Amo Mexico

It never changes, even after 8 years of retirement. I still dream about teaching, about being hired at a new school, about planning classes, collecting materials, going to meetings. Some of my earliest community college classes were in the town of San Ysidro which is on the border of Mexico. It’s hard to tell if it’s a suburb of Tijuana or San Diego. Late in the 19th century several immigrants from Switzerland settled there and built dairies, so who knows. Maybe it’s just a suburb of the world. San Ysidro back in the 90s was essentially a single street with minor streets leading off it.

Though over time I stopped teaching English as a Second Language, my first classes as a legit college teacher (as opposed to instructor at an international school) were ESL. My first class was an early evening class in San Ysidro, a 40 mile drive RT from my house and a little farther from San Diego State where I was still teaching at the language school.

I loved it. A room full of Mexican adults who want to learn English is about as good as it gets. I never let on that I could speak any Spanish, but they figured it out. They were enthusiastic to practice, and they would try anything, even my method of getting my students to write a poem. We met for 3 hours twice a week, and while that gave me an exhausting schedule, it also gave me money and a good time.

The school was a satellite of Southwestern College — one of the first community colleges in America. In those days (mid nineties) the school was a couple of double-wides but over time they built fancy buildings. Kind of a loss in a way, a loss in atmosphere and lightness. A couple of blocks from the school was a tamale restaurant. THAT was, well, incredible. More kinds of tamales than I knew existed, and they were all delicious. Next door to the school was Yum-Yum (Jum-Jum) Donuts where the students would usually take their break.

At times the border checkpoint would be backed up, and students couldn’t make it to class. No one had cell phones so the secretary would call the border patrol to find out what was going on. No one was ever penalized for missing class.

The last day of that first class one of my students gave me a present — an 8 foot lemon tree in a pot. He was a gardener and that’s what he had.

I was teaching in San Ysidro at the end of my mom’s life. I missed class for a week or so to go to Montana to take care of her post-hospital living arrangements — a nightmare, really one of the nightmares of my life. When I returned to class everyone came up to me with hugs and kind words all of which I sorely needed.

My first teaching experiences were as a volunteer at a literacy program in Denver. My first student was a Hispanic man who wanted to learn to read so he could read bed time stories to his daughters. Within a year I’d moved from tutoring single students to classes. My first classes were made up of people from Mexico one way or another — a couple of women were born in California, but had not learned English. An old vaquero with an amazing sense of humor was deported twice while he was in an 8 week class — he always made it back. Somehow it was a joke. These classes were absolute beginners in English, and from them I learned that learning a new language can be scary. People are truly frightened of making mistakes and looking stupid.

Once my mother — in one of her moods — was giving me a rundown of my many faults. One of them was that I don’t have the cowboy personality. You have to remember, Montana, etc. I know what that is supposed to be and I DO have it to some extent. Essentially it’s rigidly stoical, looks reality square in the eye, and doesn’t show emotion. She said, “You’re no cowboy. You’re more like a Mexican.” My mom didn’t have an especially bad attitude toward Mexicans; she was afraid of emotion.

Pero, para mí, las palabras de mi madre fueron un cumplido.


I was up at sunrise (7 am ha ha ha). It’s great that in winter my habits look much less degenerate though maybe getting up at 8 isn’t really very degenerate?

I’m well into reading the books at this point though by FAR most of them remain. Yesterday I had the experience probably shared by every judge of everything everywhere through all time, one I have experienced over and over in my life, even in the brutal task of grading papers. “Am I fair or am I blinded by prejudice?” That leads to questions like, “What if my prejudice is fair?” (It happens; prejudice is not categorically mistaken) We will go to great lengths on THAT question. An author had written about what’s wrong with education. I have a few opinions about that, so I was interested in what the book would tell me. I was reading along, finding the book interesting, the writing elegant and articulate, all the while asking myself the age old question, “OK, I know what the author is hoping to say — nice clear thesis statement — but when will this book get to the point?” when I hit something I cannot ignore. “Shit.”

