Monday, July 26, 2021

Next Bear Up

 The childhood Bear of the friend whose house I’m sitting. 

The water turned brown: 

Invitation: Send Books for George Floyd Community Library

I've mentioned a few times here tidying up the Community Library at George Floyd Square.
I've added books from the thrift store too--mostly by and about Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color.

Maybe some of you have books along those lines on your bookshelves that you'd like to donate?

They could be oldies but goodies, such as Maya Angelou or Obama's older autobiographies, or new stuff, like books by the Afrofuturists such as N. K. Jemison.
Kids books are wanted, for sure!

If you do have some to donate, you could mail them to me, I'd take them over, and then post photos here of the books in place.
You can email me for my address if you're interested and don't have it.


I was thinking about it because I really want to give the community library a good weed---some of the books are water damaged, missing covers, or just entirely unwanted titles.
(Why oh why do people "donate" utter junk?)
But I don't want to overstep...

Last night I ran into a neighborhood pal, a white guy who lives near and has been involved at the square from the beginning.

I told him I want to weed the library, and he said,
"Go for it! That's how the square works."

He himself was on his way to add a gravestone for Duante Wright to the Say Their Names Memorial
near the Square (each headstone represents a Black person killed by police or civilians--(Emmet Till has a stone)--no one had gotten around to it yet.
("Say Every Name" list of names and photos)

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Through the Narrow Passage

I reconnected this spring with one of my oldest [former] friends, via FB.

We worked together when we were nineteen.
She came from an affluent family in business; I came from an academic family. 
We were both experimenting with what direction we'd go in our own lives.

She ended up working to administer social good
through high-end nonprofits (not like the nonprofit dump I work for, LOL).
I'm sure she does excellent work, and, she let me know, has been excellently paid for it, as she should be.
As we all should be.

I left academia but stayed with books in various forms (libraries, publishing, now thrift store Book Lady). I have chosen to work part-time, for the sake of my creative, mental, and emotional sustainability.

(Uh, erm... so I could lie on the couch and read the books.)

Old Friend and I fell out some ten+ years ago. It's been kinda nice to catch up, after all that time.
. . . for a while.
But I kept running into these huge differences in p.o.v.

It's like long ago we swam different directions through a narrow-necked fish cage:
easy to enter, difficult to reverse back out of. And now we are way, far apart.

I was talking recently to Depressed Cashier, PhD, about
how we don't feel we could easily tolerate going back to the sort of workplaces we used to be in:
middle-class, white culture jobs,
where everyone has a college degree and does a lot of Good (truly!) for "Other People".
That's the culture my Old Friend thrives in. (She is the helper, not the Other People.)

it's more than different economic and social milieux Old Friend and I swim in.

This past year, working a mile from George Floyd's murder, has changed me.
I'm not sure how, exactly, but it has.

I was just talking to a coworker––
Ass't Man (AM), of all people (has he changed, or has he merely gone dormant, like a volcano?)––
about how hard we both find it to communicate how we feel, where we find ourselves, and who we are (becoming) after this devastating, eye-opening year,
a year when the wheels came off.

Eye-opening in all sorts of ways:
I didn't know, for instance, what was inside tires until last year when AM and I went down Lake St. on May 29, 2020, the day after the first uprising after the cops killed George Floyd---after he and I had painted the boards covering the thrift store's broken windows---
and we saw a car burned down to its skeleton.

The rubber tires had melted, revealing their inner web of wires:

And that's a metaphor for a whole bunch of stuff I saw and learned about How Things Work.

Below is one of my favorite photos of the day (have I posted it before?): AM shaking  out of his shoe in a parking lot.
The Covid masks helped with the haze of smoke from still smoldering buildings. The photo is out of focus, but the haze IS smoke.

So, I've swum through another narrow passage---another birth canal.
I do think of it as an entrance into life, not death, because difficult and wounding as it has been, and continues to be (and sometimes dangerous too), it's a vital place to be.

