dreams

Yeah, But: aka, Dear Hillary

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m working on being ok. Can’t say I’m there, but I’m working on it. Between back to school, medical mayhem in our home, extreme weather events to obsess over, and a new political disaster every 24 (if we’re lucky we make it to 24) hours, easier said than done, no matter how many times I reread Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.

Speaking of reading, yesterday I decided to get myself an early birthday gift and downloaded Hillary Clinton’s latest, What Happened, and Salman Rushdie’s latest, The Golden House. Why these two, when they’re both new releases, and therefore full (nook) price? Rushdie because he’s Rushdie. Obviously. And Clinton for several reasons. One, because instead of adjusting and leveling off, this current chapter in US history is more awful every day, and I just don’t see a path that truly takes us forward. Two, it’s interesting, I’m fascinated to read what her thoughts are, I do care what she has to say.  She’s a powerful woman who has done more and handled more than 99.7% of us dream of past the age of 9. Three, quotes I’ve read from What Happened make her seem/feel more human than anything outside of those photos floating around the web of her wearing her oversized glasses and earnest youth. And four, I’m pissed as hell seeing all those judgmental posts from people decrying her nerve to blame others, she needs to accept responsibility, blah blah blah. I’m talking about posts from Dems and Progressives.

Responsibility? How about our responsibility as citizens of a democratic society to remember that our elected leaders are human beings, with all the messiness, faults, and fuck-ups that go along with being human? Yes, we have always and we should always hold those in positions of leadership and power to a higher standard, but there’s a difference between accountability  and impunity. We cannot expect superhuman, and in my opinion, this line of thinking is uncomfortably close to the thinking that brought us 45, with his oversized id, hubris, complete disdain for others, disregard of the law, our government, and the norms that have always guided us. People voted for him because of all this. They didn’t want a democratic politician or a regular old human being. They wanted Big Daddy who was going to fix it all and take care of them, not allowing any pesky facts, norms, laws or humanity to get in the way.

As I said to a friend, yes, Hillary was a flawed candidate–I said here on the blog months before the election the DNC would share blame if 45 won.  In fact, I said I’d blame everyone. Well here we are. I don’t blame everyone, but culpability certainly does not rest with one person, or even a select few. A lot of history, a lot of hate, a lot of skewed facts, media slants, Russian interference, lack of compassion, lack of comprehension, and lack of complex thinking brought us here. Close to 63 million votes, I believe. And oh yeah, the electoral college–because when we saw the winner of the popular vote lose the election because of the electoral vote in 2000, we let it ride. Guess what? Bernie was flawed, too. But the choice wasn’t between two flawed and human candidates, it was between one that was flawed and one that was out and out cracked.

I don’t know about anyone else, but the expressions of wishing Clinton would fade away and be quiet feel an awfully lot like an admonition to be a good girl and go make coffee.

I began reading on the trains this morning.

Dear Mrs Clinton, 

I hope all those complaining and saying you need to accept blame read What Happened. At least the Author’s Note in the beginning, where you clearly take responsibility for your choices, actions, and words. 

I’m glad I purchased the book, but I’m sorry I began reading it today. I started tearing up on the way to the girl’s school, so I put it away. Blubbering mom on the subway doesn’t work out so well. I took it out again after drop-off, and ended up missing my stop. I don’t know how you managed to write and edit this with all so raw; each day bringing another insult to America. I don’t know if I can read it through right now, I’m working on being okay, and What Happened is looking so closely at all that isn’t okay. On the other hand, burying our heads in the sand hasn’t worked out so well, to say the least. Whether I read the entirety over the next few days or put it back in the queue and wait a few months, I still thank you for what I’ve read so far. For all the shame woven into the fabric of where we are as a country today, I thank you for the reminder that I’m living in an age where a woman finally did make it to be the first female nominee of a major political party in the United States–wearing white, the color of the suffragettes, to remind us all of the years and work it took to get there.  You did so with power, persistence, and grace. It matters. 

