The crazy lady hands out mental health advice.*

I don’t speak in public. I occasionally engage in other expressive conduct (I’ve walked out of church sermons in protest), but I haven’t spoken. Until yesterday.

I attended one of the many rallies against Charlottesville at city hall. As I suspect happened at some other rallies, the conversation turned more broadly to the Trump administration, the ACA, how to get involved in local Indivisible or Democratic organization, etc. I heard about working against racism, sexism, and for LGBTQ rights. I did not hear anything about disability issues.**

So I quickly got my thoughts together, stood and spoke:

Hi. My name is Pat. I have a disability — I have bipolar disorder.

I watched in horror during the campaign as Trump mocked a disabled reporter. I have watched as senators have voted to dismantle the ACA, which so many disabled people, whatever their disability, rely on to get needed health care.***

One of the things I find, not just for myself but for some of  my friends, is the fight against despair. Because sometimes  it looks like there are so many things… There’s health care and voter suppression and there’s this and there’s that … I think that’s part of their strategy, to overwhelm people so they can’t get a grip.

I would encourage people to find one or two things to work on, so you don’t get overwhelmed.

I was at the Women’s March. I was at the March for Science. I’m here. Being together  with other people is so important.

One last thing –if you are feeling overwhelmed, Robert Reich has a wonderful video called “How to Survive the Summer of Trump.” I thought I’d pass that along.

Thank you.

It’s not the Gettysburg address; on the other hand, I was a lot less long-winded than some of the other speakers. When I mentioned struggling against despair, I saw people nodding in the crowd. The same happened when I mentioned the Reich video.

But best of all, afterward a teenage girl came up to me and shyly said “I have bipolar disorder, too. Thank you.”

Next up: maybe counter-protest at Google; definitely a rally the day after. Maybe a counter protest in San Francisco on the 26th.  This fight is going to take a while.

I seriously doubt I will speak at any of them; then again, I didn’t expect to speak yesterday.

 

*Yes, I know crazy is supposed to be derogatory. I’m using it ironically.

*** I’ve noticed this a lot. Often times, disability rights get overlooked in the list of causes progressives fight for.

***Unfortunately, I forgot and left off the line that I had in my head, which would have tied what I said to Charlottesville: “And I am well aware of what the Nazis did to people like me.”

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I <3 these people.

I am working on an extensive post about the geographical origins of Trumpism, but in the meantime, I just feel like posting something absolutely trivial. (The Trumpism post is still in progress, and while I think it’s important (at least to me), it’s also depressing.)

My current media crushes:

Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Rachel Maddow.
Chris Hayes.
Joy Reid.
Peter Capaldi.
Wonder Woman (okay, Gal Gadot).
Stephen Colbert.
Peter Sagal.
All of the regular panelists on Says You!, especially Murray Horwitz, Barry Nolan and Caroline Faye Fox.
Helen Mirren.
Idris Elba.
Questlove.
Chris Hardwick (fare-thee-well, @midnight!).
Hannah Hart.

And,  in my media crush Hall of Fame: Alton Brown.

Looking over this list, what I am struck by is how smart (geeky, too, several of them) all of these people are. Even the stunning Wonder Woman Gal Gadot, whom I would follow over any battlefield you would care to name, comes across as a sharp cookie. Naive, yes, but intelligent just the same.

The Resident Shrink once told me I have a “brain fetish.” Boy howdy is that true.

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Why bother?

I hate Barnett Newman. Actually, to be specific, I hate Barnett Newman’s work. (And do not get me started on Rothko.) I once sat for fifteen minutes in the Museum of Modern Art glaring at Vir Heroicus Sublimis, muttering and trying to get some meaning, any meaning, out of it. (According to the audio guide, when the painting was first exhibited, critics sniffed that it could have been the work of a housepainter. Later, as Newman began to be more highly regarded on the art scene, critics talked about the painting’s subtlety and nuance. They were right the first time.)

The point is, even though I didn’t understand or even like the work, I made the effort to engage with it. When I go to museums, I try to immerse myself in the experience — to connect with the art, sometimes with the architecture (the Tate Modern and Guggenheim in Bilbao come to mind).

Far too many people seem to feel otherwise. Stand in any museum, and you will see some people who move from room to move, looking at the paintings with a bored expression on their face.  I keep wanting to ask them, “Are you enjoying yourself?”

