Blogging

Yous Guys are Ruining Everything!

 

 There’s the obvious. Like education, health care, democracy, civil rights, women’s rights, immigration, free press, our country, the earth. Then there’s the not-so-obvious sucking the joy out of the little things that aren’t so little.

Like language. More specifically, colorful language–cursing, cussing, profanity, swearing, plain old dirty words.  It’s funny, I was thinking about this the other day, mentioned the blog to a friend and gave my usual warning that it can be considered offensive. Then the New Yorker piece came out and oy.   Not just the article itself, but the fact that it was in the damned New Yorker.  The holy grail of culture. A magazine read worldwide, almost 100 years old, a veritable institution known for ethics, fact checking, and intelligence.  I hope they gain 50,000 new subscribers because of that article, and I trusted every word because of where it was coming from, but I can’t help but think it would have been more appropriate for the mooch to call the National Enquirer.

I don’t curse as much in real life as I do as on the blog. Maybe when I’m very angry. Or very drunk. Or very comfortable. *Ahem*  I know not everyone feels as comfortable as I do with the word fuck but well, it’s an excellent word. How many others can be used as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, article, conjunction, preposition, and an interjection?  Some curses don’t make sense to me, even though they’ve become part of the vernacular. I seem to remember it being a really big deal to call someone a douchebag when I was in high school.  Now I hear “douche” coming from the tv.  I still don’t get it.  Ooh, you’re a hygiene product, what a slur.  Isn’t soap supposed to be the cure for a dirty mouth?

There are some words I don’t care for, they make me feel squicky. Not sure why, but they do.  So hey, the official Communications Director can feel free to keep the term cocksucker.

Could I write my blog posts without the curses? Sure I could, but I don’t want to. They’re part of the fictionalized version of me that is Mrs Fringe, and to scrub them would feel like those occasional pieces of fiction I come across where the (usually newer) writer has heard all forms of “to be” are passive writing and should be omitted. The passages that result are often needlessly contorted–anything but fun to read.  The other side is that I generally spend a fair amount of time on each post. Thinking about the subject, drafting, redrafting, editing, choosing photos and songs.  Each swear used is consciously chosen for impact or stylistic choice.  Over the five years I’ve been doing this there’ve probably been about 50 posts that I wrote, rewrote, thought about, played with, and then deleted.  Not because every post is a pearl, but because some things shouldn’t be said.  Or maybe just not said out loud. The transcript of words-ya-can’t-say-on-tv we read about the other day wasn’t about specific, careful thought.  It was a tantrum filled with verbal tics. Beyond all of it, in this political climate, I don’t think we can afford to be out of fucks.

That fudging Commander in Chief just doesn’t have the right ring, does it? However, I can still appreciate the brilliant words of Johnny Carson and wish the fleas of a thousand camels infest the armpits of those down in DC being excused as “just how New Yorkers are.” They are not my New York, and I refuse to let them co-opt my words.

 

Indulgence

The best laid plans

This morning I had a conversation with a friend about indulgences. The way right now, in our current political climate, everything that isn’t calling or protesting feels like an indulgence–a struggle between needing to step away and allow yourself to enjoy something and feeling guilty for doing (let alone enjoying) anything that isn’t directly related to learning everything possible about what’s going on; trying to sort out reality from scaremongering, hope from wishful thinking.

I’ve been eating too much (and way too large a percentage is comfort food), watching the news/Twitter feed/reading the news too much, not sleeping enough, worrying too much (maybe, it feels like there’s no such thing as too much worrying when our society is imploding and half the time my girl’s eyeballs look like they’re on fire; when an evening of fun results in a day of not feeling well and seizure watch while the GOP decides just how much health care she doesn’t deserve) and not writing much at all. Is there a point to working on the MIP (Mess In Progress) right now? It’s speculative, my usual magical realism with additional elements of near future dystopia.  How’s that for a non-sensical mouthful? Not sure I’ve seen that shelf in Barnes & Noble. Eventually, if it ever gets completed, I’ll sort it out. I’ve read several excellent novels recently, a few of which have been smart, smart dystopians. Is what I’m saying really new/different/adding to the conversation?  How exactly do I add to a word count when I’m bombarded by bills, laws, and declarations that my voice–as a woman of a certain age, as a mother, as someone in the wrong tax bracket, as someone who lives in New York–doesn’t count?  Is there a point to blogging and bleating about subversive, unethical happenings in government that will harm us all when actual journalists are being blown off, attacked, jailed, and prevented from recording the daily propaganda statements?

