Noom and Nor

Recent events in Afghanistan got me thinking about two of my favorite former students. Noom, an Iraqi American, wore an hijab every day. Nor was Palestinian American and did not. Both dressed in typical teen tight jeans. Noom and Nor were in my U.S. History class at the Sonoran Science Academy in Tucson, the only two Muslim girls there.

Some days they left class together around noon for traditional Muslim prayer, which only took a few minutes. They often hung out in my classroom during lunch or recess. They asked straightforward questions: “What do you think of Israel?” “Why do people think America is so great?” “Do you believe in god?” We learned from each other. I liked them.

“You think it’s better for my grandmother who lives in Baghdad that America overthrew Saddam? At least she had running water and could cross the street before American soldiers arrived with their war,” she said, raising her voice.

“Then why don’t you go back there if it was so great?” Tad asked angrily. And he said something derogatory to Noom, but I don’t remember what it was.

“Enough! You don’t talk to anyone in this class like that,” I said. “Everyone has just as much right to be here as you do.”

I requested that Tad’s father come in to discuss what happened. I was nervous as this lumbering man walked in, not knowing how the conversation would go. But he and I came to an agreement that Tad was wrong telling Noom to return to Iraq. That Tad had to apologize.

A few days later, a classmate asked Noom if we could see what her hair looked like underneath her white jersey hijab.

“Only if all the boys leave. They’ll have to promise to wait outside at the end of the hall.” The boys agreed, although I caught a few of them sneaking down the hall to watch, including Tad. I made them leave.

Noom’s dark eyes shone as she unwound pinned layers of the blackest hair I had ever seen. She looked so proud, smiling, sharing her unconcealed appearance with the other girls.

Teenagers who crossed a boundary together. Noom and Nor are grown women now. I sure would love to see them.

Posted in America WTF?, Bopping Around Tucson, Fight wimpiness, The Rest of the World | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Long Life!

What goes around comes around. History repeating itself. Arriving full circle.

Never had I imagined bicycling around Lake Harriet, Bde Maka Ska (formerly Lake Calhoun), or Lake of the Isles on a Monday morning with my grown son.

Lake Harriet has its resident bald eagle. Sometimes I imagine I’m looking across to Islesford.

Never had I imagined reading the same books to my grandchildren that I read forty years ago to my children. Now The Big Orange Splot and Sailor Dog are on their bookshelves.

Never had I imagined returning to winter, moving from Tucson’s 300+ sunny days to frigid Minneapolis.

When I was in my 20s there was no way I would consider leaving my native New England. Working for George McGovern during the 1972 presidential campaign my ex-husband and I were offered teaching jobs in Montana, big sky country that I loved.

But it wasn’t New England. Now I figure it’s a good thing to have lived in three different parts of the country.

The other day a cyclist wearing an El Tour Tucson spandex shirt stopped next to me.

“I just moved here from Tucson,” I of course blurted.

“Two great places,” he replied. “I’m going back in mid-October.”

“I’m not.”

“You must know what you’re in for,” he said. I told him I had lived most of my life in Maine. When I moved to Tucson in 2002 I was done with winter.

“But here I am, wanting to live closer to my grandchildren.”

“We all grow and change,” he offered. I was grateful for the comment.

And I got to thinking: perhaps when I’m REALLY old, when my grandkids busy themselves with teenage friends, I’ll return to Southwest Harbor, Maine.

Perhaps I’ll sit rocking on a big veranda with my dear women friends. We’ll repeat our old stories about borrowing each other’s maternity clothes, writing groups at OZ, or our fears of menopause, of becoming empty nesters. Never fully imagining what it was like to be grandmothers.

And none of us will mind.

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Part 2: Trees, Lakes, and Grandkids

“Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ever since I heard there was an Emerson Avenue in Minneapolis, I wanted to live there. But it was not to be. Or was it?

Yesterday I was ready to sign a lease on the small apartment painted “agreeable gray.” It would do.

Strolling around the Emerson Avenue neighborhood last week I came across the most attractive apartment building I’d seen. A woman, who turned out to be the caretaker, was watering flowering plants out front. Astounded by the large lawn on the side of the building, I asked her if there were any available apartments.

“No, people don’t leave these apartments. My husband and I have lived here for twenty-eight years,” she said. “We raised our kids here.”

