Isolated Impact

I’m thinking about ways isolation has chipped away at my social graces. Last week, I stepped into the elevator and met an adorable dog. I’ve never seen him before, and I was instantly charmed. He was kind of a beagle/Jack Russell/something, with the prettiest eyes! I immediately began talking to him through his people, two men I’ve never seen before, so I think they must be new/sort-of-new to the building. We parted as we came off the elevator, and only a couple of blocks later did I realize that I never actually spoke to the men, only to the dog. I didn’t introduce myself or try to interact with them in any way. I was just so focused on that sweet dog.

Today, I left for work and met the dog and his people again. I reintroduced myself to the dog and petted him for a minute or so, telling him how cute he is and how happy I was to see him again.

At least this time, I wished the men a nice day as I walked off.

I understand my focus on the dog — I love dogs — but usually I talk to the people, too. At least a little, even if it’s just to ask the dog’s name or breed. But I was so focused on that cute little guy that his people almost disappeared. I was happy to use them in my conversation with the dog, but talk? To them? Clearly not.

As I said above, I blame this on Covid, on the isolation of the last 2+ years. I haven’t had to maintain a regular practice in the social graces, haven’t had to remember how to behave with strangers. I’ve just puttered around tending to my own needs and maintaining a safe distance from everyone else.

This isn’t my behavior in every interaction with strangers these days. I still have some of my old niceties left, but my easier default definitely seems to be keeping interactions to a minimum. In my defense, I’ll add that neither of the dog’s people were wearing masks. I was wearing a mask. So maybe part of my behavior can be chalked up to not wanting their uncovered faces any closer to mine than they had to be? I’d lean into that as an excuse, but I know that’s not it, not the primary reason for my behavior. It’s really about me not being inclined to make nice with people.

I’m choosing to believe (hope against hope?) that all is not lost, that I’ll be able to relearn how to be “normal” with folks again, but it’s distressing to see how completely uninterested in connecting I am, how quickly I turn away from new people. One of my favorite things about living in this city has always been the random-and-fabulous encounters to be had with strangers. I don’t want that to be one more thing Covid has taken from me.


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Gratitude

I’m in Alaska at my writing residency. It’s lovely here, and I feel extraordinarily lucky to be here. My tourist day in town — the day before I came up to the residency itself — was studded with random moments when I’d be walking around and suddenly “Thank you,” would just bubble out of me. Out loud. Literally just saying it aloud as I walked on the beach, as I stood in the museum, as I sipped mead, as I stared up at the mountains. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve never had gratitude burst out of me before. It’s a curious feeling. I’d like to experience it some more!

I’m here to write. I’m here, most specifically, to work on “Fat Talk” essays. I am determined to shape that series into a collection. And, while I haven’t been away from the project for long, I kind of have, too. I did some writing in November, but never cleaned it up and posted it. I’ve been thinking about the project, but haven’t gotten any words on paper.

So these two weeks are time to pull this project back to the front of my brain and see what’s what.

And that’s hard and stressful because a lot of what I want to write about it hard and stressful. Having to put into words the ways in which I have been mistreated is hard. Having to put into words the ways in which I have mistreated myself is harder. It’s good to be here to do this. To have time and silence to push through the rough pieces. To have a group of writers to sit with at dinner and feel embraced and heard. This. THis is why “thank you” just kept bubbling out of me on Saturday. The understanding and anticipation of the gift of this

I came up a day early so that I could recover from a 20-hour travel day and play tourist in Homer for a minute. I wish I could have come up a full week early. I enjoyed my day of wandering in the cold and rain, however. I was exhausted — arrived at 7:30 in the morning but couldn’t check into the hotel until 5, so I had to stay awake and do something all day. And I did. Walked on the beach, stared at the mountains, had a really good omelet, went to the very excellent and inspiring Pratt Museum — if you’re going to be in Homer, for-sure visit the Pratt. It’s small and lovely. After the museum, I walked over to the Sweetgale Meadworks to try mead for the first time. I sampled all the meads ( 😉 ) and even got pics of a visiting moose before it was time to head to the hotel. On the drive to the hotel, we passed a coffee klatch of bald eagles — six of them just hanging out on the beach. And then I discovered that I’m not too early for late daylight! I thought I’d miss the whole midnight sun extravaganza … and I will, but the sun sets after 10pm right now, so daylight just goes on and on. It’s magical.