Naturally, in the interest of keeping the few marbles I have left, this is where I stop thinking and get back to cooking.

Hmm, not quite right, is it?

I’ve been making this particular coffee cake for years. I think it was the first cake I ever made, my grandmother loved it. Not only have I been making it for years, I’ve been making it in the same dish. Today, I didn’t feel like climbing up to get that dish down from the top cabinet, and this other pan was already out.  Years ago had I done this, I would have a) stopped at this point to get the correct baking dish down and transferred the batter before adding the apples and topping, b) made another batch to double the recipe/fill the pan, or, most likely c) scrapped it and begun again.  Today I went with d) screw it, let’s see what happens.

Close enough, it still tastes good.

Comfort food, anyone?

Who Knew?

Everything I Needed to Know about Russia I Learned from The Russian Tea Room, by 45

I’m seeing a lot of variations of the above title on social media. Who knew, I didn’t think it would be this bad, etc.

We knew. We all knew. Some of us knew and liked it–those people still do. Some of us knew and pretended the GOP was the same as it was 45 years ago, mumbling about checks and balances. Some of us knew and screamed it over and over again, and were told to take off our tin foil hats. Because it’s a surprise that a man without ethics or morals, who made his fortune by lying and cheating others, who made a campaign out of surrounding himself with others who don’t have ethics or morals, would govern without ethics, morals, concern for others or norms. Because it’s a surprise that a GOP that spent eight years blatantly obstructing a well liked and brilliant President would fall in line like dominoes behind a man without ethics or morals. They were very clear, they didn’t care about his character–character only matters when a democrat is in office.

I knew. I am not a historian, not a politician, not a world traveler, not a mover and shaker, not a young black man caught in the school to prison pipeline, and I knew.

I first said it here, when I didn’t think he had a chance, back in the innocence of June 2015. I was certain Jeb Bush would win the Republican nomination.  I didn’t address him again for a while, he wasn’t someone I ever took seriously, why start then?

So I didn’t blog about him again until here, February 2016.

And then here May 2016.

Here, June 2016.

Here June 2016, continuing to sound the alarm that we cannot and should not ignore our history.

Here, August 2016, where I look at human nature from the lens of 45 saying he could look Syrian children in the face and say they can’t come to this country.

Here, September 2016, right before the first debate.

Here, October 2016, where I was still holding out hope Hillary would win, but unable to imagine how I would continue to be friends with those who supported 45. Spoiler–I haven’t seen any of my 45 supporting friends since the election. 

Also October 2016, when we learned the extent of the depravity, aka pussy grabbing. Spoiler–all those GOP members who were shocked and appalled? Still supported him, still behind him today. 

And again October 2016.

Which leads us to November 2016, the day before election day.

The day after election day, my immediate thoughts and horror, all the implications.

I considered shuttering the blog after this, took a long hiatus and have been sporadic since, because I wake up every damned day feeling like I can’t breathe, let alone string words together.

Instead of skyscrapers reaching for the moon, every day takes us another level lower, with the GOP operating the elevator. Nothing is happening that we didn’t see coming, 45 and his supporters (elected and citizens) were very clear re what they were willing to tolerate, endorse, and applaud. The holier than thou crew on the left didn’t want to get out of their own way, and the blasé nothing-matters-or-changes-it’s-all-business-as-usual, checks and balances won’t let anything get out of hand, well. Here we are. I’m considering expanding my tin foil hat collection to include wall and window coverings.

So we can still have a lot to say with every new manufactured crisis, every disgraceful tweet, but we cannot say who knew. I’m an average gal living an average life. I knew, and so did everyone else. The question is not who knew, the question is who cared. Too few.

Do the Right–Wrong!

Because what else would have been the perfect gift for Mrs Fringe on Inauguration Day, 2017?

Because what else would have been the perfect gift for Mrs Fringe on Inauguration Day, 2017? Thank you!

I’ve had this thought circling in my head for the past few weeks.  I talked about it a bit with Nerd Child before he went back to school last week, and today it seemed appropriate for musing on the blog after 1 full week of Trump & Co in office.  Yeah, I know, this isn’t a mom-blog and I already talk an awful lot about my kiddos, but bear with me, please.

Husband and I have always tried to do our best.  We knew that wouldn’t always work out as intended, but still, parenting is a commitment we take seriously.  A commitment to our children, but also a commitment to society.  We do our best, and hopefully offer decent, kind, well-adjusted human beings who care about others, themselves (raising saints and martyrs was never our goal), and the world at large.  How’s that for overblown navel gazing?  And yeah, we want success for them. Success doesn’t have to mean a job making a bazillion dollars a year on Wall Street, but for us it means that in addition to doing something they feel good about, we wanted them to understand it’s important to be able to pay your bills, and do better than we have, a little more comfort, maybe even own a house.

