Fundamental

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) around 1570, "The Flaying of Marsyas"

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) around 1570, “The Flaying of Marsyas”

I was going to do a Part II post of our trip to The Met Breuer, but I’m going to do a bit of navel gazing instead.  I’ll use a couple of the photos I took for something else that’s been on my mind.  Recently I’ve heard and seen quite a few people referencing the concept of “fundamentally good.”  As in, human beings are fundamentally good, love conquers all, good always triumphs over evil, etc.  On both small (personal) and large (nations, international) scales.  I’m…not so sure of that.  Not saying human beings are fundamentally evil, or “bad,” but fundamentally flawed? Maybe.  Look at a close up of the face from this painting, close to 500 years old:

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Do you recognize it?  That stare has been all over the news recently.  Here. And it’s been here. Without war, here. No stare, but a story that’s yet to end here. I could go on, find 50 more examples without effort, but you get the point.  I know I could just as easily find photos of hope and affirmation, and that’s why I don’t believe we’re fundamentally evil.  But flawed? Yes.

As I type, there are about 1300 people, asylum seekers, including 50 children, being held in detention sites off the coast of Australia, in Nauru and Manus Island.  Naturally, many horrific photos have recently come out of there.  Crimes against humanity.  Feeling smug, Americans? Don’t. And a little history.

A few months back, Donald Trump said he could look Syrian children (refugees) in the face and tell them they can’t come here.  Because safety. And possibility, and terrorists.  I’m certain I’ve read this story before.  Oh gee, Trump has no compassion for others but a hyuuuuge sense of otherness.  Yawn.  Trump, his beliefs, his greed, not the issue.  The issue is how many, and how many in positions of power and authority, support him and his ideas.  How many voted for him, and will vote for him in November.

Is this current election cycle truly shocking, when we pull our heads out of the sand and look at history, both recent and ancient?  Is the photo of 5 year old Omran Daqneesh (the little boy in the first link) truly shocking?  Is it shocking to see the headlines about last week’s disastrous flooding in Louisiana are focused on which politicians (and political wannabes) have gone to visit and when, whether or not the displaced are getting first page coverage or third?

It is our human flaws that allow these things to occur.  It is our human flaws that make us interesting. It is our human flaws that prompt us to strive for more, for better.  But it’s our denial of these fundamental flaws, our insistence on not only closing our eyes but obscuring our vision and differences that keep us stuck, repeating history.

Anton Raphael Mengs, 1775, "Portrait of Mariana de Silva y Sarmiento, Duquesa de Huescar"

Anton Raphael Mengs, 1775, “Portrait of Mariana de Silva y Sarmiento, Duquesa de Huescar”

 

Picture This

Exhibition at the Met Breuer

Exhibition at the Met Breuer

Museum Day, brought to you by Mrs Fringe and Art Child.  A great thing about living here in the city is that there’s no pressure when it comes to museums, not a big deal to plan, and no feeling of obligation to see it all in one day.  I’ve been intending to get to this exhibit for three months.  Now that it ends in a week and a half, I finally made it over there, and want to go again before it’s gone.  There is The Met Breuer, a new annex? outpost? of The Met, in the building that used to house the Whitney.  Anyway, I loved the idea of this exhibit, unfinished works of art, both intentional and unintentional, and there was a section of works intended to be interactive with the viewer.  I’m not sure if this exhibit will be traveling, but if so, go see it!

Yes, for someone who is not a visual artist, I love art, but this whole show spoke to me.  Maybe it’s that as both a reader and writer of words, I prefer when stories and characters leave some room for me to think, inject my own imagination.  Not in a choose-your-own-adventure sort of way, but in terms of not needing to know every physical detail of characters, not needing (or wanting) every ending to be neatly wrapped in a perfect, glossy ribbon.

Many wonderful quotes scattered throughout, this was one of my favorites.

Many wonderful quotes scattered throughout, this was one of my favorites.

