Diary of a 4th of July

7/4/2016:

Diary of a 4th of July

Worked (all felines: Izzy, Jack, Piper, Clark, Lucy, Darko, Todd, Burt, Mica—love them all); Graham and Lauren come over, Ellen and Julia join, Ellen’s friend ending his Ramadan; foster kittens, hard lemonade, shitty Malbec, salsa, chips, guacamole, ohdeargodwhydidIeatsomuch; Ellen/Julia to meet her friend, Livy/Lauren go to that little park, pepper gel and caps set off; neighbors’ fireworks go far above parched trees;

we walk to Sugar House Park, blanket says “Dream”, American “pride” bittersweet–injustice, racism, homelessness, hopelessness–the fantasy of clinging to a dying “dream”; cars, cars, cars, boys singing to “Get Low”, fleece blanket making me sweat, can’t reach Julia who’s already there; see James and Indy, find a spot, then another; see Kerry; fireworks start, music starts, same old music, same old American livefeed; so many people, so many many people, fireworks into the sky, blankets, glowsticks, children, drones; weed smoke;

a baby to our left is handed to his daddy, who hugs him and lifts him into the air;

Boom,

sky lights up, silhouettes of so many people, so many many people (why do we come here/why not watch out of the crowds from down the street?); Livy and Lauren lying down, friendship, the new generation, complicated, wise, (do they feel American pride?); people gazing up,

Boom,

lights, pictures in the glow; the daddy speaks to his group, another language/Middle Eastern?, the group laughs, mostly men, on blankets, two feet away, the baby handed back to mom

and she is dressed to match the baby in red, white and blue.  Boom,

And I’m staring at them,

and can’t look away,

for there is family and languages and implied forgiveness of xenophobes who hate them, braving traffic and crowds and heat so they can share “America” with their baby,

And it’s why we’re all here;

because the mom in tan shorts and the baby in American flag Navy and my girls and my friends are children to this new nation; we are her children,

and the sky sparkles as we sit together.

And when the last of the fireworks fade, we clap and collect our things. 

But within time spent in the space of each other’s ideals, walk home in the smoky air dream of a nation rising as one into the hungover dawn of itself.

[Footnote:   Because of crowds/parking at Sugar House Park for their huge annual community fireworks show, we’d walked the few miles to snag our spot that night so when fireworks ended, we all walked to our separate homes and—carrying our supplies—I was almost home when I felt something pinch me And realized that when the Dream blanket had been laying on the grass of Sugar House Park, a bee had gotten caught in it and in the course of my 25 minute walk home, had wiggled its way out of its crumpled prison so to sting me.  I was grieving that year for our nation; DNC/HillaryFestivus wouldn’t break my heart for a few weeks but still you could sense that America was headed for a bleak time because there was rabid verve for AMERICA!!!! mixed with extreme grief and hardship, and the long and the short of growing as one is that you can’t make people change the channel they’re watching until they’re ready].

Contrast

[Pic of myself on the Empire State Building, 12/1999]

Nineteen years ago to the day, my ex-h, James, and I were in Reno. We’d driven the 8 hours with our then-2 year and 10 month old daughters, Julia and Livy, to combine James’ business trip with a visit with my mom, who’d driven from California to meet us. Courtesy of my sleepless daughters, we were awake early that morning in our Nugget hotel room with the TV on, and when the South Tower started crumbling it looked—at first–like an innocent puff of dust from one small area high-up. And I can remember thinking the very same thing that Katie Couric(?) was saying: What is that?

“What is that?”

And by the end of that day, America knew what it was and we huddled around collective vulnerabilities, humbled by a shared trauma we couldn’t escape. Enduring together the aftermath of acts of warfare, the pre- and post-9/11 American Story revealing precious naïveté and the injection into our most austere monuments of ingenuity—the tallest buildings, the freedom to feel safe—the visceral understanding that we’re hated enough to die for..

That day in Reno my daughters played at a park that had well-tended equipment placed in a garden setting with those little animals on springs that go back and forth and that spinny thing where you sit on a platform and hold onto bars to revolve into sickness. And while my daughters smiled and laughed, mom and I straddled the two incompatible worlds of children squealing from idyllic fun and Grandpa Bob not dying at the Pentagon by only the most coincidental of reasons. Wondering in clear sublime weather if the death count was in the ten thousands, my daughters unrelenting peals spinning on the same platform as crying mothers strapped into doomed airplane seats. And as coworkers holding hands while jumping to their deaths, their thuds marking a nation’s skin on the inside of her wrists.

Could I ever share with my daughters the reality of this world? Would it break them to know?

And when we returned home to Salt Lake City the next day, I held 10 month old Livy in the calm of night, crying quietly as I rocked in an easy chair from the grief of understanding that being honest about the complexity of humanity is the deep wound we hope to never inflict.

Yet no event ever stops it’s act of becoming. For held within the static nature of a single tragedy is beheld the dynamic experience of myriad humans answering the call to the service of empathy.

