a beige, battered family-with-kids wagon whose windows had been repurposed as billboards, painted with white lettering in about an inch-high, fussy hand, as dense and intense as a Dr. Bronner’s soap label but not nearly so engaging. “Latinos are the Domestic Terrorists of the West!,” it said, with convergent ramblings about rapists and child traffickers and “Espanole people” (I only found out later the same day that people use that term). Oh, and Califori-something is to be hated and, most inscrutable of all, a column of words: “Celibate/Proud/Jew/Greek/Roman.” Sort of a roster of the civilizations that people usually mean when they say “Western,” but celibate? Not surprised, at least.

Presumably, someone was in there working out, who had driven this mobile hate-fest into our parking lot and would eventually come out and drive away in it, no doubt swelled with pride of some kind.

I wanted to do something and I couldn’t. Vandalism is ineffective and the front desk guys were already checking it out. One of them is deeply black, a sweet guy whose smile always elevates my mood. Our best trainer is Hispanic. I had a sort of heartburn in my bone marrow from it. I let them know how I felt, but was stumped for a better action.

So this is where we’re at. First a pickup truck that hated refugees, now this unhinged window decoration. And this is in the deepest blue part of my state.

Dear God, make it stop.

Not Little Nemo

For those who don’t get the reference, “Little Nemo In Slumberland” was a classic comic strip involving a child protagonist who had a series of weird but fairly sentimental dream adventures.

Then there’s this. Props to the Engineer, a webcomics geek, for cuing it up after the 1300th time I woke up in the morning and told him about my weird dream.

exhibit

I have been getting early morning stress dreams more and more recently. I wake up taut as a guy wire and feeling as if I’m trying to break out of six restraints at once. Today, I dreamed I was interned in some sort of residential school/prison and that a few people had organized a plan in which I and another inmate, a lanky light skinned young black man, would escape. We had to have our “go bags” ready but avoid risk of their being detected in a locker check — there was some sort of kerfuffle about the combination locks — and the escape was timed for midnight on a specific night, something to do with the security schedule. I got my clothing and supplies all stuffed into a small rucksack. The time hit and we moved, aided by someone who was something like the facility nurse. I was focused on connecting, on the outside, with former FBI director and current hot-headline memoirist James Comey, whom I have apparently internalized as the personification of straight-arrow authority ready to help people in flight from evil state oppression. (He’s a bit of a diva, and I will never figure out what the hell he was thinking with the Clinton matter, but probably that characterization’s not far off.)

I just wish I could draw like Lackadaisy.