Those Little Stickers

Those Little Stickers

On Tuesday, November 2, 2004 I had the early shift at the coffee shop where I worked. As the early morning turned to late morning and then afternoon, more and more people walked through the door with a smile on their face and that little “I voted” sticker on their lapel. This was in the middle of Los Angeles, so “I voted” meant “I voted again Bush.” After four years of George W., it felt good to think we were coming together to get him out of office.

My shift ended at 2PM. I went to vote stinking like coffee. I went home and took a shower. I took a nap. I started to watch the news, and then, damn it, he won again.

I found a website that was collecting photos of people holding up signs that said “we’re sorry”–Americans apologizing to the world for electing this man that was so obviously a poor fit for the presidency. I looked at the website every day for weeks. Maybe even for months and it made me feel a little better to know that I wasn’t alone. My fellow liberals weren’t wearing stickers, but they were out and proud on this website.

Yesterday I teared up while walking to my polling place as I saw my neighbors make the same trek, and thought about how I–me–got to vote in a historic election for the first woman to get this close to the White House. My brother texted me a photo of his red, white and blue socks and a tshirt he got his baby girl that said “why be a princess when you can be president.” My mom, a life-long Republican, texted to say how thrilled she was that Trump was about to be out of our lives forever.

I watched that video of the line of people waiting to pay tribute at Susan B. Anthony’s grave.

I hearted Instagram photos of my friends wearing white, or pantsuits, or taking their daughters to the booth with them.

But throughout the day, that parade of customers from 2004 kept flashing through my mind. I hoped it wasn’t a bad omen.

For 8 years I haven’t felt that old familiar shame whenever the president makes a public speech, or appears on the news meeting with foreign leaders.

The world is even more connected now than it was when George W. was president and now once again I’m cringing at the person we’ve selected to represent us to the global community.

At 10PM last night, I was sobbing in the bathroom. This morning I held a popsicle over my swollen eye lids while making a coffee and trying to get up the psychic energy to go to work. In between the sobbing and the popsicle, my wife and I made a plan to get through the next four years:

  • No travel to red states. We like to travel, but don’t have a ton of money, which means a lot of our vacations are domestic. But we will not spend our hard earned dollars in states that voted against the interests of minorities like us. We’ll miss you Austin.
  • When it comes to stuff, we’ll buy as locally as possible. There is a Gap Factory store a 15 min walk from my work and I’ve been known to sneak off there during my lunch break and buy some jeans, or a get my wife a shirt. No more.
  • When it comes to food, we’ll also try to buy as locally as possible. If we buy produce from farmers markets, we’re guaranteed to be supporting local farmers. Luckily we live in a city where there’s a different market almost every day of the week.
  • We will speak out when we are being mistreated and we will ask for what we need. On a small scale, this could mean asking a guy to make space on a Metro seat. On a slightly larger scale, this meant disagreeing with my boss at a meeting today after I asked that we include female composers in a film music promotion we’re planning and he started to argue that we’re trying to entertain our audience, not prove some kind of social point. And on a much larger scale, when the policymakers come for our rights and freedoms, we will speak out. Which leads me to…
  • We will join forces with others to create effective advocacy. We are both introverts, so it’s more our style to quietly donate to a cause than show up at a meeting. But we need to start showing up. And we will.

So we have a plan. But man this still sucks. It feels like a gut punch. It feels like a break up. It just feels awful.

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My Martha’s Month – Part 1

My Martha’s Month – Part 1

Page two of Martha Stewart Living is always “Martha’s Month”–a day-by-day window into the life of The Great Martha. She weight trains on Mondays and Fridays. Thursdays is cardio and core. Yoga? Tuesdays. She celebrates birthdays, crafts with her grandchildren, mulches her verdant acres, and polishes her silver. This month, I decided to live like Martha. Sort of.

October 1.
Martha: Have chimneys cleaned.
Me: I looked at the bricked-up fireplace in our living room and wondered, once again, “is it bricked up because the landlord doesn’t want anyone to use it, or because there are dead things hidden in there.” Either way, it’s nice to have a place to hang stockings.

October 2.
Martha: Go for a long walk. Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown.
Me: I walked along the Arroyo from the Rose Bowl to South Pasadena and back. There were many happy dogs.

