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June 3, 2020

I couldn’t figure out what to write about and I’m pooped and want to call it a day.. so I decided to look for a photo from this day in a past year.. any year.. as long as it was taken on June 3rd and was reasonably interesting. I found plenty that weren’t.

Seriously, there is so much going on.. no shortage of things happening this week, this month, this year that will, without a doubt, make the history books. More than that.. whole books will be written about this time. We are living historical moments — it is astonishing .. each and every day. So, yes, there are things to think and write about.

But I’m bleary and weary at this moment. If I was anymore awake, I’d like nothing better than one of my fall back escapes… plug into some music, swing in the hammock and play Spider.. but I’m about to fall over.

So.. I found a photo from June 3, 2011 (random, I know). It’s on a day we were doing some work in the front yard. I chose it because it’s such a huge contrast to what our front yard looks like now.. which is leveled — a blank slate — as we ready it for a whole new front yard. And, as of a few days ago, our back yard has been leveled, too. It’s startling, but exciting.

Anyway… June 3rd nine years ago…

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And June 3rd today….

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The two signs are sitting on what once was a stone path.. the path you see in the photo from 2011.

Everything has changed… including the signs. The one thing that is in both pictures, besides Peter’s sycamore tree, is the boulder wall. And that will remain in the next iteration of the yard.

 

For better or for worse–and I honestly have no feeling for which way this goes–things are opening up in Davis. I trust the Yolo County Health Dept, which gets its directives from Gov Newsom, adapted for the data points in our area.

I sense that it’s best for the region (and the state, and the country) at large if we open up, all things considered. The people in charge have way more factors to consider than we individuals… they’re balancing all interests (including economic).  Prolly best for the whole, even as it’s potentially not great for those who get it. It’s potentially as brutal for Jim or me today as it was two months ago. No change whatsoever.. if you get it. So, while it’s still a risky proposition to get the virus (for some), our health systems will be able to deal better with the people who do get sick. And by and large, because of masks and distancing, hand sanitizers and/or handwashing, transmission rates are lower. We’ve also figured out some facts about transmission.. like if you’re outside where the virus can disburse more easily, or if the total time of your interaction with another person is limited (turns out you need to be exposed to somebody else’s air for a long time, like 10-15 minutes in order to transmit a critical volume of the virus) then your chances of the virus taking hold is far less.

So if they say it’s okay to open things up a bit.. okay. Sorta. I’ll still play by most of the rules.. but will roll the dice a teeny, tiny bit–sit at a table somebody else sat at earlier or touch something somebody else with the virus may have touched. Chances of transmission are pretty low, though.

It was startling to walk past Burgers and Brew this afternoon and see restaurant patrons sitting at tables on the sidewalk.  And cars. And homeless people are back.

With that, I’ve spent a few hours over the last two days actually sitting at a sidewalk table outside Mishka’s, actually drinking an au lait and eating a poppyseed muff. In public. How normal is that? Extra enjoyable, too. Like, who knew that sitting outside Mishka’s drinking coffee, listening to music and playing Spider could be THAT MUCH FUN?

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I’ll be brief.