But have we screwed them in the process?  I’m looking around, taking stock of the past week, who’s taken office, been nominated, being confirmed despite (because of) no experience, no compassion, conflicts of interest galore and long documented overt racism; running the country, deciding to rip apart the social contract we’ve been building and trying to improve for over two hundred years….  Sure, greed, corporations, and selfishness have long been valued in our society.  It isn’t brand new, the results of this election didn’t come from nowhere, regardless of how many want to pretend it has.  There has also long been room for success from those who actually want to contribute, work with others.

Remember?  One of the first things we all teach all children is the importance of sharing, waiting our turn.  Husband and I taught our kiddos to do the right thing because it’s right, not because they might get in trouble, not even because of an afterlife.  But because this life matters, and every life of every person matters.  Trite but true, at the end of the day, can you look in the mirror? This week has shown us a whole different world.  At first I typed new. A new world.  It isn’t though, is it?

Today happens to be International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  And today, Nikki Haley, the new US ambassador to the United Nations,  addressed the UN and said, “for those who don’t have our backs, we’re taking names.” Trump is signing executive orders to begin building That Ridiculous Wall (the one that still makes  zero sense), still discussing a registry for Muslims, will restrict incoming Muslim immigrants (unless they’re from Muslim countries his companies do business with), and is denying entry to Syrian refugees.  No, not new at all.   No wonder they’re so enamored of that fascist “America First” slogan.

And by the way, in case you’re thinking all of this is being done in a (misguided) attempt to actually protect American citizens, ha!  This is the sneak-peak proof that this administration and the GOP couldn’t care less how many citizens are left without adequate healthcare in this country.  Why let people know they still have a few days left to sign up for a year’s worth of care? Sure the ads were already in place and paid for, but, well, fuck ’em. I can’t address the beginning of the dismantling of women’s rights and health care in this country.  Not yet.

So yes, in with all the other worries and panicking I’m doing about medicine and health care and civil rights and ohmygodhehasthefuckingnuclearcodes, I’m worrying about my kiddos; if they are prepared for this next page in American history, where might makes right and sharing their cookies is a notion as quaint and outdated as teaching them to use a quill.

Much of me is overwhelmed right now, certain we have said goodbye to American freedoms, the true American values of equality, justice, social mobility, education, progress, and democracy. We haven’t always hit those marks, and there’s no question and no excuse– our “equality” hasn’t  been equal, but we have had gotten better.  Now I have to believe we didn’t do them a disservice when we taught our kids they have to be able to look in the mirror, and I have to hope the mirrors they look into are true and clear.

 

 

Goodbye, 2016

Fuzzy flush for a fuzzy year

Fuzzy flush for a fuzzy year

There’ve been years where I couldn’t wait to rip off the last page of the calendar. Despite the many days of suckage in 2016, this wasn’t one of those years.  I know, I know, the past couple of weeks the news and social media feeds have been filled with headlines and posts of people desperate to say goodbye and start fresh.  Not me.  I’m afraid of 2017.  There, I said it.

I swear I can’t remember the first half of 2016, pretty sure my memories are on the tracks along with a smashed Cheetos bag and someone’s lost hair extension under the 6 train. The second half? I swung from funk to anger to disbelief and back again.

Too dramatic?  Maybe. I have several good friends who are optimists, they live their lives on hope and faith that love conquers all.  Beautiful, isn’t it?  You could say Mrs Fringe is a pessimist, but I believe I’m a realist. And realistically speaking, if you are a woman, a person of color, Muslim, LGBTQ, an immigrant, a Dreamer, an educator, differently abled, parent to someone who is differently abled, a journalist, a senior citizen/will be a senior citizen who needs both Social Security and Medicare, or a free thinker, there is much to be–well ok, if you’re insistent on being less dramatic than I–if not fearful, at least wary of.

