Monday, October 11, 2021

Breaking & Mending

 Murals have been going up all over in the past couple years. Often they're political. This new mural a few blocks from the thrift store continues on the other side of the building with a celebration of cultures, picking up the multi-ethnic patterns on the bottom.

I. Breaking

I'm going to stop blogging here--take a break, at least for a while.

I'm trying to hash out what's going on in my city, to the people around me, and to me, and to figure out what my role is.
This just isn't the place for me to do that.

I am hurt from seeing people living––and dying––in desperate circumstances, literally right in front of me at work, or when I go to George Floyd Square (GFS).

What is my responsibility to them?

I am NOT wounded and hurt and traumatized in the way the people who LIVE (and die) in desperation are. No, no, nonono, not at all.
Of course not.
But they are not abstractions to me--these are actual, physical people in front of me.

I posted yesterday about Marcia Howard, one of the leaders at GFS. She is not just someone I follow on IG--I have talked to her at the square.

The sex worker who was murdered on the corner by the store was a woman I'd talked with.

HM's nephew-in-law was seized by ICE and held in prison for a year. Now he's been released back into his torn-up life with an "Oh, never mind" from ICE.

I need to step up and do more, engage more. (Not what I want to do, by nature, exactly, but that's beside the point.)

Blogging here isn't helping me do that. I could just focus on dolls and bears here, but that doesn't feel right. (Maybe I'll do that on IG.)

So... for now I'm stepping away--will look for more engagement in my own local (physical) neighborhood, which makes sense.

I dread it because real-life people are so annoying, and I am not great at them.
But I also welcome it: they are me, wrestling with the same stuff.

II. Mending

There's lots going on right by me.
I'm thrilled that a new sewing & mending store--Rethink Tailoring––has moved into a nearby empty shop (it used to be a quilting shop).

They're "new" in a way that reflects the times:

"We opened our storefront on March 14th, 2020 and had to close the next day due to the pandemic." [blog post about their history]

"During this very unique year, our community helped us help people. We donated over 700 masks to hospitals, homeless shelters, the Sanctuary encampment, George Floyd Memorial, childcare facilities, and to the community in our free mask box."
Their emphasis is on recycling and environmental sustainability, and they hold classes to share knowledge about doing that.
Their mission: "
to keep as many garments out of the landfills as possible".

The owner says:

"There is only so much one person can do alone, but by building a community around reuse and upcycling we can do so much more, together."
I've signed up for a couple classes with them--first one is tomorrow.

I'm hoping besides making personal connections, I might be able to link them to the thrift store--
soooo many clothes there go to textile recycling that could be repaired or remade instead.

(I've also long thought I should teach a class on repairing stuffed animals. Maybe this would offer the space)

I get the feeling it's a very "give your pronouns" place, so I'll get ("get") to deal with that IRL too.
Oh, joy.
But, you know, it's one of the conversations of our age, so I'll do it.

I need and want to do some mending and restructuring . . . of myself.

Also, the guy who'd written the Guide to GFS that I'd edited contacted me about another round of it...

LOL. This is classic human behavior--the square is going to get taken down at any minute, but the guide is still being rewritten.

But, . . . it's where I live.

Penny Cooper approves. "You could repair bears in coffee shops again," she suggests.
Well, okay then.

I'm turning off comments on this post, but gmail me (frescadp) or snail mail me, blogfriends, if you want.

Love you! Best wishes to you all!
XO Fresca

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Look for the helpers (wearing florals?!)

Just got home from ten days of condo/cat sitting.

Coming home, I had so much stuff, rather than bike home loaded lopsided, I put my bike on the bus--all buses have a rack on front for bikes.

I felt a surge of gratitude for people who do that sort of work---getting bike racks on buses.

Feeling wobbly about the world?
"Look for the helpers," as Mr Rogers's mother said.

I. Stand in the Place...

Someone commented that they're glad they don't live here, what with the crazy police on the loose, crime on the rise, and all.

Yeah, it's wild, but I don't feel that way (that I don't want to live here).

I WANT to be in this city, which is my home...
I don't want to ignore the bad, sad, and scary things in my city, my country, the world;
I don't want to move somewhere calmer. (Well, maybe sometimes I do...)

I've never understood Americans of my class & race (relatively safe, that is) who've said they'd move to Canada or New Zealand if so-and-so got elected.
Unless you're in active danger yourself, don't you want to stay and help?

And also, while it can be scary and wearing here, sometimes (not that I'm in active danger, I hope, but there are a lotta guns & frayed nerves around)––not to sound like I'm cold blooded (I might wish I were...!)–– but
it's pretty damn interesting. I've got ringside seats to History.

When I read too much political philosophy about the downfall of democracies, however, I do feel stunned, deer-in-the-headlights. It helps to remember to take heart from the helpers.
Keep 'er movin'! **

II. Cottagecore Revolutionary

One of my favorite helpers is Marcia Howard, one of the main helpers (organizers/leaders) at George Floyd Square.

She is brave. On her Instagram
she offsets the scary stuff with inspirational/educational stuff and... COTTAGE CORE!!! ("
Nostalgic countryside scenes and peasant dresses with eyelet lace", like at the Renaissance Festival.)

OMG, so unexpected, it's hilarious...
Like, Marxist Jane Austen frolicking in a frock.
Screencap of MH from one of her videos (her TikTok is here), from today's IG:

"Cottagecore", from Architectural Digest:
"While the activities and aesthetics that cottagecore embraces are wide-ranging and complex, covering everything from fashion to gardening, cooking to frolicking, so too are its origins.

"It’s in part a reaction against capitalism and our increasing time spent in front of a screen, but also related to ongoing interests in wellness and sustainability, and more broadly the idea of social consciousness."
And from yesterday--Marcia Howard reporting on being pointed out by name by "mercenaries from CRG* with AMs" [automatic weapons] at a vigil for Winston Smith.