Namaste. 

Respectfully yours, 

Mrs Fringe

 

Feed It All Your Woes

Through the fountain, Columbus Circle

I don’t know about anyone else, but my short stories always start with a sense. A glimpse, a scent, a phrase overheard, a taste. I used to imagine an eventual book of short stories, grouped by each of the senses. Usually while I’m walking, something will trigger the writing portion of my brain and burrow in. Often I try to ignore it, and over the coming days, weeks, months, I’ll know it’s growing, creating tunnels that connect into a story by the time I sit down to write.  This is not my “process” (could I sound any more pretentious?) for full length manuscripts. I am not a careful plotter who creates extensive notes, charts, and detailed outlines, but a full novel needs more than a whiff.

One of these bristle-worms-of-the-brain began creating a space for itself the other day as I walked down the wet subway stairs to wait for the dreaded 6 train. I’m letting it lie, don’t have an actual story for this story yet, but for whatever reason it’s brought up all kinds of old memories.

For me, old memories are pretty much synonymous with old music, the songs and albums I associate with different people and experiences, from jazz to blues to classic rock, from punk to show tunes to folk rock.   Anyway, I thought of an old friend I haven’t thought of in years. I can’t remember his full name, but I remember hours of poring over used albums in Academy Records and Bleecker Bobs.  He taught me about reggae beyond Bob Marley, and after work I would drag him to the (now mostly gone) hole in the wall folk rock bars of the west Village. We worked with autistic children and teens when autism was still considered a rare disorder, before the definition and diagnosis expanded to a spectrum, and drowning myself in music was the best way to not leave my heart smashed in a million pieces behind the head of a child trying to use his skull like a hammer.

Naturally this led me to youtube, listening to music I haven’t listened to in a long time, including the album below, which I’ve been listening to for the past three days.  I know I wore through at least two copies on vinyl and one on cassette, and while I can’t tell you how many years since I last listened, I still remember every word of every lyric. The entire album is beautiful, and some of it is quite dark, but when I was younger it left me hopeful and looking forward.  Now it’s got me looking back, time and opportunities lost. This was Joni Mitchell’s debut album (ancient as I am, it was already long released by the time I “discovered” it).  For all of her albums that I have owned and enjoyed, and despite the fact that when my birthday comes I associate it with her collaboration with Charles Mingus–their rap/scat of Happy Birthday, this is still my favorite.  Song to a Seagull.

Magical Thinking

Reality or Magical–What do you see?

Yes, it’s been a while.  Again.  First I was working on a post that’s still sitting in my drafts folder because I couldn’t beat the words into sense, and then life.  Blah blah, medical mayhem, lots of waiting rooms and doctor’s offices, suffice it to say I’m pretty sure any vision test I take from this point forward is null and void– I’ve seen so many while sitting with my girl, I’ve got every chart memorized. Thank you, my fellow Dems/Liberals for being diligent and insisting on being heard about how disastrous the proposed health care bill was, and thank you, GOP, for being in such a mess that you’ve had to put your we-want-you-to-suffer-painfully plans on hold so I can keep doing this.

And oh yes, I’m writing again.  A secret unless you a) read this blog post or b) follow my twitter feed (which you should, because on the thrice annual occasion that I remember to log on, I retweet with the best of them).  It might be more accurate to say I’m rewriting, because this isn’t a glittery new project, this is the rusty old wreck I tabled a few years back that I’ve already talked about reworking.  I figure I *might* be able to use half of what was there, and overall I don’t yet know if I’m taking something that was meh and making it better, or taking something that was meh and puking weird and unidentifiable bits of acid all over it.

