La Rubia

Thirty-some years ago, stuck for the weekend in the apartment of a guy who was really kind of a dud, I read from end to end a novel about the last days of Leon Trotsky.  I recall very few details now, but what made me sit up was the near postscript involving the Corrido del Leon Trotsky (probably one of several; you can find a version on YouTube), describing, as a news service to those without newspapers or radios or basic literacy, how Trotsky, something of the celebrity resident, was killed in Mexico City by a coerced assassin using “un zapatica alpinista.”

I loved the idea of the corrido, a cross of sorts between the town crier and the folklore of culture heroes, legends, and adventure tales. They are still made, even in these days of widespread literacy and the Net. We need our hard news, but sometimes you want music and poetry to tell how the news makes you feel.

I have a new hero, and she is the mayor of San Juan in Puerto Rico, Carmen Yulin Cruz. I suspect that in this case the line forms to the left. Three days ago I had not even heard her name, but Thursday night she burst onto the news clips and everyone’s volleying retweets with eloquence, anger, and poise, using every journalist willing to turn his camera or mike toward her as a megaphone to plead for her constituents and the whole Commonwealth.

If you have been living under a rock, Federal aid to Puerto Rico, an American possession, which has just missed following the island of Atlantis to the bottom of the ocean and is struggling without power, drinking water, fuel, telephone service in most places, or sufficient food, is not just a day but about a week late and a damn sight more than a dollar short.  A few leaks, as yet unconfirmed, claim that the administration went silent after receiving estimations of the aid that was needed, suggesting no plans to help the island at all. The governor of Puerto Rico, probably knowing what kind of person he was dealing with, has been kissing White House ass, the government representatives on the ground have actually been calling the situation a “good news story,” and Yulin Cruz is having none of it.

“…I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out the logistics for a small island of 100 miles by 35 miles. So, mayday, we are in trouble… I am begging. I am begging anyone that can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying. And you are killing us with the inefficiency and bureaucracy.”

For her trouble, she got called names by our Tweeter In Chief, who seems to think that people on the island would be fine if they just put in a few hours work and stopped asking other people to “do everything for them.” Those Tweets hit the Internet at about the same time as a photo of Yulin Cruz up to her beltline in filthy water going from door to door looking for survivors. In another clip, she thanked a religious charity for solar lanterns which she was distributing to people searching for water in the dark.

This is not a bright shining moment for the United States. I’m embarrassed as hell. A whole island is stripped and broken, people are waiting all day for gas and cities of sixty thousand are getting deliveries of two thousand meals, hospitals have no power, while the administration here in DC took eight days to lift a bureaucratic rule about foreign ships putting in at the Port of San Juan because “the shipping industry likes it.” Celebrities and bush pilots and international chefs and members of the “Alt-Gov” Twitter collective are flying in with food and out with sick, desperate people, but our own Navy’s hospital ship was only got under way on Friday.

There will be a lot of heroes when this is over. They will all deserve a corrido, if that tradition has spread to the other Spanish speaking Americas from Mexico,  but my imagination is starting with San Juan’s mayor. In my fantasy, the ballad is called La Rubia, the blonde lady, and like the best ballads, it will tell of the mayor performing supernatural feats: carrying a pallet of water on her back over a road too broken for trucks, shedding light from her bare hands, towing a boat full of survivors, or lifting up a child at the brink of death only to hear a healthy cry. And in the last verse, it will say, “No one person can do these things? No, you are right, one person cannot. It is done by you all, you are all heroes. But a single person with a big voice can breathe on the flame of courage, to be sure all these things are done.”

I can’t write it though. It has to be written in Spanish, by a Puerto Rican citizen, who’ll know how to put those sentiments into meter. But I will hum along.

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Charlottesville

A terrorist murdered and maimed people in my home state today.

