Category Archives: Big Damn Heroes

Not Everything Sucks

Labor is fighting like labor has always fought: 

On June 19, a group of workers plans to picket outside an unlikely location: Union Jacks strip club.

It’s the only club out of nearly 30 Portland establishments that won’t agree to demands to ensure fair treatment of black dancers.

“Who’s gonna cross a strike line of angry-ass strippers?” says Cat Hollis, a dancer who organized the Portland Stripper Strike.

The picket line is a signal that the national movement for racial justice has extended to the quintessentially Portland institution of strip clubs.

More than 100 dancers have issued the following demands to club owners: require cultural sensitivity training on a regular basis for all club staff, owners and management; ensure that black dancers get fair hiring opportunities and desirable shifts; and require owners and managers to participate in listening sessions with black dancers to learn about their experiences working at Portland clubs.

They’re calling themselves the Haymarket Pole Cooperative, which is fantastic.

A.

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.

A.

 

People Have This

This is great:

“I thought, ‘Tyler, you always wanted to feed people. That’s what you wanted to do, so keep doing that,’” he said. “There is good in this world. We will work together to feed people.”

So Sailsbery and The Black Sheep staff set up a free breakfast and lunch giveaway for those in need during the coronavirus pandemic.

The plan is to give away meals from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 until 9 p.m. every Tuesday through Friday “for as long as we can or until the schools reopen,” according to the restaurant’s website.

I just keep thinking about how good people are. Not just in this crisis but always. Everybody can share some dumb moral panic story about a kid being an idiot, or tell the tale of this one guy their cousin knows, but people are so, so good.

We want to help. We want to make things better. We want to do right and we have to be told at every turn by a propaganda machine run 24-7 for GOP money that help and better and right are fictions and STILL after 20 years of that drumbeat two-thirds of this country will, when the floor drops out, try to help the people on either side of them.

We have had leadership that has harnessed that capacity, and leadership that hasn’t, and we see how all of that plays out every single day. People have always fought back, don’t get me wrong, this is and always will be up to only us, one man alone who has had enough, etc, but sometimes we need a push to get out there. We need a direction for all our directionless energy.

I get so mad about George W. Bush and his creatures, still, because for about 20 minutes after 9/11 there was, in fact, a moment when people would have done ANYTHING. He had 90 percent approval for a few days, he could have told people to enlist en masse and they would have, everybody thought this was World War II again and we were all Captain America.

He told us to go shopping. We went to war with Iraq. Everybody working at Ground Zero started dying of cancer. We’ve been paying for that frustrated, stymied, miserable moment when all our good intentions and capacities were thwarted, ever since.

If you tell people this is the crisis of their time, you’d better be able to tell them what to do next. Otherwise you’re just riling them up and sealing them in, no one to listen or talk back, no work to put their hands into.

Yesterday one of my neighbors hung a sheet out his window, the words WE GOT THIS EVERYBODY painted on it in brilliant colors. Our local Facebook group, which a month ago was suspicious and vaguely racist in response to every loud noise, is organizing scavenger hunts: Go put this, that, the other thing in your window for kids to find on walks. People are donating supplies and materials, who needs this, I’m going out, do you need something delivered. We are a small country, my neighborhood, and we are caring for each other.

It could be like that everywhere. We could all be like that. Why don’t we see it? Why don’t we connect it, the caring you do for your neighbors, with what we are asked to do for each other when it’s roads and schools and healthcare? You’d share your food with the family next door, wouldn’t you? Some of you already do. The family next door is everybody.

From the story linked above:

Sailsbery got emotional when he recalled some of the messages he has received. Some families apologized for their need, and he said they shouldn’t feel bad.

“It’s hard,” he said. “You get messages like, ‘I need four meals for my kids. And is this just for kids because we don’t have any food either.’”

We have been in social isolation, as a country, for so goddamn long.

A.

Who the Heroes Have Always Been

Last night I was putting Kick through her evening paces — bathing, teeth-brushing, cat-petting, story-reading, delaying, water-getting, more delaying, singing, one-more-hugging — and I heard my neighbors outside yelling Bon Jovi songs into the air.