*CRG is a private security firm, like private cops who operate with few checks and balances--like how the army more and more hires private firms...
I know little about this, except it's happening--here's a blog post with an activist's POV on CRG.

III. Help the Helpers

I haven't tidied the George Floyd Square Community Library for a few weeks.
The city DID try to force the square open in early September, as expected--sent in bulldozers.
I'd gone away expecting it would end, but the people held it!
Put homemade barricades back up. The city doesn't push it--doesn't want a flare up.

I'm so proud of the people holding GFS, and a little ashamed that I'd gone away. I'd felt I couldn't stand the heartbreak of it...
(Well. I have my limits, but not being there wouldn't have made me feel better.)

Now I'm back home, I intend to start tending to the Community Library at the square again.

I want to be a helper too.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Goodness adequate to actual events

NOTE: I'm sorta in the middle of this post, but I have to go to work, so I'm posting it as is, a bit jumbled, but it's important to me to be thinking this stuff through--
that, is:
how should I, an ordinary person, think and act well in extraordinary times?

(Or, How to be good in bad times?)

History is always happening, every second is new––but there are times when social change is so, um, momentous, we know we are in History with a capital H.

I feel that now, especially living in the town where the police murdered George Floyd. But everywhere there's climate breakdown, Covid, and of course the everpresent ordinary moral and political challenges of being a human being.

Thinking About Thinking

Obviously, no one needs to read or comment on these posts--I am hashing this through for myself.

I am thinking and writing this stuff out because I am living in a city where the social fabric is... mmmm... how to put it?
. . . rearranging itself?

We will be voting in just a few weeks on whether to throw out the police force!
Like, how am I supposed to know if that's a good idea?

Obviously THIS police force is rotten, but what will we replace it with?
Got Ideas?

A couple people recently have said to me that I am overthinking things.
(I asked Penny Cooper, the lead doll, about this and she was flummoxed. She had never heard of overthinking!)

Thinking in itself is no guarantee of action, or right action, that's true enough!

But for me, relying on old habits of thinking ,or relying on intuition based on input from the past, is not adequate in these changing times.
These BIG change times.

For me, thinking is part of/preparation for taking action.
I don't like to be motivated primarily by emotion or unexamined biases, because I've seen how unreliable they can be.

Call me Spock. (Ha, not really, but he was a big influence, with his insistence on rationality as a basis for action.)

I appreciate that Hannah Arendt
"attempted in her work [writing/philosophy] to shine the light of intellect on the extreme darkness she lived through [Nazism]".
--New Yorker article, "Beware of Pity: Hannah Arendt and the Power of the Impersonal"

Her essay I wrote about yesterday (and here)––"Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship" (1964) PDF here (about 30 pages)–– wrestles with the way people in Germany went along with
Nazi atrocities, even though they didn't believe in them.

“The more you realize that war criminals might be ordinary people, the more afraid you become,” wrote a journalist about Bosnian atrocities.
[––same New Yorker article as above]
Ordinary People

And those "ordinary people" aren't necessarily OTHER people, they might be us (me).
Oh, (probably, hopefully) we're not war criminals who would come to trial in The Hague;
we're more likely to be the little people who look the other way, or not.
Guilty, if guilty, more likely, of inaction than action.

As an example of an ordinary person in extraordinary times, I want to use Big Boss, who is certainly a Good Person.

IN NO WAY here do I accuse him of anything bad in response to Our Times, not even of inaction to the point of badness.
[Heh. You know I have accused him of being a bad retail manager, but that's not a moral badness!!!]

No. Big Boss is good, and he does good things.
He is, in fact, already extra-ordinary:
he is such a good orator
[and a very tall and good looking Black man, too (people have a bias to grant tall men authority--almost all US presidents were unusually tall)]
he has been talking all over town to groups (school, church, journalist, political) about the need for social justice.

But... I see in him something I see in myself:
A gap between belief and action in extraordinary times and places.

In extraordinary times, we may be called on to do things that are waaay out of our comfort zone. His comfort zone is already bigger than most people's, but it has its limits, and that's where I find the example/mirror.

Yesterday, under the influence of Arendt's article, I asked Big Boss--a fervent Christian––if he had talked about God to any of the people who were living next to the thrift store--people he called "our neighbors."
I said to him,
"You told me our neighbors on the street needed to know God has made them FOR A PURPOSE. 
I think that kind of awareness--that 'I matter, my life has some bigger purpose that I don't even know'––can be a huge protector against despair, which a lot of people on the street are especially prey too.
You don't even need to believe in God to believe that.

Did you talk to any of them about that?"
And he said no, he hadn't, though he'd wanted to.
"I don't know why I didn't," he said. "I guess I didn't have the nerve."

"Me either," I said. "Not that I'd preach like you, but you know... I didn't do anything more than little things, like give them a chess set.
Not that that's worthless.

"I think the problem was," I said," there's been such a breakdown of social order that the problem is so big and complex, we feel overwhelmed."

"Yes," he said, "If people had done the little good things all along--shared water or chess sets, or even like you, call the city council––we wouldn't be in this situation."

But we are in "this situation".
And it's ongoing.

Big Boss said someone had recommended that he read about George Whitefield, the preacher of the Great Awakening in the 1700s. (Wikipedia)

Uh, weird choice, but okay...
Along with examples of everyday (banal) evil we need examples of everyday (banal) goodness,
but ALSO of extraordinary goodness.

(I don't know if I'd call Whitefield good, but he certainly was extraordinarily ACTIVE among ordinary people.)

What's a good mirror?