I haven’t been in Charlottesville since the late Seventies. I went down there a couple of times to hang with a guy I dated in high school and off-and-on through my twenties, who was fucking brilliant — 100% scores on his SATs, double major at an Ivy, could play Bach while necking without missing a note (his mother never felt like she had to come down to the rec. room), He also, alas, was addicted to the buttoned-down conservatism of William F. Buckley, whose racist dogwhistles were under my radar then (I suspect I was more aware of the parallel sexism, cheering when Germaine Greer got under Buckley’s skin on Firing Line). It was sort of a case of pervert-to-convert, it just never took entirely, despite his acquiring a taste for Bertrand Russell. The last I saw of him, he was whoring on Newsmax, giving a split-screen interview which seemed to be all about repeating the cant that Black Lives Matter consisted of “thugs” who were being “encouraged by Obama,” all pseudo-validated by the fairy dust of his academic credentials. Funny, considering how when we were still dating, any ethnic epithet used to bring on a prissy fit. I guess times change, or maybe people stop trying to pretend.

One evening in C-ville we were walking back to his apartment in the student district and I became aware of four young black men strolling along behind us. We crossed to the other side of the street. One of the men called out, something like “Hey, scared to be on the same sidewalk with us?” And I couldn’t say anything, because I was. One side of my family came from red-dirt, redneck Georgia, and I had grown up on a steady admonition of “Don’t go downtown [in Washington DC] because the n—–s will knock you on the head.” I could scoff at that all I wanted, and did, but some part of it stuck, like a tick that took a long time to dig out. I’m not saying people haven’t been mugged by groups of young men who followed them, but I know I wouldn’t have crossed the street if they’d been white, and I’d hazard a guess they were just going for pizza. I’m still learning how much more people in various shades of brown have to fear from white people than we do from anyone.

I had to go into an appointment just after learning that one of the Charlottesville victims had died, still gobsmacked from seeing cell phone video, and I’m glad the client was one of those who just wants to go into the zone because tears kept coming as I scrabbled for something to think or feel about it — tears that I know are a luxury, because I wasn’t there, I wasn’t at risk, all I can do is try to find a crowdfund helping the injured, because we still don’t fucking have a decent health care system in this country and the Virginia legislature won’t stand for taking Medicaid money to help poor people, God forbid. I can’t even stand up indignantly and say This Is Not My Country, because I’m afraid it is. Maybe some day that won’t be true, but what can you say when hundreds of angry white men, faces contorted in hate, assemble in a peaceful college town waving torches and swastika flags, and vilifying people of color, Jews, make a list, because of an ill-defined sense of grievance?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police:
We must love one another or die.

As usual, Auden was on it.

 

 

 

The Kidney Meridian

Chloe has been my client since early days. Meaning since before 1991, when I vacated my studio at the late lamented Spa Lady, which divested and fragmented and mismanaged itself out of business in all but a few metropolitan areas. She moved to the American Southwest over a decade ago, then came back to my turf over family issues, and here she stays.

She’s a creative worker. Meaning that, increasingly, she competes in what is referred to as the “gig economy,” aka “you’re on your own.” When you’re over sixty, that is not a good place to be.

A few months ago she hit a wall of some description, and ended up in the hospital with tanked kidneys. Long years of intrusive pain, lots of NSAIDs which are not balm for the kidneys, might have had something to do with this. I’m not a doctor. I just see people year in and year out.

Chloe is a natural spinster; meaning that she likes men but isn’t ready to let one dictate the circumstances of her life, at least not so long as he is any degree of an asshole, so she is on her own in more ways than one, the asshole issue being so prevalent. Our culture assumes that you will be partnered and buffered therefore and not have to face the world on your own. Yeah. Tell me another one. I didn’t find that place until a year ago, logistically, and that was altogether a fluke.

She showed up today, fresh off six days in the hospital, with its freight of neglect and humiliation: “I was throwing up, and they gave me pot roast. In July.” Hospital staff emptied the trash in her room at two a.m.; someone requiring a blood draw showed up not much later. The doctor doing grand rounds on the Fourth said: “I know you aren’t happy to be here on the Fourth of July, but so are we.” “It isn’t at all the same thing,” she told him. Good on her.