October 3.
Martha: Dig and divide hostas. Weight training.
Me: I meant to google “hostas,” but forgot. I pumped a small amount of iron. I drove home from the Westside in record time (thanks Rosh Hashanah).

October 4.
Martha: Move tropical plants to the greenhouse for winter. Yoga.
Me: I did a sun salutation in the morning. How long have my joints been this creaky? I bought my wife a cactus from Trader Joes on a whim. This was months ago. She named him Carlos, and sometimes she’ll mention “Carlos” and I have no idea who she’s talking about, and then I remember “Carlos” is the cactus and I’m so charmed by the way my wife is. Carlos summered on our patio, but I brought him inside.

October 5.
Martha: Have horses reshoed.
Me: Got a haircut.

October 6.
Martha: Harvest tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. Cardio and core.
Me: I walked a bit more than usual. I did some sit-ups. I read an article about how sick many in Aleppo are of eggplant, because it’s a quick growing crop that a lot of people planted just so they’d have something, anything to eat.

October 7.
Martha: Clean and store summer clothes in canvas bags. Weight training.
Me: When I was 12, I visited my friend’s grandparents in Connecticut. She showed me their huge basement, which was already a foreign concept to this Californian, and then she pointed out racks of garment bags–their winter clothes. Winter? Clothes? How curious.

October 8.
Martha: Get seasonal flu shot.
Me: I meant to do this. I really did.

October 9.
Martha: Bathe dogs and cats.
Me: I’ve never had a pet. My dad always said we couldn’t, because he’s allergic. Two years ago, my mom and dad adopted a Mini-Aussie named Lily. I think my dad was lying.

October 10.
Martha: Go for a hike. Columbus Day.
Me: I flew to San Francisco for work. It was like a hike in the sky.

October 11.
Martha: Clean and refill bird feeders. Yom Kippur begins at sundown. Yoga.
Me: I made scrambled eggs for my niece. How much does Martha care about Yom Kippur? *joke about atoning, because Martha was in prison*

October 12.
Martha: Cut back perennials
Me: I just don’t really like San Francisco.

October 13.
Martha: Sharpen knives; clean stainless steel appliances with white vinegar. Cardio and core.
Me: My hotel was a block from my brother and his family, so they had me over to dinner. As my brother set out ingredients he said, “oh hey, do you wanna make this?” Nice try. I did stem and chop a whole bunch of kale, though. His knives were beautifully sharp.

October 14.
Martha: Pick apples and make a Dutch baby. Weight training.
Me: The hotel had a “continental breakfast”. I squeezed myself between two indecisive foreign children and their flailing tongs to pick a small croissant from a bowl with my bare fingers. There was no weight training.

October 15.
Martha: Prepare chicken coops for winter; install heat lamps.
Me: I came back from my trip, and since my wife had a family function, I was home alone. I took a long nap, ordered eggrolls and watched three hours of Halt and Catch Fire.

October 16. Half way.
Martha: Sukkot begins at sundown. Plant garlic.
Me: I planted my own mother fucking garlic. I used to live in the Fairfax District and my neighbors were Hasidic. They built a sukkah right next to the fence that separated us, and the men stayed out there late into the night singing and talking. It was charming. The first night. But Sukkot lasts a week. A year later when I saw the sukkah going up, I bought earplugs.

 

 

Self Care On The Road

Self Care On The Road

My first real “work trip” was two years ago. My job flew me to San Francisco to produce live fundraising hours and I nearly starved myself to death shortly before nearly eating myself to death

See, I went 11 hours without eating anything. When my vision started to blur, I wolfed down a very large sandwich and drank a very large glass of wine in about 11 seconds. Then I felt so terrible I barely slept and it took me days to feel like a normal human again.

Why?! Why?! Oh Why. Why do I, a grown woman in her mid-30s, sometimes forget how to do the most basic adulting? Is it because my childhood taught me to value what others need from me more than what I need myself, or … no, that’s pretty much it.

Now I go on a work trip every three or four months and each time I’ve gotten a little better at looking after myself.