I feel sort of like the Dye Plants teacher making vivid dyes out of invasive species, while Old Friend is hiring immigrant gardeners to chop them down.

Writing back and forth, it's become clear that if I had a hard time reaching Old Friend before, it's even harder now.
Impossible, maybe.
Or, maybe more to the point, just not worth the effort.

Writing about this feels as if I'm taking a depth sounding.

I'm not lost, but I'm getting my bearings in new waters.

"Living things are unpredictable."

Thanks for the engaged comments on yesterday's post about the natural plant dyes class I took, friends!
I want to respond to a couple points, since I'm entirely new to this and enjoying the learning.

I'd never dyed with plants before.
I was amazed how variable dyes are, depending on how they're prepared... plus other variables, like the mineral content of your water, what pot you dye in; what fabric you dye, etc.

As the teacher, Theresa, said, "Living things are unpredictable."
No kidding.

River commented she'd thought hollyhock would dye pink, not blue-grey. I was surprised, too, that the color of the plant itself does not determine the color of its dye. (Though the hollyhock was a purple black, so losing the red isn't too unlikely.)

replied that the color can be changed or intensified with different mordants (fixatives, such as alum) and/or different modifiers (e.g. mineral waters colored by soaking iron, copper soaked in it).

We saw that in class.

 Die, Invasive Species, Dye!

Here's buckthorn--an invasive species everyone hates because it's hell to remove, and it keeps coming back
(Minnesota DNR page on managing buckthorn).
But it's a great dye

Below:  For this dye batch, buckthorn bark was simmered in hot water, like tea, making a foxy-color (bottom left).
Then iron water was added to some of the stuff, like what Penny Cooper is holding, bringing out the gold:

: Also buckthorn––but the bark was soaked in 50/50 ammonia and water. (No heat.)
Same plant, but it dyes pink!

Theresa is a retired chemistry teacher. She teaches classes on dyeing with local invasive species. She encourages it because everyone wants to kill these plants--they are the opposite of endangered.

She sells Invasive Colors yarn too, at markets in Duluth. 
"It's amazing what you can get from nasty plants," she says.

Salvaging vs Foraging

Lichen is the opposite of invasive--it is very fragile.
Joanne was concerned that the teacher used lichen dye, even with lichen taken from dead trees. She
commented :

"Left on the fallen tree, the lichen would have aided its decomposition. In my estimation, lichen is too fragile to be harvested, ever. I used to spin wool, dye it and sell it, and I never took lichen. It takes too, too, too many years to grow.
Some colors are not worth the cost."
This is important, so I want to clarify what Theresa told us.
She lives in the area of the Duluth Folk School and has contacts to alert her to salvage projects for endangered plants.

When road crews are coming through forest, cutting down trees or breaking up rock, and and hauling it all away, she goes in and salvages lichen that would not be left in a natural environment.
That's different than foraging for plants in the wild.

Theresa said many dyers will not work with lichen, even salvaged, because it alerts other people to its wonderfulness who then might forage lichen from the wild.

So, using lichen is something of an ethical quandary.
Does it encourage people to be more aware and appreciative of lichen, and thus to be more likely to protect it and its environment?

That's the effect it has on me.
I was deeply grateful to get to work with this crazy life form.

Or, does it give license to people who don't give a hoot?
Yeah, I can see how that could happen too.

Working with living beings... We are unpredictable.
Gotta weigh the probabilities and the costs, and make your choice.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Dye Class

 Penny Cooper and I dyed these Merino wool yarn and cotton strips at the Duluth Folk School natural dyes class.  

I had no idea natural dyes from everyday plants such as buckthorn (an invasive species), hollyhock, and tansy would produce such an array of colors—and so easily! Mostly it was like brewing tea, with a fixative—alum, the same as you use to make pickles. 

What I loved most was the lichen dye, because I love lichen. (I wrote a sonnet about it.)
DO NOT HARVEST LICHEN, the teacher said. 
It is too fragile and too slow-growing a life form to survive much harvesting.

