LOSING THE PLOT 2

New WordPress format…forgive how it looks…have I mentioned how much I loath new new ‘forced’ formats?

I am a writer and therefore always concerned with ‘plot,’ (the plan, scheme, or main story of a literary or dramatic work). If I think of my life as a dramatic work…and in 2020 isn’t everyone’s life a drama-rich work?…than I must pay attention to the plot, mustn’t I? Increasingly it seems the Marjorie-plot is getting harder to find…in fact, I’m almost positive I have lost it: to lose one’s ability to understand or cope with what is happening)
 
In case you’ve been away…in another galaxy perhaps…we humans are murdering our one and only planet; the U.S. has a greedy and certifiably-crazy narcissistic sociopath for a president; and then there’s that silly pandemic killing a whole bunch of people all over the world. Closer to home: I am moving, a happy move but nevertheless nerve-wracking; my California son who was coming to help has a wrecked knee; my friend’s sister’s house burned down in a Colorado fire; perhaps my art center will never come back to life; the big amazing glorious African journey of 2021 is looking iffy; the book I’m writing is a huge chaotic mess … and did I mention I’m old and at the poorish end of the 99%.
 
Can you see how my life’s ‘plot’ might disappear?
 
Phew…feel much better. Got all that out of my system. Anyone who reads this may legitimately bill me for therapy services.
 
Up at 4am…harder to sleep these days/nights/whatever isn’t it?  I’m going to try, for therapeutic purposes, to blog-journal each day. I do that anyway in endless calendar books and diaries so may as well utilize a form requiring me to waste time searching the thesaurus for just the right adjective to describe my sense of the day’s hopelessness. And I’ll need to take just the right photo to accompany my post. 
 
For now…I looked up poems about bafflement…because I am baffled (totally bewildered or perplexed)  by everything…the world, my country, me. Here’s one that popped up by TS Eliot. Good enough for me, especially since I’m often self-medicating with crime and mystery novels: Macavity: The Mystery Cat. I WISH I HAD A CAT. 
 
Macavity's a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw--
For he's the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair: For when they reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there! Macavity, Macavity, there's no on like Macavity, He's broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare, And when you reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there! You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air-- But I tell you once and once again, Macavity's not there! Macavity's a ginger cat, he's very tall and thin; You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly doomed; His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake; And when you think he's half asleep, he's always wide awake.
Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity, For he's a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square-- But when a crime's discovered, then Macavity's not there! He's outwardly respectable.
(They say he cheats at cards.
) And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard's.
And when the larder's looted, or the jewel-case is rifled, Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke's been stifled, Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair-- Ay, there's the wonder of the thing! Macavity's not there! And when the Foreign Office finds a Treaty's gone astray, Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way, There may be a scap of paper in the hall or on the stair-- But it's useless of investigate--Macavity's not there! And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say: "It must have been Macavity!"--but he's a mile away.
You'll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumbs, Or engaged in doing complicated long division sums.
Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macacity, There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibit, or one or two to spare: And whatever time the deed took place--MACAVITY WASN'T THERE! And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known (I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone) Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!
 

I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME…WEEP

Early college years, young motherhood and women’s lib (sounds almost quaint doesn’t it?) coincided in my life. For some time my everyday theme song was “I Am Woman”. Spent a lot of time studying, dusting, cooking mac and cheese for my sons humming along with Helen Reddy…I am woman, hear me roar/In numbers too big to ignore/And I know too much to go back an’ pretend/’Cause I’ve heard it all before/And I’ve been down there on the floor/No one’s ever gonna keep me down again.

Helen Reddy died yesterday. That is a loss for a whole lot of women my age. It is especially sad that on the day of her death  American attention had to be focused on two old men shouting insults at each other. Oh sure, one’s a decent-enough old guy and the other’s a bombastic lying twit but still it’s been 49 years since we sang You can bend but never break me/’Cause it only serves to make me/More determined to achieve my final goal/And I come back even stronger/Not a novice any longer/Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul and, to a degree, the world’s survival is still dependent on two old pissed-off white guys. So what happened…we weren’t determined enough?

I was…with Reddy and Steinem and Friedan and Pelosi and Ginsberg backing… determined to lead an independent curious and useful life and, generally, I have.

But guess what? The world is still being run by white men, black men, Asian men, Arabic men. Many incompetent, some downright evil. There are of course good men in the world, besides my honorable and intelligent friends and family members, but they’re not running the world show for the most part…and women, we aren’t even close. Men are still running the political, environmental, economic, humanitarian shit show. All over the world…all over the world…with the U.S. leading the pack. How ashamed should we be…very ashamed.