New Year’s isn’t like birthdays, we aren’t supposed to make wishes, we’re supposed to make resolutions.  Resolve to be kinder, more thoughtful, more efficient, disciplined, stronger, faster, better.  Shall I resolve to be the Bionic Woman, then?  (If you’re too young to be familiar with the Bionic Woman, take my word for it, she was cool, a 1970s sci-fi tv character.)  So when I hear people talking about wait-and-see, it won’t be so bad, I hear it with my bionic ear as magical thinking, wishes on a trick birthday candle.  I’m not worried about The End of the World, nuclear style.  Come on, I live in New York, everyone’s favorite target (and as a special bonus, the city our President-Elect and family won’t leave); if there’s an all out nuclear war, I’ll be the first to go, vaporized before the page telling me to watch out for mushroom clouds can load.  No time for angst.

I’ve been rereading all my old favorite dystopian novels–along with some new ones–and they have certain themes in common, whether the trigger was an economic collapse, totalitarianism,or plague.  Despair, violence, governmental overreach, hunger, talk about the necessity of good shoes. For the long walk to find others. And don’t give me any parables about crying because you had no shoes until you met a man who had no feet.  We don’t live in the garden of Eden, and I’m too old for barefoot and pregnant. I need shoes. We need shoes.  Good ones, without cracks in the soles, that don’t make you cry when you have ’em on for more than twenty minutes.

I’ve also spent some time rereading old posts. Sure, Mrs Fringe was always meant to be honest, somewhat bitter and definitely salty, but also funny. I think I stopped laughing about a year ago.  For a lot of reasons, both personal and greater, many but not all of them detailed here over the past year, there’s been less funny, more general horror.  And nausea.  The other night I made a DD (Disastrous Dinner, trademark pending).  Completely unsalvageable, suffice it say the overpriced short ribs couldn’t even be added to the doggie gumbo, and the polenta had more than a mild resemblance to the poo found in a newborn’s diaper. I happened to turn towards Nerd Child as he took his first and only bite.  The expression on his face? I laughed for twenty minutes straight. For some people, when things suck, they need to cry.  Others need to surround themselves with beauty, chant affirmations, or pretend the only things that matter are the things they can control.  With that DD, I remembered, I need to laugh (and overuse commas).  It’s my way through.

So while I want to believe all will find their measure of peace, love, and laughter this year, I’m not wishing or resolving.  I’m going to laugh when I can, I’m going to speak out when I need to, and yes, I’m checking my shoes.

Empty Words

Leave the page blank long enough and it starts looking clean rather than empty.

Leave the page blank long enough and it starts looking clean rather than empty.

Have you ever wished Mrs Fringe would stop whining and shut the fuck up? Today is your day. I am taking a break. At the moment, I’m not sure how long, maybe I’ll change my mind tomorrow, next week, next year (so go ahead and stay subscribed for a while), I don’t know.

Words and writing have always been such an integral part of who I am, I’m honestly not sure who I am without them.  But as I’ve always said, I write to be read, I write to be half of a dialogue–spoken or not.  About a year ago I came to the conclusion that my fiction isn’t going anywhere.  That was a very difficult, painful conclusion.  I made self deprecating jokes and gave myself lectures.  Ok, you suck– big deal, so do most people.  Welcome to the ranks.  Sure I have occasional bouts of the dreaded hope, and send out some queries or write a story, but that faith that it will happen?  Not so much. I don’t have writer’s block, if you’re wondering–I’ve got plenty of ideas and notes and internal discipline; if someone offered me a contract tomorrow I’d be back to work within an hour. I have always written the stories and characters that I love, that I would want to find in the bookstore. But I don’t write for myself, I write hoping to offer others what I love to read, that sense of Yes. This author gets it, and has given voice to my thoughts, breathed life into characters I want to spend hours with. Many (most?) fiction writers disagree, and believe you should write for yourself.  Perhaps they’re right, but it hasn’t worked for me.

I kept blogging because it’s different than writing fiction, offers something else without pesky hopes, dreams, or expectations. I have tried to use humor (often gallows humor, but still) to address real and sometimes frightening issues.  Mostly I kept blogging for the same reason I started, a space to be a whole person, more than any one label or role I fill in the “real” world, to connect and have conversations with others, listening and being listened to. Now I am depleted. At this moment I see no point in blogging about writing if I’m not writing, no point in blogging about being a woman standing up for other women and women’s rights when my country has made it clear it isn’t interested in women’s rights and safety, no point in blogging about democracy when my country has voted for a demagogue, no point in blogging about the struggles facing people of color when the country has aligned itself with the KKK, no point in laying out the struggles of dealing with chronic illnesses in loved ones when the majority, including some who have cried with me, has just made it clear that ultimately, they don’t care and don’t want to hear it.