The teacher, who lives locally, salvaged this lichen from the bark of cut-down trees the county was hauling away, for road clearing. "I have sources of information for salvage operations," she said.

It's sad you can't harvest lichen because, most astonishingly to me, this particular lichen soaked in ammonia water for six months made a dye that turned the yarn pinky-purple and the cotton a deeper purple.

Now I want to stew up all the abundant plants (some are invasive species it's almost impossible to kill anyway) and see what color they dye stuff.

Friday, July 23, 2021

At the lake

 At Lake Superior (with girlettes)

"The tactical application of emotional intelligence"

 "The tactical application of emotional intelligence"
That's a line I jotted down from a video about negotiating skills.

I'm going to Duluth (port city on Great Lake Superior) with my sister today. We're staying overnight, and tomorrow we're taking a Natural Dye Plants class at the Folk Arts school there--the class is my birthday present to her.
I'm interested too--the dye plants are all local. Even lichen!

Sister and I have some big differences, and we haven't spent this much time together in the past... decade or more.
Hm, maybe two decades: not since our mother died in 2002.

It's not enough for me to rely on my intuition, here.
I need a plan.
Especially when difficult feelings arise, such as are likely to arise with Sister, I tend to default to old, baked-in habits--habits that have been through the kiln and they aren't changeable now.

But emotional intelligence is fresh, wet, malleable clay--IF I can remember to use it.
That's the "tactical application"--have a plan and call on it.

So, my plan it to avoid talking about my wounded spots, where I feel tender.

Find what we share, and meet her there!

And here's the thing: 
we DO share a lot.

She's only a year and nine months older than me, and I feel more comfortable with her than anyone in the world, in some ways. We inherited from our parents a belief--basically religious---in WORDS.
And creativity and the power of beauty.

I wish we were closer, but besides our personal differences, her wife and I don't get along--never have---and a few years ago the wife said I was not welcome in their house, and Sister backed her up.

Not that I argued against the wife's diktat---I'm happier not going to their house. But... that means some wounds are quiet, but remain unhealed.

Tactical plan: Don't go there.
Unless I want to open up the wound for review, which I don't.
To mix metaphors, it's best to let sleeping dogs lie.

Instead--focus on natural beauty and creativity, which is what plant dyeing is all about, and the North Shore too--gorgeous, powerfully healing---able to help me find my basic, re-set point.

TAKE A BREAK, Fresca, from the hard history, ever-present in the city.
Forget about it for 48 hours---that's hardly a dereliction of duty.

Have fun!
AAaaaaand.... take the dolls!

Oh, yeah. For sure.
Take the dolls.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Saving Grace of Buster Keaton

The humans in the dystopian future Walter Tevis imagines in Mockingbird (1980) are at peace––the peace of drugs that have sanitized them of all the unpleasant emotions, or pleasant.
Humans are dying out, and the apocalypse is a self-chosen, self-administered, drug-induced stupor.

Books might stir up feelings, so humans have long ago given up reading and rely entirely on something like YouTube instructional videos to learn to do things. Not that they do much of anything.

Paul, one of the three narrators of Mockingbird, taught himself to read as an adult when he found a kids learn-to-read book + instructional film.

He contacts the only free intelligence in the world, an A.I. called Robert Spofforth (he's another narrator), and asks for a job teaching people to read.
Spofforth sets him instead to translate title cards in old silent movies.

(from The Little Princess, 1917)

Turns out, Paul learns a lot about being human from the silent films. Toward the end of the book (p. 242. Bantam paperback), when Paul is off drugs and full of books, he muses...

"My upbringing, like that of all the other members of my Thinkers Class, had made me into an unimaginative, self-centered, drug-addicted fool. Until learning how to read I had lived in a whole world of self-centered, drug-addicted fools, all of us living ... in some crazy dream of Self-Fulfillment.

"All my notions of decency were something programmed by computers and robots who themselves had been programmed by some long-dead social engineers or tyrants or fools.

