Friday, June 01, 2012


Something happened last year during Mom's visit. I'm not sure exactly what. My theory at the time was that because I'd stopped wearing my shoes in the morning my legs weren't adjusting to the small heal on my shoes. I felt like I was pitched forward. My balanced was so bad that I fell while walking across the living room. And my living room is not very big. I didn't think I'd hurt anything but as time has gone on I've come to think I did do something to my right knee.
The shoe theory might not have been true or maybe it's just not the only thing. I have my shoes on as soon as I wake up and have had for months. My balance is better but still off. I also stopped going to the pool for reasons too numerous and boring to detail.
After Mom went home my pain level was increased and my balance was really bad. Getting to the pool has been painful for some time but getting home is much worse. Coming down a steep hill is worse than going up.
I've known for a long time that swimming is what's keeping me together. And I love it. But I couldn't face the pain.
So. I bought a scooter.
I picked it because I needed a scooter with a removable battery that I could recharge in my apartment. And I needed one that I could maneuver easily in and out of the building. It's really a great scooter. But it turns out that I'm weird. From the first time I got on it I freaked out if it picked up any speed.
I've managed to ride it up to the pool once. It took longer than it would taken to walk and coming home was just as difficult. The pain isn't all in my knees now it spreads all over my tense body. It took me two days to recover. This last Wednesday I was going to try again but I was awake the entire night freaking out. When morning came I was beat.
I'm really determined to get over this. I think there are physical elements like my balance and inflexible joints but I mostly think it's just fear.
I miss my pool.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Violets in Winter

I romanticize the 1880's and 1890's in the lower east side of New York. I imagine passionate conversation and shared wisdom. I imagine shared soup and bread. And poetry. The truth is it was dangerous and impoverished. But reading about Emma sends me into a dream. I don't need to dream because so much is happening now. Occupy, Quebec, Wisconsin. News of the election in Egypt is somewhat discouraging but I still believe in Spring.
A story about Emma, returning from her first lecture tour, afire with insight and eager to share, was angered by Johann Most's desire to focus on their romance. He'd brought her violets. She wanted him to listen to the things she'd realized. She wanted to talk revolution. They fought. When she poured out the tale to her comrades one of them thought the violets in winter, when so many were starving, was wrong. Emma didn't like that either.

"Hearts starve as well as bodies. Give us bread but give us roses. "  

It's stupid to complain about TV news. It's stupid to expect much. With the exception of Rachel, Chris and Melisa there isn't much. I watch Democracy Now on PBS these days but I still think of it as a radio show. The news today, even on Rachel is droning on and on about ... well. I don't even want to say. It's too stupid.
So I'm going to read about Emma. And dream about violets in winter.

Monday, May 28, 2012

What Is It Good For?

I was a sixties kid and of course I opposed war broadly and Vietnam specifically. In the right/wrong certainty of youth I saw anyone who joined the military as someone who didn't understand what they were doing. There were so many things I didn't understand.
Mom remembers she was reading the comics when she heard the radio announcement of Pearl Harbor. She remembers many male classmates enlisting.
I was assigned The Things They Carry for a class and I'm glad I was. I doubt I would have read it on my own. O'Brien writes about his choice to enlist. I remember he thought about all the young man who wouldn't be able to avoid the draft by going to college.
Yesterday and today I've listened to stories about veterans. The choice to enlist is motivated by so many things but one is economic. Mom enlisted just before Korea because she wanted to use the G.I bill. for college. I've been thinking about the difference in our experience of the military. She met my dad in the Navy. Her second husbands was a Marine. It's always been a source of pride. She never did get to college but she credits the accounting skills she learned in the Navy with how she got the jobs she did afterward. Her second husband did use the G.I. bill for a BA and MA in engineering. The G.I bill also supported low interest home loans, which was part of the growth of the suburbs and the middle class. People in my generation were more likely to go to college on their parents dime and for many it was a way to avoid the draft.
I've read some arguments for why we should not have gotten into the second world war but it makes a kind of sense to me. We were attacked. We were also attacked on 9/11 but the gulf wars have never felt as clear to me.
I don't really feel like I have any understanding about the generations that fought in the Gulf wars. It seems that many still go into the military for job training or the pay check. Which isn't to say that they don't also have reasons drawn from patriotism and ideals of service.
The transition back has never been easy and in many ways seem so much harder, which feels so wrong. There's been a lot of over due gratitude directed to Vietnam vets this weekend.
There's still so much I don't understand and I still oppose war broadly. I've been on the verge of tears, or in tears for the last two days. Some of the soldiers seem so young to me. Most of the stories are so heart breaking. And more than a few times I've felt angry.

The differences in our experience and understanding have been a source of tension between Mom and I. More so when I was younger. I get tense around flag waving and guns. She is quick to salute. She's had her flag hanging from her porch all weekend. But we both want the troops to come home now.
I am grateful to people who enlist because they believe they are fighting to protect my way of life. I've been trying to come up with a way to articulate why I am given my lack of support for war. I can't. I see them. I hear their stories. Gratitude is all I have to give.    

Sunday, May 27, 2012


When Melisa Harris Perry was growing up her father signed every note and card: the struggle continues. What a legacy. She writes that the struggle with the slanted images of the crooked room is a problem of recognition. She mentions Hannah Arendt's ideas about the public world being a place where people self actualize as a result of recognition.

I went to help Mom when K was in the hospital years ago. One of her friends picked me up at the airport. Later Mom reported that when the friend first saw me she didn't think I'd be as smart as I was because I was so fat. Mom thought this was a good thing although I was never clear if she thought her friend was cool for having seen past my weight or I was cool for being so smart or both.
I didn't think it was cool at all.
Mom thinks it's understandable for someone of size to make a bad first impression simply because of their size.
A friend once told me that her father had interviewed a man for a partnership and almost didn't hire him because he was fat. He did hire him and they'd been lifelong business partners and friends.
One of the first people I met at EA was women with whom it seemed I had much in common. She liked to read and play Sims. We went to lunch in one of the cafeterias that day and I watched as she picked every bit of lettuce and tomato off a pre-made sandwich. She called it rabbit food. It worked out for me because if she ordered something that came with vegetables I often got them. She drank countless sodas and lots of candy and fast food. She wasn't thin but she wasn't fat. I sometimes imagine the two of us at a bus stop. People driving by might think our diets were the opposite of what they were. I don't think I'm being paranoid. I've had the experience of someone yelling at me from a car to "eat more salad."
And then there there are the times when I've been on a plane. Leaning away from the person next to me, desperate not to make them uncomfortable and they spread out elbows in my ribs, knees banging into mine. The farther I lean away the more room they take up.
I think most of us bristle at assumptions made about us and I'm not sure any of us are free of that possibility. Maybe we feel better about the positive assumptions.

I'm still not sleeping very well. I finished the book about Sontag. Fast read. Probably only interesting if you're already interested in Sontag, which I am. I started a book about Emma Goldman written by Vivian Gornick. One of my favorite books by one of my favorite writers. Gornick's slant is on Golman's ideas about inner liberation being central to political revolution.
I feel like all these books are stringing together.
Bread crumbs.
On a mystery trail.
A snipe hunt.