I really don't like to use Nazi Germany as an example of anything, because it's become so Hollywoodized--that is, it feels so extreme, the evil is glamorized, and the heroism too––it doesn't seem to apply to us.

But while the end was extreme, the mechanisms in play are things I see around me and in my own self---including how hard it is to see one's own biases--and to think one's way into new information... new ways of thinking and acting.

Like seeing one's own elbow, you have to use a mirror.
Nazism is something of a fun house mirror, too distorted by Indiana Jones Nazis as Evil to reflect our times;
but the reality of it was built up of little, everyday actions, or inaction, not by Hollywood Halloween ghouls.

How do (did) people conduct little, everyday actions--there's a useful mirror.

I've always appreciated Hannah Arendt's phrase "the banality of evil" to describe Nazi funcionaries,
because that's where I see most evil happening--in banal decisions, not Hollywood heroism.

Goodness, too, can be banal--obvious, boring, unoriginal... like I found my auntie boring when I was a teenager.

Often, moral choice is on the level of the question,
Do you change the toilet roll when it runs out, or do you leave it for the next person?

Little stuff, that builds up habits of thought and action.

Though is goodness ever "unoriginal"--one of the definitions of banal?
Um. Yes. Goodness can be automatic systems set up for the general good--like traffic laws. People have to think them through, so they are helpful and so other people will follow them, seeing their helpfulness.
And they have to be enforced, by people whom everyone (or most everyone) agrees are reasonable and acceptable agents of the law.

And what I'm seeing now (or, actually what I'm hearing) in my city is that the traffic laws are starting to fray.


Here's what:
I'm house sitting in a busy area.
Sometime after the murder of George Floyd, people started to drag race in the main avenue, late at night.

This drag racing has continued, as the police force has dwindled. The police now prioritize 911 emergency calls, and often don't have enough staff to do banal policing.

Last night, Friday, roaring motor engines kept me awake until 2 a.m.

So it's unexpected fall outs like that--who knew the cops murdering George Floyd would lead to drag racing?
And people selling drugs & sex in the open outside my workplace.

And of course we have Covid and its effects---container ships backed up--the other day I noticed the grocery store shelves were a bit scant of supplies...

And climate change...

The breakdown of public order can let all sorts of cats out of all sorts of bags...

It is also a time of OPPORTUNITY.
When fabric frays, other patterns can emerge from behind--like ...what do you call a hidden image behind another image?

Anyway--a GOOD new order could emerge. But not automatically.

I am in no way up for creating a good new order!
Geez. Who is???

But at any rate, I am thinking about it.


Resist Early, Resist Often

Arendt wrote about people going along with the demands of a dictatorship giving the reason that doing so would avoid worse things happening,  ". . . with the argument that refusal to cooperate would make things worse––until a stage was reached [in Nazi dictatorship] where nothing worse could possibly have happened."

She wrote:

"We see here how unwilling the human mind is to face realities which in one way or another contradict totally its framework of reference.

Unfortunately, it seems to be much easier to condition human behavior and to make people conduct themselves in the most unexpected and outrageous behavior,
than it is to persuade anybody to learn from experience, as the saying goes;

that is, to start thinking and judging instead of applying categories and formulas which are deeply ingrained in our mind, but whose basis of experience has been long forgotten and whose plausibility resides in their intellectual consistency rather than in their adequacy to actual events."

Friday, October 8, 2021

What I'm Reading

 I say I don't like politics, but then I was ALL EXCITED to see this book at the library: Writing Politics: An Anthology.
(Well, liking to read about politics is different than doing politics.)

Because I like the publisher, New York Review of Books, and their Classics series, I guessed it would have great entries.

I checked it out, took it home, and immediately read the last essay:
"Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorships" by Hannah Arendt (1964, the year after her report
Eichmann in Jerusalem).

You can read it online--it's only a few pages.

Arendt says you may get a legal pass for doing bad things under a dictatorship, but you don't get a moral pass.

Do I agree?
I should think about it more, maybe, but yes, I do.
I always thought the Catholic Church's teaching that you shouldn't choose bad things for good ends was wise.
(Arendt says that the Talmud says the same thing. The "lesser evil" is a trick.)

I mean, I’d say maybe you (we) do sorta "have to" do a lesser evil sometimes, say, the classic example: 

You steal medicine for a child who needs it to stay alive;, (or, you don’t have money so you steal tampons for a friend so they don’t bleed all over)… 

but that doesn't make it (stealing) morally right.

If we do such things, and we may, and for very compelling good reasons,
we still have to live with the wound to our moral conscience.  

The right thing to do may be a bad thing, which doesn’t mean it’s not a bad thing.

Not said in this essay of Arendt, but this is one of the main reasons it's good to work to create healthy societies—so people (we) don't have to make such bad trade-offs.

Free menstrual supplies for all! (see post below)

Opt In, Options for All

I. Public Library Signs

Another nice example from our public libraries:

Signs on the walls of the public restrooms at the library near the condos where I'm cat sitting read:


              Ask at desk.

So clear & simple. AND SHORT: The best signs say the most with the least.

I'm guessing all our county libraries are offering free pads & tampons now. Nice move.

What? You say Scotland got there first?!

In 2020, "Scotland has become the first country to allow free and universal access to menstrual products in public facilities, a landmark victory for the global movement against period poverty."

Anyway--the two library restrooms have toilet stalls, and the restrooms are sex segregated, with signs saying Women, or Men.

The entry doors to both restrooms were propped open, with a sign saying "Door Must Remain Open For Covid Protocol".

(Why? For air circulation?
Oh, no, I checked--it's to "
Remove as Much Surface Contact as Possible", per park & rec guidelines.)

As I passed the men's bathroom, I could see the same sign posted in their entry:
Free Menstrual Supplies.

A while back I'd blogged about signs in the restrooms in the library near my home.

