2020 IN MY REARVIEW MIRROR

SCOTT VISITED FOR HIS BIRTHDAY IN MARCH.

2020 was what is known as a mixed blessing wasn’t it? Millions have died from Covid; even more millions have survived it with little impact on their lives. Most of us through common sense, fear, and the wherewithal to follow reasonable guidelines haven’t contracted it. The world environmentally, socially, economically, and educationally is in a probably-unstoppable free fall but then that happened before Covid even reared its nasty head. In a few places, including the US, newly elected leaders of the rational, intelligent sort may slow the velocity of the plunge but it’s unlikely they can stop it.

This post is a review of my Covid year. A look back, mostly pictorially, about the bad and good of 2020 for me. I am almost embarrassed to say it wasn’t that bad considering the death, economic destruction, and sheer fear and loneliness so many have experienced. But if we’re going to be honest we must admit that there are numbers of us who have come through it with a minimum of discomfort, and not a small number who have prospered (after all this is a capitalist world and there is no tragedy too great not to make a buck out of it…).

Oh yeah…about me. A review. So I lost my job…a pretty damn big deal to me with my modest but satisfactory income dropping substantially. Fortunately the capitalists (i.e. money-grubbing soulless plutocratic frequently-Republican swine) haven’t wrested every modicum of democratic-socialism from the land [yet] and I’ve had unemployment insurance to help me through with no loss of coffee, yogurt, toilet paper, or streaming services) And my job in the performing arts sector may return.

I have missed face-to-face hanging out time with family and friends. I have felt anxious (more politically-anxious than pandemic threatened) and tired of being careful and sad for missed travel and seriously pissed-off that, with only a limited number of years left to live, one of them is blighted by a virus and by a cult of creeps.

There’s this though. I began the year living in a pleasant and comfortable but definitely-small apartment; I ended the year, paying less rent, in a most attractive and spacious townhouse because of a thoughtful son and daughter-in-law. The process of moving into and happily occupying a new space has not only productively consumed time but has also given me space-to-pace on the bad days!

This is all to say…I am okay and here are the pictures to prove it.

SPRING BEFORE AND AFTER. EARLY SUMMER.

 

SHORTLY THEREAFTER ROBERT, MARSHA AND BUDDY HEADED BACK TO ‘SHELTER IN PLACE’ AT THEIR MINNESOTA HOME.

2021. BANISH KOOL-AID.

This was going to be a positive happy-new-year post because I had intended to write my last post ever about Sleazy T. on the 31st…but did not. So here’s one final small diatribe against one of the nastiest and most ineffectual leaders in human history (thank god he was ineffectual or he might be nearer the top of that nasty list). As cult leaders go however he was and is dangerous enough…and the sale of Kool-Aid in this country has never been higher. But it is a new year. 2021. He’s going.

Yes. 2021. It is here. Oh sure, it’s only two days in…but I stayed up until midnight, which I have not bothered to do in recent years, just to make sure 2020 threw itself out the door and over the cliff as promised. Now we only have one more foul presence (never mind Covid for a minute)  from which to rid ourselves and we are (almost) positive that will happen on January 20th.

With 2020, the ending came not because of a miracle but because Julius Caesar altered what went before (and then Pope Gregory tinkered with that) and … voila … Happy-New-Year. With the other loathsome specter still haunting the White House there are a few more steps to go before its departure. If you have ever lived in the country and had a dog, you probably remember the occasional skunk encounters and how hard it was to get rid of the smell…was bathing Rover in tomato juice one of the methods? Sleazy T’s like that isn’t he? Whatever the laws, the courts, various legislative bodies do, the stink’s still strong. But soon…and if we need to fill the Reflecting Pool with tomato juice and toss him in…where do I send my contribution.

Come to think of it…how about we fill it with Kool-Aid and welcome DT and fans over for a swim…and pull the plug and all will be sucked down into eternal denial.

I did not realize until recently how thoroughly the Sleaze frightened and sickened and embarrassed me. It came to me a few weeks ago that long months of my first waking sensations being dread and depression were easing up…and that the pandemic wasn’t the primary reason for them.

Please Dear Freya…make the bad man and his friends go away for good. Thank you. Amen.

The next post will be filled with photos representing the happy moments of 2020…and truthfully (even though it feels almost awkward to say it) there were many…well quite a few anyway.

 

FEAR

IMPERVIOUS TO ALL TALK OF PANDEMICS.

I have been cautious, anxious, sometimes worried. I’ve had moments of fear when I feel at all unwell. But the virus hasn’t really terrified me personally. NOW. I. AM. SCARED. I am afraid it will get me the week or the day or the hour before my vaccine is available. Silly. I’m doing everything I should…just keep on being careful…it will be fine…I say.

I am trying to analyze this burst of anxiety and it is not so very surprising. It’s that light at the end of the damn tunnel, isn’t it? I’m writing again. My job may well be back eventually. Travel going on the calendar. And all I can think is please do not let me screw up now. It would be so very annoying to die with the world on the way to better…

Okay. There. I’ve said it. Already I’m less afraid. I’m watching “Mystery Road” on Acorn and my friend dropped off a piece of Clementine cake made with almond flour. And I’ve been writing all day. Life really is worth living so please do not breathe on me.

What is it they say about darkness and dawn?

WRITING

BOOK WRITING CORNER. STILL NEEDS A FEW THINGS AND CERTAIN PICS UP BUT GETTING THERE.

Is it three years since I started writing my travel memoir? No, I think it’s at least five. And so many different outlines, iterations, names, deadlines. So the pandemic came along and I was furloughed from my job. A perfect time to write. Or not. Why not? I’m comfortable, healthy, lots of time on my hands…. But the writers’ block symptoms that all writers experience every now and then: distraction, avoidance, lack of focus, stress, frustration seem to have  grown exponentially. That’s the bad news.

There’s good new finally…please let it last. Just lately, now that I’m all moved into my comfortable new house and have created some cozy writing nests, my muse seems to have returned to my shoulder for at least part of most days.

My book is drafted. Raggedly drafted but the base of everything I want to include is there. There are problems. The first one is that I’ve written double the number of words I can possibly include. An online writers’ guide claims that only a writer of JK Rowling’s repute could get anything published with the number of words I have…. You can see the editing job ahead of me.

There is one other problem. I seem to have two different stories/themes going on. That is large. Who knows what I will do?

Now however it is Friday night which no longer means what it use to…nevertheless that pleasurable feeling of having a weekend ahead hasn’t disappeared yet…and hopefully I’ll be back at work before it is all gone. I’ll watch PBS news shows for awhile tonight and then an hour or so with an Australian detective show on Acorn, and finally I’m going to bed with Barack Obama and a Sudanese detective. It’s how I travel and deal with politics these days. The Obama book is really fine. I will download Michelle’s book to Audible this weekend so I can hear her story as I walk my three to six miles next Tuesday at the gym. So I’m okay. Life is goodish. We have Joe, Kamala and a vaccine. Let’s not get impatient I say to myself.

THIS IS WHERE SURFY (MY SURFACE) LIVES. SURFY MOVES FROM HER RED TABLE TO MY LAP ON THE COUCH IN THE EVENING. MY FAVORITE ADAM SMITH ARTWORK LIVES HERE TOO.

WORK

SUSANNA AND I IN THE GALLERY PRE-COVID. NOW WE’RE BUSILY PLOTTING THE GRAND RE-OPENING IN SUMMER 2021…

This post is about Work. All work but mostly my work. I looked up some work quotes to enjoy.

The beginning is the  most important part of work. Plato

I have realized how much I like to work…not puttering about the house, raking the leaves, or making better lunches. Not that those aren’t good pursuits, but for me they are vastly more enjoyable when you must do them after work (the paid/’gotta get up take a shower and drive to the office’ kind) or on weekends.

I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process. Vincent Van Gogh

At this point in time, I and three of my colleagues remain connected to North Fourth Art Center.  Although furloughed since last June and for some months into the future, we haven’t gone away. Performing art centers will not be open for awhile but with the advent of a soon-to-be-available vaccine we have discovered a new enthusiasm for bringing our center back to life. Even, as our new President says, ‘building (programming) back better!’

He who seeks rest finds boredom. He who seeks work finds rest. Dylan Thomas

In fact, today, one of us had a zoom chat with a performing arts leader about possibilities for the future of our N4th Theater and another is writing a grant for a visual arts/gallery program representing Albuquerque’s glorious artistic diversity. There are lights at the end of this long dark rocky stifling tunnel.

Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up. A. A. Milne

North Fourth Art Center has hosted a unique arts school for adults with developmental disabilities; an innovative theater program, including an exciting international contemporary dance festival; and a series of visual arts exhibits that have represented every community, ethnicity, and ability. I cannot wait for our Grand Reopening…the North Valley’s very own Art Center…the northside hub around which arts activities swirl and artists grow and flourish. And “Yes we can. Yes we can do it” (I’m reading Obama’s biography right now and thinking ‘yes we all can’ get over four years of hate and dysfunction and a pandemic and make art again.

Work is much more fun than fun. Noel Coward

Here are a few photos from before…I may have posted them already but I want to remind myself and you all how good it was at work. And how you’ll be able to join us again before to long.

 

Meant to write in November. The virus that is the crazy-as-a-loon (Minnesota national bird and a Minnesotan expression for the craziest of the crazy) president and the virus that is a virus overwhelmed my best intentions. New resolution. December. Daily. Upbeat. New President, new vaccine, new house, new travel plans. Here’s a post I started the other morning at 3 when I couldn’t sleep because…

At 3am this morning I decided it was time to ‘go back to my future.’ Through blogging, determination, hope and avocado toast. The future where I work and write and travel. The last few months have been surprisingly good however (at least when I’ve blocked out the rest of the world)… well-spent in moving from my nice-enough little apartment to a fancy townhouse. Not fancy-fancy, but by my lifetime of apartment-dwelling standards it could be called ‘moving on up’ Well we’re movin on up/To the east side/To a deluxe apartment in the sky/Movin on up/To the east side/We finally got a piece of the pie.(You do remember The Jeffersons, right?)

Long story short, it goes like this. My Albuquerque kids wanted to invest their money in a property. Son Steve fell in love with a friend’s for-sale townhouse. Being an excellent son he decided…killing two birds… he could offer his ageing mom a really nice place to live at an extremely modest rate and have a renter who would likely never throw another wild party in her entire life.

So here I am, 3am, in a rather elegant high-ceilinged, spacious, fire-placed living room surrounded by my finest IKEA tables, second-hand couch and chair, heirloom rocker, trunk and chests, and giant coffee table (especially handcrafted by my bro to allow my journals, notebooks, travel docs, manuscripts, Sunday papers, assortment of pens, clips, eye drops, vitamins and coffee cup to stay nearby). My giant gold, rust and black wall hanging acquired in 1999 from a street vendor in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire is finally back up after many years of closet dwelling.

Oh yeah, and a garage, dining room, atrium (yes, really), patio… pleasant neighborhood halfway between Whole Foods and my gym. I feel like I should adopt a refugee family and four dogs…. Or upgrade my Costco sweat pants and ragged cashmere sweater from Kathmandu. I know…too many commercial mentions and traveler name-dropping.

End of December 2020 Blog Post #1. They’ll probably get better.

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.