I know that many who are better, smarter, more evolved and generous souls than I am are sending out messages of hope, reassurances of caring, safety, and continued efforts.  Very lovely, and necessary.  Right now, I can’t do it, and frankly, I think it was the assumption that in the end people will put shared humanity above differences that has led us to where we are right now.

Many of my regular readers and commenters are not American, which has been an amazing, beautiful thing; WordPress is a fabulous platform, allowing me to feel that I have connected with others outside of my immediate, narrow margins. That said, I am American, and the American people have spoken–I am to pick a label and that is the sum of who I am. How boring. Hell, it makes me yawn just to think about it, who wants to log on and read a label?

Hot Off the Presses! or, Last Gasp

Someone appreciates my efforts.

Someone appreciates my efforts.

There are many things I am not.  One of them is crafty.  Some people have the magic touch, some of us don’t. Really, I wanted to learn how to knit, but was defeated multiple times by the instruction, “cast on.” I tried, not happening.  Despite this, once in a while I enjoy crocheting crooked scarves and uneven afghans.  Maybe I just enjoy the look on Husband and Fringelings’ faces when I gift them, and they’re trying to decide if I’m pulling their leg or just blind.

You know what else I’m not? A journalist. That’s right, you heard it here first; blogging is not journalism, and shouldn’t be confused with it.  The other day I did a bit of shameless self-promotion, sent a link to this blog to a friend; mostly because I was too lazy to retype all the blathering I’ve already done re my thoughts on this election.  I gave him a heads up, this is not a political blog per-se, but I do a fair amount of blogging about politics.  I’ve been thinking about that.  Why have I written so many posts about this election?  I’m not kidding when I describe myself on the “About” page; I’m an expert on nothing.  Not a journalist, not a political pundit, not someone who’s paid for her words.

So why have I continued to rant? I think mostly it comes down to the same core feeling that has many supporting Trump.  Ewww.  For all my love of navel gazing, plumbing the depths of humanity, and the grotesque, that could be the most squirm-inducing sentence I’ve ever written.  Still, it’s frustration; it’s feeling powerless.  And that feeling of powerlessness (is that really a word? auto-correct isn’t saying no, but it sounds/looks wrong) comes out in different ways.  For me, it comes out in long, spluttering blog posts, horrified as I see the ugliness that has always lived in America’s laws and psyche magnify among our citizens, reflected in the face of Donald Trump.  But I guess for some–too many–others, it comes out in the ways of the stereotypical playground bully, push those perceived as weaker down on the ground and mash them into the asphalt.  Because that’s what you’re doing, when you campaign to take away the dreams of immigrants, the rights of citizens, send women back to the kitchen–unless, of course, those women are young and “hot,” in which case they can be displayed and groped.

Not to be too hippie dippy, but when you count yourself among the powerless–because of fortune or circumstance–it really is the non-material things that become most important.  Like character. That’s what has left my jaw grazing my chipped toenails for a year now. I try to be a decent person, I try not to be judgmental. I’m not always successful, I don’t hesitate to admit this.

What is the character of someone who supports Donald Trump?  I don’t mean in terms of religion, too many ways to interpret a verse, too many wars fought over who has the right God; and no, I don’t care how many times he’s been married, let alone what his wife did/didn’t wear during her modeling days. For whatever policies he hasn’t laid out, he’s been very clear about what he stands for.  He and his supporters stand for mocking and rejecting those who are differently abled, even now in these last hours. He and his supporters believe sexual assault is acceptable. They believe it’s ok to have someone proven thin-skinned and inexperienced hold the nuclear codes. He and his supporters stand side by side with white supremacists, who would love nothing more than to see the US become a fascist state.   Am I wrong for rejecting this as a valid political opinion, saying those who support this man are unworthy of respect? I know some who support him are doing so while saying they’re only doing so because they’re worried about who might be chosen for the Supreme Court vacancy.  They’re worried about life, those potential fetuses. I’m not so different, I’m worried about lives too–the young girls and women who carry those lives, and the many diverse lives that will be dismissed and discounted under a Trump Presidency. Is this evidence of me as a judgmental bitch? Maybe, but that’s where I stand, and this is all I’ve got; my voice, my words.

This is it, the final hour.  Tomorrow is election day, and I already miss Barack Obama.

Dear Chicks on the Right: You Talkin To Me?

A few photos from 23rd Street, just a bit east of where the explosion took place Saturday night.

