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Ride on Time

Yesterday a friend posted something in her IG story that made me nostalgic. For something I hadn’t thought about in years. “Don’t talk to me until I’ve listened to Black Box’s 1989/1990 hit Ride on Time on repeat 10x.” I had that album on cassette. It was not easy to rewind the tape to get to exactly the song you wanted but I tried anyhow. And MTV played the video constantly for a time. That got me thinking a lot about my earlier analog life and how being GenX has been a bridge between those worlds. But I was also an early adopter and have been extremely online for years. It’s just that now more events I would have attended in person are happening online, post-pandemic. There are some great ones coming up next week, though I’m often tired of looking at screens all day while working.

Five things I am looking forward to in the near future:

  • Tuesday, July 14th from Generation Women: Black joy is quite literally revolutionary and allows for a more complete and needed narrative about being a Black woman. This July, let’s celebrate Black joy!
  • Wednesday, July 15th: Quarantine Book Club with Claire L. Evans, author of Broad Band

    If you loved Hidden Figures or The Rise of the Rocket Girls, you’ll love Claire Evans’ breakthrough book on the women who brought you the internet–written out of history, until now.

  • Thursday, July 16th: Ramy, From Pen to Screen is a part of the Pillars Pop-Up Conversations, an ongoing series designed to highlight the ways American Muslims are using imaginative storytelling and cultural production to advance social change. Seasons 1 & 2 of Ramy are available on Hulu.
  • Not happening until the end of the month, but Season 2 of The Umbrella Academy will be available July 31st. It is a show my son and I both adore and look forward to seeing more of. Netflix released a season 2 trailer today.
  • Also happening throughout this month, the pizzeria inside of Moon Palace Books, Geek Love Cafe, says: “All profits through the end of July will go to local organizing for police and prison abolition.” And they have vegan options available.

Somehow my son is not music obsessed like his parents. That was an unexpected twist. Thankfully, we have plenty of other common interests. But his fixation with The Beatles has been equally surprising. I can’t quite figure out why he finds them so compelling but I just go with it. And yesterday I agreed to watch Ringo Starr’s Big 80th Birthday Party happening with him on youtube. And felt a twinge of regret. Apparently, Ringo has been having these in-person birthday parties with fans for years, where they meet up at noon for a Peace & Love gathering. I would have taken my son to last year’s event in Los Angeles but I couldn’t have predicted the pandemic. Ringo appears to be in pretty good shape, though. Hopefully we can join him for another birthday in a couple of years.

orange and purple flowers in bloom with little green caterpillars on them
pink lillies in bloom
Photo of an orange butterfly among orange flowers
sunflowers

The Heart of American Ambivalence

My long birthday weekend was pleasant, even without a gathering of friends. Likewise, the 4th of July weekend. Which is a bullshit holiday to begin with. But while many of us are sticking to the recommended social distancing guidelines, my social media feeds were, disappointingly, full of people partying in close proximity to one another without wearing masks. And that is why this stupid country is still seeing 50,000 new cases of the coronavirus daily. It’s exhausting.

Since social distancing began, the two things that have helped me the most have been 1) filling our home with houseplants and 2) taking long walks around green space in our neighborhood, whatever the weather. Unfortunately, we’ve been experiencing a humid heatwave with very poor air quality. For days on end, and with no end in sight. It has been getting to me. We needed a change of scenery so I reserved the first spot to walk through the Como Conservatory yesterday morning. It was muggy but worth it. Reservations are required, as are masks. The paths are one-way. And we hardly saw any other visitors. I highly recommend it. On our way out I noticed their gift shop sells plants! But my son reminded me I don’t need any more. We are full up. For now.

my son, wearing a mask, in the fern room at the Como Conservatory
Me, in a mask, in Como Conservatory fern room
pretty sky over the Japanese Gardens
blossoms
large leaves