I hesitate to even write about this, I really do.. it’s a waste of time and blog space.. so I’m just going to put it down, and move on. But here it is:  As we have observed, the president* has been pretty conflicted about all that’s happened this past week… conflicted because he’s the president and people look to the president in times of national crisis, but racial disparity, social injustice and the repeated killing of innocent black men at the hands of police officers are not big issues for his supporters (or him, let’s be honest).  It’s no wonder he’d not said anything about the murder of George Floyd nor offered any compassion for the pain and anger people have been feeling. He doesn’t really care. And he certainly couldn’t offer much about how to deal with the growing unrest or even begin to address some of the underlying, systemic problems leading to same. But he should, I mean he’s the president, and he probably knows that on some level…that he has some moral role to play here. But again, caring, unifying, calming … not in his wheelhouse. Things got a lot easier for him, however, when all the looting and rioting began. He could shift the nation’s focus (or at least FOX’s) to what all those very bad people were doing; he could make THAT the story and not have to deal with all the other. The out-of-control looting, arson and property destruction became the perfect vehicle for him to be a super tough guy and roll out some macho law & order stuff. He would be off the hook for dealing with racial issues and could shift to tough talk about all the THUGS. He’d already been tweeting about some of this earlier in the week — “they loot, we shoot” and some super great ideas about releasing vicious dogs on protesters who get too close to the White House.. oh, and imposing ten-year prison sentences for all these thugs, too. So today, he decided it was finally time (safe) to go before the American people with a statement. End his silence. People have been waiting for this all week (not me, I’d love his continued silence now and forever).  Plus, being visible and talking tough would be a good strategy because he’s been getting quite a bit of flack this week for hiding out in the bunker (literally a bunker!) beneath the White House when the D.C. protesters got particularly raucous and too-close-for-comfort to the White House. (And, gosh, there was Joe Biden out there walking among, and talking to, protesters and asking them to share their concerns and actually listening to their answers… all the while wearing a weak-guy mask… but still). So..  bunker guy staged (hastily) a Rose Garden briefing this afternoon. He planned to announce all kinds of things, like how he’s going to dispatch the military to cities all over the country to fight and/or round up the protesters. He’d said in an earlier meeting with governors that they were all weenies (well, the governors of Blue States, anyway) and that the whole world was laughing at the U.S. and that the governors (well, the governors of Blue States) would have to dominate–a word he repeated a lot during what was reported to be a very contentious meeting–the streets of their cities. DOMINATE. Then, just before he was to appear in the Rose Garden, he had rows and rows of I-don’t-know-how-many branches of security and police forces, including the guys on horses–everyone in full on riot gear–enter Lafayette Park (just to the North of the White House and within earshot of the Rose Garden) and line up in formation, squaring off with protesters. These, by the way, were peaceful protesters, mostly young, a mix of black and white (by some accounts mostly white). They’d been there all day, chanting, singing, rallying one another around some pretty heavy issues of justice and civil rights. (As Mayor Cuomo said later this evening, this is exactly what you hope young people might do… you want them to  think and care about how to make this nation better.) So just as the president* is getting ready to make his remarks, the rows of security forces move right in on the protesters and begin shooting rubber bullets, firing flash bangs, and releasing tear gas into the crowd. They successfully remove every last one from the area. This is audible from the Rose Garden as the president* begins to speak and drones on about how he is going to bring order to our cities and end the looting. So yes, his whole speech was about looting and not about a dead black man. Not one word about that (except a couple of obligatory comments at the beginning). And yeah.. he used our own military against our own people. Peacefully protesting, mostly young people.

Breathe.

Then, he concluded his remarks with something like, “now I’m going to visit a very special place” and walks off. At this point, reporters have no idea what this means, but very soon put it all together. He’d cleared the streets behind the WH so he could walk over to St. John’s Episcopal Church, which had been vandalized a couple of nights before and was boarded up. He, and an odd little entourage of staffers (plus daughter and son-in-law) and a ton of secret service folks, walked right up to the front of the church, whereupon the president* pulls out a bible and holds it up in the air while cameras flashed. He said something about how the economy’s going to come back (I forget, but it was odd and inconsequential.. the remarks were mostly muttered and seemed completely random and unscripted), and then his guys, plus his new press secretary Kayleigh McEneny, stood for a group photo op, then they turned around and went back to the WH. The whole thing took just minutes.

Whereupon…

Reporters and commentators went through the usual “I’ve never seen anything so bizarre” and many laughed (though admitted it was nothing to laugh about) at how ridiculous it was. The bishop for St. John’s was appalled, insulted, infuriated and minced no words. Analysts talked about the limits of his authority and the limitlessness of his gall. Shameful was the consensus. They also spoke of how his approval rating with evangelicals was plunging, which explains his hoisting of a bible.  Sooo…. between the round up all the looters and restore order tough guy announcement, and the I’m not holed up in a bunker (!) walk to the church and back (with nobody but secret service and WH insiders as far as the eye could see), and the I take my bible everywhere I go nod to the evangelicals, he checked a lot of boxes today!

