United States

One of Those Days

Byron and Ramiro, by John Sonsini, 2008

Byron and Ramiro, by John Sonsini, 2008

Yesterday was just another one of those days.  You know the ones. Where you sit in kiddo’s specialologist’s office and they’re telling you news you don’t want to hear and their voice gets all tinny and small and you feel all tinny and small but part of your brain Must Keep Up Appearances so it engages your mouth and you try to sound like a Reasonable Adult Human Being by asking the right questions and taking notes as they tell you about two other specialologists that must now be added to The List of necessary ologists for said kiddo even though their words feel like a spray of pellets shooting holes in your tin self. Yeah, one of those days.

I haven’t actually read any news articles or watched any clips since leaving for the doctor yesterday.  This morning I scanned the headlines, and I didn’t miss much. Just another day with this administration, apparently gearing up to declare war on Iran, Mexico, China, and Australia (?!).  And, needless to say, continuing the war on the American People, specifically Democrats, women, people of color, Muslims, the wrong types of Christians, children, those who live in poverty, unions and union members, and anyone who mistakenly thinks Holocaust Remembrance Day and Black History Month aren’t about our Fearless Tweeter.  Did I miss anyone? I’m sure I did.

The other day I blogged about us, who “us” is, and the need to stop pretending that the supporters of our administration and these new policies aren’t part of us.  Indulge me today, while I talk about the GOP for the same reasons, just for a second. They aren’t going to save me, you, or anyone other than their own hides and bank accounts. Reasonable Republicans.  I believe that used to be a thing, much as I might have disagreed with them.  Now they don’t exist, not those in office, anyway.  Sure, a few make some noises here and there, statements mumbling disagreement, but ultimately, they’re staying right in line with our everything old is new again White Supremacist sanctioned policies.  Noises and mumbles don’t amount to more than a fart in a breeze when two of the horrific Cabinet picks were forced through despite the Democratic Senators’ boycott.  When there’s any one of them willing to support that horrific choice for Secretary of Education.  Thinkofthechildren my eye. When they ignore shady ties to Russia to clear Tillerson. When they support a well documented racist for Attorney General. When they quietly allow the firing of an acting Attorney General for putting the People and the Constitution above the administration. When they don’t say a word about the many active conflicts of interest. When suddenly Putin is someone to be admired, a role model. When legal and peaceful dissent and freedom of the press are overtly threatened.

What’s already occurred and occurring is horrific. I don’t have to read every word of every article every day to know this.  But I don’t get to ignore what’s going on in the country and world around me.  We may want to pretend we can just keep our heads down and it won’t effect us, but it does and will, in ways large and small.  Like imported goods being taxed so high we can’t afford fresh fruits and vegetables. Like losing healthcare. Like losing doctors to bans and deportations. Like losing research scientists for the same reasons. Like losing public schools. Like losing special education rights completely. Like more job losses because of hiring freezes, tech companies going to friendlier countries.  Like losing the right to practice whatever religion you choose. Or not. Like losing the right to vote because of increased gerrymandering. Like losing the right to choose, including situations of rape, the mother’s life at risk, and non-viable pregnancies.  Like losing the gains made in legalizing medical marijuana.  Like losing LGBTQ rights. Like losing all of our damned Allies in the world we share because they’ve been insulted and dismissed.  These are just a few of the very real, potential losses for all of us, without even looking at the more dramatic and yet suddenly also possible scenarios. The only question we have now is will this shitshow result in disaster or complete annihilation.

So, stop. Stop waiting for these imaginary ethical Republican senators and congresspeople to step up. I used to believe the next specialologist would have The Answer, maybe even The Solution, to my girl’s ever-increasing medical needs, but it became necessary to face reality and stop getting my hopes too high.  Still necessary to treat each issue as it arises, even necessary to hold a bit of hope in my back pocket, but for the sake of sanity and reasonable functioning, blind faith that everything will be ok and will go back to “normal” shortly is foolish.  As foolish as expecting the GOP to step up, or thinking our country hasn’t been fundamentally, irrevocably damaged.