Playing for Time

Here we go again. My birthday is tomorrow. It’s not a big one but my age will be a prime number. Last year I was anxious about buying and moving into this condo with my son, and our senior cats. Despite what has happened since, the condo turned out to be the best move for us. We’re still in the city where we can have groceries and the occasional meal delivered. But it’s not a very densely populated part. There’s plenty of nearby green space for walks. We have high speed internet. I could never have predicted what 2020 would bring. Including headlines like:

So much facepalming. But I did sign off on last year’s post with “I’ve got to keep my chin up and find joy where I can.” That’s never been more true. Some things that have been bringing me joy lately:

Like many I’ve been struggling to strike a balance. Cutting down on my doom scrolling while remaining informed and actively engaged in critical conversations. It’s hard. But for tomorrow I have taken some time off from work and will enjoy myself while acknowledging the strange year I’ve just experienced. Earlier in the year we had planned a two-week trip through the Pacific Northwest for June. We were slated to be in Vancouver, British Columbia tomorrow. Instead we will wake up at home, like every other day. But this day will involve dragging the kid for a stroll around the MN Landscape Arboretum, picking up a custom vegan cheesecake order from Muddy Paws, retrieving our first CSA box of the season, and watching the new Adventure Time: Distant Lands series on HBO. Not the worst welcome to 47.

My hot drowned-rat-during-a-pandemic lewk
Aperol Spritz
My son, wearing a mask, at Gooseberry Falls
Plants on top of a bookshelf with a large ceramic cat

Frame of Reference

Over the past month I’ve started and abandoned several posts, since George Floyd was murdered within walking distance of my home. I have been directing that energy elsewhere (to petitions, fundraisers, amplifying other voices, etc). But yesterday was Juneteenth. I have been aware of its significance for years though I didn’t learn about the holiday in school. And I’ve never seen the mainstream media or social media run with it so much. Growing up in an immigrant family, I was aware of racism and discrimination at an early age. I’m a light-skinned Arab. I learned to navigate white spaces and brush off the routine anti-Middle Eastern micro-aggressions. Black Americans have always born the brunt of this country’s bigotry. Not just because of our shitty society. Even as a kid I looked to government. It seemed to me these inequalities were all by design. I read Abbie Hoffman and Malcolm X and about the Black Panthers and took the bus to see Do the Right Thing in a nearly empty movie theater in my hometown. I became an activist as a teenager. Every year I skipped school to join MLK Day marches (before it was a school holiday in my district), wrote letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience for Amnesty International, attended Anti-Racist Action meetings, and joined Communities United Against Police Brutality protests. But, I’ll admit, I’ve spiraled into hopelessness more and more into my adulthood. Inequality has only increased and I became convinced nothing will change, especially after Trump’s election. I’ve long believed in a Universal Basic Income and healthcare for all (not tied to employment) and in restorative justice and demilitarizing and defunding the police. I never thought society would catch up with these idea. Thankfully, scholars like Ibram X. Kendi are becoming more widely known and sharing these ideas:

Racist ideas grow out of discriminatory policies, he argues, not the other way around. [...snip...]
The goal is to identify inequalities, identify the policies that create and maintain those inequalities, and propose correctives in six areas: criminal justice, education, economics, health, environment and politics. Kendi also hopes to create an online library of anti-racist thinking.

Crime isn’t higher in Black neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods are just over-policed and underserved. The “achievement gap” has been engineered. The cruelty is the point. And it has been going on for centuries. Slave patrols and Night Watches, which later became modern police departments, were both designed to control the behaviors of minorities. Here is a physical reminder.

Here are some ugly historical events that should be better known:

I’ve been surprised by how many people in my social networks have been outraged and publicly showing support of the Black Lives Matter movement for the first time. It’s great to see but also obvious that some folx are uncomfortable and trying to figure out how to navigate it all. We’re all bound to make missteps when trying to show we are allies and willing to learn. Our feeds are flooded with anti-racist reading lists and petitions and fundraisers. But I’ve been shaking my head at some who have charged in without talking to any BIPoC and end up duplicating efforts or centering attention on themselves rather than on the organizations and people who have been out there organizing for a while now.

