On reading aloud to an audience

I’m reading tomorrow, so I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about reading strategies.  I’ve been thinking of how the way I read aloud has changed over the years.  When I first started doing it, folks told me that often people speed up when nervous. They explained the importance of rehearsing thoroughly, and timing the reading a number of times, not just once.  Rehearsing gives the writer a chance to find the rough spots and smooth them over.  Sometimes I’d find mistakes or places where words were awkward for me to pronounce together.  I’d find places where there was no place to take a breath comfortably because the sentence was too long.

And then there is the dreaded page-turn problem.  A page turn in the middle of a very emotionally-charged sentence can spell trouble.  If the writer’s hands have the least bit of a tremble, turning pages can get cumbersome.   If the lighting is dim, one might consider printing in 14-point font and perhaps boldface as well, but this means more pages to turn.  And of course, at the last minute it’s essential to make sure all the pages are in the printout, and stapled in correct order.  Lastly, don’t leave it at home!

I love lecterns.  I feel so important standing at one. It’s security for me.  I’ve got something to hold onto, like a hand to hold in tough times.  I feel that it protects me and sets me comfortably apart from my audience, and at the same time, standing behind a lectern gives me a feeling of authority, like an assurance that what I’m about to read is worthy of listening ears.  And here’s my secret, which isn’t really a secret anymore: if I’m nervous and my hands tremble, a lectern hides the tremor very nicely.  Otherwise, the pages tremble when I hold them or turn a page, a dead giveaway.

I had an embarrassing experience when I was younger that I’d like to share.  Of course, after a while most writers have their share of reading-aloud embarrassments.  I think the worst was when I was on so much medication that the hand tremors I had were evident even to a casual viewer.  Lithium was the main culprit, but the antipsychotics made it worse, giving me a coarse tremor along with the fine tremor from the Lithium.

This particular reading was for a contest.  I had won prizes in this contest both times I entered, and was invited to read my winning pieces in front of a relatively large audience, I’m guessing maybe over 50, in an auditorium.  It was an academic setting.  Winning the contest was a delightful surprise.  Both times, I won in both categories, poetry and prose.  The first year wasn’t too bad.  My prose piece, about the joys of smoking cigarettes (yeah, yeah) was a humor piece, or so I found out when I heard the audience’s reaction.  In my writing at the time, I had this almost involuntary habit of doing this little round-up at the end of paragraphs, and it was these little temporary resting points that my audience burst into laughter.  This was convenient, due to the natural pause at the end of a paragraph, which allowed time for the laughter to settle.

I admit, the prose piece wasn’t very good.  The poem was much, much better, that is, for me.   It was strange because the poetry reading came after my prose reading. The poem, too, was about cigarettes, and as soon as the audience realized this they chuckled.  Then they realized this was a serious work.   It came off fine and I went home feeling halfway decent about myself.

Next year of the contest went badly.  I believe the hand tremor was far worse.  My skin was badly broken out, a problem I hadn’t had in my teens but was now occurring as a side effect of Lithium.  I wasn’t embarrassed about the pimples, not being one to fuss over such things, but I believe at that point folks looked down on me because it was known that I had a mental illness.  They saw the teenager-style pimples and this further lowered their opinion of me.  (Note that this was the 1980’s, before the ADA was enacted.)  At the time, the eating disorder was not foremost in my life, thanks to Lithium.  Otherwise, I was a sick, pimply, shaky mess, drank gallons of water every day due to constant thirst from Lithium, and had very few friends.

So after finding out I’d won in both categories, this time second prize, I believe, in both, not first like the year previously, I went up to read my poem.  I must have looked awful physically even though I remember I read fine.  Turned out everyone felt sorry for me standing up there.  Then they had the prose readings second.  The first prize winner read.  Then, to my shock, the event ended.

What?  I didn’t get to read?  I was mortified.  Was there some mistake?  Not long after, within a day or two, I revealed my feelings to my friend who was on the faculty of the college.  He was on my side.  With my permission, he met with me and the person on the English faculty who ran the contest and had made the decision not to include me in the reading  This was someone I’d worked with at a menial temp job, by the way, until she found the job at the college…at the temp job folks didn’t like her because she had an obnoxious voice, among other reasons, but that’s neither here nor there…or maybe all this history had something to do with her decision, whether she was aware of it or not.

Her excuse for not including me was a complete lie.  She said, “I didn’t think you wanted to read because you shake so much.”  My faculty friend and I agreed that more likely, it was a case of discrimination.  We were glad that he and I had pointed out how shitty her exclusion of me made me feel, and that if she really cared about how I felt, she would have consulted me and asked if I would like to bow out of the reading.  I went home and felt embarrassed and defeated.  I didn’t enter next year’s contest because I had moved out of town.