Loathe as I am to include a picture of him.. here he is posing with bible (“a” bible, he had to clarify for a reporter, not his bible) in front of the church for his photo op.

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Nothing awkward about this.

 

There’s sort of a pattern that’s emerged in the last week of protesting: during the day, there are generally peaceful protests, marches, speeches in cities across the country. As evening falls, and curfews go into effect, the crowds change and it seems to get a lot more raucous. Unclear who’s responsible for all the destruction, fires and looting that have been characterizing some of the night gatherings. This will become clearer as we go on.

Some images from the last couple of days of protests:

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This meme’s been circulating on social media. Captures the hypocrisy well.

 

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An excerpt from today’s Letters from an American — a fantastic daily summary of each day’s events written by Heather Cox Richardson, an historian and history professor at Boston College (she’s been writing these for about 6 months now). It’s my favorite read each and every day.

For all the uncertainty, there was one very clear story today. Although he tweeted angrily, Trump stayed out of sight, and from the safety of the White House continued to feed the flames burning America. “The Lamestream Media is doing everything within their power to foment hatred and anarchy,” he tweeted this morning, apparently unmoved by the videos of journalists arrested and shot with rubber bullets last night. “As long as everybody understands what they are doing, that they are FAKE NEWS and truly bad people with a sick agenda, we can easily work through them to GREATNESS.”

He announced “The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization,” although there is actually no organized group of radicals identified as Antifa (a term drawn from “anti-fascist”), and U.S. law does not permit the government to designate domestic groups as terrorist organizations anyway. “FAKE NEWS!” he tweeted, and “LAW & ORDER!”

Trump’s attempt to project strength took on quite a different cast when a New York Times story this evening revealed that he had spent an hour Friday night in the White House underground bunker, where Secret Service had taken him. The Associated Press reported that Trump has told advisors he is worried for his safety, and that he and his family “have been shaken by the size and venom of the crowds,” according to “a Republican close to the White House.”

An A. P. story then offered a doozy of a paragraph: “As cities burned night after night and images of violence dominated television coverage, Trump’s advisers discussed the prospect of an Oval Office address in an attempt to ease tensions. The notion was quickly scrapped for lack of policy proposals and the president’s own seeming disinterest in delivering a message of unity.”

That Trump hid in the White House while he was urging others to violence captures his personality, but it undercuts his carefully crafted image as a man of courage. The leak of this story is itself astonishing: we should not know how a president is being protected, and that Trump is bullying to project an image of being a tough guy while he is actually hiding is a big story, especially since presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was out in the streets talking to protesters today. And to admit that Trump has no policy proposals and has no interest in delivering a message of unity…. Wow.

And now for something completely different, from Joe Biden:

Protesting such brutality is right and necessary. It’s an utterly American response. But burning down communities and needless destruction is not. Violence that endangers lives is not. Violence that guts and shutters businesses that serve the community is not. The act of protesting should never be allowed to overshadow the reason we protest. It should not drive people away from the just cause that protest is meant to advance.

And.. he attended a protest .. yes, it’s photo op, but who cares? He went, he talked, he listened, he’ll act.

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Day…

May 30, 2020

Day #78 of the coronavirus stuff.. and Day #5 of George Floyd reaction.

Spent many an hour watching CNN reporters on the ground in protest-turned-riot-torn cities all over the country this day. As I watched all of that with half an eye, I was catching up on stories and analyses across the media spectrum. I’m weary and overwhelmed with grief. Part of me is heartened that the response is so widespread; it makes me feel hopeful that, in fact, there are a lot of people unwilling to accept the abject corruption and profound injustices that exist in every corner of American society.  It’s clear that while these protests initially formed as a response to the murder of George Floyd, the problems are far deeper, far more systemic than a single act — or even the recent spate — of police brutality. Seems like a flash point. We can hope.

