rib tips and bourbon are not part of a balanced breakfast, a healthy breakfast, or even _a_ breakfast, by many people’s definitions, but it is truly a kickass way to start the day.
The past two weeks are quite literally the longest I have gone without writing since I started writing, Amazingly, I feel like last moth, had someone asked me that question – “When did you start writing?” – I would have been able to answer it in a year and part of a month. Now I have only the vaguest impression of the story and the circumstances.
I have found that with the astounding clarity of the memories past thirteen days has come a dulling of things that once stood out sharp in my mind thirty years ago and more. I am hoping it is exhaustion coupled with emotional strain, rather than a permanent loss of things that came before. I don’t really know how I’d cope if I started losing my past.
In those past 13 days, I have done more than I thought humanly possible. I lost a father, driven more than a thousand miles, coordinated details, mortgaged personal stakes in life and family, tried to keep what remained of my immediate family together, balanced those needs against the needs of my extended family, and navigated the treacherous dangers of the outpouring of love, sympathy, and sincere admiration for my dad which washed my way.
I have not written.
I have birthed words in the way of survival – texts, emails, business. It is my livelihood to write – to communicate. I have written plenty, but none of it with meat. I have been a typist of bones only for almost the past two weeks. I haven’t been able to reply to any of the genuine beauty of some of the expressions of sorrow sent to me with anything approaching eloquence. I dare not try to get any of the things that have flooded my mind, for fear that once I open a valve in the skunk-works, I might never be able to close it again the the deluge that would follow.
I am not a danger to myself, or others, but fucking hell do I know what I am doing is dangerous.
I left my job to deal with my father’s death in the absolute worst seven-to-ten days of the 365 we so name a year on account of our sun and the way we revolve around it. I have paid for that, since returning to work, but not nearly so much as those I left behind paid for in my absence. I carry guilt for that, despite a sure knowledge that it is a stupid thing to feel guilt about – a legacy of my father’s, for good or ill.
I’ve focused on the minutia of death – on logistics and business and the _process_ that follows the demise of a person. I have completely barricaded away the loss, or the grief, or the pain – I keep telling myself there will be time enough for those things once the business end is taken care of. When my siblings and mother don’t have to worry about houses and rents and cars and insurance and obituaries and memorials anymore – then I’ll be able to find a quiet corner and fall apart.
Only now I am not so sure I can do it.
There will be a memorial service for my dad in a couple weeks. It is going to be a watermark for me in my life the way nothing that has come before ever has been – it is going to be a time where I finally relieve the logistical self that has been at the helm since the morning of Friday the 13th, or it is the point where I am the former helmsman goes to a watery grave, in the murk and dark, like so many other things I have buried in the past 13 days.
I’m torn between trite imagery from either of my two favorite fantasy series – in the Wheel of Time when one of the protagonists loses an arm, and doesn’t even pause before moving on after he is healed from the wound. Someone slaps him and tries to force him to mourn the loss – his response was simple – he had too many things to do to spend the time and energy on mourning something he could not change. A dangerous perspective.
In Game of Thrones the men and women of Westeros labored to create an impenetrable barrier between that which nearly destroyed them upon a time – a nimbus force of dread, death and superstitious fear that could easily be forgotten behind hundreds of feet of glacial barrier – never melting, never faltering. Time and change and corruption leave the once-noble upkeep and defense of this barrier a punishment or peril for criminals or those who have no other choices in life. The barrier turns on itself, in more than one way. What was once a great bastion of security is a liability of weakness.
And so poorly manned, by the time the reader encounters it.
Maybe that is what I am worried about the most – why I am sitting here trying to find words around my lost arm, and the secret tunnels beneath the internal glacial walls – I know that down the road, not dealing with what I have subjected myself to at a distance will have far more dire consequences than dealing with it.
The lesson of the book in the Wheel of Time where the aforementioned protagonist loses an arm is that true strength requires laughter, hardness, and flexibility – the riddle of steel, in a different turn of phrase. Too humorless, and it will not matter how hard or flexible, you will lose your purpose and be swallowed by oblivion. Too hard, and not flexible, and you will shatter under pressure. Too hard and humorless, and you will crack under pressure. Flexibility is the key – mutability – my greatest strength in all my external interactions with the world.
I feel like I am losing that mutability with my past, with my father. I need to either rediscover channels to it, or reinvent it, or I am going to lose more than a father – I am going to lose myself.
