I am not at the Barter Fair. But I almost was. In fact, I came this close to going. It was a Difficult Decision. What I mean by that is that at first I wasn’t going to go, then last weekend I started thinking, no, I really might want to go, and then I started making plans to go, and by Thursday all I had to do was figure out how I was going to get there, and then: indecision. Because suddenly, I wasn’t sure. Maybe it was a bad night’s sleep, or my hesitations about craigslist rideshare, or the fact that if I drove, which it was looking like I was going to have to, I wouldn’t get to ride back in the Dude Van with a certain sexy man and his friends. And suddenly, I found myself sabotaging my own plans.
I posted on craigslist about a ride and did not call people back when they responded.
I went to the grocery store, and did not buy food for the weekend.
When I did call people back, I was vague and non-commital.
I sighed. I spoke in long rushes of emotion. I cried like I was two.
Writing this, it seems obvious that on some level I already knew what I wanted to do. But it took an entire day of angsty angst for that to wiggle its way to the surface. For those of you who have not witnessed my ability to turn a decision into an operatic drama, well, I’ll just say that from my vantage point inside it, it’s like one long piercing soprano shriek with some pitching around and fainting and at least a couple of stabbing-and-staggering-around scenes. And, after many plot twists, the ending can be rather predictable. Not to mention welcome.
On top of it all, I often begin to beat myself up about how difficult it can be to know my own mind.
“This my least favorite thing about myself,” I sighed at some point on Thursday afternoon, when I was ostensibly making applesauce with my mom, but really was sighing and answering my telephone only to put people off with vague promises about “knowing soon.”
“It’s not my least favorite thing about you,” said my mom. “The worst thing about you is when you’re mean.” This is what moms do well: put things in perspective.
By the time I had decided, I had pretty much run out of time to pack, had I decided to go, and I had worn myself out emoting. Yet in the end, the decision was about more than how I would spend my weekend. Difficult Decisions are always symbolic. This one revealed larger worries, longings, and needs in myself, and while there are probably ways to learn that information without raking oneself over the coals, my method got the job done. I do feel sad not to be there. But I guess if this brought to the surface a bunch of things that could have spewed out unconsidered in the middle of the fair, that’s good. Because as my mom noted, its worse when I’m mean.
But dude if I could have just been in the van, I would have been there.
So, I don’t know about you, but I am really excited about Occupy Wall Street and the activism that is sparking up from it around the country. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the phrase “half-assed,” and its little-used counterpart “whole-assed.” Also, the difference between a life-dream and a fantasy. My thoughts went this way:
I was on my way to the Occupy Seattle rally on Saturday, and my brother asked me what I was going to protest. “I’ve hung out with those guys camping out in Westlake plaza. They all have something different they’re protesting.” And he’s right, if you look at the signs. It’s everything from campaign finance reform to veganism. And when you add in the fact that they’re sleeping out in the rain so everything is tarped, making the plaza look like a badly-equipped tent city, not to mention the requisite traveler kids with the requisite pitbull on a rope, and the random lady who’s a little off her rocker and is wandering around with her army jacket pulled up and her breasts swinging naked in the rain, the whole thing feels a little bedraggled, fringy, and yes, half-assed.
Then I went to the rally. They had a mike set up, for anyone to speak at, to answer just that question: why are you here? For over an hour, I stood and listened as people spoke: an Iraq vet, a Holocaust survivor, two Unitarian Ministers, a Teamster, a band of militantly vegan children, a nurse, students, experienced organizers, an eloquent homeless woman and an uneloquent tranny woman, a hip-hop artist, several folksingers, a man in a suit who spoke to “appeal to our reason,” local author David Korten, an ex-I-banker, a Native woman, a young man I did get-out-the-vote work with last year whom I never had heard more than mumble — it went on. And yes, each person put their own color in their reasons, and many people said things not everyone agreed with (don’t even get me started on militant vegans — I don’t care if they’re kids), but it formed a kind of cacophonous unity, each thing pointing to this more foundational thing: this underlying disparity. This lack of real democracy.
If we’re talking about 99% of people, that leaves space for a lot of different needs, opinions, and voices in this effort. And really, this is what democracy is: listening to all the voices. Right? We don’t even need to like each other all that much, because we’ve got this sweet little other, that dastardly 1%, to use as a foil. In a country so divided by left and right, that’s a nice change.
Just as democracy is a farce when it caters to the 1% of Americans who are gazillionaires with their own pet corporations, a democratic movement becomes half-assed when we let the few folks who can camp out in the plaza represent 99% of the country. Don’t get me wrong: I am thrilled they are out there, in Seattle, in New York, and everywhere else. That’s a really great start, and I see some super inspiring work going on, with the model of decision-making and amorphous leadership, and with the way this has resonated out across the country and the world. But this has to be more than a bunch of themed urban camp-outs if it is to be more than a symbolic statement. The fact that there were demonstrations in over 1,500 cities around the world on Saturday makes me confident that it is already becoming more. I think this thing could go past making a statement on the problem, to actually changing things, but the protesters can’t do it without the rest of us behind them. We need to put in our whole ass here (or at least 99% of it) if we want to bump anything. Think of it this way: the booty is the body’s center of mass. Where your ass goes, you follow. It is, to put it more genteelly, the tipping point.