Then I had to question myself, “OK, is this really SUCH a big deal or is it just a big deal in my little world?”

I stopped to think about it. I thought about the identity the author had claimed. I thought about the thesis of the book which had been clearly stated early on. I thought about education itself and its higher purpose which is to enlarge the minds and thereby the worlds of the people in the classroom through teaching skills and information.

One of the biggest axes I grind (futilely) is against the way people look at the past. I will never understand — well I might understand someday; never is a long time — why so-called culturally enlightened people can’t look at the past with the same generosity of heart they look at unfamiliar cultures. Why do people compare the “progress” of one world with that of another? Values and understanding of reality are not universal, not across the world, not through time.

I think of the world, its history and its people, as a unit of knowledge, and if everyone could just get it together?Wow. But we focus on differences because we’re busy little pushers of shopping carts doing comparison shopping. What if we actually need ALL of it because (wow) ALL of it is here.

My friend E came over the other day for a chat and to bring me fruitcake. She had some interesting news. She’s Episcopalian and goes to the beautiful little church built by British pioneers to resemble their village church in England. I’ve loved that building since I first drove around Monte Vista and I’ve gone to services a couple of times. I even gave a presentation on the Swiss Reformation. It’s a very open, warm, friendly and tiny congregation. E told me that a “competitor” — she used the word without feeling comfortable about it, obviously — had opened in town a schism Anglican Church based on its dislike of the fact that the Anglican Church (big letters) is cool with investing gays and lesbians as clergy. To this new schism, this is not to be borne.

“What do you think?” she asked me.

“Well, to me it falls in that mote vs. beam argument.” E agreed.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5 KJV

That’s the thing with judging anything. In teaching — and the contest — I had a rubric. The rubrics I used in my writing classes I had designed for each class and each level and it told the students specifically what their grades were based on. I have one for the contest as well.

Only recently I learned the etymology of the word “rubric” and it’s beautiful. I learned from a series of videos from the British Library on “How to Make a Medieval Manuscript.” The word “rubric” comes from a red pigment “Rubrica” — an iron oxide red often used to outline letters before they were painted in. “Rubrica” is iron oxide red. It is long-lasting, easy to make, readily available, and inexpensive. Once I knew this, it was obvious, but I never “saw” it before. Rubric. Guidelines.

That’s a perfect example of how we go around thinking we know stuff, but we only know a very little bit of it, the surface of it, what we’ve heard, or what someone else has said.

The featured photo is a painting I did on a friend’s sweatshirt a long time ago. It’s a red tail hawk (bringer of morning) flying over a solstice circle that was once on a flat mountain at Mission Trails Regional Park in San Diego. The hawk is coming from the south, like the winter sun. It was a VERY cool place to stop with my dogs for a drink and a granola bar. The solstice stone was in the exact spot of the Solstice sunrise.

One day I headed up there, and a Boy Scout troop was dismantling the circle. I asked the leader, “What the fuck are you doing?” without the word “fuck.”

“Oh we found this witches’ circle. It goes against the teaching of Jesus, so we’re taking it apart.” I wanted to spit in his stupid face, but I just shook my head and moved on. Anyway, I knew what it was. They failed to move the solstice stone, and when my first three dogs died, I put small mementos of them under the stone, tags and, in Molly’s case, ashes. In this photo, it’s the large pointed stone just above Truffle’s (brown dog) head.

Solstice Party

In 1981 I was in Law Firm Limbo looking at a map of the world on the wall of one of the law partners and dreaming of far away places. In 1982 I was in a “faraway” place — China — dreaming of home (it was Christmas time, after all, and I had the flu). In 1985 I was in San Diego teaching the world. Crazy cascade of events and adventures. I loved teaching international students. It was as if the whole world had come to meet me.