My friends and I text each other constantly: You okay? I’m going out, need anything? Skype, chat, check-ins, bitching about small stuff, who said he was going to put the dishes away and didn’t. Whose kids are driving them crazy. Whose dog won’t stop barking.

Who’s still working, day and night, keeping people well or trying to. Teaching in prison. Caring for pets. Delivering food. Do you need a mask, I can make you one. I have extra sanitizer, I can leave it on your porch.

The world has shrunk to the ten, twenty people I love the most. Sometimes, when Kick and Mr. A and I are at the dinner table, the world shrinks to three. The tiniest circle there is. We don’t pray, but sometimes we hold each other’s hands, as if blood is salt and can protect us.

Friends miles away have tested positive. People I admire have tested positive. Loved ones of loved ones won’t stop going out, don’t believe this is real, and we despair: I can’t get on a plane to go see my dying sister, but you are going to the Cracker Barrel?

There’s so much longing for a crisis, in our culture. We fetishize what we do when the chips are down, when the earth is caving in: Then I’ll be in my element. Then I will feel important. Then I will do something that matters.

Then I, I, I, I.

We all think we’re gonna lead the rebellion, rebuild the city, become part of the brave band of heroes who will be lauded forever in history as if that’s a thing that has ever existed, as if we’ve ever been able to choose who gets the headline.

We wait for that moment when we can raise a flag and make a speech and we think that’s how the work gets done. Where are our LEADERS, we lament, and call out for Thai food, and forget to tip the man who brings it. We yell at the checkout girl. We mutter darkly about the boys on the corner.

Where is the crisis? It’s all around us. I interviewed a comedian, after 9/11, in those awful stunted days when nothing felt normal and we didn’t yet know how stupid it was all going to be. I can’t remember his name but I’ll never forget what he said when I asked about laughter, about how even:

“Every day is 9/11 for somebody.”

I am good, in a crisis. I always have been. I am comfortable where the disaster is. Six months later, when things have improved for me (when, goddamnit), a switch will flip, I will stop sleeping, stop eating, stop taking my pills, ask a therapist: why now?

Mental illness loves best the vacuum adrenaline leaves behind.

These things have such a long train, pulling behind them. So many died from Hurricane Katrina, years after Katrina; from Ground Zero, decades after the fire went out. Stress on bodies, skipped treatments or appointments. None of this is worth it to feel like you matter.

Keep your really bitchin’ charter schools and condos. I will take my friends.

I have tons of ideas about what’s to be done. I think every day about writing: A new WPA, for everything from bridge-building to archiving. What leadership is truly worth, why we clamor for Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders to STEP UP AND LEAD when in truth we don’t know whose voice we’ll need til we hear it and we can’t hear it over the sound of Fox. I rage for a moment and then turn away.

We do yoga in the basement, poke things with sticks on long walks. The cats sleep on my feet. I put off drinking til 5, even on weekends. When the sun comes out I run outside and turn my face up to the sky.

We write thank-you cards to firefighters and sanitation workers. Kick and I watch every Disney movie twice while Mr. A snores on the couch.

The phone buzzes; my mother, Mr. A’s cousins, my high school friends: I’m okay. Are you? We joke, we make a time for Google hangouts, we game out future paychecks and toilet paper supplies and who still has cleaning products. We order pizza. We tip as much cash as we can scrounge. We wash our hands.

I would like to say when this is over — as if this is ever going to be over, as if over exists, as if it ever has — we will remember, we will be kinder, but I do remember, from the time before this, and the time before that, and the time before the time before the time before that.

We have always been all that we have.

A.

Not Everything Sucks

It’s easy to imagine that in places where life is already hard, our current circumstances would make life harder. And they have, and they’ve made people braver, as well: 

Before long, word of the project had spread, and about two dozen people came together to help, working 13-hour days to turn the abandoned house into a welcoming checkpoint. “The house was full of 3-4 feet of snow,” said Bekoalok, who has limited mobility and volunteered from home as a coordinator. “They had to shovel the house out, and they put Visqueen on the windows, so that light comes in but the cold doesn’t.”