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I had never heard of the Chicks on the Right before, and I’m pretty much the left leaning filthy hippy they rail against, perhaps even the “landbeast” or “moon bat” so charmingly defined in their chicktionary.  But hey, I don’t live in an echo chamber and don’t want to, and these are apparently two middle aged women putting themselves and their beliefs out there in the blogosphere.  I want to support that, wanted to find out more about them, being another middle aged woman who puts herself and her beliefs out there.  Imagine my surprise when I actually read the post I had seen linked in my Facebook feed this morning.  Now I’m sure they don’t know or care who Mrs Fringe is, I’m barely a spit bubble compared to the success of their big pink bubblegum blowing blog, but I’m a New Yorker, after all, and if you’ve got questions/thoughts/incorrect assumptions about life in the Big Apple, I’m your gal.

So let this cliched middle aged broad clarify a couple of things for you.  I have a passionate love/hate relationship with this city, but when you’re born and raised here, you’re a New Yorker for life, even if you’ve long since moved to Timbuktu.  I have never been to Indianapolis (the area these “chicks” appear to be from), so I don’t know what it’s like there.  The only tv show I can think of that was set there is One Day at a Time, pretty sure that isn’t an accurate reflection.  I, and all eight million of my neighbors, are indeed tough and resilient.  What we aren’t is a hive mind.  That’s the beauty of New York.  Diversity.  Is that a dirty word for your blog? Sorry, it’s the one that fits.

Not just diversity in faith, skin color, gender/gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity, but diversity in thoughts and beliefs, including political.  Yeah, we’re a blue city in a blue state, but there are enough right leaning people here–and even more independent thinkers– that we’ve had a Republican mayor or two.

This isn’t my main issue or yours, not what spurred me to respond.  The emergency text blasted out to all NY cell phones, identifying the name of the suspect wanted for the explosion that had taken place in Chelsea a few days earlier.  For the record, I’m not a big Twitter user (though I think I will send you gals a tweet so you see this post), I hadn’t seen any of the ones you posted, let alone tweeted about it myself.  That said, yeah, receiving that text falls under what I like to call icky-squicky-this-can’t-be-right.  Not because I didn’t want the person responsible captured and prosecuted, but because it feels more than a bit Big Brother-ish.  I’m a little confused, aren’t conservatives the group that complains about government overreach?  I know you disagree, and I’m sorry for being dense, perhaps you can explain it to me.  Simply, seeing as I’m a slow-witted New Yorker who doesn’t understand what’s in my best interests.

I was also taken aback by your expanding and clarifying statement, “Not only that, but these delicate snowflakes cried that something like this could lead to the Supreme Evil of racial profiling.”  Sorry for causing more eye rolls, but my experience as someone who lives in this great diverse city means that yup, I’m also against racial profiling.  Why?  Because my neighbors, friends, children’s friends/classmates, family members, are a diverse (oops, there’s that naughty word again) bunch.  Getting up and living their lives each day, I imagine much the way you do, and being profiled, stopped, too often falsely accused and arrested just doesn’t seem to represent the land of the free to me.  Profiling isn’t “suddenly” bad.  Perhaps you weren’t aware of it as an issue until recently.  That’s ok, you don’t know what you don’t know.  You know the nice part of being older?  I’ve learned to stop and think; listen to the other side of issues, take the time and put in the effort to learn the subtleties.  America is a big place, encompassing many different people, beliefs, and lifestyles.  What works in a small town in Montana wouldn’t make sense in New York–and that’s okay.  Damn I hope I don’t melt, being a snowflake and all, it’s hot in the city today.

But what really got my fingers itching to respond?  “New Yorkers have traded in their traditional toughness for a safe space of politically correct social justice.”  Here’s a bit of New York reality for you, our world has changed.  We’ve made trade-offs, some I agree with, some I don’t, but yeah, I’ve changed.  I assume you weren’t here in New York on 9/11/01.  I was.  I haven’t forgotten.  I haven’t forgotten the fear of trying to figure out what was going on.  I haven’t forgotten running to get my son from school, finding a stream of parents flowing in and out of the school trying to get their children, the hushed panic of whispers about parents who worked in which towers.  I haven’t forgotten my gratitude for the incredible calm and order the school staff had going.  I haven’t forgotten the horrible, unnatural quiet in the streets.  I haven’t forgotten trying to reach people I loved with no answer for hours that felt like decades.  I haven’t forgotten watching the towers burn and the smell of smoke and the ash settling over EVERYTHING.  I haven’t forgotten the first aid stations that were set up so efficiently that looked like not quite perfect movie sets–where are the extras?– because they were so empty.  I haven’t forgotten the thousands of people staggering up Broadway like zombies, covered in layers of white gray ash made up of things we didn’t want to think about.  Wondering if we were breathing in people.  I haven’t forgotten the many, many people who didn’t get to go home.  I haven’t forgotten being trapped on this island of Manhattan, no one other than emergency/official vehicles in or out. I haven’t forgotten the nausea and heart stopping this-will-never-be-the-same first time I saw clusters of armed guards in the subway, on the streets and by the bridges and tunnels.  Not something to watch on a tv screen, not theoretical, but my city, my friends, my neighbors.   Perhaps you think I should be embarrassed to admit this day changed my life and my city forever?  That there is fear that didn’t used to live in my gut?  Nope, not embarrassed at all.