So now I’m off all those chemicals and I have no tremor, no dry mouth, no extreme thirst, no stutter, and to my delight, my speech is no longer slurred.  I think I speak clearer now than I ever did.  I still have that strange vocal tic, though. It does affect my speech, but not when I read.  I think the tic developed originally due to the fact that I am so frequently dehydrated.

I was sitting in the acupuncture waiting room after my last treatment and writing in my journal, waiting for the sedated feeling (inside nickname: acu-stoned) to wear off, and the vocal tic started up.  When I am alone, which is almost all of the time, I make no attempt to stop the tic because no one is around to hear.   But there I was in the waiting room with one person seated not far from me, and I couldn’t stop the darned thing.  No, he was not immersed in a cell phone or ipod as these are required to be turned off there.  This was the only time the vocal tic has reared its head in public. Only one person has commented on my speech, actually several times, sorry to say a negative criticism, something about taking a breath frequently and therefore appearing breathless or anxious.  I hated that criticism and next time she says that, I’ll tell her to butt off.  Politely, I hope.  At least my speech is clearly pronounced.

For tomorrow’s reading, I have perhaps rehearsed more than I ever have.  My reading is as good or better than it ever has been.  I have always enjoyed reading aloud and never was overly nervous because it is so much like playing music in front of an audience.  I got over that type of stage fright in early college as a music major.  Almost all of us did.  We had gigs all the time and it was a matter of getting acclimated to stage performance.  The occasional paid gig further helped my confidence.  I figure I’m proud of what I have written and my delight in sharing it overrides whatever self-consciousness I feel.

I’d say one reading I did that came off well but was extremely difficult was my graduation reading in July 2009.  Many writers experience throat tightening while reading.  It’s not so much nervousness but the fact that we’re speaking continuously.  That’s why the throat problem has occurred even while rehearsing at home.  I’d discussed this with faculty on a number of occasions and was glad I was not the only one that went through this.

So there I was, up in front of a huge audience full of fellow grads and students, a bunch of alums, the entire faculty, and a whole lot of guests such as family, friends, and admirers of the graduates.  It was the largest graduating class so far at Goddard’s Port Townsend campus.  I believe there were ten of us.

I began my piece.  It didn’t take long for my throat to close off, this time worse than ever.  I could barely choke the words out.  Finally, I told myself I would have to stop, apologize, and step down.  I didn’t even think that this might disqualify me from graduating.  I only wanted to get the hell off the podium cuz reading was nearly impossible.

But something changed.  I went on autopilot.  I pushed through the tightness and kept going.  I don’t generally like the autopilot mode while I am reading.  I prefer to be entirely present and engaged.  But now, my need to survive was in the lead.  Not long afterward, I awoke from autopilot and began to read with all my heart.  I began to feel tears form, a reaction to what I was reading, but this, too, I pushed through.

I absolutely loved the conclusion to the piece because it read so well aloud.  So when I finished, quite emotional, it was obvious to the audience that I had concluded and after a split-second silent moment, they broke into applause.  It was over. I was done.  I felt wicked decent about it.

It seems that for whatever reason, the last few times I have read, I have not had the throat closure problem.  I seem to enjoy reading aloud more and more each time.  Perhaps this is a factor.  Perhaps through practice I’ve trained my throat to relax and stay open.

What I’m working on now for tomorrow right now is my reading speed.  This piece reads slowly, or at least I read it slowly.  My challenge is to remember to speed up at certain times.  I tend to have difficulty sustaining the faster pace, or I just plain forget.  Of course many folks have the opposite problem of reading too fast. I was told that if in doubt, read slower.

Absolutely the slowest speaker I ever hear was Robert J. Lurtsema who did the radio show, “Morning Pro Musica.”  Here’s the link to the wikipedia.org article on Robert J:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_J._Lurtsema

Note that right away in the beginning of the article, his slowness of speech and frequent “dead air” pauses are mentioned as something folks loved or hated.   It was his intention to be soothing, but I believe it was in his nature to speak slowly and deliberately.  He thought before he spoke.  Slowing down gives us that freedom, especially when we need to think extra before we speak.

No, I’m not that slow when I read.  I have always read relatively slowly.  Some people are able to read aloud quickly but still be very effective.  I am thinking of Goddard faculty member Michael Klein.  He writes both poetry and prose, and I can’t remember how he reads his poetry, but when he reads prose the words seem to fly by.  It’s absolutely wonderful to hear him read because he has the ability to come across clearly and take us off our feet.   The rapid reading speed can often accentuate his humor, or drive a point home quite effectively.  He also has a bit of cynicism in his voice, and in his writing, he’s direct and tells it like it is.  We’re at the edge of our seats and am with him the whole way, so engaged that we don’t miss a thing.  Not only that, but Michael is a singer with a big, big speaking voice.  He has complete command over his audience.