That year I decided to have a holiday party — a solstice party. I invited everyone I knew — students, colleagues, friends. It was a great party. But the highlight was at about 9 pm when a taxi rolled up and one of my students came to my door — Mohammed Ali Assyri. He was dressed in his Toub and said, “Come Mrs. Martha. We are going back to Saudi tonight, but we wanted to say goodbye. Majda is in the car.” He and his family — his wife and two little girls — had been sent over by Saudi Airlines as were many of my students at the time. The Good X and I were especially close to Mohammed and Majda. We had done a lot of things together during their year in San Diego. I was really going to miss them. I knew they couldn’t attend the party, so seeing Mohammed suddenly appear made me happy. We lived in a beautiful 1920s apartment near the San Diego Airport, so it was on their way.

I grabbed a dish of cookies — the ones like my Swedish grandmother made and are made in some variation all over the world — little spherical butter cookies with nuts. The only ingredients are butter, flour, a little sugar. Mine are almond. Some cultures use pecans. Mexican Wedding Cookies have spices. I had nothing to give them for the trip, so I grabbed that dish.

I went down the steps to the street. Majda was sitting on the backseat of the taxi with the smallest little girl asleep on her lap. “This is for you, Mrs. Martha.” She handed me a small, weightless package.”

“These are for you,” I handed her the dish. She took one and bit into it, smiled at me, and said, “Like in my country. We have the same.”

We had a few moments together, and they had to leave. In the present were two beautiful glass Christmas tree ornaments.

Heard it in a Love Song

This morning my radio station is playing songs from 1975. As I made my coffee I tried to remember WHAT I was doing that year. The pieces fell into place. This time that year I was working in a print shop in Boulder, Colorado. I loved the job but I got fired. In 1974 I’d graduated from university. In 1976 I would start graduate school. I was still with the Juvenile X and, inside myself, very, very lost. I wasn’t paying much attention to the music of the time, some but not a lot. It was the background of the car radio as I drove to work, across farms and fields that have probably been turned into McMansions and walking paths in the interval — nearly fifty years.

Life with the Juvenile X was pretty awful. It would be two more years before THAT situation would come to a close, not with a bang (thank God, that was a change) but a whimper. Bad marriages are interminable, even if they only last six years.

As I spooned the coffee into the filter of my Bialetti this morning I thought about that marriage. I met the Juvenile X when we were both in 9th grade — 14 or 15 years old. We went through high school together, had some classes together, didn’t date until after we’d graduated. We’d been friends during that period, and I had the idea that someone I’d known THAT LONG (ha ha) had to be a good boyfriend.

I’ve seen him since, a couple of times. The last time was 2000 I think? He was in San Diego for a conference (he grew up to be a fairly renowned biologist) and wanted to see me. He had so many things to tell me. I was astonished. We had dinner, and he talked about his life and marriage– everything as if I were really his best and oldest friend. We talked about our marriage — or he did. I already knew he was sorry for what he’d done to me. Our two other post-marriage meetings had brought that out of him, but he made a very serious point of telling me again. I looked at him as I listened, and I thought, “It should have worked.”

That’s when I realized that young marriages might need help. We were 19 and 20 when we married. I remember going to talk to my mom about it and she just said, “You go back there and work it out. You married him. You need to be a better wife.” That was, I realized, cruel. A more helpful thing might have been, “You guys love each other. I think you need to talk to someone who can help you.” But counseling? In my mom’s world that would have been admitting inferiority. She didn’t even trust the school guidance counselors.

My mother-in-law was more helpful, at least giving me some understanding. “I wouldn’t have thought M. would be like his dad.” That’s when I learned it was — spousal abuse was — a family problem. It didn’t help me figure out what to do. My biggest help was my brother who saw bruises one afternoon when we went to a lake near Denver to swim. “I’ll kill him.”

The marriage disintegrated (that’s irony) and we went our own ways. The divorce was a universal celebration for me and my friends, but I was permanently damaged.

Over time, these experiences turned out to be teacher training. Plenty of girls came to me over the years with visible signs of problems at home and it wasn’t always the husband or boyfriend. Latinas in particular, some of them, had to fight with their fathers just to go to college (I taught on the US/Mexican border). That was an even sadder situation, IMO. The only solution for them was to move out, but a lot of times they were babysitting younger kids while their moms worked. Money was a problem for them, too.

