Nesting

This pair has been hanging out on the water tower across from my apartment all morning.

This pair hung out on the water tower across from my apartment all morning.

The crows seem to enjoy today’s fine flurries.  They stuck around, cawing and calling and circling until the flurries stopped.

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It’s that time.  That time of year, when I start thinking about how nice it would be to get away by myself.  Still haven’t done it (not since I had children, anyway), but I think about it.  A little while ago I even looked up writer’s retreats for 2016.  They lose their appeal after about 3 minutes of web surfing.  Wooded settings, steep price tags, set meal times, and evening conversations with strangers.  Feel me shuddering through the keyboard?  Creating my own retreat, though, that would be lovely.  Just a few days.  Coffee, tea, salad, and Cheetos should cover all the necessary meals/food groups.  Maybe some salt and vinegar chips.  On a beach, because if I were to be overcome by the glory of uninterrupted alone-time and therefore not get any writing done, I’d still be happy.

It’s also that time when I’m thinking about writing.  A lot.  I know myself, what it means when I can’t stop thinking about a poem, a photograph, a song…and I know what’s next; obsession with the next manuscript.  You know when you hear women talk about nesting in the later stages of pregnancy? I never did that.  I do it before getting serious about a manuscript.  Why? I dunno.  It isn’t like baking or being caught up on laundry and grocery shopping beforehand makes a damned bit of difference by the time I’m a month in, but I do it anyway.  Feels like dropping down to a low gear in order to drive up a steep hill without stalling or getting caught at the red light at the top.  Not that it works, life provides red lights with regularity, and god knows I stall out all. the. time. while I’m writing, but that’s what it feels like for the moment.

So I’ve been thinking about Emily Dickinson’s “I’m Nobody.”  I always loved this one, no matter how many times I’ve heard and read it.

I’m Nobody! Who are you? 
Are you—Nobody—Too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise—you know!How dreary—to be—Somebody!
How public—like a Frog—
To tell one’s name—the livelong June—
To an admiring Bog!
 
I’ve never been Somebody, from my vantage it seems like there’s power in it.  But there’s freedom in being Nobody, do you think?  Maybe not, maybe it’s just one of the not-so-little lies we tell ourselves, along the lines of poor-but-happy.
A few weeks ago I took this photo on one of the (thankfully) few bitter cold days we’ve had this winter.
Lost? Forgotten? Abandoned?

Lost? Forgotten? Abandoned?

The flowers, this photo, a complete story by itself.  But which one?  My first thought for a caption was something like, “Screw you and your cheap-ass bodega flowers!” Such a frigid morning though, maybe they dropped from fingers so numb the person carrying them didn’t realize they lost them until they were fumbling for their Metrocard two blocks later.  The neighborhood where I took this shot is a busy one, home to a large social security office, a few social service agencies, and several thrift stores. Maybe they fell from the cart of someone’s wheelchair, or the little basket that sits across the top of a walker.  Maybe they were dropped as someone late for a date grabbed the first available cab they’d seen in twenty minutes, or maybe, maybe, maybe.  So many possibilities, and those are just a few of the more mundane ones.
I stopped halfway through putting this post together to go pick up the girl.  In Grand Central, when you walk through the tunnel connecting the tracks for the shuttle and the 4/5/6, there are several abandoned “windows.”  I can’t remember if there used to be stores behind them, or what they were originally for, but now they’re lit empty boxes, good for backlighting the various street performers and religious groups that stop in front of them. Today I was walking past and saw this.
MTA worker with dreams of being a display artist?

MTA worker with dreams of being a display artist?

Clandestine spy code?  Pre-arranged tableau signaling the all clear for a passionate liaison between an engineer and a station inspector?  I think, if I were writing this into a manuscript, I’d have to add a crow.

PTSD of Snow

Everything on mute.

Everything on mute.

It’s well documented that I hate winter but really, it’s just the cold.  I never minded the snow, always figured if we had to have sub freezing temperatures, might as well have the beauty and quiet that comes with snowfall.  There’s always something a little magical about snow, not to mention the throwback to being a kid, hoping for a snow day.  And let’s be honest, if you live in the city, it’s likely you skip the bad part of snow–shoveling.  (Unless you have a car and park on the street, in which case you’re screwed.) Sure if you have a brownstone the steps and path need to be shoveled, but it seems like most hire that work out.  It has to be a LOT of snow to interfere with public transportation or cause any real inconvenience.  Say, for example, 26.8 inches, like we saw yesterday.  Even with that, we were warned well in advance (though we didn’t expect as much as we got, it isn’t like we were expecting a dusting), and it was a Saturday, no school anyway and many people off from work.

