Stoned Free

“Wow… Huh?”

“Not much of a post, Martha, and you haven’t even used the prompt!”

“No, not yet. What was it again?”

“I see what you’re doing. You’re tricking me into saying it so you can get out of figuring out a story to go with it.”

“Maybe. Maybe not.”

“You don’t have any great thoughts this morning?”

“Not really. My coffee is good, Bear didn’t want her breakfast, and she could be blackmailing me into cooking chicken and rice for her again. The Rolling Stones are not as good as I thought they were back in the day when I had all their albums.”

“Huh? OH! The radio…”

“Yeah. I was a Stones fan. I owe them something, too. Those albums paid for my first divorce.”

“There’s a story there, Martha.”

“Oh, Brain, there’s always a story somewhere.”

“See? Can you work ‘flounce’ into that one?”

“I’m sure I’ve told it before.”

“C’mon. Tell it again grandma.”

“OK, well, I was pretty poor, still in grad school, working at the University of Denver College of Law. Believe it or not, I was doing payroll and other accounting tasks.

“That’s hard to believe.”

“God bless the ten key adding machine. Any-HOO I’d filed the papers for my divorce and the hearing was coming up. I was scared. My friend Bess had given me the BEST dress I ever owned to wear, well, and to keep, so that part was covered (ha ha). It wasn’t a contested divorce, no custody, no property, but you know, it was a law school and was full of lawyers who thought legal representation was really really really important to ensure a successful outcome.”

“Obviously.”

“One of my friends at the time was the secretary to the Assistant Dean of the College of Law. She told him my story — abusive husband, etc. — and one afternoon he sought me out and offered to represent me at the hearing. I wouldn’t even have to go. Jesse Manzanares who was, along with this, one of the nicest people I’ve ever known. He would have done it pro bono but I felt weird about it. He liked my collection of Rolling Stones albums and that’s how I paid him. He came over one Saturday afternoon and picked them up.”

“You made that up.”

Self-Indulgent Post about Not Knowing What to Write, Offering Amends, and News

Mainly I wonder if it’s going to snow this winter. It’s rained a lot this summer which could mean the clouds are wrung dry or we’re in a wet cycle or we’re in a summer-only wet cycle, forget winter or a hundred other things. My snow shovel is ALWAYS ready. Please don’t tell it it’s because it’s a useful tool in general, OK? It likes to feel special, but don’t we all?

I’ve done a couple of things on this blog I’m sorry for, and I want to get them out in the open. First, when a reader told me what one of my paintings “meant,” I got pretty angry AT her. That’s not cool. I should just have ignored her. Second, another reader — well, I told her that sometimes I have a hard time understanding her stream-of-consciousness writing (in comments). That’s not my business, either. My job is to do my best. None of us is perfect, but… It’s been a long, wearying summer, but that’s no excuse. Anyway, if either of these women are reading this, I’m sorry.

As for my blog — I’m not sure where to go next. I’ve written a LOT, more than 3000 posts, for almost a decade. I think I might be in need of rejuvenation (who isn’t?). I’d hoped the online class would be great, but it happened that on the free plan you ONLY get to do two units. I guess they figure you’ll be hooked and want to pay the $100+ for the rest of it. That’s OK, but they didn’t say this upfront. It was advertised as “free” excluding “some features.” “Some features” was a substantial part of the class. So… There I was, ready to start reading The Odyssey, and the material for the unit was unavailable without me sending them some $$$ I don’t have for this. It made me think of the proverbial “first time free” man who gets you hooked and there goes your life. 🤪 I need to support my OTHER drug habit; the big cranes-in-the-wind painting needs a frame.

I was just hoping a small, intellectual challenge would help my post-Covid brain get back to “normal,” and entertain me. Covid and its follow-up have been incredibly boring, and, as Merlin said to Arthur, “You’re bored? Learn something new!”