The place was a green oasis in the middle of a bustling city.

“Well, let me leave my phone number just in case,” I said.

“Just in case” happened yesterday: “This is Patti, the caretaker you spoke to on Emerson Avenue last week. We’ll have an apartment available on October 1.”

I went. I saw. I fell in love. Gorgeous hardwood floors, arts & crafts design that felt like my house in Maine, lots of south-facing windows with shelves for oodles of plants, a den/study overlooking my ocean blue Prius, and trees, trees, trees.

I couldn’t believe it. And it was the same price as the agreeable gray apartment. This one was perfect.

See the shelf over the built-in bookcase? The kitchen has a butcher block shelf.
my new workspace, with a space for a Foss sleepover or guests

See what I mean? And the lawn. More plants and a small area for a vegetable garden next spring. And a community of ten apartments. Cookouts on the patio. A half-mile from Lake of the Isles.

Jefferson Global Elementary School across the street, the original site of the Emerson Greene apartment building, which was moved across the street to make way for the school.

See the benches to sit and talk with neighbors? I’ll be there.

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Trees, lakes, and grandkids

Tomorrow will be two weeks since I landed my ocean blue Prius in Minneapolis. Staying with my son, daughter-in-law and two sweet grandkids has been busy but very worthwhile. I’ve been rushing around the big city trying to find a suitable apartment in the North Country.

When I settled on one yesterday it was all about the apple tree — or was it a pear tree? — in a comfortable neighborhood on Harriet Avenue. A complete renovation of the 600 ft. living space is taking place: painted silvery-gray walls called “Agreeable Gray”; modern stainless steel kitchen appliances installed; and revived bathroom fixtures.

The healthiest community garden I’d ever seen grows around the corner on Pleasant Avenue. I’m signing up for 2022, nature girl that I am!

Can you see the shapes of pears and apples?

I like the cleanliness of the building, which only has ten apartments. The halls don’t have that old building stale smell in the twenty-some buildings I’ve looked at this week. Lovely blue carpeting with purple designs running through it has been installed.

Since the big kids presented me with stylish blue and purple Gudrun towels and a bathmat, perhaps I’ll switch decor from Southwestern desert to Minnesota vibrance.

My slight OCDishness tweaks my activity strings. Finding a place to live precipitated a look-around at Loft Antiques, run by two helpful women. I found a cute little turquoise side table for my agreeable gray bedroom. It’s waiting by most of my worldly goods in Ethan and Steph’s garage.

Next week I’ll find furniture. Check out Ikea. Then I’ll start the change-of-address thing.

It’s all exhausting and exciting. Oh, did I say I’ll start working at the venerable Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul on August 16, or that my catalytic converter was stolen from my Prius? Apparently it’s the theft du jour in Minneapolis.

I’m in limbo land. I have no idea how long it will take to compose a new life in Minnesota. But it rings true that home is where family is…

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Day 2: Almost in Oklahoma

Today was a good day. Yesterday was a sad one, my first day driving from Tucson to Minneapolis. Until I arrived at Mark and Marla’s hacienda in Albuquerque. She and Mark are the best of people (I stole that from Lin-Manuel Miranda, who calls his wife “the best of women.”)

Marla immediately plied me with a gin and tonic — just what I needed. She also made a delicious dinner, which made me feel special. We talked and talked about our kids, grandkids, politics, growing old, climate change, sadness and life changes. I love these two!

Mark railed us with intriguing stories about the Santa Fe Trail.

So I decided to visit Santa Fe today. The first time in many years. I would continue my journey along the Santa Fe Trail, knowing full well that I would soon leave the Southwest, my home over the past eighteen years.

My friends suggested I visit their favorite Santa Fe bookstore, Collected Works, and say hi to the owner Dorothy (not of OZ). I always buy a book at independent bookstores. The historian in me chose the definitive book on The Santa Fe Trail by R.L. Duffers.

Walking down the street I eyed pieces of soap made into cupcakes in a store window. A young man standing there handed me a sample and invited me inside. The place was actually called The Lionesse beauty boutique. Not a soap shop at all.

“Don’t you want to get rid of your puffy eyelids?” the smiling blue-eyed young man asked.

“OK, why not. No technique has ever worked before. Go ahead, knock yourself out.”