Takes a bit of magical thinking to write a novel, regardless of genre.  More than a bit if you’re writing with an eye towards publication.  If you’re looking at trade publishing (as in–not self-publishing) I’m pretty sure the odds are 843,000,000,000 to one.  A couple of years back I blogged about the need for big brass ones in order to believe this could be done.  Despite regular polishing of my metaphorical testicles, here I am, still one of the unwashed and unpublished wannabe novelists.  Clearly, in addition to working diligently on the MIP (Mess in Progress, since I’m still unsure if I can call it a Work in Progress) the answer is to sprinkle some eye of newt into my word cauldron, maybe wave a bit of sage, and wear my very pointiest hat.

Whatever we’re wishing for, I think most of us engage in a bit of magical thinking.  Like, say, this woman.  This is a hell of a story, an excellent snapshot of why supporting 45 and his merry band of fascists was a bad idea.  She’s an American citizen married to a not-quite-undocumented Mexican immigrant.  She voted for our current regime, because she thought they only meant they would deport the “bad ones.”  Her husband wasn’t in hiding, checked in with ICE when he was supposed to, gainfully employed, paid taxes, legit, provisional Social Security number.  Needless to say he is currently in jail awaiting deportation because ‘Murica.  I’ve seen a lot of people comment on this story, some gleeful at her comeuppance, some who feel sorry for her.  Me? Shrug. I take no pleasure in what has to be a painful and terrifying experience for her husband and their children, but I don’t feel sorry for her.  He was very clear about his beliefs and vision, started his whole damned campaign with racial slurs about Mexican immigrants. This is an example of dangerous magical thinking; belief that no one can see you behind a clear shower curtain, that it’s ok and safe to wish harm on others; ok to strip rights, dignity, even humanity because other.

There were never any real plans offered by this President and his administration regarding how they would make things great. The closest they came to concrete plans involved who they were going to vilify, and how he could do whatever he wanted while keeping his supporters and increasing his net worth.  His net worth, not yours.  I’ve said this many times already, once you say it’s okay to dehumanize this group and that group, it’s a guarantee that more groups will be added to that list, and yours will surely be added sooner or later.  I hope no one reading this is surprised and hurt to discover this, but 45 and his cronies don’t see you as a human being.  You were a vote. If you voted for him, he’s done with you, if you didn’t, you never existed in the first place. Let’s go back to that disastrous bill, HurryUpandDieCare.  This is from a meeting on Thursday night, with a no holds barred attempts to squeeze votes out of those who thought it was still too generous a plan.  “Forget about the little shit.”  The little shit is you, me, and the woman from Indiana whose husband is sitting jail.

A little magical thinking might carry me through months of work on this MIP, enough to (hopefully) craft a cohesive and interesting story, maybe adding the tears of a baby dragon will get me through the querying process. It won’t get me published. Magical thinking got 45 and company into office, it won’t make them responsible, compassionate, or skilled–and it surely won’t protect us from the damage.

All the Best People Are

Me, as drawn by Art Child about 4 years ago, age 11

Why yes, that is my avatar

It’s funny, isn’t it?  The small things that catch hold in your mind when something big and bad is going on.  Maybe it’s a defense mechanism, to avoid the brain shutting down completely.  Kind of like the grotesque show that begins today, Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017.  For the past few weeks I’ve been alternating between reading every newspaper article I can and shutting down the laptop and zoning out with Netflix. I’m sure I don’t have to detail how I was losing my shit, reading and watching clips from the Betsy DeVos hearing.  I think the democratic senators did a great job, demonstrating through their questions, how wholly unfit and inappropriate she is for Education Secretary.  I also think it doesn’t matter.  She, and the rest of the Billionaire Club, will be approved, because all prior rules of engagement, like knowledge, qualifications, and at least a pretense of ethics have been suspended for the foreseeable future.