People donated hot plates, a generator, lights and a wood stove. They drilled a hole in the river for water, chopped firewood so that mushers would have a ready supply, and hung up a banner to welcome them. They put encouraging signs along the trail to tell teams they were almost there. “We had our youngest elders to babies hauling wood and water,” said Sookiayak, estimating that the youngest helpers were 4 years old.

A.

Still We Sing

History is still singing.

We hear a lot these days about who even cares about books or movies or comics or celebrities anymore, like the world is on fire, right? How can we possibly make room for art? For beauty, joy, laughter?

Well, listen to that, and rethink your despair.

It’s so easy to discount that which keeps us alive. Songs and stories don’t feed us; pace Woody but your machine didn’t kill any fascists. It might have prevented some from being made, though, that’s not nothing, and when all you have left is your voice, you sing.

People sang in bondage for centuries. Prisoners write and paint behind bars. On the Berlin Wall, teenagers drew pictures. Can’t stop the signal; there is no hole so deep from which a melody cannot emerge, reaching upward, singing in the only language humanity has ever had, the only song we’ve ever sung: Here we are.

Here we still are. People are heroic, people are incredible. Jail us, starve us, beat us, kill us, tell us every day we are nothing and no one, take away our homes and hearths, take away our names. Still we sing.

Still, we sing.

A.

Today’s For Rashida Tlaib

And, you know, America, but mostly her:

A.

Not Everything Sucks: YOU DID IT!

I gave you a week and you did it in almost a day: 

Every year they do a MASSIVE toy drive for the little kids so they can have some holiday presents and they’re well-supplied, but need $500 for gift cards for the 50 or so older kids. Think about how in high school your buds want to go out for a burger, or over to the Starbucks to study, and you don’t have any money to buy anything. Wouldn’t you like to be able to give some kid the ability to feel normal for Christmas?

You raised $500 for the St. Hyacinth Food Pantry. I’m handing over the cash this week and they’ll give out the gift cards during their annual gift-giving event. Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving the families who really need one a very merry Christmas!

foodpantrygiftcards

A.

Sunday Catblogging: Our Heroine

Last week I wrote that post about what a bitch Ada was and how she never shuts up about anything ever, so I basically deserve what happened yesterday.

It had been raining all day so Kick and Mr. A and I took advantage of being forced indoors to clean out closets and prep the house for an onslaught of holiday visitors and figure out where the mates to all our gloves had gone over the summer. The cats get profoundly, comically offended when we clean, as if us moving things is a personal affront to them and they were very, very close to the dust bunnies we just cavalierly hoovered up.

Which is why it took me a while to figure out something was up with Ada. She was yowling. Not her usual “hey, pay attention and pet me” yowling. She was YOWLING. “Hey IDIOTS something is WRONG here” and so I spent a good 60 minutes roaming the house with her at my heels. Was her brother trapped in the bedroom? Had she shoved her mouse under a closed door? Had a critter gotten in somehow? What was happening?

Finally I went down into the basement to see if her food bowl was empty again somehow and the moment I stepped off the bottom step onto the floor … squish.

Our basement had flooded before after a torrential downpour, but the rain yesterday wasn’t anything like that. And this wasn’t really a flood, just a damp-ish spot near one wall. Mr. A and I checked the perimeter of the rest of the basement. Nothing. Just this one spot, and Ada looming above it, meowing her best “YO MORONS WHAT DO YOU THINK I’VE BEEN TRYING TO TELL YOU” indignancy.

We couldn’t figure out if the water was coming in or up. It didn’t appear to be spreading, so we went outside, walked the perimeter and discovered a whole-ass swimming pool’s worth of filthy rainwater that was backing up because its normal route out was clogged with leaves and roots and dirt. Mr. A and I got flashlights and shovels and a bucket and started digging and bailing, and pretty soon, all was well.

We might have to replace a small spot of carpet pad, but thanks to Ada, that was it. Our heroine, still not ready to stop saying I TOLD YOU SO:

20191027_075830

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Not Everything Sucks

Leona Lansing and Charlie Skinner are out here fucking shit up: 

Jane Fonda was arrested again on Friday for protesting outside the Capitol in an effort to urge U.S. officials to take climate change seriously. This time, however, fellow “Grace and Frankie” actor Sam Waterston joined in on the protest and was also arrested.