Look what we get in exchange, clean and lovely scenery, cool ice patterns, etc.

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All good, right?  Biggest concern dodging the icicles and avalanches of snow sliding off the rooftops in the days after the storm, as they melt just enough to slide off and hit the ground–or the nearest head.  Except not anymore.  Every step on the snow, every glimpse of an ice patch…makes me think of the ice patches I won’t see, how hard those snow piles are after sitting on the curb for a couple of days–or weeks–and flash back to my face hitting the ice last spring, when I fractured my everything.  Ridiculous.  I’m not young, but I should be too young to be literally worried about busting a hip.  Should be.

Maybe I should just stay in and write.  Winter has traditionally been my most productive time in terms of fiction.  I think it’s the excessive heat pumping through the radiators, puts me in just the right stupor to lose myself in my imagination.  Except.  Recently every time I open the damned file intending to do more than read the few pages I’ve got, I flash on the mountain of rejection letters I’ve accumulated over the years for various projects.  Dear Fringie, Intriguing story, great characters, thanks so much but no thanks and good luck. 

Maybe I’ll just kick back on the couch and watch Netflix with Art Child.  Mmm hmm.  Remember the avalanches I mentioned?  Sometimes they happen and you hear them during the storms, from winds blowing and drifts settling.  They make quite the sound on impact, and mostly it’s just background noise, though sometimes it can be startling, depending on the size of the chunk of snow, and how far it has to fall. A few years back Art Child and I were home during a storm, and there was a particularly loud snow-muffled thud.  It wasn’t snow.  Someone jumped from the roof.  Despite all the years and storms where those thumps were just snow and ice, now I jump.

Nervous staying in, nervous going out.  I took the girl and the camera and went to the park this morning.  I’m too damned old to be scared of boogeymen, especially when they’re decked out like Frosty.

Click on the photos if you’d like to see them full-size. Happy Blizzard, Fringelings!

 

Daily Assault: Booby Prize Edition

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A surprise double yolk for this morning’s pancakes.  Because I’m immature, this made me think of cleavage.  *insert snicker here*  Because I’m an adult, what it did not do was make me want to reach out and grab the yolks with my bare hands to give a little squish.

I remember being little and admiring my grandmother’s cleavage.  It seemed so powerfully adult, that hint of simultaneous swell and wrinkles.  Of course, I also admired the way she could take her teeth out and clean them in a separate glass, her lifetime bus pass, and the way she could cup her hand and use her palm as an ashtray.  She had her own ideas about men and women, which she shared through lectures equally generous and cryptic.  As far as I could tell they boiled down to men were not to be trusted (outside of progeny–in which case, they should be lionized), marriage was a necessary evil–so be sure to marry rich, and fergawdssake don’t have too many babies.  She was what used to be called a tough cookie, and I wanted nothing more than to grow up to be her.

I’m a blabber-fingers left-leaning blogger, which means I indulge in the not so occasional political rant.  I don’t address every injustice I see or read about (impossible), or even every big story, because I’m exhausted and frequently too damned disheartened.   Is there such a thing as blogging battle fatigue?  Do I have the right to feel it when I don’t address all?  Yesterday I came across this story.  A few days late, because I’ve been busy rattling my pots and pans, sticking to the kitchen–barefoot, naturally.  I considered blogging when I first saw it, but what could I possibly say?  So I posted the link on my personal Facebook page, thinking I would just spread a bit of awareness amongst my three friends and that would be that. One friend replied with a statement about Republican men, and another friend replied to the first about the unfairness of the blanket statement.  Fair enough, and it made me think.  Not only because it is unfair to categorize ALL Republican men, but because it implies male Democrats are ALL more enlightened.  Would that it were so.  I woke up still thinking, and decided I couldn’t let this incident pass without comment here on Mrs Fringe.  Because I’m a woman.  And as a woman, I say without hesitation that this is bullshit.

The gist of the story:  State Rep (NH) Amanda Bouldin (woman) wrote a statement opposing a proposal made by State Rep Josh Moore (man).  The proposal is for it to be a misdemeanor for women to expose their nipples in public. Bouldin disagreed in a statement on her Facebook page, saying the bill should *at least* exempt breastfeeding mothers.  The proposed bill actually does exempt breastfeeding mothers, but that isn’t the problem.  The issue is Moore’s response (written on Facebook, later deleted–when will people learn there are no take-backs on the internet?  Your Words <3 The Internetz R 4eVER), where he wrote that Bouldin (and women in general, I guess) should have no problem with a man’s natural response to stare and grab when a woman exposes her nipples in public while breastfeeding.  This all devolved in true internet fashion into comments from other men as to whose nipples they would/would not want to see.

