thoughts

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  Despite regular polishing of my metaphorical testicles, here I am, still one of the unwashed and unpublished wannabe novelists.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.

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?

Sigh of Relief or Hold Your Breath?

Flower Bulbs--finally ordered them in the right season

Flower Bulbs–finally ordered them in the right season

Well, it’s been an interesting week here in the final leg of this election cycle.  That curse again, “may you live in interesting times.”  Donald Trump and his campaign seem to be imploding.  As horrifying as his continued statements are, as disgusting but not shocking as the accusations of inappropriate behavior and sexual assault are, he’s still here, still in the news, still the person the Republican Party chose to have represent and lead them in the 2016 election.  I have friends on the left who are beginning to breathe a sigh of relief as his poll numbers drop.  Me?  I’m holding my breath.

The calendar may say it’s fall, I may be watching my freckles fade and wearing a sweater on the terrace, but I feel like it’s spring, and those sprouts in the soil aren’t going to produce prized flowers.  Instead, the invasive roots that have been busy under the surface choking out desired vegetables will yield blooms that release a putrid stench, cloying and spreading so it overlays our gardens, our streets, our dinner tables.  How’s that for purple prose?  Drama or melodrama, I can’t yet say, but I think my concerns are real enough.

Yesterday, when I opened the box of bulbs I had ordered online, I read the instructions.  Add bulb fertilizer.  Who knew there was such a thing?  Needless to say, by the time I went to the local store to find and purchase bulb fertilizer, it negated the whole purpose of ordering online to minimize cost.  Trump is the fertilizer.  Overpriced, surely unnecessary but for those who don’t know what they’re doing and can’t be bothered to do adequate research, they buy it–just in case.  So now, he’s done his job by supporting and feeding all of the hate and fear that was at least nominally underground, strengthened the roots so the stench will spread and linger, in the form of his supporters and the politicians who endorse equivalent messages of hate but are just polished enough not to use the naughty words that cause sensible souls to clutch their pearls.

So what’s going to happen now that all of this hate has been fed, engorged with new life?  Where will these people take their message and what will they do with it?  How will America recover, when our response to the one of the most brilliant, successful, scandal-free Presidents (and families, thank you Michelle Obama!) was to elevate a greedy, gilded, spoiled sociopath to a position where he has freely insulted everyone–within our borders and worldwide?  I’ve heard whispers of maybe the moderate Republicans will step up once more.  Really? Because I don’t see any, haven’t seen any in a long, long time.  A precedent has been set, long before Trump was given the nod.  A precedent was set when this obstructionist congress took their resistance to all things Obama so far they have ignored his nomination for the Supreme Court, and left the seat vacant instead.  I’ll be honest here, since they’ve carried it this far, I hope they’re forced to eat it with fava beans and a nice chianti, if Hillary Clinton would be so kind as to nominate someone who doesn’t lean so far right as Obama’s pick.  A precedent was set when the Tea Party movement became mainstream, took seats in Congress.

As for Donald Trump himself, there’s only one thing I’m sure of, much like his declared loss of $916 million dollars, he’s already figured out how to make this shitshow a personal gain and win.

If we are to remain–or maybe that’s return to–the land of the free, we can’t pretend this anger and hatred spouted from Trump’s coif and grabby hands, and we certainly can’t engage in magical thinking that this will all disappear with a Clinton win.

Do poppies grow from bulbs?  Because maybe my analogy shouldn’t be weeds, but heroin.  Cheap, easy, insidious, deadly.  The damage is done.

I Don’t Know How to Do This: aka, How ’bout them Mets

Table for One

Table for One

Like any good New Yorker, I’m no stranger to angst and internal conflict.  But damn, this fall–barely begun–and I already feel like I’ve never been so conflicted outside of my navel gazing sessions.  Obviously, I’m talking about this election cycle.  I’m sick of this, everywhere you look it’s been all-Trump all-the-time for a year already.  Again, New Yorker here, I was sick of Trump and his unique brand of gild and tarnish long before he officially threw his hat in the ring.  Mrs Fringe, while always intended to cover relevant political discussions, wasn’t meant to be a political blog.  But how can we not discuss this?  And therein lies the problem.  How will I sit across the dinner table from friends who support/supported Trump without a) puking and b) having my head explode?

