The Unbearable Darkness of Being Trump (ish)

I go back to work next week. One has mixed feelings about this, because it’s been over two months since I did a session (I’m not counting the experimental skinny lady I asked to critique me last week), but at least the first month of that was spent in approximately the same state you’d be in if someone, the Incredible Hulk say, threw you hard against a wall and let you slide down it. I am going to start slow, to allow for walking, now that I can.

I’m up to a bit over two miles, just at the point where the D.C. area experiences its annual apotheosis of mild breezes and drifting blossom, daffodils bursting up together like the rows of angels in early Renaissance paintings flourishing their little trumpets, hyacinths, every variety of cherry, and my favorite, the understated little blue flower called veronica grass.

How to Remove Your Grass Lawn | my woodland garden

As far back as I can remember I’ve been looking at little growing things, the unexpectedly graceful weeds that pop up by the roadside, the lichens on old stone walls. When I was nine or so I used to dig in an eroded gully near my house to expose layers of differently tinted clay, some of it infiltrated with silica or mica so that when the sun came around to just the right angle, the earth sparkled. I was dumbfounded enough to laugh the day that a schoolmate said she “felt sorry for me playing out there all by myself.”

And what in the Dear’s name does that have to do with the title of this post?

Well, only that I missed this last year entirely because I was in too much pain, and going out every day to see what bloomed overnight, seeing all this beauty for free every ten or  twenty feet, has literally made me cry a few times, and it occurred to me: our angry, grudge-ridden president*, and all his rich kleptocratic sycophants, and all the furious, aggrieved people who see him as a savior. must never see this. I may be naive, but it just seems to me that if you could take in the fleeting, precious exuberance of the earth reviving, this profligate avalanche of color and delicacy, you could not expend all your resources scheming to get more money, or competing with other people to prove who has more money, or power, or toys. You wouldn’t live in tacky gilded houses or draw energy from making people want to burn things down. You wouldn’t sell your soul for a political appointment that you could skim for fancy furniture and private jet flights, nor would you drive long distances to wave torches and shout hate-chants. You might, instead, be thinking about how much it means for people to just breathe and see the spring, to have time for it instead of working until they drop or worrying about what they’ll do if they get sick.

It must be unbearably dark and lonely, there in the minds of people who derive all their meaning from having more things than they need and clutching at power they don’t know how to use except for destruction. I mean, for fuck’s sake, I’m a grouch who’s allergic to babies and children and I probably dislike more people than I like, but I can’t imagine using up my life to make things difficult for them.

There is a lot of hand-wringing these days about what brought us to this point, how acrimony, suspicion and ambition saturated our national spirit. I don’t know how we fix what’s already happened. But maybe, for the sake of the generation that comes next assuming we survive, the people who keep having those kids that I’m allergic to should skip the pressure for achievement or busy-ness and leave them the hell alone to look at a flower.

Advertisements

Night Songs

I think it is being out of pain that gives me interesting dreams. Nice ones, actually. I have experienced on more than one recent morning a desire to go live in the dream I just woke up from.

This one was especially vivid. About a week ago I was one of the first donors to a political candidate for a nearby Senate district in my state lege. I have been following this Qasim Rashid fella on Twitter for a while, because he’s articulate and handles assholes with more grace than I could ever muster. In the dream, he and one of his fellow social media activists had arranged a piano concert at a nearby conservatory showcasing two young Muslim music students, and along with some standard repertory, which the boys were running through when I arrived at the dress rehearsal, they were going to take turns playing accompaniment while I premiered a set of my own vocal compositions. We were really at the eleventh hour and hadn’t practiced together whatsoever, and I was on edge, but when I arrived it was hard to feel anxious because the very beautiful, rather intimate venue was soothing merely to exist in. The two pianos were on an only slightly raised parquet dais, and there was a glass wall around about a quarter of the high-ceilinged polygonal hall, admitting late-afternoon light from a wooded area innocent of buildings and providing a direct underwater view into the first two or three feet of a large pond, into which the building extended. Fish and other critters were swimming around, frogs were sunning on boulders outside the glass, watching us curiously, and large butterflies were living dangerously by flying in close to them.

I don’t remember which of my songs we were going to do. I composed a handful in my twenties, including settings of Donne’s “Lecture Upon The Shadow,” a pair of cantrips from Peter S. Beagle’s “Last Unicorn,” and the entirety of T. S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” for literally vindictive reasons which are too silly to go into. I still have the pipes but I’m glad the dream provided the pianists. I couldn’t stumble through the keyboard part now if you had a beanshooter to my head.

Just Leaving This Here

We are now at Day 8 of rehab, if you count the promenades I did around the hospital, and an unfortunate side effect is that I spend way way too much time scrolling through Twitter on my phone, resulting in a barrage of the daily news that is probably socially responsible but goddam exhausting.

This gem, surfed up by the Engineer, encapsulates my state of mind. Impressive upper range, too, even if he needs a little work on containing the tone of the high notes.

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.

 

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.