I think everyone, all writers, need to have this big voice.  You can speak or read any way you’d like, even softly, but if you have a big soul and believe in what you’ve written, then your voice will be big and will shine through.  Try having a big voice today, and if you’re not a writer, pick up your pencil and start right now.  I challenge anyone, especially those who have been silenced by society, such as us folks with eating disorders who are known to speak in whispers, to write, speak, and dream big.  We are worth it and need to feel proud once again.

*****

Michael’s latest work is a poetry collection called Then, we were still living.  I’m not sure which link of his would be the best to send you to, but here he is writing for the Ploughshares online site:

http://blog.pshares.org/author/boypoetme-com/

I was highly influenced by his memoir, Track Conditions.   Though from a distance, I have always felt a kinship toward him, because both of us were music majors at Bennington College in previous lives, and we knew the same faculty members.  After an interruption, I took up my pen and wrote, and I guess that’s exactly what he did, too.

See ya later, alligators.

 

Letting go

I surprised myself two days ago.  I was lying on the acupuncture table with needles in me when suddenly I said to my acupuncturist that I was going to let go, that is, let go of the exes in my life.  I can let go of my ex-therapist and all ex-therapists that were complete negative influences, because I no longer have to deal with them.  I can let go of all the hospitals, nurses, doctors, and abusive mental health situations, cuz I’m not going back there (if I can help it) and will not have to endure such atrocity again.  Mostly, I can let go of my ex-friends.  What a blessing.  Just not think about them.  They are not part of my life anymore, meaning that I can stop dwelling on their hatred and ignorance and move forward without them.  I should have done this ages ago.

That is not to say I won’t write about this stuff in a more general manner.  Sure, informed consent is vital.  I am against forced treatment in almost all cases.  I have never known ECT to work for anyone.   I won’t take psych meds but I don’t mind if you take them…and I hope you are informed about your treatment, too.  I am sick of being taken with a grain of salt because of my psychiatric label, and I’m tired of being kept at a very long arm’s length because people are scared to get too involved.  Yes, I know this is happening, I see the walls.  It can get lonely in here.

My NEW case manager said that people with eating disorders lose friends.  Losing friends just as universal an experience for people with ED as it is for people with schizophrenia. Eating disorders scare people just like cancer scares people.

Eating disorders strike differently than schizophrenia.  To others, people with schizophrenia may appear to become ill very suddenly, suddenly act bizarre, suddenly end up in the hospital, or suddenly try (or succeed) in killing themselves.  So losing friends can be very obvious and dramatic.  Poof!  You’re gone.  You’re a freak so you’re out of my life.  There is often so much focus and panic around the patient on the part of those that do stick around that this “dumping” may at first go unnoticed.  Suddenly, it’s all about treatment or lack thereof.

And then, reality hits: no one’s there anymore.  In my case, when I was first hospitalized and then got out, I came home to discover I no longer had the network of support that I had before I went in.  (Never mind the eating disorder, which wasn’t being treated or recognized.)

Last night something super radical dawned on me: You know whom I can trust most?  Other people with eating disorders, “recovered” or not.  This is where the understanding is.  This is where the true knowledge is.  I went to my first support group meeting a couple of days ago specifically for folks like me, never mind the qualifications for this group.  There was no gray area.  These folks had  serious eating disorders, not merely disordered eating or “food issues” or a “weight problem.”

Looking back, there was only one instance when I’ve been completely rejected by another person with an eating disorder.  She assumed that I was just like her and her attitude was, “I can do it, so can you!  Rah rah!” and when I failed to meet these expectations and er timeline, she rejected me.  It wasn’t her fault, I just don’t think she had the disorder very long and her initial attempts at treatment were successful.  This is only speculation on my part as to her motives.  It was decades ago and doesn’t matter anymore, especially since what happened was atypical.  Another person with an eating disorder dumped me quite dramatically in 1984 when she found out I tried to kill myself.  A lot of people can’t handle something like that.  I guess it’s some kind of deficiency, inability to admit there are a lot of very ugly sides of life that can’t and shouldn’t be denied, sanitized, swept under the rug, or ignored.

Just like shit.   Shit is a human experience.  If it ends up in the wrong place, you gotta clean up the mess, and no matter what, it’s gonna stink for a while.

There are some excellent suicide prevention organizations that are working on the political front to stop all this hush-hush about suicide.  One organization points out that murder crimes are widely publicized, but suicide is kept hidden.  A family will even lie that a member has died this way, or lie about the “real” reason someone ended up hospitalized.  Some religions consider suicide a sin, and won’t do the same type of funeral.  They won’t mourn the same way.  Some will even go so far as to state that this person has gone to hell, though I haven’t heard this much lately.