I’m sure Moore thought he was being clever, perhaps even funny, a play on the “argument” that breastfeeding is natural.  Cause, yanno,  women’s breasts are really for and about men.  Not babies, and certainly not women.  This shouldn’t be an argument, a debate, or even an issue.  What he described is assault.  This isn’t a breastfeeding debate.  This is about women; our rights to control and make decisions over our own bodies, our right to be safe.  If his natural inclination is to assault every woman he sees, or at least every woman where he spies a bit of pink or brown skin, I am afraid for every woman he has ever or will ever come into contact with.  I feel sorry for him, and every man like him, who believes they not only have no control over themselves, but it’s the fault of evil-original-sin WIMMINZ, for having breasts.  And wombs. And vaginas.  And calves, thighs, hair, lips, and ankles.  No wonder we need men to tell us how to care for and hide our bodies.  *sarcasm*  More than fear and pity, I’m fed up.  This man was elected.   He represents far too many: right, left, or libertarian.

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That he would even say this is an assault, a not-so-clever play at intimidation.  When someone wonders what is meant by the phrase “rape culture,” this is it.   This statement tells women we not only aren’t safe from unwanted stares, pinches, and grabs, we have no right to expect safety.  Regardless of age, race, religion, or socioeconomic class, I’m guessing at least 98% of women have experienced multiple moments of feeling unsafe, feeling and/or being assaulted by unwanted remarks, leers, hands, or full body grinds on a not-so-crowded bus or subway car.

As time goes on, I believe there are fewer men who think along these lines.  More men understand human rights, the need for equality in the social contract, fewer believe entitlement is a natural extension of dangly bits.  Not enough, though.

Women have fought for and won many advances.  In many countries we can vote, work outside the home (though not necessarily for equal pay), own property, hold political office, expose our ankles.  But we still can’t do any of these things with a reasonable expectation that we won’t be groped along the way.

I didn't grow up to be my grandma, but I am a tough cookie.

I didn’t grow up to be my grandma, but I am a tough cookie.

Falling Flat Like my Popovers: New Year’s Resolve

Guayaba-Manchego popover muffin things

Guayaba-Manchego popover muffin things

In my defense, they still taste delicious.  I’ve been working on this recipe, trying to figure out how to get them to hold their shape and not collapse.  They’re like a Caribbean flavored popover.  Honestly, I’ve never been able to get a regular popover to hold its dome either.  I’ve tried preheating the pans, pre-cooling the pans, increasing/decreasing salt, warming the milk–but not totally hot, I don’t understand how people do that without immediately cooking the eggs before the batter is mixed.  Nothing has made a difference.  One day I’ll find actual popover pans in one of the discount places and see if the shape make a difference.  I suspect it won’t.

Here we are, a new year.  Once again I considered making resolutions, but didn’t.  Funny, I don’t think I ever really considered making New Year’s resolutions until I began blogging.  Something about it makes me feel like I should be making grand-yet-attainable declarations of intent.  Hmmm. I’m still doing my yoga, albeit less frequently, with shortened sessions.  I could make a resolution to blog more regularly, but that would suck the joy out of blogging for me.  I’m perfectly content with my sporadic blogging non-schedule.  I could resolve to get back to fiction, open that file I started and work on it, but I’m still not sure I want to.  I’m a regular cranky old gal living a regular cranky old life.  I could resolve to be less cranky, but less cranky = less snarky, where’s the fun in that?

I know!  I resolve to figure out how to access and re-import the thousands of photographs that were on my laptop until three days ago, but are now trapped in this little silver rectangular thing that I’m told is an external hard drive.  For some bizarre reason, I’m supposed to be happy about this–my laptop is now faster than a speeding bullet! more powerful than a locomotive! able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! well, maybe not that last one.  Very nice and all, but I want my pictures back.

For now I offer this Gary Clark Jr video, because we all need great blues to ring in the new year.

 

The Kitchen is now Closed

Jawfish poking his head out of his cave to see if it's all clear

Jawfish poking his head out of his cave to see if it’s all clear

I hope everyone is having a happy holiday season.  Remember my last post, my big stand about refusing to make any rolled cookies in hopes of preserving my back?  Yeah.  I stuck to not making any rolled cookies, but as it turns out, if you make enough drop cookies while still up and down the train steps for 12 trains a day and add in cooking regular food, that doesn’t actually mean anything.