It happens that the government has good programs for financial aid for students who desperately need it — we don’t hear much about them because the programs work, so they’re not newsworthy. I sometimes took those girls to the financial aid office to talk to — Oh my god — a counselor who could sometimes find a way for the girls to move out of the family home and stay in school, combinations of government aid and work-study.

Sometimes it hits me (again) how incredibly complex our world is. Each individual is a unique culture with its own language and perceptions of life. I never stopped liking the Juvenile X as a person. I still like him. Not long ago he sent me a sad little poem about a towel that had been given to us as a wedding present. He had rolled it up and used it to keep a cold draft out of his office. For him it was a metaphor for the good parts of a marriage that didn’t work but should have.

Featured photo: the day before my marriage to the Juvenile X. I’m in the middle. The girl to my right is my maid of honor, my cousin Lee. The other girl is her sister, Betty. 1972

Little art show coming up at the local museum this week. I have two projects to finish before that — framing the sunflower painting and varnishing the river painting I did early this past summer, a summer that seems like it was more than years ago.

Long Distance Radio — Time and Space Converge

Yeah, I know this photo is out of focus, but I was just learning how to use the camera and how to hold it still. It’s a posed shot of my dad sitting at his desk in the den that he and I built in the basement of our house is Nebraska. It was just finished. The machine behind him is an enormous adding machine and next to that is one of my dad’s favorite possessions; a Trans-Oceanic radio. We used to try to tune in Russia because we thought it would be cool to listen to stuff we couldn’t understand. More often my dad listened to Juarez or Tijuana.

Anyway, my dad’s favorite things to wear (got that prompt again when I opened this) were t-shirts and Bermuda shorts. All seasons. Yep. OK, not usually outside, but…

SO for the Facebook group I joined that posts prompts to draw to, no not like a saloon where “That’s a pair to draw to” has a completely different meaning, but draw like in draw. The prompt was radio. I decided to use a medium I’m not good at or experienced with and that constantly frustrates me, that is, pastels. I bought a tablet of black drawing paper and I used the first piece. The radio itself is full of tiny details, and I knew with the pastels I wasn’t going to get them. Here’s my version. I’ve decided to keep the model in my studio.

Teacher Training

Today’s prompt, “jib,” brought me back to a strange moment in my life, one that barely seems real, but it was. Don’t get all excited; it’s not that interesting.

I’m a “landlocked” person. Yeah, I think that’s a thing. I’ve had some experiences on water and the only one that really worked for me was swimming in the ocean which is a lot more like hiking than you might think at first. But think about it. Here’s a landscape. You learn how to go into it, physically, yourself. I know that can be intimidating. I’ve taken enough friends into that world for their first experience to be aware of that. Once you’ve learned how to go into it, you’re no longer intimidated by it. You (if you are in the least interested and didn’t die on the first venture) become aware that any element of nature is a continuously evolving state; nature isn’t static, even the most “landlocked” nature changes constantly. The ocean is a hyped-up version of that. I really loved it. I loved body surfing and going out past the breakers and swimming in that peaceful beautiful world of water, beings and sky. It’s a fantastic, magical version of the Big Empty. BUT…

OK the strange moment. The Good X and I had recently moved to California and I had a job teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) at a language school attached to San Diego State. One of the activities offered the students was the chance to take classes at an aquatic center on Mission Bay. Anyone could take them, so we signed up for sailing. I’d been on a sailboat only one other time; a Hobey Cat on Horsetooth Reservoir near Fort Collins CO. There were three of us; the Juvenile X, a Great Love, and I. I capsized it. The GL said later, “That’s not supposed to be possible on a Hobey Cat.” He was mad. I can still see him righting that boat if I close my eyes and go into the dark, dark, dark, dark depths of memory. THAT is a beautiful image, but in every respect it was an awful situation.