What has the person really died of?  The victim died of despair, depression, poverty, frustration, delusion.  Perhaps it was a command hallucination, but generally, the person knows what they are doing and is oriented okay…as well oriented as you can be considering you’re doing something that can’t be reversed and you will exist no more.  I feel that in no way should suicide be condemned.  A person who is deeply depressed and does suicide has in fact died of a symptom of depression.  Let’s take morality out of the picture.  When you get desperate and perhaps cornered, you do what you have to do to survive, even if it means taking the step to end your life.   This may sound completely contradictory, because suicide means you haven’t survived…but you do live on, actually.  Your history will always be there.

I do not mean to say that if you’re thinking about suicide, you should go ahead and do it.  Hardly.  Chances are, what you’re going through is very, very temporary.  I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at how quickly life turns around, if you give it a chance.  You’ll be surprised at exactly how it turns around.  I’d suggest putting off the suicide act just one more day, or one more hour, if a day seems too long.  I know cuz I’ve been there.  No one has been exactly where you’ve been and no one feels what you feel, not exactly, cuz no one can get into your head, and no one has a right to claim that they can read your mind.  But many people have been in similar situations that have caused them to choose death over life.  So in that sense, you are not alone.

So when I share with others with ED’s, including some of you readers, I am sharing with folks who understand.  That’s pretty cool, when you think about it.   I truly believe that we are all different.  I love diversity.  It bugs me when someone claims they are exactly like me, cuz they aren’t, or when someone denies my uniqueness.  We are all unique.

If you are suffering, know that while there are others who suffer greatly,  some do struggle more than others.  I have one brother who struggles more than the other does.  The one who struggles less plainly admits it.  This has nothing to do with your worth as a person.  You were in the wrong place at the wrong time, that’s all.

If we are to measure it by something measurable, such as money, it’s plain to see that some have more money than others.  It’s a fact.  I’d venture to say that regardless of quantity of money, some have more happiness than others.  No, it’s not a moral or religious issue.  Missing the bus is not a moral issue either.  A lot of the time, it means you were just unlucky.

If I look at things this way, the way my life turned out, the fact that life has been so tragic and sad and the fact that I have to work a little harder than others to survive seems so much more bearable.  I can just accept it.  It doesn’t mean I’m weak or a sinner or any less of a person.  Quite a bit of it was genetics and I had no choice from Day One.  The part that’s wrong and immoral is the way that I am treated because I have a psychiatric label.

But as yesterday demonstrated (see yesterday’s entry) it’s all about presentation.  I can be articulate.  I can be self-assured and self-confident.  I can do this, and at the same time, because I am upright and proud, freely admit that I have a disability, a psychiatric disability.  I can state that not only am I not ashamed, but proud to have been brave enough to write, and continue to write about my unusual experiences.  No one is exactly like me or you or anyone else.  I can make meaning out of my experiences, and in so doing, make my experiences universal.

And so in stating this, I am proud to say that I will be “signing off” my paperback during the second week of July.  I am proud to say that I will not be signing off via e-mail, but in Canary Wharf, London, at my publisher’s office in his presence.  This means that at last, you can hold my words in your hand.  I can even sign the book.  The e-book text will be replaced with what I’ve got in the paperback, same text with the embarrassing glitches gone.  I’ll let you know as soon as this occurs.  I’m not sure how it will coincide with the paperback release.

I found out all that on Thursday, the same day that I lay on the acupuncture table and decided to let go of the bullshit in my life.   The more I think about it, the more solid it all becomes.  Being an asshole was a trap.  I wasn’t therapized out of that trap, I wasn’t lectured out of it or dragged out of it or medicated out of it.  The fact that I knew I was being rude didn’t change anything even though I enjoy my good manners.  The problem was that it felt darned good to get revenge or plan revenge.  It’s addicting.

I felt so validated when our group leader verified that people with eating disorders don’t do their eating disorders to control and manipulate others.  They don’t do it to jerk around their partners, friends, families, and coworkers.  My thought is that others react and feel manipulated and that is their feelings.  I did not put these feelings into their heads.  If they choose to condemn me for something that they think is my responsibility, then they need to take a good look at what’s deep inside.

Deep inside everyone is some damn ugly stuff.  We look at someone who is suffering and deep down, wish they would suffer more.  What I learned from writing fiction is that the more my main character is up against, the better.  Fiction writers talk about giving their characters a hard time.   Readers love to read about struggle, whether fact or fiction.  Otherwise, there is no plot and no interest and the narrative usually goes nowhere.  Some people enjoy violence, guts, and gore.  Some people find this stuff quite satisfying.  Some enjoy a good horror book, while others enjoy a more subtle violence.

