redemption song

me, talking

Friday, July 30, 2004

I wake up this morning and my computer is suddenly a Macintosh. Same box, same moniter, apparently a whole different operating system. Either the Apple Fairies came by in the night or my brother decided to freak me out.

I'm packing for the dorm - early, for once, instead of my usual last-twelve-hours frenzy - which consists mainly of unpacking the boxes I threw everything into at the end of the semester, wondering why the hell I have so much crap, and repacking the boxes in the exact same way. My poor roommate. She's been living alone in an apartment with one plate, one cup, and one milk crate of school supplies. She won't know what hit her.

Simplicity is such a nice theory.


Thursday, July 29, 2004

Suspicious as I am of books that offer - or threaten - to change your life, I am in fact reading Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. It starts straight off with an idea that makes me grind my teeth - that the problem with The World Today is that humans think the world was created for their use and that they are special among all creatures.
I take issue. I am not sure if I'm right or if, really, I have a right to complain, but here goes anyway:
If humans are animals like any other, equal to platypusses, equal to rabbits, equal to kudzu, then it is entirely natural and even to be expected that we think ourselves unequal, the rulers of the Earth. I will admit that rabbits do not write scripture in which they state that lo, the Great Bunny reached down his paw and said I give Unto You all the Green Stuff. But rabbits sure act like it happened. I have yet to see any proof of the rabbits pausing and expressing in any way their equality with the plants of Austrailia. No, they just take it, like God gave it to them, acting like Americans around an oilfield. Kudzu seems to be equally confident of its right to the trees across the creek from me. Now, both of the examples I gave involve human intervention - humans acting as the God of the Rabbits, see how already the ecological mind has stealthily put us back on that pedestel? - but animals that lived where they evolved, in a population that isn't overrunning the place, are not running their lives via a sense of equality. Those populations are in check because of disease and predation. I challenge you to really embrace the idea of feeding a couple of your babies to wolves, or of declaring your own equality with bubonic plague. The rabbits, if they had the thumbs and the language skills, would also kill wolves, cure diseases, and overrun the Earth, declaring it a victory of Rabbit over Nature. Congratulations. We're equal to a rabbit. That was easy.
If, on the other hand, humans are capable of thinking of themselves a part of the world, not the natural rulers of it - if we are capable of taking other species into account, and varying our actions according to the mutual good - then we are very, very different then the average platypus. The very act of thinking ourselves equal sets us apart. Ironic, huh? We're special after all.
I know this is killing some sacred cows, especially from me. I'm only theorizing, people. But far from terrible, wouldn't it be awesome if humans really are special not because of opposable thumbs (shoutout to the orangutans) or tools (otters) or conceptual displacement (bees) but because of the ability to think ecologically? Wouldn't that be a better thing to base a civilization on then the ability to build humvees?
Am I making any sense? And if you want to argue with me, please for the love of the Great Bunny do. I'm in the mood for a downright intellectual brawl.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Don't get me wrong, I think birds are great. I appreciate all their various shapes and sizes, patterns and cant of wing. They rest smug and contented at their point on the evolutionary ladder. Can fly, nothing to it, next thing.

Bats, on the other hand, are mice with wings, librarians gone test pilot. They are round and furry and ungraceful, and I am convinced, deep in their tiny mammalian brains they are thinking Wheeee!.

I love bats.


My hatred for John Rosemond is reconfirmed. Raised on his method, I sometimes catch myself buying into his philosophies. Children should learn responsibility and competance, sure. I try to teach that to my babysitting kids. Children should be broken of grabbiness and greediness and begging for new toys, yes, that seems like a reasonable way to keep your children from becoming wee small consumer drones. And I absolutely believe that it's bad to entertain kids too much, either with the television or by playing with them all the time. I thrived on being kicked out of the house when I started whining. But the goal of all this laudable discipline, in Rosemond's case, seems to be full-grown drone people. I went to his website, trying to find his rant on toys, today. His 'family' page devotes considerable time and pride to how his grown daughter, a competant homemaker, lays down and delivers babies with no 'screaming, complaining, or dramatics.' Ick. ICK! Drone people! What the hell, John Rosemond?