Here are the tips I’ve come up with to keep myself alive and functioning on the road:

See something? Eat something. When I go straight to work from the airport, I grab myself an overpriced sandwich or salad at the airport before I leave. When I stay at a hotel with a continental breakfast, I grab a yogurt. Could I find something better later? Maybe. But I’ve learned the hard way that a yogurt in the hand is better than a “something better later” in the bush.

Also, snacks. In my backpack right now, I have three little baggies of dark chocolate-covered almonds and dried apricots, and three little baggies of roasted almonds and yogurt-covered pretzels. 20-year old me would think those snacks are bullshit, but 35-year old me knows they will taste like a treat and help me feel ok until my next actual meal.

Drink water. I have a water bottle with a filter so I can drink out of sinks, although what I really love is those filtered water stations that a lot of airports have just for people who are smart enough to have a bottle with them. I’m generally terrible at realizing I’m thirsty, but when I see my water bottle, it reminds me humans need hydration and I am a human.

Magnesium. I read that taking 400 mg of magnesium a day during the first several days of travel can help with “sluggish bowels.” I tried it. I’m a fan.

Know thy hotel self. I LOVE staying at fancy hotels. Sadly, my job does not like to pay for me to stay at fancy hotels, so I’ve learned what I need from reasonably priced places. No. 1 is feeling safe. I like upper floors and to be off main streets. I also like free wi-fi, a mini-fridge and a coffee maker. I have yet to stay at a hotel that has all three. All three is my Holy Grail. I will find you yet, all three.

Slippers. My wife travel-hacked us a night at a beautiful hotel in Paris before I dumb-hacked us a terrible AirBnB in London. Luckily, we packed the complimentary hotel slippers from Paris before we left for London, and not having to touch that Limey floor with actual skin made a weird situation slightly more comfortable. When I got home, I bought us travel slippers. They’re cheap, but fine for occasional use and we have matching ones which is pretty cute. We don’t always use them, but the one time we didn’t pack them, we regretted it.

Shower every night. That might sound strange, but how many times have you come back to your hotel after a long day of working or exploring or whatnot and thought, “I’m more tired than dirty, I’ll just shower tomorrow”? The first trip I observed the “shower every night” rule, it was just because I’d only packed two sets of PJs and I figured they would stay clean longer if I was clean when I wore them. And then I realized I just felt better after a shower. So now it’s my rule. A good part of being a functioning adult is just learning how to help yourself feel comfortable in different situations.

Travel clock. I often have to wake up early when I’m traveling for work, and I used to use my phone as an alarm. But then I’d wake up in the night, anxious about the time, so I’d check it on my phone, and then find myself checking Twitter. And Instagram. And my email. And then Twitter again. And then it was time to get up, and I was bleery-eyed and cranky before my day had even started. So I got myself a travel alarm clock and the first time I used it, I was amazed at what a huge difference it made. If I wake up in the night, I can see what time it is, without being pulled into an app-lined black hole. I still set my phone alarm, but only as a back-up.

Give yourself a quest. When you’re working on the road, it can feel more like a huge disruption to your weekly routine than actual travel. That’s why I like to give myself a quest. It helps me maintain some life/work balance and makes a little space in my schedule for fun. I should say that these are not epic quests. This trip, I told my wife I’d get her a nice mechanical pencil at this stationary store I found during my last trip. Today, I bought the hell out of that pencil AND I got her some boot wax too. Oh boy. I also promised myself I would watch the Talking Heads doc Stop Making Sense this trip. I went to Boston for work this summer and my quest was to try local ciders (accomplished). I almost always buy coffee when I travel because I like to make the other-city coffee for my wife when I get home. It feels like a button on the end of my trip, bridging where I was and where I am.

 

I guess my biggest tip is just to keep in mind that you are a human person with needs. Remember this and make meeting your needs a priority. If you need to justify prioritizing yourself, then consider that you’ll do better work if you’re fed and hydrated and well-rested and feeling comfortable in your own skin.

Wellne$$

Wellne$$

I read an article about how “wellness” is the lucrative new thing to sell to women, but you’ll have to take my word for it, because I suddenly have no memory of where I read this article.

