Hello from a raft

Content notes: Climate change and other natural disasters; grief; anxiety; alcohol; class and privilege.

The Titanic is sinking and I’m standing in line for a Manhattan.


I’m writing this on June 29, 2021, the day after the hottest day in Seattle’s history — so far.

Yesterday was a crisis, and I don’t know how to talk about it. TikTok is a series of bitterly comedic videos about how much the heat sucks; Twitter is a parade of disaster. One feels too casual and the other is hopeless.

Elisa and I spent yesterday moving from place to place in a desperate attempt to find somewhere to keep Eva comfortable, scared that this excessive heat would do her real damage (let alone ourselves.) We started in my sister’s RV, until the midday sun, our laptops, and the heat of two humans and a dog became too much for its AC to handle.

Fuck it, we said. Let’s find a hotel. This is an emergency. Eva was panting like a machine gun, her ears glued back to her skull, pacing around the RV every few minutes before flopping down, then getting up to do it again. She’s an idiot dog: she frequently seems like she forgets that water exists and is picky about drinking from bowls that aren’t hers when she’s out and about. We would touch her brindled black body and I would say hopefully “She doesn’t feel too warm,” as if I could explain to her that she was going to be fine when demonstrably, she was struggling.

We were really just trying to tell ourselves not to panic. You have to. There is a point at which you say, “The iceberg isn’t that big,” ideally not to avoid the problem completely but to keep yourself from freezing up at the enormity of the disaster.

But it was getting bad. So we found a luxury hotel, the Fairmont Olympic in downtown Seattle, the last place in town with any rooms available. We booked one. We went home at 1:30, as the worst heat of the day was starting, packed bags, and headed downtown.


A meme: the text reads "I've had enough." The image is of someone pointing a gun at the sun.
This whole post is a real downer so please enjoy this meme to get you through the next 1500 words.

So, okay, abrupt tonal switch here because the hotel was a trip and the literary style is only going to get at half my feelings about it. (Can you tell I didn’t edit this much before posting?)

A security guy outside the back entrance of the hotel tells us that valet parking is “kind of a mess” and suggests we park in the garage across the street. As we turn the corner to approach the main entrance of the hotel we see a line of cars into the street. Kind of a mess indeed. We park in the garage. We grab our stuff, haul it across the street to the front door, and find the lobby.

The lobby is slammed. It appears that every person in Seattle with pets, kids, or elderly family members and the disposable income to book a $450/night room at the last minute has done so, and the line for check-in snakes around the lobby. Elisa gets in line, while I sit with our bags. Eva splays out on the cool marble floor, panting hard, too tired to get up to her usual barking and lunging at other dogs.

While the line trudges past me, I overhear a woman saying that the hotel has overbooked by 20% and has been sending people to another hotel. There are at least twenty people ahead of Elisa in line, as far as I can tell from my position on the other side of the lobby. I text her these deets. We cross our fingers, but I’m already trying to think of contingency plans. And by contingency plans I mainly mean “how long can we stay in this lobby, and how will we survive when we get home?”

How will we survive?

Some time later, Elisa rejoins us and I can tell immediately that we’re screwed. I’ve been texting with my family — my sister has offered again to let us stay in the RV, while my mom is suggesting we look at another hotel — and the decision fatigue is starting to get to both of us. The fatigue and the heat and, like–

Have you ever grieved for people you don’t know? Or for a time? A way of life? Probably you have; I think in 2020 a lot of us experienced intense societal grief. For 600,000 people dead, even if none of them were people we knew; for George Floyd or Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade or Oluwatoyin Salau, Lorenzo Anderson and Summer Taylor; for our own understanding of the world as we were thrown headlong into survival patterns. You might have grieved for Notre Dame Cathedral as it burned, the Amazon rainforest as it burned, Australia, California; the World Trade Center, Pulse Nightclub, Las Vegas, Christchurch; Hurricane Katrina, Fukushima, Indonesia …

I’m making myself sad. I’m sorry if this is making you sad too. I meant to make this a funny, righteously angry post about the white academics we overheard trash talking affirmative action in the hotel lobby, but– Maybe another time. Thanks for being here with me through it.

Anyway. Maybe you’ve heard of climate grief:

Climate grief is related both to changes that have already happened and to changes that are coming, or are in the process of happening. Thus, climate grief often has elements of what the grief theorists call “anticipatory grief” or “transitional grief”. This complicates things. All kinds of grieving can be difficult in our contemporary societies, where an understanding of private or public grieving has long been neglected. But anticipatory grief is always hard. What is truly lost, or will be? When do we grieve those losses – when they begin, or when they end? It is easier to grieve concrete losses that have happened, such as the loss of a certain part of an ecosystem or community. But how does one grieve losses which are ongoing for decades?