Let’s start with an olive tray.

As any regular readers know, I’ve always prided myself on choosing not to live in an echo chamber, having friends with a variety of beliefs, lifestyles, and values.  It’s a good thing, keeps me thinking, keeps me making informed decisions, not just spouting rhetoric. Now, though, now I’m questioning this.  I’d like to interject one thought here, I have some friends on the left who are painting Trump supporters with the proverbial broad brush, “evangelical right wingers.” For the most part, in terms of people I actually know, that isn’t who I’m seeing supporting him.  I’m not religious, but have friends who are devout, and they will not support Trump because they see him as the antithesis of religious values.  I see him and the Trump/Pence ticket as the antithesis of any value system that prizes humanity, let alone ethics.

Amuse-bouche of fried tofu with truffle oil

Putting aside bombastic slogans about making America great again, let’s take a look at Trump and Pence, what each of them stands for, things they’ve said and done.  Donald Trump continually makes misogynistic statements about women.  When these types of statements are made over and over again, he didn’t misspeak, these are his beliefs.  He thought he should be lauded for not attacking Hillary Clinton because of her husband’s extramarital shenanigans.  During the debate.  I guess I’m slow, because I just don’t see how this has anything to do with the qualifications of Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States, or her policy positions.   Yesterday, we got to hear about this little gem.  Oh yes, let’s expand rape culture by voting into the office of President a man who believes mauling women is his right.  Because money, and dangly bits.  He believes Planned Parenthood, an organization that he admits helps millions of women, should be defunded.  The only logical conclusion I can make here is that he doesn’t want women to be helped.  Or healthy.  Of course, let’s not forget his quote that women who have abortions should be punished.  Pence, of course, isn’t just talking, he has a track record, strongly pro-life, his record includes restricting women’s rights in Indiana, he is strongly pro-life, has also voted against stem cell research, and voted against 4 weeks of paid family leave for federal employees.

Carrot and ginger soup garnished with slivers of pickled pig snout

One social area where Trump isn’t completely awful is gay rights.  But don’t breathe that sigh of relief just yet, first take a long hard look at Mike Pence.  The man who voted “no” on enforcing anti-gay hate crimes. My personal favorite *gag* is his history of advocating for tax dollars to fund conversion therapy. Yanno, that debunked, bullshit pseudoscience that claims gay people can be “reformed.”

Frisee salad, wilted with grapefruit sections and broccoli rabe–because this dinner can’t be too bitter.

Trump is a proponent of racial profiling.  Despite actual evidence, he thinks stop and frisk is fabulous; again, something he wants to expand. What’s that, he’s not racist? I’m being too politically correct?  Claimed a judge would be biased because of the judge’s Mexican heritage, has been sued more than once for not renting to black people, failed to reject the support of the Klu Klux Klan.  He’s still blahblahblah about that hypothetical wall between us and the Mexican border (worked so well for Berlin), he wants to ban Muslim immigrants, and from his plexiglass, gold-plated bubble, “Syrian refugees are a Trojan horse,” because helping desperate, starving people trying to live and be free to practice their religion and work is not the American way.  Owait.  Yup, must be me, he isn’t racist at all.

Roasted boar with red beans, oranges and bok choy

Trump thinks not paying federal taxes makes him smart.  Hmm.  In some respects, as a businessman, I suppose it certainly does make him savvy.  But the position of President isn’t equivalent to CEO, it’s about representing the interests of the people of our so-called democracy, not further lining his pockets.  Please, someone explain to me how anyone can believe Trump supports veterans and the military when he believes not paying the taxes that fund veterans and the military is something to brag about.  When he continually disparages the sacrifices made by veterans and their families? He says “no one respects us,” in reference to other countries.  I can certainly see the US losing respect by the day, the longer Trump has supporters.