Those restrooms are gender neutral, each with a single toilet in one room. (I must check on what the signs on the doors say.)
A sign on their walls reads,

"We have supplies for people who menstruate."

In the library by the condos, the placement of the signs––visible from the hallway––makes the same point:
"Biological functions don't necessarily align with gender identification. We want to help you with those functions."
Nicely done!
(Also, the library by the condos improves the message by making it clear the supplies are free.)

I can get behind this:
Clear public information making things/freedoms open or available for anyone who wants or needs them.

Some people might not like the point being made, but no one's rights are infringed upon.
No one is made to say or do anything, or asked to sign up or actively give their assent.


So, yeah: after thinking a lot about it, I still don't like when groups tell you at introduction time to give your "name and pronouns".

As with extra thingamabobs on a website (for instance, email notifications forever after), the "give your pronoun" option should be to opt in, not to opt out.

And, I think places that serve the public should to do as much as possible to make full options Clear & Easily Available, for those who want to opt in.

It would be better if we said at introduction time:

"Give your name and, if you choose, your pronouns."
Because social pressure to SAY something in public is very different than reading a public sign about services available.

Yes. I've thought about it, and that's what I think.

If you think I'm missing a crucial point, let me know.

III. Good Design; Or, How to Roll Your Toy Across the Street

P.S. A very great thing about making Good Things widely available is that all sorts of people can take advantage of the good--more than the designers might imagine.

When U.S. cities made curb cuts at street crossings after ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), for instance, the intent was to serve people in wheelchairs, but unintended benefit went to people with all sorts of wheeled devices--baby buggies, bikes, grocery carts--as well as the curb cuts making it easier to step into or out of the street without stumbling.

(Oh, I didn't know--looking for an illustration, I learned that this phenomenon of the Unintentional Benefits of Good Design for the Public Good has a name:
The Curb-Cut Effect!)

Good design is a blessing in all directions.
Signs could be considered Speech Design.

Putting signs offering free menstrual supplies in all bathrooms may serve unintended people too.

Say a friend or family member of a menstruating person knows the person needs supplies but is too shy to ask, or doesn't have any money, or is simply waiting outside.

Now that friend or family member (who may use either bathroom) knows the supplies are available and can get them for their menstruating friend.

Or, for that matter, someone might need a menstrual pad for some other use. When I was walking Camino, a man had placed one under his backpack's shoulder strap, where it was digging into his flesh.

Very super.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

"trying to demonstrate respect"

 I want to show respect for a person (the same respect I would like to get) by using their proper pronouns, and also by learning their name, if that's fitting.
I often ask regular customers their names--it signals, "I see you."
(Some people don't want engagement, and I leave them alone.)

Sometimes I'm scared to talk to people (far less often as I get older)--What if I do something wrong? There's a fear of hurting others inadvertently + a fear of being embarrassed oneself.

I've taken heart from something writer/ organizer/theorist and transgender right activist Leslie Feinberg said about pronouns:
The pronoun itself matters, yes.
It also matters how the speaker uses a pronoun, even if it's the wrong one. With respect?
Or not?

So, cultivating respect for individuals (and their right to self-determination)--that's key. Pronouns/names follow.

From Leslie Feinberg's obituary on hir website (2014):

[Begin quote]

Leslie preferred to use the pronouns she/zie and her/hir for hirself, but also said:

“I care which pronoun is used, but people have been respectful to me with the wrong pronoun and disrespectful with the right one.
It matters whether someone is using the pronoun as a bigot, or if they are trying to demonstrate respect.”

In a statement at the end of hir life, Leslie said zie/she had
“never been in search of a common umbrella identity, or even an umbrella term, that brings together people of oppressed sexes, gender expressions, and sexualities”
and added that she/zie believed in the right of self-determination for oppressed individuals, communities, groups, and nations. 

[End quote]

Feinerg novel
Stone Butch Blues, "is widely considered in and outside the U.S. as a groundbreaking work about the complexities of gender."

Feinberg made PDF copies of hir novel available free, online. You can download it (or order an at-cost print copy) here:

"The complexities of gender"--I love that!
I sometimes have to dial up my bravery––including the willingness to get it wrong, or to feel disrespected myself (ugh)––to enter into the complexities.

Offering my pronoun FIRST in an introduction could signal respect.

I keep coming back to an experience I had with a group of people (young, white, cis women--I know because they said) who were so set on the group Getting It Right, that their concern in itself felt like it was about their own self-protection,
NOT respect for one another's self-determination.

That is key.
Who wants even the most knowledgeable, well-meaning person to come into their house and tell them––
without being asked ––how to fix it up?

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

No, I am ...

Just wanted to say clearly that I'm totally behind the idea that sharing pronouns in groups shows a sort of "I'm Spartacus" solidarity with trans and gender nonconforming people:

"I stand with whoever faces the biggest risks in pursuit of freedom for us all."
What I can't get behind is the vinegarish, policey feel of groups that pressure everyone to give their pronouns, and how people go along so they fit in, not necessarily because they  agree.

I suppose you could say that that social pressure is a good thing, it's how we exert group pressure on one another to Do Good, to Behave Well--it's the mechanism behind manners and civility, and healthy behaviors such as wearing masks.

I suppose. But the thing is, while I do love the overall aims of the gender revolution (to loosen bonds), I also have some questions about the methods; and I've seen that questioning is seen as (possibly) traitorous, and gets shut down, and that is NOT good.

Like when my dental hygenist told me she was unsure about Harry Potter because J K Rowling was anti-trans (which she isn't, she just questioned some aspects of it).

So, I'm just not keen on the group-think aspect of it.
LET'S TALK, PEOPLE! (I know there's a lot of talk going on too.)