Panu Pihkala, “Climate grief: How we mourn a changing planet”

And I’m sitting in this crowded luxury hotel lobby, the most crowded place I have been since March 2020, wearing a mask while most of the people around me aren’t, and my brain can’t settle between the thoughts We will probably all be okay even if we’re uncomfortable and I am so scared for all of us.


A man gets into the check-in line that snakes past our seat. He looks around at the chaos of the lobby and says, in an incredulous half-laughing tone, in an Australian accent, “It’s like we’re on the Titanic!”

I want to say, “Yes, dude, it’s an emergency. We’re refugees.” Elisa tells me later that she wanted to say, “Yeah, and the poor are all going to drown.”

There’s no band, but there is a bar.

Here is Eva on one of the fancy couches, looking her normal bright-eyed and serene self! She’s doing fine. I figured you might need a puppy break because I sure do.

We end up finding a table tucked away in the back corner of the Fairmont Olympic’s lobby. (I honestly would go back under better circumstances just to hang out in the lobby. It’s fancy and spacious and really pleasant to spend time in.) We’ll be there from 3:30 to nearly 8PM. We try to work a little bit.

When it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, which is to say here, I go get in line for a drink at the bar. This line, like the one at check-in — which is still all the way around the edge of the lobby, three hours after we first arrived — spills out of the bar proper and curls around itself. A guy comes up and asks, “Is this the end of the line? For the bar?”

“Yep, this is it.” Wan smile, which he can’t see because I’m wearing a glittery mask.

“This place must specialize in lines!” he says. I think I say, “Huh.”

To be fair to him, it takes almost forty minutes to get through the line, not because it’s particularly long but because there is a single bartender. I’ve seen a handful of waitstaff striding around the lobby. I keep thinking about how I don’t have any cash to tip them with because of the pandemic. I wonder if anyone is tipping them, or the harried valets trying to deal with all the giant cars clogging the front entrance. Why would anyone look at that line of cars and decide “Yeah, I’m gonna make this someone else’s problem”?

Climate change is always someone else’s problem, like, it’s a problem for Newtok but not Seattle, or it’s a problem for unhoused neighbors but we have a home, or it’s a problem for (and of) the corporations and governments but we’re individuals. These Somebody Else’s Problem Fields have varying levels of validity, insofar as individual action can’t be the solution for climate change, or eroding land in Alaska isn’t really something a Seattlite can directly affect.

But the housing and homelessness crises have always been our problems. And all of this is going to continue to be our problem. And all of us in this lobby are so fucking lucky because all of us had at least $450 we were ready and able to spend on an emergency stay at a luxury fucking hotel, and yet, we are all stranded, and yet we are still going to be fine, probably.

I know, with great and numbing certainty, that we’ll probably be fine, and that somewhere in Seattle, a business owner is shooing a homeless person out of the shade of their entryway and into 110℉ heat, and that person will probably not be fine. Hell, some of the babes in arms in this room, whose parents can’t get a room because Booking.com lied to them in an algorithmic effort to make more money, may have to go back to their baking hot homes, and may not be fine.

The Titanic is sinking.

I’m trying not to cry.

The guy behind me is joined by someone that I assume is his wife. “I’ve been in this line since before I called you about the parking situation!” he tells her, in the voice of someone who sounds ready to leave a bare-minimum tip and complain to his friends about the atrocious service.

Maybe that’s not fair. Maybe he’s feeling the same horror and hopelessness I am and expressed it as a disbelieving comment on the length of the wait, to highlight how unbelievable the whole situation is. But all I can think is If he says anything disparaging about the staff I might punch him.

Behind us a young couple with a fluffy dog and a baby in a stroller are looking around the room in hopeless exhaustion, unable to find someplace they can sit down. “I saw a woman taking up space for five people,” the mother with the dog says.

I don’t know what to do.


I order a Manhattan.

It’s really good.

I reach out to friends. They are instantly, effusively ready to shelter us. We make arrangements. Eva and Elisa will crash in an air-conditioned room; I’ll have the apartment to myself and can cool it down without also worrying about the dog.

We’re going to be okay.

When we get back to the apartment to re-pack we discover that the freezer has somehow been left open since the afternoon. The paletas we bought last Friday are goo.

On the drive over to drop off Elisa and Eva, I muse, “I really ought to be journaling about this. I keep thinking — The Titanic is sinking and all I want is a Manhattan,” and then I start to cry.


“To my poor fellow-sufferers: My heart overflows with grief for you all and is laden with sorrow that you are weighed down with this terrible burden that has been thrust upon us. May God be with us and comfort us all.” 