First came the molasses cookies.

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Then came the oatmeal cranberry chocolate chips.

Photo by Art Child

Photo by Art Child

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Pause to absorb some tank serenity.

This cracks me up, the snail has some type of algae (that I don't see anywhere else in the tank) growing from his shell.

This cracks me up, the snail has some type of algae (that I don’t see anywhere else in the tank) growing from his shell.

clown trying to convince the urchin to move

clown trying to convince the urchin to move

On to the chocolate crinkle cookies.

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Now for my favorites.  Honey nut ball thingies.  They have the flavor profile of a Greek/Middle Eastern pastry but in a cookie. They’re kind of a pain to make, lots of steps but well worth it.

The first step is the killer. Chopping and chopping

The first step is the killer. Chopping and chopping

End of chopping, walnuts on left, pistachios on right

End of chopping, walnuts on left, pistachios on right

Glaze of honey, oj, cinnamon sticks and cloves

Glaze of honey, oj, simmered down with cinnamon sticks and cloves

The filling=nuts mixed with orange peel and a little of the glaze

The filling=nuts mixed with orange peel and a little of the glaze

not so secret ingredient for the dough

not so secret ingredient for the dough

By this time I was grateful for a dough that didn't have to be mixed by hand.

By this time I was grateful for a dough that didn’t have to be mixed by hand.

End result, drizzled with the glaze.

End result, drizzled with the glaze.

Last batch, pumpkin cookies with a cream cheese frosting.  Simple and pretty fast to throw together, these are almost like little cakes.

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Added up, somewhere between 15-20 dozen cookies, less the couple dozen that were casualties to the residual nerve damage from my fall last spring.  Lots of dropping/kitchen accidents now–I have to start remembering it’s just to be expected when calculating how much I need to prepare.

Christmas dinner I tried to keep things easy.  Ham, curried lentil/cauliflower/almond pie, and a baked spinach and pea risotto.  I’ve never made risotto in the oven before, but I saw a few recipes online, and it seemed like a great back-saver.  Blech. Let’s just say I won’t repeat that mistake.

The curry pie was also new for me, but this I would definitely make again. If I can remember what I put in it.

The curry pie was also new for me, but this I would definitely make again. If I can remember what I put in it.

Mini pies with the excess curry and crust

Mini pies with the excess curry and crust

Man Child wasn’t with us last Christmas, either, but this year we’re really feeling it.  Maybe because last year he was here right before and after, maybe because we know he’s much further away this time.  In any case, he’s been missed.  On the bright side, he definitely knows the routine/timing for us, so he and Miss Music (visiting him in Europe for the holiday) called to video chat on Christmas morning.

For you, Man Child--in case you were missing our Christmas breakfast. ;)

For you, Man Child–in case you were missing our Christmas breakfast. ;)

So yeah, I’m done.  I don’t want to mix, measure, chop, sauté, or bake anything else. More than anything, I’m sick of smelling like the inside of my oven.  Why oh why does anyone think it’s a good idea to create grown-scents and lotions that smell like food?  As far as I’m concerned, it’s a successful adult day if at the end of it I don’t reek of garlic, onions, cinnamon, or vanilla.

One of the best parts of this season has been having Nerd Child home.  Not just here, but relaxed because the college app hell is over.  This means I’m getting to hear lots of fabulous music.

Yesssssss

Yesssssss

Because of El Niño, instead of gray skies and ice we’ve seen quite a bit of fog in the city this winter.  Unfortunately, late December is still far from the end of the season, and I’m afraid we’re going to be slammed with early spring snowstorms.  This of course is based on nothing other than my pessimism.

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For most of us, winter weather is, at worst, a nuisance.  Our recent high temps have meant it didn’t “feel” like it should be time for Christmas shopping, but it was more pleasant when we had to.  Feeling beat and smelling like holiday cookies is solved with a shower at the end of the day.  But for all too many, this warmer than usual season means everything.

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Wheezin’ With the Season

Smudge Moon

Smudge Moon

It’s that time where I post about how crazy busy everything is, and how behind I am on getting ready for the holidays.

This year I’ve done absolutely nothing to get ready so far, but oddly enough I don’t feel stressed about it.  Each year we pare down a bit more in terms of the number of gifts purchased, amount of money spent, types and amount of cookies baked, amount of decorating done in the apartment and size of the tree. Because I’m not a shopper, I miss the biggest sales more years than not, and by the time my youngest was ten, I didn’t even pretend I would go anywhere on Black Friday, enough was available online.   And let’s be honest, hitting those big sales often means you end up buying more than intended, so financially it’s a wash, with more crap to figure out where to store on December 26th.