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Chicks on the Right, you have every right to disagree with my political opinions.  You have every right to voice those opinions, vote for the candidates who agree with you, protest the decisions that go against your belief systems and values.  You can join the millions of non-New Yorkers who are quick to lay claim to our city but have no clue what it is to live here, live side by side with all kinds of people, no idea how to make peace and have respect for those who live differently.  But unless you were sitting next to me on the train yesterday, on my way to pick my daughter up from school, underground when the train stopped, vague announcements about a problem ahead, then listening to the announcement that all service had been suspended and thereby wondering if someone had fallen onto the tracks, or jumped, or if there had been another attack, trying to send a text to the school and your child not to leave the school because you were going to be late and you didn’t know how late, feeling the gratitude and relief when the car doors opened so you could run off the train, up and out of the subway and wait behind 342 other people trying to grab cabs on the same corner, knowing you were still on the wrong side of the UN and the President was here to speak there, enough of a New Yorker to then argue with the cab driver about the best route to take so you could get to your child, establish they and your city are safe, knowing you’ve got to get back on those trains to get home, do it again tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, you don’t get to tell me how tough and resilient I and my fellow New Yorkers are not.

The Line Keeps Moving

 

We Need to Talk About Kevin is one of my top ten novels, always comes to mind when someone asks for a recommendation.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is one of my top ten novels, always comes to mind when someone asks for a recommendation.

This morning, as every morning, after my yoga I sat in front of the laptop and started cruising the news.  I don’t read any one paper/site cover to cover; I hop around, the HuffPo, The Guardian, New York Times, Politico, and any links popped up overnight on my Facebook feed that catch my eye.  And so I saw the headline for this essay in The Guardian, and got excited.  (As excited as I get at pre sunrise, only on my second cup of coffee.)  I am a huge fan of Lionel Shriver, as evidenced by the photo above.  Over the past few years I’ve gotten rid of the majority of my paper books–surprisingly liberating–but I keep a couple of shelves worth, a selection or two or three showcasing authors I worship or individual volumes that have had a huge impact on me, as a person and/or as someone who writes.

When I read the essay, my first thought was, “oh, fuck.”  It’s about the author’s response to part of a speech given by Lionel Shriver, about identity, cultural appropriation, what is or isn’t ok for an author to explore through their fiction.  When I love an author’s work, I want to be one hundred percent devoted to them in every way.  I want them to be the giants I’ve built them up to become in my mind, I want to have faith as I learn more about them that this is someone I’d enjoy having conversations with over tea, coffee, or a glass of wine.  Silly, isn’t it?  Especially silly when I’m someone who still harbors occasional fantasies of being published (well published!), and yet here I am running this blog:  Mrs Fringe of the colorful language, big mouth, strong opinions, and anything but neutral political leanings.  I have no doubt there are many who would not enjoy having coffee with me, maybe even some of the same who enjoy my words when they’re fiction.  I’m the first to admit not everyone finds my sense of humor charming. General publishing wisdom–common sense, really–dictates that anyone hoping to earn a dollar from strangers shouldn’t do anything to actively offend anyone.

The thing is, I’m a person, first and foremost. That’s what Mrs Fringe is about, being a person who wears many hats, plays many roles; complete with disappointments, laughter, mourning, screw-ups, nonsense, inappropriate thoughts, offensive-to-some language, a desire to be heard and understood, a desire to learn and understand more, a desire to connect with others.  Kinda like, oh, say…fiction.  And the authors of said fiction.  Yes, it’s imaginary characters and made up scenarios, but good fiction, enduring fiction, the kind of fiction Lionel Shriver writes, is uncompromising, unapologetic.  She creates characters who are SO real, doesn’t hesitate to use her characters and scenarios to explore who we are as human beings, as a society, to use the mirror of fiction to examine the beauty, pain, and the ugly bits of what it means to be a whole person.  Sure it’s uncomfortable, but it’s also riveting.  This is the fiction that endures, because people are people–now, fifty years from now, two hundred years ago.