-Eleanor Smith, wife of the late Captain Smith of the RMS Titanic

Thank you for reading, and thank you to everyone who helped us or offered help to us yesterday: Regina and Deke, Chase and Kristen, Jéhan, our parents, the hardworking Fairmont Olympia staff.

Again, I want to be clear: as stories of riding out the heat wave go, ours represents one of privilege. We had a lot of help and a lot of resources. And it was still exhausting and scary in a very real way. For people who don’t have the resources we had, it was undoubtedly worse, and this will not be the last time an environmental crisis affects our, or your, community.

If you’re in Seattle and would like to help people most likely to be affected by crises like this, please consider donating to:

And please feel free to comment with information about help in your network.

Thanks for reading, and take care. 💙

The Utility of Tragedy

This one’s gonna ramble a bit and talk about depressing stuff some, so consider yourself warned.

So Saturday night was my 29th birthday, and I was in a show, and afterwards I went out with a couple of friends and drank beer and — impassioned and tipsy — tried to get them to explain to me what the utility of tragedy is in the current world.

This question sprang up out of the intersection of a few different trains of thought. It’s October 2017, and a year ago I was hugely confident that by November 30th I would have finished first drafts of two plays and have a female president. Turned out I was extremely wrong about both of these things!

We’re well into the first year of USA’s 45th presidency. Ten months of nearly constant crisis mode and psychological battering. Ten months where I slowly realized that I’m living in a bizarre but very real informational war zone under an incompetent but very dangerous head of state installed by a foreign power. About ten months where I’ve had regular episodes of existential despair over the possibility of nuclear war. (And all this, of course, doesn’t even take into account my last few years of deepening my understanding of racial injustice in America, of refugee stories, and of gun violence, which provided a nice foundation of “boy howdy the world’s a shitshow” for this year’s panoply of awfulness.)

The other day I was binge-watching pop culture video essays, and found myself intrigued by The Nerdwriter mentioning that “passable movies” are ones that are “a far cry from great or noteworthy or something you’d like to see more than once.” That got me thinking about what stories I’ve come back to multiple times in 2017. I’ve seen plenty of movies and plays and read plenty of books this year, and enjoyed and liked plenty of them.

2017coolmovieswithemojis

Just a sample. It was a pretty good year for movies, all things considered.

But there weren’t many I went back to more than once, despite frequently exclaiming as I left the theater “I would totally go see that again!” Movie tickets are expensive and I am lazy. That doesn’t mean they weren’t amazing movies — Moonlight and Hidden Figures are unquestionably very well made movies that I only saw once, and while I know people are divided on Atomic Blonde and Wonder Woman I thought they were both extremely well constructed. It just means I haven’t seen them twice. (But I did actually see Get Out twice in theaters.)

While I was thinking about that, I also watched the Nerdwriter’s take on Black Mirror.

I’ve only seen a couple episodes of Black Mirror, one of which was the notably uplifting (and yet slightly ambiguous??) “San Junipero,” and a big part of why is what Nerdwriter articulates in this video:

What Charlie Brooker, the intensely smart creator of Black Mirrorhas given us are tragedies that are often senseless — in other words, tragedies that withhold catharsis. The result, I think, is that we end up feeling much closer to these stories. The cathartic appreciation that’s meant to transform our pity and our fear never comes, and we’re just left with the pity, and the fear.

I remember once asking my mother if she wanted to come see Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and she told me, essentially, “I’ve spent my whole life seeing people be awful to each other. I don’t need to pay money to go see two hours of it.” There’s a lot of dark/serious/tragic media that I feel similarly about, especially right now, in 2017, in this time and place. Just waking up in the morning and looking at Facebook or Twitter or the New York Times headlines in my inbox feels like adding a piece of glass to my shoes. Why would I feel the need to spend money and time consuming a story that reminds me how terrible people are and how insignificant our actions are in the great, tragic roll of the wheel of fortune?

And yet.

The stories that I probably spent the most time with this year, the ones I discovered for the first time and came back to over and over, were tragedies. Specifically, Hadestown

And Rogue One.

Animated gif of Cassian, Jyn, Bodhi, Baze, and Chirrut.

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Ajax and Cassandra, Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein, 1806

I also spent a lot of time at the beginning of the year with the myth of Cassandra, working on my own storytelling and wrestling with the fact that Cassandra’s story is one of bad thing after bad thing happening for no good reason to a woman that culminates in her murder, and that I hate writing stories with downer endings. (I’m bad at writing endings in general, but that’s a slightly different personal writing problem.)

None of these stories ends well. Hadestown is a retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and ends, as it must, with Orpheus turning around and Eurydice being lost to him. Rogue One ends with every single one of the characters we’ve become invested in sacrificing themselves and dying. Cassandra is killed by Clytemnestra, alone and far from home. Sure, you could take any of these stories and follow the “how to listen to Into the Woods/Hamilton without crying” approach: just close the book or stop the movie or soundtrack halfway through, when everything is still hunky-dory. Where stories end, after all, is subjective — it all depends on how long you follow them.