I am never spending three days making rolled gingerbread cookies again, whee!

I am never spending three days making rolled gingerbread cookies again, whee!

Art Child is disappointed because I told her I won’t be making any rolled (i.e.: fun holiday shapes) cookies this year.  I’m sorry she’s disappointed, but I’m glorying in my lack of guilt.  I’ll make some drop cookies, much less time and prep required, and they’ll be absolutely fine.  Instead of gingerbread cookies, I made a gingerbread bundt cake (used an oatmeal stout in it, freaking delicious!) so the apartment could at least smell like we’re getting in the spirit.  Because she’s sick (always at this time of year, it’s the one tradition that will apparently never be omitted) that little missing slice is all she’s eaten of the cake.  We won’t discuss how much I’ve eaten.

I probably should be feeling stressed about shopping by now, but I don’t.  The wish lists are small and mostly practical.  Nerd Child actually made a request (he’s the one who never asks for anything) so that completely removes the anxiety of trying to guess–knowing as I hand over my cash that I’m guessing wrong and spending too much–and we have to have him with us to make this purchase.  He won’t be back home until later this week, therefore there’s 0 reason to go fight the hordes on music row, 48th Street.  Not that there is a music row in New York anymore, most of the stores have folded or moved elsewhere, adding an element of maudlin “remember when” to the crowding.

If it weren’t for the fact that I once again forgot to factor in medical copays, I’d say we are going to be completely within budget.

If I can see this guy's rooftop decorations from my terrace, does that count as us being decorated?

Thank you, guy on the next street, for putting your decorations on your roof where we can see them even if you can’t.  

Honey, I’ve Got Underwear Older than You

And I’m wearing them.

Maybe the bones aren't as strong as they once were, but it's still standing.

Maybe the bones aren’t as strong as they once were, but it’s still standing.

Over the summer I posted about an idea I had for a novel.  Not exactly a new idea, it would involve a complete revamp/rewrite of a manuscript I wrote a few years ago.  I lamented in advance about all the work that would entail, the time, the energy, the damned hope.  I didn’t know if I wanted to.  I decided to put the idea to the side and see if both the idea and the urge faded away or took root.  It’s taken root, but I still haven’t decided if I’m going to do the work. A couple of weeks ago I wrote an opening, a few hundred words.  Not enough for me to call it a WIP (work in progress).  The night before Thanksgiving, I decided I absolutely needed to go right then to the neighborhood where it’s set to take some photos, so I can decide exactly where my imaginary house will be in my imaginary manuscript.  Just in case, you understand.

While I haven’t been working on anything, I still go on the writer’s forum.  I’ve got several friends on there, I’ve been a member for a long time, and there’s a healthy amount of silliness that takes place in the off topic sections.  I still read all the threads directly related to writing, though I rarely post on them.  So the other morning I was having my second cup of pre-dawn espresso and surfing the writing threads in an attempt to take a break from political overload, and I saw a doozy of a post.  Actually, it was a few posts, and I don’t even remember what the thread was supposed to be about in the first place.  Someone referenced a sad blog post they had read, about a woman who had been trying to get published for twenty years and was giving up.  No other details given, I have no idea who the blogger referenced is, or any of the details of her story.

Imagine my surprise to see a response that said something to the effect of, perhaps readers are lucky she’s giving up, if she couldn’t get anywhere with all that time.  Hmmm.  Someone else wanting to know what she was doing for all that time.   Someone else assuming her work must be poor.  And someone else referencing that she’d been failing longer than they’d been alive, and she should try something else.  Well, let me just say Mrs Fringe had quite a difficult time restraining herself from sending them to their rooms.  (no, I’m not a mod there and have 0 authority)  Maybe the time out corner, for 7 or 12  or 17 years.  Or as I like to call the time-out corner, life.  Again, I have no idea what else was going on in that woman’s life over the course of those twenty years, how much time was spent actually writing, or submitting.  It doesn’t matter, because one thing I’m sure of is that writing wasn’t the only thing she was doing.  Because life does happen, to all of us, whether we’re creative geniuses, no talent hacks, prim and proper accountants or women of a certain age.