On the other hand, when I see the hateful responses to gender freedoms, ("We'll crucify you all" in Spartacus--and they really mean--and do--physical violence, not social disapproval),
I'm definitely happy to stand and give my pronouns.

What I should/want to do is resist the group think, and take my lumps (social discomfort) for doing so.
And at MY workplace, that means bringing up the question of gender and pronouns!

II. Age

River asked about the server at the hip café calling my older women friends and me ladies, "What is wrong with being called 'ladies'?"

My point was that the server calling us by a gendered term (ladies) points out  a generation gap:
The server was young and I doubt she would have used such a term with her own age cohort, because that--gendering someone––is seen as wrong.
Like that sign I see in some places like this café:
"Please address staff by gender neutral terms."

I expect it was just a slip on this server's part, but what it illustrated for me was that young people don't see older people as being in their camp, or as being like them.
Calling older women "ladies" is ...mmm... well, it can be polite, but it can also be condescending. "Aren't you cute old things, out of the political loop."

There is sometimes an age divide in feminist attitudes toward gender.
Which, right now, is not the question dearest to my heart.

My workplace may be behind the curve with re-imagining gender, but we're REALLY behind the curve with recycling:
Aside from paper and metal, we recycle nothing.

III. Climate Don’t Care

I've tried to find a way to get recycling going at work, but the management won't pay for organic recycling, so we throw away huge amounts of food (including rotting or squashed leftovers from food give-aways, etc.).

I asked someone about neighborhood gardens taking our food for composting, and they said it was possible, but I never pushed and made it happen.

Susan Art Sparker sent me this, from Amitav Ghosh's The Great Derangement:
Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2016):

"Climate change has not been a significant political issue... instead political energy has increasingly come to be focused on issues that relate... to identity: religion, caste, gender rights, and so on."
So, again, I WISH we would discuss and debate gender and identity, yes, those are good things that matter. And they COULD go hand in hand with changes in how we use carbon (cars, garbage, etc.)

At root they're all about seeing ourselves as having power to affect each other for good or for bad, and choosing how we use that power.

AND they're about how we deal with change.
Change IS happening, whether we like it or not.
How are we going to adapt to it?

My workplace is pretty great in many ways.
Because we're such a diverse group of people, in age, national origin, race, etc., there isn't a lot of group think.

Most of my coworkers mostly don't talk the gender talk, but they are all about the individual, and if someone were trans, I think some  might be uncomfortable, but they wouldn't ostracize the person--the way they treated the person would depend on whether they LIKED the person or not.
So, I like that model.

And because most of my coworkers are poor, they take the bus, or bike (like me), and they live in shared housing. Those who drive cars usually own one car per family.
It may not be by choice, but they (we) don't use as much carbon as your average middle-class person with one car per person and large, free-standing living spaces.

So, it's complicated. Lotsa X-factors. And it's interesting.  Lotta stories out there. I like that, uncomfortable though it can be.
Enter the story!

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Orange October

I don't have enough books specifically on Halloween, so I went with colors and moods: today I turned books at the thrift store with autumn-colored covers face-out for an Overall Mood Board effect.

Here's some of the fiction + the main display:

More to come, but first, an update: The staff meeting this morning was good!
Whew. You just never know.

Big Boss invited everyone to talk about how they felt about the situation with people living/dealing by the store for four months until the cops chased them away a couple weeks ago (the people are literally two blocks away now).

It was good to air feelings about it. Our meetings are so short, there's not time for discussion, and I think that's weirdly helpful.
People have to speak briefly, and there's no time for responses--sort of (accidentally) like 12 Step meetings.

People's responses were varied--everyone's relieved that we don't have to wade through blasted people and traffic, but most people are concerned that nothing changed, there was no real HELP.

Before the meeting, in the breakroom I'd said I wanted to talk about pronouns at the meeting. "Let's put it on the agenda," I said.
I WAS JOKING, (there is no agenda), but the response in the breakroom was interesting.

Big Boss obviously resents having to do the pronoun introduction.
He said that he just says, "My name is ___" and doesn't give his pronouns.

I am with him-- not because I'm opposed to pronoun switcheroos--I think mix-and-match is GREAT---but because I want the Naming of Pronouns to be a choice, not an obligation, not a Test of Political With-it-ness.

If it was a test of with-it-ness, I would say half my coworkers failed. LOL.
But they were honest, not pretending to toe the line.

I wish gender were no big deal. I saw a bathroom signs... now, where...? Oh--yeah, in Burrito Union in Duluth--their bathroom signs say:
I don't care either. I will call you whatever you want.

But I sense it wasn't that Big Boss "doesn't care" so much as that he doesn't like something about the gender stuff---not sure what. (I can guess.)
I probably shouldn't probe further--I might well not like what I discover. It felt like a tense subject with him. I was laughing, but he wasn't.

But some other folks had fun with it, though, including Ass't Man, who'd had a great trans coworker at a previous job who was happy to talk to Asst Man all about the whats and whys and wherefores.
That's the thing.

The other thing Big Boss said was that people should think about setting aside time to do a special project during their shift.
This is SUCH a good idea.
Otherwise there is always too much to do--you have to block out your time and ignore the flood of donations to do anything.
My old friend: Set Your Intentions.

I had already intended to do an October/ Halloween rearrange & display. I have been neglecting displays, feeling overwhelmed with incoming books, and I think it's a mistake.

OK--back to my Halloweenish book display.

BELOW: Georgie's Halloween is from 1958--for only $2.99.
(It's adorable, but it had pencil scribbles on it.)

BELOW: Side-by-side: Look at those compatible profiles!

BELOW: I can't believe that ceramic aardvarky thing (next to the papier-mache giraffe) hasn't sold.
I marked it down from $1.99 to .99.