I’ve seen this particularly in museums and with artwork that are “must sees.” Let’s face it, there are paintings or sculptures that everyone thinks they need to see to be cultured. The Mona Lisa, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Seurat’s Sunday on the Island of La Grand Jatte. It’s too easy simply to treat a work as an item to check off of a list. (Even for me, sometimes: I was completely underwhelmed by the Mona Lisa. Although in my defense after I saw it once, I never bothered with it on subsequent visits to the Louvre.) I’ve also seen this at historic sites; when I lived in Northern Virginia, I would visit the Lincoln Memorial, and a disturbingly large number of tourists would walk in, take a picture of Lincoln, and leave.

To be fair, I have seen a lot less of this while viewing special events, such as the one I saw last month at SF MOMA. Edvard Munch is a bit of an acquired taste, perhaps, so the exhibit self-selects for people already interested in his work.

When I was viewing the Gerhard Richter’s Student Nurses at MOMA in New York, A couple walked in, older than me, who read the full description (not only the name but the explanation). After reading it, the man shrugged and they drifted on. I wanted to scream. How could they do that? How could they not even take the time to try to feel what Richter was trying to communicate?

Even Picasso’s Guernica, which reduced a friend and me to tears, got nothing more than simple glances from several people who stopped to view it. (To be fair, most people looking at it seemed to be deep in thought. The painting does that to you.)

My favorite person to go to museums with is the Not-So-Little Drummer Boy, precisely because he is not intimidated by the art. When we visited the Musee d’Orsay, a group of people, myself included, were solemnly intoning about the use of materials in Degas’ Little Dancer. The NSLDB had a different take. “What a brat!” he exclaimed. The entire group grew silent. The NSLDB had broken one of the unwritten rules of important museums — you have to be serious. Nervously, I tried to shush him. “Just look at her,” he continued. “Look at the way she stands! I went to school with girls like her!”

At that point, people chuckled and started talking about the girl. It was as though they had been given permission to really look at the sculpture, and think about its subject, and experience it in a new way.

During that same trip to the Orsay, I saw two women coming out of a Van Gogh exhibit. One woman was exclaiming enthusiastically about the intensity of the sunflowers, how beautiful they all were. Her friend was looking around nervously going, “Shush, we need to be quieter.” (The first woman was not talking loudly, it should be noted.)

I wanted to run up to them and say “No! She’s got it right! The sunflowers are intensely beautiful! Let her be enthusiastic! Don’t make her be serious!”

Because isn’t that what art is all about? About engaging our minds and our imaginations?

And laughing? Laughing in an art museum can get you nasty looks. Once, when I was wandering through the Met in New York and came across a portrait done by Sir Henry Raeburn, I burst into giggles. A husband and wife passing by glared, not even bothering to stop and see what I was laughing at.

I want to know from these people, if art does not give you joy, if it does not capture your heart and your soul, if you can’t be bothered to try and figure out what the art is telling you,  why are you in a museum?

 

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Watching the crazies.

The Not-So-Little Drummer Boy was a cool kid who grew up into a neat adult. He has moved out of New York and now teaches English to kindergartners, which he enjoys, and he has a girlfriend who I have not met but have talked to on the phone, and generally seems to be settling down.

He lives and works in Seoul, South Korea.

The chest thumping from North Korean leader  Kim Jong Un has made me nervous, but it is not really anything we haven’t heard before. The response from Donald Trump (threats will be “met with fire and fury and frankly, power”) made for a sleepless night.

Trump can’t be serious, can he? This is a man who lies constantly. A man known to bluff with no cards in his hand. It’s just another empty threat. Right?

My concern is that Kim Jong Un takes Trump at his word, and engages in a pre-emptive strike.  South Korea might be safer from a nuclear attack than we are here on the West Coast, I think. Kim may be crazy, but he’s not stupid: the north might experience nuclear fallout, right?

But if they have nuclear weapons, what other weapons do they have? Biological? Chemical? Just conventional weapons would cause a lot of damage.

What if Kim realizes just how weak Trump is? What if Kim realizes Trump was talking out his ass and decides to call his bluff? How safe is South Korea?

I am not a military or intelligence expert. I try to read the Washington Post and watch the news, but I tend to hyperventilate. I know I may just be catastrophizing here, but catastrophizing seems almost rational given the narcissistic incompetent we have in the White House and the crazy authoritarian across the sea. Both leaders seem to take every statement, every perceived threat, as a personal insult.

I know that all I can do is watch. I can suggest to the NSLDB that he come back to the States, but right now he’s staying put. If things go pear-shaped, how much time will he have to leave? Given his girlfriend, will he choose to stay there and ride things out?

When your kids grow up, they fly. Hopefully, they fly strong and free. I am proud of the NSLDB for trying something new, for experiencing a foreign land. For being willing to take chances.  For living a full and exciting life.

I just wish he weren’t living in a potential war zone, and that we didn’t have a petulant, thin-skinned child as a President.

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It’s a day.

I have three separate posts that I am working on. One about Trump supporters and the Deep South, one about immigration and the Statue of Liberty, and one about art museums.

And I am not working on any of them.

Instead, I have been engaging in my favorite time sink (Facebook) and household chores. I have at least done laundry and cleaned the kitchen.

I am still so very tired a lot of the time. It’s been two months since I was diagnosed with pneumonia; I should be over it already.

I have discovered another time-sink: horse racing. I have always loved racing, but except for the big races telecast on the major broadcast networks, I have not had the chance to see much of it. Enter Fox Sports and Saratoga Live!, coverage of the last four races of the day at the track at Saratoga. I DVR it during the day and watch it at night. (DVRing allows me to skip commercials, walks around the paddock, and interviews with trainers. No trainers give interesting interviews, although I do have a fond spot in my heart for Shug McGaughey.) Since I know next to nothing about these horses, I always pull for the gray one.

Saratoga Live! may lead me into another potential time-sink: researching horse bloodlines. I am fascinated by how in any given race there might be several horses with the same sire. (I have yet to see horses with the same dam; then again, stallions produce vastly more offspring than mares do.) I have yet to succumb, however.

The Red-Headed Menace turned twenty-one yesterday. On one hand, I feel old; on the other, all my kids can now buy me Gewurztraminer for my birthday. There’s always a silver lining.

Level unlocked: Buttercream frosting. This achievement comes courtesy of the Kitchen-Aid stand mixer we got from a friend a few weeks ago. (I had been planning to do a seven-minute or Italian meringue frosting, but I figured that handling molten hot sugar was a bad idea, given my tremors.) Now, if I can only figure out how to keep flour or powdered sugar from exploding all over the counter when I turn it on….

Saffron-Raspberry cake: Take a standard white cake mix. (So I don’t make this cake from scratch. Sue me.) Boil the water required for the mix. Stir in a couple of good pinches of saffron, and let the water cool to room temperature. Cook cake according to directions, using saffron water. Melt raspberry jam in the microwave (I think about 4 – 6 ounces, but I am not sure). Split cooled cake layers, and fill with melted jam. Frost with homemade buttercream frosting.

I am trying not to be terrified about the possibility of Congress and the administration not raising the debt ceiling. I am also worried about a government shutdown, but less so. The long-term damage to the country will be less with the latter.

The days are getting slowly shorter, and the sunlight slightly less intense. I find myself smiling at this.

I talked to a family member in Mississippi a couple of days ago. It was a lovely conversation…. but then again, we avoided politics. One thing I like about my family is that we are capable of being nice to each other, even though they are Trump supporters and I most emphatically am not.

I have been reading Bruce Catton’s The Civil War (see: potential blog post about the Deep South, above). I am gaining a new perspective on a lot of things I thought I knew. Catton is a reliable source, and new ideas are almost always a good thing. While I think it unlikely that a new civil war will break out in the country, according to Catton neither the North nor the South excepted the other to go to war, either.

At any rate, that’s my day. I hope yours is going well, too.

 

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In San Francisco, no less.

To tell you the truth, I’m still freaked out by the whole thing.

On a random impulse, I decided to go to the beach, hoping to see the sun set. I hopped in the Rocket Scientist’s car (he’s out of town) and headed north. Then, on a yet more random impulse, as I was underway I decided “Screw that, I’m going to the Golden Gate Bridge.” (The chances of being able to see the sunset from the bridge were, as usual for this time of year, terrible.) I stopped briefly at the Great Highway to chuckle at the sight of people dressed (appropriately) in down coats in August, and to determine exactly what shade of gray the ocean was. (The breakers were a gray-green; farther out the ocean was slate.) As I left I thought that once I had crossed the bridge I would call friends in San Francisco to see if any of them were available. (Given that it was late afternoon on a Saturday in August, I figured the odds were about equal to those of me seeing the sunset from the bridge.)

In the vicinity of Golden Gate Park, while stopped at a red light, I became aware that a guy was hanging out the back window of the new Nissan Altima behind me. He was screaming obscenities at me and my Hillary bumper sticker.

“Motherfucker [unintelligible] Hillary [unintelligible] fucking Hillary … You mother fucker!!” This went on until the light changed. I drew a deep breath and drove on.

He did the same thing at the next light and the light after that. I could hear the three other guys in the car egging him on. He didn’t sound very angry (he laughed occasionally) but it was clear to me that they wanted to make me afraid.

They continued to follow me. The verbal abuse stopped, but I looked back at one point and the guy who had screamed at me was leaning out of the window photographing the back of the car. They were close enough that the bumper sticker would be legible, but more to the point the license plate would be as well.

I told myself to keep calm — they were highly unlikely to get out and confront me physically as there was too much traffic. I kept expecting them to turn off onto one of the side streets, but they didn’t. Once we were on the approach to the bridge I realized that they were not going to stay in the city. I slowed down significantly, and the driver passed me.

“Whew,” I thought. “Okay, they’re simply going north and just saw me as an easy opportunity to harass a Hillary supporter. I’ll just go to the vista point, look out at the waves and the Bay Bridge, take some deep breaths, maybe call a couple of people.”

The car exited at the vista point.

Clearly, I wasn’t going to exit there myself. I went down an exit, and because by that time my brain was screaming and my pulse racing, I got turned around and spent half an hour wandering through Sausalito trying to get down to downtown.  Sausalito has a lovely downtown with no available parking on a Saturday in the early evening. As I was driving around I did see the remnants of the sunset under the fog surrounding the full moon. It was beautiful, and if I could have found parking I would have stayed.

I managed to get back on the freeway headed south and decided to head home. At this point, I decided that although I love my friends what I really needed was to be safe under my own roof.

I’m home now, and I’m still shaking. I am telling myself that I’m overreacting, that they didn’t really pose a threat to me, that even if I had followed them to the vista point the most they would have done is keep yelling at me, and probably not even that given all the people around. (Then again, I wouldn’t have thought they would have kept screaming at me with traffic around, either.)

I keep trying not to remember the other times I have been threatened by men.

I don’t even know if they were Trump supporters. It was San Francisco so they might well have been Berniebots. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that four grown men (ages roughly mid- to late-twenties) thought it socially acceptable to try to intimidate or terrorize a lone woman with no warning and for no reason.

Oh, what a brave new world we live in.

 

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Affirmative action for whom?

The Trump administration believes that white men have been disadvantaged in college admissions. The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, in a development that would be amusingly hypocritical if it were not a sickening subversion of everything the division stands for, has decided to investigate and possibly sue colleges and universities with affirmative action plans.  The department is running the project out of its front office rather than its Educational Opportunities Section because the career staff wants nothing to do with it.

While they’re at it, I think the administration should look at all the affirmative action programs. Let’s start with athletes. In 2017, NCAA Division I schools were allowed 269.9 scholarships for male athletes per year and 254.1 for women athletes.  (When I was applying to college back in the dawn of time, I was at an event for potential Princeton students, where the young men (there were no young women aside from me in the room) bitterly moaned about money spent on women’s sports taking away funding for smaller men’s sports such as wrestling. Funny, they would bitch about the relatively small number of women’s scholarships in any given sport (the most for any women’s sport in 2017 was 18 for Track & Field/Cross Country and Ice Hockey) but seemed perfectly okay with the huge number of scholarships allocated to football (85 in 2017). You still see some of these misogynistic crybabies on the Internet.)

And what about rich kids? Kids whose parents can effectively buy their way in (cough*JaredKushner*cough)? What is that but affirmative action for the wealthy?

And then there are legacies. Your folks went to XYZ elite university, and you have a better shot at going there yourself. Given the lack of diversity programs in the past, legacy admissions maintain the socioeconomic status quo, and not in a good way.

I am the product of two very elite institutions. I was not a legacy, I was not wealthy, and I was certainly not an athlete. I got in because of my test scores (my grades were good but not earth-shaking) and my ability to write a decent essay. I was able to stay in because both schools had good financial aid programs. But the more I looked around, the more I came to believe that diversity of all types — racial, ethnic, religious, socioeconomic — is essential to a proper education.

I can still remember quite vividly the classmate at Wellesley, who in the midst of a discussion about America in the 1960s, said “But what you do defines you! It’s the first thing people say about themselves! You know….’I’m a doctor,’ ‘I’m a lawyer’…” ” “Not if you’re a taxicab driver or a plumber,” I replied. She looked shocked. She honestly had not considered the world beyond the narrow slice of society that she knew.

Classmates and professors taught me to understand the ways in which the experience of people of color differed from mine. I still miss things, but to the extent I am cognizant of racial inequalities I have them to thank.

And law schools almost definitionally require diversity. All of us are covered by the law, and all of us need to have our experiences reflected in the makeup of those who carry out those laws. Lawyers from elite law schools become professors, or judges, or, often, lawmakers.  We need a broad range of perspectives to ensure that we truly are one nation with justice for all.

But justice for all is clearly not a priority for the Trump administration. Otherwise, they would never be spending resources in seeking to “protect” a class of people that get more protection than anyone else.

In the end,  most of us — not merely those who benefit from diversity programs — will be the poorer for it.

 

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