Another Day, Another Leap Backwards

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The image above is quite the statement, no?

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I can’t possibly write a post for every new atrocity I see coming from Washington DC or read about these past six days.  I, along with most of the people I know, am overwhelmed.  Shocked. Disgusted.  Infuriated. Flabbergasted.  For a few brief hours between Saturday night and Sunday morning, I had some hope.  So many women marching together, across the country, across the globe.  And then I learned a new phrase, “alternative facts.”  Bye, Hope!  Give me a call and we’ll do lunch some time. As far as I can tell, alternative facts are what happen when you take a lie, dress it up, add some lipstick and good hairspray, and then shout it over the actual facts.

We have grown used to instant access to unlimited information.  Much of the last year has focused on the negatives of this, because much of the information available is untested and untrue; perhaps a kernel of truth popped through a skewed burst of rancid oil and hot air to morph into a flake that looks deceptively soft, but remains hard and undigestible as it travels through the system.  Still, having access to information, facts about what’s happening now and what has happened in the past is, to say the least, a good thing.  Access to information like: what are our rights? What is climate change? Why did World War I begin? How did Hitler gain so much power, and how were average citizens convinced to engage in atrocities against other human beings? Why have sales of George Orwell’s 1984 shot up? And of course, how did they get the toothpaste in the tube?

I don’t know about you, but I’m really going to miss facts and information when they’re banned. Oh wait, that’s already begun.  Who needs the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the information and health protections it offers to citizens?  After all, it was created by that radical progressive, Richard Nixon.  It will only slow down the slaughter of human beings sure to begin shortly with the repeal of the ACA and cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.  Who needs Public Broadcasting?  Our children don’t need access to programming that isn’t beholden to corporate sponsors, shows that teach them about their world.  Pfft, that nonsense indoctrinates them with crazy ideas, like truth and facts, justice, equality, and humanity.  Science (oh, that dirty word).  I mean, if children have access to that shit, when they grow up they might want to keep learning, know more, discuss more, research, compare facts, and (shudder) then offer that information to the public.  We’ve been promised fast and furious by our new US administration, and they aren’t hesitating to deliver.

Oh! And just in case you think this is merely early bluster, that no one is really going to limit the information available to us, we’ve been offered this gem.  Yes, journalists facing felony charges for doing their jobs. Of all the nauseating and horrific things I’ve seen and heard over the past six days, this has to be the most terrifying.  Journalism.  Journalists.  Those whose job it is to observe and report on the political process, make sure the people in office do not exploit us or democracy.  Those whose job it is to make facts available to the public.  The fourth estate.  It’s true that along with serious and investigative journalism, there’s a long history of yellow journalism.  True, newspapers, news shows, etc need to attract readers and viewers and show profits or those journalists will lose their jobs.  In this day and age of short attention spans and desires for gilded squirrels, that has to make it incredibly difficult for individual journalists to avoid yellow journalism, and/or opining when what we need are straight facts.  Also true, 90% of our media outlets are currently owned by only six corporations, which is inherently dangerous.

And with so much information being thrown at us with updates every ten minutes, it can be easy to blow off what’s important.  Not make the connections we as citizens should be making, because we’re waiting for the next guy to tell us what those connections are, what we should snicker at and where we should be paying attention. Scotch tape holding the POTUS tie together? Snicker. C’mon, seems like a no-brainer, that our President, his press secretary and his counselor are talking about inaugural crowd sizes, offering “alternative facts” about them as if this is an issue of major import, is one to snicker at.  Except it isn’t.  That the POTUS and his staff feel the need to lie about something so small (in every sense of the word) and so easily, clearly proven false is in fact extremely important. It tells us what’s important to this new administration (hint, it isn’t us, the citizens of the US), and tells us how little respect they have for the public.  It also tells us what type of relationship they intend to have with the press. Whether we love or hate the press, we need them.  We always have, we always will. Without a true, free press, there is no democracy.