Some fiction:

BELOW, top shelf, left: The Invention of Hugo Cabret is one of my favorite modern book covers. I don't even know what it's about.
Oh! It's about French filmmaker Georges Mélies.
WHAT? AND TOYS??? Per Wikipedia:
At the end of his life, Méliès was destitute... He sold toys from a booth in a Paris railway station, which provides the setting of the story." Well, now I must read it!

Mysteries often have orange & red covers anyway, so this section was a breeze:

Not visible below--a pile of ten Playboy magazines from 1991, hidden on the bottom shelf of Cool Old Books, priced 99 cents each.
Customers complain if there's anything racy on display, but I didn't want to throw these out. The nudity, such as it is, is stupid and objectifies women, yeah, but it's so mild, it's like what's on billboards now. And the articles truly are interesting--an interview with Spike Lee, for instance.
I'm hoping someone will buy all ten at once---and quickly, and no one will even see them to complain.

Background Research (with cute gifs); Girlettes on the Go

I complain about not having learned new things.
Then I need to learn new things, and I complain.


In fact, I've learned a ton in the past couple years--haven't we all, at some level?––but mostly experientially for me, not so much by book learning...

I. Background Research

Now I have/need/want to study... for our upcoming city elections.
We will vote on three charter amendments:
to allow rent control;
to replace the police department with a public safety department;
and to give the mayor more power (than the city council).

Daughter of a father who taught political science whines,

I don't wannnnnnnna....

But yeah, I do.

(I shall reward myself with looking for cute GIFs.)

DEFINITELY I want us to re-form (replace, whatever) the police!
Murdering bastards. ("Not all of them." No, of course not.)

But who has the best ideas, and how could that happen?
How can I judge which candidates (for mayor & city council) have good plans?

I must study up.

Sister sent me this Atlantic article, to start: "How to Actually Fix America's Police".
"Elected officials need to do more than throw good reform dollars at bad agencies."

For myself (and other locals):

Naomi Kritzer writes sci-fi, . . . but also poli-sci about Minnesota elections: she provides weblinks and analysis on her blog.

Downtown Plymouth Congregational Racial Justice Initiative (RJI) is hosting discussions on the amendments over three Thursdays and posting them on their site. The first one is up:

(Plymouth is a big, wealthy church that does good social work, but are they ever white.
Not their speakers––they invite and PAY great speakers from across the board––but the RJI's stated first goal?
It's "to deepen our personal awareness of white advantage in systemic racism".

Really? Do people of color need to deepen their awareness of white advantage?

This is a club for Nice White People.
I'm a nice white person, but I don't want to hang out with nice white people who can't figure out what's coming out of their mouths.
That's the NORM. I hardly need exposure to more of it.

II. Girlettes on the Go

In other matters...
The number of girlettes here has magically increased.
"We are not too many," they say, but a few of the dolls are peeling off to have adventures on their own.
They love it!

Last week, two went with a woman and her daughter at the store--regular customers––and another has just gone to live in South Carolina.
Here she is on the bus going to the post office. She is excited:
"I'm going to live with a parrot," she says. (True.)

And we've had a report from two who went to live with Kirsten in Kansas, where they get to sit in trees!

This one below, Tod, came to work with me and put together a Carmen Miranda outfit from the toy donations. She zoomed around like Stuart Little, but came back home at the end of the shift.

I've had a couple days off work. I'm condo/cat sitting this week, and on purpose I didn't see or hardly talk with anyone on my days off, except the mammogram staff (and the cat).  It was pretty great, aside from a few moments of panic (I'M ALONE).
I had to remind myself, "It's all right to feel uncomfortable."

And then I settled in and read the condo-owners New Yorkers.

III. "Don't Engage"

Today it's back to work--we're having a staff meeting this morning.
I'd actually suggested we have one again, so we can see one another, all together-- but I'm wary now that management has actually set one up.
Why? What nonsense are they going to hand down?

Maybe it's just a check-in. That would be welcome.

My workplace veers from no-management to heavy-handed pronouncements from the top. Heavy handed, and not necessarily broadly well-informed. Big Boss's management model is Moses.
My Cashier Friend with the PhD tells me she's been too depressed to read anything in years.
Some read murder mysteries.
Mr Furniture is visionary, but not political.

Sometimes I LOVE being in this back-water. I never have to discuss pronouns with people! Can I just sit this one out?

In fact, I am sometimes relegated to the back anyway.
The other day at a hip café where the staff wear pronoun pins, one young server called me and my two coworkers--all of us around sixty years old--ladies.
"Can I get you ladies anything else?"
Age remains a big, big barrier.

Hm. I see I am definitely feeling touchy and impatient.
Two days off did not change that.
I would skip this meeting except I was pointedly told about it (and I did request a meeting, after all...).
Maybe it'll be fine--I do love my coworkers, as individuals.

Let me set my dials to...
INTENTION: Woo-sah, & stay well back.

Penny Cooper says, Think about something else, think about nice things.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Paint on Paper; Also, a Cat

Paint-on-paper design of one of the Penguin music score covers by Elizabeth Friedlander, which I posted earlier--


Also: "During WW2 [Elizabeth Friedlander] worked for the Political Intelligence Department in London, where amongst other things she forged Wehrmacht and Nazi Party rubber stamps."

Below, this is Cleome, the cat I am sitting---she loves being brushed and pushes her head against the comb if you hold it steady in front of her.

Penguin patterns

I posted these covers of mid-century Penguin music scores on IG this morning (from the thrift store)—pattern design by Elizabeth Friedlander, a German, Jewish, graphic designer who fled Nazi Germany (some covers of the series by other designers too--I'm at home and these booklets aren't in front of me):

And then I went for a mammogram. The gown looked like it could be a Penguin cover pattern:

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Hello, My Name Is...