Even though I wasn’t actually a part of the conversation, and no one was actually speaking to me, I was annoyed.  Feeling sensitive, because they’re asking the same questions and making the same deprecating comments I’ve been making about myself.  Some of it has to do with the writing, yes, questioning the value of my words and stories.  How do you measure the value of these things, anyway?  Because that, I think, is the crux of it for me.  What is the value?  If there is no measurable value without success, what is my value?  Being a woman of a certain age without clear markers of success, feeling the negative pressure, maybe I’m supposed to just fade out quietly; stop making a fuss, stop dreaming, move out of the way of the younger generations, and for God’s sake stop cursing so much.  Well, that last part is never going to fucking happen.

I don’t know if I’m going to write that manuscript.  But if I don’t, it won’t be because of how many years have or have not passed since I first said hey, I’d like to see my words in a book, on a shelf, and be paid a dollar for them.  I’ve been busy.

Living in the Real World?

City Streets

City Streets

The internet is aflame with gun arguments right now, impassioned and extreme on both sides.  On one site I’m a member of, I read a comment in defense of private citizens keeping themselves armed (without stricter regulations) to the effect of for those of us who don’t live in ivory towers…live in the real world…danger…needing a weapon…and a few cities were named, to make the point that (s)he was not referencing bucolic pastures or suburban houses made of ticky-tacky.  That specific comment really struck me, because as a city dweller I’ve always thought of this as an issue for those who don’t live in cities.  People living in wide open spaces who don’t have police and police stations within spitting distance, and of course, visions (fed by the media, no personal experience) of compounds populated by paranoid folks who don’t trust the commie gubmint.  Obviously there are criminals with guns here in the city, law enforcement officers, and those who work in the Diamond District, but nope, I don’t know of any neighbors who are campaigning to keep legal arsenals.

Several of my online friends who aren’t American have been asking me questions, all pretty much boiling down to a blend of what-the-fuck? why? guns? and America?

I touched on this in my last post, but I want to talk about this a bit more, and hope readers will join the conversation.  You’re welcome to agree or disagree with me, but no personal attacks or blanket slurs.  While Americans have a common bond by definition, our experiences of life in America–what constitutes the “real world,” varies greatly, and that plays a huge part in individual stances.

Maybe you grew up with inappropriate jokes about those who lived in the Bronx.  Or Detroit, or Chicago.  I grew up with inappropriate jokes about places in big sky country (is that a nickname for an actual place or an idea?), where the men were men and the sheep were nervous.  Shouldn’t we be past all that now?

You all know Mrs Fringe is a New Yawkah; born here, raised here, guessing I’ll collect social security here too.  I ride the subways every day.  I’m not wealthy, never have been.  When I was younger, I worked in downtown Brooklyn, when it was very, very different from the artsy, hipster paradise it is today.  Our office was next to the Brooklyn Arms Hotel, and every day on my way from the subway station, I’d feel the crack vials crunch under my feet while I rushed past the Brooklyn Arms Hotel (a particularly notorious welfare hotel) and hoped I didn’t get clipped in the head by something flying out a window–’cause that happened regularly.  Of course, I wasn’t first starting my day when I went into the office, that was after three hours of “field work,” which involved walking through neighborhoods that weren’t part of any tourist attractions, and visiting clients who weren’t particularly happy to see my smiling face at 7am.  Sometimes I was walking those streets at 1am, because of a late shift or an emergency–and trust me, this was long before New York was spit shined and spiffed up.  I’m not trying to glorify life in the city or America, there’s crime, there are problems, and yes, I’ve had a moment or ten where I’ve been frightened.

I don’t live in the roughest neighborhood, it’s one that’s been “gentrified.”  I’m not young, I remember when it wasn’t.  Gentrified in (most of) NY means there’s still a good mix of everyone–race, culture, and economics–sharing the same block and the same public schools.  Three kids, three elementary schools, and two of those elementary schools were classified as Title I schools.  Title I means there’s a high percentage of children who come from low-income families who qualify for free/reduced lunch.  If you’re unfamiliar, trust me, your income has to be pretty damned low for your kids to qualify for free lunch, and yes, here in Fringeland, we’ve had many years where our kiddos qualified because life.