With a POTUS and administration that wants to isolate us, keep us from engaging with our traditional international allies and reality, wants to tell us any news they don’t like is fake, wants to feed us bullshit on a bun and tell us it’s good ol’ ‘Merican beef; with the GOP in control of the Senate and the House having a collective, waking wet dream of enabling and encouraging them to step on any dissent and take away our freedoms, our health care, our American dream of safe havens, paths to education and upward mobility, equality; with corporations giddy over the opportunity to make themselves more moneymoremoney without having to worry about pesky regulations, safety, or oversight, the only thing we the people have left are facts.  Knowledge. Integrity.

So I’m begging all journalists, please, please keep going. Keep digging, keep investigating, keep informing us.  The day after the election, I bought subscriptions to the NY Times and the Washington Post.  I’m thinking this may have been the wisest investment I’ve ever made. Toto, we may not be in Kansas anymore, but we won’t be easing down this road. We have all been given a load to carry.  None more than journalists.

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.

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.

Can We Stop Now?

Shrouded

Shrouded

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

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

But here I am, again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

With Intent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Official, We’re Doomed

IMG_7382

Critical thinking.  In my opinion, it’s the single most important thing (after learning to read) for people to learn.  It’s what allows us to make informed decisions, objectively analyze information, sift opinion from fact and learn to incorporate the nuances of life.  Develop empathy, compassion because we understand (at least the facts of) all sides, whether we agree with them or not. Not just so we can make sensible charts and see patterns, but critical thinking also feeds imagination, promoting innovation, new discoveries, and progress.  The higher the level of educational institution, the more critical the thinking should become.  And it’s something we’re seeing less and less of.  There isn’t a whole lot of room and time left for teaching critical thinking skills when public schools are forced to spend the majority of their days teaching to (high stakes, homogeneous) tests and teachers are evaluated based on how their students perform on said tests, and how well they design a bulletin board.  That leaves college, right?

On one side, we’ve got Bernie Sanders, who wants to eliminate tuition, and offer free education at public universities.  I like Bernie, and I agree with much of what he has to say.  I would absolutely support free tuition at public universities.  It isn’t unprecedented in the US, California public universities were free to California residents until the 1920s, with a nominal fee for another fifty years.  In New York the CUNY (City University of New York) schools were free (I think some, but not all) until the 1970s.  If I were king, I’d make it free for in-state residents, still charge for room and board for other than low-income students, and place GPA restrictions on the free tuition, both to get it in the first place, and then to keep it once a student is in.  (And no more bullshit with these “weighted” high school GPAs, stop penalizing economically disadvantaged kids from poor communities who don’t have the opportunity to take 23 meaningless AP classes.)  I think these types of restrictions and minimum requirements would have to be in place to avoid degrees from public universities becoming meaningless.

And on the other side, we’ve got this. Excuse me a minute while I puke, will ya?  In a nutshell, concealed carry laws will now allow students to carry handguns on campus at public Texas universities.  Because of this, professors are being told to avoid sensitive subjects, drop certain topics from their curriculum, and limit student access to them.  Putting aside the underlying facts regarding guns, gun violence, and gun safety (because we don’t want to get involved in too many high fallutin’ facts here, it’s just a blog, after all), there is no way to look at this and not see how very wrong it is.  College.  What’s the point of it, anyway?  A liberal arts education was intended to provide students with (drumroll) critical thinking.  Different ways of viewing the world, figure out how to solve complex problems, communicate effectively, provide you with the ability to think for yourself.  I suppose liberal arts is definitely out with this now, huh?  Well how about an applied degree in science, mathematics, law?  Nope, sorry, because any and all of those fields of study may include sensitive topics and be offensive to personal beliefs, they can’t be studied.