(Surely this already exists? But I haven't seen it, so I made this.)

Friday, October 1, 2021

Hallmark Horror

Being on the shore of Lake Superior was restorative, as always.
But because autumn leaves = high tourist season, all the cheap motels in town were booked, and Marz and I stayed in a Tiny House airbnb in the woods, 30 miles from the lake.

Driving there through the tidy, touristy area, Marz commented that it was like a setting for a Hallmark movie.

Oh no.
Hallmark movies frighten me.
Behind all those mittened hands cradling mugs of steaming hot chocolate I always imagine the Stepford Wives or Get Out.

Ice tea on a rustic patio? RUN!!!

Sure enough, the signboard announcing the village near the airbnb read, A Family Community. I read "family" as code for "None welcome but 'decent, upright, white, Christian, law-abiding folk'".

(Also from Get Out, the Black housekeeper who says of her supposed white employers, "They treat us like family.")

And down the road from the airbnb flew a black, white, and blue flag:

"Those who fly the flag have said it stands for solidarity and professional pride within a dangerous, difficult profession and a solemn tribute to fallen police officers.
But it has also been flown by white supremacists, appearing next to Confederate flags..."

--"The Short, Fraught History of the 'Thin Blue Line' American Flag"
I can imagine how people who live comfortably in fairly affluent, homogenous places that jibe with the dominant culture like this Family Village can see places like George Floyd Square as monstrous, and the people there as barbarians who the upright police have no option but to pin down.

But to me, it's Family Village's seeming lack of awareness of the complexities of other people's lives that is threatening––
like a Procrustean
Pinterest board where realities that don't fit the ideal are lopped off.

(Horror stories often trade on those unwelcome realities residing right within the communities themselves:
"The call is coming from inside the house.")

Anyway, the comments in the guest book at the airbnb praised the place with actual references to Pinterest and Hallmark movies. Marz was a little mad at me for laughing so hard when she read the comments out loud.

I wasn't really mocking the commenters themselves, though, as much as I was laughing at the contrast with my own life.
It was surreal.

(Well, maybe I was laughing at the comment that the rain on the roof was like a little cherry on the sundae.)
[An Aside]

Have I mentioned that Ass't Man went to a wedding of old friends from college recently? And that he was struck by the contrast too?

"Someone was complaining that the place was out of turmeric water," he told me. "Turmeric water! It cost seven dollars! I wanted to invite them to visit our neighbors across the street, who don't even have running water... But later I tasted the turmeric water, and I have to say, it was really good."

"Of course it was really good," I said. "That's the point. Everybody should get the good stuff."

[End Aside]

The feel of the airbnb itself was friendly though. A couple gay couples had commented in the guest book. Gay people like Pinterest too.

No. What really freaked me out there was... the twigs.

The sound of twigs breaking in the middle of the night--now that's horrifying. It kept me awake, on high alert.

I almost left the next morning, but Penny Cooper said she liked it there. "It's nice."
And really, it was nice, like turmeric water, if you like that sort of thing.
I'd rather be in a city.

New month for me; new home for Woodstock

A fresh new month, and I'm glad of it. It was hot and humid this past week--today it's nice and cool--suitable for October.

I go condo & cat sitting today, for ten days.
I'm glad of that too.
I've been busy since my auntie Vi died Sept. 10––I wanted distractions, but I still feel crabby and impatient and I think it'll be good to have time alone with nothing to do but catch up with feelings and get bored with myself.

I took home a couple stuffed animals from my auntie's, and bink took one too--here they are sitting with my girlettes and Red Bear on Vi's stoop, waiting to go in the car.

Vi wasn't a toy person, but she kept the yellow Woodstock close all the last year--took him to the hospital even.
Woodstock is from Peanuts, but Vi called him Tweety Bird...

When I was helping store-neighbor Billie clean her apartment last week, in prep for her own adventures in hospice, I saw she had a matching stuffed Snoopy.

Billie told me she was going to give the Snoopy to one of the Somali kids who lives down the hall from her, who loves it.
I told her I'd add Woodstock, to make a pair.

I washed Woodstock and took him in to work.
This is Billie with him, yesterday. (She's had surgery to remove a brain tumor, spread from lung cancer.)
wasn't sentimental would be pleased Woodstock is going to a child.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

"Have something to say, say it, and sit down. "

This  bit of interview with Native Spokane-Coeur d'Alene writer Sherman Alexie from 1998 could be said of the new series Reservation Dogs (on Hulu) too:

Sherman Alexie wanted the film [Smoke Signals] to break with tradition.

In an interview with the Oregonian (July 7, 1998), he says that Smoke Signals “challenges the cinematic history of Indians.”

His Indian characters are virtually new to the big screen, posing a contrast to the stereotypes of Indians as “stoic and alcoholic,” as “depressed poor people.”
According to Alexie, “Indians are the most joyous people in the world.”

He says, “The two funniest groups of people I’ve been around have been Indians and Jews. So I guess there’s something to be said about the inherent humor of genocide.”

Reservation Dogs starts with a nod to Smoke Signals--like that film, it opens with a shot of the reservation and a radio announcement of the weather.

Trailer for Reservation Dogs:

What's Behind an Apology?

I thought of Alexie watching The Chair too.
When some women spoke publicly about Alexie's sexual improprieties, Alexie proved incapable of making a good apology.

He released a statement with an apology, yes, but most of the statement was his counter accusations, blah, blah, blah.
I was so disappointed. I've loved Alexie's work so much--Smoke Signals is a favorite film––and I thought he'd get it and be different than the other predators revealed by #MeToo.
But he was just the same.

Tip: Guilty of hurting someone?
Just say, "I'm sorry", and take a seat.
Save the explanations or self-defense for other people in other places.