"I could visualize them then, the men who had decided in some distant past what the purpose of life really was and had set up dormitories and Population Control and the dozens of inflexible, solipsistic Edicts and Mistakes and Rules....
They would have thought of themselves as grave, serious, concerned men, ––the words 'caring' and 'compassionate' would have been frequently on their lips.

"They would have looked like William Boyd or Richard Dix*, with white hair at the temples and rolled up sleeves and, possibly, pipes in their mouths, sending memos to one another across paper-and-book-piled desks, planning the perfect world for Homo sapiens,
a world from which poverty, disease, dissension, neurosis, and pain would be absent,
a world as far from the world of the films of D. W. Griffith and Buster Keaton and Gloria Swanson––the world of melodrama and passions and risks and excitement––as all of their powers of technology and 'compassion' could devise."

Via"Buster Keaton" by Penelope Gilliatt

How nonchalant Keaton looks in these strenuous poses--he was all muscle.

Walter Tevis said in an interview that when he writes...

"I don’t do any outlin­ing. I don’t do any researching.
I was tempted while writing Mockingbird to start watching silent movies, you know, and see if I could pick some interesting stuff to use, and I realized that would’ve been just a dodge to avoid the type­writer. So I never research anything."

So I guess the movie stars Paul refers to are the ones Tevis knew from his own life.

*William Boyd (below, left) is a Father-Knows-Best type who played Hopalong Cassidy. Richard Dix's "
standard on-screen image was that of the rugged and stalwart hero".

Buster doll...

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

"it is very bad for people to find substitutes for living their lives"

I picked up a copy of Mockingbird (1980) by Walter Tevis in a little free library. It caught me right away: it starts with a robot trying to kill himself, but his programming won't let him die. The handsome, intelligent, sexless robot reminded me a little of Murderbot.

I'd never heard of Mockingbird, which surprised me a little because it's  good.
It surprised me a lot that I hadn't heard of Walter Tevis because three of his six novels are famous on film--a curious mix:

The Hustler (1959; 1961 movie with Paul Newman)

The Man Who Fell to Earth, (1963; movie starring David Bowie 1976),
and The Queen's Gambit (Netflix series, 2020)

Mockingbird has never been filmed. With the success of the Queen's Gambit, maybe now it will be.

It’s a hopeful story set in a dystopian future where robots do everything and a drugged humanity has forgotten how to read, or that reading even exists. 
Asked if a decline in literacy in America had inspired his plot line, Tevis said:
"My private experience as an English teacher has been that Americans don’t read books. They didn’t read books in 1949 when I started teaching. They don’t read books now [1981].

Television did make a difference. It deepened the slack of the slackjaws and gave another great quantity of garbage for people to fill their lives with. But, you know, there was other garbage around before television.

Mockingbird does sometimes, I think, weaken into an attack solely on television and on the modern world, and “weaken” I say, because I’m not completely convinced of all those things that I say.
But what I am convinced of is that it is very bad for people to find substitutes for living their lives, and that’s what I hope I do say, and say well, from time to time in the book.

--"An Interview with Walter Tevis", 1981, Brick Magazine

"This one's broken . . .

  . . . can I have it?"

"It's all about balance."

Real life girlettes, 1938, remind me--it's all about balance... which may be temporary but is a good thing to know yourself capable of.
Photo at the LOC.


A volunteer at the store says, 80 percent of people are neutral (he actually said "sheep", but that's too specific, and too negative);
10 percent are horrible;

and 10 percent are "absolutely wonderful".

It's different for Orphan Reds:
100 percent of the girlettes are 100 percent wonderful, each in her own way.

Here, Sunny Khan has made herself a fascinator out of a grass seedhead by the creek.

I don't know that I agree with the volunteer's percentages...
Maybe I'd say each one of us, within ourselves, is 80/10/10?

(More like a bell curve actually.)

But, anyway, the volunteer sure caught the experience of working with others--customers and coworkers, etc.