I recall in the midst of the dying of my grandfather, which was neither sudden, nor surprising, how overwhelmed my father was, in the face of all the things he was trying to deal with. Ultimately, one of the things that caught him most off guard was the fact that he felt like he was too young to have to be dealing with the loss of a parent – nearly two decades before my mother had to cross the bridge and, amazingly my grandmother – his mother – lives on to bury him.
I don’t know what that says about the perspectives on age and death. Maybe something – maybe nothing. I just remember with no small amount of sorrow more than six months after he buried his father, him holding the phone in his hand as he teared up, still in shock that he couldn’t believe that he had halfway dialed the number to ask for help with a mechanical issue we were having with rebuilding a pump engine.
My father had some time in a hospital to prepare for what he had to deal with. Not that he was prepared when death finally skated in in black sequins to bad music – he could not have been, but he did not go from parked to fifth gear and stay there for a week and a half. He saw what was coming, even if he hoped against it. There was a part of him that was prepared – banked for the turn, braced for the g-forces, and better able and capable of weathering it.
I was not so prepared. I am younger by more than a decade than he was at the time. I feel like I am doing so much alone, and whistling in the dark – hoping I am doing the right things in the way that ends the best for the most people – for other people.
I don’t know what the fuck I am going to do.
For now, I guess I am going to write. Most of it will not be public, but this will be, both as a reminder to myself, and as a goad for those few who still read what I write, to kick me now and again, and remind me of all the important things I will be squandering if I just box this up and move on.
Too many years of too many things boxed up. I’m out of room in the warehouse.
Time to move some crates, I guess.
To everyone who says that you should have nothing to hide if you do no wrong, ask yourself why so much of what our government does is classified?
I live in a country generally assumed to be a dictatorship. One of the Arab spring countries. I have lived through curfews and have seen the outcomes of the sort of surveillance now being revealed in the US. People here talking about curfews aren’t realizing what that actually FEELS like. It isn’t about having to go inside, and the practicality of that. It’s about creating the feeling that everyone, everything is watching. A few points:
1) the purpose of this surveillance from the governments point of view is to control enemies of the state. Not terrorists. People who are coalescing around ideas that would destabilize the status quo. These could be religious ideas. These could be groups like anon who are too good with tech for the governments liking. It makes it very easy to know who these people are. It also makes it very simple to control these people.
Lets say you are a college student and you get in with some people who want to stop farming practices that hurt animals. So you make a plan and go to protest these practices. You get there, and wow, the protest is huge. You never expected this, you were just goofing off. Well now everyone who was there is suspect. Even though you technically had the right to protest, you’re now considered a dangerous person.
With this tech in place, the government doesn’t have to put you in jail. They can do something more sinister. They can just email you a sexy picture you took with a girlfriend. Or they can email you a note saying that they can prove your dad is cheating on his taxes. Or they can threaten to get your dad fired. All you have to do, the email says, is help them catch your friends in the group. You have to report back every week, or you dad might lose his job. So you do. You turn in your friends and even though they try to keep meetings off grid, you’re reporting on them to protect your dad.
2) Let’s say number one goes on. The country is a weird place now. Really weird. Pretty soon, a movement springs up like occupy, except its bigger this time. People are really serious, and they are saying they want a government without this power. I guess people are realizing that it is a serious deal. You see on the news that tear gas was fired. Your friend calls you, frantic. They’re shooting people. Oh my god. you never signed up for this. You say, fuck it. My dad might lose his job but I won’t be responsible for anyone dying. That’s going too far. You refuse to report anymore. You just stop going to meetings. You stay at home, and try not to watch the news. Three days later, police come to your door and arrest you. They confiscate your computer and phones, and they beat you up a bit. No one can help you so they all just sit quietly. They know if they say anything they’re next. This happened in the country I live in. It is not a joke.
3) Its hard to say how long you were in there. What you saw was horrible. Most of the time, you only heard screams. People begging to be killed. Noises you’ve never heard before. You, you were lucky. You got kicked every day when they threw your moldy food at you, but no one shocked you. No one used sexual violence on you, at least that you remember. There were some times they gave you pills, and you can’t say for sure what happened then. To be honest, sometimes the pills were the best part of your day, because at least then you didn’t feel anything. You have scars on you from the way you were treated. You learn in prison that torture is now common. But everyone who uploads videos or pictures of this torture is labeled a leaker. Its considered a threat to national security. Pretty soon, a cut you got on your leg is looking really bad. You think it’s infected. There were no doctors in prison, and it was so overcrowded, who knows what got in the cut. You go to the doctor, but he refuses to see you. He knows if he does the government can see the records that he treated you. Even you calling his office prompts a visit from the local police.