In other news, I was able to ride the Sainted Bike to Nowhere yesterday the full distance. Waaa-HOOO! I enjoyed it. I’ve missed it. It’s one of the lamest “sports” on the planet, but I’ve done it “religiously” for more than 15 years. I think it is a kind of meditation for me, just to get on, “ride,” listen to music, “go” through incredible Alpine scenery (I’m “riding” in the Austrian alps these days) for 30 minutes or so. Anyway, afterward, I was fine. No pain in the hip, and none today. I might have turned the corner.

Featured Photo: My dad and me setting up my first ever bike as a stationary bike for him to ride back in the early 60s.

Domestic Archeology

Yesterday I spent a little time trying to clean the garage, not just a haul things out and haul things back, but actually getting rid of things that don’t need to exist any more in their — well, now, former — form. I settled on dealing with the letters my mom had saved, those I’d written her from college and from my first apartment in Boulder. I have learned better than to get into reading them, but of course, I read a few. I was also struck by the NUMBER of letters, especially considering that I went home (Colorado Springs) from college (Denver) almost every weekend. I’m sure I called home, too, but not often because, in those days long distance calls weren’t free (not like they really are now…). The few I read? Most of them said things like, “Would somebody please write me?” Yep. Especially my first year in college I hated being there and I hated that empty mailbox.


So there I was yesterday, shredding a whole stack of letters from an 18 year old trying to put a good face on things and knowing there was nothing good there. I saved the one letter I’d written to my dad. I’m sure there were more, but I only found one.

As sometimes happens when a person does personal archeology like that, things that they couldn’t possibly have understood in their personal Pliocene era make sense in their personal Holocene era. I saw the situation at home with new eyes, or old ones. In the letters I read were the normal concerns of an 18 year old mixed in with fears for my family. I saw that I could not possibly have understood my mom’s concerns. I also saw how consuming these events were back in the Pliocene era — problems with roommates, exams, bronchitis — while they are just small bubbles in the continuum of life.

I’m also pondering moving away from the SLV, not today or tomorrow, but at some point in the next few years, so this “archeology” could prove useful when I rent that U-Haul. 🤣

“Quit Telling Me What to Do!!!”

“What’s that noise?”
“Your engine’s knocking. Your car needs oil.”

That would have been my 1970 VW bug because, back in the olden days when cars were not filled with microchips and computers, they had to find other ways to communicate with their owners. Cars had small mechanical things that turned on small lights to tell us when we needed gas, when the oil was desperately low, and when the battery wasn’t being charged. These things usually worked, too. They also told us how many miles we’d driven. Those little numbers worked fine.

For other things? The mechanics who worked on our cars said, “Every 2000 miles, Martha” (if that was your name).

I often changed the oil on my VW myself. It wasn’t hard. Go under the car, undo a wing nut, and let the oil pour into the conveniently placed (by me) tray to catch the old oil. Put everything back together, put in oil, and Bob’s Your Uncle. The oil was very important in a VW because they were oil cooled. It was also important to change the oil filter and have a look at the fuel filter as it could get clogged. Easy fix that, too. The air filter was another thing to look at — again easy — undo a wing nut, lift the lid of the compartment, look at the filter.

The most complicated thing about this whole procedure was the human factor which might not have remembered how many cans of oil or what size air filter which would necessitate getting a ride to a parts store. That said, once a friend and I rebuilt the carburetor on my VW. That was a very cool achievement.

I think the last car I had that made no attempt to communicate with me except in mechanical terms was my 2002 Ford Ranger. I think it still spoke “car.” After that? Every succeeding car spoke more often in something like “English.” Bella — my Jeep — is tri-lingual. Italian (her first language), French and English. I’m sure she’s capable of other languages, too, but not for the US market.

I’ve wondered sometimes about the people who program her “suggestions.” I don’t respond well to a certain authoritative tone in people, my phone, my watch or my car. When my watch was “cheering me on” to close my exercise circle (“C’mon, a brief ten minute walk! You can do it!”) my response was — as you might expect, “STFU, watch.” I found the motivational coaching DE-motivating. Luckily, whoever taught Bella English opted for pure, clean, useful information such as “Holy fucking shit! We’re on the edge of a 1000 foot precipice stupid! Do you want to DIE???” No wait, she doesn’t say that. She’s a trail-rated Jeep who can go anywhere. She’d never say that. She’d say, “FINALLY! Something more exciting than a snow bank, a muddy alley and a dirt road. Why did you buy me, anyway?” No, no, no she wouldn’t say that, either. What she says is, “Some features are not available when the car is in motion.”

