Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lonely Stranger
Eric Clapton
from the album Unplugged

I must be invisible;
No one knows me.
I have crawled down dead-end streets
On my hands and knees.

I was born with a ragin' thirst,
A hunger to be free,
But Ive learned through the years.
Don't encourage me.

Cause I'm a lonely stranger here,
Well beyond my day.
And I don't know what's goin' on,
So I'll be on my way.

When I walk, stay behind;
Don't get close to me,
Cause it's sure to end in tears,
So just let me be.

Some will say that I'm no good;
Maybe I agree.
Take a look then walk away.
That's all right with me.

Cause I'm a lonely stranger here,
Well beyond my day.
And I don't know what's goin' on,
So I'll be on my way.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
from the album Deja Vu

Four and twenty years ago, I come into this life.
The son of a woman and a man who lived in strife.
He was tired of being poor,
And he wasn't into selling door-to-door.
And he worked like the Devil to be more.

A different kind of poverty now upsets me so.
Night after sleepless night I walk the floor and I want to know:
Why am I so alone?
Where is my woman? Can I bring her home?
Have I driven her away? Is she gone?

Morning comes the sunrise and I'm driven to my bed.
I see that it is empty and there's devils in my head.
I embrace the many-colored beast.
I grow weary of the torment -- can there be no peace?
And I find myself just wishing that my life would simply cease.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Regular Day. Until It's Not.

You get up and go to work. It's routine: You commute in, you get your coffee, get to your desk, turn on the computer, start up the databases and the email client, and off you go. It's just another day at the office, nothing special, everything as regular as clockwork.

Except that, a little while later, nothing is regular, or ever will be again.

A little while later, you'll be standing at the blown-out window of the 90th floor of your building, agonizing over the choices you've been left -- between burning to death slowly, or jumping out and ending it quickly. Imagine how stunningly surreal this moment must be: All you did was come to work this morning. And now, you realize, this will be your last morning ever.

Why? How could it have ever come to this? And who would ever have expected to face this kind of choice on a clear, bright Tuesday morning in New York City? Just by going to work?

Think about this -- because I have, a lot.


The other thing I think about on this day every year is a kid.

I imagine a kid, waiting outside a school or a daycare or standing at a bus stop. Waiting. And waiting. And waiting. For parents who will never come. Because both of them worked in the Trade Center. And now lie under tons of rubble. Imagine being that kid: not knowing what happened to your parents, or why; not knowing where to go or what to do. Whether or not you know or understand it on any level, your family is now utterly and completely gone. Forever.

I don't know if this actually happened -- I don't know if there were kids who lost both parents that day. Honestly, I don't want to know. Just my imagining of it wrecks me every time I allow my mind to go here. I don't think I could stand knowing that this was someone's reality on September 11, 2001.


The third thing that always comes to mind on this day is the paper: The vast quantities of paper flying everywhere after the first plane hit. Offices are made of paper more than anything else; they always contain more paper than people, furniture, or anything else.

I'm sharing this here, because music always expresses my emotions so much more deeply than I can in words, and this video in particular really resonates:


One of the comments (made today) underneath this video says everything I could:

Never forget that each one of these softly falling papers represents a human life. Never forget that each whispering voice was silenced unjustly. Never forget the black sky represents the void left in the lives of the victim's families and friends. Never forget that hammering in our chests as our hearts pounded in panic, sorrow and rage. Never forget that, if only for a short time, we came together in concert and created something beautiful out of madness.

11 years. Like yesterday.


Friday, September 07, 2012

It's Personal

So I was checking out a blog post by Charlie Pierce (whom I adore) about his reaction to Obama's speech at the DNC last night. And I happened to run across a different blog post that really grabbed me.

The one that got me was this:

I'm a child of the 1960s. I was 3 years old when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, and I have a vague, grainy memory of seeing him do so, bouncing around on the screen of a black-and-white television between the fingers of my little hands placed to either side of him.

During the 1960s, we were one of several white families living on the Zuni Indian reservation. My parents both taught at the high school. This was the time when the American Indian Movement was taking hold and trying to build political power for the tribes. My father was a history/anthropology major (I can't remember what degrees he held, but my brother has said that Dad was only a few hours or a dissertation or something away from his Ph.D.) So we had lots of books in the house having to do with Native American history. I knew from these books about the slaughter at Wounded Knee and other places, about forced relocations of tribes (The Trail of Tears, The Long Walk), and that the basic policy of the American government for a great many years was "the only good Indian is a dead Indian" -- in a word, genocide.