I, of course, took way too many photos, so even paring down will likely make two posts out of this excursion, so as not to crash everyone’s computers or put my readers into a pixellated stupor.  Some of the works gave me a creative charge, exciting, while others had me tearing up.

I loved this idea, and the variety of ways artists captured it.

I loved this idea, and the variety of ways artists captured it.

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I cut off her name, oops.  Janine Antoni.

I cut off her name, oops. Janine Antoni.

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This next one, on the surface, is the type of painting that might often have me squint and hurry past, because it’s so “in your face” there seems no room to think.  But something in this held me for quite a while, really spoke to me, if you want to be frou-frou about it.  Actually, my immediate thought was, “oh God, it’s Mrs Fringe!” If, yanno, I was blond, blue eyed, and possessed the ability to pick up a gun.

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Next we came to this series, which is where Art Child wanted to sit and sketch.

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I had no idea why, but honestly, I was ready to sit down and continue thinking about the Lassnig painting. I took a few shorts of the panels, and Art Child asked if I had gotten the face.  Again, no clue what she was referring to, it all looked like drips to me, so I handed her the camera.

I'll be damned. This is why she's the artist.

I’ll be damned. This is why she’s the artist. See the eyes?

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While it was very interesting to be able to “see” the process of some of the works and artists, there’s also something…uncomfortably intimate about seeing some of these works in progress, from some of the greatest and most enduring artists.  But that is art, no? To make you uncomfortable enough to think and feel.

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Sunrise Thoughts

4:45am

4:45am

You should dye your hair

You shouldn’t dress so young

You should lose weight

You should gain weight

You should work out

You should reinvent yourself

You shouldn’t try to be someone else

4:52am

4:52am

You should put your children first

You should put yourself first

You should eat this

You shouldn’t eat that

You should live in the moment

You should look to the future

5:04am

5:04am

You should have faith

You should stop dreaming

You should do it only for the love of it

You should be practical

5:05am

5:05am

You should speak up

You should shut up

5:09am

5:09am

 

 

Afterword

This full moon wasn't last night, but it felt like it should have been.

This full moon wasn’t last night, but it felt like it should have been.

What is stage fright, anyway?

So last night was that thing.  The reading.  I spent the day with my brain in the overdrive of heightened anxiety, changed my clothes three times, my shoes four, and slopped half a gallon of product in my hair, in a futile battle with the humidity.  I was pretty sure I didn’t have to worry about how my words would be received, or how I’d sound, because surely I was going to have a stroke before it was my turn.

Husband offered to meet me down there.  Down, because the bar couldn’t be further from my apartment and still be in Manhattan.  No, thanks.  I’m one of those people.  When I’m nervous about something, I’m better off alone, because your moral support will likely be met by me biting your head off.  Cranky.  Bitchy, even.  That and the fact that I figured the reason I was doing this was to maybe, hopefully, connect with other writers.  I know myself.  If Husband was with me, it would be the perfect excuse to not speak to anyone, revert to my teenaged self, sit in back and make jokes about myself.  Man Child offered to go down with me.  No thanks.  Then he offered to just travel down with me.  Umm, maybe.  No, no, I’m a grown up, I don’t need an escort, I’m fine.  Are you sure?  Yes, thank you.  Are you really sure, because I’m going to start laundry otherwise?  Yes yes I’m sure.

Ten minutes before I left, I’m going to call Husband and have him meet me.  Oops, look at the time, he’s already on his way home, that wouldn’t be nice.  I’m good, I can do this.

Five minutes before I left, ummm, Man Child?  I changed my mind.  But you can’t stay.  He traveled downtown with me, and then encouraged me when I spent ten minutes standing outside, bemoaning the fact that I had remembered my camera but not the battery that would allow it to work.

I really have great kids.


I’ll be honest, this sign in the window is probably what got me through the door.  That and Man Child’s gentle shove.