Saturday, July 24, 2004

Bats and a color called first evening star, construction debris and the wind in the road. I've never seen the sky so clear or so bright.

Friday, July 23, 2004

It's a much better day, the dust and haze washed out of the air by yesterday's rain. It's easier to feel blessed by the humidity, to feel like living in a swamp, when the swamp is being gracious and scenic. On the way home I stop to talk to a neighbor. He's trying to find the child who lost their scooter on the road in front of his house. He's one of those people who have brown-sugar skin and freckles, and blue in the muddied color of his eyes. If he was forty years younger I'd be in love. As is he has that wonderful oak-leaves bur to his voice, and stands there holding his groceries to talk with people who pass by.

At the end of my road, I climb down the eviscerated mud of the construction site and onto the old path. I feel better the moment the trees close above my head, not the leggy sandy pine of the development but leafy, heavy, in the deep green of a mountain childhood. I think half of what's been wrong with me is not enough forest. With the stream beside me and the trees above me, jewelweed budding on either side of the path, very little is wrong.


I'm starting to wonder if this sudden spate of vivid, intense nightmares is just my imagination trying to compensate at night for its daytime atrophy. I'm at the abandon all hope, ye stage of babysitting. I do not write much or think much. I spend the day between parenting magazines and the internet, and when I go home I watch television and play Sims. And I consider it indicative that the suburban-wasteland life of a Sim is now more interesting than my own.

I whine a lot here, and that's because I'm no good at whining. Yesterday for the first time I started mentioning all this to my family, and to the significant other. Now that it's out there, I'm accountable for changing it.

This should not be a bad season. The gardens are overrun, the peaches are in season. Every day is hazy and sticky, yes, but every day has a hell of a sunset. I should enjoy this. But I just want to go back to campus and have my life back.


Thursday, July 22, 2004

Nothing in particular.

I'm tired, these days, and entertaining myself mainly through eating and not eating. I'm having nightmares and waking up with my back in knots, and I don't know why.

I am trying to remember to post things, even if they're inane. We'll see.


Friday, July 16, 2004

It's a cool, beautiful day, and I've kicked the kids outside and told them not to come in until lunch. I'm out there with them, most of the time, weaving. I have a lap loom now. But I gave the kid a turn with it - a turn I'm going to have to go back and redo, with a comb to tighten down the weft. Still, I fall in love with this job all over again when they do the amazed thing. So that's where cloth comes from. Clustering around me like I'm a museum exhibit, one of those living history basketmakers.

A new line for the Alex Manifesto: Kids should weave.


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

I went out and pulled up the doddering brown pea vines, ripped out their fishing-line trellis, mulched with newspaper, watered. I rescued my leeks from the mat of crabgrass and finally accepted that the volunteer tomatoes are here to stay and had better be staked. I worked from six until it got too dark to be nailing things, and I feel much, much better.

So far, among the volunteers: acorn squash, some sort of big yellow bumpy thing, daisies, watermelon, cantelope, cherry tomatoes. Along with the usual mullien, which is just so cool! And fuzzy! I'm a sucker for fuzzy.

There are grapes on the grapevine, my legs are sore, and all is right with the world.


IF YOU KNOW ME IN REAL LIFE AND HAVE A CAR, PLEASE COME GET ME OUT OF THIS HOUSE. And I swear I was going to call before, but I've lost your phone numbers. All of you. Really.


Monday, July 12, 2004

It occurs to me that this blog has been, by turns, fierce and anemic lately. A full page rant, then nothing. A tidbit, a rant, nothing. This has a simple explanation: my well-balanced voice, any humorous bits, all the stuff that makes good conversation is going into emails to the boy. It's good writing, a pity to shut it up in a point a to point b letter, but I refuse to copy it over, and I try not to tell the same story twice. When he comes back, he'll get stuck with the banality and angst. Right now, though, I'm focusing all my charmingness in one direction, in the kind of poodle skirts and straight people way I've always tried to avoid. What can I say. The farther away someone is, the better I try to look.