Sailing class — twelve students — started with a lecture in which we were exposed to sailing jargon and told what to do. In the second class, we each got our own Sabot, small sail boat. The teacher had hers, too, and from it she barked orders through a bull horn. I hated every single minute of that class. We were expected to sail in formation so she could critique our style. I hated that. I am not a person who learns from being told things, but from doing them, so I intentionally “tacked” off in a different direction to figure things out for myself. She was furious and started screaming at me through the bull horn. She was right. It was her job to keep us safe. How did she know I had CHOSEN the direction I had taken? She didn’t. You can’t develop a relationship with individual students when they’re each in a sailboat on a bay in the Pacific Ocean.

That was my last sailing class. I had done a little self-assessment. Was I ever going to own a sailboat? No. Did the idea of heading out onto the water on a boat sound like a good time to me? Honestly, though I might be completely wrong, it sounded like hel, like being trapped in a small room for hours. A dangerous small room, too, where I would have to protect myself from the boom and keep the small room upright. I realized I’d rather be in the water. The Good X finished the class, and I think he and a friend might have rented a boat a couple of times and gone out.

At the time I was a new teacher — my third year teaching full-time! — and everywhere I went, everything I did, I found something I could use as a teacher. That was the “class” where I learned that just telling people something was no way to teach a dangerous skill like sailing — or language.

Not the Best Evening of My Life

Ahh… 1993, the beginning of the tattoo craze, and I was there. Tattoo Ted and his wife, originally from Batavia, Iowa, tattoo parlor on Rosecrans Street in San Diego, near the Naval Training Base and the bay. Samples on the wall, not actual SKIN samples, but photos. We’d been planning it for a weeks. My friend was very afraid of needles because of HIV. He was from Zürich where, at the time, heroin was such a problem that public toilets had blue lights so people who went into them to shoot up couldn’t find their veins, so, in parts of Zürich there were used needles everywhere. Because of this he systematically, with the hysterical thoroughness driven by paranoia, researched every tattoo parlor, studying their sterilization processes. We ended up at Tattoo Ted’s because of his autoclave, not because of his skill.

After looking at the wall for a while, I picked out a Celtic Knot — an absurd choice given my appearance, like it needed to reinforced? Everywhere I’ve traveled people have immediately said, “You must be Irish” except China where the consensus was that I was Swiss. I’m both those things and the official name of Switzerland is Celtic Confederation (Confederation Helvetica). My friend got a tribal to go around his ankle, not because he was from a tribe but because he thought it was cool.

I wasn’t young; 41, and my skin had already lost some elasticity, so as I sat there with my back exposed — the tat is on my left shoulder — Tattoo Ted found it a challenge to do well on the loose canvas. “Stretch her skin, buddy,” he said to my friend, who tried with a mixture of horror and hilarity. It’s one of the worst tattoos anyone ever had that wasn’t done by the other kids in high school history or something. It’s like and not like those in the featured photos. And no, you can’t see it.

It’s black. Just an outline. I was supposed to go back and have it filled in with color, but I never did. Why not? Well, there are a lot of things in life more fun than getting a tattoo. There’s even PAIN that’s more fun than that, like falling off your bike and landing on a broken Coke bottle or playing tennis barefoot on an asphalt court on a 95 degree day or being sideswiped by a pick-up truck that tosses your head against a curb.

The boys on bikes were all jonesing for tattoos but no one had that kind of money. NOW a couple of them (in their late forties) sport complete sleeves, from wrist to shoulder. Their first tattoos were done by their friends using a needle and ballpoint pen. When they turned 18, and got jobs, they got tattoos as dumb as mine. One of them got the name of his hometown across his back in Gothic letters — that made me laugh because I figured if he got lost, all anyone had to do was put a few stamps on his back and send him home.

Anyway, that’s $100 I wish I had back.

PS 1633 A5

I taught at San Diego State University most of the time I lived in San Diego. One of the biggest perqs of my jobs there was the Love Library. It started out as a 70’s rectangular wonder with an immense card catalog and lots of study carrels on the upper floors, one of which I appropriated early on because above it was one of the few windows that would open. It happened to be on the same floor as most literature including Goethe. Even before Goethe (yes, there was such a time) I spent hours in there. It was a quiet place to grade papers.