On my block there are a mix of residences.  Google tells me one brownstone is on the market for $6 million dollars, average for the block and neighborhood.  Next to it is a housing project (yanno, the projects), there’s a small building that I think is a co-op (a very NY thing, you buy your apartment, but technically you own shares in the building, not your apartment, so everything you want or do–including the purchase of the place–has to be approved by the co-op board, generally a bunch of residents who take pleasure in agonizing over awning colors and making residents jump through as many hoops as possible), and there’s my building, which is part of a program from the 60’s/70’s designed to keep working class people in the city.  One block over starts the SROs and a couple of shelters.  Wikipedia says SROs are for one or two people, but I know plenty of families that live in those one room dwellings.  Regardless of which address they live in, I recognize most of the long term faces on the block and immediate neighborhood, and they recognize me, too.  We smile, nod, maybe say Happy Holidays. My family’s experience of America is quite different than that of the family in a brownstone up the street, and different again than that of a family in the projects.

Even if I only look within my building, there’s a mix of skin colors, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds; I know of at least ten different languages spoken within these bricks, twelve different religions, atheists–likely more, this is NY, we don’t talk personal religion all that much.  Multicultural is a fact of life here, not a talking point, and definitely not something that strikes fear in my heart.  So what’s my point?

We’ve got a lot of questions that need to be discussed and examined, but more guns can’t possibly be the answer.  If your experience of America is different than mine, that’s part of what makes America what it is.  It doesn’t invalidate my experience any more than mine invalidates yours.  Let’s talk about what’s real, what it is to live in x city, x suburb, x town; talk about it based on real life experiences, not phantoms of what could happen based on shadows and misdirection.  Maybe you’d be afraid if you found yourself on a subway platform at 1am and saw a few of my neighbors waiting for the 2 train.  I’m pretty sure I’d piss my pants if I found myself faced with a bear in the woods.  Hell, I run into the house when I’m visiting friends in New Jersey and a deer steps into their backyard.  But my world is still real, thankyouverymuch.  Real city, real New Yawk, real America.  There have been quite a few times where I wished I had cab fare, but I never wished for a gun.

Another Day, Another Mass Shooting

IMG_6725

When Columbine happened, I cried.  Virginia Tech, I cried.  Sandy Hook, I cried.  After Sandy Hook, I thought I was finished crying.  Then came the shooting in Charleston, SC this past summer.  I cried again.  Yesterday’s shooting in San Bernardino, CA–I didn’t cry.  I’m horrified, deeply saddened, my heart aches and breaks for those lost, injured, and those who have lost loved ones in yesterday’s slaughter.  You know the one, in a Social Services center, where the developmentally disabled receive services.  I’m disgusted.

When did these types of shootings become an acceptable part of the fabric of America?  Last night I thought it must have been after Sandy Hook.  But I purposely waited before trying to put a blog post together, waited until I was calm enough to think beyond what.the.fuck.  Earlier in the day, before I saw the news from San Bernardino I was still debating whether or not I could write anything that made sense about this past weekend’s shooting at the Planned Parenthood in Colorado.  Whoops, I blinked, new shooting. So I make no guarantees as to the coherence of this post, sorry.

This morning I’m thinking this “acceptability” must be older.  Maybe 1984, when 21 people were slaughtered (also in CA) in a McDonald’s.  After all, not everyone goes to college.  Not everyone relates to seeing churches as a sanctuary.  Not everyone had a warm and fuzzy school experience.  But McDonald’s?  What could possibly be more American, more of a symbol of capitalism at its finest, than McDonald’s?  (Hell, when I had my first child, McDonald’s was one of my thoughts when deciding whether or not to raise my children vegetarian, and decided against it.)  Maybe it was 1986, when “going postal” became a punchline after 14 people were shot and killed in Oklahoma.  Come to think of it, when did these mass shootings become a sacred cow?  Not that they’re in any way, shape, or form funny– but somehow they aren’t a subject open for discussion.  Or study. Or, yanno, action.

My mind is peppered with questions, but not the ones you might think.  We’ve had so damned many of these shootings, in so many ordinary places filled with people going about their lives, there’s no question that any and everyone in this country should be able to identify and understand this isn’t a matter of a hazy “them,” it could be me, or you, or anyone we care about.  We’ve had so many I don’t care about the specific why or who of each shooter.  White, black, brown, male, female, Christian, Muslim, right now I don’t give a shit.  When we look at these mass shootings, we are always looking at American citizens taking out as many other American citizens as they can.  I think we need to focus on the how before anything else.  And the answer to how is guns.  Easy accessibility and the attachment to them.  It is bizarre, that we live in a society where the right to own a personal, literal arsenal is considered so holy, we aren’t even allowed to research it.  