But no. I like the endings of these stories, too. I don’t check out early. Partly, I think, because they’re cathartic, in the old-fashioned Aristotelean sense of the word. Belting along to a sad song or feeling my heart pound during a good action sequence feels good physically as well as emotionally. Each story is, to quote the Nerdwriter quoting Northrop Frye, “intelligible because its catastrophe is plausibly related to its situation.”

But I’ve also been coming back to a line from Hadestown, a sentiment that I echoed myself when trying to understand Cassandra and that runs through the end of Rogue One — and through many of my favorite horror movies. “It’s a love song / About someone who tries.”

Tragic heroes are traditionally heroes because they do everything in their power to do the right thing, the thing that will let them survive, the thing that defies fate — and they fail anyway. Hamlet tries to avenge his father and save Denmark — and fails. Oedipus tries to save his city and his family from destruction — and fails. The stories elicit pity, in that we feel the pain of the hero when they lose, and we fear for them as we watch them struggle, because we recognize what their great losses would mean to us if we experienced them.

I guess I find more pleasure in tragic stories where the heroes are overcome in spite of their best efforts, than I do in tragic stories where the heroes are overcome because they never had a chance. And it’s absolutely because I need to believe that trying, that striving for something, matters, even if the something is not achieved. I need to believe that because we beat health care repeal a few times, but the fight isn’t going away. And because the world’s getting hotter and the storms are getting worse and Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and swathes of California are wrecked. And because I walk past a lot of homeless people in Seattle, and my friends are crowdfunding their medical care and their rent, and the world is just really hard to live in.

So I gotta believe trying makes a difference. That it bends the arc of the universe a little, or it saves that one seastar, or whatever.

Or maybe I just don’t like downer endings.

Recommended reading/watching/listening:

 

Protest sign reading WE WILL NOT BREAK.

Phones suck. Friends rock. And civic engagement is sustainable.

This started as a Facebook post and got to the point where I could no longer countenance posting it as a status, so hello WordPress my old friend!

So we got together with some friends last night to drink, celebrate each incoming update from the ACLU, and call our reps, and it was GREAT. (I’m starting to think I should put “helps organize community events basically as an excuse to drink with friends and make them listen to her opinions on stuff” on my business cards.) Here’s some things I learned:

1. The Washington legislature has a system in place that allows you to comment on EVERY SINGLE BILL and have your comments sent to your state senator and representatives. Here’s the how-to. H/T to Jeff Petersen for mentioning this one! So remember that anti-protesting bill I mentioned last week, SB 5009? Or that anti-trans bathroom bill, HB 1011? Here’s a way to register your disapproval of those without ever having to pick up a phone.

hb1000-comment-on-this-bill

Here’s another really good one to express your support for.

To the best I can tell, the Alaska state legislature (Alaska being my home state and the place many of my readers are coming from) does not have a similar system to allow comment. However! The AK legislature’s site does list what bills are currently before the Senate and House, and where they are in the legislative process — prefiled vs. in committee, etc — and appears to have tools that will let you track specific pieces of legislation. (Plus they’ve got subject tags so you can find other legislation related to issues that are important to you! Like Anchorage Democrat Rep. Claman’s pro-contraceptive coverage bill, or the House Joint Resolution to repeal Alaska’s same-sex marriage ban.)

Seriously, one of the conclusions I’m coming to is that at most levels of government, they desperately want you to be involved and informed. The systems aren’t necessarily intuitive, but the information is usually out there if you (or people you know — hello, I’m a dramaturg!) are willing to dig it up.

2. Writing scripts takes a lot of energy, but once you’ve got the basic format down it starts to get easier. I crib a lot from The 65 (previously the We’re His Problem Now spreadsheet), but I’m learning quickly that the more specificity you can get, especially as you get down to a more local level, the better. Also, this should not have come as a surprise, but if you are holding a script written for a Democratic representative and have to try and adapt it for a Republican representative while you’re on the phone, you’re gonna have a bad time. Or at least I am.

Continue reading

What would be enough?

Just Enough, Patrik Nygren on Flickr

I searched for “enough” on Flickr and got this, which is nicely abstract for an abstract concept.

I worry a lot about not doing enough. I don’t floss enough. I don’t meditate enough. I don’t wear sunscreen often enough. I don’t work out enough. I don’t get politically involved enough. I don’t drink enough water. I don’t eat enough protein. I don’t give enough money. I don’t call enough. I don’t volunteer enough. I don’t write enough. I don’t cry enough. I don’t care enough.