I loved the card catalog. That room — to which the original library doors opened — was the place where adventures began. Now? I don’t do libraries. I have one right here at my fingertips. That’s part of this story.

Libraries have to modernize and I am fully in support of that, so when it looked like those beautiful north-facing doors were to be locked for good and the NEW entry would be through the NEW part (think Louvre) I didn’t just understand, I was all for it.

It’s pretty fancy in there. You enter and there is a balustrade encircling the lower room. There are elevators and stairs. On the floor below is access to an immense reference section and directly below is the library catalog and the circulation desk. So, there I was, the first fall it was open, about to do research for my own project. I don’t remember which project, but I needed sources.

During the summer — sometime in the late 90’s early 00’s — everything had been digitized. That had to have been an immense job, but I was all for it. How cool it would be to walk to a computer terminal and do a search, just like that, and pull up EVERYTHING? A real breakthrough. That wasn’t quite how it worked, but it was still cool.

I sat down on one of the high stools in front of a terminal, reached into the little box that — presumably — held little papers and short pencils for writing down call numbers.

This is what came out of the little wooden box:

I felt sad, feeling rather than thinking of what all these wonderful changes meant. I thought of all the times I’d found MORE sources by thumbing through the card catalog. I thought of the old entrance to the library, the ante-chamber of knowledge, a kind of Cerberus. If you couldn’t navigate the card catalog or understand how to use the Library of Congress Numbers, woe be unto you.

I thought of all the kids over the years for whom I’d opened that world. I thought of the English teachers who had opened it for me. Yeah, the numbers still mattered, but??? I thought of all the people who had typed these cards using a typewriter, and now they were just trash? Sure, it was environmentally sensitive to use them as they were being used, but??? I thought of the rather arcane code on the cards that only the librarians could read or needed. I thought of all the information on those cards — including the size of the book.

I thought of one snowy day in the Norlin Library at the University of Colorado, as a student, standing in the too-warm catalog room, my glasses all fogged up, everyone’s scarves, mittens, coats, gloves, hats steaming in that overheated space, the gateway to so many projects. I remembered how I’d found exactly what I needed, and calling out, “Yay!” and someone said, “You found something?”

In the process of continuing to divest myself of life’s detritus, I found this card from the Love Library at SDSU, the very one I pulled that day when I sat down to use the computerized catalog for the first time. I was stunned that it was Emerson. I wrote the numbers I needed on the back and slipped it in my back pocket. I kept it. Judging from the numbers on the back, I was looking for Goethe…

Whoopie Ti Yi Da Vida

There are a bunch of random bits of poetry that float through my mind ALL the time and others that emerge in particular contexts of life, news, all that. Some of them are poems I have memorized; others are bits of poems my mom had memorized or her dad had memorized. Some of them are poems I haven’t even read, but I have lines forever inscribed in my mind.

During the reign of the pustulant excrescence, these lines went through my mind a lot, “Truth forever on the scaffold; wrong forever on the throne.” Those lines would be followed by “What IS that?” At one point I did look them up.

They are from a poem by James Russell Lowell, “The Present Crisis.” It’s a very long, poem, too long to post here, I think, but one line struck me,

“Though the cause of Evil prosper, yet ’tis Truth alone is strong…” ❤️

For Lowell, the “present crisis” was slavery. For us? Looking for the poem this morning, I found a very moving sermon from the Old South Church in Boston a sermon by Rev. Nancy S. Taylor related to the events of January 6, 2021. As I read the sermon, I thought, “Someone else’s grandfather echoes through time.”