And out of box cutters and screams and casually head-down “Falling Man”—[identity still unknown; possible suggestion takes him as an asthmatic sound engineer working at Windows on the World]—were people dying that day comforting each other.

From “What is that?” were Firefighters running up endless stairs they couldn’t see to save the lives of strangers. From frantic voicemails messages were Human beings perishing in a field in PA because they offered their own life to keep others from harm. From rabid murder was the innocence (and tragedy) of American soldiers offering to make right the actions of a foe that had no interest at all in avoiding their own death.

And living always into the fullness of Life is the choice to grow large enough in heart to shelter one another, taking the singularity and solidity of emotion and processing it within the light-magic prism of ourselves.

For the arc of every single story is the growth of Humanity itself.

And into Time bears the witnesses of those so rich in their love for others that their life weaves a connection so strong it evolves to become our universal shield for despair.

[James’ and I had moved to Salt Lake City in mid-2000, and sold our Burke, VA townhome to Stephen Neil Hyland who on 9/11 was killed at The Pentagon; James’ dad, Bob, also worked at The Pentagon in the very section that was destroyed but part of the section had undergone remodeling and was finished but the furniture and equipment hadn’t all been moved back so Bobs normal office was vacant when the plane hit.

James and I divorced in 2007 and when his brother Steve was deployed to Iraq that same year, the girls and I placed our American flag on the middle pillar of our front porch of 1531 Garfield Avenue in Salt Lake City, and it remained there for the duration of his deployment—becoming weathered and tattered and faded; a hole developing on the bottom, front corner (as even the slightest wind had made it catch on the thorny bushes that edged our lawn)—and when Steve returned home, the girls and I took the flag down, folded the frayed fabric as best we could, and gave it to James to give to his brother].

America

https://videos.files.wordpress.com/TKXq3FqM/img_7568-2.mov
The scene is 2016, March 18th, Friday, early afternoon; my then-15 year old daughter and I are at the Bernie Sander’s rally held at This is the Place State Park in Salt Lake City, the crowd of 14,000 snaking around as if forever, pedi-cabs (blasting Bob Marley) ferrying people from their distant cars under a sky that’s clear and blue, clouds standing down, attendees willing to leave behind their expensive steel water bottles to get past security. And while we trickle in, and wait for Bernie to arrive—he himself waiting for all attendees to be able to get in—I see die-hards in trees trying to get a glimpse, and share space with excited hopeful people—one dressed up in a superhero costume—and rest inside the scene, Yellow Ledbetter then Uprising then America… playing as everyone takes pictures and videos to document what we already know is history. And as I take it all in, I pan over to our west to a couple and the moment she raises his hand to her mouth is captured on my iPhone. And if I could explain in a paragraph why I had tears in my eyes at the sight of two strangers sharing themselves, I would. If I could sum up humanity for us in poetic words, panning out to divest the moving pictures of our lives, of our loves, of the magic tingling in us from people grabbing hands—their breath upon skin, their lips becoming the meaning of our life—to pour us the profound meaning behind all, I would. But for now, I share instead the story of that day. The dizzying clarity of the sky, folks assembling, cheering, the roar inside my self—overworked, alone, sometimes afraid, but using hardships as growth—and the big bright strokes of that clear afternoon, Bernie speaking our dreams to the trees, mothers with children gripping cameras and getting lost inside the caring of strangers whose hands pose in the art of nurturance while Simon and Garfunkel sing our song and we fall in love with America.
https://amypal.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/img_7571.mov

Holstered

Just sitting in the parking lot of Whole Foods getting dictatorship updates via Twitter—since it’s the first time I’ve ever lived in a dictatorship and I want to be informed—and I had a nip slip while I was trying to get something out of my bra. And the nip slip was more like not really a slip as it was an entire boob visible and outside my bra and also it was definitely seen by someone. And how I know it was seen by someone is because I was so engrossed in searching my bra for whatever was inside it making me itch that I didn’t know my boob had come out of my cup until the very second I made eye contact with the lady parked in front of me and she opened her mouth in shock as if someone had just brought their boob out of their bra.

Now I don’t have any clarification on what a dictatorship will be like because Twitter is basically just a whole bunch of people panicking about it—including myself—and no one knows what the fuck is happening or how much worse it will get. Maybe one boob is no big deal and it will get much worse; no one knows.

But for right now, i’m still trained in democracy so I holstered my boob, and mouthed the words “oh my God” and watched the lady—who was a real pro about it— get into her car and back out super fast almost as if she’d just been flashed. God bless her; my boobs made her flee, and that is some badass legit street cred going into this newest national nightmare.

Anyways, for real: I hope everyone’s finding a way to calm themselves. Because things are dying very quickly at the hands of the bad guys and we gotta steady this internal shit and repeat the mantra “sometimes we fall down because there’s something down there we’re supposed to find.”.

Take good care, in love, grace, peace, and boobs.