But, man.. the pile-on of stuff is just numbing. It’s leaving analysts on TV in tears (like, all over the place). It’s the raw savagery of this week’s tragic events on top of a pandemic, on top of an economic collapse, on top of unprecedented unemployment and business closures, on top of a government & institutional shake up that I don’t even know how to evaluate (in a later post I’ll paste in Heather Cox Richardson’s list of global agreements our country has pulled out of). I’m scared..mostly because the facts of where we are are bad enough.. but we have a guy who’s got more power than he can handle and seems to be relishing–actually stoking–the unrest. He seems to have no interest whatsoever in calming a nation (laughable, he couldn’t anyway). I have long thought that disruption and chaos are what he’s after.. even though part of me doesn’t believe he is capable of orchestrating and carrying out a game plan, even if that plan is to blow it all up. He’s just too disordered and incompetent. Who knows though… he’s playing on a field none of us has a view of. I don’t believe anything anymore. Certainly don’t believe anymore that OUR government is there for OUR interests.

Once again… I have reams to stuff I’ve written in the past five days, but can’t seem to organize my thoughts into anything coherent right now. Just bleary and unsettled, overwhelmed and scared. I’ll keep trying though.

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But for now.. Our 100+ weather of the last few days dropped to the 70s today, with intermittent cloud cover.. which was nice. Made 44 calls to one of the nation’s most hotly-watched political districts, which always feels like a good day.  Had some nice hammock + Spotify time, and a nice walk + podcast… all excellent distractions… and took a few really pretty pictures, so the day wasn’t a total downer.  Have to keep seeing the beauty, you know?

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And two others from about the same spot… and I Prisma-filtered one of them..

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Bread Pudding

May 29, 2020

Jim made his famous bread pudding. It’s not a recipe, it’s a concept, like most of his creations. Which are universally good. He works with what he’s got.. this time leftover french toast from last week, waffles from two weeks ago and the usual butter, some kind of dairy (cream this time), embellishments (raisins this time)… and I don’t really know what else. It was incredible, especially with some vanilla gelato on board.

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Note: The world’s in a world of hurt and I’ve spent the last couple hours writing about it. But I had so much more to say to tie all my thoughts together and it was getting longer and longer and more complicated .. and I’m just too, too tired and so weary. So I bagged it. I did. And posted bread pudding instead. Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow when fresher.

‘night.

 

 

Shattered

May 28, 2020

Man.. things are so seriously messed up. I’m not even sure I can put adequate words to this.. well, I know I can’t. So bear with me. I want my blog to have some kind of accounting of the rage and heartache so many are feeling around the completely senseless death a few days ago of a 46 year old man, George Floyd.

But honestly.. it’s hard to even grasp a single tragedy without broader perspectives and contexts for the tragedies that lead to it.. and shit.. it’s not like I’m going to make sense of any of that in this late night of writing.

Be that as it may..

This is George Floyd.

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Four white Minneapolis police officers stopped him to question him about his maybe involvement in the possible use of a counterfeit bill in a liquor store. And even though he appears to calmly comply with directives throughout their police procedures, he still ends up face down on the ground with one of the officers forcefully holding him in place with his  knee on the back of Mr. Floyd’s neck. He is saying over and over again that he cannot breathe; numerous onlookers are close enough to see what’s going on and are repeatedly, insistently, desperately saying things like let him go, he can’t breathe.  This goes on for 7-8 minutes. The officer simply ignores Mr. Floyd’s pleas, even when he begs for his mom. The officer looks like he cannot be bothered and even has his hands in his pocket. The other three officers are simply looking on, making no efforts whatsoever to stop this. You wouldn’t believe something as inhumane as this could happen–IN FULL VIEW OF DOZENS OF PEOPLE, many of whom are recording it–if you didn’t watch the video (and there are a lot of bystander videos, not to mention body cam videos soon to be released) with your own eyes.  It is such a shocking display of contempt for a human life it leaves you absolutely stunned and sickened.

