How do you make adult activities like clearing your desk of bills fun? I’ve been an adult for a while and these things manage to get done, but seemingly by the skin of my teeth. Couldn’t there be a beautiful aching sad monotony to it all that I could tap into? Of course it’s not monotonous or boring. All of the issues and things we care about are hidden away in the blechy white envelopes with clear plastic windows for your peekaboo name. It’s all made to be so drab so you just pay the damn thing and ask no questions and keep your activism towards headliners like murder and children instead of capitalism and exorbitant medical fees (psst: its all still murder and children). I don’t have the energy currently to connect the dots, but I know that it’s all in there. All the issues I care about are somehow sneaking around in my bills. Ultimately I ignore the pile until it starts menacing me, because I do get INTO it. I start calling places, talking to people, looking up agencies, questioning things. So the whole process just fucking drags, and it’s the same with my bedtime face routine. I avoid it because I know how long it takes when I do it.
In this way, I’m pretty similar to my dead father, he also lingered on many many details of many things that seemed pointless to me at the time. A common memory of my dad was at the table with his laptop, glasses on, phone nearby, many bills piled up, him peering at the screen, speaking to customer service, referring to an earlier call, spelling out his Indian name in white names, A- for Alex, S- for Sam, H- for Harry, O- for Oscar, K- for Kate. ASHOK.
I’m still trying to diagnose my dog’s itchiness, we have moved on to the next food to rule out an allergy that will take weeks to know for sure. I definitely did google how to know if my dog is yeasty, yep I did. Always the internet will never let you down for potential diagnoses or treatments, we’ll go back to the vet if nothing works, but we are trying to avoid the pills which seem to be a temporary fix only. Is this an essay?
Last week a conversation I had with poet and professor Donika Kelly a few months ago, was published with The Creative Independent. It reminded me of the moment a few months earlier to that moment, somewhere end of summer/early fall where her last book of poetry, Bestiary, had been permanently on my pandemic bedside table, and even accompanying me to a few strange and stressful outings out of my home. It had become something of a friend that one, I can’t recommend it enough. I was awoken out of my somewhat minor slump in any desire to interview anyone by thinking I could reach out to Donika, that book moved me out of my desire to just survive. It made me want to begin reaching out to people I do not know to ask them how they did the thing that moved me. It’s a small part of my life, but one that consistently fills me. From the interview with Donika:
“I’m very interested in prioritizing my own comfort and my own interest. It can be helpful for young writers to consider that and to investigate with curiosity what their interests are, so that they can prioritize them. What feels good? What’s going to feel exciting to read later? I love reading my own work.”
Today I saw this clip on Instagram account @sikhexpo. It’s a clip of a farmer’s wife who was rolling out dough for rotis with other women who were together supporting their farmer husbands, fathers, brothers and friends in the ongoing protest in India (since November) in which they are demanding the rollback of government laws passed quickly without debate and threaten their very livelihoods. The protests outside the borders of the capital New Delhi, are incredibly inspiring. Small farmers make up the backbone of the country, and India’s push to corporatize the farming industry is an attempt to blot out the life, joy, and good health of a country. This young woman described the “wedding-like environment of the protests” through a constant smile that teetered on the edge of full-blown laughter, while her hands were in constant motion making bread for protesters, in full certainty of her purpose and having landed in her community. The only thing that made it better, always makes everything better, were the older women around her, expression-less, also rolling dough, allowing her the space to exist alongside them, but not terribly impressed. lol.
Right now I am on a zoom hosted by the Brooklyn Public Library talking about the United Order of the Tents who own a historic old building in my neighborhood of Bedstuy that has laid in disrepair for many years. The United Order of the Tents, an organization started in 1867 by two formerly enslaved Black women, is the oldest benefit society in the United States for Black women. Here are some fascinating things I learned: the organization was incorporated by two white men abolitionists for the women (read: allies), it started very much as a secret society and continues to be so, no men were or are allowed in, no alcohol, they would host engagement/weddings on the property in Brooklyn, help bury their members, and they had a home for the elderly in Hampton, VA. There were around 200 people on this Saturday zoom call, learning about the legacy and the current challenges faced by the United Order of the Tents. That makes me hopeful, I do hope there are more tangible ways for community members to help restore the legacy of that place. Please follow @ericabuddington on Instagram or Twitter where I initially learned of this story. She created and saved an insta story about it here. Kaitlyn Greenidge wrote about the Tents here. The image below is of Lodis Gloston, president of the South Carolina chapter of the United Order of the Tents on the first night of the 150th anniversary celebration.
NYC had its first few spring-like days and as we will do post any winter when we get a warm day, we go crazy. But we’ve just been in a pandemic for a year, so the sidewalk dining/drinking, the revelry, the parks bursting at the seams, the sex energy hanging over everything, you could feel it. It’s complicated to know how to exactly feel at the thought of spring and summer coming and a potential “back to normal”. This tweet by Saeed Jones sort of summed up one feeling I had:
In some ways, this side of the pandemic is lonelier than the early months. I’m so anxious about the hopeful future. We went into hell together but now we’ve gotta find our various exits alone.
I started the week sort of feeling anxious about spring and some return to social things I don’t feel like I know how to do anymore. But then as spring will do, by the end of the week it got under my skin a bit, I saw some crocus flowers budding in the dirt that had snow on it two weeks prior, I biked to Prospect Park, I saw strangers on the street smiling. I guess I realized my heart hasn’t crusted over completely yet, it can still feel these things. And by the end of the week, I feel things might be alright.
Things I liked:
- Jamilah Lemieux wrote this piece in The Nation: What Black Schools Mean to Black Kids.
- This was also a fun piece. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/04/private-schools-are-indefensible/618078/
- An update on my dog’s itchiness: we tried switching to a fish-based diet mixed with some goat-based dry kibble food, and added CBD oil, and the occasional bath with some nice oatmeal soap. Still itchy, so we have now gotten a Cytopoint injection and subscribed to some all fresh, human-grade dog food subscription from The Farmer’s Dog. Dog people, just know I got you. In every other way my dog Freddie is a dream pup who we got from a rescue organization called Inourhands. On my quick google search of this rescue org, it seems like they no longer have an Instagram page and there is a lot of criticism of how the organization is run financially and otherwise. I forget how much exactly I paid when we adopted Freddie, but I think about the weird incentive it sets up to have the new family pay a “fee” per puppy, and where does the steady stream of fresh puppies come from exactly?
- I recently learned about a town called Kiangan in the Phillipines, where many indigenous peoples such as the Ifugaos live and of course live peacefully and do things like farm and live in a way that is sustainable for the forest. From this piece about the town: “They only call us indigenous because we were never conquered by the Spaniards,” says Martin, who also works for the Kiangan Weavers Association and the Save the Ifugao Rice Terraces Movement.” Sometimes I really just can not with us.
- Yeah also the current President of Phillipines, Rodrigo Duterte, seems pretty terrible: Duterte has been linked by human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to extrajudicial killings of over 1,400 alleged criminals and street children by vigilante death squads.[
- This conversation with the poet Natalie Diaz [a queer, Latina and Mojave American poet, language activist, former professional basketball player, and educator] is truly brilliant, full of love, questions, ancient wisdom, anti-colonial, it’s everything.
- The NYT did a piece called It’s Been a Year : 48 Artists, 7 Questions. Honestly the piece and a lot of the answers were annoying, but the writer Tayari Jones sort of nailed all 7. I feel like I must read her books now. Have you head Jones?
Did you have any particularly bad ideas? I thought I could try and do a new art form, and I bought all this stuff for drawing: I bought sketch pads, I bought those expensive pencils, and I decided that I was going to learn to draw. I really sucked at it. And I find it’s hard on my self-esteem to do things in which I suck. I had to let the drawing go.
What art have you turned to in this time? I’ve really been looking at the quilts of Faith Ringgold. I’ve always been an admirer — all the detail and storytelling that she’s able to do with pieces of fabric.
What’s a moment from this year you’ll always remember? I will never forget the feeling of watching the people in England pull down the statue [of the slave trader Edward Colston] and throw it into the harbor. It was such an international moment, it was a Pan-African moment. I knew that the statues needed to come down — I was never ambivalent about that at all — but I was surprised at the sense of sheer triumph. It was incredible to see something that was at once so symbolic yet so tangible.
Did you find a friendship that sustained you artistically? I’ve grown even closer to my mentor, Pearl Cleage. I meet with her on her porch once a month. Her husband goes out of his way to make it nice; he even pours our wine.
What do you want to achieve before things return to normal? I’m really trying not to put pressure on myself to achieve any particular thing besides just surviving, getting through this time. My daddy is 84, my mother’s about 76. They live here in Atlanta, and I moved home so that I could be closer to them, and my job is to make sure that they get through this pandemic and that they have what they need. When this is all done, I want to look at my healthy parents, and I will have done my job.