Here are some pics from the last few days:

My first good look at Kachemak Bay, taken from the back deck of the hotel where I stayed the first night.
The flights of meads I sampled. The flight on the left had my favorites: Sweetgale, Nagoonberry, and Wildflower.
One of the two moose who came by the meadery as I was sipping mead.
The view from my hotel room … at about 9pm. Crazypants that it was still this bright out!
Hanging out at the Salty Dawg Saloon before heading out to the residency. (That Stella Cidre was good stuff!)
A piece of the view from my cabin window here at the residency. That’s Cook Inlet.
Running away to write. 10/10 highly recommend
A mated pair of Sandhill Cranes who were hanging around outside the main house when I walked up for breakfast yesterday.

And now it’s time to get back to work! ❤


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I want the drugs. I need the drugs. Give me the drugs.

I am vaxxed and boosted. I am, in fact, hoping that a second booster for oldsters like me will be approved before my trip in May. I want to be loaded up with all the protection I can get.

My doctor — because she is a sensible and responsible professional and not an alarmist hypochondriac, terrified of getting Covid — has been telling me each time I email her about a second booster that I need to wait, that a second boost hasn’t been approved yet, hasn’t been shown to be helpful/necessary. And, each time we talk, I nod and agree that it’s best to wait … while inside I am screaming: GET THE DRUGS INTO MY BODY!!!

It’s still interesting to me how pro-vaccine I am. Or, to be more precise, how pro this vaccine I am. When vaccine talk first started in 2020, I was pretty certain I would wait a good long while before getting a shot. I wanted to wait until a lot of people had been vaxxed before I offered up my own precious self for some drug that would have been tested for about twelve seconds before being touted as the answer to our prayers. Did I want a vaccine? Yes. Did I trust Big Pharma or Caligula’s administration? Not hardly. I already have a strong, evidence-based distrust of the medical profession. There was no way I was going to raise my hand for experimental drugs.

Ha.

Fast forward to the moment it became possible to get a shot. When I say I would have elbowed kittens, Mr. Rogers, and the Dalai Lama out of my way to get my first shot, believe me. I didn’t think twice about signing up.

Same with the booster. The moment I was eligible, I was online booking a shot for the next morning. I got to the pop-up vax spot before the staff, sitting outside closed, empty trailers ready to roll up my sleeve and get my dose.

My trust of the medical profession hasn’t grown by leaps and bounds. It hasn’t grown at all. My recently canceled surgery and the lack of care that has come in the wake of that mess have shown me that I can be assured that the medical profession still doesn’t care a whit for me.

Clearly, however, my fear of Covid is stronger than my distrust of doctors and drug companies. I am acutely aware of how likely I am to have a terrible time with Covid, how much more likely I am to die from it. That fear is what makes it easy for me to stay masked, easy for me to follow all the protocols (and wish other people would, too). That fear is what sent me hurtling toward my first Moderna shot, and what has me desperate for a second booster.

I just saw an article saying the Biden administration is pushing for second booster for people over 50, and I am so here for it! It hasn’t been approved yet, and there are good-sounding reasons to maybe wait … but none of those reasons are stronger than my fear, none of those reasons can drown out the drumbeat of GET THE DRUGS INTO MY BODY!!

Fingers crossed.


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Pick and Mix

We have a serious package theft problem in my building. So many things have been stolen in the last two years. Deliveries went missing before the pandemic, yes, but these two years of financial hardship have amped up the stealing. I understand being desperate, but no one in this building has much money, and stealing isn’t cool any time.

As terrible as it is to say, I was actually glad when I learned that other people were being robbed. For a while, the thefts felt targeted. No one was talking about it, and I thought I was the only person losing packages.