The reasons why society rejects people who live on the fringe is because of the ugliness in people.  I have to accept that this ugliness is just as much a part of our minds as shit is to the human experience.  I dare anyone to  outlaw shit.  I think we’d be in a bit of trouble if that happened.

Meanwhile, may your toilet never clog.  It’s just plain inconvenient when it does.   And if you have to get rid of the toilet, for godsakes, replace it.  Like I said, shit has to go somewhere, and it might as well go where it belongs.

 

I had a marvelous opportunity today

That’s how I choose to think of it.  I feel good that I had the chance to be articulate and express myself well.  I don’t know what happened to me, but when I’m in the right frame of mind, I really do speak well, appear intelligent and well-educated, and although saying this is perhaps a put-down to myself, I daresay I appeared mentally competent.  I was also alert, listened well, and was organized in my thinking.  I was direct and to the point.  I used no profanity except when quoting dialogue.  My speech has ceased to be slurred the way it was years ago.  I can pursue a spoken sentence from the onset to its conclusion.

It wasn’t long ago that I was unable to do any of this.  Gone are the days of being a mousy pushover.  Being passive (or complacent) doesn’t pay.  It really doesn’t.  Some learn to be assertive early on and many never learn.

A lot of how you feel about yourself has to do with how you speak.  Many people base how they feel about themselves on how others react to them.  It’s only natural to do so.  So if I hem and haw, speak too slowly or too quickly, use inappropriate gestures such as fidgeting or rocking, people are not going to treat me well or believe what I am saying.  At worst, I would be dismissed as an unreliable narrator.  On paper this shouldn’t happen, but the truth is that people do judge others based on surface appearance.

On paper, it is the person’s story that should matter. There are people who are trained to do just what’s on paper and when they follow through and are consistent, it’s incredible how well communication can work.

No shaky hands.  No pimples.  Nothing unclean.  No greasy, unkempt hair.  No cracks showing.  No cigarette odor.

I was well-dressed.  I wore a shirt and tie combination I’ve never tried before.  The black shirt cost me 25 cents but looked sharp, and the jeans cost me well under $10, brand new.  The tie I bought at Marshall’s years ago and had no wrinkles in it.  I have this thing about stubborn creases in ties.   This tie is plaid sort of, mostly shades of gray, but teeny bits of pink in it that you don’t see unless you look up close.  Still, the tie is nice with a pinkish shirt.

I wore no jewelry, not that I ever do.  Okay, no, I did wear jewelry if you count my two Timex watches.  Two watches?  Yeah, both on the same wrist, one a large man’s watch, the other a more petite and simpler watch, both with these rubber wristbands, not at all feminine.   These are both digital watches.  The larger one is my old Timex Ironman circa 2003, in my opinion the best databank watch Timex ever made.  It was reasonably priced back then and few knew about its virtues.  Since then, this model has become relatively rare and the price, even on Ebay, has soared.  The other watch is my spare.  I got it when I sent my Ironman in for repairs.  I knew I’d go nuts without a watch.

But hey, isn’t wearing two watches, say, nuts?  A sign of “mental incompetence”?  I love answering people when they say, “Can I ask you something?”  I have learned that often when people say this, it means they will ask something personal and deep, but no, invariably they are asking, “Why are you wearing two watches?” like I’m a little “off.”

I have my response prepared, only because I have been asked this so often.  The Ironman’s “beep” feature broke a while back.  It has no sound system right now.  If I’m doing my laundry, I use the other watch for its working “beep.”  Some ask why I don’t send the Ironman in for repairs.  It take s a while to get it back.  Last time, I had to pay a relatively small fee for a replacement beyond just shipping and handling.  When it comes to Timex, they do question how the watch broke in the first place and whether it can be fixed, and base their replacement prices on those factors.  Once, they sent me a replacement that was clearly defective, but I didn’t realize this until after the faceplate fell off…yeah, it came right off, like onion skin.  So until I dare to send my Ironman to Timex for repairs, I’m stuck looking a little nutty, wearing my two watches.

But really, I couldn’t look 100%, now, could I?  Especially with a known mental history.  It it’s going to be unearthed anyway, why hide it?  Why not be realistic about it?  So I have a disability.  So did Franklin Roosevelt, one of our most respected presidents.  Something, like the wearing of two watches, has to be a little “off” so that I can be believable.  So that I can be me, not perfect, just me.

Tee hee hee

Well, another one bites the dust, as they say.  Last week the potential therapist I saw said she actually doesn’t take public insurance.  So that killed that one.  Then today I went to see a new T who says she doesn’t treat eating disorders.  She apologized, gave me a number that I’ve already called, and I left, cheerily, I guess, or tried to act that way.

