Angela’s Kitchen

I Got A Bike!

I got a bike!

Something about riding a bike makes me feel like a kid. That wasn’t why I bought it. I bought it for more “practical” reasons – exercise, improve my balance, participate in the human race.

But an unanticipated outcome was the kid thing. It feels like you’re going so fast, like you’re flying. Like you can go forever.

Flashing back to how it felt that first time I rode a bike, back when I was a kid. I remember it was like being released from the tedium of being so firmly attached to the earth, the plodding feeling of one foot in front of the other.

Gravity didn’t exist. I was free.

I’m flying. It’s a mountain bike, but maybe I should get streamers for the handlebars.

 

Guns

What the hell, I can’t sleep, I’ll jump into the fray.

I think the vast majority of gun owners are reasonable people. I think the vast majority of those in favor of some form of gun legislation are reasonable people. I would even hazard a guess that there are more than a few who would count themselves in both camps. I’ll even go further than that and say that if a bunch of us from both camps got together and discussed ways to maybe not stop the carnage completely, but perhaps slow it down a little or a lot even, we might be able to come up with some ideas that we could all agree on. Most of us are okay with driver’s licenses and social security. We might not love those things in equal measure, but we deal with it.

The problem as I see it, is a lobbying organization that has hijacked the conversation. A lobbying organization that used to be a sportsman’s membership organization but is now a tool for the gun industry which, like many other corporate entities, cares for one thing and that is profit. Unlike many other manufactured goods, guns last a long time, they are generally well made and there is no built-in obsolescence, all things that lead to a shrinking market. Scary prospect for a manufacturer. So what’s an industry to do?

This is what you do:

  • Develop the new shiny toy – faster, farther, more deadly, whatever bells and whistles make a weapon more “fun” (that part you’ll need to fill in for yourself if you’re into that kind of thing).
  • Manufacture a “need” – guess who funded the passage of all of those “stand your ground laws” in states with plummeting violent crime statistics? Remember how Obama tried to take all of our guns? Except he didn’t.
  • Co-opt a national symbol to make some of us all heated up, indignant and ready for battle – do you give a shit about ANY of those other amendments?
  • Make sure the politicians who regulate these things are firmly on your side and in your pocket (I don’t need to explain this one), ka-ching.
  • Make damn sure that nobody but the professionals see any evidence of the carnage. Ever take a look at the statistics for gun deaths in this country? Want to do some research on the effect of guns on public health? Good luck. Link Remember the horror of those photos from Las Vegas and Sandy Hook Elementary? Of course you don’t, you never saw them, we learned that lesson from Vietnam. This one is VERY important because human beings are both compassionate in the extreme when we are exposed to the suffering of others and amazingly able to compartmentalize, can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.
  • Do everything in your power to make sure they can’t sue you. Link But isn’t that our God-given right in this country? We can sue McDonald’s for malfunctioning coffee machines. Ronald McDonald is pretty good, but he doesn’t have that sportsman’s membership organization behind him.

Finally, use all the above to convince us that the problem is intractable and then pit us against each other, telling us that the other guy, gal, gun-toter, liberal peace freak is the enemy and not the soulless corporate monolith making tools of us all.

Because we don’t need to be its puppet, and yet we are. We don’t need to do its bidding, and yet we do. We can make our own choices. Will we?

What Can We Do?

Can we sue our government for dereliction of duty?

I’m not being flippant here; this is a serious question.

Our government officials are called public servants for a reason. We elect them, and pay their salaries, to serve in our best interests. Not the best interests of corporations and the lobbyists who do their bidding, not the best interests of the banking, pharmaceutical, insurance, and gun industries.

And, perhaps most importantly, can we sue them for intentionally and systematically taking away our ability to have a voice through the ballot box, the place we should be able to go to seek redress when our government officials are working for the interests of their donors rather than their constituents? Because that is exactly what they are doing, through gerrymandering, and by enacting laws and regulations making it more difficult for us to carry out our right to vote, and by not addressing the fact – “fact” as in an actual verifiable thing, because facts do exist – that a foreign power interfered in our last presidential election and continues to interfere in our electoral system, while our elected officials are doing absolutely nothing about it.

This isn’t right.

So, can we do this? Can we sue our government? Is it possible? And if not, what else can be done, what else can we do? Because what is happening right now in this country is not acceptable. It is not right. And we need to do something about it before we live in a country where nothing can be done about it. Ever.

Nightmares

Oh my. The other night I had one of the worst nightmares EVER. Don’t laugh. Okay, you can laugh, because it is kind of funny, but trust me, it wasn’t funny at the time.

I dreamt I was married to Donald Trump.

<Shudder>

The colors in my dreams are usually kind of muted, I don’t lean toward technicolor, but this one was especially dark, all greytone. Nothing much happened, nothing much needed to happen, being married to Donald Trump was terrifying enough. I remember that I was being held captive, and that he wanted to kill me because he knew that I knew who he was as a person, and he didn’t want me talking to anybody about it. The last thing I remember was trying to figure out a way to escape.

Hmm, now that I think about it, that really is our collective national nightmare isn’t it? We’re all married to Trump in a way and being held captive by this crazy man who is desperately trying to keep up a front of  competence and leadership when we know that he is a dangerous lunatic pushing us deeper into a society governed by narcissistic self-interest.

I spent the next day trying to shake off the lingering effects of the nightmare. I went to bed that night hoping for more pleasant dreams. In the true spirit of bi-partisanship, instead of another Trump dream, I dreamt I was at a political rally for Hillary Clinton. This dream started off much more pleasant than the Trump nightmare, green grass, blue skies, balloons and streamers. All was going well, I even got to meet Hillary. Then, dream pivoted to nightmare. Hillary hit on me. I won’t go into details, I’ll just say it wasn’t pleasant and leave it at that.

Politicians are all users? I feel oppressed by the current political system? Some deeper psychological trauma from my distant past? I don’t know, I do know that the main reason nightmares are so terrifying is the feeling of helplessness they engender. But dreams are dreams, and we have much more agency over situations in our waking life than we sometimes realize. Let’s take the lessons we can from the current state of our union and make the changes we need to make in order to create a more perfect one.

Do it for yourself; find a cause you’re passionate about and keep doing it – stay engaged. Do it for those who have less of a voice than you. Do it for me so I can go back to sleeping with the lights off.

Happy New Year

I don’t think it’ll surprise anyone to hear me say it’s been a rough year. For a lot of us. Me, I’ve been thinking about the future, which I’m usually pretty good at not thinking about, and it doesn’t always look pretty. When I’m feeling this way, I try to think about the good things, the ways in which I’m blessed, but it isn’t always easy.

There’s a guy who lives in my neighborhood, I see him usually at night when I’m outside of one of my local watering holes, or the other, or the other, other, chatting and having a cigarette. I don’t remember the first time I talked to him, but he does, because he usually brings up that first conversation and he always tells me what a nice person I am. I get the feeling that he doesn’t feel that way about everyone. I don’t know what his story is exactly, but it’s obvious that it’s not such a great one. I don’t ask him too many questions, mostly just how’s life kind of conversational ones, and I usually give him a cigarette, sometimes buy him some food, for which he is always grateful. He never asks me for anything.

Often when I’m talking to him, one or more of the people who are nearby make it clear from their lack of communication, and body language and such, that they don’t find his story sad or touching, more just irritating, and I can tell that he sees that in their demeanor.

Over Thanksgiving I was hanging at one of my local spots when the guy showed up while a few of us were outside going against the warnings of the health professionals. One of my friends told him to go in and get some food. He demurred and indicated that they didn’t like him going in. I offered to go in with him, he didn’t want to, said maybe he’d come back later. He did, not to get food, but to bring me a gift; it was pretty and it was kind.

Christmas Eve, of course, followed and I had a nice time hanging with friends and eating too many meatballs and playing Cards Against Humanity. Stopped for a nightcap on the way home and it was nice and warm and cozy and lovely to get hugs and Christmas greetings from people who, it is clear, are not just going through the motions, but are genuinely happy to see me. But still, I felt a bit melancholy, as I often am at Christmas, this year especially.

I happened to look out the window at one point just as aforementioned guy walked by. He looked in the window as he passed and the look on his face was so sad. I recognized the look. I think we all would. It was the look of the outsider, and my heart broke a little for him. Broke a lot actually.

When he thanks me for being kind, I always tell him that he’s never given me a reason not to be. But this isn’t a story about how I’m so wonderful and caring, and nice to a guy who nobody else is nice to, because I’m sure other people are, and when they aren’t, I think it’s entirely possible he’s given them reasons not to be. This is a story about remembering how it feels to be on the outside, and how, no matter how bad things seem, there are always folks who have it a lot worse. So, if you’re fortunate enough to have people who are happy to see you when they see you, to have a circle, to have love in your life, no matter what else you don’t have, you have a lot.

Hold on to that and here’s to a Happy New Year.

Godspeed Washy

My father-in-law Harold J. Stucker, but everybody called him Washy, passed away today.

I often joked that I married my (nearly ex-) husband as much for his family as for him. Joked, but it was true. The first time I met the family was in 1998, on the drive from Oakland, California to Brooklyn, New York. Moving from and to. Husband-to-be and I spent a few days in Louisville, Kentucky where I met most of his immediate family. They were warm and welcoming, and I fell in love with all of them.

Standing next to my car, saying goodbye before the last leg of our trip, Washy leaned in and said, “you sure about this?” I asked him what he meant. He replied, “just want you to be sure you want in, because once you drive off this property he’s yours, no giving him back.” Then he gave me a big hug and said, “welcome to the family darlin’.”

I shall miss you Washy. Much love to you, and if you don’t mind, look up my dad for me.

Love,

Your daughter-in-law, Angela

 

The Truth is in the Stars

 

“But now I cannot sing out loud, peace is my farewell music.” Xu Zhimo

 

When I was a very little girl, I would lie in bed, gazing up at the ceiling of my bedroom and try to imagine how big the universe was. What did infinity mean? What was God?

When I was in the third grade I watched on our tiny rabbit-eared black and white TV as humans for the first time stepped on the moon.

When I was in the fourth grade a man came to talk to my class. He had a box with him, it was about 2 x 2 x 3, and it performed simple calculations. He told us that by the time we were in college, these boxes would fit in the palm of our hands. Less than three years later, I bought one of these boxes for my mom’s Christmas present. It was called a calculator.

When I was in junior high school I started watching a show called Star Trek and quickly became addicted. I loved the idea of a future where we all worked together to explore the galaxy, not for money or power, but to meet people.

We live in challenging times. I think these challenges will ultimately prove to be positive, if we make the right choices, choose to face these issues with honesty and courage; I think we will look back at this turning point and deem it good. But it’s hard. It’s important to remember that there is more than this particular struggle.

 

“The only paradigm of nature that is rich enough to explain this enormous variety of things we see around us is music.”  Michio Kaku

 

Tired of the news, I watched a show tonight, The Truth is in the Stars, hosted by William Shatner, and it reminded me of those times I struggled to get my head around the notion of an infinite universe, and watched a man walk on the moon, and marveled at how fast technology develops, and dreamed of a future where we all work together. Call me naive, or silly, or overly optimistic. I don’t care. I wrote in a previous post that our recent divisiveness is not who we are. That is not quite true, it is who we are, but it isn’t the whole of who we are. We can do much better. I believe that with my whole heart and soul. We can do better. Captain Kirk said so.

 

“We are the leading edge of evolution. We represent the self-consciousness of the universe.” Neil Turok

 

A Thought on Thanksgiving

Sometimes when I’m doing something bit trance inducing, like the dishes, my mind wanders and I imagine that I’m famous. It’s not the adulation I’m after, I don’t care about that. Maybe I care a little, but the thing I imagine is that I’m being interviewed and asked “important” questions. The day after Thanksgiving, there were a lot of dishes. And a lot of food.

This time, the important question was, what is the most destructive thing ever invented by humans? My answer? The garbage disposal. Why? Because it showed us how easy it is to waste. When you don’t have to work to get rid of your food, you don’t have to think about how much to make, don’t have to think about those starving children in India. We waste so much in this culture, but the most damaging thing that we waste is food. Because food is the most basic of human needs, so what are we saying when we are so cavalier about wasting it?

Today

Today is a good day.

One year ago, I struggled with the news that a woman I had long admired had lost the presidential race to a misogynistic, abusive, lying bully with zero experience serving in a political office. The only thing that pulled me out of the blackness I fell into after that election, was attendance at the Women’s March in Washington DC.  It’s hard to describe the experience of participating on that day without sounding trite. I’ll just say this – it was the first time in the days following that election that I felt hope. To see millions and millions of people across the world, show up and say NO, we are better than this, was powerful enough to keep me from slipping into that place of darkness again.

Not that I haven’t had moments of despair since. It’s been a rough year. But today, today once again I saw the importance of hope. Faith is a lovely thing, but too often passive, asking of us nothing. Faith can be read as, let’s wait around for somebody, something to take care of things, to make things better, at some point, in the future. But hope, hope asks us to believe in possibility, but also requires us to show up and do the job at hand.

Here’s what happens when people show up:

From the Jersey Shore. A board member in Atlantic Shore mocked attendees at the Women’s March, wondering aloud if the women would be home in time to cook dinner (link) Scores of women brought boxes of Mac and Cheese along with cooking instructions to the next board meeting. Ashley Bennett, 32, a psychiatric emergency screener, decided to go one better. She ran against the man for his board seat. She won.

Hoboken, NJ. Elected Ravi Bhalla mayor. Bhalla is New Jersey’s first Sikh mayor (link).

Alison Parker, a journalist in Roanoke, Virginia was shot and killed on air two years ago. Her boyfriend, Chris Hurst, decided to run for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates to honor her. He ran on a platform of progressive causes, including education, expansion of Medicaid, the environment and gun safety. He ran against a long-time Republican incumbent with an “A” rating from the NRA. Hurst won (link).

Virginian Democrats were busy across the state yesterday, flipping seats in at least 14 districts and unseating the Republican Governor. They also elected the country’s first openly transgender delegate, Danica Roem (link). Roem ran against Republican Dan Marshal, the man who introduced Virginia’s “Bathroom Bill.” Roem refuses to say anything negative about her former opponent, “I don’t attack my constituents. Bob is my constituent now.” My nephew, Nate Dobson was happy to point out that Roem is also the first Virginia Delegate to be a member of a heavy metal band (link).

In Minneapolis, Minnesota, Andrea Jenkins became the country’s first transgender woman of color to be elected to a City Council seat (link).

Aisha Alexander tweeted today, “Y’all, my mother  @Vi Lyles made history tonight. She is the FIRST EVER, black woman elected mayor of Charlotte NC!”  Aisha has good reason to be proud of her mom. Resisting the urge to go negative about her opponent, Vi Lyles said, “you have to be who you are.”(link)

I live in a beautifully diverse neighborhood, in a beautifully diverse country. It isn’t always easy, but you know what, it isn’t all that difficult either. Our current president ran on a platform of fear, on a platform of us against them, on a platform of divisiveness. That is not who we are. As the newly elected governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, said in his acceptance speech last night, “We live in a very diverse society, it is getting more diverse every day, it is that diverse society that makes this country great.”

Let’s keep reminding our current leaders of just that.