(Enough is such a weird word. Why is English??)

This probably all ties back to my old friends, perfectionism and anxiety, and I have to work hard to remind myself that “enough” is a relative term. When my brain tells me something like “You don’t write enough,” what it’s actually saying is “You don’t write as much as [that person]” (usually Stephen King, because if you’re gonna hold yourself to unattainable standards, don’t just aim high, aim highest!). It’s not “You don’t work out enough,” it’s “you don’t work out as much as a professional athlete.” And those comparisons are, of course, silly.

Enough has to be a personal word for personal goals. It isn’t an objective standard. (Unless it’s flossing, in which case, you are right, self, you don’t floss enough.) This goes double for the immaterial and unquantifiable. How much writing is enough? How much political involvement?

And the other thing, of course, is that holding myself to the standard of enough means I don’t appreciate the any. Anything is better than nothing. Maybe I don’t drink two liters of water a day or whatever it is you’re supposed to drink to clear your skin, fix your anxiety, and flatten your stomach — but if I drink three glasses of water, that is better than no glasses of water. Maybe I was late to the social activism party, and there is this huge pile of toxic bullshit to deal with now, and I’m not dedicating every second of my waking days to trying to get rid of it — but if I take a couple of shovelfuls out of that pile, it is a couple shovelfuls smaller. Maybe I didn’t wear sunscreen for basically the entire six weeks we were walking El Camino de Santiago and the damage to my skin has already been done — but if I put some on today, that’s a little less more damage.

It is, to be hokey, the personal-goal version of that story about throwing seastars back into the sea. Can I save every seastar? Can I ever be enough of something? Maybe not. Probably not. But hey, I can make a difference to that one. And the journey of a thousand miles, and all that jazz.

This being said, it’s okay to push myself to do a little more than just anything. There is a balancing point, somewhere, between holding myself to the impossible standard of enough and letting myself off the hook entirely. That’s the trick I’m still working on — a little at a time.

 

A letter to the electors

Want to write your own letter to the electors? Visit asktheelectors.org.


Dear Electors,

My name is Anthea Carns from Anchorage, AK.

I am writing to ask that, on December 19th, you will not cast your vote for Donald Trump as President of the United States.

As electors, you’ve dedicated years of your time to the political process in our country, and you understand — better than most, I’m sure — the details of how our system works. You understand the great moral responsibility entrusted to our elected officials, and the care, caution, compassion, and thoughtfulness that governing requires.

I know that there is a strong feeling this election cycle that we should carry on as normal. Asking electors to change their pledged votes is pretty far outside our norms. But this has not been a normal election:

-In July 2016 Donald Trump called for hackers, Russian or otherwise, to infiltrate American institutions, as reported by multiple outlets including CNN and the Washington Post. At the time, even Gov. Mike Pence acknowledged that if the FBI determined that Russia had been attempting to influence our election, there would have to be “serious consequences.” Now the US intelligence community has agreed that Russia was behind hacking attempts on both parties — yet Mr. Trump continues to call this unprecedented subversion of our democracy “ridiculous” and refuses to take intelligence briefings on the subject.

-Since the results of the Nov. 8 general election, Mr. Trump has been staffing his cabinet with individuals who have no policy experience, but were major donors to his campaign. In many cases these individuals have actually stated that they wish to do away with the agency they are being appointed to lead.

-Despite long-standing tradition that presidents-elect divest themselves of their business interests while in office and place their assets in blind trusts to avoid even the appearance of conflicts of interest, Mr. Trump has merely handed his assets over to his children. He shows no intention of separating himself from his many businesses and has even stated that he will continue to be involved in enterprises like his reality TV show. Several Constitutional scholars have concluded that Mr. Trump’s dealings with entities like the Bank of China — a tenant in one of his buildings — put him in violation of the Emoluments Clause in Article I of the Constitution.

All these breaches of political norms, these casual dismissals of the foundations of democracy, have been seen before in other countries, and have always rightfully been causes for alarm. In this case, they speak to Mr. Trump’s profound lack of qualifications for the presidency. Even at the birth of our nation, our founders saw the potential for a candidate like Mr. Trump to reach the highest office in the land. In Federalist Paper No. 68, Alexander Hamilton wrote:

“Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one querter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union? … The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.”

This is why the electoral college was established. This is why I am writing to you. You are the people “most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station” of President of the United States, and the people “most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.”

I hope that you will carefully consider the moral and ethical consequences of this 2016 election. I hope that you will demand a complete briefing on any foreign interference that may have played a role in the campaign and the general election. And I hope that you will cast your Republican votes for a candidate who has the qualifications that you understand are necessary for such a high office.

Thank you for your time and consideration, I appreciate and respect the role you serve in our electoral process.