Yeah, big smile.  Tee hee hee.

I’m not sure how to react to all this.   Tomorrow I start a group. They didn’t say, but I think you are required to have a therapist if you’re in the group.  So that might count me out.  I know these people who are running the group and I get a clear feeling that they do not “get” what poverty is.

Actually, I am sensing this all over.  For most of my life, I did not “get” what poverty was, either.

Here is poverty in a nutshell: You don’t spend money.  Period.  If you do, when it’s even the tiniest bit, it hurts to spend it.  Sixty cents feels like one heck of a lot right now.

I found out a couple of weeks ago that I made a big miscalculation when I did my budget.  I ended up with “extra money” I didn’t know I had.   Nope, didn’t spend it.  It went to paying off bills.  I was relieved that I could put more in, cutting into the debt bit by bit.

Like I said, debt doesn’t hurt.  Not like an eating disorder hurts. As a matter of fact, I probably won’t lose friends just cuz I’m in debt.  It’s a common phenomena.  When you’re in debt, people actually want to help you out.  When you have an eating disorder, you lose friends.  I had that verified today by someone who has recovered who said she lost friends, too.

I am still not convinced that half of this has to do with the fact that I am a complete asshole.  Tee hee hee.

Time ticks on

I’m very proud of myself because today I didn’t do a lot of procrastinating or wasting time, nor did I get distracted the way I usually do.  I got to church.  I have been going since October and this was my first time being late…about five minutes, I think. The service always starts on time and there are sometimes latecomers.  Someone laughed afterward and said it was pretty amazing that all this time, I’ve always been on time for church.  I spoke with the minister afterward.  I spoke with a lot of people in the congregation.  The babies sure grow up fast.  Next Sunday during service, I am reading a piece I wrote especially for this service.  The topic is “pets.”  I wrote the piece in one sitting a while back and have been tinkering with it ever since.  It is an honor and pleasure to be doing this.

When I came home, I worked on some paperwork, looking through written documents and taking notes.  I had some phone calls to make and I have done them.  I have more phone calls to make tomorrow.  I left a message and am expecting a return call soon.

Tomorrow I might attend a social event.  Who, me?  Yep.  It is a GLBT intergenerational event.  Young people are invited as well as people 55 and over.  I wrote to the person and asked first of all if 54 was okay, and secondly if it was okay that I wasn’t a resident of the town where this was taking place. All is fine and I am welcome there.  I’m sure there will be a good turnout even though it’s due to rain quite a bit.  I have things going on every day next week.  I will be out every day and I will be spending time with people.  I’m not looking forward to the bus and subway fare increases.  Everything’s going way, way up.  Sometimes, I walk rather than take the bus, and now I’m going to be doing that a lot, cuz transportation has become expensive.  I put money on my “Charlie Card” and I hope it lasts a few weeks.  I guess it’s worth it cuz now I go out and do things and make new friends.

At church today, we made wishes and/or prayers for our community, for the world, and for ourselves personally.  We sang some great songs.  We sat in a circle, instead of sitting like a church congregation usually sits, in pew-like formation.  I thought about the changes that I’d like to see happening in the world.  I listened to others’ wishes while we all shared, around the room.  Some people mentioned specific parts of the world, for instance, Syria.  We thought of the kids and of environmental issues as well.

I have come to realize that now that I recycle, my attitude about certain things has changed.  I try to find other uses for things before tossing them into the recycle pile.  It is amazing the effect it has on me to be thinking about minimal waste.  This branches out into other areas of my life as well.

So today, I didn’t waste much time.  I got done what had to get done and now I will do some writing.  See y’all.

Regarding Solitary Confinement – a clip from Democracy Now!

This link really needs no introduction, but I feel like giving one anyway.  I have a piece I wrote that I have not posted, about my correspondence with a prisoner, R, who was a “lifer.”  i believe I’ve spoken about R before.  He saved my life.  He “got it” when others didn’t.  Not only that, but when others would have nothing to do with me, R was right there by my side.

Maybe I should start corresponding with prisoners again.   It’s never too late to start.  Snail mail still exists, after all, and I have Forever stamps.

