End-of-winter musings

It’s mid-March, which means one thing in Jodi-world: the END of my patience for winter. I love the onset of winter in New England – that first snowstorm is magical, and maybe even the 2nd one, too. I enjoy the challenge of bundling up to get my outside time in. Sadie loves the snow and doesn’t care about the cold. And winter gear is awesome.

But when it’s the middle of March, and we just had a foot of snow dumped on us, followed by freezing rain that has hardened the snow into cement…and that storm is followed by freezing winds and ice-covered sidewalks just waiting to dump me on my ass?

Yeah, that part of winter I’m done with. This is when I start to say “why do I live here again?” Luckily, I have a magical trip to the Utah desert coming up in two weeks, so that will be a nice antidote to the cold. (PS, you’ve been warned – there will be multiple blog posts about canyons and red rocks and whatnot. I’m guaranteeing it.)

And, despite my grousing, I’m not without gratitude. I mean, watching my dog bite and frolic in the snow is delightful. Hiding bad hair with hats, and double chins with scarves…these are bonuses of the winter variety.

And in truth, when one has the right gear, there is wonder to be found. Like last night, where the tread on my hiking boots, normally used to keep me from falling off of mountainsides, allowed Sadie and I to take a walk on TOP of the snow layer, leaving no footprints, which was a weird and fun experience.

Or, like this past Monday, when, after an eye doctor appointment, I found myself in an unfamiliar part of town (this Orange Line gal doesn’t know what to do in Green Line territory), at the mercy of buses that were not following the posted schedules. When the bus that was supposed to come didn’t, I shrugged, zipped up my puffy warm coat, tightened my Smartwool hat on my head, donned my gloves, popped on my sunglasses, and proceeded to walk – in my sensible and warm Merrell boots – the 11 stops to the bus transfer point. It was the first night after we turned the clocks ahead, so I strolled a couple of miles while watching the sun go down behind me, erasing that layer of gold that tips the tops of buildings.

I was warm, I had new contact lenses on, and my legs felt strong. And I had a moment when I realized that I am truly a lucky and, dare I say it, privileged, person. To live where I live, in a city that values public transit (even when it doesn’t quite work right). To be able to afford really good winter outerwear. To have health care that gave me a free pair of eyeglasses, and an employer that doesn’t punish me for taking the time to get my eyes checked. And, to have two working legs that can take me anywhere, really, with the only limits being my own willingness to try (hope I remember this when descending into slot canyons in Utah).

And of course, to have heat and a roof over my head to keep me warm until glorious spring decides to show herself. Which frankly, can’t come soon enough. I mean, seriously, Mama Nature. I’ll do my best to find the good in the cold, but spring is the best time ever to be alive…so let’s get to it.

 

 

Allegiance

Today, I sort of tripped over history.

Last week, a friend posted on facebook about a Fathom Events cinematic showing of the Broadway musical Allegiance, and I thought “Huh. I should go see that.” I’d missed seeing it on the actual Broadway. I follow George Takei on twitter, and he’s delightful. Funny and poignant and unabashedly liberal. I have fond memories of him in Star Trek, but beyond that, I couldn’t tell you anything else I’ve seen him in. But Allegiance was his brainchild, and I knew it was about the internment of Japanese-Americans, and I’d heard it was good. So I bought a ticket. I literally didn’t give it any more thought than that. I completely missed the symbolism of this show being shown on this day, February 19.

See, Mr. Takei was one of approximately 120,000 Americans who were interred in camps after the Pearl Harbor attack during World War II. I don’t remember much about this moment from my American history classes, other than what I just wrote. I know we learned that it happened, and it was bad, but beyond that…

So, on this unseasonably sunny day, I set out for the mall to catch a Broadway show. I arrived about an hour early (oops, got my times wrong), so had the entire theater to myself for a while. Scrolling facebook on my phone, I stopped, stunned, at a post from a friend with Japanese-American heritage:

screen-shot-2017-02-19-at-8-08-17-pm

I set my phone down and stared at the empty theater, gobsmacked.

No clue. I had no clue this was the anniversary of the executive order. Heck, I didn’t even know it was an executive order. I picked my phone back and up and read the order. Shook my head, frowned, then read it again. And I felt a chill; there was nowhere in that order that mentioned “Japanese-American” people. The words were colder. The words basically said that the US military could designate zones, whenever and wherever they wanted, “from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion.”

In a horrifying nutshell, the military had authority to exclude anyone they wanted from anywhere they wanted, and could force those people to move to other locations where, if the military felt so inclined, they would be fed and clothed and housed…maybe.

This was America. 1942. One stroke of a pen from the President. A Democratic president, it’s worth mentioning.

Shaken, I sat silently as the theater began to fill with people. I had only a few minutes to wrestle with the parallels between then and now before the show began. As it did, I idly noted some production flaws (the syncing of music and film was a little off at times), but within a few moments, I was completely enmeshed in the lives of the people I was seeing on screen.

I spent pretty much the entire show either on the verge of tears or with them dripping down my face. For a change, I wasn’t thinking about the structure of the show, or if that musical number belonged, or if that lighting cue could have been better. I was fully immersed in a beautiful and tragic story of warm, flawed, stoic, and loving people trying to survive.

Bubbling under my appreciation for music and choreography and costumes that touched my heart was fury and anger that my country could do this, and then sweep it under the rug. That’s the most basic of emotions. But I also ached at the duality the show revealed, as these earnest, patriotic, fiercely loyal people wrestled with how to respond to the outrage being foisted upon them. Some chose to enlist in the military, the same military that was interning them, out of a heart-breaking belief that if they proved themselves by dying for their country, it would help their families trapped in camps/prisons. Others sought resistance, through burning draft cards (yes, we DRAFTED people we’d put in internment camps) and smuggling letters out of the camp so other Americans could see/hear what was happening.

These two different responses to the internments tore the family apart in the most heart-wrenching of ways, and I was struck at how close we are to this reality today. Most decent people don’t think that rounding up people based on religion or ethnicity is good. Most decent people believe that something like the internments would never happen again.

But fear does funny things to decent people. And it’s in the response, in the ways we choose to react to such horrors, that the danger lives for those of us not immediately impacted. We can double down on patriotism, hope our loyalty is rewarded, and risk the guilt of staying quiet in the name of “not rocking the boat.” Or we can actively resist, risk being branded as naive and reactionary, and potentially widen the fractures in our own families. Maybe there’s a middle ground, I don’t know.

But we’d be foolish…heck we ARE foolish…to overlook history. Yes, the show I saw was a dramatization. But this chapter in our history HAPPENED. And I am fiercely ashamed of how quickly we forgot about it.

As the show ended, our theater burst into applause, even though the actors on the screen couldn’t hear us. I slowly tuned in to the sniffles around me and realized I wasn’t alone in being affected by this story. As I walked back to my car, I reflected on conversations I’ve had, as I try to figure out how to respond to today’s political reality, about how tired some Americans are of “apologizing”, whether for slavery, or wiping out our indigenous tribes, or dropping a nuclear bomb (twice), or spewing poisonous gases into the air, or even just being white and privileged. I get it. It’s tough to be “the greatest nation on earth” and have such blemishes on our history.

How do we show allegiance to our country, while also acknowledging its failures?

I was always taught, from elementary school through business school, that the strongest people admit their mistakes and learn from them. Granted, as a society we often don’t follow through on that lofty ideal, but I refuse to accept that we should stop trying.

Allegiance is just one story about an incredibly shameful time in America’s history. I wish our current leaders could watch and it and be moved, but I doubt they will, or would. But if you out there reading this have a chance to see it, please do. You might react differently than I did, and that’s ok. But I think you’ll fall in love with the people portrayed, as I did, and will maybe learn something, as I did. I think learning and re-learning things might be our only hope.

What matters

I finally figured it out.

FINALLY.

After starting 20 blog posts, and then not hitting publish because they felt trite, or stupid, or wrong, or badly written…

After the inauguration…

And the peaceful marches that followed…

I finally know what I want to say.

As I’ve wrestled with how to react to the fact that the House and Senate are controlled by Republicans with an agenda that I disagree with, and that an inexperienced reality TV star now has the keys to our nuclear arsenal, I’ve been seized with this sense of…IMMOBILITY.

Like I can’t speak, or move, or have an opinion, because a) What does it matter? and b) Someone will tell me that I am brainwashed by the media, or that what I care about doesn’t matter in the “real America”.

Which leaves me with nothing more to do than commiserate with my like-minded friends (and thank god for them) and studiously, fastidiously avoid any conversation with anyone on the other side.

And that pretty much sucks.

But two days ago, I finally figured it out. It was lunch time, and I dared to get on Facebook as the President was giving his inaugural speech. (I didn’t listen. But I did read it in its entirely later). I was thinking about my work, what I was doing at that very moment.

I was building a website to help give grants to young classical musicians who want to use music to make their communities better.

And I realized something important. I have spent the last year (nay, probably most of my adult life) fretting that maybe I have it wrong. That maybe I am naive and brainwashed like the right claims I am. That maybe the fundamental things I believe in are wrong. After all, someone has to be wrong, right? 😉

But as I was watching my friends react to the President’s words, and rumors started to swirl that the Republicans were going to put the NEA, the NEH, and the CPB on the chopping block, and the words “climate change” were erased from the whitehouse.gov website…I realized something.

I realized that I will never, ever, ever, let our President, or the Republicans in Congress, or some right-wing media engine/engineer convince me that the arts don’t matter.

Or that trying to take care of our planet doesn’t matter.

Or that learning and studying different ideas and views doesn’t matter.

Or that trying to help people who need help doesn’t matter.

Because if we don’t care about such things, we have no right to claim to be great at anything. And we will never make the world better for all the people who need us to try.

And here’s the thing. HERE’S THE THING!!!

I can believe these things, and my believing them doesn’t come at the expense of someone else’s belief. Just because I believe these things doesn’t mean what you believe, which might be different, isn’t important. This is not a zero-sum game. There is room for all of us. Heck, most of us aren’t that far apart – but there’s no drama when we’re not fighting, and drama gets clicks.

There you have it. I will not throw away all that I learned in school and college and life, simply because a bunch of people voted differently than me. I will accept that we will differ on policy, on solutions, on the role of government. It’s entirely possible that I am wrong about many things. But I will no longer be made to feel guilty, or naive, or clueless, about the fundamentals of what I believe. I will try not to do the same to the other side. If we can debate how to fix healthcare, without implying that we each are spawns of the devil, let’s do it. Heck, we can even debate the merits of the National Endowment for the Arts, if you don’t imply that I’m a loser for caring.

So there. I’m ready. Let’s do this.

Lunchtime Notes: Hidden Figures

This post was written in approximately 15 minutes during my lunch hour. Please forgive typos and rambling and disconnected thoughts. 

I was sitting next to my sister-in-law, a badass Naval officer, during the previews for Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. The previews were odd – lots of loud, extremely violent graphic novel adaptations, and I was perplexed.

Then, a preview popped up for a movie about the space program, and I perked up. I LOVE SPACE, and by association, the space program. I’ve read a bunch of stuff about it; Apollo 13 is one of my all-time favorite movies. John Glenn died recently, and I joined the parade of tweeters expressing my respect for his contributions.

I sat up in my chair as the trailer for Hidden Figures played, and sent an incredulous glance over to my sister-in-law, who smiled knowingly at me. She, it seems, knew about this movie. I had no clue.

It’s a story about 3 African-American women who worked behind-the-scenes to get Colonel Glenn into, and safely home from, space.

I haven’t seen it yet, FYI.

My first thought, as I watched it, was “If it doesn’t suck, this movie will be my new Apollo 13.”