So I’m a person.  So, apparently, is Ms. Shriver.  And I read the essay, thinking about the author of the essay, her offense at Lionel Shriver’s remarks referencing how easily, too easily, people are offended now, the idea of political correctness.  Her offense at the idea that a novelist can accurately and appropriately portray someone whose experience of life is vastly different than their own, i.e.: a white novelist writing a person of color, straight novelist writing LGBTQ characters, etc.  Her interpretation of the novelist’s speech as arrogance–maybe it was, because I only have the author’s paraphrasing before she walked out twenty minutes into it, I don’t have enough information to give an informed opinion.

I want to be offended by her offense.  But I’m not.  The truth is, she has a point.  Could a white male have written Their Eyes were Watching God, given the character of Janie Crawford the same depth, the same enduring honesty created by Zora Neale Hurston?  Nope. Could In the Time of Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez, have been written by someone who isn’t Dominican, written in a way that allows the reader to come as close to feeling what it would be like living in the shadow of Trujillo as you feel reading her story of the Mirabel sisters?  Nope.  If a white author writes a black protagonist, I’m going to be skeptical, I’m going to be wondering about the character being written in a way that is not only not realistic, but wondering about the icky squicky line of that protagonist being written in such a way that it’s lecturing (subtle or not) the reader on how a person of color should be feeling in this imaginary scenario.  Will that novelist be able to allow the reader to feel the enduring humanity while preserving the reality of life experiences through they eyes and thoughts of a protagonist who isn’t straight and white?

Lionel Shriver, as far as I could tell from the essay, had a point, too. If we are afraid to examine any but our own narrow viewpoint, so afraid of using the wrong words we stay silent, we will never understand a damned thing, and our worlds will shrink with the novels in front of us, rather than expanding.  Female authors have written beautiful, powerful strong male characters and vice versa.  What would seventh graders read if Harper Lee hadn’t written To Kill a Mockingbird?  What are we teaching these future generations (*cue thinkofthechildren wail*) if they stop reading it because it might be triggering, or offensive to examine our society’s racism–past and present?  You know what was amazing to me, about Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin?  Reading about her afterwards, and learning she isn’t a parent.  My mind was blown.  But maybe it shouldn’t have been.  Maybe it’s because she isn’t a parent that she was able to take such a hard look at parenthood without turning the mother into a saint or a caricature of a villain (though not necessarily likable).

Would it be the same thing, a white author writing a protagonist who is Black, or Latino, Asian or Indigenous?  No, but it also shouldn’t mean limiting characters to only those who experience life the same way the writer does.  If it did I’d have to give up even fantasizing about having anything published.  I can see it now, the NY Times Best Seller– Mrs Fringe Buys a Slow Cooker.

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Cultural appropriation is a real thing, and it’s something we need to be aware of, and sensitive to.  Maybe it’s harder for whites to understand because so much of the tradition of white, Christian culture involves the attempt to force it down the throats of everyone else.  What the line is, exactly, I’m not sure.  At the beginning of this post I referenced yoga.  Is it cultural appropriation for me to practice yoga?  I’m pretty sure I don’t have that Jane Fonda exercise tape anymore.  Or a beta machine to play it on.  Nerd Child tells me the Weeping Buddha statuette I have on my desk is cultural appropriation.  I don’t know, it makes me feel better to touch it in the early morning, pretend that I really am letting go of any sadness and starting the day with a clean slate.

Mother of God with Child--Kuz'ma Petrov-Vodkin

Mother of God with Child–Kuz’ma Petrov-Vodkin

I saw the above painting recently, wished I could have it hanging in my apartment.  I’m far from a religious anything, let alone Russian Orthodox.  It’s art, and what makes great art (visual, written, or other) is the creator’s ability to preserve the specific subject while transcending it, offering the reader/observer/listener a world outside of her own while tapping into the common themes we all share.

People don’t change, the human condition has had us exploring the same questions for hundreds of years.  Society, though.  Society changes.  The words and language we use changes.  What is acceptable changes.  The line of what is or isn’t ok to do and say moves.  Sometimes it moves quickly.  It behooves all of us to remember this, and if we write, or read, or engage with the world in any way, it behooves us to remember this, like everything else that’s important, involves many shades of gray.

*Follow up: This morning I saw the transcript of Shriver’s full speech in The Guardian.  I thought some of my readers might be interested, and as always, invite all to come back and comment here if you read it.

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?