Most people are fine, neutral.
It's the minority that can elevate or erode your peace of mind.

Glad / Enough

I've been having a hard time this summer staying on my feet, holding my ground, with how the world is, how my society is.
House sitting a few blocks from George Floyd Square,
every day I think about his murder by agents of the State.
Working in a poor neighborhood next to a park where people live, I think about the affects of poverty every day.

It's disturbing, but the answer is not to pretend it doesn't exist, so I am sort of ... glad of being where I am?

NOT "glad" as in happy, but since these things do exist, having to face them, I'm ...mmm... how to put it?

Etymology of glad:
Old English glæd "bright, shining, gleaming; joy, gladness; pleasant, gracious...
Apparently the notion is of being radiant with joy;
the modern sense "feeling pleasure or satisfaction" is much weakened."

Radiant with joy.
I like that, but definitely not that, here. Nor "feeling pleasure"---but, yes, maybe "feeling satisfaction".

from Latin satisfacere "discharge fully, comply with, make amends,"
literally "do enough," from satis "enough" + facere "to make, do, perform".

The sense of being satisfied, not in the sense of feeling content, but in the sense of feeling enough... and having enough information:
"These things are happening, I want to know enough... and then do (respond) enough..."
You can never do enough, but you can do what you can do---which, is . . . what?
That takes some discerning!

I'm feeling my way here, as if in a dark and unfamiliar room.

Having certain social realities in my face is hard--but how much harder it is to BE the person in the park, the person under the knee. (Or, for that matter, to be the person kneeling on another, or to be the person buying sex from a seller in the park.)

I've felt worn down, like many of us, eh? seeing and thinking about these desperate things.

Lift Up, Slow Down

I want to consciously work on figuring out what lifts me up, helps me to carry on.
Like the very act of asking, What helps me? (Not what helps me forget reality, but what helps me carry on and respond to it with some... grace? strength?)

Truly. They give me perspective, and joy.

Calming (slowing) down helps.
I read about a soccer player who improved her game by running more slowly, which took some practice.

Practice slowing down--emotionally.
I've been doing that lately.

I recently had lunch with a friend who has told me I rev too fast for her.
(Others have told me this too--"you're too intense".
It's a funny thing--I sleep twelve hours, but when I'm awake, I'm awake.)
At lunch, I consciously slowed way down--(in a nice, calm way, not a self-smothering way)--and we had a much better connection.

At the end of lunch––during which we'd talked about some of the hard realities we're seeing––she said, "This is hard stuff, but your energy seems really good."

Hey! Success.
I felt better afterward than I usually do when I've seen her. So slowing down buffered me too.

That works physically too.
Gym teacher (GT) and I'd talked about that--how deliberately slowing down exercise can help you get stronger and stay safer.

I'm not liking group gym class. It's fun in its way, but it's too much strength-building exercises and not enough reflection.

I do a LOT of lifting and pushing and pulling 20 hours/week at work. I don't want more of it, I want to practice doing it at work with more conscious intention. That's what the one-on-one meeting with GT were about--how to do that.
Maybe I'll go back to private meetings in August.

Little Things

Anyway... what I do, can do?
Not big, heavy hitting stuff. I am not going to be Dorothy Day and live in the park. (I thought about it, but it's just not in me.)

I talked to a woman at the store who's running for City Council, and not that kind of thing either (political engagement)--I felt like my head was going to droop right off.

It's most often little stuff I do.
Little, but stuff that takes some deliberation and action.

I was thinking, for instance, about how I could support my coworkers as we are facing intense situations again this summer.
(Last year at this time, we were cleaning up the store after the rioting/looting attending the social uprising for justice).

I liked the photo from the annual dinner, so I got it printed, posted one copy in the break room and gave out copies.
(I wish everyone were in the photo, but no one had planned a group shot, this was spontaneous, so it's just some of us. Next year I'll arrange a whole-group photo. Hm, or maybe sooner.)

