JOTUS (Jalopy of the United States)


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I kinda need a new car.  My current ride is a 14-year-old Toyota Highlander that has been extraordinarily reliable and has never been in a major accident.  (Knock on wood)  But because of my shitty depth perception, I’ve dinged and scratched this poor vehicle pretty unmercifully.  Given her age and the cosmetic insults, my car may, sadly, be approaching Jalopy status.

I was thinking about my car today after reading an article which poses the titular question “Are Liberals Helping Trump?  The assertion is that basically that by making Trump voters feel bad about themselves, liberals are alienating the people who otherwise might inclined to now criticize Trump and the dumpster inferno of an executive branch he now purports to lead.  But since liberals are so mean and nasty about all of this, Trump supporters feel “backed into a corner” and very harshly judged, and I suppose that just hurts.

For people who felt very strongly that the country needed a Republican president, any Republican president, I suppose they just held their noses and voted for Trump.  One of the people interviewed for the article put it this way:

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Something about this metaphor really pissed me off.  Not only because it made me think about the sad state of my own car, but because it also made it clear that at least some Trump voters were mindful of the risk they were taking with the leadership of our country. Trump voters hitched a ride in this terrible car, and while some may be content to ignore the signs of the impending crash, we liberals are in the backseat screaming as we careen down the highway.

And I get that if you don’t have any other options, getting into a crappy car that’s heading in the “right” direction seems like the only choice.  Choosing the alternative of going in the opposite direction isn’t immediately self-serving (though sometimes, if you miss your exit, the only choice is to keep going until you can safely turn around, but I digress…)  But here’s the thing that I still can’t wrap my head around…Republicans had other options.

To torture this car metaphor a bit more, back in the primaries, Jeb Bush and John Kasich came rolling up, veritable Volvos of the GOP…safe, reliable choices who would have comfortably set the cruise control on a conservative agenda.   (And with the Russians lending a hand, we can assume that any make and model advanced by the GOP would have ended up “turbo charged” and thus assured of some extra help accelerating over the finish line.)

But Republicans rejected the Volvos in favor of a flashy burnt orange Trans Am with faulty steering and a GPS that’s badly programmed with all sorts of “alternative facts”.  For good measure, the suspension on this heap is shot, so the ride is bumpy and jarring and makes everyone want to puke.  One can only hope that the emergency brake still works on this thing and that someone has the guts to pull it.

One Week


This time last week, I was making an attempt at serious poetry.  In doing so, I acknowledged that I hadn’t made the effort to write a proper poem in quite a long time, but stupid song parodies?  That’s right in my wheelhouse!  (Remind me to tell you about the parody of Air Supply’s “All Out of Love” I wrote about my boobs…that was a doozy.)

Anywho…in keeping with notion that you have to laugh or cry, I’m trying to laugh a little. As long as we’re lifting our voices, someway, somehow, it’s something.

With sincere apologies to Barenaked Ladies….

It’s been one week since you took the oath
Stood out in the rain
And acted crazy
Five days since you lost your mind
And that skinny blonde went nuts on Chuck Todd
Three days since the interview
When you lied through your teeth and no one believed you
Yesterday, you disgusted me
But it may still be four years ‘til we say “You’re fired”.

OMG, can you stop tweeting?
It bears repeating
That you’re still acting like an asshole
This is no longer a joke
But if we give you enough rope
You’ll hang yourself
When you try to run it up the flagpole

Melt like a snowflake when you’re lying
People start dying
When they can’t afford the M.D.
Facebook is now a war zone
It’s ‘cause of your tone
And all your promises are empty

Your tan is fake and you’re a snake
Your awful hair, it takes the cake
Srsly, what the hell is wrong with you?
Hey I don’t like Pence
But he’s not dense
The new White House is getting tense
Think there’s going to be a bloody coup?

How can I help it that I think that you’re in bed with Vlad?
Trying hard not to cry, though I feel sad
You’re the kind of guy who shouldn’t be president
Can’t understand what you say
Or what that tweet meant
I have a tendency to believe that climate change is real
I have a history of calling my reps

It’s been one week since you took the oath
Yelled out at the Mall like Mussolini
Six days since the women marched
They came out in force and it was no joke
It’s been five days since the morning shows
With alternative facts and who the hell knows
Yesterday, you disgusted me
And it may be less than four years ‘til we say “You’re fired”.