“Today, the United States Capitol Police arrested 17 individuals for unlawfully demonstrating in the unit block of First Street, SE.,” Eva Malecki, communications director with the Capitol Police, told Variety in a statement. She added that they were charged with crowding, obstructing or incommoding.

Tweets of the two actors with their hands restrained were posted to social media. This is the second week in a row where Fonda has been arrested as part of her ongoing Fire Drill Fridays campaign, for which she vowed to protest on the Capitol every Friday through the end of the year.

A.

Not Everything Sucks: Fighting Back Edition

A friend of mine is involved with this group and they’re incredible: 

Surrounded by open suitcases, an air mattress, at least one Popeyes bag, and a mishmash of chips and Cheez-It containers, the two-story row house in DC’s Shaw neighborhood could easily be the site of a sleepaway camp reunion. Instead, this week it served as headquarters for Never Again Action, a brand-new movement of young American Jews calling for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be shut down and the closure of immigrant detention centers nationwide.

About 15 activists from cities all over the US stayed in the house this week — sleeping on mismatched couches, a futon, and the floor — to pull off their biggest action yet: a march on Tuesday from the National Mall to the ICE headquarters, where they planned to quite literally shut the building down.

People will say, like they said about the Iraq War, that everyone just let this happen. They’ll say it to let themselves off the hook — nobody ELSE was protesting, so I didn’t do it either — but the work these young men and women are doing should not be erased.

A.

Not Everything Sucks: Cleveland Rocks

Cleveland Heights to be precise but Ian Hunter didn’t write a song about it. Ted Koppel doesn’t give a toss about the Mott the Hoople head honcho, but he does care about a group of Ohioans who are helping Haitian school teacher, Ansly Damus, in his effort to be granted political asylum. Here’s hoping that Ansly’s Army helps him realize his American dream.

The last word goes to Ian Hunter:

Not Everything Sucks: David Gilmour’s Guitars

One of my musical heroes, David Gilmour, is a generous man. He auctioned off many of the guitars that he played during Pink Floyd’s heyday raising over $21 million, which he promptly gave away:

A day before the auction, Gilmour revealed that the money from the auction would benefit ClientEarth, which funds environmental lawyers and experts in the fight against climate change. “The global climate crisis is the greatest challenge that humanity will ever face, and we are within a few years of the effects of global warming being irreversible,” he said in a statement. “We need a civilized world that goes on for all our grandchildren and beyond in which these guitars can be played and songs can be sung.”

I try to avoid the obvious, but sometimes it cannot be helped. Gilmour’s donation proves that he’s nothing like the jerk in this song:

Our Commenters are AWESOME

Let’s just turn today over to JTO, from my Sunday post, reminding me to get off my ass, shall we? 

The hour is running late, that is true, but it is also just as true that it is still early.

It is true that this is a frustrating, infuriating fight – but it is the fight that we have always had. It was the fight for the recognition of every working man’s humanity, of every woman’s suffrage and every POC’s equality. And those we fight are never defeated, they simply retreat, regroup and try again – just like we do. Just like we have to. Just like we have always done.

Will they first take, then corrupt our 4th Estate? Will they deny us the vote? Will they say our gigging economy is because of freedom and irresponsibly tasty avocado on toast brunches? Will they stack the Supreme Court, and start 4 month old children in kennels? Will they kill every single living thing on the planet – from microscopic plankton to Africa’s megafauna – for sport and a selfie?

Of course they will, or they will try.

And blast that crater we are all in – just a little bit bigger, deeper – even as we work to fill it in, and at the same time prevent them from making it worse.

Please, keep at it.

Go read the whole thing.

I was so tired before I read that, dude. And now I feel like I could run through a brick wall. THANK YOU.

A.