He's back from France Thursday. Look for a return of the light-hearted anecdote about then.


Sunday, July 11, 2004

The storm has passed by our house, leaving dusk and the sound of the frogs in the marsh. On the backporch, hummingbirds convene, squabble, seperate over the last of the water in the feeder. The pumpkins rounding out in my garden are magnetic, fluorescent/incandescent through the gloom. It's a beautiful evening.


Saturday, July 10, 2004

This would be the heart of the problem.

I was talking to my dad about my friend's uncle who's in the Michigan Militia. "Sounds like he's paranoid schizophrenic." my dad says. It cuts straight to the heart - do you think I'm insane, then? - and I ask him not to say things like that. Other people, I say, have reasons to fear the government that you may not have experienced. He smirks, chuckles, finishes making his sandwich. "Yeah, Alex." he says. "I haven't experienced the government taking over anything." (Meaning, of course, the national guard takeover of his campus when he was in college. The major event of which -for my family - was when a scared-out-his-mind national guardsman swung at my dad with a rifle butt. My dad, I should note, was a white kid in a buzz cut and khakis who was just trying to get to math class.) I sit, seethe, chase after my father, turn off his golf tournament and stand in front of the screen. I was in counseling, I scream at him, because of post traumatic stress symptoms, because every time I heard a loud noise I saw a line of riot cops running at me. He laughs at me again. He says it isn't worth fighting about. He tells me to move so he can turn the tv back on. My sister comes into the kitchen as I sit, crying, and I try to explain to her about the concussion grenade and the smoke and the noise that was the loudest thing in my head for months. She turns around midway through my sentance and walks away. Come back, I say, please show me that someone gives a shit. She comes back, puts her hands on my shoulders, and says "Alex, I'm glad you're all better now. Because otherwise you'd really be a mess."

This is what I'm scared of. This is why I've dropped out of it all. This is why I read the recipes but not the international section in the newspaper. I don't want to be insane. I don't want everyone to think I'm nuts, except for the people who think I'm a hero and not just a scared-shitless teenage girl.

I exaggerate. I wheedle. I play up the nobility of my cause, just like the pr arm of the Civil Rights organizers, acting so _surprised_ that a notorious racist and his police force beat people. Yes, we change the story. But it happened. It was terrifying and it happened. I'm not crazy.

Except that if reality is the thing that we all agree is real, then I am. And if the only people who also saw what I saw all believe in alien invasion, well, that doesn't make me feel so great.

I realize that I can't fix everything and that I can't make my family understand without dragging them out there with me and they won't go, I decided years ago that they have a right to stay where they are. That's the other half of it. I decided years ago to leave them out of it, to the degree that I feel guilty for mentioning politics in front of them, I've brought up two news items with my mother in the last two weeks and cringed both times.

It comes right down to, I don't want to be crazy, and if I am I don't want them to know. And that's about it.

You try to explain riot cops to your mother. Go on. Tell me if you don't feel nuts by the end.


A fragment of what used to be church just showed up on my porch.
The one who held us all together and then screwed it all up and disappeared into the wilds of Chatham County.

I was gone when it all broke. I am not in that. All I know is - I really missed him.


Friday, July 09, 2004


The boy finally emailed, and I started taking my allergy meds again, and this has helped. Also, I now have a celebrity look-alike. Her nose is more... Grecian than mine, but by and large I think it's pretty good. An online store hawking postcards characterized her as "the epitome of grace and beauty".

Gwyneth Paltrow, eat your f***ing heart out.


Thursday, July 08, 2004

My mother thinks I sound depressed. I asked her if this was what parenting felt like - because I'm now a nanny, which is close enough - this constant sense of exhausted defeat. She said it sounded like clinical depression. I resisted asking her how she would know the difference.

I don't like being unhappy. I really can just snap out of it, really, I know I can. All it takes is the right stimuli, an emotional shock to my system, a protest, a concert, the right time and place and conversation. But right now I'm not snapping out of it, and I'm worried.

I'll be fine.


Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Again, a profound failure of compassion. Authority makes compassion so difficult for me.