When she HAS to say something she usually shows me pictures — like a tire is low. Usually this happens on the really cold days of winter. I look at the numbers she offers and say, “It’s OK, Bella. It’s -12C.” Bella shows me the ambient air temperature in celsius. I could change that, but since my watch and phone are telling me in Fahrenheit why should I? Besides, I can go outside. Once we get going that tire is going to inflate.” This is a lesson I learned from before cars spoke human languages. Bella is always doubtful, but pretty soon she sees I’m right. When the tire really WAS flat (a nail) she had a far more urgent and helpful message. It went “Fwap, fwap, fwap” and was accompanied by the picture of her with a one tire in red, an arrow, and a reading of its exact pressure. I was OK with that kind of conversation with my car. It was clear and useful.

I have wondered about the people behind these programs. How do they decide what “tone” to use in communicating with the humans on the consumer side of the interface? Why is my watch such an obnoxious coach? Why is Bella not? Someone’s behind all of this. My new fridge? It doesn’t “talk” but if the door is open longer than it thinks is OK, it beeps. When I beeps I hear my mom yelling, “Close the refrigerator door!” That was back in the days when refrigerators had to be defrosted manually. I am sure many hairdryers were bought just for that purpose, but I don’t know. My hair dryer is in my studio for dusting paintings without touching them in case there’s a smidgeon of wet paint somewhere.

Long ago (80s) I read and enjoyed Douglas Addams’ wonderful Hitchhiker’s Guide four volume trilogy (yep, four…) with all of its entirely too helpful robots. I’ve also read pretty much all of Philip K. Dick’s scary, funny, and wonderful novels with THEIR self-driving taxis (with drivers who have stereotypical New York City cab driver personalities) and apartments that keep their residents in line, on time, and fed. I think we might be headed there (or have arrived?) and one of the things designers might want to offer is an option for people to choose how much “authority” they want their machines to have in the way they address their human (on whom they are still dependent). I turned off all the coaching on my watch — which is an automatic feature of an app I can’t delete. I never needed to be told to exercise or to measure it. What I learned from that is a lot of people do. That scared me.

In other news, yesterday Bella and I took the contest books to the library in Del Norte for their upcoming book sale. It rained the whole time and now Bella is nice and clean.

’tis not too late to seek a newer world…

My high school English teacher had an old school — meaning classical — education, and I left her AP English class with the idea that the only way I could possibly be an educated person would be by studying ancient languages. I had NO idea that the classical language ship was sailing away and I’d have to form my own class (possible at the college I went to) in order to get Ancient Greek. I had no idea there was more than one flavor of Ancient Greek and my teacher — Michael J. Preston at Colorado Woman’s College (RIP CWC) — started us out with Homeric Greek. Back in 1971 photocopying was a pretty rare deal, and we had one photocopy machine at our school. Mr. Preston ordered 2 copies of his own middle school Homeric text and off we went.

It was exciting. Every day I sat on my bed in my dorm room with my glossary (no Homeric Greek dictionary) and basically decoded the lines. As I did, a whole world emerged. I loved it.

Although I wasn’t aware of it, I was learning something that would become part of my philosophy as a teacher (though I never imagined becoming a teacher). Mr. Preston didn’t teach ABOUT things. He TAUGHT things. There’s a difference. When I found myself teaching language (to my great surprise), that was my strategy. I used what my Chinese students called “the direct method.” It wasn’t what any of my students were used to, but it had worked for me, so…

We read the Odyssey over the course of that year, five lines at a time, and I learned two things from that study. The first five lines of the Odyssey in Greek and never underestimate yourself.