Ron, his name was, took this silver-looking tube-like penis on a little stand from a drawer.

“It’s not botox, is it?” I asked.

“No, and it’s non-surgical too,” he raved.

He applied the stuff to my lifelong under-eye bags. Holding a tiny fan and a mirror before me, I watched the transformation. The stuff worked!

Look, no bags, especially the right eye!

Then came the sales pitch. “You know, I’m not a salesman but you’re a strong woman and you should get this for yourself.”

“Yes, I am a strong woman but I don’t really need this.”

He went from a $999 price to $450, down to $199. Because I may just get a new partner, he said, without those puffy eyelids.

“I just want hardwood floors and a new shower curtain” in my Minneapolis apartment, I told him. (Also, one of those gorgeous Gudrun bath towels like my friend Carol has.)

“I’ll throw in one of those cupcake soaps,” he made one last try.

“Nope,” I said. “I’m not going to do it.” He wasn’t smiling anymore.

Everything is about commercialism, we had talked about just this morning. Surprise, surprise!

But I did need a Santa Fe magnet for my collection, plus a few other tchotchkes from the Five & Dime tourist trap.

Across the street was the Plaza, which I didn’t really remember. I came upon a food cart manned by Rico, an old native man and his sidekick taking the money and filling cups of lemonade. He reminded me of an Apache stereotype from the movies. You know, with a headband and long dark hair.

A man chowing down turned and said, “The last time I ate one of his carnitas was in 1992, and it was just as good today.” I had to have one.

Delicious on 1992 and 2021!

Though sadness and change life goes on. History and the urge for adventure make it so.

Tomorrow I’ll drive through Liberal, Kansas. Not sure where I’ll end up.

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Leaving Tucson

On September 25, 2002 — my daughter’s 25th birthday — I drove into Tucson. A vivid Southwestern salmony, purply sunset accompanied my arrival. It was gorgeous. It still is. I didn’t know what my life would be like, but I did it, drove myself and my belongings from Maine. Ready for a new life in the sunshine.

This Tuesday, July 20, I’m heading north to Minneapolis for my next chapter. Turning 75 on my beloved Mt. Desert Island in June did the trick. So much fun with family and old friends!

Leaving Southwest Harbor, with a view of a few MDI peaks

Maine will always be home. My grownup kids, their spouses, and I spent a week in a friend/former colleague’s perfect Southwest Harbor home. Whether it was the “perfect kitchen,” the proximity to town and the harbor, or my 4-year-old grandson’s and my early morning adventure walking to an island during low tide, we hope to rent it again next year.

Auntie B reads to Shay

I want to be near family. Participate in my adorable two grandchildren growing up years.

During a session with my wise, dear friend Kathleen in Bar Harbor, I had an epiphany: the isolation contributed as much to my leaving Maine in 2002 as the cold winters.

More than once, the fear of being caught in a snowstorm on Eagle Lake Road thwarted plans for a movie night at Reel Pizza across the island in Bar Harbor.

This is my time. I want to dance. Attend good theatre. Go to concerts. Dance more. travel. Walk, walk, walk around lakes. Decorate my own one-bedroom apartment, with its hardwood floors.

I’m proud of myself for diligently packing up my stuff in a week. I was so focused. I feel powerful. My goal is to apply similar concentration to my writing projects and freelance assignments.

Picturing myself sitting at a small desk, watching the snow fall outside my window. Sipping a cup of tea. Back to winter, where I started.

I’ll be happy to leave wacky Arizona politics behind. No more Ducey filtering dollars from the general fund to fill his rich friends’ pockets, instead of improving the state of education. Or the make-believe Democratic senator Kirsten Sinema pressing to the front row of any photo in one of her gaudy outfits. She almost makes me want to wear beige.

Crisp cool air. Colorful foliage. But most of all, my babies.

This is my time.

Posted in Bopping Around Tucson, Family Matters, Mount Desert Island/Maine, Old friends, Out West, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

REST AND REFLECTION

It’s my 75th birthday. It’s a monumental day.

Southwest Harbor, Maine, is home. I’m here for another three weeks before returning to Tucson to pack my art work and photos, special books and dishes, and a few colorful Turkish and Mexican rugs.