I love this family. They feed their kids tofu and sliced peppers. Here is where I cooked meals on a wood stove during the blackouts, here is where I read Slaughterhouse 5 and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and Burrough's letters to Ginsberg from Morrocco. This is where I sat vigil through the lightning storm, with nothing to give a grieving family but compassion. Loosing a friend to employer and letting a favor become a full-time job shouldn't be enough to undermine that. Right?


I'm sorry I've been less than a ray of sunshine lately. I'm really having a hard time at work, and I'm feeling tired and wimpy enough that work's all I do. Last summer, I was a part-time babysitter for a family friend, and I really liked the job. This summer, I signed back on as full-time childcare, and I'm going insane. The kids aren't the problem (well, sometimes). The problem is this one family. My mother's best friends, incidentally. Spells trouble already.

The mother's convinced this kid Has Problems, which is quite possibly true. However, he's also a brilliant, engaging, happy child who doesn't want to spend his whole summer hunched over a desk practicing fine motor skills. I've already got him doing thirty minutes a day of writing and math, but I'm not a tutor or an occupational therapist. I'm a 19-year-old babysitter who makes $5.50 an hour. And at the end of the week, I need to have a report on how said child is progressing on his multiplication tables, which, frankly, he does not know or want to know. Cue a week of cramming! Poor study skills from an early age!

Two days a week I also have a family that eats Easy Mac, does not wear UV-proof long pants all summer, and thinks a balanced summer schedule is less than 30 minutes of tv a day. I used to really prefer the granola family to the easy mac family. I think my preference is shifting.

General feeling of failure. The joys of the working world!


Sunday, July 04, 2004

So, who wants to hear about me and my fourth of July?

Oh, c'mon. It's really sad! On so many levels! Because it started at 7 am (on a SUNDAY) with a power outage. Now, usually a power outage is a reason for excitement. It's very quiet, all electronic distractions have been annihilated, no flourescent lights buzzing - until I want ice cream and a shower, blackouts are pretty ideal. HOWEVER, my darling father sees fit to note, over the morning newspaper, well, it's the fourth of July, I wonder if someone blew up the nuclear power plant.

Which has a history of poor security and is also an overfull waste dump.
And is twenty miles from my house.

Cue a good ten minutes of hysterical crying from me as I try to get my hands to stop shaking long enough to get batteries into the portable radio. This as my family wanders in and out of the house, opening doors and windows and exposing us all to PAINFUL DEATH. Fear of nuclear accidents, you see, is one of those childhood phobias that can return at any point to totally ruin my day. Knowing that the local nuclear risk has recieved very little funding for security and safety improvements since 9/11? That's just the frosting on the cake! Was my family at all sympathetic about this? Well, at least they felt vaguely bad and only mocked me a little. For which I am greatful.

Turns out, incidentally, that the power was out because a drunk ran into a light pole.


Friday, July 02, 2004

I can't really bear to reread the last post. I'm in this phase now where, if I mention a news item to my family, I wince and apologize. It feels trite and moralizing. Why should they care? Why should I? Do I really believe that somewhere far far away from my sweet little university towns, things like Thailand and Honduras really exist? Frankly, right now, if it weren't for t-shirt tags, news stories (like anyone takes those seriously) and the sticker on my mango, I would have no idea. Even this feels like trite moralizing. I'm not making a moral point. I'm saying that in this little world I'm in, the rest of the planet does not exist and I feel like an idiot for bringing it into a conversation about different brands of tennis shoes.

I could end this here, and have, I suspect, at least three people emailing me offering cures. But I'm going to expand into a full-fledge rant. I am going to alienate people. I am going to see if I can loose friends, via a blog entry. I don't know that I want to be cured. I don't know that I want to share a reality only with unwashed conspiracy theorists and people who graduated from my high school. I don't think I want my world to be as wobbly and uncertain as it got last year. I came home from Miami with no inclination, to be honest, to ever make myself that vulnerable again. If I'm a middle class white American, well, frankly, I want to take advantage of every kind of not-dying and not-being-tortured that this freak chance of birth affords me. I'm not sure I want to put myself on the line, and when I do, I'm not sure that I'm putting myself on the line _for_ anything.