The gist of it (I think…?) was that lifestyle companies like magazines, retail, etc are always trying to find trendy new ways to convince women to shell out cash in order to level up their lives. And right now “wellness” is that trendy new way. Athleisure clothing. Juice cleanses. Fitness classes. Specialty foods. Yoga retreats. All of these are sold as solutions to problems women are told they have, and they can be pretty expensive solutions.

The article struck a chord with me, because I think a lot about self-care these days. Getting better at self-care is a stop on my personal route to wellness, but I can’t seem to extricate self-care from spending money. Like last week, after I unpacked from a generally tense family vacation and re-packed for a conference that would take me out of town and away from my wife for five days, I treated myself to a manicure and pedicure. It was a way to relax after surviving my family vacation, and prepare me to confidently (ha) network with other strangers in my field for many days in a row. And it cost $50.

I went for a hike over the weekend and thought, “free wellness!” And then I started adding the cost of my shoes, my workout clothes, my very stylish fannypack, the gas it took to get me to the trailhead–nothing sabotages that feeling of wellness like realizing everything costs something.

My Kingdom for a Public School

My Kingdom for a Public School

Public transportation is an incubator for observations and revelations. At least it is for me.

This morning on the train, I listened to Malcolm Gladwell’s latest Revisionist History podcast, the third in his series on higher education. Suddenly, I was able to articulate my passion for public school, using language I hadn’t had before. Thanks, Revisionist History.

Gladwell was talking about educational philanthropy, and comparing the societal worth of a $100 million donation to “a tiny, almost bankrupt school in South Jersey” to the multi-million dollar donations being handed out to elite American schools.

He set up a dichotomy between “weak link” games and “strong link” games. Soccer, he explained, is a weak link game. Mistakes are so costly, because scoring is so difficult, that a team is only as good as its weakest link. Basketball, on the other hand, is a strong link game. One superstar player can carry the whole team.

American society, says Gladwell, is a weak link game. It takes so many people working in concert to accomplish anything, that we need every link to hold its weight and do its best. So it would make sense, then, to give extra resources to strengthen the weakest links, or to institutions that have an influence over the greatest number of links. For example: the University of California, which Gladwell called “maybe the finest group of public universities in the world.”

Continue reading “My Kingdom for a Public School”

What Are We Looking For?

What Are We Looking For?

Last night my wife and I were talking about HBO’s Looking, a show I always enjoyed and will miss just a bit. I liked the characters, and their dilemmas led me to wonder what decisions they would make and how they would live with them. In one episode, two of the main characters–a man and a woman who grew up together and then escaped to the city together–return to their hometown to confront old ghosts and presumptions about who they might have become had they stayed. What did it mean that they left? Were they better people, or just different? That especially resonated with me, because it’s a conversation I have with myself every time I go “home.”

Anyway. I dug the show, which is really saying something considering it was set in San Francisco, a city to which I have a near-pathological aversion.

My wife and I were both aware that Looking was a polarizing show within the gay (male) community, but a tweet by my friend and astute cultural watcher Price Peterson made me want to find out why that had been the case.

Price on Looking

So I googled “Looking, HBO, criticism, gay men” to find my answer and, in a word, that answer was “boring.”

From Slate Why is Looking So Boring

From The Washington Post HBO Ends Looking Its “Boring” Show About Gay Men

From The Daily Beast Yes, Looking is Boring. It’s the Drama Gays Deserve

Continue reading “What Are We Looking For?”

I Am A Democrat Now

I Am A Democrat Now

Seventeen years ago during my first week as a student at UCLA, I was approached by an eager young woman with a clipboard registering people to vote. I took an application and filled it out… except for one field: party affiliation.

I remembered the time I was driving with my grandfather, talking about politics. “I think I’m a little more on the liberal side,” I told him. He nearly drove off the road.

My grandfather and I have talked about politics as long as I can remember. When I was in elementary school, he took me to something called the Bakersfield Business Conference. I remember it as being like a carnival for a certain kind of white people (older, conservative, moneyed). You didn’t have to pay for anything once inside the gates and I downed many fine Dole frozen fruit products.

The main event was a series of speakers. Margaret Thatcher apologized for the UK’s part in the American Revolution. “If only a woman had been Prime Minster…” she said. Helmut Kohl was on a panel with future Vice President Dick Cheney. It was all a paragon of late ’80s/early ’90s conservatism. Until, oddly, the Smothers Brothers took the stage.

Being a Republican meant something important to my Grandfather, and by extension, to my parents and to me. But we were an old timey kind of Republican–small government, big military, fiscally conservative.

But socially we were always more live and let live.

So just as I assumed during my childhood that I was and would always be a Republican, I assumed I was and would always be pro-choice. One of those would end up being true.

I didn’t feel like a Republican anymore when I was registering to vote, but I didn’t feel like a Democrat either. So I declined to state a party and registered as an independent.

My mother got into several fine California colleges, but my Grandfather put his foot down. California schools at the time were too liberal, he thought. So instead she went to the University of Oregon, which is basically the college equivalent of a stoned dreadlock, so odd choice there, Granddad. But she did still come out a Republican.

I, on the other hand, did attend a California college and I became more liberal by the quarter. I started attending Socialist Youth Action meetings, protested at a UC regents meetings to advocate divestment from Myanmar, and rode all night in a crowded bus to march in an anti-war protest in San Francisco. My politics were wildly liberal and not generally well thought-out, but I deeply felt that they were mine.

Even when my mother claimed I was just parroting the views of my socialist boyfriend. Even when my father said they would change as I matured. Even when my grandfather shook his head confused that someone raised under his influence could be so wrong.

Part of me did wonder if I would grow out of my liberalism, but even though I haven’t held a placard in a march since the Prop 8 protests, I’m still just as invested in progressive politics as I was in my 20s. Although I’d like to think I’m better informed now.

Another thing that hasn’t changed is my love of wonky political reportage. In my 8th grade history class, we had a crazy assignment that birthed this love. We had to scour newspapers (which really took some doing pre-internet) to find a current example of every article and amendment of the constitution at work. One night, a classmate found the lost city of Atlantis aka an article that actually referenced how public citizens can’t be forced to house militia, and a great call went out across the land, sending many of us scurrying to our piles of papers and flipping frantically through them with our newsprint-stained fingers looking for that article.

Ten years later, I passed on attending an underground dinner party full of very cool people, so I could stay home and watch election returns. For a primary.

Yesterday, I worked from home in part so I could keep an ear on the Republican National Convention. “Nuts” is the word that kept coming to mind. I was watching MSNBC when Iowa Rep. Steve King said something truly startling:

“This whole ‘white people’ business does get a little tired,” said King. “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where these contributions that have been made by these categories of people that you’re talking about—where did any other sub-group of people contribute more to civilization?”

I wasn’t startled because of what he said–I mean, where I grew up, you just know people believe that kind of thing–but because he said it outloud and on television.

This whole election cycle has startled me because of what people are saying outloud and on television. And by “people”, I mean Republicans. More specifically, I mean Trump supporters.

On NPR this morning, a woman attending the convention said she’s liked Trump from the moment he entered the race because he doesn’t worry about being politically correct. That is abundantly clear every time he opens his mouth or his Twitter account.

But what has really sunk in for me is not that this crazy man is saying these things, it’s that the crazy things he’s saying are resonating for so many. And how little that surprises me is a little surprising.

“Don’t underestimate how racist Americans are,” is a thing I’ve heard myself say for years. But now I feel almost as if I’ve been saying it to myself, to remind myself, to really make myself believe that America, for all the things it does right, is also pockmarked by deep veins of destructive “isms”. Donald Trump and his followers are exposing the truths we’ve gotten used to expressing only when out of earshot of people we think will be offended. Believing we have the right to be offensive is “not worrying about being politically correct.”

I don’t want people to be “politically correct.” I want people to be truly progressive. I don’t want someone to refrain from saying what they believe to be true that others would consider racist. I want that someone to move past their bias and come to a more humane understanding of society.

I am crossing my fingers that this blood letting is how we get American racism out on the table and are able to start moving through it, not just looking past it.

But all this ugliness is hard to watch and harder to process.

NPR interviewed an adviser to Trump who was describing his base and she said they’re primarily registered Independents.

So, like me. Except … not like me.

This morning, I changed my party affiliation and I’m now officially a Democrat.

Later this morning, my mother texted to say she’s voting for Hillary and my grandfather isn’t voting for president at all. “First time in his voting life.”