A couple of days ago a friend posted a picture on Facebook, a piece of art from a popular artist promoting women’s rights and being offered for download.  What caught me wasn’t the art, it was the comment (not from my friend) that artists should keep their political views to themselves.  Oh my.  So terribly, woefully ignorant, a perfect case-in-point to what has gone wrong in America.  Art is political.  It makes you feel, it makes you see, it makes you connect, it makes you understand.  Doesn’t matter if we’re talking about visual art, poetry, prose, music, or performance.  All art is political.  And art is what endures.

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My home is not what some would think of when they imagine a family of artists.  The apartment is perfectly ordinary.  Look at the sketch above, Art Child drew it about four years ago, one of her very first pieces after she began, magically, miraculously, to draw.  That’s me in the sketch, perfectly ordinary.  We struggle with bills, we struggle with chronic and debilitating health issues, we struggle with the bits and bobs of life.  And we each love music and art and poetry and food and theater and literature, each with our own draws and, if I may be so bold, talents. Husband hears distinctions and nuances in music that are an entirely different dimension than I hear.  He can turn anything into a drum and create an irresistible beat.  Man Child creates art through food, and when he’s on a stage, it’s truly captivating.  The math he loves, “pure math,” incomprehensible to me, is another language, music in its own right, a language that has no borders of origin.  Nerd Child is a musician, a director, an orator.  Listening to him on his guitar makes me want to dance and weep at the same time.  He creates new worlds we all want to live in as he directs, and when he speaks, people listen. Art Child has developed her skills and talent, creating charcoal sketches and paintings that leave not just me, but others, strangers, talking about her work long after they’ve seen it.

Me? I write. I did write.  I tried to write.  Characters that are so everyday they’re more than a bit off, think you’re going to yawn and end with an oh! Settings that begin next door and then twist into the what the fuck.  My favorite “genre” is magical realism.  Not for escape, but for exploring the difficult and often ugly realities through the fantastical. Perfectly ordinary.

I am afraid of what’s to come tomorrow, next month, next year.  I’m a woman, on the downside of middle age, a self-proclaimed sort-of feminist, unsuccessful, a big and nasty mouth with a latino family.  By definition, not who our new administration wants to see or hear from.  We are ordinary people, caught in what looks to be an extraordinary time.  I don’t expect to become the next Salman Rushdie. I’m neither brilliant nor brave enough.  Let’s be honest, at 40,000 years old, dreams of acclaim and awards are long gone, but in those moments where I let myself dream, I still dream of being able to earn a dollar from my fiction.  Not because of the dollar, but because of the validation, because it would tell me I did, in fact, have an impact and speak someone’s truth other than my own. It is my belief that it is our obligation to continue to use our chosen mediums to explore and document what is happening, how it happened, why we are here.  Now is the time to be political. Create.

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.

It’s a Secret–Pass It On!

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Everyone loves a secret, no need for truth or facts.  The secret to weight loss, the secret to finding love, the secret to making money, the secret to success, the secret to being happy.  If it’s big and juicy enough, it reaches conspiracy status–and there’s nothing Americans love more than a good conspiracy.

When Art Child was a toddler, she had a doll she loved above all 9,563 others.  It sang, “¡Yo tengo un secreto y tu no sabes!”  in a teasing voice, no mistaking the inflections whether you speak Spanish or not.  I’ve got a secret and you don’t know it.  Oh yeah, she loved that doll, almost as much as the other patrons in the local Dominican cafe loved seeing her with it, until the 138th time she pressed the button.  The worst part?  I bought the damned thing.  What was I thinking? Not just the annoyance factor, but the message.   Thankfully Sadly, the doll was lost at some point, just another casualty on the pyre of toys designed to torture parents.

Donald Trump is that doll minus the pigtails, and there are way too many Americans gleefully pushing his belly to hear him taunt.  As I and many others have said, that’s the problem–not that he is who he is, and spouts the disgraceful, empty nonsense he does, but that he has god only knows how many supporters who are getting a thrill from watching the rest of us cringe.  Actually I suspect a good number of his supporters are certain he’ll be having lunch with Elvis before taking the debate stage this evening.   Because secrets! Conspiracy! And Donald’s going to tell us the truth, because nothing says honesty and integrity like someone who blatantly, repeatedly lies to paint the picture he wants to see.

I want to be fair, so let me share that it isn’t only on the far right that we’ve got gleeful conspiracy theorists singing about the moon landing being faked, the Holocaust was a lie, and of course, Obama is a secret Muslim who showed a fake birth certificate.  Oh no, we’ve got our share on the left side of the political spectrum also, those who are certain Tupac and Jim Morrison will be sitting a few tables down from Trump and Elvis, cling to the belief vaccines cause autism, and share theories with those on the right about 9/11 coverups and the aliens in Area 51.  Aaah, such a warm feeling in the pit of my stomach–pride in my fellow citizens, oh wait, no, it’s nausea.

Secrets and conspiracies–bet you can’t eat just one!  And let’s go ahead and dip them in some delusion sauce while we’re at it.  Those residing on the far right believe the lying, blustering, unqualified candidate who is Trump will save them.  Yes, save them; cure their ills, make them rich, give them jobs, put all those pesky brown people in their proper place and show those dumb libs what the Constitution really means.  Those residing on the far left are saying wonderful! Let him win, it doesn’t matter, Clinton is an equally poor choice, and besides, if he wins there will be a revolution on the streets and in three days’ time we’ll have taken the nation and all its riches back, distributing them to all those poor, unfortunate, ignorant souls who need us to save them.

Why am I writing now, at 5am on the day of the first Presidential debate, when I know my fingers will be itching to rant again by 10PM tonight?  Because this has been such a horrific, unprecedented election cycle I don’t think the debates matter.  Clinton will be fabulous, this is exactly where she can and does shine.  Ok, maybe not like Obama, but still.  She’s informed, she’s experienced, she knows how to keep her cool and speak well.  Trump will be Trump, he’ll have no real plans to offer, he’ll bellow and attack while continuing to lie and going on the offense if anyone dares to call him on his lies.  And his supporters won’t care.  Regardless of what he does or doesn’t say, they’ll be crowing and trumpeting his “truth”, declaring him the clear winner.

Trump has spent his entire adult life selling hollow secrets, he became the Republican candidate by selling conspiracies.  He’s good in front of a camera, he appeals not to our ever-changing American Dream, but to our American Fantasy of winning lottery tickets.  He’s the American Id.  In another time in America’s past, he’d have been under a tent selling snake oil.  Let’s stop buying, shall we?  Think about it, this is a man who’s telling you he’s going to give jobs back to the American people, he’s a successful businessman who knows how to do this, after all.  So successful he’s declared bankruptcy three times, and he has indeed provided thousands of jobs–in other countries.  When called on it, he said this stuff isn’t manufactured in the US anymore.  Not true, some of it is, and more of it could be, if businesses like Trump’s weren’t putting profit above people.

We are a nation confused by its own adolescence, screaming that we don’t need childish toys and distractions while we paradoxically hold tight to them, trying to prove how very grown up we are by doing so.

This singing doll isn’t just a nuisance that gets on your nerves, it’s already leaking battery acid, in the form of millions of supporters for the rhetoric of fear, hatred, and greed.  Leaking now, it’s too late to just dump it in a pile of abandoned toys.  That acid is staining our political process, corroding  the very freedoms Trump claims he’s going to provide.

How will we do this? I’m not sure.  We’re certainly beyond pretending Trump is an isolated wing-nut. And it isn’t just within the boundaries of our country that we need to worry about. Which, of course, his supporters are loving–because there’s some confusion about the difference between respect and fear, authority and authoritarianism.  For most of those supporters at the Trump rallies, he has validated, legitimized, and fed their fears and hatred so they haven’t cleaned up this acid leak, but instead spread it.  I don’t know how to get rid of it, but I know for sure the first step has to be Trump losing in November.  How about we put fear on hold, and begin with self-respect?  If not it won’t matter which secret you were hoping to hear or what conspiracies you find intriguing, we will all lose.