To be fair–and possibly even demonstrate critical thinking skills–despite my left leanings I also think the extreme on the other side is a bunch of bullshit. Excessive trigger warnings and attempts to “protect” students from subjects they might find uncomfortable or offensive effectively muffle debate, discussion, and analysis. This warm and fluffy blanket of avoidance isn’t doing us any favors.

I believe in education.  Power, reasoning, and opportunities grow from academic discourse, exposure to new ideas, and studying history.  That said, I don’t believe everyone should or needs to go to college.  Some people aren’t academically gifted.  Some people aren’t good at sitting in a classroom. *that’s me*  It doesn’t make sense to me when I see help wanted ads for receptionists that want college degrees.  Way to penalize people who don’t go to college.  Skills learned outside the classroom are important too, and many jobs and careers that make our society keep chugging along have nothing to do with a BA, BS, MS, etc.  I do believe everyone who’s capable of doing the work and wants to go to college should have the opportunity to do so without trading a degree for homelessness, life on the pole, or forfeiting any chance of ever using that degree to get ahead in their chosen field because they’re so in debt from it.

Regardless of the path chosen, and regardless of whether you lean left or right, aren’t we all saying we’re frustrated because we want better, we want more?  Downward mobility isn’t just about economic status.  One by one we’re burying the tools we need along with our heads in the interest of…what?  Ignorance, narrow-mindedness, and divisiveness.

I don’t care whether your classroom of choice is a traditional one, online, or in the corner bar at happy hour.  What matters is that we insist on continuing to learn, listen to all the sides and all the facts, and grow.

We need knowledge.  Progress.  Problem solving.  Opportunity.

Excuse Me, Your Fly is Open

Fresh  off the dirty laundry pile!

Fresh off the dirty laundry pile!

I haven’t wanted to talk much about Trump and the upcoming election here on Mrs Fringe.  Why feed the fire and all that.  Or not, maybe if I’m honest, it’s because I was hoping to cling to my default defensive position of burying my head in the sand, thereby pretending he’ll go away.  Surely Americans will come to their senses long before an election?  Surely his blatant lies, manipulations, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and generally abysmal record as a human being will send him straight to the peanut gallery.  Apparently not, heh.  And let’s face it, you don’t come to Mrs Fringe for political analysis.  I’m not that objective.  I’m not that good with the straight facts and figures.  As I’ve said before, I’m not that smart.  If you want a blog with reasoned analysis, I recommend this guy, Benjamin Studebaker.    (I know, not completely objective, but smart, backs everything up with facts, and straightforward.)

I’m still not ready to talk big picture, address my fears re who the GOP has put forth as viable candidates overall, but.  Today I’ll talk about Donald Trump.  First, a bit of background on me.  When I was younger, I worked in social services.  My very first job in the field was with a camp that served autistic, psychotic, and what was then termed “emotionally disturbed” youth.  (I don’t know why kiddos with autism were in that grouping, it was a long time ago, autism was even less understood, and it was considered rare–well before the epidemic it is today.)  In retrospect, it was a dumping ground for kids no one knew what to do with.  I know of three who were institutionalized not long after, but I’d guess that’s what happened with the majority of them.

One of the campers was a teen I’ll call Joey.  I don’t remember exactly how old Joey was–he wasn’t in my group– somewhere in his upper teens, already looked like a grown man, with limited verbal/comprehension skills complicated by English being his second language.  Joey had an obsession with his penis.  Every time he wasn’t actively engaged in something else (and often when he was), his fly was down, schlong out, and masturbating intensely, while shouting his catchphrase.  Between his catchphrase and obsession, I’m guessing there had been a serious injury and/or abuse in his past.  Obviously, for all the reasons, we couldn’t allow Joey to walk around masturbating all day (not least of which the injury he was causing himself with such frenzy).   So in addition to songs, chants, directions and redirections, hoots and echolalia, the command of “Joey, put that thing away!”  was a constant refrain.   We shared the campgrounds with other camps, and the other camp directors and counselors were forever threatening to get us kicked out if Joey continued whipping it out.  We smiled, nodded, made the right noises and then turned away rolling our eyes.

At the time Joey was considered harmless.  The majority of these kids, and the adults I ended up working with, were “harmless.”  I was passionate in my defense of these children, wished with all my heart I could protect them all, always.  When one of the kiddos broke my nose that summer, I argued on his behalf when the director kicked him out of the camp without a chance for me to meet with him and let him know I was ok.  I was so angry, so indignant I wanted to quit.  It hadn’t been an appropriate setting for him.  I didn’t quit because I also met my first autistic kiddo there.   I was idealistic, young enough and brash enough to romanticize what I was doing, but I was good at what I did.  The child with autism?  I was over the moon excited when I was able to get him to play one round of duck-duck-goose after weeks of trying.  I called his mother.  When she understood who was calling and why, she called to her husband, “Magic Fringe is on the phone.”  That’s what they called me, and thinking about it still warms the cockles of my heart.  There’s no magic, though.

Non violent, these children and the adults they become are a million times more likely to be the victims of predators than predatory themselves.  I just made up that “statistic,” but the intent behind it was a fact then and a fact now.  But the majority doesn’t mean all.  I did work with some people who were violent, on occasion a danger to others as well as themselves.  And as I grew more experienced, and now as I’ve gotten older, I see the nuances I didn’t see then.  It’s still heartbreaking, but not quite harmless to have a young man walking around hooting, yelling, and masturbating in public.  The potential for danger; the potential for violence caused to him, by him, or to those just too close to get out of the way was real.

When Donald Trump hoots about immigrants, about building a wall between Mexico and the US, when he calls women “bimbos,” when he trumpets that sexual assault in the military is to be expected, when he calls a woman “disgusting” for needing to take a break to pump breast milk, when he says he would eliminate gun free zones in military bases and schools, when he says the answer to our broken mental health system is to find a way to arm more of the “good guys” to take out the “sickos,” when he calls for banning Muslim immigrants from entering the US, when he brays about plans to bomb the shit out of Isis (does he know Isis isn’t a country?), when he shouts that he will force Nabisco to produce Oreos in the US, Apple to produce their products here–while at the same time his clothing line is manufactured in Mexico and China…I could go on and on.  The point is, when he spouts this nonsense, he’s whipping it out.

He has no filter.  He isn’t honest.  There’s a difference.  With all the lies he vomits, it’s shocking to me that anyone, anywhere, perceives him as anything other than a dishonest buffoon.  I’m also shocked when people talk about him as a businessman, how good that would be for America.  Umm, America isn’t a business.  It’s a country, made up of individual citizens, with varying needs and vulnerabilities.  Trump is indeed a good businessman, if good here is defined by  selfishness and the amount of money accrued.  He’s so good, he was able to declare bankruptcy multiple times–wipe his debts clean at the expense of thousands of jobs–and still make money.  He’s so shrewd, he’s got people supporting him who represent those he screwed with each and every bankruptcy.  By the way, that whole idea of businessman as politician?  We did that here in New York City, with Bloomberg.  He fired those who disagreed with him (oh, those pesky checks and balances) and when his term was up, he changed the term limit laws so he could stay.  Get ready to hand Trump a crown and scepter.  You may or may not want someone you consider a “bleeding heart” at the helm of this country, but do you want someone who is actually morally bankrupt?

The very same things that make me unqualified to be a political pundit–lack of filter, lack of understanding of the nuances in policies, inability to grasp the ramifications of decisions made today for 30 years from now (it’s true, I’m a lousy chess player), selfishness and general hotheadedness–are what make Trump unqualified to lead this country.

When people cheer him on, use him as validation to let their inner racist come out, their not so underlying faith that women are less-than, their complacence with ignorance of how the world works, when they vote for him–they aren’t just turning away from nuance and rolling their eyes, they’re handing him lube and inciting potentially dangerous situations.

Put that thing away, Mr. Trump.

Living in the Real World?

City Streets

City Streets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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