Whoever is stealing my things must have such an interesting sense of who I am. One thing they for-sure know about me is that I’m a fat woman. They have stolen package after package of clothing orders. I am the fattest person I’ve ever seen in this building. By a significant degree. Why the fuck do the thieves keep taking clothes they can’t wear?!

So they know I’m “a person of size.” Here’s a shortlist of other things they’ve taken that maybe round out their picture of me:

  1. A DVD of The Godfather, Part II
  2. A pair of semiprecious pendulums, one onyx, one tourmaline
  3. A set of cookie cutters
  4. Fingering and laceweight yarn and some silk roving
  5. Vitamins and body lotion
  6. A set of markers and a couple of coloring books

Now, for all of these thefts but one, the shipper has either refunded or reshipped. So I have just about all of my purchases. It still sucks.

The gem store that I bought the pendulums from refused to reship or refund. We had a lengthy email exchange, but they wouldn’t budge. Their reasons? First, they were so sorry, but I couldn’t prove I didn’t receive the package, and I could easily be lying to them. And while that’s true, it’s pretty ugly. Also, how am I supposed to prove to you that I didn’t receive a package? Send you photos of my empty hands? What? Second, they asked me to understand their position as a small business. Those products were expensive, and it would be a hardship for them to refund my purchase. Excuse me? Yes, those pendulums were expensive. The thief had them. The shop had my money. The only person who got nothing in that exchange was me, and losing that money was no small thing for me, either. Obviously, I won’t be shopping there again.

Twice, the thieves have expressed their judgment of me and my shopping choices. Right before lockdown, I came home and found a bag on my doorknob. Inside was an opened package and a note saying the package had been delivered to another apartment by accident … um … except, packages don’t get delivered to our doors. And, even if they did, you’d figure out the error by looking at the label, right? You wouldn’t need to open the package — and open the inner packaging — to discover it wasn’t for you. I guess the slipcovers I bought for my chairs were particularly unappealing, so completely unappealing that the thief decided to give them to me. I’m guessing they wanted me to know how undesirable those slipcovers were so I’d step up my game and start buying more attractive and steal-worthy items.

During a weird moment of early Covid, I bought not one, not two, but … FOUR manual typewriters. (I’m not kidding. Let’s not even try to understand why.) It should only have been three. I fell in love with and bought a blue Royal Safari. Then I bought two similar blue typewriters because I thought the three would look so nice side by side displayed across the top of my bookcases.

But the Royal was stolen. Super-quickly, too. I got the delivery notification when I was on my way home from work, and the box was gone by the time I got home 30 minutes later. I was so mad about the theft, I went to eBay the second I got in the house, found and purchased another Safari. (Seriously. I am ridiculous, but I stay totally on-brand. It’s a really lovely typewriter … makes me think of Eero Saarinen and the TWA terminal, which does and doesn’t make sense.)

The next day, I opened my door and found the box on the threshold, open, all the packing materials spilling out, and my Royal sitting there, waiting for me.

That thief must have been so angry. They must have thought they’d really scored with such a nice, heavy box. I would have loved to see the look on their face when they got through the packaging and found a MANUAL TYPEWRITER!

I’m sure they cursed my name. I just wish that failed theft had inspired them to not steal from me, had put the fear of ugly slipcovers and typewriters into them. Alas.

On my floor — and I imagine this is happening on other floors, too — we’ve taken to bringing one another’s packages upstairs when we see them. I love this about my floor neighbors. It’s a little comical that, like the thieves, I am developing a clear sense of my neighbors’ shopping habits … and they’re learning about mine.

Maribel down the hall is an Amazon fanatic! The elderly couple next door to her buys paper goods in bulk (at a rate that I struggle to fathom). K across the hall reads a lot of uber-cool art and culture magazines that are too long to fit in the mailbox. And Yana at the other end of the hall has had several plant deliveries (it’s from bringing up her packages that I learned about the online plant store from which I’ve now acquired several new plants).

I appreciate this new way my floor neighbors and I are taking care of each other, but things still go missing. We can’t all be home all the time to catch deliveries before the thieves go shopping in the mailroom like at pick-and-mix.