I guess what I’m saying is, the more people claim their identity as being part of the 99%, the farther this is going to get. The less we get distracted by the multiplicity of messages and the pit-bulls on the ropes and think about what we really want to see change, the more likely things will change. Which brings me to my other topic: dreams and fantasies. To me, the difference between a dream and a fantasy is that a fantasy is something you daydream about, but you a) would not actually like to see happen, or b) never actually work to make happen. Dreams on the other hand, are the visions guiding your bumbling forward motion.
So my question is, where do we hope to get? What do we dream these protests could spark? Would we really want what we’re dreaming? And what are we doing to make it happen?
I want dreams, both for myself and for you and for the world, that I can pursue whole-assed. That’s what I want, and that’s what I want to do.
Congratulations, loyal followers! There are, say the statistician-bots, eleven of you. And, they say, there have been 1,137 visits to this blog. So, according to my simple arithmetic, each of you has read this thing like, a hundred times! That’s impressive, I have to say. It’s not quite as shocking as the eleven people who have watched Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance 37,994,206 times each, but still. All I have to say, is it’s cool, as long as you aren’t neglecting your puppies/mothers/lovers/lawns/smoking pans of steak to read the friendly moth.
What is it about kids and dogs and gross things found in bushes?
This week, it rained at the park, and my students took cover under a tree. Within a couple of minutes, they were all working together to build a kick-ass fort out of branches, morning glory vines, and anything else they could find. The thing was, this was all happening in Volunteer Park, and they weren’t the only one who had ever taken shelter under that tree. It went as follows:
Kid: Look at this enormous shoelace! (Holds up long cord, perhaps the drawstring of a sleeping bag.)
Other Kid: We can tie that branch on with it!
Kid: And here’s a toothbrush!
Me: So, uh, guys, I want you to use your common sense when you’re looking around for stuff. If you see any gross trash, don’t touch it.
Kid: Like, if we found a dirty diaper.
Me: (noticing a condom wrapper on the ground) Um, exactly. Or like a needle from a doctor’s office, or any uh, yucky plastic things. If you’re not sure, just ask me, and I’ll tell you if it’s something good to play with.
And they were off gathering sequoia fronds and cedar twigs. I carefully perused the scene. Yep, a condom wrapper, but no condom. A little gross, but not dangerous. No broken glass. Definitely no needles. (I’ve never seen any at that park, but it just seemed like part of the lecture.) A random toothbrush. And already the beginnings of a really cool fort, built by some pretty admirable cooperative efforts. Ok. Then:
Kid: What’s this stuff? (Pokes at a little plastic packet in the dirt on the far side of the tree.)
I check it out. It’s lube.
Me: Oh, that’s just some, uh, gel. It looks pretty gross. I’d just leave it alone.
Kid: Is it something people put on each other when they are doing DRUGS??
Me: No, no, I don’t think it’s anything like that. It’s just some slidy gel.(Oh geez, Becca, SLIDY GEL???) I mean, I don’t know what they did with it. I wasn’t here to see. Let’s just leave it alone.
So the kids go back to their fort, and I am left thinking about why it is so much easier to talk to kids about hard drugs than protected sex. Sex is so much more nuanced. Finding lube and condom wrappers in the park is gross. But I’m glad the people were using condoms. And if they’d cleaned up their trash, I wouldn’t be bothering my head about the fact that there had been sex there. It’s funny, too, how children are drawn to bushes and other edgy places, (trees! walls! gutters!) and how as a teacher, I must constantly negotiate those boundaries with them, keeping them safe without making their world too small.
As for dogs, there has been a lot of dog bathing around here, because some of us have a differing ideas of what smells good, and what one should do when one finds rotting meat in the bushes. Just so you know, I’m not the one advocating rolling in it.
This is just to report, that Squinchy and I had a great time camping out on Lopez. He’s a happy and adaptable travel companion, and it turns out we both like long walks on the beach. I like to walk and Think Moody Thoughts. He likes to run and Eat Gross Things. Some examples: What am I committed to in my life? Dead seals. Where do I want to settle in? Dried fish skeletons. Where does my hesitancy come from? Rotting deer hooves. And so on, up and down all the public beaches of Lopez Island. And then he would chase yellow jackets, leaping after them with a terrific snapping of the jaws, and we would both be so happy. So if I have neglected you, dear readers (ahem, Jesslyn), it was for a good cause.