Sincerely,
Anthea Carns


Want to write your own letter to the electors? Visit asktheelectors.org.

Female protester holding a sign reading DO NOT FEAR THE DARKNESS.

I live in America.

Normally when I lie in bed at night trying to go to bed I am thinking about:

  1. An embarrassing moment from seventh grade
  2. A different embarrassing moment from seventh grade
  3. What time I have to be at work tomorrow
  4. A story

Sometimes it’s the play or NaNovel or whatever I’m working on at the time; just as often it’s some silly, self-indulgent daydream. It keeps me from thinking about that other embarrassing moment  from seventh grade and it helps me get to sleep.

Since Tuesday, when I lie in bed at night I write blog posts in my head.

I am paralyzed with how much I want to write. I feel like a shaken bottle of soda, tight as a drum and likely to explode. I feel like a thundercloud.

I want to explain why I am angry at third-party voters, in a way that is compassionate and clear; at the same time, I want to explain why I am angry at third-party voters in a way that does not make nice. On Tuesday night I had several hours of panic attacks and I have not gone a day since then without starting to cry at least once. I am not in a mood to be compassionate and empathetic to others when I can’t barely keep myself together, but I also believe that speaking in languages of anger and blame changes few minds.

I want to call people to action, or perhaps scream them to action like I’m the opening victim in Jaws.

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Pictured: Disabled people, immigrants, Latin@s, Muslims, LGBTQ people, Black people, people of color, women, Jewish people, and people reliant on the ACA, among others, feeling slightly unnerved by the prospect of a Trump administration.

I want to write about why I’m wearing a safety pin, and why I’m staying off Facebook, and the bizarre, slightly unrooted sense of nihilistic freedom I sometimes feel scrolling through Twitter. Like, I should get those tattoos I’ve been thinking about for literal years! I should get a damn sleeve! I should go buy a keyboard! Why the hell not! Why put anything off anymore! Be your goddamn self, because if nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do, and what I want to do is wear black jeans with a brown sweater and scream Green Day and Something Corporate and Indigo Girls lyrics out the car window! Whatever! Radical honesty is where it’s at, man!

 

I want to write about climate change, except even thinking about it scares me so much I can’t put words in a sentence.

I want to write a lot of poetry. I don’t think most of it will be very good poetry, I just don’t think carefully crafted argumentative essays are gonna get at my soda-pop feelings very well.

I want to yell about the electoral college and voter suppression and how none of this is actually a new problem because anti-immigrant sentiment has been strong in the USA since the Bush era and anti-Muslim sentiment has been strong in the USA since the Bush era and misogyny, misogyny, misogyny. I also want to yell about how it was not unreasonable for me to think that the country that elected Barack Obama twice could reject a man who courted white nationalists to win the presidency, was endorsed by the KKK, and just appointed an anti-Semitic alt-right zealot as his chief strategist. I don’t think it was unreasonable for me to think well of my fellow Americans. Given that Hillary Clinton appears to be winning the popular vote, as absentee ballots are counted, I don’t even think it was precisely overly optimistic.

I want to transcribe the tense, crawling feeling between my shoulderblades and the splintered mahogany weight behind my breastbone, but I don’t think the language to do so has been created yet.

I want to tell you that I love you, even in those cases where I’m mad right now.

Unless you voted for Trump. In which case I just want to know why you looked at me — a queer woman with several pre-existing health conditions — and my Latino friends, my lesbian friends, my gay friends, my trans friends, my immigrant friends, my Jewish friends, my Muslim friends, my Black friends, my disabled friends, my Native friends, every one of my friends on the fringes — and you decided we were making America less great.

Justin Kirk as Prior Walter saying I want more life.

As angry and hurt  and scared as I am, I want to end on a Kushner note. He gets me. Source.

 

To boldly go (a monologue)

Wow, I wrote this almost a year ago and never published it? Well. Better late than never. It seems to remain relevant.

A theatrical friend mentioned the quote below to me recently, and I ended up writing the following. It’s a little rough, as monologues go — it probably makes a better blog post. But I’m releasing it into the wild anyway; I’ve included a CCA license at the bottom that allows sharing and remixing.


The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is–it’s to imagine what is possible.
–bell hooks

JEAN: (Enters, wearing Spock ears. Addresses the crowd.) You ask people who the greatest artist of the English language is and people are like: Shakespeare. Or Dickens, or maybe Victor Hugo, ignoring the fact that he’s, you know, French . . . And they’ve all got their good points, but they’re all wrong. I’ll tell you who the greatest artist of the English language is. Okay?

It’s Gene Roddenberry.

And people think I’m joking, because come on, right. “Captain Kirk” Roddenberry? “Live long and prosper” Roddenberry? Y’know, “Khaaaaaaaan”? That guy?