You decide to go home and see your parents. Maybe they can help. This leg is getting really bad. You get to their house. They aren’t home. You can’t reach them no matter how hard you try. A neighbor pulls you aside, and he quickly tells you they were arrested three weeks ago and haven’t been seen since. You vaguely remember mentioning to them on the phone you were going to that protest. Even your little brother isn’t there.
4) Is this even really happening? You look at the news. Sports scores. Celebrity news. It’s like nothing is wrong. What the hell is going on? A stranger smirks at you reading the paper. You lose it. You shout at him “fuck you dude what are you laughing at can’t you see I’ve got a fucking wound on my leg?”
“Sorry,” he says. “I just didn’t know anyone read the news anymore.” There haven’t been any real journalists for months. They’re all in jail.
Everyone walking around is scared. They can’t talk to anyone else because they don’t know who is reporting for the government. Hell, at one time YOU were reporting for the government. Maybe they just want their kid to get through school. Maybe they want to keep their job. Maybe they’re sick and want to be able to visit the doctor. It’s always a simple reason. Good people always do bad things for simple reasons.
You want to protest. You want your family back. You need help for your leg. This is way beyond anything you ever wanted. It started because you just wanted to see fair treatment in farms. Now you’re basically considered a terrorist, and everyone around you might be reporting on you. You definitely can’t use a phone or email. You can’t get a job. You can’t even trust people face to face anymore. On every corner, there are people with guns. They are as scared as you are. They just don’t want to lose their jobs. They don’t want to be labeled as traitors.
This all happened in the country where I live.
You want to know why revolutions happen? Because little by little by little things get worse and worse. But this thing that is happening now is big. This is the key ingredient. This allows them to know everything they need to know to accomplish the above. The fact that they are doing it is proof that they are the sort of people who might use it in the way I described. In the country I live in, they also claimed it was for the safety of the people. Same in Soviet Russia. Same in East Germany. In fact, that is always the excuse that is used to surveil everyone. But it has never ONCE proven to be the reality.
Maybe Obama won’t do it. Maybe the next guy won’t, or the one after him. Maybe this story isn’t about you. Maybe it happens 10 or 20 years from now, when a big war is happening, or after another big attack. Maybe it’s about your daughter or your son. We just don’t know yet. But what we do know is that right now, in this moment we have a choice. Are we okay with this, or not? Do we want this power to exist, or not?
You know for me, the reason I’m upset is that I grew up in school saying the pledge of allegiance. I was taught that the United States meant “liberty and justice for all.” You get older, you learn that in this country we define that phrase based on the constitution. That’s what tells us what liberty is and what justice is. Well, the government just violated that ideal. So if they aren’t standing for liberty and justice anymore, what are they standing for? Safety?
Ask yourself a question. In the story I told above, does anyone sound safe?
I didn’t make anything up. These things happened to people I know. We used to think it couldn’t happen in America. But guess what? It’s starting to happen.
I actually get really upset when people say “I don’t have anything to hide. Let them read everything.” People saying that have no idea what they are bringing down on their own heads. They are naive, and we need to listen to people in other countries who are clearly telling us that this is a horrible horrible sign and it is time to stand up and say no.
Forget, for a moment, that there are still thousands of New Yorkers without power, and even more who are have no heat or hot water in housing developments. Forget that the governor is starting a commission to go after the power companies for criminal neglect. Forget that the MTA has told people who rely on them for transportation on a monthly level that they will see no extension or refunds for the time the system was shut down. If you can, ignore the fact that there are still thousands of New Yorkers without basic needs for life, dependent on the good will of others.
Below is an actual e-mail sent to anyone who works in the law division for NYC. All non-exempt NYC employees who couldn’t get to work or a shelter during the Hurricane now have to use vacation days for those days, or they get docked pay. The city is being _generous_ enough to advance people future vacation, in the case that they do not have one.
The Mayor’s signature is not on that email, but he is the one making this decision, ultimately. It is unconscionable to ask hard working New Yorkers who couldn’t get to work or a shelter due to weather AND an MTA shutdown that they should be giving their time back to the city.