When you say “China”, your mouth looks funny
You won’t show your taxes, so where’s all your money?
Watching Rachel Maddow and not sleeping
There’s been some weeping
I wish that this was all a bad dream
Like Liam Neeson we’ve all been Taken
By all the fakin’
And now no A-listers will support you

Like East Berlin you want a big wall
Just can’t believe your gall
Someone’s gotta pay for it, and so, who?
Gonna call and write my senator
Gonna soon show you the door
So we can save the country from a crazy demagogue
Gotta march and shout and write
Protest, resist, and fight, and we will
See the lifting of the fog

How can I help it if I think that you’re in bed with Vlad?
Trying hard not to cry, though I feel sad
You’re the kind of guy who can’t be the president
Can’t understand what you say
Or what that tweet meant
I have a tendency to believe that climate change is real
I have a history of calling my reps

It’s been one week since you got sworn in
The crowd was small, but bigly to you
Four days since you dared to say
That millions of votes were cast the wrong way
Three days since you slammed the door
On the huddled masses, the tired and poor
Yesterday, you disgusted me
And it will be less than four years ‘til we say “You’re fired.”

Less than four years ‘til we say “You’re fired”
Less than four years ‘til we say “You’re fired”
The scene in D.C. is looking quite dire…

Marching, Misogyny, & Messed Up Memes


I wasn’t able to attend any of the Women’s March events, but I watched in awe as images rolled in which reflected that it was an enormous, powerful, and peaceful demonstration. It’s one for the history books, to be sure.

Rather than celebrating this tremendous exercise of free speech and assembly, detractors have already been dismissive of the motivation for marching.  I suppose the argument goes something like this…Roe v. Wade hasn’t been overturned…yet.  The provisions of the ACA ensuring that women won’t get charged more for healthcare haven’t been repealed…yet.  Yeah, Donald Trump said some gross stuff about how fun and easy it is to sexually assault women, but that was just locker room talk.  He hasn’t sexually assaulted (most of) you, so why are you marching already?  Jeez, just give the guy a chance!

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Mocking millions of women…let me know how the works out for you.

Here’s the thing…Donald Trump has telegraphed his attitudes toward women for a long time, and based on his track record of sexism and outright contempt of women, I think our collective concern is not premature.  And can I point out that it’s kinda sexist in and of itself to call for passivity and patience?  I suppose a “proper lady” might show the president a bit more respect.  But fuck that.  I’m not a proper lady, I’m a Nasty Woman.

And speaking of Nasty Women, here’s the other thing…The Women’s March also represents a response to a country that holds women in such low esteem that we elected Donald Trump, a man who is unfathomably unprepared, both in knowledge and in temperament, to be president rather than an elect a woman.  I know Hillary has her flaws, but I know in my bones that no male candidate has ever been subjected to such relentless scrutiny and false comparisons.  There should have been no comparison between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  That they ended up on the same ballot shows some pretty gnarly institutional sexism, and the Women’s March was about that, too, I think.  We know our female candidates will have to run “backwards and in heels,”  but damn it, do we have to trip them and stand on their necks, too?

So to everyone who marched today, Bravo.  Your courage and community were beautiful to behold.  And your timing was perfect.  When the stakes are this high, complacency is complicity.   Trump might ignore us, but history won’t.

Broken Heart Art


It’s been ages since I’ve posted anything here.  With the blogosphere so congested with voices, I suppose I began to feel a little self-indulgent and silly about this whole enterprise.  But I interrupt this hiatus with something different:  A poem.  Yep, I wrote an honest-to-goodness poem.  (Please note that I am not claiming it to be a good poem, but it’s an honest poem.)  I think it has been about 20 years since I have attempted to write a serious poem (I’m told stupid limericks and crappy song parodies don’t count.)

But whatever it is that moves people to write poems recently moved me.  It’s cliché, but I suppose I just needed an outlet.  In her recent speech at the Golden Globes, Meryl Streep quoted the dearly departed Carrie Fisher, and I suppose that stirred something.

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I don’t paint, or draw, or sing.  I dance a little, but I’m rusty and probably lack the flexibility to really express myself in movement…though that might be fun embarrassing to try.  Given my scarcity of talents, words are pretty much all I’ve got to make art.  So here goes…

Inauguration

The year I first gave birth
Markets crashed, panic simmered
Then Hope
Like a buoy, marking the way in the storm
Something to cling to
The only thing that made sense

My franchise was festive
We willingly waited in line
To surrender our cynicism
To a gentleman and a scholar
With great taste in women

Let me be clear, he said
Too good to be true, I thought
But he did the impossible, imperfect work
Gracious and cool
His balance, always checked

It took eight years
For my baby to transfigure to beautiful boy
Eight years for smoldering fear to catch fire
Flames fanned by vainglorious thumbs
At five o’clock in the morning

My incredulous optimism
Gave no sanctuary to the possibility
It seemed a joke that went too far
A cruel prank, a disastrous dare
That broke our bleeding hearts

On a warm, but bitter January morning
Snowflakes sublimated in the heat of hate
Hope seems dim while storm clouds gather
But soon again, it will rain

 

I might cry a little bit today, but then, I may try to write some more.  If we all make some art out of this, then at least the world is going to be a richer and more beautiful place.

Stay strong, Snowflakes.

Grief, Gratitude, and Guardian Angels


I missed the memo about grief, gratitude, and guardian angels.

A few weeks ago, I used this little platform to spread the word and raise money for my friend, Dianne.  To anyone who took the time to read about Dianne and to say a little prayer for her, I thank you.  If you kicked in a few dollars to help her family in their time of need, I thank you.  It was absolutely amazing to see the outpouring of support from friends and strangers alike.  There are truly angels among us, I think. (More on that in a second.)

When I received the news that Dianne had died, I was getting ready to take my son to a birthday party.  It was one of those parties in the park, complete with bouncy house and popcorn machine.   As I sat there in a rented plastic folding chair, trying to make small talk with the other moms, I really just wanted to scream.  It was making me kind of crazy to experience the celebration of one life while I grieved the loss of another.  It was surreal and uncomfortable, and I just counted the minutes until I could go home and cry.

But then the Angels showed up.

No, not actual celestial beings, but pretty damn close.  You see, the mom of the birthday boy happened to be from Brazil, so they got the party going, Carnival-style.  When the party games were ramping up, Mom and her sisters strapped on these amazing angel wings and danced around a bit.  Now, I’ve been to a few birthday parties in my day, and I’ve seen a few special guests in attendance.  Clowns?  Yes.  Princesses?  Absolutely.  Super Heroes?  Sure.  But angels?  This was a first.

And yeah, some of the dads were cracking wise with the Victoria's Secret jokes.
There must be an angel playing with my heart.                         (Bonus points if you remember that song.)

I’m usually not big on signs and superstition, but as I watched these gorgeous angels flitting about the party, I thought to myself, “Thank you, Dianne.”  The rational part of my brain acknowledges this was a simple coincidence, but my heart was lighter, nonetheless.

In the days since Dianne’s death, I’ve been experiencing grief and gratitude as two sides of the same coin.  I catch myself thinking of Dianne during hard moments…when I’m cleaning up toddler vomit, or stuck in traffic, or in some interminable work meeting,  or scrubbing the toilet the 6-year-old boy uses.  I know being diagnosed with cancer didn’t immunize Dianne from the petty frustrations of life,  but I can’t help thinking how grateful Dianne would have been if she had regained the strength to care for her kids the way she had wanted to, or how thrilled she would have been to be well enough to drive herself anywhere, and how happy she would have been to return to the career she had worked so hard to pursue.

I still complain way too much about all the things I’m healthy and strong enough to do. But now Dianne, the guardian angel of my perspective, will always inhabit a little corner of my heart and head. And sometimes, she reminds me to transform my complaints about having to do something into celebrating being able to do something.

I wish more than anything that Dianne did not have to be the messenger, so I am grieving and grateful, and memo received.

Craigslist, Cancer, and The Miracle of Flight.


I  missed the memo about Craigslist, Cancer, and the Miracle of Flight

I first discovered Craigslist when my husband and I cluelessly moved from Virginia to Los Angeles back in 2001.  Through the magic of Craigslist, we’ve acquired jobs, cars, furniture, free haircuts, and lots of other weird and wonderful stuff.  So in 2007 when I was cluelessly pregnant with my first child, I ventured into the Craigslist Pregnancy Forum in the hopes of finding less clueless kindred spirits.

I’ll admit it…at first it was overwhelming.  There were hundreds of people posting messages and it was hard to keep up.  But gradually, folks within the greater forum found their tribes, and I found mine.  All these many years later, there’s a group of us that have stayed close and grown closer as our kids have grown up.  More kids have come and we’ve shared all the challenges that have come with growing families.   We live all over the country, but through the magic of social media, we stay connected just about every day.   I love these women, and count them among my most treasured friends.

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And some folks might make the distinction between “internet friends” and “real friends”,  but we’ve transcended that, I think.  And these people do exist.   I even have proof!  It’s to the point that we plan vacations together, which we all look forward to more than Christmas.

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One of these treasured friends, Dianne Burrell, has Stage IV cancer.  Her first diagnosis came soon after the birth of her second child.  Dianne is a nurse and became a great advocate for her own care.  She underwent extensive surgeries and chemotherapy, and there seemed to be hope for a good long-term outcome.  But last year, a recurrence of her cancer was diagnosed.  Despite a fairly grim prognosis, Dianne has battled ferociously through the horrendous side-effects of every treatment protocol that might buy her some time.  Because that’s all she wants…more time.

Before I had kids, I was pretty cavalier about my mortality.  But having kids is a game changer.  This shift was described so well by story teller Bobby Stoddard on this recent episode of The Moth.  If you have a minute, go listen to his story, Flight.  You will laugh and cry.  And when you cry, please think of Dianne.  Because for Dianne, the prospect of leaving her kids is no longer just a heart-stopping nightmare, it’s her heartbreaking reality.

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Dianne and Family, Fall 2014.  Gorgeous photo by Laura Morita Photography

When we hear stories like stories like Dianne’s I think there are two typical reactions…the first is, “Thank God that’s not me.” And the second, is, “This makes me feel helpless…what can I do?”  Friends and readers, there is something you can do and I am begging you to do it.  There’s a GoFundMe page set up to help Dianne and her family with some of the crushing expenses that have come with her illness.  Sadly, there’s not much that money can do at this point to help Dianne medically, but it will alleviate some of her worries.  Whatever you are moved to contribute, please give.  And please share Dianne’s story far and wide.  Here’s the link again:  gofundme.com/oc3reg.  Thank you and memo received.

The Bird, The Water, and The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned on the Internet


I missed the memo about The Bird, The Water, and The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned on the Internet.

I have a confession…I have a bit of a road rage problem.  I don’t follow other motorists menacingly or brandish weapons at them for their driving infractions, but I do something that’s a bit more self-destructive and cowardly…I flip them The Bird, usually super quickly, and under my steering wheel, so really the only person who knows I’ve done it is me.  I’m not saying this makes any sense, I’m just saying that this is what I do.

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No. 1 Son at about 3 months old. The apple fell perilously close to the tree.

I’ve recently taken stock of this ridiculous behavior and decided I need to stop it.  And in my efforts to get a grip, I’m meditating a bit on the message from the simultaneously heartbreaking and inspiring words of David Foster Wallace.  You guys may recall when this video made the rounds a year or two ago…it’s an abbreviated version of the commencement address that David Foster Wallace gave at Kenyon College in 2005.  The title of the address “This Is Water” comes from the little joke used as the opener:

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?'”

Foster Wallace used the fish joke to illustrate the point “that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.”  Foster Wallace goes on to explain that one of these realities is how we are all usually making ourselves the center of what we experience, and in so doing, run the risk of making ourselves miserable and crazy. If I’m the center of the universe, then every bad thing that happens, even the petty inconsequential stuff, is a personal affront. That’s the heartbreaking part.  The inspiring part, especially for a newly minted college graduate, I suppose, is that education can empower us to conceive of other possibilities beyond a self-centric universe.  And once we’re able to conceive of a universe in which we are not the center, we’re free to let go of all the anger and frustration that comes from thinking the world is out to get us.  It’s liberating as hell, but really hard, to keep this in perspective in rush hour traffic.

A more lighthearted variation on this theme came from the incomparable Glennon Doyle Melton over at her blog, Momastery. In describing her experience of feeling angry and out-of-sorts when she observed a seemingly perfect mother at the mall, she described her growing fury as the perfect mom fed her child an avocado.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when Glennon described how she felt that this other mom was doing all of her perfect parenting at her.  After mulling over how this kind of thinking has gotten her into hard places of anger, envy, and resentment, Glennon concedes:

“I mean, after five years – I’m ready to consider the possibility that avocado lady might not have even known I was going to be in the food court that day. It’s not likely – but it’s a possibility.”

This did me in…just the folly, the absolute silliness, of going around all day thinking that other people are orchestrating their whole lives around the goal of pissing me off.  Glennon blew that up…with an avocado, and to this day, I count it as the most important thing I’ve learned on the internet.

So even as I cope with the endurance trial which is a commute to and from Downtown Los Angeles, I’m trying to be aware of The Water, and recognize that people are not failing to use their turn signals at me.  Middle fingers down and memo received.