George Floyd died a short while later.

There is pretty much not a soul on earth who could look at the video and not conclude the officers — in particular the guy who pinned Mr. Floyd with his knee — constrained and then killed this man not in self defense, not in a moment of temporary confusion, not in response to any resistance on his part, but in some inexplicable perversion of duty.

Without a doubt, one of the most horrific things I’ve ever witnessed, especially as you know he dies from this barbarism.

Tonight was the third in a row of protests and looting. The violence in Minneapolis has escalated each day and is now spreading to other cities. Tonight, rioters took over the police precinct in that part of city. The entire police force and staff vacated the building and just left the area. It was a calculated decision .. I think it was the least costly move in terms of safety for all concerned. The building is on fire as I write this and will probably soon completely collapse, as have numerous other buildings in the area (like, a Target store and several other commercial buildings that have burned to the ground).

So that’s what happened, but what I can’t wrap my head around is how this kind of profound injustice just keeps happening.  I’ve been listening a good part of today to numerous African Americans describe the pain, the anger, the weariness and I’m just so profoundly sad AND disgusted AND angry AND ashamed for how white people treat black people. It just makes me sick.

And, of course, it’s not isolated. A few days ago an African American guy was birdwatching in Central Park (NYC) and asked a woman to put her dog on a leash (leash law in that part of park). She refuses and he decides to record the situation. She becomes agitated and threatens to call the cops. He says please do, please call the cops! She does and tells the dispatcher that she’s in danger, that an African American man is threatening her life (he was doing nothing of the sort). I don’t know if the police show up, but his video goes viral, she gets fired from her job, gives up her newly adopted dog and issues a sincere apology, stating that she is not a racist. One could possibly see how emotions, fear (even if irrational) could get out of control, but her presumption of a threat because he’s black, using her whiteness as leverage over his blackness and instinctually manipulating the situation to become an instant victim to his perpetrator is straight up racism. And if you think we’re dealing with ignorance or some supreme lack of awareness … I don’t think so.. She went to the University of Chicago (one of the most prestigious schools in the country, in a city where about a third of the population is black) and he went to Harvard and, among other impressive things, sits on the NYC Audubon Society board of directors.. a serious birdwatcher.  This is Christian Cooper:

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Or how about last week when video turned up of the cold blooded murder–committed by a white man and his son, and recorded (yep!) by a friend (white)–of an African American young man, Ahmaud Arbery, who was just out for a jog. It’d have been swept right under the state of Georgia’s rug, but for that video. No idea how the friend came to release the video three months after the murder occurred.

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Or 26 year old Breonna Taylor, a healthcare worker at University of Louisville hospital (working full time on covid-19 cases), who, two months ago, was asleep in her apartment when Louisville police broke in with a search warrant (for the wrong house) and shot her 8 times in her bed.

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And Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Stephon Clark..

Wiser people have a depth of understanding for the racism that permeates our culture, an experience of racism that I’ll never have. I don’t pretend to know any more than what I have observed. But I’m angry, disgusted and so ashamed for our society.

These are hard times, harder still for those in the margins. The racism that’s never far away is exacerbated by unexpected changes in our lives brought about by a pandemic –profound stresses around fear of illness and death, the vicious divisions the president stokes for political advantage (he’s so disgusting), the economic chasms getting deeper and wider, a loss of control, futures growing increasingly uncertain.. it’s hard. People are fragile. It wouldn’t  take a lot to rattle folks.. but a senseless, racially charged murder is dynamite.

I’m shaken.  I’m scared by the cruelty and unhinged-ness. What in the world is wrong with people that they regard other human beings with such contempt. Nobody should have to live with that.

Please, people, more kindness. How about more love and less ugliness, how about just respecting each other.