But here’s to you Helen…may you and Ruth rest in powerful peace. GO KAMALA.

You can bend but never break me
‘Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul

Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong
(Strong)
I am invincible
(Invincible)
I am woman

My son’s birthday year just keeps unraveling. He should have known better than to be born in 1960.

The last post ended with Scott and traveling buddies in Belfair, Washington after flying into Seattle and getting the gear together and cycling those first miles. So far so good. Belfair to Montesano (70 miles), next day to Cape Disappointment (85 miles), on to Rockaway Beach OR (77 miles) which brings us to today. A brief morning ride to Tillamook where Highway 101 closed down. Closed. Fires. 2020. The year of unending disaster. The guys are in a hotel in Tillamook tonight designing Plan B. I’m anxious to hear since this was my one and only vicariously-lived trip for this stupid year.

Here are photos from these days in some sort of order. I like them a lot…decent mix of bikes, scenery, food…

At least they got enough of a start so if they do it again they’ll know to avoid fire season …. and escalators.

 

Yesterday’s view from granddaughter Lace’s balcony in San Francisco.

In 2020, my eldest son Scott had a very large birthday. Huge in fact. Biggest birthday in the history of the world so far. In fact his birthday was the absolutely most gigantic event of the year anywhere…crowd size, too massive to count… Whoops, fake news, almost forgot that darn pandemic…

First celebratory event of the birthday year was coming out to see his kindly old mum in the spring, she honored him with a family dinner of his childhood favorite (not) of Kraft mac&cheese. He had lots of plans for this most significant of years in addition to visiting the family. He and Sandra were headed for Barcelona for his actual birthday week and then later would come the biggie, cycling down the western coast of the US, Canada to Mexico, with two of his buddies.

I mentioned ‘there came upon us a pandemic of practically biblical proportions, didn’t I? Well, Scott and Sandra were literally checking in at the airport for Barcelona when the announcement was made that Spain had just ordered a nationwide lockdown. Nothing wrong with a birthday in San Diego after all.

However the plan for the month-long cycling-camping down the length of the coast never died. Scott and his friends trained all summer and even purchased tickets for themselves and their bikes, San Diego to Vancouver.

The summer went on and no one told them they couldn’t! Although Canada said, ‘no disease-ridden (trump-tainted) Americans flying into our country.’ Changed their tickets to Seattle. Kept training, going to REI, 60-70 mile rides on the weekends, the only rewards a six-pack of good beer at the finish line.

And last Sunday they left, flying into Seattle, collecting their bikes, putting them back together, Scott almost breaking his leg or bike or both on an escalator before even leaving the airport…and they were off to a first campsite at a place called Belfair.

The whole family is excited…our entire year of family travel is all wrapped up in this journey down the 101, Seattle to Border Field State Park (almost, actually it’s closed too) on the Mexican border.

I’ll blog the trip, since it’s the only Time and Place entries about travel I’ll have for the glorious year of 2020. I have given Scott orders about interesting pictures. Not just photos of beautiful ocean or mountain scenes. Instead, you know, pics of dirty unshaven aging cyclists, their empty beer bottles at the end of a long day, road kill, forest fires, stuff like that. I’ve included just the first few, getting them through the initial day or two.

 

 

ME. SEPTEMBER. 2020.

This post is about hair among other things. Once I was a little girl and already it was obvious my hair story wasn’t going to be brilliant.

Do you ever repeat to yourself…’I must make this work’…over and over when an important event or project is coming up? Well, that’s the way I’m feeling about September, all of fall really. I must make September positive…even pleasurable on occasion…worth having lived. Right? August hasn’t been easy. But September means fall. The start of the school year. The harvest. Cooler weather. The red and golden leaves of autumn. Baked acorn squash with butter and brown sugar. State fairs. If a Burqueno the sky filled with balloons in another month or so. Sweaters (if we’re lucky), raincoats if even luckier. Who doesn’t love fall?

So how to make any happiness out of fall 2020. Trump lives on; glaciers are melting; we’re witnessing racism so dangerous, so virulent it must soon be called genocide; Covid stalks wherever two or more are gathered…it’s appropriate to include a religious phrase in sentences with our godly president, don’t you think?

So school’s not quite, is, might be, starting. It’s hot, too hot to bake squash like mom would have right about now…butter…brown sugar . Fall’s not pretty for a couple months yet around here. No state fair or balloons, no reason to buy a new sweater for my empty workplace or the grocery store. Raincoat, yeah right.