For some time now I’ve been following prisonculture on twitter. I’ve been referring folks to their perfectly worded pinned tweet. Questions I regularly ask myself when I’m outraged about injustice:

  1. What resources exist so I can better educate myself?
  2. Who’s already doing work around this injustice?
  3. Do I have the capacity to offer concrete support & help to them?
  4. How can I be constructive?

We all have a lot to learn. About being actively anti-racist. And learning to be uncomfortable and how to manage conflict. But I do hope we can create meaningful change together. Check out the resources at transformharm.org and don’t look away. Keep paying attention and engaging. June is Pride month. Remember now and all year long that Black Trans Lives Matter. And just in the last few weeks a number of black men have been lynched across the country while local governments have been ruling these cases as suicides. The white supremacists are pushing back. This must stop.

Black Lives Matter

Set My Heart On Fire Immediately

All my life I’ve had two (at least) unfortunate traits: 1) procrastination 2) beating myself up for not getting enough done or in a timely enough manner. I am working on being kinder to myself but it doesn’t come easily. I’ve had a four-day weekend and have managed to relax for much of it but nagging thoughts keep surfacing about the need to do more. So I will tell myself I have been doing plenty, in list form. Since Friday I have:

  • Picked up donuts from two places, Glam Doll and Mucci’s, and delivered some to my ex-husband and his family while visiting with them from their sidewalk (they stayed in their house, talking through the front window). We saw a wild turkey running through their yard while there.
  • Made a small vegetable lasagna, a half batch of biscuits with mushroom-lentil gravy, and lots of other dishes featuring zucchini.
  • Brought up the industrial floor fan from the basement storage locker, as things are warming up here and becoming muggier.
  • Put my winter clothes in storage and brought out more summer things and washed quite a bit of laundry.
  • Vacuumed and washed the blankets from the couch and various throw rugs.
  • Read several new books and re-read a few old favorites.
  • Finally got around to watching Contagion because part of it is allegedly set in my neighborhood (disappointingly, I did not actually see Lake & Lyndale, though they mention a bus stop there). I also watched and enjoyed Joe Versus the Volcano for the first time.
  • Listened to the Sherlock Holmes audiobook read by Stephen Fry.
  • Caught up on several excellent episodes of the This is Love podcast and the Heavyweight podcast.
  • Listened to the aforementioned audiobook and podcasts while taking several long walks. Mostly to the nearby cemetery. I realized I have spent more of my time at the cemetery than anywhere else, other than home, since March.
  • Picked up a delicious dinner, curbside, from Kado no Mise. Here’s an excellent article about our local situation: How food workers’ hidden sacrifices keep Minnesota plates full.
  • Joined RZA and 36 Cinema for live commentary of Shogun Assassin, which was delightful.
  • Fought with some online ordering systems. I’m just trying to buy a side table to go next to my narrow desk. A spot where I can set down my beverages without spilling on my keyboard. But I have been thwarted at every turn.

And yes, I have been playing Animal Crossing daily as well.

Bonus: The new Perfume Genius album is absolutely beautiful. And I enjoyed this interview with him, along with all of the other segments in this recent New Yorker Radio Hour episode.

Picked up magical donuts from Mucci’s this morning. Chocolate, Cacio e Pepe, and Miso Corny
Trees with green leaves
a bed of hot pink tulips
two colorful trees, one pink and one pale greenish yellow

A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip

Last week came with an unexpected twist. I honestly didn’t think our governor would allow the stay-at-home order to expire. I understand he’s in a tough spot and trying to do his best but it’s upsetting. And we don’t have any requirements to wear masks despite situations like this: Austria Has 90% Drop in Coronavirus Cases After Requiring People to Wear Face Masks. I’ve made a point of posting photos of my son and myself wearing our masks to try to normalize it for others but many Americans are too stubborn and selfish. And the disappointments keep coming. Memorial Day weekend we were slated to road trip to Milwaukee for a Bikini Kill show. And this popped up in my inbox: “New Order & Pet Shop Boys - The Unity Tour Has Been Postponed” - these emails aren’t surprising but the way they kept trickling in was a bummer. Minor mournings. I would rather rip off the bandaid all at once. But I’m pretty sure I’ve finally run out of shows I had pre-ordered tickets to. On top of that, I’ve had big decisions to make about my son’s future, and my own. It’s no wonder I’ve been in a bit of a funk and didn’t leave the house for days. It’s been tough to keep myself distracted at times. I’ll watch 27 movie trailers but nothing grabs my attention. But there have been some things making me happy. Some bright spots:

Now that the weather is warming up, I am envious of friends who have front porches and bigger backyard spaces. If we had more space here I would want one of these igloos with mosquito netting. But I’m sure Minnesota weather would destroy it before too long. Along those lines, I saw something they’re trying in Amsterdam at a restaurant with individual greenhouses for separate parties of diners. In theory, I like the idea but would be stressed out too much being served by people wearing PPE. And it makes me think of this: “An Italian Magazine from 1962 showing how the world would look like in 2022.” My son and I have agreed that we will continue staying home for as long as possible unless the situation changes significantly, for the better.

Self with Springy new mask and blossoming trees behind me

Continuous Partial Attention

We are ok. Limping along through our new routines. I have the privilege - and guilt - of being able to work from home, and to have our groceries and household essentials delivered to us. But there are days I feel overwhelmed and I have far more difficulty focusing now than ever before. And that’s saying something. I need to take more frequent breaks to get through the day. Recently I took an entire Friday off, which helped. Even though I have nowhere to go, I still have loads of vacation time to use and I may as well give myself a break. In the past, blogging or journaling has been helpful. But after struggling to concentrate all day on work tasks the last thing I want to do is document my thoughts and feelings. I know I’m not alone, at least. Even the creator of Black Mirror says the world is too bleak right now for season six to happen.

‘Zoom fatigue’ is taxing the brain. Here’s why that happens.
Video calls seemed an elegant solution to remote work, but they wear on the psyche in complicated ways.

We passed a few significant milestones in our household. Events that had been scheduled to happen that are meaningful to us but have been postponed, obviously. Like Free Comic Book Day and the Heart of the Beast’s May Day Parade. Those are major highlights for us every year. And I was slated to travel to Austin, TX for the first time ever this week, to present a session at an accessibility conference. I had been very excited about that. Not to mention all the live music shows we won’t be attending. Even if this micrashell personal hazmat suit goes into mass production (I imagine it would be cost prohibitive).

The therapist I’ve been seeing since 2014 just returned from maternity leave. Last week we had our first telehealth session. She spotted my cat Olive in the background and got SO excited. I’d never heard her voice do that before. Olive is really cute though. We had a nice check-in. I have learned a lot from her over the years. I’m able to better identify when I’m struggling and take action to course correct. I’ve found this circle of control graphic to be particularly helpful lately.

I have gratitude for:

  • My son, as always. Last week he ordered a beautiful Mother’s Day cake for me from Vegan East. I realize he just really wanted some of their cake so this was a great excuse to get one, but he did ask which flavor I wanted. Chocolate salted caramel, of course. We took a long walk together that day, through the nearby cemetery. Then I prepared a delicious vegetarian sushi spread for our Mother’s Day dinner and we watched Knives Out. Perfection.
  • Our Imperfect Foods delivery included a mini watermelon and it was wonderful.
  • A book I pre-ordered back in November was released last week and it did not disappoint. I tried to savor it but finished reading Network Effect, the fifth book in The Murderbot Diaries in four or five days and it was a goddamned delight.
  • The other day I needed a change of scenery. I got in my car and drove up the Minnehaha Parkway, which is beautiful right now with the leaves coming in on all the trees, and parked near Lake Nokomis to walk around a different lake than my usual. It helped.
  • Early on in the lockdown I was consuming too much news, even in my podcasts. Lately I’ve switched over to more comedy. Not sure how I missed the Adulting podcast last year, since I adore Michelle Buteau, but I just binge listened to all episodes over the weekend and into this week and it was the BEST. I also have a serious Jordan Carlos crush now.