Not Everything Sucks

Deadwood is still with us and so is David Milch, who I’d take a bullet for and laugh about it: 

Still, the studio’s faith in Milch never wavered. It just wanted him to focus on more potentially lucrative projects, and persuaded him to create a new series, “John from Cincinnati,” set in a California surfing community, a collaboration with Kem Nunn, a novelist whose books can be found in the surf-noir section. It lasted only one season, a consequence generally attributed to a plot-coherence deficit. In the years that followed, Milch remained fiercely industrious. He created “Luck,” set at the Santa Anita Park racetrack and starring Dustin Hoffman, which was shut down in its second season after multiple horses died during filming. Milch also made a pilot—the only episode shot—for an HBO series called “The Money.” (Milch described it to me as “King Lear meets Rupert Murdoch and family.”) Two other HBO projects never progressed beyond the pilot-script stage: adaptations of Peter Matthiessen’s novel “Shadow Country” and “Island of Vice,” a history of Theodore Roosevelt’s tenure as the police commissioner of New York City. Earlier this year, HBO’s “True Detective” aired a new episode written by Milch and Nic Pizzolatto.

What I love more than anything in this world are masters of the craft who still go out and fuck up all the time. Like they could just sit around on their Greatest Hits and chill knowing they’ve created something eternal, but they’re like, “Hey, why don’t I go make this person-shaped hole in the wall, this sounds interesting.”

Do as much stuff as you can for as long as you can. God damn what a life.

A. 

Not Everything Sucks

This man is out there making gorgeous music, that speaks to how hard and hopeless everything seems, and how you get up and do the damn job anyway.

I had the good fortune to meet him at a show last fall, during a torrential downpour, like a 7-year rainstorm. He was playing a show in the upstairs of a small bar on the north side of the city and I got there like an hour early because I’m a huge dork so that gave me plenty of time to try not to look like a huge dork and think of things to say to him, and all I came up with was “thank you, I’m pretty sure this is making the world worth living in right now.”

A.

Not Everything Sucks

Some people are making newspapers for people in prison: 

It was the publication of that essay that led to me walking through the office doors of The Marshall Project two months later—having finally won parole—to talk with their staff about my experiences. That conversation led to me joining their team and to the creation of News Inside—a collection of TMP’s award-winning journalism that relates directly to incarcerated lives. In the past month, we began distributing the pilot edition of this print publication to prisons and jails; to date it is circulating in 30 facilities in 19 states.

I wanted to share our rich articles with my information-poor former community, particularly those who believe study is a chance for redemption, who sacrifice sleep and risk a misbehavior report to pore over textbooks under shaded lamps after lights-out, who struggle to find resources to expand their minds.

A.

So We Mailed Some LEGOs to Alaska, Guys!

Every time I ask you guys I think this time it’s not gonna make a dent and oh boy did you ever make a dent:

You’re all just so great.

A.

In Loving and Awed Memory of Tom Butler, First Draft Krewe

You ever get shown up thoroughly by someone twice your age?

Tom Butler and his wife June did that to me in 2007 in NOLA. Longtime readers may remember we assembled a bunch of Internet people who’d never met (pictured above) to go to New Orleans to gut a house in the aftermath of Katrina. Tom, second from left up there, absolutely kicked my ass.

He and June, beside him as always, hauled out barrow after barrow, bucket after bucket, of filth from this roach-ridden rotting hulk of a flooded home in 90-degree heat and 90 percent humidity, working dawn to dusk with hardly a break to make this busted thing a home again. I needed a long lie-down after about two hours of swinging a sledgehammer and all Tom did was keep working. He smiled the whole time.

Tom passed away this morning. He was generous, kindhearted and true, and helped where he could, always. Our condolences to June and her family, and Tom, I hope, is somewhere finally resting up.

A.

LET’S MAIL SOME LEGOS TO ALASKA

I dunno if anybody else is struggling right now but I AM. Holy balls, am I ever.

The world is a dark miserable shitass place and being on Twitter is losing its goddamn charm as all I ever see is people attacking each other over who’s really a Bernie bro and who humped their cat and who has the WORST ideas for revamping local news and who I used to love yesterday who now has to be cancelled because he has revenge or rape or race-war fantasies.

And I do not have a hot take on any of it. I’m just annoyed by everything. Once upon a time I would have enjoyed laughing at Cat Humper Twitter as much as I did David Cameron Dead Pig Humper Twitter, but lately my overarching reaction is just to be really, really tired by everyone’s antics. Which is not productive. Or helpful.

You know what is?

MAILING LEGOS TO ALASKA. 

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