A year later, I had transferred and tested into the Attic Greek class at the university. Everyone in that class except me was a Classics major; some were grad students. OK. I was a pretty miserable person at that time. My dad had died a few months before and I was married. The marriage was bad every before it started… I was 20. My new Greek class was a conventional language class and included a language lab. Huh? No one knew how to pronounce Attic Greek and I was NOT an aural learner. It was just an onerous and alienating activity for me, but I should have surrendered. I didn’t know how to do that back then.

The midterm rolled around and it was very difficult. I did my best but felt crumpled and daunted. When I returned to class the next week the teacher was furious. He was a 6’3″ guy, young and skinny. Apparently the class had not performed well (I would say, from this vantage point, that was on him. He really was NOT a very engaging teacher, more about intimidation than teaching). “You dolts! You dolts!” he screamed at us, literally jumping up and down in the front of the room, banging his fist on the desk. “Only two of you passed the exam. I’m not even going to return them to you! You have to do it again!”

I never went back to that class, and when I got my grades there was an Incomplete instead of an F. Huh? OH who cared. I wasn’t seeking to be an educated person any more. My life was about survival.

Months and months later I ran into this professor on the campus. You can guess the rest, I’m sure, but I’ll tell you anyway. He stopped me. “What happened to you? Why did you stop coming to class?”

“I wasn’t doing well and I had a lot going on in my personal life. My dad died a few months ago. I just got married before the semester started. Then you said we did bad on the midterm and only two people passed. I just wasn’t up to it.”

“You were one of them. You passed. Are you going to try again? Clear up that incomplete?”

I didn’t. I was no longer convinced about the importance of Classical languages — or anything else.

The other thing? The first five lines? Well, as Mr. Preston explained memorizing them enables one to be a member in a brotherhood that extends across time. How that works is a brother (and it could be anyone) will say the first five lines of the Illiad and if YOU are a brother, you will answer with the first five lines of the Odyssey. Mr. Preston knew how to make very obscure things into desired objects and how to sprinkle fairy dust on difficulty to transform it to something to desire. I wanted to be part of that brotherhood. Well, in 2000, I finally met a brother.

P.S. I’m repeating stories and I know it, just so you won’t worry about dementia at la piccola casa di Marta. I’m wondering if this isn’t a sign I should stop this when this blog expires in 2 months?

I May Mow the Lawn

I’m probably sensitized by Covid, but it seems our world is really noisy. Last night I thought, “Boy, Martha, you made a huge mistake thinking you should re-emerge into your community and hang out with people.” I’m not sure it was a huge mistake but…

Here it is American “Independence” Day and things remain in an uproar in the “Home of the Brave.” There’s debate about whether a former president — if it’s proven that he has committed crimes against the nation — should be charged. How is this a question? I was told as a kid that what made this country different from other countries back in 1776 was that our leader was just an ordinary guy who, unlike a king, wasn’t above the law. No one taught us about the OTHER democratic nations that existed at that time. I later learned that we were not as unique as our history and/or propaganda says we were. OH well… I’m not going to change the world and I can’t sail away from it, so I’m here for the duration.

In Covid recovery news, still tired, still stomach upset, but better. I drove to Alamosa yesterday to pick up my groceries. I put on my mask and opened the back of the car when I saw Destinee coming out with my stuff. When she was about ten feet away I called out, “I got the plague.” I really wanted to say, “Unclean! Unclean!” in honor of Martin of Gfenn, but I was aware enough to know that would be a little weird.

“You what?” she yelled.

“The plague, I got the plague,” I yelled back.

“OH.” She kept her distance. She’s a low-level manager who trains new guys and one of them called on her walkie-talkie. She trained, and I unloaded my stuff.

At one point last week during the height or low of Covid I was working on my grocery order and ordered 4 pints of ice cream, assorted flavors, OJ, milk, strawberries, fizzy water, and salami. Warning. If you get Covid, don’t buy groceries in the midst of the worst, K? Luckily I fixed the order before I pushed “pay.”