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.

Yesterday’s Yesterdays

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The other night I went for dinner with a friend I haven’t seen in (well) over twenty-five years.  I’ll admit to being a bit, umm, nervous? before going.  Completely silly, because I was the one who initiated the plans, but there you have it.  What would I say? Talk about? Edit? Would she roll her eyes as I yacked about my non-writing, much as I was determined to not talk about it?  Would the evening be a minefield of awkward pauses, as I thought about all. the. things. it would be best not to discuss?  Would I recognize her (also silly, I’ve seen the Facebook photos)? As it turns out, I knew it was her from a block away, and she told me I haven’t changed. Aah, the beauty of aging vision.  In any case it was a lovely evening and we gabbed for a solid four hours.

In keeping with the week’s theme of living in the past, pretending Nerd Child is not headed to college in three days, we went to New York’s Ren Faire yesterday.  Because we are a family of nerds, this is something we’ve always enjoyed, and it’s been several years since all five of us were able to attend together.  Who am I kidding, I love this freaking event, I don’t go “for the kids” and if I had the money I’d go every year–several times. Though not one of those who go and camp for the season.  Mostly because

Privy my left foot, I know a port-a-potty when I smell one.

Privy my left foot, I know a port-a-potty when I smell one.

Why do I love this bit of nonsense?  It doesn’t make sense, I couldn’t even read historical romance (when I read romance) because I couldn’t get past thinking about things like lice and scabies and body odor and the lack of indoor plumbing in days of yore.  Seriously, imagine what that knight smelled like when he removed his armor. I’m thinking weeping, festering body sores.

Still, it’s a romanticized era, with heroes and fantasy blended together (because so much fantasy is set in a fictionalized medieval-like setting), fancy feathers and dresses wrapped in great gusts of dust and mead.

It’s true, the fantasy aspect in these fairs is stretched to the limits, and while some of the booths and displays, and actors work hard to achieve authenticity along with comedy, you definitely don’t attend for the historical accuracy.

leather breastplates sold next to

leather breastplates sold next to

pirate costumes next to

pirate costumes next to

bet you never knew renaissance royalty liked a good pho with their turkey legs

bet you never knew renaissance royalty liked a good pho with their turkey legs

camel rides. They gave every camel a break after each ride around the ring. This guy was having the best time playing with his hay.

camel rides. They gave every camel a break after each ride around the ring. This guy was having the best time playing with his hay.

I need a dragon. To keep my unicorn company, of course.

I need a dragon. To keep my unicorn company, of course.

All kinds of crazy, fun, and interesting sights.

We spent quite a while watching the glass blowing demonstration.

We spent quite a while watching the glass blowing demonstration.

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Pickle vending pirate?

Pickle vending pirate?

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Man Child spent a long time speaking with the blacksmith.

Man Child spent a long time speaking with the blacksmith.

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I finally realized what the magic is for me, as I was talking to Man Child.  Sure, many of the actors, attendees, and vendors are young and beautiful in the modern way–after all, it’s roughly 600,000° in that heat and it’s a seasonal gig for the majority.

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Hell, the women at the booth selling hair ties downwind of the camel ring should be getting hazard pay.  Many attendees go in costume, and there’s something about being there that makes people who are otherwise sensible decide that it’s completely appropriate to spend $3-800 on a full costume.  That said, everyone is beautiful at the fair.  Much like my Brooklyn beach, you can feel it as you walk around–everyone feels beautiful.  Young, old, skinny, heavy, doesn’t matter. Full figured women are sensual, middle-aged men who haven’t seen a gym since their high school days in chain mail buying swords; if you haven’t had your wrinkles stapled into your hairline, if life has left you a bit ragged, well, so much the better as you shout, “Huzzah!”

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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