From: Higgins, Malachy [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 12:46 PM
Cc: *ALL SUPPORT MANAGERS
Subject: Timesheet for the week ending 11/03/2012 – Hurricane Sandy – Handscan/Webclock Users ONLY
To All Support Users ONLY,
This email is regarding how to record your time and leave information for the week ending 11/03/2012.
Please use your annual leave for the week of 10/29/12 to 11/03/12 in the following instances:
- If you were unable to:
- report to work at either your permanent location or one of our other locations or,
- to a shelter in your community or,
- reported to a shelter but were turned away and returned home.
- The reason for this Annual Leave is Other Usage, this leave is located on the left side navigation bar and requires two levels of approval – your approver and Timekeeping.
- If you do not have annual leave and would like to have annual leave advanced for Hurricane Sandy event ONLY, please send an email requesting an advance of your annual leave to Kathy Bryan via email, copying your Division Chief .
- However, if you were pre-scheduled for annual leave during the week of 11/03/12, you must use your annual leave. If you were also sick during this time, please record accordingly.
Recording Volunteer hours for week ending 11/03/12 and onward
For all employees who reported to a shelter and were able to volunteer, the hours will be noted on your timesheet. You would have received an orange colored timecard – “NYC City of New York Emergency Response Staff (ERS)” from the shelter to record the hours. Make a copy of the timecard and send the original to Timekeeping via email, fax or interoffice. Timekeeping will make the change to your schedule for the day/s that you volunteered.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Kathy Bryan and Timekeeping via email.
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs And towards our distant rest began to trudge. Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! — An ecstasy of fumbling, Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time; But someone still was yelling out and stumbling And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . . Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, As under I green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in, And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin; If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, — My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
the Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent to blow up King and Parliament.
Three score barrels were laid below to prove old England’s overthrow;
By God’s mercy he was catch’d with a dark lantern and lighted match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
Hip hip hoorah!
A penny loaf to feed the Pope
A farthing o’ cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down.
A faggot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.
Then we’ll say ol’ Pope is dead.
Hip hip hoorah!
Hip hip hoorah hoorah!
I just had the fastest commute of my life. I made it from Hamilton Heights to Brooklyn Heights in 22 minutes. This was, in part, due to the fact that I managed to drive from 34th to the Brooklyn Bridge never once tapping my breaks aside from when I crossed the West Side Highway. Though on some level, shooting 50mph down dark stretch of road normally snarled with cars, cops, and trucks was surreally exhilarating, it was also nauseatingly eye-opening. All the images I’ve been seeing secondhand came home in a visceral wave. Driving throughower Manhattan left me feeling like a tomb robber, skulking about a dark and forbidden place, waiting for something horrible to happen. It was not until I turned on to Broadway, and was faced with the flashing cavalcade of the NYPD ‘security stop’ at Fulton station that it dawned on me just how dark it was beyond the glowing cone of my headlamps.
I have written a lot about NYC over the years – flights of fancy, poems, and odd lots of experiences lurking at the periphery of dawn. Never have I seen her like this. I feel like I was witness to a compound fracture, but the break starts in midtown and travels the remaining length of the island, rather than a femur or shin. To those living downtown, as I once did, my morbid moment of self-realization is two drops of pee in a roiling cauldron of a pisspot, but that connection was sobering. Strength and resilience – hell, maybe even stubbornness have seen New Yorkers through worse, but rarely, and even more rarely with the wounds so garish and laid bare. My heart goes out to the populace of the city which will never quite be the same again. For all our concrete and macadam, copper and steel, wireless and fiber optics, we really aren’t much more than a colony of fleas precariously colonized in the mane of Nature, gambling on our survival through the next big itch.
You cannot know what the sadness in you does to me,
the same way that you cannot know the
heat of the jealousy your sadness enkindles.
Who is the fool so lucky to have you as a possible
And turn it away? For what?
I would forsake all I have, to hold that momentary gleam in your eye
which makes someone else’s poor judgment
something that hurts you so
and reminds me that no matter how much I am entwined by you
it will always be by limbs invisible to one of us.
- You can register in person at your county board of elections or at any New York State Agency-Based voter registration center.
- You can download a PDF version of the New York State Voter Registration Form and mail it in. These must be postmarked by tomorrow!
- If you have a NYS Driver’s License or Non-Driver ID, you can register online at: https://my.dmv.ny.gov/crm/ - you will need your state ID to make a NY.gov ID (if you don’t have one)