Saturday, February 9, 2008

MORE ON AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES: LAND AND REPARATIONS

(A family picking peas in their garden, Flint River Farms, near Montezuma, GA. May 1939; historical photo from Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund)

Ding over at Bitch Ph.D. has an extraordinarily good post up, Black History Month: A Case for Voting Black that is also a result of her watching Henry Gates' African American Lives. She relates some of the research in the documentary to her own family stories of how crucial land ownership became to African-American trying to undo the effects of slavery, and all the ways their land was eventually stolen from them (a process going on at this moment). Her comment about having land sums it up: "It acts like a bracket around early black families: you were property and now you have property."


She also ties the struggle to own land and develop economic security to the history of lynching, which lasted as a strong form of terrorist activity in this country until the 1960s and whose enduring symbol -- the noose -- has not died one iota (The Jena 6; Professor Madonna Constantine).

Regarding lynching, Wikipedia cites a number of good sources:

'In The Strange Career of Jim Crow, the historian C. Vann Woodward wrote of the post- World War I period: "The war-bred hopes of the Negro for first-class citizenship were quickly smashed in a reaction of violence that was probably unprecedented. Some twenty-five race riots were touched off in American cities during the first six months of 1919, months that John Hope Franklin called 'the greatest period of interracial strife the nation had ever witnessed.' Mobs took over cities for days at a time, flogging, burning, shooting, and torturing at will. When the Negroes showed a new disposition to fight and defend themselves, violence increased. Some of these atrocities occurred in the South — at Longview, Texas, for example, or at Tulsa, Oklahoma, at Elaine, Arkansas or Knoxville, Tennessee. But they were limited to no one section of the country. Many of them occurred in the North and the worst of all was in Chicago. During the first year following the war more than seventy Negroes were lynched, several of them veterans still in uniform."

'The executions of 4,743 people who were lynched in the United States between 1882 and 1968 were not often publicized. It is likely that many more unrecorded lynchings occurred in this period. Lynching statistics were kept only for the 86 years between 1882 and 1968, and were based primarily on newspaper accounts. Yet the socio-political impact of lynchings could be significant. In 1901 the state of Colorado restored capital punishment, in response to an outbreak of lynchings in 1900. The state had abolished capital punishment only in 1897.

'Most lynchings were inspired by unsolved crime, racism, and innuendo. 3,500 of its victims were African Americans. Lynchings took place in every state except four, but were concentrated in the Cotton Belt (Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Texas and Louisiana).

'Members of mobs that participated in these public murders often took photographs of what they had done. Those photographs, distributed on postcards, were collected by James Allen, who has published them in book form and online, with written words and video to accompany the images.

'Retaining incriminating evidence is not uncommon for sadistic criminals and in a study conducted by Robert R. Hazelwood, M.S. it was reported that of the sadistic criminals studied: "Forty percent of the men took and kept personal items belonging to their victims... which included... photographs... and some of the offenders referred to them as 'trophies'."

In her post, Ding links to James Allen's exhibit biography page for her at their website states:

'In 2003, Mark co-directed with Alferdteen Harrison the Unsettling Memories Conference, for which she and Harrison received the Public Humanities Achievement Award from the Mississippi Humanities Council. The conference, which Mark describes as an “exciting and terribly sad five days,” brought together artists, civil rights activists, and historians to address through art three of the most devastating moments in southern culture: the Cherokee removal, slavery, and lynching. “It was as if humanity and what we see as our souls and our ability to love and perceive each other as human beings was taken into question,” she says. “When you have slavery, when you have lynching, when you have the Cherokee removal – how can we even be America? The notion of democracy is potentially devastated by that.” She compares these moments in American history to the war in Iraq, the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib, and FEMA’s response to Katrina. “It’s those exact kind of moments, when our democracy tilts on its side and becomes something we can’t even recognize,” she says. “People will be writing about Katrina for the next 300 years. We can’t even look ourselves in the face.”'

(Rebecca Mark beside Dean's Cottage, Newcomb Institute, Tulane, New Orleans)

Dave Neiwert at Orcinus, which should be your number one online source for information about the Klan and other hate groups, published a ten-part series on Eliminationism in America. In an earlier essay, The Elimination Game, Dave defined eliminationism as "a kind of politics and culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas for the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through complete suppression, exile and ejection, or extermination."

Part Six of his series, Strange Fruit, talks about lynching, in particular drawing the line between lynching as a form of terror control vs. lynching as a form of eradication. The latter led to "sundown" towns. In a later essay, How to Out a Sundown Town, Sara Robinson at Orcinus explains this as "American towns that once had small African-American communities -- which, at some point, simply up and vanished. The historical fact is that if you're a middle-class white American living in the north or west of the country, the odds are overwhelmingly good that the town you live in, right now, is a sundown town -- or was one at some point in the not-so-distant past."

How, then, do we find our way beyond this legacy? In her post, Ding speaks eloquently about the idea of reparations, and you should go read it because she says what I think and feel. But, with your promise that you won't settle for anything less than her complete essay, I'll excerpt some of her beautiful language here:

"What I want is a deeper, more public acknowledgment of how slavery impacted and drove our capitalist system, and how our nation's participation in the slave trade laid a foundation for practices, industries and institutions that not only continue to have an adverse affect on communities of color today but still provide the elite in this country with wealth and prosperity. That's not too much to ask, is it?"


EXTRA RESOURCES:
African-American Land Ownership statement by the Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund

Website for Homecoming, a PBS special about African-American land loss and chronicle of black farmers from the Civil War to the present ("In 1920 there were nearly one million black farmers in America. In 1999 there are less than 18,000.")

The African-American Mosaic, Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History & Culture

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MARY JO ATKINS BARNETT: 9 February 1927 - 24 April 1984

(Mary Jo Atkins, age five, Stoneburg, Texas)

Mama would have been 80 years old today.

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

ALABAMA WHITE/BLACK GENEALOGY

(1824 map of Northwestern Alabama at Mississippi border showing location of my ancestors' land grants)

From the time of the American Revolution until 1818, what was known as the Mississippi Territory (today's states of Mississippi and Alabama) was variously controlled by France, Spain, Great Britain and several Indian nations, particularly Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Cherokee. To travel beyond Georgia, U.S. citizens had to obtain a passport from whichever nation held the territory they were crossing.

However, the U.S. relentlessly used every means at its disposal to make this territory their own, and by 1820, both Mississippi and Alabama had been largely stolen from its Native peoples and was being opened to white expansion. My Armstrong, Randolph, Ussery and Fuller ancestors from the Scots enclaves around Montgomery Co., North Carolina relocated westward, first going to Monroe County, Mississippi (on the border with northwestern Alabama), then obtaining land grants in the watershed of Bear Creek, Chickasaw Nation, what is now Franklin and Marion Counties, Alabama.


They were the first white people to live on the lands they received. As best I can determine, the people they displaced were Chickasaw, who had attempted to adopt European agriculture and treat peacefully with the U.S. -- fat lot of good it did them, not with Andrew Jackson in the White House. My Scots forebears hated governmental interference except when it stole other people's land and gave it to them.

My ancestors, like most of the whites pouring in, were fleeing soil they had exhausted by the over-cultivation of cotton. They obtained rich land of the Black Belt and Tennessee Valley. With them they brought slave labor and the plantation system, though on a smaller scale than the Delta region. During the first half of the 1800s, a steady demand for cotton made this the U.S.'s leading export.

I cannot find a record of my direct ancestors owning slaves in Mississippi or Alabama. They were cotton farmers, but also seemed to raise horses for income. By 1860, my main lines migrated northwest to Sharp County, Arkansas, where they did not own slaves, either. This is where they were at the time of the Civil War and where every male between the age of 14 and 55 served in the CSA.

I'm currently working on an intensively researched essay about my Confederate ancestry, trying to puzzle out where my family's CSA service is typical or unusual and how that might have handed down current family values. In the meantime, I turned to this one branch of interrelated families today because I've been writing a section of my novel Ginny Bates that has to do with the ancestry of Allie Billups, an African-American lesbian character whom I located as having grown up in the Franklin/Marion County, Alabama region. I'm looting my own family background (where it applies across racial lines) and knowledge of the area to create a back-story for Allie.

Last night, Henry Louis Gates Jr. (a pre-eminent African-American historian and genealogist) aired the second installment of his African-American Lives epic on PBS. I was riveted, again, and realized the history of the Great Migration needed to be in Allie's story as well.

At the taking of the U.S. Census in 1860, Franklin County, Alabama was 45% African-American (of which all but 13 were slaves) and 55% European-American. Currently, however, Franklin County is about 90% white, 4% black, and 5% Latino. The average for Alabama is 71% white, 26% black, which means Franklin County is off skew.

(Slave quarter from Belmont Plantation, Colbert Co. AL which was formed from Franklin Co. AL, 1936, taken by Alex Bush; from Back of the Big House: Cultural Landscape of the Plantation)

One African-American genealogy site states "Subject to the effect of the formation of Colbert County from the northern part of Franklin in 1869, by the 1870 census, the white population of Franklin County had decreased almost 34% to 6,693, while the "colored" population decreased over 84% to 1,313. (As a side note, by 1960, 100 years later, the County was listed as having 20,756 whites, about twice as many, but the 1960 total of 1,231 "Negroes"was only about one seventh of what the colored population had been 100 years before.) Where did all the freed slaves go, that were not in Franklin or Colbert County in 1870? Dallas, Montgomery and Mobile counties in Alabama all saw increases in the colored population between 1860 and 1870, so that could be where some of these freed slaves went. Between 1860 and 1870, the Alabama colored population increased by 37,000, to 475,000, a 17% increase. Between 1860 and 1870, the Alabama colored population increased by 37,000, to 475,000, a 17% increase. Where did freed slaves go if they did not stay in Alabama? States that saw significant increases in colored population during that time, and were therefore more likely possible places of relocation for colored persons from Franklin County, included the following: Georgia, up 80,000 to 545,000 (17%); Texas, up 70,000 (38%); North Carolina, up 31,000 (8%); Florida, up 27,000 (41%); Ohio, up 26,000 (70%); Indiana, up 25,000 (127%); and Kansas up from 265 to 17,000 (6,400%)."

I haven't yet done the research to trace this demographic, or to discover the particular effects of the Great Migration on Franklin County during 1900-1930, when blacks fled the South for Northern cities in the largest movement of people this country has seen. However, I am keeping in mind the bigger idea, which is that if black people chose to abandon Franklin County in huge numbers as soon as they were emancipated, their living conditions there were worse than other counties in the South. As Gates' program indicated, with no money, no skills except farming, and no region seeking them, newly-freed slaves were overwhelmingly sucked back into the near-slavery of sharecropping by the time Reconstruction had been betrayed by the Republican Party. Yet Franklin County blacks, in particular, opted to share-crop elsewhere no matter the rigors of relocating.

(Laura Clark, former slave from Sumter County, Alabama, photograph possibly by Ruby Pickens Tartt, ca. 1938, from Back of the Big House: Cultural Landscape of the Plantation)

In 1985, I went to Franklin and Marion Counties as part of a general genealogy research trip across the South. Of all the places I visited, it was the one place where I felt frightened for my safety as a lesbian and as a woman traveling with other women (not necessarily the same thing). There was no friendliness to strangers to be found by me and my companions, despite my accent and our serious attempts at charm. The poverty was strong, but other equally poor places still had people who would talk to us. I located the land where my ancestors had farmed -- a neighboring tract even had a still-standing dog-run log cabin from the early 1800s on it -- and when I walked the clay soil, what came to me was not my people reaching out over time (which often happened to me on these trips) but desolation.

(Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan)

We arrived there after having the day before visited Ivy Green, the home of Helen Keller, now a museum filled with photos of her life with Annie Sullivan. In the back yard was the famous well and pump. I had been overjoyed to see it, to claim a woman-loving connection with this extraordinary leader. From there, we'd gone to the Coon Dog Memorial Cemetery near Tuscumbia, Alabama, another place which had moved us deeply with its headstones, often primitive, extolling the love of men for their dogs. Thus, I was taken off utterly off guard by the depression I felt in Franklin County.

(The pump at Ivy Green where Helen Keller learned the word for water)

Something is there to be uncovered. Since my ancestors were on the white side of that equation, I want to know why. I'll keep you informed.

In the meantime, do whatever you can to catch your PBS station's viewing of African-American Lives. Family histories this time include those of Tina Turner, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Don Cheadle, Chris Rock, Maya Angelou, Morgan Freeman, and six others. It's better than the first go round in 2006. There'll be an additional two hours' shown next week as well. The website has an incredible timeline and set of sources. Gates' is permanently affecting the lives of those folks whose ancestry he traces (he made Chris Rock weep with one discovery) but also rewriting American history in a manner we've ardently needed. Watch it.

RESOURCES FOR FRANKLIN CO., ALABAMA:
Genealogy for Franklin Co., AL
African-American genealogy for Franklin Co., AL
Native American genealogy for Franklin Co., AL

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

BROAD CAST, 6 FEBRUARY 2008: POLITICS, POP CULTURE, AND POETRY

(March for Women's Lives, Washington D.C., April 25, 2004)

I have no comments about primary results except to say this: If woman-hating and white supremacy are playing an open role in this Presidential race, as they assuredly are (the only difference being that the malignancy has been unroofed), I think going to white men for analysis about "what it means" is like going to a male gynecologist. Choose your caregivers, as well as your information outlets, as lovingly as you choose your friends. This doesn't mean insularity -- some of my closest friends disagree with me in fundamental ways, which I appreciate. It means using trust and respect to winnow out who has your ear.


And I do wonder: If the Barack-hating were as in his face on news shows as the Hillary-hating is, how well would he deal with it? I know the man is surely facing assassination attempts by rightwing nutjobs as his campaign progresses. It's clear from what's going out on their talk radio, websites and flyers. Clearly the hate aimed against him is no less than what is targeting Hillary. But it bubbles up in different forms.

I can't read anything on a so-called progressive blog dominated by white males about Hillary that doesn't reek of woman-hating in its intellectual, I-am-the-great-objective-thinker guise. (Jesse Wendel being a strong exception.) Whereas the female bloggers that I read are, for the most part, struggling to identify their crap pro and con about both candidates and find a path through the minefields -- but then, we're raised to admit our mistakes.

Well, you can't kill maggots until you find out where the rot is. I keep telling myself that.

(Vulture woodcut by Tugboat Printshop)

One of the parenting policies of my mother which may or may not have been a good idea (I waffle) is that she seldom interfered with my choice of reading material. Mostly this freedom expanded my horizons, particularly since she did keep track and tried to engage me in conversation about what I had just absorbed after I finished a book. I remember that after I read Fanny Hill at around age nine, she poked questions at me in a way I knew meant there had been something in the book that concerned her. The sexual escapades were so decorously worded (in that 50s style) that they had gone over my head. I had blitzed through them. My only complaint to her was that "People smoked an awful lot of cigarettes", which sent her into crazed laughter I didn't comprehend until years later.

A few books, however, did upset me, at times enormously. I was sickened by Lolita, and given weeks of nightmares by the one-two punch of Triumph (by Philip Wylie, whom my mother had a love/hate relationship with as a reader) and On The Beach (by Nevil Shute), both of them post-nuclear-war apocalyptic nightmares that I read at around age 11.

I was also seriously rattled by by Richard Matheson's I Am Legend. The vampires were bad enough (and let me state here, this author should be credited for creating the world that Buffy would later inhabit). More thought-provoking was the message about conformity and difference: In a culture of vampires, the single "sane" individual who carries stakes and seeks their destruction is not only perceived by them to be "the bad guy", but possibly really is the problem. It gave me a great deal to think about, and in this case, I believe it was good for me.

I haven't seen the newest movie version of the book, although reviews say it does the message justice. I saw the previous adaptations, The Last Man on Earth (1964) and The Omega Man (1971), both of which I found disappointing when compared to the complexity of the book. But then, the only Charlton Heston role that seemed convincing to me was his gun-toting rant in Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine.



Having mentioned Buffy, let me direct you to a fun exercise, The GOP Primary Field Expressed As Buffy Villains, created by Neil Sinhababu at Cogitamus. Imagining Ron Paul as Morloch the Corruptor makes glimpses of him easier to bear.


From the folks at via Poor Impulse Control comes a video of the kind of cooking show I'd love to see (now that the Two Fat Ladies are no more): Cookin' and Cursin' with the Grandsons of Italy Warning: Not for work consumption or kids' ears!



There's a great interview with Susie Bright at Susie Bright-ens Boston at Sue Katz: Consenting Adult about the current state of publishing and writing on the internet. Gave me some chewy bits.

(Window with garden landscape, by Louis Comfort Tiffany circa 1902-1920)

The selection two days ago from The Writer's Almanac stuck with me enough that I'd like to share it with you. Offered through American Public Media, The Writer's Almanac sends out (to those who sign up, like I did) a daily poem selected and read aloud by Garrison Keillor, along with literary and historical notes for the day in question. A welcome addition to the e-mail box.


MISGIVINGS
by William Matthews, 1998, from After All: Last Poems

"Perhaps you'll tire of me," muses
my love, although she's like a great city
to me, or a park that finds new
ways to wear each flounce of light
and investiture of weather.
Soil doesn't tire of rain, I think,

but I know what she fears: plans warp,
planes explode, topsoil gets peeled away
by floods. And worse than what we can't
control is what we could; those drab,
scuttled marriages we shed so
gratefully may augur we're on our owns

for good reasons. "Hi, honey," chirps Dread
when I come through the door, "you're home."
Experience is a great teacher
of the value of experience,
its claustrophobic prudence,
its gloomy name-the-disasters-

in-advance charisma. Listen,
my wary one, it's far too late
to unlove each other. Instead let's cook
something elaborate and not
invite anyone to share it but eat it
all up very very slowly.

And, to close out my post, another poem from Judy Grahn. I have to admit a personal attachment to this one because, a very long time ago, a woman I loved quoted it to me as if it were meant to be about me. A lovely memory.

A GEOLOGY LESSON

Here, the sea strains to climb up on the land
and the tree blows dust in a single direction.
The trees bend themselves all one way
and volcanoes explode often
Why is this? Many years back
a woman of strong purpose
pass through this section
and everything else tried to follow


by Judy Grahn, circa 1971, in She Who

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

GINNY BATES: JULY 2004

("Figures by a Lake", design for a screen by Vanessa Bell, 1911)

Another excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. If you are already a familiar reader, begin below. The action in the story resumes immediately after my post of yesterday. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up.

Late June 2004

Their session with Nancy went better than Myra had anticipated, even when Myra said it was Chris who had suggested separate bank accounts. Ginny didn't hate the idea, which made Myra uneasy. "We'd still need a joint account for like the house, and the kids" temporized Myra.

"I can imagine several joint accounts for different purposes, but each of us with our main private account" said Ginny. "Let's talk with Alveisa. Have you met with her about the gold purchase yet?"

Back in April, when Myra had brought her emergency fund idea to Leesa, she had been persuaded that there was no rational reason to keep it from her financial advisor or her friends. She finally agreed to tell Allie and Edwina, Chris and Sima, and Alveisa, as well as Nancy.

Allie's reaction had been immediate: "No way are you committing a felony to guard against a might-could-be" she said flatly. "No fake IDs or passports." When Myra argued with her, Allie said "Look, if your paranoia is accurate, then they're just waiting for you to actually made a stupid move like that. And it will implicate your family, no matter what. I'll be raising your kids while you rot in prison. Forget it, Myra."

Chris, sitting across the table, didn't comment. Since she was the pipeline that Myra had hoped to go through to make her undercover contacts, she resigned herself to dropping that piece of her plan.


To Ginny's shock, however, Chris thought the gold purchase was fine. "It's as stable or more so than all the other paper dreams you're invested in" she said. "If it makes you happy to sit on precious metals, I'll help you bury it in your backyard. But you need security upgrades, Narnia ain't gonna cut it."

Alveisa was noncommital except to say if it went through her, it had to be legal and reputable transactions, down on paper. Myra said "But they can trace that."

"You not Neo" said Allie. "Your little hoard will not be on their radar."

David was likewise noncommital about the farm and offshore account idea. "I'll have to research it, see if there's a way to do it without tax penalties leaving you bleeding in the dirt" he said.

At the time, Myra had sensed Ginny's disappointment at everybody not jumping on the "Myra you're nuts" bandwagon. She wondered now if Ginny's receptivity to separate accounts was to disentangle herself from Myra's class crap.

Nancy, looking at her keenly, said "Your aura just zipped into nothing. What's going on?"

Myra confessed her worry. Ginny said, with a small sigh, "Myra, I'm with you through thick and through thin. But I do think a shift in the dynamic might -- clear out some deadwood. At least bring it out in the open."

Nancy worked on Myra's chakras then, which Myra gave herself up to eagerly because it felt like her brain had suddenly clenced into a fist. Nancy then worked with Ginny on what Myra was thinking of as her obsession with cutting Helen out of the family which, as it turns out, was linked to her buying designer labels for Margie: A wish to prove how different she was from her mother in motivation, even if she did some of the same things.

At the end of the session, Nancy said "You need to keep coming back. You need to keep reminding each other that your children's shenanigans are growing pains and testing limits, not emergencies -- you can tell the difference, if you try. And you need to take calcium carbonate, buy it in powder form and start stirring spoonfuls into your juice or tea."

Myra and Ginny were both startled at the last. "Stress depletes vitamin C" said Nancy.

Myra spent much of Saturday at Chris and Sima's, helping change out brakepads on both their cars and making new living room curtains with Sima. Ginny showed up at dusk with two quarts of still-warm fresh marinara, shrimp and fettucini noodles. They made a collective dinner, often with long minutes of peaceful silence. Afterward, Ginny sat at Sima's jewelry table with her, discussing ideas, while Myra and Chris walked to a nearby ice cream place for take-out.

Chris strolled with her hands in her pockets, turning her face up to invisible stars, and commented "You know, in two years Margie'll be in college. In four, they'll both be gone."

Myra stopped walking for a beat. "I have such a mixed reaction to thinking about that" she said.

"You and Ginny can get matching pug dogs and dress 'em up each day in little outfits" Chris said. Myra kicked her gently in the ass and they walked on, laughing.

That night when they got home, Myra went to her desk. Ginny trailed after, settling on Myra's daybed instead of going to her studio. Myra looked at her quizzically and Ginny asked, "Just hypothetically, what are the reasons you'd leave me for?"

"I'm not going to leave you, Ginny" said Myra.

"I'm not looking for reassurance, I'm actually wanting information. Are there things I could do that would make you want to stop being partners with me, and if so, what are they?" Ginny rolled her ankles around, first one, then the other, as she looked Myra steadily in the eyes.

"Honestly, I can't think of anything you'd ever do. Not in this incarnation."

"What about things I wouldn't do? Don't you have any 'forget it, I'm outta here' criteria?" pressed Ginny.

"Oh. You really do mean hypothetical. Okay, well...if you went straight, obviously. If you stopped loving me. If you became abusive to me or the kids and refused to stop. Uh...If you murdered somebody I loved, on purpose." Myra grinned and half-joked "If you voted Republican."

Ginny smiled but in a still-serious voice said "What about infidelity?"

"If you fell in love with someone else, yeah. I mean, thinking about you just fucking around is more than I can stretch even as a hypothetical, Gin. Oh -- there is one more, that I'm a little ashamed of, but it's real: If you became a born-again."

The last finally made Ginny laugh. "You can somehow imagine that hypothetically but not that I'd sleep around?"

"Wacky, eh? So why do you need this information, Ginny, does this have something to do with your parents' possible split?"

Ginny considered. "Maybe. Do you need to hear a similar list from me?"

"Not unless you're burning to give it. I'd really rather not pick at possible sore sports this late at night. At the moment, I'm dead certain we're going to be together the rest of our days" said Myra. Ginny's face softened even more.

"Are you aware that we've not made love since before we left for Galveston?"

Myra was jolted. "That can't be right -- no, we just made out a bit a couple of times, oh, wow, is this the longest we've ever gone?"

"No. But it is interesting that neither of us noticed. Until tonight, when I was watching you walk ahead of me into the house, and I thought about your -- well, you can guess" said Ginny.

"Yet another indicator of how buried we've been" said Myra contemplatively. She waited half a minute, then said "Well, are you going to ask?"

Ginny said "You know, I'm just a little bit scared you'll say no. That's not typical, either."

Myra stood up and pulled Ginny to her feet but didn't move into her arms yet. "You remember when you kissed me the first time, right around the corner here? Were you scared then that I'd say no?"

"Not in the least" said Ginny. Her face showed an amazed expression, then she threw back her head and laughed as she stepped toward Myra. Suddenly Myra was on fire. She slipped her hands down to untie Ginny's drawstring, sliding her palms over Ginny's bare ass. Ginny made a small sound of longing in the back of her throat as their lips met.

The next morning, Myra woke up to the phone ringing. As she became conscious, she realized Ginny was in the shower. She rolled over and answered it groggily. Gillam whispered "Mama? Are you up yet?"

She came awake with a crash. "What's wrong? Where are you?"

"I'm in Carly's room, I'm trying to keep quiet. Everything's okay, I just need to ask if it would be all right if Carly came back with me tomorrow."

"Fine by me, but what do his moms say?"

"We haven't asked yet, we're going to at lunch."

"Gillam, I really don't think they're going to allow it, you shouldn't get your hopes up, we've pushed -- "

"No, Mom, we've developed this strategy and it's working, we think." Gillam sounded Bondish.

"What strategy?"

"Mom, I'm worried someone will hear" he protested sibilantly.

"I don't care, spill it, Gillam David."

When Ginny emerged from the bathroom, drying herself, Myra sitting up in bed said "Gillam called."

Ginny looked alarmed. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing. He wants to bring Carly back with him tomorrow."

"Have Pat and Patty given their okay to that, or is this just wishful thinking?" Amazing how our minds run alike sometimes, thought Myra.

"They plan to pop the question later today. They, Carly and Gillam, have been more less gas-lighting them." Ginny sat down to listen. "They made a list of all the stuff that most sets Pat off, like the trash not getting taken out before it gets full, or them sleeping late, and they're toeing the line completely in those areas. But -- and this bears much more discussion when he gets here -- he said Pat doesn't give a rat's ass about 'boys doing work that she thinks is for girls', so they're not helping clear the table, make meals, do laundry, clean the bathroom, etc. Which is wearing on Patty, but she won't say anything about it in front of Pat because they're on eggshells right now. The boys get the paper at breakfast every morning, while Pat is still there, and go through it talking over things they could do with a map of Olympia in front of them, but they act out this whole farce of worrying about neighborhoods, safety stuff, and inevitably decide on the one activity that costs the most money because 'it's in an area where there's responsible adults around'. Since, as Gillam put, Pat is really cheap and hates to shell out for entertainment for kids. When they get home at dinner, they loudly talk over the kids they've supposedly just met as possible acquaintances for Carly, but drop one comment about a behavior that Pat will hate and Carly says reluctantly 'Nah, not quite right for me, gotta keep lookin', I guess.'"

Ginny interrupted with "And nobody's calling them on this bullshit?"

"According to Gillam, Pat and Patty haven't a clue. After dinner, they vegetate in front of the TV, choosing shows they know Patty can't stand to sit through, so she goes to her bedroom and Pat goes to her computer. Anyhow, they think they can finagle at least a week here for Carly, since Truitt will be gone another month. Gillam said Carly could stay even longer if we agree to put them to work together on some project around here."

Ginny stared at Myra. "Between him and Margie..."

"I know. I just hope when they're grown, they use their powers for good rather than evil."

"He knows damned well we're not going to blow the whistle on them, not with the way things are" said Ginny.

"Let's remember, remind each other, of this level of subterfuge in the future, with him in particular. And I think we should absolutely work their conniving little butts off. Don't you need new trellises for the rhododendrons?"

Ginny grinned wide. "Yes, and the planks of my raised beds are all rotting out. Replacing them during growing season will be a tedious, piecemeal process, but hey, it's not my time that'll be sucked dry, is it?"

"The tile floors inside all need to be scrubbed thoroughly on hands and knees" said Myra.

"Ditto the hot tub and hey, we could drain the pool and have them scour it too, all of their incessant sunscreen usage has left it grotty" pointed out Ginny. She curled up beside Myra as they giggled.

"We'll see how long Carly toughs it out" said Myra.

Ginny sighed. "All summer, if we'll have him" she said, with a pang of empathy for him.

Myra kissed Ginny's almost dry hair and said "You smell heavenly."

"I feel so much better this morning" said Ginny, smiling up at her.

"Me, too." They kissed reminiscently.

"Okay, I'm up" said Myra. "Might as well grab my own shower. It would be good for me to go to Quaker Meeting, I think."

"You know what? I'll go with you. And in the meantime, I'll make you Ginny eggs" said Ginny, sliding out of bed.

"With chervil?"

"You got it."

At Meeting, they weren't actually in contact, sitting in separate chairs, but Myra still became aware of palpable heat emanating from Ginny's body. A painting coming on she thought. Well, she's overdue, and we do have a killer Visa bill on its way. Allie and Edwina were flying home in time for dinner, and they'd eat with her if Ginny was already in Painterland.

Sure enough, Patty called while Allie and Edwina were watching Gillam's wedding video to ask if Carly could come for a week, mentioning "you need some help around there, he said".

"I've got grunt work projects a mile long" said Myra. "Time to earn their keep." A hearty butchism she hoped Patty would pass on to Ward Cleaver.

Allie and Edwina spent Monday with Allie's mother, breaking the news about the wedding and Allie's diagnosis. Allie said it went rather well. Her mother was loving her access to constant attention at her assisted living center, and when she heard Allie planned to have a wedding reception, her mother immediately asked to bring a number of guests. She also blamed Allie's diabetes on her grandmother, who had somehow passed it on to both her mother and Allie herself in the womb.

Edwina looked exhausted. She explained it was all the flying and driving, which she loathed and for which she took medications to calm down. Plus the stress of moving. The rest of the week, she and Allie would be in Portland packing her apartment and preparing to be back in Allie's place by July 1.

Edwina and Allie intended to share Allie's mother's former room as a study/studio and had plans to repaint it. Ginny had offered to oversee this while they were gone. With her currently in Painterland, Myra hoped she emerged from it long enough to fulfill her commitment, but she only reminded Ginny of it once and let it go.

On the way back from the train station, Myra and the boys went to Homo Depot and filled the back of the Volvo wagon with supplies for the chores Myra had planned. She told them she wanted four hours of work from them a day -- they chose mornings -- and said she would pay them $2 an hour each if they farted off, $3 an hour if they only took two 15-minute breaks during that shift. Their eyes lit up like a Richie Rich cartoon. Gillam declared he wanted to buy a camera, "You know, an old-fashioned kind with film that you roll up".

Ginny finished her painting by Wednesday night, slept in and then spent the next two days almost non-stop at Allie's, getting the room done and her sweaty self home just in time for shabbos. "If it isn't aired out enough by the time you get home" she told Allie and Edwina cheerfully as she scrubbed her encrusted hands at the kitchen sink, "come back here and bunk in our spare room for the night."

"Nuh-uh" said Edwina. "Appreciate the offer, but I'm done with not feeling at home. We're gonna be in our bed tonight and from now on." The stress in her voice removed all trace of romance.

Ginny began another canvas on Sunday, but Myra was finding lots of time for her own writing, with the boys working diligently, then keeping themselves out and about each afternoon. She tried to keep meals regular for them. Still, the following Thursday, with Ginny's second canvas done and the four of them again at the table, once the chicken casserole was empty, Gillam said "I think I'm still hungry."

"I could make more salad" offered Ginny.

"Nah. Needs to be something else" said Gillam.

"Me, too" said Carly.

"I could make us grilled cheese sandwiches" offered Gillam. He and Carly headed into the kitchen, where Carly sliced bread and tomato for four sandwiches while Gillam grated edam.

Gillam had on a tank top, and Myra looked at the ropy muscles he'd begun acquiring in his upper arms and forearms. It was disconcerting, not at all like Margie's smooth bulges. I'm losing my little boy she thought, and he was such a delicious boy.

"Gillam, pull up your shirt a minute and let me look at you" she called out. "Please" she added at his expression.

He obliged her, revealing an incipient six-pack at his abdomen. But she could count his ribs, even from this distance. She glanced over at Carly, who said defensively, "I don't wanna show you my boobs."

Gillam cracked up. Myra and Ginny conferred quietly, however, on how to increase their nutrition without adding the wrong items. The next day, Myra made a triple batch of no-sugar whole-wheat fruit newtons and three loaves of zucchini-walnut bread, storing them for easy access in the fridge. Ginny began making a huge green salad and fruit salad each morning for day-long grazing. Myra created a distilled veggie stock she could add to a variety of dishes. She changed her main sandwich bread from honey whole wheat to 12-grain, and she made large meatloaves with organic beef and turkey three times a week so there were always leftovers. They encouraged the boys to eat frequent snacks, and the after-meal hunger disappeared.

A week later, Margie came home, strikingly weatherbeaten and happy-looking. They had a long reunion, watching the wedding video again and taking turns telling tales from the exotic life of Margo Batiz. She planned to take more kayaking lessons locally the rest of the summer, she said, and maybe start crewing as well. She eventually fell asleep on the sofa, her feet in Ginny's lap.

One afternoon in mid July, Myra was scrubbing out the vegetable bins in the refrigerator when she heard a small cry from Ginny's studio. She waited for further communication, but when none came, she finished her washing and returned the bins to their slots. After wiping her hands, she walked to Ginny's studio and saw Ginny sitting at her work table, her head on her arms.

"You okay back here?"

Ginny didn't look but mumbled through her arm "O'Keefe died."

"Oh, Ginny, why didn't you come get me?"

"What's the point, Myra? This is just the worst year ever."

Myra was chilled by the defeat in Ginny's voice. "Sweetheart -- the point is, I want to share whatever happens to you, to us. Come over here, lie down with me." She pulled Ginny to her feet and led her to the daybed. Ginny laid her head on Myra's shoulder and said "Change didn't used to seem so terrible to me. Am I just getting old?"

"I don't think getting older has to mean loss of hope or energy, Gin. You're -- we've had a lot to handle."

"We're luckier than most. Or we have been. I feel bad about feeling bad."

"Well, Ginny, you feel how you feel. You and O'Keefe have been in each other's lives for a long, long time. She was a grand old reptile."

Ginny giggled, then finally started crying. After a few minutes, she said "Will you bury her with me?"

"I'd be honored. Give me a sec, and I think I can find a poem by Octavio Paz to read at her funeral."

Ginny pulled out one of the plain wooden boxes she liked to paint and give away as gifts. She lined it with art paper and put O'Keefe in it tenderly. Myra, a book under her arm, walked with her outside, getting the shovel from the shed and joining her at the maple tree. They had a small service, attended by Narnia who had to be dragged away afterward to keep her from digging back up what they had just buried. They left a note for the children and went to the pet store where Ginny communed with each gecko before finding one whom she said asked to come home with her. She named her Rix after Ruth Rix. Myra sat with Ginny at the gecko habitat for an hour, watching Marisol and Rix check each other out.

"She's a lot shyer than O'Keefe was" said Ginny.

"Well, O'Keefe lived with Yoko all that time, and Yoko was kinda out there" said Myra.

Ginny looked at Myra for a long minute. "I can't imagine who I would be if I hadn't joined my world to yours" she said finally.

Myra met her gaze and didn't say anything.


With Carly still among them and the projects list whittled away, Myra went across the street and persuaded Ms. Schevitz to let the boys restore her long-neglected back yard to good shape. She admonished her to not pay them a dime -- "This is for their character, and I'm controlling the money" she said -- and sent big bags of snacks with them each morning, enough to share with Ms. Schevitz. She was delighted with the company. She turned out to have almost every Three Stooges episode ever made, on video, and during their work breaks they sat in her living room, gobbling fruit newtons and laughing like maniacs at the kind of brutal antics Ginny would not have been able to tolerate.

When her yard was tidy, Ms. Schevitz turned them loose on the back bedroom she'd used as an attic. She began filling boxes with items for Goodwill. Myra looked through them, however, and said "Much of this is vintage, worth way more than the tax write-off you'll get from a donation." She brought over her digital camera, took photos and posted a long list of items on EBay. She started a PayPal account for Ms. Schevitz that would drop money directly into her checking account. When the orders began pouring in, Myra taught the boys how to pack for shipping and they made two trips a day on their bikes to the nearest UPS store, sending sales out across the country.

Ms. Schevitz was bowled over by how much money it garnered. She had Gillam and Carly tackle her garage next, and then the rest of the closets. It was at the back of her dead husband's closet that Gillam found the stash of old comic books: Not huge, but with some rare finds. He rushed home for his laptop to show her how to estimate their approximate values. She insisted on giving Carly and Gillam each their top pick, carefully sleeved in Mylar, but the rest were sold. "Enough for a new refrigerator!" she crowed.

Finally, as July came to an end and Truitt was back in Olympia from his summer camp, Carly was summoned home on a permanent basis. Gillam didn't know what to do with himself. The first day Carly was gone, Gillam went over to eat lunch with Ms. Schevitz and watch more Three Stooges, but the thrill was not there, Myra could tell.

After dinner, Margie having gone to her room, he cleared his throat and said "Uh, Mom." He was looking at Ginny. "I'm wondering if I could re-do my room."

"What do you have in mind, new bed? Maybe a drafting table instead of that child's desk?"

His eyes showed a spark. "YEAH to the drafting table. But I kinda need a desk, too -- maybe a bigger one?"

"We can hit the thrift stores tomorrow" she said with relish.

"And my bed is too short. I'd rather have a double or a queen" he said, not meeting her eyes.

"Okay" she answered, ignoring Myra's expression.

"But...what I originally meant to ask was...I love the murals, you know I do, and I don't want them destroyed...is there any way I could cover my walls? 'Cause it's kinda babyish, you know" he said, deeply apologetic.

Myra watched Ginny's face. Ginny didn't miss a beat, however. "We ought to be able to figure out a method of draping fabric over them without causing damage. Is fabric what you meant, or would you rather have canvas panels you could paint?"

"Fabric would be awesome!" he breathed. "How do you think black would work?"

A frown forced its way onto Ginny's face. She took a long breath, then said "Maybe tomorrow we can go to yardage shops and get a wide selections of possibilities, bring them home and see what they look like in place."

"Okay!"

Ginny said to Myra "Would you take detailed measurements of his walls tonight? Spaces between every facing, etc?"

"He can, and I'll supervise. And let's get Chris in on the constructing panels gig, I think she'll have some techniques we might not know about."

"I could have swags coming down from the ceiling to the sides, like in a Middle Eastern tent" Gillam mused. Or a bordello thought Myra. She went to the store room for her tape measure.

The next afternoon, Chris came over and filled pages of Myra's legal pad with sketches as she talked enthusiastically about biscuits, hinges, and flexible joints. Myra couldn't really understand Chris's drawings -- she was used to the three-dimensional color of Allie and Ginny's renderings, or the impractical nativism of Margie's maps. She nodded, though, when cued to do so: She'd put her trust in Chris for this one.

Before they were done, Ginny and Gillam came home with bags of yard-square samples in a dizzying array of hues and patterns. Gillam dumped them in a pile on the table and began combining swatches in matches that were setting Ginny's teeth on edge, Myra could tell. Finally Ginny said, gently enough, "The thing is, boyfriend, you're gonna be living inside this array, not looking at a little bit held up to the light. It has to be something you can go on appreciating every minute of the day for years. It has to give you a sense of well-being." She pulled the metallic grey sward splashed with lime splotches from his hands and added "I think pattern on one or maybe two walls, with solids on the others, would be a good place to start."

Gillam went silent. Ginny said "I don't want to rain on your parade. Listen, you keep brainstorming, I'll get out of your way. It's your room. Let me know when you want to talk concrete, okay?" She ruffled his hair with her hand and went to the kitchen to pour herself a glass of cold tea. When she went out to the deck, Myra and Chris followed, Chris beginning to talk her carpenter lingo to Ginny.

But Myra was watching Gillam through the glass wall, as he tried to hold up more than one yard at a time to enclose himself in a square. Ginny was apparently watching him, too, because when he draped one of the swatches over his head and sat there like an end table, his breath slightly moving the cloth in and out, they burst into laughter simultaneously.

"Maybe he's not as bright as we've believed all these years" said Myra quietly. Gillam went into the kitchen, rooted through a cupboard until he found the turkey roasting rack, and returned to the table, trying to coax it into a metal frame he could hang swatches from and place over his head. By this time, Chris was cackling, too.

Ginny said suddenly, "You know what, he's onto something". She went briskly into the house and called him to her studio, where she began pulling out foamboard. She pointed to Myra's study, and his face animated, he went to Myra's desk and got her Exacto knife from the right drawer without hesitation. The look of triumph on his face as he returned to Ginny's studio Myra thought she might be the only person on earth to fully comprehend.

Ginny stepped out to them and said "You need these measurements for the moment?" Without waiting for their answer, she snatched the pages and hurried back to her worktable, sitting Gillam beside her.

An hour later, Chris had gone home and Myra was starting dinner when Margie came in the front door. She rifled through the pile of fabric on the dining table and said "What's this for?"

"I found this adorable pattern for panties, and your mom got all that for us to make you a few dozen pairs" said Myra brightly. For a split second, Margie registered horror. Laughing, Myra said "Go back to the studio and talk with the model-makers, they'll fill you in."


Copyright 2008 Maggie Jochild.

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ABDUL RAHMAN IBRAHIM IBN SORI

(Drawing of Abdulrahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori)

Several years ago I had the opportunity to compile a genealogy for a friend who is a nationally-respected African-American writer. This led me inevitably to slave genealogy, primarily in the Mississippi Delta region, and it was during the course of reading everything I could on the subject that I can across the story of Abdul Rahman: The only African stolen from that continent, made a slave here, who was able to return to Africa and write about the experience of slavery. A singular voice.

I was so rocked by Abdul Rahman's story that I wrote a poem about it. I later learned about the book Prince Among Slaves by history professor Terry Alford, chronicling his life. Now Unity Productions Foundation has created an award-winning documentary based on Alford's book (and narrated by Mos Def) which was aired on PBS last night. Check your local PBS listings; since this is Black History Month, you may well have a chance to see it in your area, and you should make every effort to watch it if you can.

Here's the (sketchy) Wikipedia entry on Abdul Rahman. A much better biography is available at the Slavery in America site. The Unity Productions Foundation about the film is here. (I was particularly interested in the genealogy leads at the latter site.)

My poem is after the fold.


ABDULRAHMAN IBRAHIM IBN SORI

He was a Fulbe prince. He could read and write
With these in hand we sketch the arc, the why:
Of all those who made the Middle Passage
And survived -- already select, hardy, smart, lucky --
He alone found the way back home
And then, o bless you Ibrahim
Set ink on paper to tell us
What he felt

The brutality, we've learned
The mechanics of it, the rot
We have imagined
But here is his voice, clearer than god
Saying it was the unimaginable
That threatened him most

He, like his folk, knew slavery
as stolen labor -- Crime enough
yet a crime with exit hatches
But these new ones, some kind of maybe-people
They stole entire humanity
He, like his folk, believed these thieves
must be cannibals -- how else to explain
the absence of return, ever
They must consume the stolen
down to marrow cracked from bones

So when he was in the wrong place,
At the only time he had -- his own --
And fell into the hands of such savages
He prepared for death
Waited for the knife
Waited while chained in dark sewers
Taken to a place not on any map
His offers of ransom were not honored
Or even comprehended.

He was set to hoeing cotton.
Not to die -- at least not die
Direct. But the work, hunger, beatings
Were not what kept him from
The living. It was the
Not Knowing
Not knowing where he was or any route
Back to his kind of people
Not knowing how it was he could fail
To be seen as likewise human

One day he reached decision
Set down his hoe and walked steady
Toward the woman of the two
Who believed they owned him
She faltered at his approach, turned
For weapon or flight. But he
Knelt before her, pressed his forehead
Into Mississippi dirt, and
Gently lifted her foot
To place it on his neck
In his true language, he swore fealty
Swore his honor

She didn't understand, not the real of it
But he did. And this settled his torture

Later, incredibly,
He was recognized by a traveler
Named
Freed
Bought free his wife
And sailed back home
The only one of his kind

If you still cling to your confusion
Find a greater comfort there
Cannot hear all of what our people did
Cannot accept it without excuse
Or even refuge of guilt
If you want to believe it is over, now --
Your own preferences are accidental, innocent --
I will not wrangle
But I do hector you with this:
Understand his honor His choice
Understand how he clenched his power
By saying it was his to give
Understand that
And your road opens


Copyright 2008 Maggie Jochild, written 2 October 2003, 5:05 p.m.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

TANIA: 33 YEARS LATER

(Patricia Campbell Hearst, known at the time as Tania, robs the Hibernia National Bank at 1450 Noriega Street in San Francisco at 9:40 a.m. April 15, 1974. During this incident, two civilians were shot. Image from Famous Pictures)

In 1979, while I lived in San Francisco, I was visited by my old friend Mary, a DJ and photographer from Dallas. One day at dusk I was driving her around the city in my little red Honda, showing her different neighborhoods and landmarks that she would occasionally photograph. We were driving a very steep hill through Pacific Heights, ogling the mansions on either side.

On driving up such hills, you hope to creep into the pedestrian crosswalk at the crest next to a stopsign, especially in a standard transmission vehicle. Otherwise, when it's time to go again, you have to simultaneously lift your foot clamped down on the brake, hit the clutch and the accelerator in order to avoid a sickening lurch backward from gravity. It's hard on the nerves and the gears.

On this hill, I was fudging my front bumper into the pedestrian space as I came to a stop, but a young woman was leaving the sidewalk right next to me and I had to oblige her right of way. As she reached the middle of my car, she turned and gave me a glare through my windshield, lit brilliantly by the headlights I had already turned on for the day.

"Tania!" I gasped.

Mary said "Who? Do you know her?"

"It's Tania!" I babbled, watching her avidly. "I mean -- Patty Hearst!" I beseeched Mary to hop out of the car and get her photograph, telling her it would be the most prized thing I owned. Mary, however, with far more ethics and maturity than I had, adamantly refused, saying the woman's right to privacy was her most prized possession and she deserved to have it undisturbed for the rest of her life.


(SLA members, L-R, Donald DeFreeze "Cinque", Patricia Soltysik "Mizmoon" and Patty Hearst "Tania" robbing Hibernia Bank in Francisco on April 15, 1974)

My obsession with Tania -- Patty Hearst -- and the SLA began 33 years ago today, on 4 February 1974 when 19-year-old Patty, granddaughter of "Citizen Kane" William Randolph Hearst, was kidnapped from her Berkeley student apartment by the Symbionese Liberation Army. Her fiancé Steven Weed, with her at the time, was beaten senseless. At that time I was a college freshman at North Texas State University, living in an unheated off-campus room, not eating enough because I didn't have the money, alienated from most college life because I was a closeted lesbian, and having trouble with my honors classes because I was spending most of each day glued to my black and white TV watching the Watergate hearings.

The attempt by a President to ignore law and establish himself as a dictator was shocking at that time. We couldn't believe what was emerging. On January 4, Nixon had refused to turn over subpoenaed tapes and documents to the Senate Watergate Committee, citing executive privilege. (Sound familiar?) On January 30th, G. Gordon Liddy was found guilty of Watergate charges. That same day, in his State of the Union Address, Nixon had declared that "One year of Watergate is enough". He hoped, but he was wrong. At that point, we still had a Congress who, Democrat and Republican alike, were willing to honor law and the will of the American public.

I was 18 years old, one year younger than Patty. In every other regard, our lives were completely dissimilar. But there was some part of me that longed to be swept into revolution. I was not yet radical in the way I would become (and remain); I had not yet acquired the influences or vocabulary. And my working-class, gun-loving upbringing was not yet transformed by pacifism.

Most compelling to me was that two of the members of the SLA, including one of the founders, were openly identified as lesbian lovers: Patricia Soltysik and Camilla Hall. Camilla gave Pat the name of "Mizmoon" which is how many of the news reports referred to her. Camilla had moved to Berkeley to be an artist and a lesbian. I cut their photos from the newspaper and carried them in my wallet for at least a decade afterward. Within the SLA, Mizmoon was also known as Zoya and Camilla as Gabi.

(Camilla Hall, "Gabi")
(Patricia Soltysik, "Mizmoon" and "Zoya")

I followed the ensuing story of Patty's captivity and the SLA's ransom demands even more avidly than I did the Watergate hearings, although the two became somewhat intertwined in my mind. Most of the information I used to refresh my memory in the following timeline comes from several Wikipedia entries and from the PBS American Experience website on Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst.

On February 12, in a taped communique delivered to KPFA Radio in Berkeley (which would four years later become "my" community radio), Patty announced she was alive and all right. Cinque from the SLA then demanded Randolph Hearst, Patty's millionaire father, deliver a ransom of $70 worth of food to every needy Californian -- an operation that would cost an estimated $400 million (in 1974 dollars, which would be at least four times as much in current dollar value)

Dialogue about the ransom continued over the next several days. On February 19th, Randolph Hearst gave in and agreed to form People In Need (P.I.N.), a food distribution program that would spend $2 million dollars to feed 100,000 people for a year.

The following day was Patty's 20th birthday. Cinque repeated an earlier statement that Randolph Hearst's contribution should reflect both Hearst's capabilities and the need of the people. He upped the ransom amount to $6 million dollars and also asked Hearst to prove he will stop committing "crimes against the people".

Ronald Reagan, then Governor of California, stated that no one would take food from P.I.N. But on Thursday, February 22, food distribution began, and ended in riots. Randolph Hearst used the riot to claim that $6 million dollars was beyond his capabilities. A representative for him offered to pay direct ransom totalling $4 million dollars.

A woman who later became one of my best friends went to the food distribution and came home with badly needed cheese and rice. Future P.I.N. giveaways went off without a hitch on February 28, March 5, March 8, and March 25, distributing food to tens of thousands of people in each case. Reagan stated that the poor people lining up for groceries were "aiding and abetting lawnessness."

On March 1, former aides of the President, known as the Watergate Seven — Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell, Charles Colson, Gordon C. Strachan, Robert Mardian and Kenneth Parkinson — were indicted for conspiring to hinder the Watergate investigation.

On March 29, 1974, the last American troops left Vietnam.

On April 3, two months after being kidnapped, Patty announced on an audio tape sent to a radio station that she had taken the guerrilla name Tania, swearing her allegiance to the SLA and denouncing her family. Her family immediately declared that she had been brainwashed.

On April 7, 1974, the Watergate grand jury indicted Ed Reinecke, Republican lieutenant governor of California, on three charges of perjury before the Senate committee. On April 5, 1974, former Nixon appointments secretary Dwight Chapin was convicted of lying to the grand jury.

On April 15th, Tania and four other members of the SLA robbed the Sunset Branch of the Hibernia Bank at gunpoint in San Francisco and were caught on video. Tania was filmed wielding a cut-down M-1 carbine loaded with a fully automatic banana clip and is one of those who screams "On the floor, motherfuckers!"

On April 23rd, the FBI issued a Wanted poster with Tania on it. The following day, on another audio tape, Patty insisted she participated fully in the bank robbery, under no coercion, says the idea of her being brainwashed is ridiculous. She called her family the "pig Hearsts". She denounced her fiancé Steven Weed as "an ageist, sexist pig."

On April 29th, increasingly cornered about Watergate, Nixon released edited transcripts of the conversations that were recorded in his office.

On May 9th, the U.S. House of Representatives opened formal and public impeachment hearings against Nixon. The committee's opening speeches included one by Texas Representative Barbara Jordan that catapulted her to instant nationwide fame. I remember sitting and listening to this with a sense of revolution having at last reached my door. She was Texan and a woman. I did not yet know she was also a lesbian.

On May 16th, William and Emily Harris went to Mel's Sporting Goods Inglewood, California, to shop for supplies for their safehouse. While Emily made the purchases, Bill tried to shoplift socks. When a security guard confronted him, Bill brandished a revolver. The guard knocked the gun from his hand and placed a handcuff on Bill Harris's left wrist. Tania, on armed lookout from the group's van across the street, began shooting up the store's overhead sign. Everyone in the store took cover and the Harrises drove off with Tania.

On May 17th, I had just gotten home after class and turned on my TV when live coverage of the SLA slaughter by the LAPD began. I'll use the Wikipedia entry on the topic to tell the story:

'...An anonymous phone call to the L.A.P.D. stated that several heavily armed people were staying at the caller's daughter's house. That afternoon, more than 400 Los Angeles Police Department (L.A.P.D.) officers, under the command of Captain Mervin King, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigations, California Highway Patrol, and Los Angeles Fire Department surrounded the neighborhood. The squad leader of a Special Weapons and Tactics (S.W.A.T.) team used a bullhorn to announce, "Occupants of 1466 East 54th Street, this is the Los Angeles Police Department speaking. Come out with your hands up!" A small child walked out, along with an older man. The man stated that no one else was in the house, but the child reported that several people were in the house with guns and ammo belts. After several other attempts to get anyone else to leave the house, a member of S.W.A.T. fired tear gas projectiles into the house which was answered by heavy bursts of automatic gunfire, and the battle began.

'Two hours later, the house caught fire. The police again announced, "Come on out! The house is on fire! You will not be harmed." Two women left from the rear of the house and one came out the front (she had come in drunk the previous night, passed out, and woken up in the middle of a siege); all were taken into custody, but were found not to be S.L.A. members. Automatic weapons fire continued from the house. At this point Nancy Ling Perry and Camilla Hall came out of the house. Investigators working for their parents would claim they walked out intending to surrender and that they were unarmed but police later stated that Camilla Hall was shot in the head by police as she charged towards them and Perry was providing covering fire. After Camilla Hall's body fell to the ground, it was pulled back inside the burning house by Angela Atwood. Nancy Ling Perry followed Hall out of the house, but she was shot twice in the back. Her body remained outside of the house.

'The rest died inside, from combinations of smoke inhalation, burns and multiple gunshot wounds. According to the coroner's report, it was concluded that Donald DeFreeze committed suicide. After the shooting stopped and the fire was extinguished, nineteen firearms, including rifles, pistols, and shotguns were recovered. Several thousand rounds were reported fired into the home by police and they reported thousands of rounds being fired out of the house by the S.L.A. This remains one of the largest police shootouts in history with a reported total of 9,000 rounds being fired.

'The bodies of Nancy Ling Perry ("Fahizah"), Angela Atwood ("General Gelina"), Willie Wolfe (who was reported to be Patricia Hearst's lover and who bore the S.L.A. alias "Cujo"), Donald DeFreeze ("Cinque"), Patricia Soltysik ("Mizmoon," "Zoya"), were found, most of them huddled in a crawl space under the house, which had burned down around them.'

At the time, nobody immediately knew who was in the house and had died. Most folks assumed one of the bodies was that of Patty Hearst. As it turns out, Tania watched the same TV coverage I did with William and Emily Harris in a hotel room in Anaheim. They returned to the Bay Area and recruited new members.

On June 7, in a seventh tape-recorded message, Patty Hearst offered a eulogy for those killed in the shootout, proclaiming her love for Willie Wolfe and vowing that the SLA would continue to fight.

On July 27, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Nixon could not withhold subpoenaed White House tapes and ordered him to surrender them to the Watergate special prosecutor. From this point over the next three days, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee adopted three articles of impeachment charging Nixon with obstruction of justice, failure to uphold laws, and refusal to produce subpoenaed material.

On my nineteenth birthday, August 5, 1974, one of the tapes was revealed and became the "smoking gun" tape. Recorded on June 23, 1972, it contained Nixon and Haldeman discussing using the CIA to block an FBI inquiry into Watergate. After this came out, Nixon's support in Congress collapsed. Pretty awesome birthday present.

Three days later, on August 8, Nixon announced his resignation effective August 9, to avoid being removed by impeachment. Ford became President. One month later, Ford pardoned Nixon for any crimes he may have committed while in office, setting the stage for the continued malfeasance and "we can get away with it" attitude of those in our current Presidential administration -- some of whom are/have been the same individuals.

In the November 5th elections, voters punished the Republican party by voting in Democrats during the midterm Congress election.

Public interest in Patty Hearst began to wane with the New Year in 1975 as no news was heard of her. This changed briefly when on 21 April 1975, the remaining members of the S.L.A. robbed the Crocker National Bank in Carmichael, California and killed Myrna Opsahl, a bank customer, in the process. Later, Patty claimed to have been sitting in the getaway car.

I learned that Mizmoon was responsible for the killing of Marcus Foster, and that she was bisexual rather than lesbian as I defined it. I began to question whether Tania had, in fact, been brainwashed instead of welcoming rescue from her owning class family. I began to find sources for lesbian-feminism, which decried violence and the male-dominated left equally.

On April 30, 1975, the Vietnam War finally ended with the Fall of Saigon and the collapse of South Vietnam. I stayed home from school that day, watching TV coverage and weeping.

Then, on September 18th, Tania was arrested in San Francisco with Bill and Emily Harris and Wendy Yoshimura. When asked for her occupation while being booked, Tania said "urban guerrilla."

(Mug shot of Patty Hearst at the time of her arrest on 19 September 1975. Image Image from Famous Pictures)

In a strange connection, a woman who had been bookkeeper for the People In Need food distribution and an admitted FBI informant, someone described as a white suburban matron obsesses by Patty/Tania -- Sara Jane Moore -- four days after Tania's capture tried to shoot President Ford in San Francisco.

The Hearsts threw all their money and influence into Patty's trial, claiming Stockholm Syndrome and rape, and hiring the infamous F. Lee Bailey as her defense attorney. They have her locked up tight with a body guard named Bernard Shaw, a former San Francisco police officer. Going against Tania are all those taped communiques, her chance to escape at the Mel's Sporting Goods incident, and, mostly, the Hibernia Bank robbery. On March 11, 1976, Tania was found guilty of armed bank robbery and sentenced to seven years in prison. She served almost two years before her sentence was commuted by then President Jimmy Carter.

Patty Hearst resumed her life as a wealthy heiress. That's when I spotted her on the streets of Pacific Heights. But, with that sighting, my connection to Tania was not yet done.

From 1979 through 1981, I was a core member of a group called Lesbians Against Police Violence. Working in contradiction to the (mostly white) gay male groups like CUAV who wanted increased police presence in queer communities and gay admission to the police academy, LAVP recognized that the primary role of the police is to protect property, and secondarily to selectively protect individuals (of the right race, class and gender) from violence by those at the bottom end of the rights scale. We therefore agitated against police presence (which usually equaled violence) in women's, lesbian, working class and/or people of color communities.

In 1979, Patty Hearst announced she was getting married to her former body guard, Bernard Shaw. (Stockholm Syndrome redux.) That March, Bernie's former buddies in the S.F. Police Department threw a bachelor's party for him that spilled out of its cop tavern onto a motorized streetcar -- where the rowdies were said to have urinated off the back platform into traffic -- and ended with them raiding Peg's Place, a working class lesbian bar at 12th and Geary.

The owners of this bar were Lynda Symaco, a short Filipina, and Allene (can't remember her name), a tall white woman. The drunken cops began immediately verbally harassing the women there, demanding to play pool without waiting their turn, and breaking furniture. As the place cleared, the Lynda tried to jolly the guys into easing up while Allene called the police. Before help arrived, however, one of the drunk cops attacked Lynda with a pool cue, and when Allene tried to defend her, she was beaten up as well.

When the (non-drunk) cops arrived, Lynda and Allene were arrested while Bernie and his buddies were put in cabs and shooed off.

Police assaults on lesbians and people of color were as common then as they are now. However, Peg's Place fought back, with a civil suit against the main perpetrators, which they eventually won. (Neither of these were Bernie Shaw -- his connection to the case and to the Hearsts was interestingly absent from newspaper coverage.) I attended that trial, and the police presence was intense. Women who were visibly lesbian were photographed in the hall outside the courtroom by a cop with a big flash camera.

The cops who had to pay damages to Lynda and Allene were retained on the police force and continued to have intermittent complaints of violence brought against them. Their victims were almost always women and/or people of color.

Patty Hearst has two children, one of whom, Lydia Hearst-Shaw, was named 2007 Model of the Year by Michael Awards. Bernie Shaw is head of security for the Hearst Corporation. They live in Wilton, Connecticut, one of the most affluent communities in America.

Randolph Hearst died in 2000. Shortly before his death, Forbes Magazine set Randolph Hearst's wealth at $1.8 billion and listed him as No. 150 of the 400 wealthiest people in the country.

Happy anniversary, Tania.

ADDITIONAL ONLINE RESOURCES:

Barbara Jordan's Statement on Impeachment

SLA Chronology

Watergate Timeline

Wikipedia article on Patty Hearst

According to her brother Fred Soltysik, this wav file is the voice of his sister Mizmoon


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Sunday, February 3, 2008

SUPER BULLSHIT


There will be no scores reported at this blog today, and no team colors displayed.

I love the Olympics, I love people who engage in physical activity for work or play, and, within limits, I can see the value of team sports. But what appears on television is entertainment, not a reflection of character or even regional pride. Organized sports in this country is part of the hired entertainment complex. It has no meaning beyond that, and it has no place being part of news broadcasts. It is no more news than what's on sale at Wal-Mart or what color Britney wore today.

Many people close to me have argued that playing sports offers a healthy outlet for natural human aggression. Well, first of all, I don't feel that kind of aggression or the need to slam my body against that of another, and I think I'm a natural human. Second, I see no evidence that men who play sports for a living are less aggressive or violent than other men, and plenty of evidence indicating they are more so.

As I see it, organized sports serves eight main functions:

(1) It offers the daydream of "getting rich" to entire classes of folks who would never have a hope otherwise of lifting themselves from poverty and foreshortened hard-working lives. It's as much a fantasy as the notion of becoming a "star" is. Feeding that myth doesn't just keep American Idol and ESPN on the air, it also keeps a huge number of people from realizing how rigidly class stratified our culture is and maybe doing something about it.

(2) It offers a way for men, mostly white men, to funnel a great deal of money directly into the educations and pockets of other men, almost entirely bypassing women (Title IX notwithstanding).

(3) It gives white bigots everywhere an excuse to claim they are not racist. "I love Michael Jordan, man." Uh-huh. Dating your daughter? Moving his less affluent cousins onto your block? Hanging with his buddies on the street corner? Running as your President?

(4) It gives men who are terrified of their own feelings and terrified of the company of other men an excuse to hang out, pretend they are close, and have something to talk about with no requirement that they engage their intellect or their emotions.

(5) It has given these same men an excuse to not spend time with their families on weekend or holidays.

(6) It gives men a pretext for feasting their gaze on the bodies of other men. Exaggerated shoulders via padding, cup-enhanced codpieces and pants that cling lovingly tight to buttocks, all without a clearly visible face or the need for conversation: A pederast's dream but also a safe haven for the ordinary longing men and boys have (but are denied) for basic human touch with their own kind.

(7) It affords a pretend way for men to be smart: Memorizing statistics as a substitute for thinking. Once a game is over, the stats involved in its playing are of no consequence whatsoever. Time marches on. But men who cannot remember the birthdays of their own children or parents can tell you inning by inning numbers of a game thirty years ago, and get jobs based on that ability. It also offers dumbed-down "truth is simple" metaphors as a replacement for the real complexity of social organization and struggle. If you've heard one athlete post-game try to explain why they won or lost, you've heard them all. It's nonsense to ask them the question. It's delusional.

(8) Most of all, it maintains the cult-like worship of masculinity as what separates men from all Others. Jock is a key synonym for masculine. A few women dare to interlope, and get called dykes or nappy-headed hos as a result.

I lived a dozen years without Super Bowls occurring, and let me assure you, people still had good, productive lives before 1967. I can remember when the evening news had actual speeches from politicians in them, and interviews with concerned citizens that lasted longer than 1.7 seconds. If you couldn't attend a game, you missed it, buddy. You could read the scores next day in the paper but there were more important things to think about. Like disaster preparedness, climate change, genocide around the globe, rape, inequality, child abuse -- when did we vote on removing those from the news in favor of watching grown men toss balls around?

As long as we're taking on the massive imbalance in this country, I'd like to see sports returned to playing fields where it is funded locally, with team slots and scholarships open to all regardless of ability. It should be relegated to "fluff for the fluffy-brained" TV as surely as specials about Natalee Holloway and Anna Nicole Smith (who are, like the Elvis T-shirt says, "Dead. Really dead.")

And if you're having trouble seeing this objectively, here's a few questions for ya:

What would you do with your sons if you didn't have school sports to babysit them?

How would your relationship with your spouse fare if watching sports on TV was reduced to one game a week?

What if sewing became a competitive event, with every stitching lingered over in close-ups? (Way more interesting than golf or most of what goes on in a baseball game.) What if folks memorized the cost of Butterick vs. McCall's patterns back into the early part of last century and could reel off the minute changes in styles at hard-drinking "sewing" bars? What if using steroids to increase hemming and basting speed was thought to merit Congressional investigation? At least with a sewing competition, you'd have usable garments at the end instead of Gatorade stains and future orthopedic bills.

I'm now going to dare turn on my TV and see if the crapfest is over yet.

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GINNY BATES: BOOGIE-WOOGIE-WOOGIE

(JFK, TWA Terminal, photograph by Martha Rosler, 1990)

Another briefer-than-usual excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. If you are already a familiar reader, begin below. The action in the story resumes immediately after my post of yesterday. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up.

20 June 2004

The wedding itself, held on the upper outside steps of City Hall, Myra later remembered as shot through with slanted golden light. Their entourage drew attention, even with all the hoopla of gay weddings around them swollen by the approach of Pride the coming week. The woman who performed the ceremony, brief but joyous, was African-American as well, a small benediction from god, Myra thought. Allie's constant laughter made Myra imagine her as a little girl.

They moved to the lower landing of the steps to do their broom jumping. To Ginny's horror, immediately after Allie and Edwina leaped over their small, brightly-decorated sticks, holding hands, Margie took a run and jumped them also. But Allie pulled her into a hug and waved at the boys to go next, Gillam with his video camera clamped to his face. Everyone in the family followed suit and gathered in a group hug, Ginny picking up the broomsticks hastily to keep the growing crowd of onlookers from continuing the process.

Margie then held up her Walkdyke, volume dialed to max, and pushed play. When the unmistakeable voice of Marcia Griffiths sang "You can't see it" with a background responding "It's electric!", Allie and Edwina cried out in delight and immediately started a line. By the time they got to the first "Boogie woogie woogie", a second line of onlookers had formed behind them, and at the end of the dance, they had nearly filled that expanse of marble from side to side. Margie started the song again, and this time Gillam sat out to film it. Myra preferred the video of the first time through, however, with jubilant singing along and Gillam's jerky camera motion somehow communicating the exuberant sweeps and pivots around him.


They drove for a late lunch in Berkeley at Chez Panisse, Edwina's choice and Ginny's wet dream. The menu was easy on Allie, and Ginny got a chance to briefly tour the garden out back. It was hard to leave Allie and Edwina behind at the hotel, although Myra thought the two of them didn't look at all sad to be alone.

At the airport, Myra discovered that Chris and Sima had, despite Allie's instructions otherwise, purchased seats in coach instead of first class. She asked Gillam and Carly to trade out with them, which the boys agreed to with suspicious enthusiasm. After tedious and pointless security delays, she held their group back at the gate until Gillam and Carly were called to be seated. She gave them a list of instructions on how to behave themselves as they disappeared down the aisle.

Her remaining five seats in first class were two pairs sandwiching a third next to a stranger, already in his seat: A young man in his early 20s, headphones and sunglasses on, slouched against the window with his seat tilted back. His hair stood up in platinum spikes that contrasted with the dark stubble on his cheeks, a current fashion trend that always reminded Myra of how bums were depicted in cartoons when she was a kid.

Margie didn't hesitate. She plopped down into the space next to the stranger, and used the sound pouring through her own ear buds plus the distraction of leaning over to stash her bag under the seat to ignore Myra's question about whether Margie was sure she wanted this seat. Myra and Chris, pressed by people behind them, slid in the pair of seats behind Margie, Chris having to angle herself to maneuver under the seat leaned back into her space and muttering "lout". Sima grabbed the pair in front of Margie for her and Ginny, while Ginny instructed the flight attendant how to store her wet carrier properly.

Once everyone was settled in, Margie shrugged off her Armani jacket, revealing extremely muscular biceps and a breathtaking expanse of shoulder, including her tattoo. She pulled out her Rolling Stone and turned to an article she'd already begun reading.

The young man beside her emerged from his stupor and his slouch, slipping off his headphones and introducing himself as Dirk. Margie shook his offered hand and replied "Margo. Margo Batiz."

Ginny heard this from the seat ahead and went still. Sima raised her eyebrows and grinned, indicating she'd caught it as well.

Over the next half hour, Margo Batiz revealed herself to have turned 18 just this month, a resident of Venice Beach, California although she traveled extensively much of the time because it turns out, as Dirk guessed, that yes she was a fashion model. She mentioned several spreads in Elle and Mademoiselle he might have seen. She'd been modeling since a child -- she told an entertaining anecdote about an Ovaltine commercial shoot when she was four. Dirk volunteered that he had played bass for Forces of Evil and had also subbed for Stone Temple Pilots a few times, but was now in the process of forming his own band. This led to a discussion of the crossover between ska and punk that left Ginny open-mouthed at Margie's knowledge.

When snacks were brought around, Dirk offered to buy Margo a drink but she declined because "alcohol is terrible for the skin, really shows in close-ups". She took orange juice instead. Turns out, her father Mario Batiz was a famous writer whose novel of two years ago, The Seafarmer's Daughter, had won a National Book Award, had Dirk read it? Dirk said he had not but he'd heard really good things about it and now he'd get a copy, for sure. Margo's mother was a marine biologist, and that's why Margo was traveling to Seattle, to help her mother study the effects of sonar on orca populations. Her mother, Genoveva Jose, worked for the National Science Foundation, and thus Margo's real surname was Jose-Batiz, but she used only the last name in her work.

Yes, she was Jewish as the tattoo indicated, Sephardic actually. Her parents had been raised in Portugal, in a small estate outside Lisboa. Her father's family had survived the Inquisition without being forced into conversion because they were related to the Pinzón brothers -- you know, the navigators who had sailed with Cristobal Colon and were, in reality, the ones who had brought the ships safely to the New World and home again? Their fame had ensured the survival of the lineage.

Yes, Margo had heard Portugese was similar to Spanish, which Dirk spoke a little of, but she'd never been allowed to learn Spanish herself because her Mamí considered it a bastard language. Although, truth is, with Mamí's work, Margo had mostly been raised by her Dona Alicia. Well, that's that Margo was allowed to call her because as a small child she'd not been able to pronounce Principessa, which is what Dona Alicia really was since her marriage into Monaco minor royalty -- a title she kept even after her husband's untimely demise from a riptide off the coast of Nice.

Sima struggled to not succumb to hysterics during this long fantasia drifting toward their ears from the seats behind them. Ginny found herself torn between outrage and admiration. As the plane approached descent, however, and Dirk adroitly requested Margo's phone number, Ginny stood up swiftly, aiming a steely glare in Margie's direction. As the flight attendant rushed to persuade Ginny back under her seatbelt, Margo deftly reeled off the take-out number for Coastal Kitchen to Dirk, who wrote it on his wrist with not-quite-concealed triumph.

Myra entirely missed this confabulation because she was engaged in a whispered conversation with Chris. She began by filling Chris in on the events of the past week, which took a while. Chris's interest was absolute until Myra got to the part about Ginny's shopping expedition with Margie. When Myra began expressing her upset about Ginny's duplicity, Chris snorted and said "You just told me how uncertain you were about spending that much on Gillam's outfit, what's the difference?"

"Six thousand dollars and change" said Myra indignantly.

"But if you had doubts about what you were spending, why didn't you call Ginny?" pressed Chris.

"Because of the amount, mine wasn't enough to feed a family of four for a year!" said Myra.

"Depends on where the family lives, for starters" said Chris. Myra interrupted with "Mine wasn't a secret, I told her right away, but Ginny held back -- "

"Oh, fucking give it up, Myra, secrets are not the evil you make them out to be" said Chris.

"Spoken like a true Scorpio" whispered Myra fiercely. Chris laughed and shrugged, saying "Ginny's got secrets like any normal person, is all I'm saying. So do you, if you'd be honest about it."

Myra pushed herself back in her seat, furious. She heard Margie say "grandfather's little winery" in a lilting voice, but it didn't register. She turned on Chris again to spit out "I can't believe you're sticking up for Ginny!"

"I'm not sticking up for her, I think it's absolutely ludicrous to spend that kind of money on clothes, especially for a kid who's gonna outgrow it in less than a year. Margie is gonna have Ginny's rump, she's well on her way."

Myra was sidetracked. "That skirt's pleats will accommodate it, I think."

Chris said "But Myra, you're not tracking well, here. You're losing it all over the place, Ginny or no, and that's what concerns me."

There was concern in Chris's voice, and that registered with Myra. She looked Chris in the eyes. After a long pause, she whispered "I've missed you."

"Apparently. I've got one last thing to say to you, My: Separate bank accounts."

Myra reacted as if to a blow. Chris went on, "Boundaries are healthy, Myra. Me and Sima have a household account but we deal with our money separately. And before you get all holy on me about you and Ginny's connection, just remember, Sima and I have been together five years longer than you, working full-time jobs with much less resource than you two, and money crap is not one of our hotspots. You've got what, five or six years left on your lottery payout? I'd really like to see you deal with being rich on your own, instead of letting Ginny do the dirty work and you freaking out about how she's not perfect with regard to class."

Something in the way Chris's words were configured made Myra certain she'd talked this over with Allie. She couldn't think of a single response. After a minute, she stood up, saying "I'm going to check on the boys" and pushed through the curtain.

When she returned, she said "Thanks, Chris. I'll -- think it over. Let's hear about you now: Tell me about this possibility of you taking a full-time job with the intertribal council office, how did this come up?"

When the plane landed, Margo explained to Dirk that she had to wait on her agent who insisted on flying coach. She let him out from their row with a demure handshake. As he went out the door, he waggled an "I'll call you" sign at her. A minute later, Margie collapsed in hysterical laughter. Ginny scooted back beside her and Margie buried her face on her mother's shoulder, saying "That was the most fun ever! And what a doofus -- Mama, the guy who played with Forces of Evil was named Derek, not Dirk!"

Ginny decided to simply enjoy Margie's hilarity. This was the child who'd told Gillam at five that nostrils slowly sealed together unless you picked your nose vigorously to keep them open, and that grown-ups had hair in their noses because they didn't put vinegar on their fingers before picking.

It was good to be home. Margie gave Narnia a bath to wash the kennel smell off her, Dinah went into incensed seclusion, and Ginny showed paintings to Sima and Chris before going out to harvest her neglected garden. Myra set Gillam and Carly to doing beachy laundry while she dashed to Trader Joe's for enough to make dinner and breakfast.

The next day, Monday, Ginny helped Margie get packed for Outward Bound and Gillam ready for a week in Olympia -- they both had trains leaving in the morning -- while Myra did a bigger shopping at Pike and stopped by for a visit with Allie's mother.

On Tuesday mid-morning they returned to a blessedly quiet and empty house. Thursday evening Myra remarked "You know, it's been two days since I used the stove. We've been existing off your salads plus bread and cheese."

When Ginny wasn't canning produce, she'd been working steadily at varnishing cured canvases, making slides for gallery proposals, and assorted small art projects which had spilled over from her study to the dining room table. Myra was glad she wasn't in Painterland yet because she was able to virtually ignore Ginny, except for shared meals and slumber. She was writing steadily, tirelessly, taking breaks only to walk a disconsolate Narnia or review hospital bills as they trickled in.

That night, when Ginny curled up on her daybed to launch a telephone call with Cathy that would last two hours, Myra pulled foam earplugs from her desk drawer and closed off sound to write. She and Ginny were due to see Nancy the next day, and "boundaries" were on her list of items to discuss. After Ginny finally hung up the phone, Myra pulled out her plugs and said "Give me the short version, okay?"

"Nate and Elyse are pregnant" began Ginny.

Ginny's oldest nephew Nate had gotten married suddenly in May without informing his family in advance.

"Wow. That explains the elopement, then, huh" said Myra.

"Rather. But mother's using it as an excuse to refuse to discuss divorce with Daddy, says she doesn't want to tear apart the family with a new addition on the way" Ginny fumed.

"So David's broached divorce?"

"Yep. Turns out, the mamzer who's been boinking her also doesn't want divorce because his wife, I remember her, she's been fat forever and has tried every kind of surgery there is for it, and now she's in terrible health as a result -- of the surgeries, I mean -- so she's determined to clean him out if he leaves her for mother. Plus, their son is running for mayor of Westminster and they want no scandal to leak out. Mother would find herself suddenly without a host if Daddy leaves her."

"And you got this from Cathy? What does David say?"

"I haven't talked to Daddy yet, I keep getting mother when I call which is not very pleasant at the moment" said Ginny.

"I can imagine. Well, let me know when you talk with David" said Myra, picking up the earplugs and turning back to her computer screen.


Copyright 2008 Maggie Jochild.

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