She was shaking, ten pounds lighter than I last saw her, when she got on the table. I suggested attention to the kidney points on the Chinese acupuncture meridians, though I have no robust certification in this art; just a value-added proposition. I keep an acupuncture mannequin so as to jog my memory of these loci. I’ve had acupuncture, beaucoup times, and it fixes things. Manual attention to these points has a track record. She went eep every time I dug into the kidney points. I honestly can’t say what I was doing, other than no harm. On either side of the matter, I did what was called for, work on the flanks and back exhausted by immobilization in a hospital bed.

I think Chloe is a year or two away from Medicare. At the worst, the US government has elected kidney dialysis, of all interventions, as the one that will always be funded. Dialysis sucks. I hope Chloe can avoid it. I hope to hell she doesn’t need expensive intervention of any other kind before Medicare kicks in, because none of us know what Congress can ram through to relieve obscenely, unimaginably rich people of paying taxes so that Chloe or anyone like her can live without worrying about being bankrupted by medical bills.

I had some arnica oil for the bruises from four IV sites.

And a homing instinct for acupuncture points.

It’s all I’ve got.

 

 

 

Giving Reiki, Which I Don’t Know How To Do, To Someone I Probably Hate

Del Ray is a little district of the City of Alexandria, just over the line from where I live in Arlington. We are all outliers of the nation’s capital; with no injuries (don’t ask) I can walk to the White House in an hour.  From Alexandria, a little longer, perhaps. The Engineer and I go to Del Ray — once a colony of railroad workers’ homes, now gentrified, full of yoga studios and specialty grocers — to buy tchatsch and gourmet diddlies when we feel poised to splash out. Sometimes we go to the movies at nearby Potomac Yards, though the cineplex features a popcorn whose festering odor is a bit much for me.

Potomac Yards is a skip and a hop from where a woman- and animal-beating fuckface with an automatic rifle and a political excuse shot up a Congressional baseball practice this morning.

Reportedly the fuckface was shooting an AR-15. That is a spray gun that shoots soft lead slugs, man-stoppers intended to lodge in soft tissue. The Secret Service used to carry them. I’m not dead sure about that detail of the incident but it sounds right. There is no effing reason for a private citizen to own one, but politics for another day. [Correction: later reports verify that the gun was a Soviet-era automatic rifle with a ten round magazine, requiring manual reloading, less of a fire hose than the AR 15 but still not what you would buy to shoot skeet.]

By midafternoon we heard that Majority Whip Steve Scalise — whose assigned security detail, owing to his position in Congress, was at the practice and probably stopped a bloodbath while taking injuries themselves — was out of surgery but “in critical condition.” The report was that he had been shot “in the hip.” That leaves a lot of latitude: did a bullet lodge in the joint? Was he creased in the flesh lateral to the joint? Or shot squarely in the ass, which is a funny idea only if you have never had unrelenting pain in your ass muscles (raises hand)? According to the eyewitness report, Scalise was down on the ground and crawling away toward the dugout leaving a trail of blood. It takes a lot of blood to leave a trail. I salute his guts.

I thought about the people I have encountered who do “remote energy healing” and the like, such as Reiki, which I don’t really understand even if I am a body worker. Scalise is a Republican lawmaker of the purest ray serene, so far as I can learn, opposed to reproductive rights, homophobic, I have no notion of his nuanced position on health care but I would probably yearn to punch him out over it. Nonetheless, he was in Medstar Washington Hospital Center, shot in the ass, after having the grit to keep moving with blood pouring out of him.

I closed my eyes and tried to imagine healing energy going to him, not entirely selflessly, because if he dies the partisan clusterfuck will be unspeakable. But also because going to a baseball practice (like going to school, or a political shindig, or a movie or a mall) is a shitty reason to die. I don’t know if anything really, objectively happened, but I felt somehow glued to the place I was in.

I sat there for several moments, Then I said wordlessly: “Everyone who wants the people who were shot to recover, let me join you.”

It felt a bit like the sensations I experienced when my singing teacher, thirty years ago, told me to let the music come through me and not from me. You sense something behind your shoulder blades and the world feels bigger, more open. The glue eased up. I got out of my chair.

I am lousy as a mystic, and was probably talking to imaginary friends, but I’d like to think there’s good will in the world. If only it could move through everyone, not least Congress, to protect whomever needs it.