Yeah. Star Trek: The Original Series is the most important dramatic work of art of the 20th century.

Continue reading

Things I Try Not To Yell At Other Drivers

Look. I am aware of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. I am aware that like 90% of people consider themselves “above average” drivers. Therefore, I do not consider myself an above average driver, except in my ability to parallel park a step-van. When it comes to driving said step-van around Seattle’s narrow residential streets, its clogged and often badly engineered freeways, and its due-to-collapse-any-day-now viaduct, I’m sure I’m just average.

This being said, I am an experienced driver, having been driving this step-van for over three years and having done a couple-three cross-country road trips, and so I feel I have some authority from which to offer the following friendly tips:

  • Turn on your headlights. Especially if it’s raining. Turn on your headlights.
  • You know that triangle-shaped part of the road on exit/entrance ramps? The gore area? Hey guess what CROSSING THOSE LINES IS ILLEGAL. Not just in WA state, either! Crossing them so you can get past the line of cars trying to get onto 520 at the 405 junction is also a JERK MOVE. QUIT IT.
  • oh my god, use yah blinkah, are you kidding me
  • especially if you’re going to insist on illegally changing lanes across the gore area
  • And turn on your headlights!
  • It takes a lot longer for a truck to slow down and stop than it does for your car. Leave us some space.
  • Turn on your schnauzercliffing headlights. I don’t care if it’s 80F and there’s not a cloud in the sky! You will be SO MUCH MORE VISIBLE and I will be considerably less likely to try to merge into the side of your car like the least competent Voltron pilot in the universe.
  • Every time you leave enough space for a truck to change lanes in front of you, and flash your brights to let the driver know that it’s safe for them to move over, a jackalope gets its antlers. I understand that may not sound like an incentive, but it really is a nice thing to do, so if the heartfelt gratitude of an anonymous trucker won’t do it for you maybe the cryptids will.

Look. Cars are amazing. Driving is one of my favorite things to do, but it’s also dangerous: we are all harnessing a series of controlled explosions to propel us at inhuman speeds down the road to where we’re going. That’s metal as HECK, but it also means it behooves us to help each other out. Generosity and care for the human beings around you is super cool.

Be above average. Drive safe!

A Year of Reading Diversely: Final Tally

One year ago, according to Facebook, my friends Jéhan and Heather challenged me to take the Tempest Bradford Challenge: for one year, stop reading stories by straight white cis male authors, and read only stories by people who identify as female/queer/POC/trans/disabled. I blogged about some of this under the tag “year of reading diversely“. So how’d we do?

Books Read

This is a mostly complete list; I wasn’t smart enough to start Goodreads page or anything because I figured I’d be blogging about each book, more fool me. Starred books are books I did not finish. ♥’d books are books I had read before.

  1. Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie
  2. Sister Mine, Nalo Hopkinson
  3. Fledgling, Octavia Butler*
  4. His Majesty’s Dragon, Naomi Novik
  5. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N. K. Jemisin*
  6. Under the Poppy, Kathe Koja*
  7. Binti, Nnedi Okorafor
  8. The Twilight Series, Stephenie Meyer*†
  9. The Vampire Diaries, L. J. Smith*†
  10. Dreamsnake, Vonda N. McIntyre ♥
  11. Collected Fictions, Jorge Luis Borges
  12. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Garbiel García Márquez*
  13. The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, Richard Zimler
  14. Hurt Go Happy, Ginny Rorby
  15. Whose Body?, Dorothy Sayers
  16. Wind/Pinball, Haruki Murakami*
  17. Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie
  18. So You Want to Be a Wizard, Diane Duane* ♥
  19. Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers
  20. Strong Poison, Dorothy Sayers
  21. The Grown-Up, Gillian Flynn
  22. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
  23. The Door Into Fire, Diane Duane ♥
  24. Chalice, Robin McKinley ♥

†I include these for completeness’ sake and so you don’t get an idea that I was always terribly high-brow in my quest for authors. Also I read them for a job. No fooling.

Did I learn anything?

A few things about myself: I learned that audiobooks are awesome when you have long walking commutes, and that I read printed books a lot more when I have long transit commutes. I rediscovered a love of physical books that had waned for a while with the advent of smartphones. I learned that when left to my own devices, I reread favorite books a lot more than I seek out new stuff. I confirmed that I have almost zero interest in literary fiction, unless it’s genre fiction in literary drag, and even then it’s a tough sell. (Lookin’ at you, Borges and Márquez and Murakami. You too, Zimler.)