Books also taught me that after the tribes had been stripped of their ancestral lands and confined to reservations and were no longer the physical threat to white settlement that they had been, the government policy toward Indians changed only slightly, to "the only good Indian is an assimilated Indian." The idea was to focus on the kids, to separate them from their families, their culture, their customs, their language, by shipping them off to boarding schools. In fact, I knew several older people in the Zuni tribe who had been shipped off to boarding schools as children. I heard their descriptions of being sent off into an alien world, hair cut, forced to wear school uniforms, being ridiculed or beaten for speaking their native language, missing family and friends back home. I heard the sadness and pain in their voices as they described these things. So I understood AIM's rage and the reasons behind it.

After I turned 9 or so, we moved off the reservation, ending up in Roswell, NM. And so I was introduced to the joys of cable TV. There were four California stations on our cable system, all of which showed old movies at various times. KTLA would have Weeks -- a Gene Kelly week, a Marx Brothers week, a Fred Astaire week, a Humphrey Bogart week, a Drama week. And so I fell in love with old movies. (And with Lakers basketball, when Kareem, Magic, James Worthy, Michael Cooper, and the like were playing, but that's another story for another time.)

I was Utterly. Devastated. the first time I saw the movie To Kill a Mockingbird. I could not wrap my mind around the injustice of it all. I agonized over it: How? How could they do that to Tom Robinson? How could people be that... that... MEAN? That cruel? That EVIL?

So I learned about the Civil Rights struggles, about Dr. King, and watched old newsreel and news footage of black people in Mississippi and Alabama -- who had the simple temerity! to believe they were fellow human beings -- being beaten, sprayed with water cannon, and attacked by police dogs as they sought to make us all recognize that they had the right to an equal education, the right to vote, the simple right to be seated and served at a restaurant. (That these things would even be in question was something that I still have trouble wrapping my mind around, to this very day.)

Sexism was another big thing to really be addressed in American society during my formative years. I was just old enough to benefit from Title IX when I was in middle and high schools and played basketball. Nancy Lopez, the boundary-shattering female golfer from Roswell -- and who played a large part in the passage of Title IX -- went to my high school. Her team trophies and photos were displayed in various cases around the school. There was even a big mural painted on the wall of the cafeteria.

But there was another, more personal experience with sexism that bothers me to this day: My own mother, upon graduating from UNM in 1963 with a B.S. degree in chemistry, applied to be a forensic chemist with the FBI, only to be told that "we don't hire women in that capacity -- but we'd be pleased to consider you for our typing pool, or as a receptionist."

I still shake my head at this. I truly don't get the thinking (if indeed there is any) behind "Oh, you're just a woman. Only a man can do (fill in the blank)." Frankly, unless it's being able to write your name in the snow with your own urine, I feel that there ain't nothing a man can do that a woman can't.

So I'm watching the political process in this country during the last year with increasing dismay. This whole thing about disenrolling voters to "protect against voter fraud"? And the political rhetoric saying that women shouldn't have access to birth control or abortion? Um, hey people: we *solved* these things already. People DIED to get us to acknowledge the basic reality that these rights belong to everyone. And now certain political interests (who appear to me to be mainly white men?) want to roll back these rights in their nostalgia for the bad old days when minorities and women "knew their places"?

In response, let me give you this one simple answer: Hell, NO. (Another, more primal answer also springs to mind:  Fuck You.)

This is apolitical. This is not about the left or the right. It's about making sure everybody GETS a fair chance. To me, this is personal.

Resurrection Achieved in 3, 2, 1....

I'm finding that I need a space to write stuff down. Thoughts that come to me as I'm riding down the road on a motorcycle, in the shower, walking around with my headphones on, wherever.

I don't have any close friends in real life to whom I can talk to on a regular basis (probably should fix that, maybe?) so it's become increasingly important to me to have somewhere to just put things down in text form.

I actually think in text form. It's weird. I see words printed on pages as I think, so this is somewhat of a natural extension of my brain's thought processes. I type faster than I can talk, really. Words get jumbled when I talk. I can talk around what I mean, but I can actually zero in on what I really mean when I write.

I considered many different ways to do this. Just a daily diary, on a thumb drive? Yes, okay, I'll do that -- and already do, as well as a written diary -- but sometimes I think I want some sort of external input on my ramblings. Some form of Tumblr blog? Um. No. I'll visit various Tumblr blogs, but no, it's not a viable e-habitat for me.

So after pondering for a few weeks, I decided to resurrect this blog. It's easy. It's already in existence. And it's familiar to me. So here we go.