At the entrance to the back room, where the event was being held, the producer was checking tickets.  I was nervous about the whole e-ticket thing. My name was already on his list, great. I’m scoping the room behind him, happy to see empty seats in back when he says, “Oh.  You’re reading.”  Was I supposed to mention that?  “Umm, yeah, I guess so.”  Damn, I’m smooth.

It’s a funny thing.  Once I was in, I felt acutely aware that I have never done this before, but not nervous.  Basically I was certain I was going to fuck up, drop my pages, lose my voice, have that stroke, yanno.  It wasn’t crowded, there were two featured writers and several open mic-ers.  The open mic folks were mostly poets.  Excellent, this way I was certain to not fit in.  I liked the way it was organized, open mic readings scattered throughout the evening with the featured writers in between.  (Featured meaning authors with books recently published/about to be published) I’m not sure what I expected, but it was a lively mix of “straight” poetry, spoken word, an excerpt from a graphic novel, excerpts from a flash essay collection, part of a short.  The crowd was mixed in age, sex, and ethnicity, also nice.

There was a microphone! Eek.  And others were introduced by the MC with a bit about them.  Crap, was I supposed to tell them something other than my name and here’s-my-eight-dollars?  Ah well.  I considered plugging Mrs Fringe before or after I read, but therewasamicrophone.  I just did it.  I read the opening few pages to Astonishing (probably about half the first chapter, it’s the one up on the blog here).  Everyone was quiet while I read, so either I held their attention, or they were taking the opportunity for a cat nap. Maybe they just couldn’t hear me, I didn’t get too close to that mic.  I’m from south Brooklyn ferChristssake, I can be plenty loud.

I met a few people who seemed quite nice. Many of those in the audience and those who went up are apparently regulars, but everyone was welcoming.  Not one pointed and snickered, or muttered, “poseur” as I went past.  If they did I didn’t hear them.  Success.

In any case, I felt like it went well.  I was surprised I couldn’t see the audience once I was up there, all I saw was lights, and that made it much easier.  More surprising, I didn’t feel intimidated while I was reading, I just…read.  Scenarios like this always surprise me, no one talking about the angst and futility of trying to get published, trade or otherwise.  It’s as if there’s an assumption that you and everyone else is doing it, you belong there.

I might even say I had fun.

 

Aahhh, These Summer Mornings

Just me, my flowers, the occasional spider to watch the sunrise.

Just me, my flowers, the occasional spider to watch the sunrise.

Seems peaceful, doesn’t it?  Especially before I boot the laptop, read about the day’s atrocities and most current buffoonery of Trump.

Not this morning.  Yesterday was long and busy.  We’ve reached the portion of the summer where my anxiety begins to rise, knowing before I can weep Nerd Child will be waving goodbye, headed North to school, and I’ll be back to twelve trains a day shuffling Art Child back and forth.  Ridiculous, we still have weeks, but there you have it.  With Facebook friends all over the country and world, I’m already seeing the obligatory first day of school pics.  There should be a way to block those until Labor Day, don’t you think?

With so many guests this summer, I’ve gotten behind on keeping the apartment neat and organized.  Small space, lots of people in and out, packing, unpacking, beach bags galore and the general sloth of long hot days. Time to start getting it together, so I’m not in a complete panic in another two weeks.

Too late!

Man Child’s girlfriend, Miss Music, was here last week, came for a week after her band finished its tour.  Fun.  Except one morning, she was sitting on the couch with Art Child, turned to me and said, “Did you see that?”

“See what?”

A mouse.

In my apartment.

IN my apartment.

In MY apartment.

Sweet mother of fuck, nooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In my many, many years of NY living, I’ve never had a mouse in my apartment.  There was evidence of them in our last apartment before we moved in, so we filled every crack and hole we could find, and then put down glue traps just in case.  Big Senile Dog promptly got a glue trap stuck to his nose and each paw.  Good times.