This post has been in draft mode for weeks. Fitting, given the post title. But I am about to hit the Publish button and will hopefully feel a sense of accomplishment. Or a slight dopamine rush.

Man wearing t-shirt of Adventure Time's Jake th4e Dog character while holding a beautifully frosted cake
Young man with a scruffy beard and orange hair wearing novelty hypno glasses with black and white swirls
Slices of watermelon on a green cutting board
tray full of homemade vegan sushi

Evidence of Absence

At times I can be forgetful. But grief and trauma? Those memories are etched in stone. My brother died on this day in 1989. He was just 18. I remember so many little details. Taking the bus after school from White Bear Lake to Maplewood Mall to downtown St. Paul to hang out with him at United Hospital. Getting tired of the lousy hospital food and walking over to Cossetta’s to pick up some mostaccioli to share. But sometimes he felt too sick to eat, because of the brutal chemo. He had a private hospital room in the adult oncology ward but we had to request to wheel in a TV with a VCR to watch movies. 15 year-old me pulled together some cash to go to a record store at the mall to get U2’s Rattle and Hum documentary on VHS so we could watch that together. Sometimes I would shake his plasma bags for the nurses before he received a transfusion. And I held the bucket for him when he was coughing up bile. On his better days we could play Nintendo together. The console was a gift from his employers at Kowalski’s grocery store in our hometown. At the end, I was sleeping in his room overnight but still in denial that he was dying. That last morning a few of us went downstairs for bad cafeteria food and to stand outside in the fresh air for a bit. I lingered in the sunshine. When I went back upstairs I washed my hands thoroughly before entering his room but he was already gone. I never said goodbye properly because I held on to the hope he would recover somehow. That the leukemia would go into remission. Even though it was pneumonia that had killed him by that point. His airways were being suctioned regularly. He was so very sick. But he knew I was there. I hope that’s enough. And it’s more closure than a lot of people are getting now, who are losing family members during this pandemic.

Best brother ever. But far too briefly. Thomas Oliver Morrow October 14, 1970 - May 9, 1989

Holding Pattern

An unfinished puzzle has been on our dining room table for over a month. The dishwasher died before that. The bathroom sink is leaking. The whole place could use a serious deep cleaning but I’m just keeping my head above water for now. On Friday I put on a dress and lipstick for the first time in ages and listened to the same song on repeat too many times and started worrying that we’re getting a little too Grey Gardens over here.

Five items of note:

On Saturday, my son and I engaged in Morrow-style social distancing. We hadn’t seen my folks at all in 2020, even though they only live 21 miles away. They do not have internet, so no video calls. We drove over and stood around on their front lawn, shouting up at them on their 2nd floor deck. I adore my dear weird Dad. Before we arrived he left an unexpected package outside for me, with inexplicable contents. He bequeathed to me a waterpik(?), a patterned tote bag, and a random assortment of DVDs. My son and I watched the 1938 version of The Adventures of Robin Hood last night. It has excellent elevated frame rate fight scenes with Errol Flynn. Anyhow, it was excellent to see my Dad and his wife. I wanted to give him a hug but did not. After our shouting match from a safe distance we turned around and went straight back home.

Showing off my tiger

Uncomfortably Numb

Trauma is nothing new for me. Before all this I’d been working through some past shit. But these current conditions have put everything on pause. I’m an artist but I don’t feel creative. Most days I’m just trying to get by. Going into this past weekend I was disheartened by so many things. In particular, the idiots protesting to “open up” the economy again, whatever that means. And a former married co-worker resurfaced out of the blue to proposition me (during a pandemic?) again so yeah, why not heap some weird vibes on top of my pandemic fatigue and burnout. And I didn’t even want to cook anymore, which is something I generally find therapeutic. Laundry? Forget about it. Right now I feel very little beyond exhaustion. But it will come. Later. And I do have an appointment with my therapist next month. She has been on maternity leave all year. I know I’m not alone on this roller coaster. This twitter thread sums it up perfectly.

Here are five better things:

Blue skies and melting snow