The Barf of Redemption

Death by food poisoning was circa 2005. I was still married at that time so to set the scene, it was 11 pm-ish, the kids are asleep, James is downstairs watching TV (or porn or playing video games), and I was lying on my back on the couch in our darkened living room, crying softly to myself about the CIA.

I knew they were up to something, detaining people; making them eat tainted Costco ground beef, and doing it in the name of, what exactly?—I whimpered to my thoughts—“American values”? Like where we torture people by feeding them e.coli until hunched over toilet bowls they violently expel the ‘implant’ and everything they know?

I was not in a healthy state, both body and mind doing a little interpretive dance with reality, and the malfunctioning electrolytes were cinching brain waves until it was beyond the capability of my nausea to endure such mindfuckery and I mentally packed up and disbanded.

The repeating cycle of redecorating my bathroom with the hamburger I’d had for lunch began—at the very start of the evening— with the slow build of nausea precipitating a mini-wave of panic.

For I still hadn’t emotionally recovered from the nausea experienced five years before courtesy of my second baby (who I actually still ended up loving). That was a nausea which had stayed inside my cells to solidify their legacy in muscle memories of a sickness so transformative I actually felt guilty for having it. And now here I was—five years post “nausea baby”—having hedonistically-squandered the interim years (living like that privileged bitch) now barely able to stagger back to the couch, the only remaining liquid I’d managed to hoard post-vomit already pissed and gurgling in the depths of my bowels before my ass even found the cushions.

I had ignored the debt I owed my misery/had not honored it with celebrations of life. And now shit was getting so dark I was strapped into a body performing an exorcism on itself—begging God for mercy—while just coherent enough to make it worse by analyzing America.

I don’t remember when things got better that night; there wasn’t some moment of “Thank you sweet Jesus” and if there was I’d share it. Because I’m not religious at all but certainly the Christians have endured enough with that war on Christmas. Plus I’m American and clearly on the moral grift—capable of justifying implanting AND expelling demons—so I’m patriotically programmed to thank a deity I don’t personally believe in for the opportunity to keep water down.

But the truth is slowly, somehow, the shivering, vomiting, and hallucinating, gave way, and I fell into the stupor of health. Yet forever changed this time.

For its 2020 now. That second baby is 19, in college, (nausea now only caused by her overuse of puns) and I haven’t been that sick or religious since.

But in the interim years, I’ve thought about that night—writing this ~15 years later in loving dedication—being intent on paying the debt of that misery.

Because I think sometimes only from bathroom floors covered in their own barf should privileged bitches rise. And I think in light of everything, the Christians would be pleased to know that staggering up from the floor was a coherent measure of pious gratitude. For if in the midst of delirium and dry heaves, the agnostic finds themselves begging God to help our thirst, it speaks to a religious redemption not yet identified even as it clearly can be tidied up to become some major collection-plate material.

Her baby

December 17, 2016

As I was driving to a pet sit this morning–in the frigid air–I passed a bus stop on 5th East and saw a woman of smaller stature all bundled up with backpack holding a plastic doll the size of a real baby.

While waiting for my light, I stared at her–at first, just trying to figure out if it was a real baby, then after realizing it wasn’t, wanting to join her experience for a moment, to see if she was okay; if she was hopeful or despairing; what the story was; just to be with her for a minute before I had to drive off–and as I did, I saw her look at the baby adoringly, and snuggle it to her, then watched as she gave it quick little playful kisses under its purple, fleece, hooded onesie, as if she was trying to distract it from how cold and boring it was to be waiting out there in the air for the bus.

I just…..This world. Sweet and beautiful and amazing, and filled with surprises, because I didn’t feel sorry for her. The only thing I could think of was “Good for her.” Look at her loving that thing. Look at her unashamed and coping.

I don’t know.

Because in a life filled with trauma and a bevy of unhealthy behaviors–a world where people with mental issues can’t get help and heroin use often begins as self-medication–holding a baby doll at a bus stop and giving it loving kisses in full sight of a judgmental world seems infinitely more functional than trying to appear like you’re perfectly “normal”, nothings ever wrong, then going home to binge on shame, anger, and heroin.

Anyways, my prayers go to all those suffering with trauma and mental health issues who are unable to get help and find effective coping skills; my prayers also go to the rest of us, that we can help be a source for healing where it’s possible to do so, even if that means not pointing and scoffing at the older lady standing in the cold kissing the face of her plastic baby doll.

[This was so intense when it happened last year and seemed like I’d always remember it and yet I didn’t; it popped up on the memories on my old FB profile and I had to read it all the way through to even get the mental image of where exactly I’d seen her and what that moment looked like. Brrr. It was so cold that day, I stepped right back into that part of it, then she came in and the baby, which I don’t emphasize enough the size of but the proportions were interesting because the woman was so petite and the baby doll the size of an actual few month old baby. I originally posted it with that Circa video of the Mannequin Challenge for a heroin overdose which is so powerful but left it off this because I think they compete rather than complement.]