I grew up near the water in Brooklyn, huge wharf rats could be seen regularly on the streets.  Yucky, but outside.  There was also a large population of feral cats, so mice weren’t such a thing, between the cats and the rats I’m guessing mice didn’t have a chance. I see rats all the time on the subway tracks.  Again, meh.  Part of NY life.

Back to the other morning.  We didn’t see anything, but we bought a few traps and put them down, Little Incredibly Dumb Dog only got 3 of them stuck to her, and they were much easier to remove than they had been for the big dog, because she’s used to being held to be groomed, and she’s got long hair.  Plus, not as dumb as I’d expect, she steered clear of them afterwards. Zero interest in the mouse itself.

No further mouse sightings, until a couple of nights ago, eating dinner and holy shit!  I saw a shadow fly over the living room floor.  That was no migraine floater.  The plan was to go shopping yesterday to restock on cleaning supplies and toiletries, both for the apartment and for Nerd Child to take to school.  Needless to say I picked up more mouse traps.

Got home, tore apart the living room, dining area, and kitchen, filled every hole around every pipe we could find, and laid 16 mouse traps.  When I say we, I mean Husband and Nerd Child, while Art Child and I steered clear and washed our hands every time those guys touched another trap.  I am not taking any chances.  I know, they’re a fact of life in NY, in most places, I guess, hence the city mouse/country mouse stories, but they’ve never been a fact in my personal space and I am not ok with sharing.  This apartment is crowded enough, thankyouverymuch. Nerd Child reminded me I’m against the death penalty.  Nope, only for two legged creatures.  Twitchy four legged ones need to be erased. Period.

You know how high my anxiety levels are now, right?  In case I needed a bit more, tonight is that open mic night reading.

So I got up, made coffee, went on the terrace, sat for a bit, and then prepared to sit at my desk.  One of the glue traps under the radiator worked.  But the critter was still alive, and had gotten two of my electrical cords stuck with it.  I woke Husband, went back to hiding on the terrace.  I was heroic enough to dispose of the whole thing, after it was bagged.

Yes, I took a pic of the mouse actually stuck to the trap, but I just can't bear looking at it again.

Yes, I took a pic of the mouse actually stuck to the trap, but I just can’t bear looking at it again.

The day has to go up from here, right?

What the Hell Did I Just Do?!

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I’m two days away from my four year blog-o-versary.  I love blogging, more than I ever expected to, and for more reasons than I had imagined possible.  One of those reasons involves the connections with others, and the occasional, amazing notes I receive from readers–some who I know from other forums, others I don’t know at all.

As discussed ad nauseam, I’m fortunate to have a wonderfully supportive group of online friends.  One of those friends sent me a lovely message after reading my last post.  Not a Fringeling, she read the post after another mutual friend shared it. In her note, she asked if I had ever considered writing a novel, and I debated an appropriate response.  Laugh? Cry? Slit my wrists and bleed into the keyboard?  I thanked her for her support, gave a way too long response of my history of writing woes, and obsessed over her thoughts for the rest of the day.  Mentioned it to one of my writing friends, who promptly told me this was a gentle nudge from the universe.  It’s nice to have friends with a glass-half-full outlook, my take was this was the universe reopening wounds I’ve been trying to keep closed.

What does this have to do with anything?  The following morning, I received an “invite” (one of those Facebook invite thingies) to a reading, sent by another friend.  I clicked on the invite, and in addition to the published authors reading, the evening includes open mic time slots.  Not to be all metaphysical and shit, but the two incidents happening so close together did seem like some type of universal body check.  I considered.  I could do this.  Could I do this? What would I read?  Is there an actual mic involved? I’m fine with speaking in front of people, but not when I have to speak into a microphone.  Surely there’s a long list of items I’d be better served spending $8 on.  How long is six minutes, anyway?  I asked Nerd Child the last question, he’s the one with public speaking experience.  Hmmm, six minutes would eliminate any of the shorts I’ve got here on the blog, which was my original thought.  I think.  Unless I just read an excerpt.  Why would I do this?  I could just go, see a friend I haven’t connected with in a long time, support my friend’s friend, have a nice grownup evening, a couple of drinks, and bemoan my lack of legitimacy.