Otherwise? I memorize are pop songs. Like a lot of people from my generation, I can recognize a song from the first few bars of the intro. I’m always surprised by what I know. Let’s say I’m driving home from the Refuge after a dog walk. Teddy is in the front seat. Mohammed’s radio is on. Suddenly, a song comes on, some song from the FAR distant past, MY far distant past, anyway, let’s say it’s “Inna Gada Da Vida” or something more obscure and time-tied from even FURTHER back in my personal time, like, “Whoopie Ti Yi Yo.” I still know all the words. Every single one of them. It might not need to be said, but Inna Gadda Da Vida didn’t turn out to be one of Teddy’s favorites, but he was good with Whoopie Ti Yi Yo. That dog has refined tastes in music. Here’s THE classic version from my childhood.

Ah, in case you’re wondering what happened to Erich Fromm and Escape from Freedom. I might be done. That has turned into the most depressing book I’ve ever read — and reasonably so. It was good going for a while, but since he dived into the idea of a sado/masochistic personality and has — at excruciating length — discussed its various manifestations and neuroses. Good god. Next he’s going to discuss how that is related to to the rise of Nazism. I think I’ve read enough to see that and it’s too much a part of my world right now as the beautiful San Luis Valley fills up with Lauren Boebert signs.

Gone with the Whim

The dogs and I are here all dishabille like every morning. No, not really. Take it easy.

Back in the day when I read novels like Gone With the Wind and other books about beautiful heroines with gorgeous clothes and houses, the women were always getting up in the morning and sitting around dishabille writing letters and pouring out their hearts to distant friends. It’s true that the dogs don’t wear clothes, but, you know, it made a better opening.

Of course, I had no idea what dishabille meant but it was pretty easy to conjure up a decent approximation to its meaning through the context. I always put them in a thin robe-like gown and it turned out I was pretty right on. The guy — usually the husband — would come in from somewhere. It varied by novel. Sometimes he just came in from shaving, dishabille all his own. Sometimes (for the men who were more roue) he came in from a night of gambling, cigars and disreputable ladies. If the lady were Scarlet O’Hara or a Scarlet O’Hara knock-off she would be fuming and partly because men got to live more interesting lives than women did. A different kind of woman would be “cast-down” (never downcast) thinking her husband didn’t love her any more. There were a few books (very few) in which the lady wasn’t a lady at all, and some OTHER lady’s husband lay snoring on the rumpled sheets of her bed. There were some books in which the ladies where dishabille most of the time. We know what THEY did for a living.

I loved these books, especially Gone With the Wind, all 1037 pages of it. I wondered if, when I grew up, I’d sit at my writing desk all dishabille and write letters to friends. Well, I guess I’m writing this, so there’s that.

Writing this, I wondered if the book had been banned because of its story line and its use of the “n” word. I wanted to find out and, in the Google search bar, after I typed, “Is Gone With…” the first option given me was “Is Gone With the Wind Banned?” Anyway, what I learned is that the book was only banned in one school district in Anaheim, California.

1978 – California – Banned from Anaheim Unified High School District English classes
1984 – Illinois – Challenged at Waukegan School District because the novel uses the word “n****r.”

A lot of books are banned in our time, more than I remember from earlier years of my time. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. Even in my little town there was noise about a book — The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas — that was being taught in one English class at the local high school. Fortunately, the teacher won and the book is being taught. I thought about that. My junior year in high school we read Lord of the Flies. Well, some of my classmates read it. I just couldn’t get into it. It’s been banned many times.

“Lord of the Flies,” a 1954 novel by William Golding, has been banned from schools over the years and has often been challenged. According to the American Library Association, it is the eighth-most frequently banned and challenged book in the nation. Parents, school administrators and other critics have decried the language and violence in the novel. Bullying is rampant throughout the book—indeed, it is one of the main plot lines. Many people also think that the book promotes a pro-slavery ideology, which they note is the wrong message to teach children.” (Esther Lombardi)


I found a list of books that have been banned somewhere this year and it was surprising. The three that surprised me most were To Kill a Mockingbird, The Diary of Anne Frank and The Call of the Wild. OH well. I’ve lived long enough to know that there are two kinds of morality. One is, I believe, intrinsic to enlightened human beings, the other is fascion 😉 🤪