I learned a few things about access, too. I mentioned this in an earlier blog post, but one thing that happened was that I often had trouble getting copies of the books I wanted to read. I can get a copy of the latest James Patterson in any format I want with no waiting, but when I tried to get a copy of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms in e-book format (twice), I had to get on a waiting list. Ditto Ann Leckie; ditto Naomi Novik. It seems like there’s a high demand for genre books by women, but the supply doesn’t necessarily keep up. (To counterpoint, though, I also had to get on the waitlist to get a copy of The Brothers K by David James Duncan — a straight white male author if ever there was one — but that probably had a lot to do with the fact that Book-It Repertory was producing a theatrical version of it (which was also why I broke the “no SWM author” rule to read it, because I was working on the play (which was also why I read Raymond Carver who is even more of a straight white male author than David James Duncan))).

It was also, generally speaking, easier for me to grab a book by a female author than by a male author of color. If I had nothing to go on besides a title and the name of an author I’d never heard of, I was more likely to go for a visibly female name than to try and figure out if a male author was not white or not straight. (Though I did try. Often that information is not easily available, for understandable reasons.) I don’t remember exactly how I got turned onto Richard Zimler, but I think it must have been a happy accident that I discovered he’s an openly gay Jewish author — otherwise it’s very likely I would have passed him by. As a result, I’m not totally satisfied with myself in that aspect of this challenge. My list of authors read is heavily skewed towards (presenting as straight and cis) white women. I’d like to read more genre fiction by men and women of color.

Reading so many female authors did throw two aspects of the male authors’ style into sharp relief, though: the writing of female characters and the writing of sex. In some cases — Borges — the women were non-existent. In some cases — Zimler, Murakami — they were written competently but with broader, less interesting strokes than the male characters. And in most of the books I read this year by male authors, I found the discussion of (always heterosexual) sex boring as hell.

[Computer shenanigans ate the final paragraphs here, which is okay because I wanted to edit in something anyway.]

But did you enjoy it?

I did, for lots of reasons! I read a lot of books that became new favorites: the Imperial Radch series, Binti, the Borges stories, and the Lord Peter Wimsey books feature high on that list. I read some books that I enjoyed while also having some problems with them: I liked the mystery and history in Last Kabbalist while finding the sex scenes off-putting, I liked the imagery and poetry of One Hundred Years of Solitude while finding the pace too slow for my taste, I liked the world-building of Left Hand of Darkness while also wanting to throw the book across a train at that one death. I read some books that I liked fine, but doubt I’ll reread.

Some books I bounced off of pretty hard. I didn’t enjoy Fledgling, despite enjoying Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis books a great deal. I know I need to give Murakami a second chance with something that’s not his first novel, because while I didn’t connect with Wind/Pinball, I found his foreword to the collection engaging and inspiring.

But I read so much more in the last year than I’ve read . . . honestly for years, maybe since my freshman year of college. I finished fifteen books! Eleven of them new to me! At some point I fell out of the habit of carrying a book with me everywhere, and in the past year I’ve gotten back into it. My library card has gotten a fantastic workout, and given SPL’s extensive audiobook collection on Overdrive and their Your Next 5 Books service, I expect to keep patronizing them.

So what’s next?

I’ll be honest, I’m looking forward to reading Stephen King again, especially with the Dark Tower movie slated for next year. I also want to give some of the books I didn’t finish another chance, and read some different stuff from the authors I didn’t quite connect with. And even as I pick up some of my favorite books up again, I want to keep this awareness of a wider range of voices in mind as I read more new-to-me stuff. Moreover, I want to carry it into the other stuff I read, not just fiction. Comics, plays, even research materials — I want to keep looking for the female, queer, non-white, disabled, non-Christian authors first.

I always say the solution to most problems is not to solely take away a bad thing: it’s to add more good things. It’s to tell more and more and more stories, not fewer — and it’s to hear more and more and more stories, too.

Profiles Theatre, rape culture, and abuse onstage and off

Content warning: Discussions of sexual harassment, abuse, rape, and violence against women.


survival

“survival,” keon loo.

It’s been quite a week to be female.

I thought I was going to come back to this blog to write something about how joyful I feel about Hillary Clinton becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, because I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about her, and about representation, and about strong women I have known. I can’t even pick an article to sum up what I’m feeling so I can cheat and not write a whole post — there are just too many interesting pieces being written and published right now.

At the same time as my Facebook feed has been flooded with a head-spinning combination of joy and outrage over Clinton’s nomination, it has also been chock full of commentary about the Stanford rapist. (Warning: link has an autoplay video of the survivor’s letter to Turner.) Again, there are so many blog posts and articles and videos being made about this case that I don’t even know where to start linking.

And, among these, my community — the theatre community — is abuzz with Aimee Levitt and Christopher Piatt’s in-depth investigation of abuse at Chicago’s Profiles Theatre: Continue reading