Husband woke early today, and was sitting at the table so I mentioned it to him.  He, of course, said, do it.  Holy fuck, I did it.  Bought a ticket including a time slot to read.  I think.  Maybe I clicked the wrong box.  Maybe they’ll sell too many of those tickets and I’ll be bounced, since I’m not a real writer, no pub credits.  But what if I clicked the right box, and I’m not bounced?  What the hell am I going to read?

I’ve got three weeks to decide what to read.  Three weeks to chicken out.

What did I just do, and why?

Can We Stop Now?

Shrouded

Shrouded

I didn’t want to do this.  I didn’t want to write any more posts about shootings for a while.  Not mass shootings, not shootings of police, not shootings by police, not the ever-confusing shootings of and by toddlers.  The horror of the shootings that make headlines is how easy it is, for most of us, to understand that it could be any of us.  To understand something has gone wrong in our society, in our schools, in our definition of protect and serve.  That’s been made abundantly clear.   But somehow, as these incidents continue and grow, instead of addressing how to fix things, real discussion is at a standstill, and there’s a divide the width of the Grand Canyon where it seems no one is listening: “Black Lives Matter!”  “No, Blue Lives Matter!”  Sigh.

I want to post about my continued quest for the perfect moon photograph, the sad state of my tank, summertime in the city, how frustrating it is to be a peasant, finding laughter in the absurdity of the everyday, blather on about writingnotwriting.

But here I am, again.

The victim didn’t die, there’s nothing to debate, it’s a blatant fuck-up.  I don’t have the words for this one, thinking about it wraps my intestines tight around my shins and makes agoraphobia sound like an attractive alternative to stepping outside.  A man with autism, in Florida, was upset and ran away from his group home.  He didn’t run far, and his behavioral therapist found him sitting on the street playing with his toy truck.  Someone called the police, reportedly stating something about an armed suspect threatening suicide.  Maybe that’s what the caller honestly thought, maybe they were just frightened and freaked out by the man.  Either way, when the police arrived, Charles Kinsey, the behavioral therapist from the group home, was sitting/lying on the street with him.  In some ways I’ve been Charles Kinsey, and I know what he was doing, working to calm his client, set him at ease, and get him back home safely.  It’s a hard, frustrating job that can shatter your heart ten times a shift while it simultaneously fills you with hope and appreciation for the small moments and subtlest of victories.  It’s exhausting.  But of course, I’m not a black man.

After the responding officers were told by Kinsey what was happening, told the supposed threat was a man with autism holding a toy truck (not “even” a toy gun), and Kinsey was lying on the ground with his hands up, one of those officers shot Kinsey in the leg.  To keep everyone extra safe, after shooting three times, they rolled him over and handcuffed him.  It’s ok, though, an honest mistake, the officer had intended to shoot the (white) man with autism.  *sarcasm* Kinsey was trying to convince his client to lie on the ground, but his client was sitting and rocking, very very common amongst autistic people.

I don’t want to hear how police officers all over the country are extra jumpy because of the recent shootings of fellow officers.  I understand that, and every shooting, fatal or not, is tragic for those directly involved and our greater community.  I don’t understand a police officer so poorly trained that he would shoot at an unarmed man lying on the ground who had already explained what was happening.  I don’t understand why we have police officers so poorly prepared to respond to calls in the community one would think for a second shooting at a vulnerable, mentally challenged, unarmed citizen (with what is now a common disorder) is an appropriate response.  Who was he protecting?  Who did he think he was serving?  Excuses aren’t reasons, and excuses don’t erase repercussions.