I've tried to implement this simple & sometimes difficult art myself, since seeing people do it so badly.

A while ago at work, carrying a pair of scissors I walked past a young Black coworker who has dreadlocks.
I made a snipping gesture toward his hair, jokingly.

"Don't do that," he said, deadly serious. "I mean it."

I apologized, but added in self-defense that I was joking, of course I wouldn't have done it (though I'm sure that was obvious).

He said nothing.

The next day I said to him,
"I apologize for threatening to snip your hair. It was stupid, and I won't do it again, not to you or to anybody."

He said, "Thank you."

The whole first season of The Chair revolves around a likable professor (a middle-aged white guy who was culturally hip when he was younger) making a stupid mistake and being unable to bring himself to say he's sorry.

The prof's mistake in context is minor––he gives a Nazi salute while talking about fascism; it blows up because it's taken out of context on social media.
But the point is, he can't just say, Yes, I'm sorry. Period.
Sort of like Al Franken.

There's power and grace in being able to say, "The buck stops here", and then actually saying it.


Related: Eleanor Roosevelt wrote:

"When I first began to speak, which was soon after my husband had polio, his very wise adviser, Louis Howe, told me that as a beginner it was well to write the opening sentence and the closing paragraph and in between never under any circumstances do more than put down headings.

"His cardinal principle was: have something to say, say it, and sit down.

"I have tried to remember that ever since.
He used to say that beginners often went on talking, repeating themselves over and over again because they did not know where to stop or, as he phrased it, they had no terminal facilities. That was why he told me to write an ending as well as a beginning."

"My Day", February 19, 1955

P.S. I've always been curious about Howe. There's a bio (2011)--it gets mixed reviews but is his only bio, so I just requested it from the library:

Saturday, September 25, 2021

"To be small and to stay small."

Michael of Orange Crate Art sent me this quote,

"To be small and to stay small."
It's the motto of a character in the 1909 novel Jakob von Gunten, by the German-speaking Swiss writer Robert Walser.
["Still Small Voice: The fiction of Robert Walser", New Yorker, 2007.]

The motto sounds to me like a guide to living a kind of expansive life.

I'm starting to gather girlette photos for a 2022 calendar.
I think this quote will be the title.
("Dolls Help" was the title of the 2021 girlettes calendar.)

Journey On (To the Laundromat)

I'm listening to Journey's Greatest Hits on uTube for some unfathomable reason this Saturday morning... I've never listened to them on purpose, but they were on the radio all the time when I was a young adult.
Is it something about the change of season? And how I've been feeling a touch impatient and out of alignment?
Rock-n-roll in the face of death!

Not only did Auntie Vi die two weeks ago, but a regular at the store who has become a friend, I'll call her Billie, recently found out she has cancer, with probably only months to live. She's a few years younger than me.

Billie's going to be starting hospice at home.
She's cleaning out her apartment in preparation--wants to simplify, she said. She lives near the store, so I volunteered to help with practical things like cleaning and packing.

(She insists on paying me. I'd said I'd do it for nothing, but it is nice to be paid for hard work--good boundaries.
I told her if she needs money later, I would insist on giving it back!)

Yesterday I took her blankets (too big for the apartment building's washing machines) to the laundromat down the street.
With nothing to read, I took photos of the laundry tumbling.
I added this quote from Paolo Coelho:
"The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion."
(I've never read Paolo Coelho, but I met lots of Brazilians
walking the Camino because of his book about the pilgrimage.)

Obviously our opinions do matter. But the older I get, the more I see actions (examples) as the flowering, seed-producing fruits.

I'm tired of people complaining and not doing something. Any. little. thing. (I hear a lot of that.) I'm impatient with it, and with myself too:
Do your life's laundry!

Friday, September 24, 2021

"Walk around and look at things."

A hip-looking young man at the thrift store yesterday asked me if we had a copy of The Canterbury Tales.
Usually we have a copy or two, but we didn't that day.

"I'm looking because of a Netflix show I just watched," he said.

"Oh, The Chair," I said. "I just watched it too!"

"That professor made me want to read it," he said.

"That was the best scene," I said.

Holland Taylor plays Joan Hambling, professor of medieval lit, who 
(with the help of the IT guy behind her, below) hunts down a student from her Chaucer class who's been posting nasty comments on Rate My Professors, and confronts him:

The Chair
takes on the current culture wars with surprising and welcome compassion for and insight into all parties involved---including the old white profs teaching Dead White Guys, like Taylor's character.

And it's funny, in a mild way:
"The world is burning, and we're worrying about our endowment," says the chair, Ji-Yoon Kim (played by Sandra Oh), in defense of student outrage––meanwhile her English department is bowing to a big donor's pressure that actor David Duchovny present the key lecture of the year.

OMG, David Duchovny! I know him as Mulder in the X-Files. He really does write books: We got one in the store recently, and it sold right away.
I was surprised the man himself was willing to appear on The Chair and let the script poke fun at him--good for him!

And, good for The Chair for taking on material that's so touchy it seems untouchable--mostly around race and diversity; they don't even get into gender identity--maybe if there's a season 2?

I recommend The Chair for reflection on the political climate. It's very of-the-moment.

Better yet: Reservation Dogs--on Hulu--I got a free month trial so I could watch it, but it's even worth paying for. It follows a group of Indigenous teenagers on a reservation in Oklahoma as they walk around and stuff. [Newsweek article]
Also, lots of visual references to other movies, like The Deer Hunter.)

In the sixth of eight episodes, Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis) goes deer hunting with her father Leon (Jon Proudstar).

Her father tries to talk her out her idea of moving to California.
When she asks him what there is to do where they live, he says,
You know, just walk around and look at things.”

Which is what this show does. It's so good, and funny, and not making any political points in particular, except by virtue of existing.