I’m moving to Minneapolis. My son and daughter-in-law, two grand babies, and grand puppy are there. Going back to the cold, but it doesn’t matter. I’ll have a bigger life.

My Maine month has been so happy. I’ve been hiking with dear friends and by myself.

Why not? I’m feeling so flexible, I’m in such decent shape.

I’ll tackle Acadia Mountain, I thought yesterday. I haven’t been there in at least four years since MTD and I came across a squawking fawn sitting amidst the lush green growth without its mother. Poor thing. I got closer to look for injuries but there were none that I could see.

Making our way down the mountain, the fawn was gone. We called a park ranger when we got to the car.

I’ve been curious about that small creature. What happened? How did the rest of its life go?

Climbing Acadia yesterday seemed so much easier than four years ago…I was so proud of myself. I’ve put in the time in Tucson over the past eighteen years — walking, hiking, yoga, Pilates, short exercise breaks like a recent NYT article advised.

Still, scurrying down those boulders on the way down Acadia wasn’t a good idea. Big rains saturated the island a few days ago. Was I being careful enough? Probably not. I slipped on the slick rock, grounding myself on my right ankle. I heard a crack.

Sitting there, repeating, “Shit, shit, shit,” my faith in humanity was upheld. At least two young couples came along kindly asking if they could help me (what was this old lady with purple streaks in her gray hair doing there?).

I like to think I’m fine when I’m not. These past weeks of alone time and good friend time, taking in the beauty of mountains rising from the sea, feeling my strength, culminated in recognizing a need for change.

“I’m fine, thanks, I’m fine,” I said, but I hadn’t stood up yet. I stood when the next young couple climbed over the boulders. I felt a little wobbly. I could feel my ankle swelling like a balloon. Each of the young folks hooked an arm in mine, helping me back to my car.

Onward to Mt. Desert Island Hospital where 165 Seawall Road, my home for twenty-five years, still showed up in their database. A nurse I knew thirty years ago ambled into the hospital treatment room to chat.

Is this not home? I’m happy to have lived in the Southwest, the heat, all that sunshine.

I’ll return on July 4, Independence Day, to pack up my stuff. Headed toward cold weather again, in my trusty ocean blue Prius. I’ll be in the cold again but near the warmth of family. I’ll be in life.

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Awaiting a Guilty Verdict…I Speak for History

They want you to not believe your eyes, the prosecution said of Derek Chauvin’s defense attorney.

That’s right. Throwing every possible cause of George Floyd’s death into the mix ought to make jury members more disbelieving. Carbon monoxide poisoning. Drug overdose. Heart Condition.

Believe your eyes, People!!! If Chauvin held his knee on George Floyd’s neck for three and a half minutes after Floyd was unconscious, one might ask why.

Angry bystanders distracted Chauvin. Floyd could have awakened in a violent mood. This large Black man calling for his mama, uttering that he couldn’t breathe, had to be subdued.

This is all bullshit. Pure and simple.

I speak for history.

How many years has it been since entertainment in the Carolinas included watching Black folks being lynched, dangling from the prettiest live oak tree.* Seated on a blanket and munching on Southern fried chicken, a good mother might have asked, “Would you like some sweet tea, dear?”

A recent Saturday Night Live cold open depicted a Minneapolis TV news program. Two Black and two white newscasters agree on Chauvin’s guilt and encourage a change in the city’s policing. But each pair’s experience differs like night and day.

Remember Dylan Roof, the young white man who murdered nine Black parishioners at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015? Roof had planned on killing himself after the massacre. He had hoped to happily start a race war.

No police officer plastered Roof with bullets when he was caught in his car less than a day after the church massacre.

Roof was treated humanely, the way police officers are supposed to treat suspected perpetrators.

How many Black people who have been stopped for traffic violations have been treated humanely in recent years? George Floyd for passing a fake $20 bill, Daunte Wright for hanging air fresheners in his car?

Yet Dylan Roof was brought food from Burger King by the local police who captured him, because he hadn’t “eaten in days.” He was hungry. He wasn’t murdered in his car. He wasn’t ambushed in the middle of the night like Breonna Taylor sleeping in her bed. And he wasn’t crushed by Derek Chauvin’s knee on his neck for more than nine minutes.

I suppose Roof didn’t resist arrest. Plus, he was white.

I speak for history.