http://www.democracynow.org/2012/6/22/from_death_row_to_exoneration_fmr

IMHO: The story of the Kelly Thomas beating, an example of mass hatred

Hatred and bigotry can turn a person  into a monster.  And when a bunch of monsters get together, it becomes mass hysteria.  I gave the example of the beating of Kelly Thomas, in Fullerton, California, last July.  Here’s the link to the Friends for Fullerton’s Future website’s coverage of the story:

http://www.fullertonsfuture.org/tag/kelly-thomas-beating/

While I was studying for my BFA at Emerson College, I took a course in government and politics.  It was in fact the last course I took at Emerson in the summer of ’03.  Joe quizzed me with note cards to prepare me for the exams for this course.  Students had to know the Constitution and a bunch of the key Congressional decisions that had happened in recent times.  In this class, we spoke a great deal about the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  I did a lot of thinking about racism and hatred and bigotry.  Our teacher was a lawyer, or had been one, and I forget his name.  He said lawyers are one thing, cops are another, and they don’t mix too well.  I’m glad this guy hated Bush as much as I did.  We had a great time in class.  The teacher said something happens to a person when they become a cop.  Their mindset changes.  He said he saw this happen to someone he knew.  It might have something to do with the fact that they have legal right to carry and use a gun, among other things.  That and the police have incredible power in a community.

When I was a kid I was a bit naive about cops.  Cops existed, I thought, to find lost children.  I believed that if I were lost, I should go to a cop and say, “I’m lost, I’m lost!” and the cop would help me get home again.  The cops were like Santas for lost kids.  That and helping little old ladies across the street.  Firemen put out fires and got kitties out of trees.  There was a police lady who helped us across the street every time we walked to school.

Later, I learned that the police chase down bad guys like bank robbers and put them in prison.   Bank robbers were very, very bad people, I thought.

Did I ever tell you that I was at the police station when I was five years old?  Yep.  My mom left me off at dance lessons. I told her I didn’t want to be there, and tried to go back home with her, but she left.  I started crying.  Then I decided to walk home.  I had no clue how to get there, though.  I tried walking down the street where the dance school was, and kept walking.  It was snowing pretty hard.  I didn’t know I was walking down the middle of the street.  I felt something touch my hand. It was a car’s headlight.

Oops.

It didn’t take long before a couple of guys brought me into their car, knowing I was in some sort of distress.  Where was my mommy?  I didn’t know.  I was lost, I said, a lost child.

It was warm in the car, and I was glad to get out of the cold.  The men asked me where I lived, but when I told them, they said they didn’t know where Bridge Street was.  It wasn’t anywhere around here, they said.  They took me to the police station.

I remember sitting at a large desk.  A police guy sat at the desk and talked to me, wanting to know the story.  I recall that a lot of my confusion was over whether I should be at dance lessons like my mom wanted me to be, and whether I ‘d be in trouble for everything that I’d done.  He phoned my mom and eventually she came and got me.  She scolded me the whole way home.

Later, I was sitting in the bathroom, the yellow bathroom, pooping or peeing, I don’t recall which but let’s say I was sitting on the toilet. The bathroom is L shaped, so the toilet is surrounded by three walls.  My parents both barged in on me while I sat there, yelling at me.  They surrounded me while I sat there, pants pulled down, underpants pulled down too, the way a kid sits on the toilet.  The both yelled at once telling me how bad it was to accept a ride from strangers.

Hey, I was doing what I had to do to survive, right?

I chalk it up as my first hitch-hiking experience.  There would be more.

So back to cops.  Rescuers of lost children.  Heroes.  I saw on TV, later on, all the conflicts between young people and police on college campuses, where kids were protesting the Vietnam War.  Some kids in my high school didn’t like cops.  It was a gradual awakening to the fact that cops are not gods.  It was a gradual awakening to the fact that nobody’s perfect.  In fact, as time wore on, I realized that people tend to let you down and you can’t trust them.

I have faced various forms of bigotry and hatred in my life.  I was teased at school wicked.  I didn’t recognize this as bigotry and fear of me because I was “different.” Of course, factor into that that I am a Jew and you have an interesting mix.  Cuz when I got to college, I found out about the Jewish American Princess and that folks made a lot of assumptions about me based on my religion that just plain weren’t true.  All Jewish girls are rich.  Jews are naturally smart, etc.  My family had money compared to the families of my classmates, and yeah, I was smart, but it had nothing to do with being Jewish.  The only thing true about Judaism was that you sure didn’t have Santa Claus.

Then I ended up with this mysterious mental illness and got rejected for that.  It was unbelievable the way I was treated in those early days.  People didn’t know a damn thing about it, and they treated me like I had suddenly become a filthy non-person who was no longer smart and talented.  All their respect for me was gone.  Wiped off the map.  They just plain forgot that I used to be a wicked talented composer. It was like it didn’t matter anymore.  In the place of the respect I used to have was that bigotry I’ve been talking about.  Something unknown that was to be feared.  I felt so useless, like I’d become societal waste.

So a lot of folks feel that way about me now, that I am useless filth.  It doesn’t make me feel very good.  It’s this hatred of the unknown that people have that can breed violence such as hate crimes.  Get a bunch of people together, like the cops who killed Kelly Thomas, and you get gang violence.  Shared hatred that multiplies exponentially. It can turn into mass hysteria, a mob panic state.