Yes, in the chorus of recent shootings striking chords, this one is an off-key aria that terrifies me.  It’s terrified many of my friends; one of our biggest fears, spoken or unspoken, playing onstage now under a merciless spotlight.  With or without a diagnosis of autism, many neurological disorders come with a processing disorder. CAPD–Central Auditory Processing Disorder.  Processing disorders mean physical hearing may not be impaired, but sounds and speech are easily muddied, resulting in delays understanding what is being said, often requiring calm, quiet, PATIENCE, visual cues and clues, and repetition.  Thousands (maybe millions?) of children and adults have this disorder, it goes hand in hand with many learning disorders, autism, epilepsy, add/adhd, developmental delays, and sometimes it’s the result of medications slowing cognitive function.  There are also several seizure types that leave the person seemingly aware, standing, sitting, maybe even walking and talking, but in fact the brain has “checked out” for a moment, or three, or ten.  FYI, autism and epilepsy often go hand in hand.  I’m not sure I have any fellow special needs mom friends whose children (regardless of age) don’t have either CAPD or a seizure disorder.  Without autism, that client, the intended recipient of three bullets, could have been my child.  Could be my child tomorrow.  Could be any number of friends’ children; yesterday, today, tomorrow.

Stop pretending police officers are superheroes, or are supposed to be superheroes.  We don’t need superheroes, we need human beings with critical thinking skills and compassion, who are trained in crisis management and deescalation skills at least as well as Charles Kinsey.  We need law enforcement officers who recognize and acknowledge the difference–before firing their weapons–between an imminent threat to their lives and a pain in the ass who’s making them run, the difference between someone pointing a gun at them and a child or mentally challenged individual holding a toy.  Stop pretending every day on every street in uniform in America is equivalent to being dropped into a war zone.

Yes, being a law enforcement officer is an often dangerous, always stressful job.  I appreciate those who choose to take the risk and join their local force.  I would appreciate adequate vetting and training even more.  If we can not and do not feel safe teaching our children to approach law enforcement if they are in need, we can no longer pretend to be a democracy, we are broken.  Shooting those who are unarmed, shooting at our most vulnerable citizens, is unacceptable.  Period.  Stop pretending this is protecting and serving anyone.

 

Sunset, Manhattan Style

I needed a little break from all the ugliness  these days.  “Manhattanhenge” is something that occurs about twice a year, I think, when the sunset lines up just so with the grid that makes up our city streets.  I didn’t make it down to the streets that have the best views, just walked south with Art Child and my Mother-In-Law until we were able to have a decent vantage point.  This amounted to me standing in the middle of the intersection every time the light was red, Mother-In-Law calling out the seconds I had left, and Art Child looking at us both like we had lost our minds.

Mrs Fringe:  “Just this one next light, and then I think that will be it.”

Mother-In-Law:  “Yes.”

Art Child:  “Didn’t you say that last time?”

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With Intent

I need a peaceful ocean pic this morning, the world outside my door feels too chaotic.

I need a peaceful ocean pic this morning, the world outside my door feels too chaotic.

I’ve been writing this blog for close to 4 years.  Over the past couple, my breaks have been more frequent, and often longer than they were initially.  Part of me scolds myself, I should make more of an effort, but for the most part, I’m ok with it.  Everything evolves, even a little drop in the cyberocean blog.  And some of my slowdown has been specific, intentional.  If you follow Mrs Fringe, you know I can be, umm, vehement.  Excitable.  Loud.  Again, I’m ok with this.  I yam who I yam and all that shit.  But I don’t want to be reactionary.  Obviously I don’t mean reactionary in the right-wing sense of the word, but in terms of just vomiting emotions through the keyboard about the issue or horror of the day without reason and perspective.  A bit light on facts is okay, I’m not a journalist, I’ll provide links, do your research if you want to know more–but if I’m going to write about anything outside of my immediate four walls, there has to be some objectivity, even given the (more than safe) assumption that I’m always going to slant left.

I know some hear the phrase “with intent” and associate it with police procedurals and criminal charges.  In my mind, “with intent” involves the choices we make about how to live our lives, what we’re working towards and who we want to be, as opposed to floating aimlessly or just scrambling to get by.  I want my children to live their lives with intent.

So when Alton Sterling was shot in Baton Rouge three days ago, I didn’t immediately plant myself in front of the keyboard to yell about police brutality.  I wanted to process what I was hearing first, get a few more facts.  For some reason, despite the first, brief video all over the internet that showed him being shot, every link I clicked would freeze or not work at all, which helped with my intent to slow down and find out more information.  I’ll be honest, after so many well publicized police shootings, my instinct was to assume he was shot because he was black.  Even when I heard he had a gun.  How many times have we seen this story play out? “He had a gun, I was in fear for my life…”  Then video emerges–or eyewitnesses, videos being conveniently lost or malfunctioned–and it turns out the gun was a wallet, or a toy, or non-existent, or the suspect was shot in the back because he was running (or walking) while black. Then I read about a gang affiliation.  Hmm, ok, if he was known to local police as gang affiliated and thought to be carrying a gun, maybe a step back is in order before screaming injustice.  But our police are not supposed to act as judge, juries, and executioners–even if this was a bad guy, they aren’t supposed to decide his life is not worthwhile.  Then the second, longer video emerged and I watched it.  WTF?  Does everyone in our country think we’re living inside a movie set?  Maybe there was a gun in his pocket, but he was already pinned on the ground, already shot.  Yes, his arm moved, but this isn’t an freaking blockbuster, and whatever Alton Sterling was, he wasn’t an action hero.  He wasn’t in any condition to pull a gun out of his pocket, take aim, and shoot the police officers who were holding him down.  Naturally, they shot him again.

I want to say, at least they had already called for an ambulance.  I want to say how glad I am that Baton Rouge doesn’t seem to have hesitated or made an effort to block a federal investigation.  But to hold those up as measures of progress is a smokescreen to divert focus from the fact that the police shot and killed a man they already had controlled and subdued.

Before I could process and begin drafting a post about this, Philandro Castile was shot during a routine traffic stop in Minnesota.   Surprise! He was a black man.  (If I’m going to be honest and disclose my own bias here, it’s that as a stereotypical New Yorker, I’m not sure I knew there were people of color living in Minnesota.)  This horror of an incident couldn’t be worse.  I don’t know how anyone can justify this shooting.  Philandro Castile was in his car with his girlfriend and young daughter, no criminal history, worked at a Montessori school, for Pete’s sake.  Montessori, the model of education based on respect, discovery, and inclusion.  He was carrying a gun, for which he had a license, and disclosed this information to the police officer, the way he was supposed to.  For doing the right thing, following the steps of the law and reaching for his license when asked for it, he was shot–four bullets–and killed.  His girlfriend remained calm and live streamed the incident, and was arrested for it.

What could I possibly say about this incident that hasn’t been said and ignored ad infinitum in regards to the many, many police shootings in America? What could I possibly say that would be helpful to the black community, what would make sense to those who want to pretend we don’t have a huge problem in our police forces nationwide?

Protests occurred all over our country last night.  Excellent.  But with protests, there’s always fear.  Will the protestors remain peaceful?  Will the police?  This next piece of news made me realize that my heart can, in fact, be more broken than it already was.  I woke during the night to find Husband watching news reports of  snipers in Dallas, Texas, who killed five police officers and injured several more.    You know the way I said I want to have facts before speaking out?  I don’t need the specifics here, these were snipers, no confusion, no other way to interpret what happened.  This is wrong.  It’s reactionary, it defies logic, it does nothing but inflame an already combustible situation.  The same as I do not believe the answer to our problem with gun violence is more guns, I do not believe the answer to police violence is violence against the police.  Anger and protests are justified, frustration is justified, murder is not.  The same as I’m certain Philandro Castile was murdered, the same as it’s looking like Anton Sterling was murdered, the police officers last night were murdered.