My second thought was “HOW THE HELL HAVE I NEVER HEARD THIS STORY BEFORE?”

Apollo 13 happened to be on TV later that week, and I watched it with joy, as I always do. But I also saw what I’d always casually noted, but never really reflected on; there were no women in rooms where the behind-the-scenes drama played out. We saw women at home waiting anxiously by the TV, and the occasional female reporter. There were no people of color in the rooms, either. We saw one, in the press room.

Millions of white kids like me grew up idolizing the space program, and we never knew there were a bunch of women, and women of color, behind the scenes. Of course there were. Of COURSE we should have known about them. We should have learned about them in school. Barring that, we should have ASKED about them. But of course we didn’t.

If you want evidence of institutionalized discrimination and patriarchy, this is it, folks.

I can’t wait to see this film. I hope it lives up to my expectations as a movie, so I can be sure it’s one of those movies my niece is forced to watch with me when it comes on TV in 10 years. 🙂

Resolution blues

Hi, friends. Not a lot of words on this blog recently. That’s because I don’t have much to say.

Well, that’s only partially true. I don’t have much to say that is hopeful or clever or even a little bit witty.

See, I’m still pretty pissed that the highest position of power in our country is about to be assumed by Donald Trump. It’s really getting me down, mostly on a societal/philosophical level, because…jeez. This is my country, too, and I love it, and what Trump represents…well…it makes me sad and angry and…so many other feelings, none of them good. And enough has been written, by better writers than I, about that, so I’ll pipe down.

Maybe I’m just in a funk. That is possible, and normal, and I’m not ashamed of it. Yes, I know I need to get over it. Thanks.

But it’s now January 2nd, and since I always blog for the New Year, I’ve decided to write a blog post for those out there who are feeling like I am.

This post is for all of you who can’t bring yourselves to go through the “In 2017 I vow to _________” game again. Because every year, we vow to become skinny, which will somehow make us more happy. Or we vow to be more organized, which will somehow make us more productive. Or we vow to focus on our relationships more, which will somehow make us less lonely.

And every year, it feels like we fail. Note I said it “feels like” we fail. I don’t believe we ACTUALLY fail (except me, on the getting skinny part, but I’m used to that by now). We accomplish a lot, actually. We get through each day, we travel, we cook, we do our best to support our friends/family, we try to exercise, we try to do good for our fellow man. That’s not nothing, folks. But sometimes, it feels like nothing.

I get you, my people. I’m feeling it, too. I see happy facebook posts of colorful scripted hashtags about #kindness and #intention and #purpose and I want to scratch over them with a magic marker (I refrain, because my I-Phone is worth more than my car at this point), because for crying out loud, do you really expect me to think about only ONE word for an entire year? And why isn’t that word #chocolate or #bagels or something real?

I know how it feels to feel like everyone else is content in their lives, while we flounder, looking for the place that we fit, wondering “is this it?”, and if we will always be just slightly on the edge of what’s comfortable and normal.

I also know the guilt we feel after having such thoughts, because, after all, we’re healthy and employed and have a warm roof over our heads. How dare we not be grateful and happy and appreciative of all we have?

I get it, my friends. And I don’t have any magical way to solve it. I guess giving it some time, giving less time to social media, changing a routine, or maybe even, despite how false and fake and silly it feels, setting a goal or two for 2017?

I can’t quite get there yet, but maybe I will soon. New Year’s resolutions are a false construct, a symbol, something we’ve made up, so if you can’t get in to them, don’t add that to the list of things making you feel like New Year’s Scrooge. As Neil Degrasse Tyson tweeted today, there is absolutely no astrological significance to this time of year. So if you’re not feeling it, that’s ok. Maybe we’ll feel it on some random January or February day. Maybe not.

Whatever happens, 2017 is here, and, resolutions or not, I hope it’s a good year for all of you.

PS: Here’s one thing we can do, even if it feels hard; support our friends who have found a resolution they want to achieve. It might wind up feeling pretty good, and bonus – it’s a nice thing to do.