I saw it with my own parents, on a smaller scale, cuz there were only two of them.  One of them would get unreasonable, and then the other would chime in, and then it was both of them at once, not really discriminating about what was the right or wrong way to treat a defenseless child.  Of course they knew it was wrong to walk in on a kid while the kid is peeing, with or without their pants on.  One started, then the other joined in, then they went on and on and on.

The cops that beat Kelly Thomas went on and on and on.  They were hateful of this man who represented something they despised.  Not only that, if Thomas had survived, would anyone even believe this guy?  He’s nuts, right?  It was unspoken, but clear. This nutcase deserves to die anyway, they thought.  He doesn’t matter.  Worthless piece of shit.

And that’s how it happens.  We don’t know what goes on and what has happened due to hatred.  I’m sure most of this kind of thing gets covered up and forgotten.  It took the guys at FFFF to bring the story to light, and we are all glad they did. Two cops got convicted of murder and manslaughter and I guess if they ‘re not in prison now, they will be.  Most of the local focus was on the role of police, but hatred is a human phenomena not limited to cops.  I don’t have to tell you that.

A thought on verb tense

In conversation, folks I know tend to go into present tense while talking about the past.  For instance (off the top of my head):

I went to the store to buy a, brought it to the counter, and the clerk charges me b instead of c, and I say to him, “Hey, isn’t this marked down?”

Now, if I’m had told this story to someone out loud (which, by the way, I didn’t, cuz I hadn’t spoken to anyone in ages at that point), the person would probably have known that the entire statement was past tense, that is, that is had already happened, was over and done with.

Sometimes, it helps to make sure you put things in past tense just to be absolutely clear.  Often I’m sloppy, or appear to be.  I happen to be a good writer of dialogue, so sometimes when I write, I like to sound like I’m telling the story out loud.  Still, this must be done carefully.

Use of past tense pays off now and then, with or without the discount.

That funny story I promised I'd tell

Okay, so I was on the #71 bus one day, can’t recall which day but it was before last weekend.  All the way over, I was listening to headphones, and I heard this talking in the background of the music.  I hadn’t recalled spoken narration in the music.  This was mostly instrumental, and the “talking” seemed out of place.  I asked myself why this musician chose to put the voices in there.

Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking, but it wasn’t that.

I kept on walking, all the way to the bus, paid my fare with my CharlieCard, and sat down, headphones still blasting.  Not deafeningly loud, mind you, but loud enough so that the background conversation could be heard but not understood.  The bus started up and folks got on as the bus chugged down Mount Auburn Street.  People sat near me with and without headphones, their faces buried in their books, Kindles, and cell phones.

I thought there were some people talking near me.   But I looked around, and behind me, and further behind, there were only lone passengers, no talking pairs.  So what was this conversation?

Uh-oh.

I yanked out my headphones in a panic.  Uh-oh is right.  Inside my knapsack, my digital voice recorder was playing, full blast, with me on there yammering away to myself, personal stuff about my eating disorder.  In front of the whole freaking bus.  I took out the recorder and shut it off.

I had accidentally switched into the PLAY position before putting it into my knapsack upon leaving the apartment.  So this was the “conversation” I’d been hearing all along.

I breathed a sigh of relief that I am in my 50’s, and not in my 20’s.  I am not at this young tender age where something like this is going to devastate me.  Probably nobody was even listening.  They are so involved with themselves.  I think I have mentioned on here before that I regularly cry on buses.  Just a nice habit I got into.  No one really cares.  Not like I want them to, really.  Usually, I’m crying over a book, or a beautiful thought I have, or, frequently, I’m just plain sad.  A bus is a really nice calm quiet place to cry peacefully.  And that’s about what I do.

As for this personal information disclosure happening right there while I was sitting there, well, I disclose a lot anyway.   So what’s the big deal? My initial panic lasted only seconds, then I started laughing to myself, and have been laughing ever since.

I will continue to speak out.  The truth is beautiful.  I can make meaning of it.  I will be wacky and wackier, I promise.

Busy day

I made and received a bunch of phone calls today and learned some information.   There have been some new developments…lots, actually.

I made a decision Wednesday, that is, two days ago, that I immediately followed through on, and will follow through further.  There were some phone calls involved and I received the phone call I had been waiting for today.  I need to do some research and organizing.  The next few days will be busy.  I must do what I think is right.  I feel empowered because there are people on my side right now, people who believe in what I am doing and stand behind me.  And as always, I have the power of the pen.

Hey, you have the power of the pen, too.  Keep writing.  Keep a journal.  You never know when you may need it in the future.  And if nothing else, it feels damn good to get it all down on paper.  Or at least that’s why I ended up a writer.