When I cut my hair, I came home from the barber and had a moment of freak-out because I didn’t have a pick. I hadn’t owned a pick for decades, and I hadn’t thought at all about needing new tools. Naturally, I went right online to order something (yes, I have a shopping problem). I bought a very basic, cheesy one — metal teeth with a Black power fist on the handle. Of course. (Let me pause here to say how annoyed I was to find it called a “pik” or a “pic.” Are you kidding? Why would it make sense to drop a letter?)

I got the delivery notification mid-day yesterday, got home from work and found … nothing.

Great. It’s the first theft in a while. And it’s not earth-shattering. It just pisses m off. I wanted that pick. Obviously, I’ve been doing my hair for almost two wee sand have realized that I don’t really need the pick. But I wanted it. And now I don’t have it.

I am sympathetic about people having a rough time financially, especially during the last two years. But we’re neighbors. We’re supposed to be a community of some sort, and you’re so comfortable stealing from people you probably have the audacity to smile at in the elevator or hold the door for? Ugh.

Also, I know my sense of my building as a community is super naive. I know it.

But I’m right too. I had the ability to live with that belief for the ten years in my old apartment. Packages were left outside the house — sometimes half-hidden behind the trash cans, sometimes left in plain view — and I never lost a single one.

Yes, we were much more of a community there, but anyone and everyone could and did walk by the house. And somehow everyone managed not to steal anything. And yes, that wasn’t during the pandemic, but it was during the Great Recession.

Sigh. I have no cause and effect here. No real point, either. I just want people to stop stealing my stuff. Full stop. (And now Thieves in the Temple is in my head … a Prince earworm is never a bad thing, but I don’t want to associate that song with this mess.)


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Original Slicer - GirlGriot

CROWN in the House

A national CROWN Act passed the House this week, passed on Friday. Its name has changed slightly, acknowledging that discrimination against kinky hair and Black hairstyles isn’t limited to the workplace. The new CROWN is an acronym for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.”

I like the edit. It’s good to be clear about the fact that this discrimination doesn’t only happen at work. It was never only happening at work. All those stories about children being bullied and abused by their teachers, coaches, and schools make that clear. Bosses shouldn’t be able to discriminate against Black people’s hair, but neither should wrestling coaches, school principals, TSA agents …

And I need to correct my error from my last post about CROWN. I said the CROWN Act had passed in seven states and that a similar law had passed in an 8th state. That was mostly true. Illinois passed the Jett Hawkins Law, which banned discrimination against kinky hair in schools. But since the passing of Jett Hawkins, Illinois has gone on to pass the CROWN Act. In addition, I neglected to give the nod to four other states, states that added CROWN provisions to their existing anti-discrimination laws (or — in the case of Maryland — CROWN became law when Governor Hogan decided that any bill he hadn’t vetoed could just become law, and CROWN fell into that bucket with more than a dozen other bills). Twelve states. Twelve only. That’s better than seven or eight, but still a pretty small number. And this is exactly why we need a national law.

So CROWN has taken an important step forward. Obviously, passing the House doesn’t make a bill a law. We’ve all watched Schoolhouse Rock … and the process of our annoying af legislative branch. But it’s still great that CROWN passed the House.

It didn’t pass unanimously, which should surprise no one. Nearly 200 Representatives couldn’t see their way clear to saying that it isn’t okay to discriminate against people based on the kind of hair that grows naturally from their heads. Couldn’t see how it was a good idea to vote for a bill protecting people from being discriminated against for growing their hair naturally. One hundred eighty-nine of our elected Representatives care little enough about the rights and lives of Black people in this country that they were entirely comfortable making their disregard of Black people undeniably plain by not supporting this bill. That’s some serious comfort in their prejudice, comfort in their ability to flaunt their bias and not worry that they’ll face any consequences for it.

It’s 2022. It’s 2022, and it’s still not “just hair” when it comes to Black folks’ hair. And 189 nay votes for CROWN on Friday tells me how far we are from it ever being “just hair.”


It’s the 15th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot