26 January 2016


At the beginning of the year, I posted that I'd use this space to reacquaint myself with writing (long form writing, anyway, which I've neglected since completing a dissertation on Decadent writers). I began with short posts, but they were regular. Then David Bowie died.

The Internet, of course, is well stocked with pieces written by people grieving for this man, and I sat down on a Wednesday at 6:30 AM to commit my own eulogy to the WWW. Unexpectedly, I ended up researching an AM radio station in the Idaho panhandle--my only musical source in the 1970s--which lead, in turn, to writing about that station's effect on my interior life (pretty much the only "life" I had as a child). I grew confused about chronology ("when did we move from Arizona to California to Illinois?" "What year did 'The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.' come out?" "How old was I when they filmed Heaven’s Gate?"). I opened a old, empty notebook and began an outline. I wrote out each calendar year and proceeded to fill the outline with generalities, question marks, and some details. I texted my mom and asked about key events. I looked at dates on old photos, and finally, some order appeared. For the first time, I can see my life, and, for the first time, I've started writing about it.

I've spent some time every day writing. My writing schedule is time consuming, but it works for me. In the evening, while my partner writes (he is a poet), I curl up in a chair beside an Ikea Jansjö lamp, open my moleskin, pick up my Black Warrior, and write for at least one hour. Each morning, I boot my HP Pavilion desktop and transcribe the previous night's longhand. I add details from memory, my mother's memory, and from what I research. So far, it's been a stimulating and kind of astonishing experience.

I've blogged  the occasional personal post, but largely I've avoided "confessional" writing, and I think it's because I've always chosen to believe that the personal past is best left unexamined. The terrain is too awful. It thunders with isolation, bleakness, and physical pain that can, at the very least, debilitate you before you're half way across the territory. I saw confessional writing as the domain of those unwilling or unable to "let go" of trauma, and maybe I've accused them of wallowing in it, enjoying the crash of misery. My philosophy asserted: “It’s done, move on. Can’t change things. Forget it.” Such ideas emerged from my own unwillingness to frankly address the various choices I’ve made. Writing about them means focusing on shame, anger, addiction, poverty, pettiness, vanity, jealousy . . . essentially each one of those miseries that flew out of that Greek woman’s jar.

To this point, I fail to see my writing as "therapeutic." It doesn’t relieve or provide previously-unknown insights. My goal isn't to force my life into some narrative arc (life is more episodic than narrative, isn’t it? Well, it seems so to me). Actually, right now I don’t know what the goal, what "the point" might be. Perhaps, right now, the only “point” is that I’m writing. And I am certain that, eventually, a “so what” response will emerge.

At least, I hope.

TL; DR: I’m writing again. And this time it’s personal.

13 January 2016

Bowie, Briefly.

My response to David Bowie's death may be melodramatic and some might say frivolous.

My partner woke me at 05:45 on Monday, 12/11/16 to tell me that Bowie had died; immediately, I fell into the grief-pit. I began sobbing, and I spent a significant chunk of the day weeping.

My response has several components. Much, of course, is sincere mourning for a deeply valuable human being and artist. There is, as well, nostalgia and an awareness of my own mortality. However, I think the majority of it may be that Bowie's death "triggered" my widow's grief.  While I was crying for Bowie, I was also crying for my late husband. 

I'm working on a longer piece about Bowie's significance "to me" (because, you know, we don't have enough of those just yet), but I wanted to mark his passing now. 

Thank you, Mr Jones, for all that you've given. Your work (in art, music, film, fashion) has impacted our culture profoundly. I will miss knowing that you're in the world.

07 January 2016

Plus ça Change -- "January, 1795" by Mary Darby Robinson

Pavement slipp’ry, people sneezing,
Lords in ermine, beggars freezing;
Titled gluttons dainties carving,
Genius in a garret starving.

Lofty mansions, warm and spacious;
Courtiers cringing and voracious;
Misers scarce the wretched heeding;
Gallant soldiers fighting, bleeding.

Wives who laugh at passive spouses;
Theatres, and meeting-houses;
Balls, where simp’ring misses languish;
Hospitals, and groans of anguish.

Arts and sciences bewailing;
Commerce drooping, credit failing;
Placemen mocking subjects loyal;
Separations, weddings royal.

Authors who can’t earn a dinner;
Many a subtle rogue a winner;
Fugitives for shelter seeking;
Misers hoarding, tradesmen breaking.

Taste and talents quite deserted;
All the laws of truth perverted;
Arrogance o’er merit soaring;
Merit silently deploring.

Ladies gambling night and morning;
Fools the works of genius scorning;
Ancient dames for girls mistaken,
Youthful damsels quite forsaken.

Some in luxury delighting;
More in talking than in fighting;
Lovers old, and beaux decrepid;
Lordlings empty and insipid.

Poets, painters, and musicians;
Lawyers, doctors, politicians:
Pamphlets, newspapers, and odes,
Seeking fame by diff’rent roads.

Gallant souls with empty purses;
Gen’rals only fit for nurses;
School-boys, smit with martial spirit,
Taking place of vet’ran merit.

Honest men who can’t get places,
Knaves who shew unblushing faces;
Ruin hasten’d, peace retarded;
Candor spurn’d, and art rewarded.

Recommended Follow (Irish / Irish-American History)

If you're interested in the histories of  Ireland, slavery, Irish slaves, and slogans such as "no Irish need apply,"  please seek out historian Liam Hogan. He's aided in debunking the denial that "No Irish Need Apply" existed; he's also done yeoman's work dismantling the mythology that the Irish were sold into chattel slavery (here's one example of how he handles this ridiculous myth).

You can find his Medium page here
On Twitter, he's known as @Limerick1914
If  the history of Irish immigration is your thing, you should definitely follow him.

06 January 2016

She Wasn't Having It (foul pranks and management shrugs)

Yesterday, I Tweeted a story related by my partner after he spoke with a woman he works with. As I've received permission to share, I am posting it here with a few additional details. I am keeping all names anonymous so neither my partner (“Joe”) nor his colleague (“Donna”) encounter any backlash.

Joe and Donna work at a major international financial company; it’s one of the leading financial institutions in the world. Their particular office, a smallish one, is located in a thriving, corporate-centered city. It’s also a city where 30% of the population lives in poverty. Many employees commute daily from NYC, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and surrounding areas. Joe, a 54 year old white man, is one of those commuters; Donna, a 61 year old African-American woman, does not. They both arrive at the office quite early in the morning, so they tend to talk quite a bit.

Joe is one of the company’s Web workers; Donna is one of the company’s custodial workers—in fact, she’s the only full-time daily custodial presence. Yesterday morning, Joe saw her for the first time in a while, and he asked how she was. Donna responded, “Disgusted.” 

A few weeks before Christmas, Donna had a routine day taking care of the building’s various offices until she tended to the programmers' office floor. She vacuumed the corridor, and then she entered the men’s room. There, she saw a napkin in a urinal, along with a note reading, in caps, CLEAN THIS UP. Donna lifted the napkin, which covered a pile of feces. She was, naturally, shocked that someone had shit in the urinal and laid a napkin over it, but that abrupt, demeaning, order for her to clear it away was too much. She spun on her heel and left the room.*

Donna went to her superior to complain, but he brushed it off and said she should ignore it. Refusing this response, Donna then went to her superior's supervisor, who also said she should ignore it. Following that, Donna went to Human Resources. HR also suggested she ignore it. To Donna, the implication appeared to be that one or two of the programmers, the majority of whom are young men, were merely playing prankster, so she should not take it seriously. "Boys will be boys," etc. (I completely understand this impression because who among us wouldn’t think it would be funny to prank a middle-aged Black woman by shitting in a urinal and ordering her to clean it up?)

Donna fetched her coat and bag, and she left. She walked straight off the job. Donna refused to return to work for several days, during which time she phoned her union representative. As you might expect (for whatever reason), the union didn’t dismiss her complaints; they contacted HR directly. Donna’s union told the company that, should she return to work, in no way would she, nor the company, tolerate ill behavior by other employees.

The company assented to the union’s terms, but the precise conditions of Donna’s return are vague (I’m hoping a raise is involved. She makes $9.00 an hour. Nine dollars an hour to put up with this type of thing). Donna did return to her job, but she remains disgusted and disheartened. She is looking for work elsewhere.

Donna is impressive. Her actions, and sense of worth, are stellar, and her union’s actions are commendable, the company’s most certainly isn’t. Several levels of management shrugged off the incident, which signals approval of the “prank.” A prank where one or more well-paid, young, male commuters felt comfortable directing Donna to clean up their filth.

*in my original series of Tweets, I wrote that “she did her job,” i.e., cleaned the filth, before going to management. I later corrected that as my partner told me “Hell, no. She left it there. Who knows who cleaned it up.”

05 January 2016

Sharing: "The Garden of Eden"

The Garden of Eden, Hugh Goldwin Riviere

Chances are you've seen this painting before. Perhaps it hung in a Victorian-style tea room, in a grandparent's living room, or in the bedroom of a young Jane Austen fan. I own a copy of this print, but I haven't hung it in years. In fact, it went into storage just after my late husband died.

We were unlikely owners of such a print. Both of us preferred less emotive, less "twee," less cliched art. Yet one day, while rummaging through charity shops and antique malls in an English coastal town, we saw it--a beautifully framed, clean, and glassed copy of this painting.

Even though we recognized the picture itself--it seems to be everywhere in England--neither of us knew its title nor its artist (in fact, I only decided to Google that information for this post). It was as anonymous as any generic, pretty picture of a love-struck, bourgeois Victorian couple could be. But it struck us (yes, it's corny. I admit it).

I don't recall that we actually spoke about whether to get it or not; we just snapped it up and hung it in our home that evening. It's corny, but I expect it mirrored our own relationship at that point. For the duration of our time together, the painting hung. I took it down once he passed, from cancer, in 2009. As I said before, I haven't hung it since (but it remains, carefully wrapped, in my home). I don't think I shall ever hang it again because this common print, this cliched image, still holds something of our togetherness, our "us-ness," if you will. And I do not wish to share that. Not yet, anyway.

Addendum: I'm not a confessional person by nature, so, yeah, there will be few personal posts like this on the "relaunched" MP&GS.  

04 January 2016

Mood: Ready to Resaddle

Arshile Gorky, "The Liver is the Cock's Comb"
Hey there!

So, I am rehearsing public writing. Again. Since 2009, I've posted (at least) once a year that "I'm going to re-dedicate myself to writing," but I've always allowed myself to become occupied by other things--some big (the job), some fatuous (Candy Crush), and some mundane (that bread isn't going to bake itself). Yeah. The writing and posting haven't happened.

Let's try it again, shall we?

Anticipate, if you will, bits on politics (though not as many as 2008!), cultural commentary, and the
odd poem (not by me), photo, or tidbit filed under "trivia."

Until next time,