Part of this really isn't my fault. I think, for one thing, that I came in at the end of the antiglobalization mobilization movement. I don't know if the world's going to totally knuckle under - how can it? It's groaning at the weight already, there's got to be a snap (and I will cringe reading that later, it sounds so self-righteous, so eco-chialist). I don't feel qualified or inclined to judge the movement. But I feel kind of like one of those kids who saw Woodstock on tv, waited years and years to grow up and be a hippie, only to be told, yeah, peace and love is out. Have some cocaine and stock options.

Because it's all about me, really. I think as long as I rely on these things - the political pursuits, the all-fired opinions, the reputation that I carefully established - and then claimed total innocence of - in the dorm as a political hellraiser - as long as I rely on these things to prove myself to myself, there won't be any good from any of it. At the same time, I'm predestined by a whole generation who left off saving the world to find themselves. Again, it seemed to involve cocaine and stock options, this time with some self-help books.

I'm giving myself time. Maybe too much time. I have a job and a relationship now, and not much else. My logic for 'selfish behavior' has always been, if I decide to devote myself to the movement, well, the movement would probably prefer me mature and with a good grasp of life experiences then, you know, half-grown and fanatical. This is self-justification. I want to save my money and buy books and groceries, craft supplies. I want to sit in my little atrium of a room and play computer games. I want to be in love with someone whose political opinions involve complaining about Republicans. I don't want to be terrified every day of my life. I don't want to know that that sound, that concussion grenades and police helicopters and riot shields are now a part of my life. I don't want to be reduced to Indymedia footage. And I haven't figured out another way to go about it yet. Maybe that's what I should be focusing on.

I'm making a decision to live my life. I really haven't had an impulse to devote it to anything again for a while. I will try to get out of the country soon, though. I think that all of this can be summed up as too much time in the US. The borders start to close out the air, after a while.

That's all one long exhausted rant. It's alright. I'm just sick of pretending I'm still that optimistically furious kid. I am, but I'm also really tired of her. I'm just really tired in general. And it will turn around, and I'm in a lull, but I'm sick of being ashamed of a bit of burnout. So here it is. I needed to think about it.


Thursday, July 01, 2004

For the last week, I've been thinking of things to post - usually when I'm at the pool with the wee children - and then forgetting them. There's very little news. My friend has returned from Nicaragua, the second person (third including me, I guess) that I had a hand in sending there. It's good that she's come back to remind me that there's a real world out there somewhere.

I haven't left my neighborhood in two weeks. As I get lonelier and my life gets quieter, I just get angrier. Suddenly every theoretical point, every newspaper editorial, all of it is threatening my grip on the real world, on what I think exists outside the land of vinyl siding and well-stocked grocery stores.

I had a fascinating argument three days ago with my little sister about global justice versus the inevitability of suffering. She has, as most Americans have, been sucked in by this idea that there's just not enough and that unless Africa and Asia starve we'll have to level the Earth and plant soybeans on the remains of the Rockies. Of course many decently-trained ecologists (at least who're not Gary Hardin-esqe ecofascists) will tell you that the problem is overconsumption in our part of the world and terrible medical care in the parts of the world that are browner. Give those Indian babies an education, they'll tell you, and population growth will slow right down. Doable for what Europe spends on dog food. Well, I'm ranting, that's not the point. The point is, do I think that material equality - at least in the you have food and I have food too way - will end suffering? Bah. If the whole world - and Donella Meadows et. al., bless their hearts, insist that the whole world could - lived at the decent apartment and good ice cream standard of middle-class Western Europe, would it be Utopia? Of course not, I argued. Some people would find ways to turn those nice apartments and charming cottages into little bitty private hells. Humans create suffering. I may have been raised on Star Trek, but I don't think it's something that we can just get over by developing niftier technology or using what we've got better.

This is what I do believe: as they suffer because of me, I suffer. Together, we suffer needlessly. For my own sake and for theirs, there will be change.

As I sit on my butt in suburbia, at least I'm doing some thinking.