Oh yeah, and about our world as we know it ending. But perhaps…just perhaps…women will save us.

But here’s the thing. I’m alive. And also when I was a teenage I wanted, more than anything, to have long hair to put in a swingy ponytail and to be able to dance well. You know…great big swingy skirt, great big swingy ponytail, cute little swingy body, bright red lipstick, maybe bright red flats. Now, finally 60+ years later my hair will soon be long enough for a ponytail (if Covid lasts until the election). Everything else in that fantasy image is gone…still can’t dance…but just think how that ponytail will swing on the treadmill.

Soon. A Ponytail.

There’s that. What else?

I don’t want to be sad in September. I could take little road trips on New Mexico’s back roads…and NM has some of the world’s best back roads. Long long stretches of just me, Ghost, and the two-lane. Plains, high desert, rolling hills, a mountain here, a mountain there, then suddenly I’m in them, all red soil and cliffs and forest or brown slopes amply decorated with pinon. Yes, I should do this…to remember how much I sometimes love New Mexico and how excellent life can be. Republicans be damned…I’ll go drive the land and be happy. Gotta go now…find ‘O Brother’ to play as I leave the city limits. And I’ll go to Smith’s tomorrow and get an angel food cake to put on the seat by me and just tear out a chunk now and then as I drive. September, I am ready.

I looked for a nice poem about golden leaves and migrating birds to end this post. But in keeping with my August mood I’m including the following instead. Seems more appropriate for the time.
News Report, September 1991 (Denise Levertov)

U.S. BURIED IRAQI SOLDIERS ALIVE IN GULF WAR
‘What you saw was a
bunch of trenches with
arms sticking out.’
‘Plows mounted on
tanks. Combat
earthmovers.’
‘Defiant.’
‘Buried.’
‘Carefully planned and
rehearsed.’
‘When we
went through there wasn’t
anybody left.’
‘Awarded
Silver Star.’
‘Reporters
banned.’
‘Not a single
American killed.’
‘Bodycount
impossible.’
‘For all I know,
thousands, said
Colonel Moreno.’
‘What you
saw was a bunch of
buried trenches
with people’s
arms and things
sticking out.’
‘Secretary Cheney
made no mention.’
‘Every single American
was inside
the juggernaut
impervious
to small-arms
fire.’ ‘I know
burying people
like that sounds
pretty nasty, said
Colonel Maggart,
But . . . .’
‘His force buried
about six hundred
and fifty
in a thinner line
of trenches.’
‘People’s arms
sticking out.’
‘Every American
inside.’
‘The juggernaut.’
‘I’m not
going to sacrifice
the lives
of my soldiers,
Moreno said, it’s not
cost-effective.’
‘The tactic was designed
to terrorize,
Lieutenant Colonel Hawkins
said, who helped
devise it.’
‘Schwartzkopf’s staff
privately
estimated fifty to seventy
thousand killed
in the trenches.’
‘Private Joe Queen was
awarded
a Bronze Star for burying
trenches with his
earthmover.’
‘Inside
the juggernaut.’
‘Impervious.’
‘A lot of the guys
were scared, he said,
but I
enjoyed it.’
‘A bunch of
trenches. People’s
arms and things
sticking out.’
‘Cost-effective.’

But soon fall. Things will seem better even if they’re not.

Fall 2019

 

WALKING WITH STEVEN

Somehow this poem matches my various moods related to our bosque walks. Although with a kind of reversal…I am often quite achy and gloomy about the world upon awakening…but by the time Steven and I (and this Sunday, Kalia) have been in a woods an hour or two, the world seems liveable, manageable…even good…and…now and then…great! Although if we were to walk till the guns are dropped…till food reaches all…till the devils get a heart…till truth is a law I’m afraid our wings would drag too.

“A Walk By The River”

Walking by the river
on a blue-grey morn,
smile on the face
dry leaves on the walk.
Black and white the world seems now
For every bright day has a black-dull start.

Walking by the river
white rose in one hand,
The girl seems to walk by and by.

She says she’ll walk
till the guns are dropped,
She says she’ll walk
till food reaches all,
She says she’ll walk
till the devils get a heart,
She says she’ll walk till truth is a law.

She flies no more
wings drag as she walk,
It’s been a long time since she started her job.
Still hope in her eyes
and peace in her soul,
Walking by the river on a blue-grey morn…………….

Depressed this week. Why? There’s that darn pandemic but that’s not it, not really. It’s this country. This government. It’s the ‘state of the union.’ You know how you wake up with the line of a song or poem running through your head, a stanza, a chant from your high school cheer (Northome High School, Hats off to Thee…was it really ‘thee’?), your mom’s voice, whatever. This morning it was ‘the day the music died.’ Go figure as we say in not-puzzlement.

I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play
And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken
And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died
And they were singing
Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die
They were singing
Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
Usually Dylan’s my best friend in times of melancholy, sadness, disillusionment…but Don McLean’s with me right now and I’m singing  ‘bye bye Miss American Pie’ and attaching great political/social significance to it.
Guess I’ll write about walks in the bosque later. ‘Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ plays between versions of American Pie; that works this morning too. Sad pop from my day. Wish I were in a dark room with a bottle of wine.
Here’s my friend Bob with his t-shirt of hope.

A GOOD DAY

I have a few nice nature photos from the last couple of weeks. Nice weeks with a smattering of rain…a puny monsoon season if that was it…still, it was rain.

However for today I must start my post by acknowledging the effect of watching John Lewis’ funeral. I won’t say very much, some of the world’s best people have spoken and written appropriately fine things about the man and what he represents. I just want to say that the two and one-half hours I spent with John Lewis’ family, friends, colleagues and admirers at Ebenezer Baptist Church this morning gave me hope—something harder and harder for me to come by lately. It’s not the virus…that will pass. It’s the hatred and cruelty and stupidity that rule so much of government, of business, of entertainment these days…conditions that show no signs of ever passing. They’re what make me lose hope. But there they were this morning…important people from the civil rights movement and from government. Decent people. Powerful people. Determined people. Smart people. It was so restorative to see and listen. It’s been a good day.

Now for those photos.

 

 

On our summer vacation, Celia, Sara and I were scheduled to be in Kruger National Park in South Africa yesterday. At least we were in Plan A. I think that had changed to Lilongwe, Malawi in Plan B. However, as you all know the world has reverted to Plan X…so instead I went to MVD NOW to renew my driver’s license. I took some pictures for you.

A word of praise for MVD NOW…So it’s not Kruger National Park with leopards, lions buffalo, elephants and rhinoceros. But the staff are friendly and efficient and it’s only a small fee to avoid real Motor Vehicles Department. AND THEY HAVE interesting machines things out front, a battered old truck or two in the lot, and an especially scenic corner of the city with Ghost right there, waiting to take me back home after my day’s outing. It is all good.

Banal: So lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring.  I am two thirds of the way through Mary Trump’s book, Too Much and Never Enough. I expected some outsize characters, some outsize actions…after all this is the family that created our monstrous joke of president. No such characters emerge…All I keep hearing in my head is Hannah Arendt’s statement:

“Evil comes from a failure to think. It defies thought for as soon as thought tries to engage itself with evil and examine the premises and principles from which it originates, it is frustrated because it finds nothing there. That is the banality of evil.” (Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil)

There is not one single outstanding thing about the entire Trump family. Fred, the father who helped create Donald, is nothing special in intellect, character, personality or appearance. He was just a pitiful specimen of an egocentric, money-grubbing, selfish, unpleasant human. The rest of the family is mostly a pathetic bunch, remaining squished firmly under his thumb, who never (except for one aunt [a coward] and Mary, the author), did much of anything worthwhile. But Fred did help create Donald…gotta give him that. He took a son, who obviously in hindsight, had mental health issues in the form of overlapping personality disorders and who wasn’t too smart (to say the least) and encouraged him to go for it–whatever the ‘it’ he desired was. Voila! Mr. President. The epitome of the ‘banality of evil.’

I’ll finish the book today…I want to get into something interesting like one of the other three nordic noir/history books I picked up at Bookworks this week (Bookworks is more important for sanity than the grocery store is for your stomach. Order Books. Lots of books. Guaranteed to make you feel better. [unless you’re reading about Trumps])

I doubt I’ll learn much new about Donald covering the latter years. Although Mary Trump does manage to explain the corruption and double dealing succinctly and clearly. Coming up are bound to be some of Donald’s most heinous actions, actions that effect a broad swath of the world as we know it. I believe I’ll finish it still overwhelmed/underwhelmed by the sense of the ‘banality of evil.’ What a boring, slimy, insecure, sick, dumb, dull creature the U.S. managed to elect as president. Are we such a banal bunch of humans as that?

I’ll be back to apologize if I find anything new and interesting about the banal one during the rest of the book.