It’s time — finally — to treat a white cop like the murderer he is.

*Lynchings didn’t only take place only in the South. I visited Charleston, South Carolina, with my daughter a few years ago. It was there that I read about white families watching Black lynchings, sometimes in the town square in broad daylight. Sorry I can’t cite my source.

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To follow or observe, that is the question

I had an epiphany about politics at the Natural Grocer. On a mundane errand to purchase the purest water, Bunny brand organic carrots, and blueberry oat flakes, it happened.

Finding a parking place near Barrio Bread always takes time. Emerging from my ocean blue Prius –the reason I bought it — I head into the market under a dazzling Tucson blue sky.

Checking out Turmeric gummy prices so I don’t need to order them on Amazon. Strolling through the never-grow-old facial product section. Then I make my way toward the typically long checkout lines.

On the other side of the line backing up to the salad dressing aisle, past the potatoes and tomatoes, I notice a customer packing up her stash at one register, ready to leave.

And it’s the nice cashier’s station, the woman with the flaming red hair and sparkling turquoise fingernails.

Steering my shopping cart her way, I wonder, How come no one is moving to that line?

Finding it difficult to keep quiet, as I often do, I ask the nice cashier her opinion.

“You know what’s what,” she says. “I see this all the time. If there’s a line, customers head over to it.

How odd…

I beckon to a woman holding one bottle of multivitamins. Waiting in oblivion.

“Why are you waiting in that long line?” I ask.

Perhaps she’s hanging out in another world, contemplating an impending divorce or a daughter arriving from college or Tucson’s upcoming summer heat.

She shrugs, waking herself up, crossing the short divide between following and observing to stand behind me.

It’s like politics, my epiphany whacks me over the head. Is it the mindlessness of Melania Trump’s high style jacket message, “I really don’t care, do you?”

Here’s how it goes for many Americans:

I’ve got so much more to think about than some election. I’ll just ask my friends who they’re voting for and vote the same way. I don’t have time for political drivel. Besides, why rock the boat, if anyone asks who I voted for? It’s much easier to be a lemming of complacency.

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I look at all the angry people…and I have questions

WHY DON’T THE POOREST AND THE MOST MARGINALIZED AMONG US RISE UP?

I would. Like Palestinians who hurl rocks at cars sporting Israeli license plates zipping though the West Bank after dark.

If Black Americans attacked the Capitol they would be mowed down in droves, not like the despicable Neo-Nazis, Proud Boys, and other domestic crackpots at our Capitol.

WHY WHITE SUPREMACISTS?

Georgia comedian Corey Forrester shouts, What has this country not given to white supremacist mother**ckers?

Huh, what?

A white supremacist whose mother insists on organic food for her thirty-year-old baby donning a Viking helmet. Or Dylan Roof, who, after murdering nine Black parishioners in Charleston, SC, needed a whopper on his way to the police station.

White supremacists who won’t wear masks to protect others from Covid-19. U.S. representatives who balk at newly installed metal detectors. Did they not hear “Hang Pence! Hang Pence!” as they huddled on the floor of the U.S. Capitol?

What is wrong with these people?

WHAT DO WHITE SUPREMACISTS WANT?

Black people to disappear? A return to slavery, easy access to workers like gardeners, nannies, and cooks they pay a pittance?

So-called Mexican rapists and murderers barricaded on their side of the ugly wall at the Arizona-Mexican border?

Unbridled power for their form of rugged individualism? No restrictions. No responsibility. No laws. Victimhood.

More power, more money, more stuff? How much is enough?

AREN’T WE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER?

A buzz word like “socialism,” is it an excuse for not helping others? Still, they adhere to the Republican health care plan: Get sick. Die?

Remembering some old fart at my Maine annual Town Meeting complaining about the education budget…Eleven dollars more in taxes? Oh no!

While bazillionaire Jeff Bezos recently cut $2 per-hour hazard pay for Amazon workers during the pandemic, his ex-wife Mackenzie Scott gave away $4.2 billion in the past four months. Causes that redistribute wealth. Helping us all rise up.

Enough anger. I’m sick of my own, too. Let’s celebrate a calmer, empathetic, human President Biden and Vice President Harris. And the decency of most Americans. I’m feeling better already.

Posted in America WTF?, Fight wimpiness, For Love of History, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments