Author Archives: Allison Hantschel

The Long Tail

One legacy, leading to another and another: 

The era of slavery was when white Americans determined that black Americans needed only the bare necessities, not enough to keep them optimally safe and healthy. It set in motion black people’s diminished access to healthy foods, safe working conditions, medical treatment and a host of other social inequities that negatively impact health.

This message is particularly important in a moment when African-Americans have experienced the highest rates of severe complications and death from the coronavirus and “obesity” has surfaced as an explanation. The cultural narrative that black people’s weight is a harbinger of disease and death has long served as a dangerous distraction from the real sources of inequality, and it’s happening again.

Reliable data are hard to come by, but available analyses show that on average, the rate of black fatalities is 2.4 times that of whites with Covid-19. In states including Michigan, Kansas and Wisconsin and in Washington, D.C., that ratio jumps to five to seven black people dying of Covid-19 complications for every one white death.

For YEARS I didn’t get a flu shot because my grandmother told us all about the one time she got one, and got sick for the one and only time in her entire life. I mean like I started getting the flu shot when I got pregnant, six and a half years ago. I was 38 years old, white and the daughter of a middle-class health professional, I went to college, I read books, I knew better, but: no flu shot for me, and even now, when I do get one, every year, somewhere in the back of my mind is my grandmother’s disappointment.

No voice is louder than that of family, ever, and yet we act like other people can just pick up and forget.

You can’t just walk away from what you created, ever. What stories did your grandparents tell? Mine talked about the Great Depression, about families with a dozen kids and no food, about orphanages and deprivation, making do and doing without. What the human body can survive is unbelievable. How hard we fight to stay alive, but that doesn’t mean any of it goes away. And we’re surprised there’s a retina burn on our history?

You’re staring straight into the sun now. What stories will the people most harmed by this tell their grandchildren, about deprivation, about want? About what they survived and what they had to do in order to do it, and who didn’t, and why? Those stories will determine the shape of their children’s worlds. It doesn’t even matter if they’re true, though I doubt anything is fiction anymore. I have no idea if my grandmother got sick from a flu shot; why would I look for proof? Her younger brother died of an infection today’s antibiotics would have cured in a week. Fear of want lurked beneath everything we did, though never for a day did we go without food.

There are aftershocks to every trauma; can you even begin to calculate what there might be, to something of this size?



Not Everything Sucks

Can’t stop the celebration signal: 

A huge part of Ramadan is about the community, Ismail said. Not just getting together with family and friends for iftar meals to break fast at the end of the day, but eating with strangers and gathering with large groups to celebrate in the mosque. He wanted to try to emulate that in a game that has been so appealing to people in quarantine precisely because of the community aspect.

He put out a call on Twitter, offering to host people to celebrate Ramadan on his island, and very quickly got a lot of responses from friends, internet acquaintances, and complete strangers. There was so much interest that he had to create a sign-up tool to ensure everyone could be distributed to different meals throughout the month (Animal Crossing only allows eight people to visit an island at one time).

Ismail decided to start hosting iftars and suhoors (the early morning meal before the sunrises) on Animal Crossing. He said so far he’s had 70 to 80 people visit his island for Ramadan, which began on April 23.

Eid Mubarak, everybody!


ps. I do not have Animal Crossing, you cannot sell me any apples or whatever, but you do you.



I mean, as much as anything would shut the NRA crowd up, maybe a message of WEAR A MASK SO A FOREIGNER DOES NOT GIVE YOUR WHITE DAUGHTERS THE PLAGUE would have helped. These hissyfits almost never make sense, though, so I’m hesitant to attribute the behavior of the president’s fanclub to actual things and not to, say, whatever propaganda they’re absorbing through who knows what kind of talk radio signals.

Look, I’m claustrophobic and wear glasses and a mask makes me HUGELY uncomfortable. The sight of crowds of people in masks tweaks something in me and it’s scary, and you know what?


Crowds of people in masks seem scary, and so the answer to that isn’t to not wear a mask, it’s to not vote for a headass sentient cheeto who mishandles a pandemic so badly that we need to wear masks in crowds instead of having a summer that looks like last summer.

If  I don’t want to wear a mask, or see crowds of people wearing masks, I can stay home, stay away from crowds, and not do things like go to stores or the farmer’s market. That’s how I can not be scared while also NOT POTENTIALLY SPEWING VIRUS ALL OVER PEOPLE OR TAKING IT IN THROUGH MY FACE. It’s really a dumb argument to have to make, which is the point of making us make it, which is to distract us from all the dead people.

This isn’t about freedom, it never is. And it’s not even about protecting ourselves, because if it was, we’d be protecting ourselves by voting out every member of the GOP forever until the end of time. That’s the only way to end this.


You Don’t Understand, or You Do, And in Either Case We’re All Dead

The Journal Sentinel’s editorial board: 

But it’s not the court’s fault that the governor and top lawmakers can’t work together for the common good. Nor is it the court’s job to set public health policy in Wisconsin. That’s the job of the governor and Legislature. So do your jobs, Gov. Tony Evers, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Adopt clear rules for the state moving forward. Do so now, so the novel coronavirus is contained.

The governor issued rules and Republicans and the State Supreme Court blew them up. Yelling at them all to do their jobs assumes everyone didn’t. For decades Republicans have been detonating government without any kind of plan for what happens afterwards, and the answer is always this kind of scolding bullshit about how everyone needs to compromise, as if everyone is trying to, equally hard, and just needs a nudge.

Look, this isn’t a case where you can split the baby (AND THE FUCKING POINT OF THAT STORY IS THAT SOME COMPROMISES CAN’T BE MADE JESUS CHEESY FRIES CHRIST). The governor did something within his power to do, and Republicans didn’t like it and blew it up. Everybody technically DID do their jobs here. I don’t see how it’s always the Democrats’ fault when poop-flinging GOP monkeys fail to stop flinging poop and start playing the violin.

There’s no middle ground there. You’re either performing Vivaldi or you’re covered in shit.

Once and for all the marbles in the land, can anyone name me a single case of Republican acquiescence to a policy they don’t like? Can anyone name me a time in recent memory when the GOP was like, well, we’re not fond of that, but we’ll deal with it because you won an election. Democrats are out here bending over backwards and under and THROUGH in order to give Republicans something, anything, and Republicans are using their contorted bodies as roadblocks to prevent those of us without our heads up our asses from going anywhere.

Democrats voted for Republican judges and Republican tax cuts and Republican limits on abortion and Republican limits on spending and Republican limits on food stamps and Republicans’ staggeringly unlimited WARS. Democrats voted for the impeachment OF THEIR OWN GODDAMN PRESIDENT.

Democrats voted over and over and over to compromise, and we’re still hearing that “nobody” is doing their job, that “nobody” wants to compromise, that “nobody” can find any solutions.

Democrats have found solutions. They’ve found good ones and half-a-loaf ones and they’ve reduced them to a quarter of a loaf to try to get Republicans to vote for them, every time, they are like out here begging please, please compromise with us. And Republicans won’t, and the only reason you don’t see that, as a professional Knower and Explainer of Civic Life to Citizens, is that you don’t want to see it, and whichever one it is, it’s killing people.

We hear day after day after day about DEMOCRACY DYING IN DARKNESS as if there’s a fundamental difference between a dead newspaper and one that cedes its institutional voice to a fucking parrot that just flaps and screams BOTH SIDES BOTH SIDES regardless of what kind of seed’s in its bowl. This isn’t me being a Democrat, here. This is me looking at the way things are going, at what went down, and saying this isn’t true, it isn’t correct. It’s not just politically slanted or biased or influenced, it’s flat-out factually WRONG.

You all follow me on a bunch of platforms, I’m not exactly opposed to telling Democrats what to do (call me, guys), but in this case it’s like:



REPUBLICANS, STANDING AROUND PERIMETER: Water is communist. This is a giveaway. We’re not getting in.

DEMOCRATS: Guys, do you need more room? We can move over. Axelrod, get that inflatable duck out of the way.

REPUBLICANS: Nope. Not swimming today. Not doing it.

DEMOCRATS: But it’s so nice here. You’ll feel better after you cool off. Here, you can share our lounges and beer, too. Is the water too cold? Jimmy, is there any way to warm up the water? Look, we know Billy was being inappropriate, and we’ve told him he can’t come back if he can’t keep his hands off the lifeguards. Here’s a 20-page anti-lifeguard-harassment policy we wrote. Brad, hand out the binders. We even ordered you guys extra hot dogs!

REPUBLICANS: You’re all stupid and we’re not doing this.

JOURNAL SENTINEL EDITORIAL BOARD: *marches in wearing matching purple objectivity visors* EVERYBODY GET IN THE POOL!

REPUBLICANS: We will not get in the pool until they accede to our demands. This is tyranny.

DEMOCRATS: *looking around* Um, we’re already in the pool, and they won’t tell us what they want, so here’s what we offered them, and uh, they still won’t get in, so I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do here …


DEMOCRATS: Oh for fuck’s sake.


Swimming pools aren’t the problem. You could at least be honest, and tell Republicans they have to stick their toes in the water, and pretend to have a good time, it’s a party.


Not Everything Sucks

The bees on the roof of the library are okay:


I Don’t Know What To Tell You if You Are Still Surprised

Roger Cohen, who like most of the New York Times has come to the conclusion that the president enjoys stirring shit and encouraging violence:

Nobody foresaw what a pathogen about one-thousandth the width of an eyelash could trigger in a society where truth itself has been obliterated by President Trump, day after lying day. If he could deny the visible, like the number of people at his inauguration, imagine what he could do with the invisible. Or don’t imagine it, just look around.

Trump, in a tweet last month, urges his tens of millions of followers to “LIBERATE” Virginia from the lockdown and “save your great 2nd Amendment,” which is “under siege.” Or, roughly translated, grab your guns while you can to fight the liberal virus conspiracy, just the latest attempt after climate change and all the rest to emasculate America.

His languidness, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and go-to person for every known problem on the planet, is asked by Time magazine whether he is willing to commit to the holding of the Nov. 3 election. “I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other, but right now that’s the plan,” he says.

Good to know. Right now, there’s a plan to hold an election. Gun up, dude, before it’s too late.

I mean, I’m not trying to be a dick, but whenever somebody’s like “he’s encouraging his followers to shoot politicians!” all I have is:


“He thinks the virus is a hoax! A conspiracy! He’s lying to keep the numbers down!”


“There are thousands of people dead and he doesn’t have a plan!”


“How can he –”


This is who he’s been since that Bund rally of a convention back in the summer of 2016. I remember sitting in a hotel room (I was organizing a conference, already one of the dumbest and most frustrating experiences of my entire life) watching on the C-SPAN feed and arguing with men online that “lock her up” meant something different to women than it did to them.

You spend enough time in crowds, you understand there’s a feel to them, an undercurrent, and you learn to listen to it. There was always something raw and ugly about Trump’s. Most people would see that, see the “she’s a cunt” T-shirts and hear the chants, and leave, knowing this was leading nowhere good.

We elected it instead.

And at the time I said it was all performance, and I didn’t mean for him: I meant for his people, from whom he feeds like some science-fiction monster wrapped around its host’s brain stem. The performance is FUCK YOU, that’s all it is, SUCK ON THIS, that’s all it’s been for decades in the Republican party, and it’s the same today, and I’m just so tired.

So yeah, he doesn’t have a plan. And thousands are dead. And he thinks it’s an excuse to get his people, “tactical” vests and all, riled up because that’s all he knows how to do. And he can count on somebody to write editorials that are basically “both sides” memes and talk about how “Washington” is broken, as if Joe Biden is out here telling the Black Panthers to take over the Alabama statehouse. Christ, sometimes I wish he would.

If you are coming to this NOW, if the virus was your thing, I mean, congratulations I guess, but don’t expect me to share your shock and outrage. “He’s a monster!”




This Wasn’t The Apocalypse They Were Promised

These idiots resisting masks, these idiots screaming I WANT A HAIRCUT, these idiots just generally:

They were promised an end of the world they could shoot their way out of. They were promised an end of the world in which they were kings because they had guns, not because they knew how to do or make stuff or were in any way useful.

I could take it if these were like, the hunters and fishermen out here saying look, we need to get food for our families, can you let us have permits you’re denying us, or something. I could take it if these people were asking to actually perform vital functions. They’re not, though. They’re just being obstinate because obstinacy feels like strength, because spite feels like courage, because anger always feels better than sorrow.

And that obstinacy is what they were promised, in their fantasies and video games and movies — that they could gather some white men around them with guns, and they could take. They’ve been taught a false history from the start, about the men who sat on the verandas and fanned themselves, instead of about the ones who plowed the fields.

They thought the revolution happened overnight. They think one battle is all it should take, and so they’ll stage that battle anywhere, over anything, no matter how ridiculous. Their stories all end with victory that’s a waving flag on the horizon, cheering as the villains leave the field. The cameras don’t stick around for the dressing of wounds and the digging of graves.

They also don’t stick around for the hard grinding work of building a society that way one is always built, by people sharing what they have and figuring out what they can do together. That’s the saddest thing: They can be heroes anytime they want. They just have to let go of the fantasy that the only apocalypse you get is the one where you strap on the Kevlar.


Tuesday Catblogging

I have come to the conclusion that Slade is not fat. He’s SOLID. He is SUBSTANTIAL. He is made of muscle covered with fluff, and when I pick him up he’s less like a pillow than a rock.

A silly, silly, silly rock.

rock lardster



Here are some numbers.

My mother had me when she was 21 years old.

I had my daughter when I was 38.

For most of their lives, my mother lived six blocks away from her mother, who was 35 years old when my mother was born.

Since I turned 17, I have never lived closer than 70 miles from my mom.

This past fall I flew 800 miles to be at the wedding of a girl I love like my own daughter.

I left my own daughter behind, in the care of my mother. For four days we were those same 800 miles apart.

There is twice as much space time between me and my daughter, as there was time space between my mother and me. Two generations, not one.

It was 40 feet from my daughter’s room to mine, in the condo that we lived in when she was born. From the day we brought her home from the hospital she refused to co-sleep, wouldn’t rest unless she could put that space between us. Forty feet, when she’d rolled and twisted underneath my heart, inside my body, caged by my ribs.

I looked at her in those early days and felt — love, pride, awe, fear, but not knowing. Not known. I had imagined a child would be many things. Not on my list, that she (her pulse inside mine, however briefly, an echo and an answer) would be a stranger.

A stranger to me, and I to her, and so we still are.

Strangers who like one another. Strangers who enjoy spending time together. But strangers, always. We love who we think the other is. We love the assumptions because we have to love something and we can’t know the truth.

I was reading last week about encouraging older children — she is so much older, in a week, than she was in a month last year — to write about this time, to draw about it, because they’ll remember. I say to myself, ten times a day, when we talk about someone we know being sick or something we can’t do anymore: She needs you to be calm.

She needs you to tell her how to feel about this, that’s how we learn. Human psychology, all of it, is based on projection. We do lessons at the dining room table. We do crafts, go on nature walks, I’ve been dealing with health problems for decades and sometimes I wish she had a mother who didn’t need to sit on the bathroom floor for 20 minutes in the morning and breathe until she can manage getting some toast and coffee and feeding the cats.

My mother tells me, “She doesn’t even see that.” But I don’t know what she sees. I don’t know if she’ll need me to tell her about the spring we stayed inside, about the months she didn’t see her friends. I hate that she has lost half of her kindergarten year. I barely remember kindergarten. It’s the hardest thing to reckon with: You don’t get to choose what your children remember, or how they remember it.

It’s the hardest thing to reckon with, as a mother, as a daughter: Our children don’t belong to us. We belong to them. We only think of our ownership because we are large and they are small. We are old, and they are young. We think once claimed is claimed forever, that love imparts some unspoken wisdom, that we know. A mother knows. A mother is supposed to know.

A mother doesn’t know. A mother has no idea.

At her wedding, the girl I love like my own daughter caught my hands up in hers and I tried to tell her, stumbling a bit after two glasses of wine, how important she was to me. I work with a lot of kids; none of them invited me to their weddings, until her. When she was thousands of miles away in war zones working I would check on Facebook, make sure she’d been active in the past day. The past hour. She flew to Chicago for my daughter’s first birthday.

No matter how much time passes between us talking, she could call, in the middle of the night, say I need a shovel and an alibi. I’d go.

It’s not a phrase that had been invented, in the 21 years between my mother and me: Ride or die.

Of course you’d die for your child. That’s easy. It’s chemical, it’s instinct, it’s survival, it has to be. You love them before you know them, so that you keep them alive. Can you still love them, once everything that has ever happened to someone has happened to the both of you? Once you’ve happened to each other like a speeding train happens to a car stalled at the crossing, like a tornado happens to a town?

Are you ride or die, then?

What does it mean to ride? Does ride mean feed you, keep you safe, put you in a carseat and cut your grapes in half? That’s easy enough, for all our mommy-martyrdom. Is that all it means? Does it mean piano lessons? Does it mean until you’re 50? Are you ever done? There are people who are, who would be. Streets the world over are homes for children whose parents were done with them. The reverse, to be fair, as well.

I shudder at the very idea of I would do anything, forever: You are giving the gods a middle finger. Your future is out there waiting and it hears you. I shout it out just the same. Anything isn’t a hangnail, isn’t just showing up for a class play. Sometimes it’s involuntary commitment to a mental institution.

I don’t question love. What’s the use? But I question time space. I question years and miles. Not if they exist, but what they mean. What they might mean to me and mine. What I get to call mine: the girl I love like a daughter is not my daughter, feelings don’t give you rights, and all the love I bear my child, who knew my voice before she had a name, doesn’t obligate her to anything. I will keep saying this until I believe it the way I believe gravity: She does not owe me.

We are commanded by every deity we have ever invented to love the stranger. We think it means the scraggly homeless man who screams obscenities behind the trash cans in the alley, the twitching pale hitchhiker who needs a ride in the rain. I’ve begun to think it’s something else: Everyone is a stranger. The faces across the breakfast table, every single morning come ruin or rapture, the faces that need feeding and washing and kissing before school. Something happens and we say, how could I not have known?

How could you have, ever, known?

Does any of this make sense? I’m trying to say we don’t make sense to each other, mothers and daughters, and I’m trying to say I think it’s all right, that the chasm isn’t as important as the bridge we’re stringing across it, which will hang there until it’s needed. It’s 21 years and 70 miles wide, that bridge, between my mother and I. It’s two floors, in the house my daughter and I inhabit now, and 38 years, and a single breath when I hear her stir in her bed, in her warm safe bed at night.

My grandmother died at 91. My mother-in-law, two years ago. My daughter asked me, after her Nana’s funeral, how long do people live? How much time will there be, between us?

I didn’t have an answer for her.

All I had were numbers.

I hope that someday she’ll tell me what they mean.



Mr. A is nesting.

Mr. A, bless him, is always possessed of an endless list of things about our current domicile that annoy the living daylights out of him. The door squeaks. You have to kick that cabinet or it won’t close. The light switch doesn’t dim, or doesn’t dim properly. The local handyman and I exchange glances (from 6 feet away, masked) as he is explaining his projects: a label on every switch, motion-sensor lights, ceiling fans in every room.

The handyman is there because, although Mr. A has a list of endless things to fix, he doesn’t trust himself to fix them correctly. This distrust is not unfounded.

“Do YOU want this,” the handyman asks me, as I am “the wife” and presumed to be “the boss,” though I really “don’t care” as long as it isn’t going to “bankrupt us.” There are things I do for my mental health, after all, around the house and outside of it. Usually the projects are small: one day, perhaps two.

Since the lockdown started Mr. A has begun obsessing. We’ve never had a washer and dryer in this house; when we bought it, we were pretty broke, and the laundromat was nearby. The laundromat was always skeezy, and now that skeeziness is unacceptable. A washer and dryer arrive next week. The basement is being reconfigured. The cats’ litterboxes and food bowls have been moved and they are UPSET.

Our backyard is fenced on one side by a massive stockade built by one neighbor, a rusty metal contraption on the other side, and has no back gate, Would a simple gate do, to enclose our stamp-sized yard? Of course not.  A fence fellow showed up last week to measure and estimate for our own stockade.

We are building shelves for our storage space. We are, daily, examining the drainage on our tiny lawn. There are seeds growing on every windowsill and I have ordered enough plants from the pick-up nursery to feed an entire village for a month. Kick does scavenger hunts and work sheets and sounds out the word “symmetrical” and I ponder ordering her a trampoline.

A playhouse. A swingset. Golf clubs. An archery range. She has so few outdoor toys, why does she have so few outdoor toys?

We have never needed our home to be enough before.

I always looked askance at families with mountains of complicated outdoor toys because — the park’s like right there, dude, what do you need a whole ass teeter-totter of your own for? The park has caution tape around it now and every time I drive past I want to stop, put my head against the steering wheel, and cry.

Why would we need a chest freezer to buy a quarter of a cow, there’s 4 grocery stores and a bulletproof bodega by the bus stop. Sometimes people acted surprised when we said we’d never go back to two cars: the bus picks up two blocks from my house, drops me at the train, drops me two blocks from my office.

We didn’t need to be secret and self-contained. We had a whole world: a park district with a million programs, open fields, miles of trails, hell go out on the block on any day above freezing and there’s a million playmates. Oh, you can’t get your kid off the iPad? I can’t get mine ON IT, there’s too much other stuff to do. We’re barely in our house, even on the weekends. Just because the world wasn’t ours alone doesn’t mean we didn’t think of it as ours.

We just didn’t think of it as a luxury. We thought of the people with the enormous stockade fences and massive private playground equipment as living in luxury. Privacy was luxury, and it was loneliness, and we wanted no part of it.

I struggled, during one of our endless discussions about house projects, to explain to Mr. A why everything he did to make us more safe made me feel less. It never occurred to me that I felt safest with the doors wide open, and always have, ever since childhood: neighbors within shouting distance, people who shared what they had so that there would always be enough, friends upstairs and down or at the office or around the block, and I am purposely, recklessly, deliberately unafraid to go anywhere in this city any time, day or night, to find help or deliver it.

I so carefully built a life with, I thought, a thousand backup plans, all a block or a drive or a bus or a train or a quick bike ride away. Friends, family, backups to the backups to the backups. People I could call on. I always joked that I should handle the start of the apocalypse because I knew how to organize an escape and a rebuilding. I thought well, we’ll need a vehicle. We’ll need supplies (I’ve always hoarded yeast and flour, take that Instagram bakers), old people who can read paper maps, ways to hunt and fish, I can put a team together.

I never considered we might be the team. Just the three of us. That there might not be anything to escape. That this house might be the only vehicle.

And we might need a tall fence around it. We might need supplies to last a year.


Sunday Catblogging

Ada disapproves. She disapproves of us being home. She disapproves when we leave. She disapproves of us cleaning, but will also chase us around the house yowling when her litterbox is not pristine and her water bowl not refreshed. She viscerally loathes dust bunnies and will try to bite them when they appear. She screams for food, only to back away and let bro-lo el gordito eat it all. She wants to lay on top of me when I’m reading, but then paws me in the face. This look of vague contempt follows us from one room to the next all over the house:


The one thing she does that is not disapproving is to be a consistent alarm system. She once warned us the basement was flooding, and yesterday when her big dumb lard of a brother didn’t come racing up the stairs for breakfast, she yelled the whole house down until we found him trapped in a drawer full of towels he had somehow managed to PUT HIMSELF IN AND THEN CLOSE. Despite her obvious mental superiority she does NOT disapprove of him, and will occasionally deign to let him sleep near, but not next to, her.

We all love her so much and she is just the worst.


How To Read the Numbers

I read this splashed all over everything and watched people scream about how THIS PROVES GEORGIA CAN’T GO BACK TO NORMAL and of course it can’t, but this doesn’t prove dick other than that 1,000 people who weren’t tested before got tested. It’s why testing is the key to this whole thing. You have no idea how many people have this and can spread it until you test everyone.

Your county has no cases? Unless you have tested everyone there, you don’t know you have no cases. What you know for sure is that you have no tests. Your county has a billion cases? Congrats, that sucks, but also at least you know some people got tested.


Until every single person in American gets tested we can’t hope to contain this, we can only hope to survive it, and that’s what most people are doing by staying home. You go out and lick your guns on the steps of the statehouse, idiots. You’d be far better off holding your non-distanced protests in favor of immediately funding a goddamn WPA army of people to go door to door in every community in the U.S. with rapid-response tests.

That’s the only way to know the size of the disaster we’re dealing with now. Since we missed all the other chances to deal with it, or blew them up on purpose. Until we test everybody, nobody can really know if it’s safe to leave.


Tuesday Catblogging

Adrastos said I should do this so here you go, here is our dumbass, here is the biggest lard on earth, all he does is flop around and whine for pets and playtime like a fucken dog. Like I am eating breakfast and he drags the half-dismembered feather stick toy over and drops it on my feet and nudges my knee and then puts his paws up on my lap and then if I STILL don’t pay attention BECAUSE I’M EATING BREAKFAST YOU DUMB HAMBONE he starts to meow.


He almost never meows. His sister screams at us from dawn til dusk but he is quiet unless he’s very angry (growling) or very needy (playtime while I’m TRYING TO DRINK MY GODDAMN COFFEE IN PEACE).

If’en I wanted a damn dog I would have got a dog. I got some cats because they would ignore me most of the time, not because I needed two more things in my house that would pester me for attention.

I give up and throw his stupid stick for him to fetch every time, though, because look at his dumb lard face. Every night around 9:30 he comes over to the couch and flops himself on me like he’s just had a hard day at work and needs a beer, and he purrs and purrs and purrs.



Digital Deserts

This kind of thing is why internet triumphalism always sounds like it’s coming out of someone’s ass: 

The schools recently sent Chromebooks to all of Black’s grandchildren, so they’ve been driving to the high school parking lot to get online. Each day they pile into a red minivan and drive 7 miles to the high school, where they work for up to four hours — or until somebody needs to go to the bathroom.

But Black said she worries about them getting kidnapped or injured when they’re gone.

“You keep calling them and they get agitated, and then they say ‘Grandma, I was in the middle of the work and you just called me,’ ” she said.

This is why it makes me insane whenever somebody starts screaming about how DIGITAL IS THE FUTURE MAN because … for who? How?

Maybe one of our Silicon Valley fanboys who “consult” for half a million dollars a minute can figure this out before we go back to foldable phones or whatever the hell dumb toy is jerking the joint of the Kids These Days. These are Kids These Days too, and they don’t need a watch that talks to their fridge, they need what middle class white kids had 10 years ago.

Yo Elon when you’re done with your supertunnel to the sun or whatever.


From Here

I have started planning for summer camp being cancelled.

We’ve been hunkered down since March 13, when Kick’s school closed and my job sent everybody to work from home. Mr. A has worked from home for years, but usually he travels to meet with co-workers or for office obligations; all of that, several trips’ worth, has been forbidden.

We hoped Kick’s school closing would be short-lived; it’s a large school, 400 elementary kids, but a neighborhood one, the kind where everybody comes from the same 12 blocks. Nobody anybody knew was sick, then. So I held out for April 1 which has, of course, come and gone. Then May 1, which won’t matter now: school’s closed, everything’s closed.

I then set my sights on summer camp being our return to normalcy. She signed up back in February. She would swim, and skate, and play games and make crafts and most importantly, hang out with her friends. But our neighborhood festivals into June and July have all been cancelled, and now I’m starting to think summer camp won’t happen either.

She hasn’t asked about it, and we are careful to talk about how lucky we are: A secure home, Mom and Dad’s work that continues, plenty of options to play, video calls with friends. (As if children ever know any lives but their own.) Mr. A and I talk at night, lesson plans, dividing the day, enriching and distracting, and every once in a while ask each other: How does this END?

The mouthbreathing astroturfing protesters wanting to “open” the “economy” are, of course, ridiculous and racist and dumb, but the question they raise is one that has no answer.

I am so angry at everyone who voted for this man. For the party that made him happen because it was either him or lose power. I am so angry at anyone who thought this kind of chaos was acceptable so they could put others in their place. None of this had to happen.

The problems it has exposed — the absurdity of American health care, crushing debts and expenses, the frayed and small and mean thing we dare call a safety net — are precisely why we all should have voted against the GOP in the first place and always should have.

I would like to say that’s how this ends but that’s NOVEMBER, it cannot possibly, except it can, and even then: To re-hire all the people Trump’s people fired, to make the Senate function, to scare every ex-Nixon bagman back into his hole, to make Stephen Miller build his own catapult and launch himself into the sun, to undo the bans and gag rules and rebuild any kind of trust.

Months. Years, lost to this, and even if there’s a vaccine fucking Fox News will convince 2/3 of Americans not to take it. States are already reorganizing into safe areas and danger zones; I was JOKING the other day about a Midwestern non-aggression pact that would only include Indiana if they BEHAVED, and then within 12 hours everyone sane was like “what if we just pretended we could be our own country” and did it.

None of this had to happen. We made it happen, and we are trying to figure out how to live in it, and the only hope I have, besides the forlorn one of my kid in a pool, is that we remember that this is always how it is, that we are always the ones who make the world. We should think harder about how we do it.


Not Everything Sucks: Baking Edition

Ramadan Mubarak: 

ARRAF: Well, that, too, is really limited because there are those bans on travel. And some countries have relaxed curfews; some places like Dubai have even opened up shopping malls. But it’s difficult. People are trying to adapt, though. We went through the south of Jordan in the town of Shobak (ph) yesterday on the eve of Ramadan, and that’s where we found this pop-up bakery.

UNIDENTIFIED BAKERY EMPLOYEE: (Non-English language spoken).

ARRAF: It’s a tiny little place. The guy who’s shouting is actually welcoming people. He’s saying come and get qatayef. That’s this crescent-shaped sweet that’s traditionally eaten at Ramadan. One of the workers, Khalid Love-Dore says they just opened because the hotel they normally work in was closed. This is him.

KHALID LOVE-DORE: (Non-English language spoken).

ARRAF: And he says for anyone who has no money, they’ll give them anything they want for free because Ramadan is really a time of sacrifice and thinking of others. And even though a lot of the other traditions have gone by the wayside, charity remains one of the most important traditions.



Not Everything Sucks

Matthew Ryan and Brian Fallon put on a concert on Instagram and shot the shit and talked about music and then Matthew Ryan who’s probably my favorite living singer/songwriter sang Run Rabbit Run, and it was almost enough to make you forget the world burning down:


They Broke The Only Thing That Can Save Us

Every time I see somebody online whinging that there’s no leadership from Democrats, I want to scream, because: how would you even know? Trump’s briefings are carried live. Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi could come out with a fifty-point plan OH WAIT THEY FUCKING DID THAT LIKE NINE TIMES AND NOBODY FUCKIN NOTICED.

I don’t know what to do with everyone not understanding this. Dem leaders aren’t assignment editors either, and until ours get a motherfucking clue and some sense of responsibility for the fact that their decisions are killing us Joey B. Shark could personally cure every coronavirus on earth and NPR would have a debate about whether continued human survival was an unseemly political stunt.

This is par for the course. The game is beyond rigged at this point. We have one system to save us, and they broke it, and we can’t use it to get rid of them, because they’ve made sure we can’t, but there’s no other way to do this.

We have a system that we have to use to fix the system that we can’t fix without a functioning system. Even during the Iraq War I didn’t feel this helpless, and fucking nobody was listening to anyone back then.

Like let’s game this out. Let’s say REAL DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP buys, like, an hour of TV time, like Obama did when he finally ended things in 2008. Let’s say we HAVE to listen for 60 minutes to the entirety of the Democratic plan.

Ten seconds after that’s done, Trump will tweet ARGLE BLARGLE FAIL WEAK and it’ll be the usual “Democrats laid out a plan for the country and Trump flung poo so really, both sides are at fault here, where is the LEADERSHIP” and we won’t get anywhere. I don’t … I mean, you fucking tell me, here. I am so tired of being told what to do to change when people are DOING THAT EVERY FUCKING DAY AND IT DOESN’T SEEM TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE BECAUSE THESE WASHINGTON ASSHOLES WANT TO TALK ABOUT WHAT HITS AND WHAT DOESN’T AS IF THEY DON’T DECIDE THAT.

And the thing is, this is why the past 40 years of talk radio and Fox News are important, why all us crazy liberals were screaming that “we report, you jerk off decide” was dangerous even though it sounded so innocuous, why what happened in Wisconsin in 2011 was catastrophic, why voter suppression is the issue of our time, because: this is all we have. We have the media we have, we have the system we have, and I don’t see how we can use something this broken to fix itself.

The ONLY way out of this is to vote in such overwhelming numbers in November as to make the GOP politically irrelevant at every level and even THEN we’ll have the Sunday shows on every airport TV going WHY DON’T DEMOCRATS HAVE ANY IMPACT ON THE FORUM I CONTROL, SO WEIRD.

What’s the way out of THAT? Christ, I’m tired.


They Aren’t Assignment Editors

I mean, we can keep getting mad at Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz, that’s fine, but we should be mad at the person who keeps booking them for “news” shows: 

Like Drs. Drew and Oz before him, Phil McGraw was on TV, it seems, largely because he’s an articulate, charismatic and well-known TV personality. But none of that amounts to expertise on this particular topic. In fact, in recent TV appearances to discuss the pandemic, fellow celebrity doctors Drew Pinsky and Mehmet Oz have offered commentary based on a loose or seemingly wobbly understanding of the crisis — arguably doing more to undermine public understanding than enhance it.

This has been going on for years, of course, and it’s infuriating, but in life-and-death situations it throws into sharp relief the chasm between actual experts and whoever’s at the top of the call sheet.

Just because somebody always picks up the phone doesn’t mean he knows what he’s talking about, but you need somebody to pick up the phone. Instead of working on Dr. Oz or Dr. Phil we need to work on the people making the decisions to put them out there. They’re the ones who need to change their ways. The idiots we have always had with us; we just once upon a time didn’t used to put them on TV.


To Those Who Wanted a Disaster

In 2007, two years after Katrina’s waters receded, I went to New Orleans with a group of you all, at Scout’s behest, to gut a house and contribute, in however small a way, to the rebuilding of the city.

As we drove from the airport I asked about the signs, spray-painted on the front of houses and buildings. The FEMA X denoting that a structure had been checked. It had been two years since the storm. When would they come down?

Now I look around my neighborhood, at the signs in the windows made by children I used to see every day on the walk to school: STAY SAFE! THANK YOU DELIVERY DRIVERS! WE CAN DO THIS. WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.

Kick papered our front door with origami flowers last week.

I wonder how long we’ll leave ours up.


People have always used disasters for their own ends. It’s such a well-known phenomenon it has a name, it’s a field of study, but even so, every time, the monstrousness of it takes my breath away: Let us hope for a neighborhood, a city, a nation, a way of life to be wiped from the earth so that we may start over in the way that WE believe it should be done.

We, almost always being white, rich, over-educated, privileged, and sure that despite all of colonial history this time civilizing the alien continent will surely work.

Katrina was a good thing, it let us kick out the poors and build some charter schools and bypass all the usual bureaucratic infighting about finances and government and just make things right. CLEAN UP THE CITY, is a thing we scream like we’re in a Batman comic, as if we can amputate in one swing of the cleaver. It sounds so easy, and so we wish, for something big enough to force all the changes at once.

Well, it’s here now.

The schools are shut down. The streets are silent. The stadiums echo. We walk six feet away from each other, videoconference, talk about what must be done instead of what could or should be.

Millions of people are unemployed. Millions. Thousands more are dying in hospital hallways while newspaper pundits I won’t validate with a link write from their mansions about how this will teach us all to be more self-sufficient, a full dinner plate reminding him of the value of suffering.

Bust some unions, probably. Cut some taxes. That seems to be how it goes. Certainly no one in charge has any ideas about rebuilding that might stir us to collective action; we have been socially distancing for decades.

I am so angry at everyone who wanted this, and is doing nothing, now it’s here.

The animating feature of the 2016 election was performative spite, we have known this since the day after, when it was declared that America elected an amoral madman to teach liberals a lesson. You had to have your moment of telling us fuck you, of saying to every feminist woman, every non-white person, anyone whose identity you were forced to consider for 20 seconds, hahahahaha owned. You had to “take your country back,” you had to “make America great again,” you had to feel like you were important, like you mattered still. You had to shake your foam finger at an immigrant, a poor woman needing birth control, you just had to WIN.

You just wanted to smash something. Well, you smashed something. Look around you. Look at the signs on the doors. Look at the fear in the eyes of everyone you care about and know that THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS TO DO WHAT YOU SAID YOU WERE GOING TO DO.

My daughter, white and middle class and non-disabled, neurotypical as far as we know, does her homework at our dining room table. I guide her through writing exercises designed by her teacher, sign her up for Zoom meetings for PE and Spanish and art. Her father arranges videoconferences with her friends; they do craft projects together, each in front of their own small screens.

She sleeps soundly. She takes it in stride that she doesn’t go ice skating anymore, that we can’t go to the zoo, that we shout across the alley instead of running over to play. She doesn’t worry about the world; though any mention of sickness for her father or me — a sniffle, a twinge of back pain — elicits immediate attention.

We do a lot of craft projects. We plan a large garden. We watch a lot of movies.

Late Friday night the governor declared that school would stay closed, that kindergarten was, effectively, over. I haven’t told her yet. I will, tonight. I expect her blithe acceptance and need to wait until I can meet it with the same.

This is not a Katrina. Her building stands, albeit empty, the windows unbroken. She can walk past it and around it. There is crime scene tape, around the playground equipment, but at least here no one has died.

Her summer camp will be cancelled next, I think, no swimming lessons or songs or getting up each morning eager to get on the bus and have fun. The college students I mentor, they may not go back until spring and I worry about their futures much more than my own. Businesses declare they’re staying open, then close. Every day we cut another piece of ourselves away.

We are lucky. The roof over our head will hold. Groceries come to the door. But no one who was cheering on a clean slate a year, two years, five years ago has proposed what on God’s green earth we should do with this one, now we seem to have it.

We’re putting pictures of rainbows in the windows. Thank you, nurses and doctors. Thank you, firefighters. Maybe, years from now, they’ll still be there, faded, reminding us of whatever lesson we decide by then we’ve learned.