She got off the walkie-talkie, said her Covid had been like a bad cold with vomiting. I’m telling you, it’s a different circus for everybody. I closed the car, we looked at each other — no hug — and she headed back to the store, yelling across the parking lot, “I love you Ms. Kennedy.”

“I love you too, Destinee!”

Every time I say her name, there’s a double message…

Where Are We Really?

With the fridge on the fritz and no repair possible until June 23, (I’m going to try to figure that out on Monday by calling Sears), I was thinking of going INTO the supermarket MYSELF, which, except for twice in Colorado Springs, I haven’t done since March 2020. But, out of habit, I went online and “built my order,” and then I paid for it meaning I wasn’t going in the store.

I’m glad I didn’t.

There’s a new kid bringing out groceries. Today was the second time I’ve seen him. I watched him walk to my car. He very carefully walked along the curb then used the crosswalk to get to my car. No one does that. I thought, “This is a different kind of mind.”

Soon after he got to my car, Destinee came running out with her lunch. We had a big hug and the kid carefully put the groceries into the back of my car and went over my one substitution. Destinee said, “I love this woman. I do. I love you.” I was a little embarrassed and made a joke about white people don’t go around saying stuff like that. I told the story about how it was when my mom was sick and dying and my family told me not to cry. I told them how I was happy to get back from Montana to my class on the border of Mexico and the US. It’s a culture where people could hug and say things to each other much more easily than people in my family ever could. Destinee and I stood there holding hands and talking.

I noticed Miguel’s name tag and introduced myself. “Miguel,” I said. “I’m Martha.” I put out my hand to shake. He took it with a hand that wasn’t made right.

“Miguel’s a really cool guy,” said Destinee. “He has Aspergers and Turrets.”

“Way to go, Miguel,” I said as if I thought it was great. He smiled all over his face.

“We don’t say Aspergers anymore,” he explained. “They just say Autism. I used to think I was stupid and I felt really bad about myself, but now I don’t. I know I’m smart. Sometimes in school when I would tell my teacher about one of my interests she would say, ‘Wow. I learned something from you today.'” He looked at me with an expression that asked for acceptance.

I listened thinking it was certainly true, but also that I loved that teacher. “That’s awesome, Miguel, I just figure each of us is an individual and we’re all strange one way or another.” Miguel nodded. It’s a comment that might have insulted someone else, but he got it.

“I love this woman,” Destinee said, hugging me. “Miguel is doing great here, aren’t you?” Destinee asked him.

“Yes!” he said. “I love it here. I was working at Walmart, and they cut my hours, then Little Caesars, but that wasn’t enough to live on. I had to catch illegal fish to feed my cat. Now I have a fishing license.” He patted his wallet. My heart thumped hard. “Now I’m making enough money to pay all my bills!” He said goodbye and went back inside, carefully using the crosswalk (no one does and cars don’t stop anyway). Destinee stayed out and we caught up on each others news.

As I drove away I felt some of the euphoria I used to feel teaching. I can’t explain it, but it came from a particular kind of contact with certain young people. I also wondered again at the changes in this world, in my life, since Covid. If 2020 had never happened, that conversation would never have happened. I would have continued in the way I have since I was a kid and my mom sent me to the store. Grabbing a cart, pushing it around, putting stuff in it, taking it to the cash register, paying for it, hauling it out to my car, putting it in my car and going home. I wouldn’t have had THAT conversation and what a loss to me if I hadn’t?

Gardening…

Even to me my gardening style seems a little kooky. It’s always an experiment. Some experiments succeed and some don’t. I’m not too hopeful about this one which is supposed to evolve into a patch of wildflowers… The burlap is alleged to protect the seeds from birds and wind and provide a covering through which the little plants will poke their optimistic heads. It’s only been five days so I’m keeping my own optimism.

So far the beans are persisting in teaching me the lesson of patience and faith. Another one poked his happy little head up out of the 3 inches of dirt under which I planted him. “Hello!” he said a couple of days ago.

“Wow, dude,” I said, “Are you sure? It’s pretty crowded in there. I’m not sure this is a good idea.”

“Sure is pretty up here.”