 

My Day

#1 Randy Rainbow Owns The Internet

(If you have been off the Internet radar or are, happily, a resident of a country other than the US, the last few days have been punctuated by hilarious speculations on what the hell the alleged President meant when he tweeted out something incoherent about “all the negative covfefe”. Presumably, “coverage.” But even Sean Spicer, the Press Secretary, reached a meta point of trolling himself when he answered reporters’ questions by asserting that “a small number of people know what the President meant.”

Nemmine honey. Randy has it covered.)

#2 Romania, Romania

I give money to panhandlers in the parking lot of my favorite grocery, even though I know they are probably working that spot because when you have impulse-bought a $7 bag of spiced nuts or a $9 bottle of wine that you hadn’t planned on, you feel like a fuckwad refusing a few singles to a beggar.

Honestly, I don’t know why they’re begging and I don’t care. Maybe they have a car around the corner. Maybe they are on drugs or drink a lot. Whatever, you have to have had some dispute with your own dignity to stand in a parking lot accosting people for dollar bills. My late and ex husband ended his life on the streets, as earnestly as he tried to keep from admitting it to me, and toward the end of the proceedings described to me how subway riders in nice business suits sometimes simply pressed a five dollar bill into his hand unasked (he never asked, not once). “People are so nice,” he would say from his hospital bed, this being the now-it-seems-fast-vanishing era when a destitute elderly man could end his days in clean linens.

I reckon I can afford a little in his memory. This time it was an old man of bearing, leaning but not painfully on a cane, his face marred by a large wen on his jaw, balding, olive-skinned, scythe-nosed. He looked like a man who should be sitting at the head of a table with a checked cloth, telling his children and grandchildren what it was like in his day; who ought to be taking thoughtful counsel with the government of his town or the elders of his village. Instead he had an index card attesting in crude ballpoint that he was a refugee “from Romania” and needed help paying his family’s expenses. Beside the index card he displayed a laminated ID that I am too blind to have read. I don’t know where he was from. Does Romania even have refugees, at this late date? But he could have as easily been Syrian. Maybe Syrians have figured out that other ethnic groups won’t get hated on as much. IDK. He most certainly did not look like a man who would drink it up; his eyes were clear, his skin was taut.

I gave him a couple of bills, and when he asked if I could spare more in a barely intelligible word salad, a couple more. He pointed to the place on the card that said “God Bless.”

I have no religion other than cats, but put my hand around his and said “God bless you too, Grandfather.”

It is going to get a lot more cruel out there before it gets kind again. I can spare a few bucks on what might be a hustle. Somehow it’s hard to think it was. I went home more at peace than I had been in days, which was worth the price.

Tonight

I don’t know anyone who was born in Syria, needless to say, I don’t know anyone who has had to flee Syria since it became, so far as I can tell, the battleground of a tyrant who intends to cling to power no matter what and regional powers who want a piece of the action and fundamentalist militants and fuck knows what else. Who can tell any more.

I was born in the palmy aftermath of the Second World War, when in America at least — my Brit friends have acquainted me with a less swimming narrative — suburbia was thriving and people who had survived deployment were fathering families and going to school on the GI bill and slapping down the down-payments on houses and saving to send their kids to colleges which wouldn’t bankrupt either generation. No Fortune 500 company hired me, but I had the platform in an increasingly unequal economy to scratch, claw and clobber my way to a house. I love my house. My house cares for me. It protects me.

No one (yet) has any reason to bomb my house or the neighborhood where it sits.

No one (yet) has dropped anywhere near me chemical agents that sear lungs, blind eyes, execute whole families.

I get up in the morning and I bitch about the people I have to deal with performing my everyday errands. The sky is blue, when it isn’t raining the blessed and gentle rain of the Tidewater. Nothing evil falls from it.

I live in Paradise. I have a few dollars to send to the UN refugee aid, after making sure my future is taken care of. No one has yet ripped it away from the sky.

I don’t know what to say or think about the state of the world, or Tomahawk missiles. I do have to think that we in the United States can take the chance on people who are running away from a sky that, on a random day in a random place, can rain hell on the home you have worked for your whole life.

I am lucky. So lucky.