Maybe that seems an obvious workplace thing to do, but it's not the norm where I work. There's very little deliberate support of staff (much less actual training).

A little act like printing up a photo can go a far way toward saying, I see you; we're in this together.
Also, a little fun, color. Play! Helps carry the load.
Why not enjoy life, since we're stuck here?

It’s an adventure.

The past year and a half since Covid came have challenged everybody, in some way. In some cases, this epoch was like a flood that swept us up and carried us downriver.
As the waters recede (for the moment), I'm wonder where we find ourselves. Where I find myself.

I don't know...

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

The Political Potato

Working in a thrift store, I can find what I need or want, or what friends want or need... eventually.

i. Teak

Marz had no furniture when she moved into her new studio apartment. She furnished it almost entirely from my workplace for about $250 (incl. delivery!).

The final thing she needed was dining table chairs.
I nabbed these teak ones for her. (
The store had already provided two mid-century teak table lamps.) The chairs are, I think Danish, 1960s,  by Erik Buch? or, in the style of.
The upholstery is dirty, but ten bucks for the pair?
A steal.

Mostly, my coworkers don't know about and the customers don't care about mid-century modern design (mostly). Mr Furniture might have thrown these out, because they're dirty.

ii. Potato in the Park

The chairs might have ended up in the mini-park next door, where people are living. At least they'd get used instead of broken up in the Dumpster, which also happens.

People took these chairs, below, from the dumpster area to the park.
                                     ("12" = police)

In my quest to get sanitation services for this little park that has no water, no trash pick up (after my call to 3-1-1 a couple weeks ago didn't work), I sent this photo, below, of a potato to the City Council member for the ward.

I thought a light touch might work, and it did at least get a response.
The councilor is famously useless, or even corrupt, but she passed my email on to an aide, who sent the trash collectors to the park!

The aide wrote that they would put in a trash can too, but also said that the City is going to fence the property, so people can't go in, "unless there are objections."

I HATE POLITICS. I mean, the elected officials side of things. Lots of what I do is political, but I never go to meetings, and I never want to join committees,
etc., or even talk to politicians.

But what could I do?
I tossed and turned all night.

If the city fences off the park, the people there will be forced to move---again. I would love the people to move out of the park, because they are, many of them, armed and dangerous.

the city is doing this all over town, and not taking care of the root problems---not that it's easy to address homelessness, addiction, poverty.
Pushing people from one park to the next is robbing Peter to pay Paul.

In the morning, I wrote to the aide and said, I object, unless there's a larger PLAN to help the people in the park... and the neighborhood.

I even suggested some actions (because criticism without ideas to improve is useless):
Besides sanitation, bring in social services, and hold meetings WITH the people who live their.
They are citizens. They should be listened to.
And the neighbors too.


Sigh, sigh, sigh.

iii. Coworkers

Meanwhile, I am loving my coworkers.
We are stressed by the increased danger of coming to work (!), and management is pretty useless, with no plan to help anyone, but everyone's being kind to one another.

The board held the annual (except for Covid 2020) thank-you dinner for staff and volunteers of both thrift stores on Sunday.
I've never gone because I hate the board (they're subservient to the exec. director--it's his show), but I went this year to be with my coworkers after the hard past year and a half.

Here are some of us at the dinner. I'm in the center, wearing my favorite white linen shirt and blue Crocs. I love that shirt, but next year, I'm going to dress up--nab some outrageous dress from the store!

(I had to reclaim my Crocs from some little pesky dolls who were using them for speedboats.

Held in an events room of an Italian-American restaraunt, the thank-you dinner was serve-yourself spaghetti and meatballs.
The whole thing was a cheapskate affair (the board is ungenerous and short sighted)--not even flowers on the tables, and dessert was American cookies. 

"Where are the cannoli?" I asked. "Leave the thank-yous. Take the cannoli."
But no one had watched The Godfather.

But it was a great evening!  Complaints and great ideas that are going nowhere notwithstanding, I am in the right place with an amazing group of people.
Not that any of us knows what we're doing, but who does?
Not the City Council either.

I'm afraid, it's just us chickens.

Friday, July 16, 2021


I watched a BBC police procedural the other night---Unforgotten--about a team who investigates cold cases.
In one sitting, I watched all six episodes of season 4 (because that's the one I ran across). In this season, Phaldut Sharma, a British Indian actor, plays a dark, handsome, and damaged suspect.

Hey, he could play Heathcliff, I thought.

Emily Bronte described Heathcliff as a Lascar (Indian sailor in the British Navy), or a gypsy.

In Wuthering Heights (1847),
Catherine Earnshaw's father found the child Heathcliff wandering homeless  in Liverpool--"
a world centre for slave-trading during the period in which the novel is set.
. . .
The novel is set in 1801, when Liverpool handled most of Britain’s transatlantic trade in enslaved people."

––Article [I fixed this wrong link], "Was Heathcliff Black?"

Bear at the Square

Yesterday I went out for breakfast at the nearby Tiny Diner Cafe, where I stitched a red-felt broken heart onto Bear (from the thrift store) to add to the memorial at George Floyd Square, a couple blocks away.

Bear found a friend to sit with--a sparkly baby dragon––right next to the angel figure of George Floyd (where the cops pinned Floyd to the ground).

I got the idea to add a bear from photographing other stuffies at the square.
I love them all, and they all touch my heart.

But I also noticed that few of the stuffies are the color of George Floyd himself---they are most often caramel or pastel colored.
I wanted to add a bear the color of a real-life brown bear.

Working at the thrift store, I can say that darker teddy bears are in the minority. In real life, bears come in a wide range of colors but are most often brown and black.

Does the toy manufacturers' choice of teddy bear colors reflect an attitude toward human skin colors?
I don't know.
But I think of how children who are black and brown might relate to toys that are always lighter colored than they are.
I thought it would be nice to see darker bears at the square.
So I brought one.

Also, I just wanted to add a stuffed animal, on behalf of all the toys and all the broken hearts.

We don't heal in order to 'get over it'.
We heal in order to carry on (work, hope, love).

Tuesday, July 13, 2021


A couple photos I took of an iron kettlebell with plants, in the garden at my gym. The kettlebells are for lifting. They don't live in the garden, of course–– I carried one of the beautifully aged one out back.

Rust is fire in slow motion.
Black-eyed Susan and kettlebell:


Goatsbeard seed umbrella (pappus) and kettlebell:

Monday, July 12, 2021

I have plenty books.

Instagram Round-Up
Mostly stuff from or at work--including a 1960s? hotplate and The Crucial Decade cover by Ben Shahn.
The little yellow bug is part of an end cap display by Ass't Man--he's a graphic designer/illustrator (so never worked in a workplace like this! which partly explains his poor people skills),
and when he has time he sets up great displays.

                     The girlettes use my new Croc shoes for speedboats.

Part of another display by Ass't Man:

An old friend I've recently reconnected with mentioned that she makes 100K/year. How awesome is that?
We should all be paid a living wage along those lines.

A different friend taught grade school to poor kids in Hawaii --mostly indigenous Hawaiians. ( The traditional name of the Hawaiian people is Kānaka Maoli.) This friend always quoted a little boy who had written,
"I have plenty money, I have plenty toys."

I always related to that. I'm not poor; I have plenty books!

Hey, what about that Wuthering Heights . . .? 
Have you read it???
I hadn't.
I was expecting a romance, but this story is insane. I had no idea! What it is, is a bunch of disturbed people trapped together.
It's compelling reading, like Maenads on the Moors: "Let's tear each other apart with our bare hands!"

Also, having only seen photos from movie adaptations, I hadn't realized that Heathcliff is what we'd now call a Person of Color.
He's called
“a dark skinned gypsy, in aspect”, or "a little Lascar" (19th-century sailors from India).

The sympathetic narrator Nelly Dean encourages Heathcliff to think of himself as the son of a Chinese emperor and an Indian princess.
Mostly, though, he's treated like dirt, so there's that angle too--how humiliation drives Heathcliff to violent revenge.

But he's also deranged in his own right. And Catherine and her Earnshaw family are obviously seriously mentally ill.

Below: books from work and library, piled on couch where I'm house sitting.

I liked the post-apocalyptic Mockingbird (Walter Tevis, 1980) and Earth Abides. (George Stewart, 1949).

Mockingbird is about an AI in a world where humans are entirely dependent on drugs and robots and can no longer procreate. It deals with some of the same material in the recent Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells.

Earth Abides is more like Max Brooks's Devolution--how do people deal with the loss of modern tech?

Next up: I, Robot.

Gotta finish Wuthering Heights first though.
It's disturbing, but it's the best argument ever that authors don't have to have wide (or even any) life experience to write stories that knock your socks off.

Cross-legged Tailor

From a German children's encyclopedia, 1963

Schneider =
German for "tailor" (literally "someone who cuts", from the verb schneiden "to cut")


Saturday, July 10, 2021

No Day But Today

It's the Wild West at work, more than ever lately.
The little park on the corner next to us (it's a plaza, only the footprint of a building) has become a sort of encampment, as the City pushes homeless people hither and yon.

Outside our door, the street business that's always simmering is heating up.
All the ills of poverty (including addiction and the things people do to feed it) parade past... and come inside too.

The City is doing nothing, not even picking up park trash.
On Wednesday the trash had spilled into our alley, which people drive down to drop off donations.
A coworker and I swept up the wet, gag-making garbage with push brooms and shoveled it into our trash cans. (Problem: our dumpster is already overflowing, mostly full of crap donations.)

The park has NO trash cans.
took some plastic tubs over to the park for people to put garbage in. I talked to some of the people who are sort of living (?) there--they have set up chairs under the shade of some trees.

They said thank you for the bins, and told me the City never comes to talk to them...
Big surprise.

I called the City to request a trash can for the park.
After an hour of being misdirected--it's not the Park Board's purview, nor Sanitation's––I talked to the right person, who filed a work order with CPED--Committee for Planning and Economic Development.
Right, so obvious.

We shall see if anything happens.
I have my doubts.
I will keep trying.
Trash pick-up is the least of it, but it's a place to start. It's doable.

Meanwhile, half
my coworkers were giving me a hard time. It's pointless, they said. The people in the park don't care.
Not true.
Not true.

Ass't Man, who has been improving a lot, backslid: "Those people need to take personal responsibility," he said.

Being met with learned help/hope-lessness and myopia
as I try to do One Little Thing is as frustrating as shoveling wet garbage.
I also have some sympathy, in this case:

Ass't Man works in the front of the store, on the front line, and he is woefully under-prepared, untrained, and unsupported. (Big Boss is on vacation this week, to begin with.)

One angry parkster threatened Ass't Man. A lot of this is bluff, but with drugs and guns everywhere, you don't know.
My coworkers are on edge.
The other store manager just stays in the back and sorts donations.

Ass't Man's perspective is from another world, though, not the one he finds himself in. His judgments are basically useless, or even dangerous--he tends to inflame situations, not cool them down.

Luckily Mr Furniture was standing nearby as I was talking about trash pick up. Mr Furniture has lived this whole story, and Ass't Man grants him credibility.

"Responsibility?" Mr Furniture said. "Those people are destroyed."


So. Not sure what comes next.
I don't know what happens tomorrow.

I can't know. I don't need to know.
Today, it's today.

A Few Thrift Store Donations

Book cover by Ben Shahn

Owl bookplate in an old book:

BELOW: Your own personal paint-by-number Jesus. His cute little toes!

These chairs are still banging around. I love them but have no place for them...

When kittens wore gloves...

Lots of incoming donations--I asked a coworker to take my photo to include with a thank-you email. (It's rare that I know the donor, but in this case I did.)