Buccatini with parmesan and rainbow peppercorns

What’s that, dear?  Oh, jobs, yes, Trump will bring back all the jobs.  And that, after all, is a real concern for real Americans, not theoretical loss of civil rights, we’re worried about our paychecks.  And he’s a businessman.  Oh yes, his successful businesses with multiple bankruptcy filings, that is an excellent model for the United States.  His long history of reneging on contracts, not paying contractors the agreed upon fees.  What? You think I will address (again) his lies about bringing manufacturing jobs back to America when his own companies continue to exploit tax loopholes by manufacturing their products outside of the US?  Mike Pence believes those pesky regulatory burdens are economy killers?  No worries, we’re having a civilized dinner, imaginary dishes to go with all these imaginary jobs.

Aged gouda with smoked pepitas and macadamias 

Both Trump and Pence dislike the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), and would love the opportunity to repeal it.  It certainly is far from perfect, I can agree, but it’s a whole lot better than what we had before, with millions more people uninsured and people who wanted health insurance unable to get any because of preexisting conditions.  Mike Pence has voted No on giving mental health full equity with physical health, voted No on expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program, voted Yes on denying non-emergency treatment for lack of Medicare Co-Pay.  Oh yes, this is exactly who we need.  Yesterday I read about this incident.  Certainly, it wasn’t Trump or Pence who sent this epileptogenic video to this journalist with epilepsy–but I didn’t hear them immediately denouncing it, either.  Epilepsy, a potentially fatal disorder that has its own place at the dinner table in my home.  Talk about triggers– I read that article and flashed on every time I’ve watched my daughter turn gray and stop breathing.  Life and health are overrated, aren’t they?  Unless of course you’re male, white and wealthy enough that you can pay out of pocket for any and all health expenses.  If you’re fortunate enough not to have extensive experience with health care costs, let me tell you, someone has to be extraordinarily wealthy to pay out of pocket, working class/middle class won’t cut it.

Apple pie in lard crust with salep dondurma and espresso

Sorry, I don’t have the patience for a twenty-three course meal, and if I tried to hit all of the important positions this post would be 14,000 words long.  The offerings in my imaginary meal are bizarre, you didn’t imagine it.  They reflect the bizarre twists and justifications I’m seeing in defense of Trump and in defense of Trump supporters.  Over the last few days, I’ve heard a lot of talk from friends who lean left (the way I do) as they try to preserve friendships by tempering statements about “deplorables” by saying they don’t believe all Trump supporters are deplorable, they’re regular people who are nice, just afraid or misguided.  I understand that.  I don’t have that many friends, the majority of those friendships I have are treasured, steeped in mutual history, shared experiences and laughter.  But when someone supports Trump, and I think of my dinner table, I lose my appetite.  Who sits at my dinner table?  My family, my in-laws, my friends.  A diverse group that includes people of many ethnic backgrounds, skin colors, socio-economic status, varying faiths and lack thereof, different sexual orientations, differently abled.  When you support Trump, you are making a public statement that you don’t believe women are human beings, equal in any way to men, let alone entitled to feel physically safe. When you support Trump, you are saying you don’t believe in gay rights.  When you support Trump, you are saying you don’t believe people of color are deserving of the same respect and opportunities, the same safety, as white people.  When you support Trump, you are saying you don’t believe my daughter or my husband deserve to have health insurance.  You are saying it’s a-okay for my loved ones to leave my dinner table and be stopped and frisked, threatened, harassed, for daring to have lives.

This isn’t like any other election year, the Trump/Pence ticket isn’t like any other Republican offering.  You don’t get to say, “well, I like his tax plan,” and ignore the complete lack of humanity, lack of integrity, ignore his intention to repeal the rights of everyone who doesn’t think and act like Trump, repeal freedom of the press under the guise of calling out “mainstream media bias.”  If you are supporting Trump/Pence, you are allying yourself with the ticket supported by the KKK.  Think about that, the motherfucking Klu Klux Klan.  We are the company we keep.

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!”

Fundamental

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Picture This

Exhibition at the Met Breuer

Exhibition at the Met Breuer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I cut off her name, oops.  Janine Antoni.

I cut off her name, oops. Janine Antoni.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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