I have tomatoes to put out now and Genovese basil. I have to be one of the least inspired gardeners in the whole world. I do it because — I don’t know! Could it be in my blood? An urge to get out there and put stuff in the ground and water it? The plants themselves do some of it. The spring bulbs and iris come up every year with all their irresistible beauty. One of them that the wind was abusing is here in my house.


The message of a garden is always the same. Hope. It’s not my plants’ fault that I’m in a bad mood, a gray funk, a generally “over it” state of mind and heart. In my tiny world my fridge is on the blink. It’s kind of working, working enough, but the freezer isn’t cold enough. It freezes ice cubes, but… I did everything in my power — attempted to clean the coils but I don’t have a tool to take the little back off the fridge. So, it’s chugging along kind of working until a repair person can come out in 3 weeks.

And then, humans keep being inhuman…

A few days ago I wrote about envy which led to a discussion about want or desire or something in the comments about that, how it’s a problem for people. It is. I admit I tried to “rise above it” but that’s only possible in a conversation. In real life it’s not so easy. I honestly think NO one, no human is satisfied. We always wish for some other thing and sometimes it’s very vague. Yeah, right now I WANT a working refrigerator (and better knees) because my fridge is iffy as are my knees. But there is also a vague kind of yearning in the background for something I can’t fully define, but it involves people not randomly and whimsically killing others. It involves a lot of things that are completely NOT in my power.

Motivation?

The photo below showed up yesterday. The Good X — whom I was dating at the time — took it in July 1982 behind my mom’s condo in Denver. I’d already taken the teaching job in China, so that was happening. I was determined to be a teacher.


Yesterday I was talking with a friend who is looking for a job — a career. He’s a vet tech who’s been a manager at a vet clinic. He has a masters degree in comparative literature. It’s been challenging for him all this time to figure out a direction. Losing his job and the market going bonkers finally brought push to shove financially. While he doesn’t realize it, that has helped him a lot to clarify his priorities. Yesterday he had to weigh two potential opportunities — one in the vet field the other at a supermarket. I said, “I guess it boils down to whether you want to work with animals or work in a supermarket.” He truly, truly, truly couldn’t understand that statement. I think he was hung up on the word “want.”

Wanting one thing more than another didn’t figure in his decision. I tried to explain, but it didn’t make sense to him at all. Now he has a job and he chose it based on his values.

We’ve known each other almost 30 years, and never encountered that basic fundamental difference between us because we never had to. I tried explaining that I wanted to teach so badly that I left a decent job as a paralegal, sold everything, and went to China. At that point of time in Denver unless you had teaching experience, there were no jobs. To me the choice was clear; 1) get teaching experience, 2) have an adventure, 3) come home (maybe!) and get a job. That’s how it worked out, more-or-less. To DO what I wanted, I had to accept that I wouldn’t make much money. My business major students reminded me of this all the time. “Why should I listen to you? When I get out of here I’m going to make 3 times what you make.”

Of course the answer to that was, “Not until you learn what I have to teach you. Yeah, it’s a paradox, but there it is. I want to teach. You want to make money. It’s a win-win, now sit down and learn.” 🙂

We all live in the little shell of our own self, I guess, and look out from it at everyone assuming that they are seeing the same things we are, motivated by the same things we are, It’s not like that. There’s no “better” in this scenario; there is only different. I can’t count how many times I’ve been reminded of that (and forgotten it).

Oh man, I forgot “Pillow.” I’m sorry. No way to cushion that failure. 😦

The Fallacy of Belonging

“The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers & cities; but to know someone who thinks and feels with us, and who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.” Goethe


My post this morning brought up the question of belonging. Here’s my theory. MOST people feel like they don’t belong. Our culture — with its component of rugged individualism — carries within it a paradox; to belong you need to be a rugged individualist. If you can reconcile those two things, I want to read about it.

The first time I was shunned I was about 4 years old. I went to play with my two little girl neighborhood friends in Lorinda’s new sandbox. When I arrived, the two little girls said, “What’s your favorite color?”

I said, “Green.”

They said, “You can’t play with us. Our favorite color is pink,” and they threw sand in my face. It went on like that off and on all through school. There was a kid on our street who just hated my brother and me and literally tried to kill us by stringing a piano wire across two street signs so when we rode our bikes it would cut our necks. Yep. That really happened.

I had my first REAL friend when I was in sixth and seventh grade. We had fun and could talk about anything with each other. I was her first real friend, too. Luckily, we each had GREAT brothers so maybe we hadn’t even felt the absence most of the time. I was always interested in hearing about horses, dressage and classical languages; she never got tired of hearing about Lawrence of Arabia. We both loved the forest and discussing ideas. We spoke Spanish together. When I got my first crush, I was subjected to a lot of sympathetic teasing from her and her brother who called my crush a “short, fat, toad with glasses.” Not far wrong, but whatev’

Then high school. Sitting in a lecture hall. Two girls in front of me talking about a party coming up. Then, “Ssshh. Martha’s here and I’m not inviting HER.” And THOSE two girls? One was one of the few Jews in my high school. The other had struggled for years with her weight and an eating disorder. Both of them knew the pain of not belonging. Both of them became friends of mine over time.

As I got older and taught some thousands and thousands of kids I saw that belonging is a huge issue and when you’re the person in front of the classroom there is substantial head standing to “belong” to the person “giving out” grades. Kids wanted to “belong” to the elite group of kids who got high grades and better opportunities.

And the Black kids wanted to belong to each other to the point where if any black kid knew more words and understood the poetry belonging to “the man” they were ridiculed by the other black kids. And the Mexican kids? Don’t ever really learn English. A big swirling maelstrom of belonging and not belonging.

Us vs. them is a human problem.

I see this in our nation now. Trump’s cult is a cult of “belonging” — red shirts, trump hats, etc. ad nauseam. IF the OTHER side (there shouldn’t be “sides”) did something similar I’m sure people would be wearing the uniform of the OTHER side. We did have the “blue wave” wherein you vote “blue” regardless. And why do we have team colors instead of leaders? WTF? Fucks like MTG are all about the team — she and Bobo are cheerleaders for 45 — Pres. 45 and Colt 45. This isn’t even politicization; it’s conformity.

As I headed toward junior high, my dad gave me Ayn Rand’s book, Anthem which is about non-conformity and the enforced conformity of totalitarianism. I don’t know about the political philosophy inherent or coalesced around Rand’s books, but my dad’s point was clear; for some reason I was/am “different.” I needed to embrace that and take it like a trophy into my future. I don’t know how or why I’m “different,” but I operate under the theory that everyone believes he/she is different. So we try to form groups of people who are similarly different — LGBTQ etc. for example, or BLM, or or or…

Below is the beautiful, loving freak show to which I belong by virtue of being my brother’s sister and the friend to some of these people in high school

Five of these people I’ve known since I was 15. One of them — the one I didn’t know in high school — is now one of my closest friends. One of them is the little sister of the boy who was my best friend in high school who lived up the street from me. And the dog is a sweet, empathetic, intelligent, caring little mixed breed. It’s 2012 and we are headed to the Garden of the Gods to dispose of some of my brother Kirk’s ashes.


My students told me all the time, “You’re not like other teachers.” I don’t know what they meant. I wasn’t in any other teachers’ classes. How could I judge that and what was the standard? One of my neighbors said to me a while back, “You don’t talk about what other people talk about.” I heard all of that. I heard that if I wanted to fit in here (and I needed to) I should shut up and listen. Message heard. Still, one of my acquaintances here is terrified of me, and, as a result, openly mean. OK. That’s on her and it’s juvenile, but I don’t have to play in her yard.

And expectations? We always want to know what we can expect from others — I think every standardized assessment boils down to that. “Oh, IQ of 120? Well we can expect this and that.” “Oh, this dominant learning style? We can expect this or that.” “Oh, ADHD? OK, we can expect this or that.”

I think that all this is because we are scary monsters and we want to know we’re safe around other people. A few years ago I got a 16 page letter from a man in San Diego I was once interested in and spent a lot of time with. This letter arrived four or five years after I moved away from California. Huh? The relationship never got off the ground. In this letter he explained it was because I scared him. I’ve heard that a few other times, too. Scared? Why? The fundamental fear we all have is of the unfamiliar. If we can standardize something and develop a set of reasonable expectations, we feel safe. OK, a lot of hominids have disappeared over the eons and those disappearances appear to be at the fabulously dextrous hands of Homo Sapien.

I think we carry, throughout our lives, the scars of whatever childhood and adolescent meanies we experienced. I also don’t think anyone really feels like they “belong,” probably especially during those formative years of high school. I, for one, had no idea who I was in high school until my 40th reunion when, suddenly, moved by a deep understanding of those years and my part in them, I started to weep while standing in the cafeteria. Suddenly, I was enveloped in a group hug of more than 20 people. It was as if my revelation emanated all across the room and touched everyone in it.

My favorite Life is Good shirt is wearing out at the elbows. It’s a snowflake. Below it says, “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.” Yep. Acceptance begins at home, with each one of us. I am a weirdo but so what?

This is a Facebook post from a few days ago. Belonging. We will always and only really belong to the people who “get” us and there won’t be many of them. But with whom else do we want to belong? Few and far between, maybe, and maybe it’ll be a dog or a landscape or a moment or a dead writer. In the really magic times, it’s a person. Our dim-witted, clannish drive will lead us to ostracize others for the most irrelevant and superficial reasons. That’s the moral of this story. ❤️

May22 at 6:31PM  · Shared with Your friends

Friends

Today at City Market I was waiting for my order and listening to Queen. Not my favorite band, but it was the best thing on the radio at that moment, and Bohemian Rhapsody has great lyrics and their song, “Keep Yourself Alive” was one of my anthems during Covid (and beyond).

Suddenly I heard a gentle knock on my window and there was Destinee making faces at me through my window. I cracked up.

Destinee is one of the 2 black people in the San Luis Valley (I’m exaggerating; there are more than 2. Maybe 5). She’s a young woman in her late 20s/early 30s. We bonded during Covid joking around about race, as it happened. It was during the BLM stuff going on. I think it was the second time she brought out my groceries. Among the stuff I always buy is heavy cream which is on the top shelf in a dairy fridge. I have had to make some stellar mountaineering moves to get it. I even had a fellow shopper spot me while I was doing that one day.

Anyhoo, Destinee is about as tall as me — 5’1″. I said, “Did you get that from the top shelf there?” she said, “I did.” I said, “Not easy. I’ve had to climb up that refrigerator to get it myself. People just don’t think about the challenges of short people.”

She was cracking up. And I said, “Short lives matter,” and that was it. She knew where I stand on the question of race and I know where she is. It’s not there.

But it is. Today she said “I didn’t put your bananas in the bag because plastic makes them turn brown.”

I said, “Great, thanks, I didn’t know that and I don’t care.”

“OH since Covid, people are, ugh,” she shuddered. “Just mad. I don’t have medicine for that. And have you noticed how all the racists just come out of the closet or something? And now we have Monkey Flu?”

I shook my head thinking one more reason to be afraid of each other. Covid still draws attacks on Asians. A disease from Africa? Anyone can see where that can go.

“Yep,” I said, “Covid and politics. It’s going to be like this for a generation, I’m afraid.”

On her job at City Market she’s supporting her mom and herself. She’s very smart, very brave, very funny and just one of the most stellar people I’ve met out here. We talked about our “representative” and how she doesn’t represent us. I said, “Yeah, like universities are indoctrination camps. I taught women, age 40 or so, brought their kids to class, their life dream was an education.” And I talked openly about teaching and the students I had taught and I cried. Destinee gave me a big hug. “38 years,” I said. “And I loved it.”

We talked some more about a couple of my students and she said, “Well, the way things are here now I’m not going to school here.”

I said, “You mean Adams State is like that?”

“Yeah. Now.” I know she used to go. I thought my heart would break.