Because, as the Facebook memes say, guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  This is true–and they kill each other with guns.  We passed the time when access to legal guns should have been given (much) tighter restrictions at least thirty years ago.  It’s also true that increased background checks and tighter restrictions will not eliminate all gun related crimes and deaths.   We can’t cure  cancer, either, but we screen for it, pay attention to symptoms and warning signs, and treat people who are sick.  Surprisingly enough, even though we have no cure for cancer, many of the people treated go into remission and go on to live full lives.  Some don’t.  If we used the same logic currently being used for arguments against gun control, we wouldn’t treat any cancer patients because some will die regardless of treatments available and used.

Last night I had a conversation about this with a friend who is also medical needs mom.  Over the years, we have gotten very good at compartmentalizing.  You kind of have to, in order to help your child as much as possible, but also to, well, live.  Get the laundry done once in a while.  Laugh.  We have learned to accept what would have once been considered unthinkable, let alone acceptable.   So I understand how and why we, as Americans, have learned to compartmentalize these atrocities, these types of “events.”  When there are so many, we have to, in order to keep functioning.  But there’s a huge difference in this analogy.  We don’t stop caring and loving.  We don’t stop doing everything in our control to learn what we can, access the best treatments, provide the best life.  We don’t stop remembering our children, medical needs/special needs or not, are human beings.  It seems to me it’s time for the larger we, the American people, to remember these victims (past, present and future) of gun violence are human beings.  We’re supposed to care.  Care with real discussion, not rhetoric.  Care with action and the best preventative measures available.

“It’s too soon” is not a battle cry.  It’s a deflection.  And it’s nonsense when these horrors are happening so frequently there isn’t even a pretense of a time that isn’t too soon.

These shootings aren’t an act of God, a force of nature we’re powerless to prevent.  We, as a society, are making a choice.  We make a choice when we watch and read opinion pieces and pretend they’re news, we make a choice when we encourage hatred, when we value this life over that one, we make a choice when we tsk tsk about another mass shooting but don’t enact stricter gun laws.  Federal ones.

Table of Enough

Butternut Squash Risotto

Butternut Squash Risotto

Today is Thanksgiving here in the US.  I was going to muse on why we still celebrate this holiday–a holiday that continues to glamorize Native American genocide, food waste, shopping for shit we don’t need, and canned cream of mushroom soup. I’ve posted about being tired of the tremendous amount of work to prepare and cook for this holiday for the past few years.  I’ve said how much I used to love this day, but haven’t in a while.  Yes, every year I swear never again, and yet here I am, one eye on the clock because the shelves in my fridge are warping under the weight of foods waiting to be cooked.

I was going to muse about what America means.  President Obama tells us these hideous pronouncements of wall building and turning our backs on refugees aren’t what we stand for.  I like Obama, I like what he stands for, and I agree that it shouldn’t be.  But let’s be honest, America has a long history of fighting to reject immigrants and refugees, an even longer history of racism.

If you are someone who believes “freedom of religion” includes all religions, if you believe “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” is still valid today, this is an exhausting and often disheartening time.  I still hear people moaning that only English should be spoken in America.  Sigh.  English is the language of the US, and it doesn’t take a damned thing away from anyone when other languages are also spoken.  Not only doesn’t it take anything away, it’s a bonus.  “Global community” isn’t just a phrase for Facebook and college admissions essays.

The thing is, sappy as it might sound, I still love the idea of Thanksgiving.  The sentiment of it, anyway.  I like the idea of a day to stop and pay attention to the privilege of enough to eat, having people in our lives whom we love and love us.  Should having enough to eat be a privilege?  I don’t think so, but it is.  I know it is when I look at the photos of the Syrian refugee camps.  I know it is when I walk down the streets and through the subways, seeing those who are homeless and hungry.   My children have attended schools with classmates who live in mansions, brownstones, projects, and shelters.  When you know this, when you know the kiddo waiting for their turn with the brown crayon right next to your kiddo, sharing Saltines and apple juice with your kiddo,  isn’t going home to a full table, it isn’t theoretical.  Yes, yes, we should all give thanks every day for what we have, but really, many of us don’t.

I’m not going to post a million Thanksgiving food pictures.  Have faith, Fringelings, my cranberries are glistening in their zinfandel bath and the skin on my pernìl is crisped just so.  I will post a few pics from the past weeks that make me smile, and hope they do the same for you.

Love when I luck into a decent shot of the moon.

Love when I luck into a decent shot of the moon.

This guy comes to visit me regularly, but I suspect he's going to fly south soon.

This guy comes to visit me regularly, but I suspect he’s going to fly south soon.

zoanthid colony in the tank.

zoanthid colony in the tank.

Happy Thanksgiving if you celebrate, and if not, happy Thursday.