I am afraid.  I’m afraid for what comes next on a societal scale, I’m afraid on a personal scale.  I’m afraid for my friends and family members, living their lives with intent,  taking care of themselves, their families, their communities.  Many of these friends and family members have brown skin and/or latino names.  We, as a society, are living in fear.  As a nation that loves to bluster about freedom, strength, and power, we should be better than this.  The past week has been an American nightmare, it’s time for us to wake up, and live all of our lives, pass laws, make decisions, revamp and retrain our police forces, and move forward with intent and integrity.

Imaginary Friends

Mystery flower. I've got a whole container of these very real flowers, planted by an imaginary gardener.  Or the seeds dropped by the bluejay who comes to visit.

Mystery flower. I’ve got a whole container of these, planted by an imaginary gardener.

We all have those friends, who you meet and connect with, where within a short time you can’t imagine your life if you hadn’t met–but you know life would have been different; poorer, tea from a twice-used tea bag.  I have a garden of friends like those, a veritable field of wildflowers, though most of our shared tears, laughter, arguments, and wine have been cyber in nature.

I hate those memes that go around, the articles about clever art installations mocking our dependence on the internet and smartphones.  Do we miss the point, the moment, are we hiding behind our keyboards?  Maybe, sometimes.  But often we’re connecting, building new friendships and learning about points of view we wouldn’t otherwise see.  Those memes dismiss the relationships, the access to viewpoints and information that broaden our worlds.  They negate the very real support.

My first full online experience  was a forum where I met other parents dealing with the same issues as I was, asking the same questions, feeling the same fears and frustrations, laughing at the same gallows humor, sharing dreams, hopes, denial and acceptance.  Equally important were the adults I met in that forum who themselves had the disorder.  Also asking questions, sharing information, making jokes and living their lives.  If memory serves, before then my internet experience was limited to brief jaunts with Ask Jeeves.  Since then, I’ve been a member of several online communities with various special interests, and made some friends along the way in all of them.  But that first forum was special.  What a shock it was for me to discover not all forums were as wonderfully accepting and supportive, with statements carefully phrased so as not to be misconstrued and questions framed to help gather information, not attack.

Maybe the stars were aligned and the moon was in the seventh house, I don’t know.  What I do know is that we formed a tight, tight group that remains intact to this day, though none of us actually use that forum anymore.  We’ve supported each other through medical tests, diagnoses, hospitalizations, dance recitals, IEP meetings, divorces, jobs, life.  We’ve discussed fears of seizures being misinterpreted by overenthusiastic and undereducated police.  Many of us have been fortunate enough to meet a few face to face.  Imaginary friends who send real gifts, offer real advice, real laughter, provide an army of support to each other though various challenges.

Our children are ours.  Face to face or not, we’ve cheered successes and cried over setbacks, we’ve watched each other’s children grow.  Our online village.  Our community, not dissimilar to being a member of any minority group.  But not all of our children grow up.  Some have children that mature and leave home, some have children that will never be independent.   A few have children who have died, or will die.  Sometimes this is known well in advance, sometimes not.  We lost one of ours this weekend.  I’m not specifically close with this mom, she isn’t one of the women I formed a relationship with over and above our common bond, but her daughter was one of ours.

Imagine SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, what used to be called crib death) being a risk forever.  Imagine a life where there is no age where the doctor says you don’t have to worry about that for your child anymore.  In our world that’s called SUDEP (Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy).  Certainly not a common risk, but one that’s all too real.  I’m tempted to say it’s the fear and knowledge of SUDEP that brought our group so close together, but I don’t think so.  Many of us didn’t even know this existed until we were years into our common journey.

Imaginary friends?  Maybe, but much like the mysterious life in my planter, the flowers that have bloomed, flowers of laughter, love, tears, and mourning–are very real.

Rest in peace, sweet girl.