Peace and power

Last week I printed out a photo of Detroit’s Joe Louis Memorial, the gloriously enormous sculpture of Louis’ mighty fist. I saw it in an article someone forwarded me and immediately knew I needed it posted on the half-wall of my cubicle. Needed it.

This sculpture is one of my favorite things in the world. The first time I saw it, driving from the airport to a conference at the Renaissance Center, I was so wowed I couldn’t breathe or speak for a minute. It is a thing of absolute, graceful power and beauty. It is magnificent.

Here’s one of the pics I took of it in 2012:

I printed the photo from the article (a slightly more close-up, angled, under-the-fist view) and tacked it to my cubicle wall.

I feel it there, casting it’s dark, black spell, enveloping me in its strength and conviction.

So many times during the days since putting it on my wall, I have hung up the phone after an annoying call or looked up after reading an email that has made me sigh and shake my head, and my eyes go right to that picture, go right to that beautiful bright light.

And I feel myself become calm.

The first time I saw it, I was with the woman who was my boss. She was appalled, thought it was “so violent.” I wondered if we were looking at the same piece of art. Violent? Where? How? Could she really not see the sleek, delicious glory of it, its heavy, soul-filling affirmation?

No, she thought it was angry. Angry.

Maybe it is angry. Maybe that’s why I love it, maybe seeing it then — two years before the finally-and-for-good emergence of Angry Stacie — was the initial push, the moment when my heart felt the vibrating resonance of recognition, felt how completely I would come to embrace my rage.

I don’t think so, though. Yes, to the vibrating resonance, but not in recognition of anger, or not anger as such. Recognition of the fullness, the beauty of being exactly who I was — as big, as loud, as angry, as strong, as emotional, as articulate, as fed-the-fuck-up, as loving, as hungry as I actually was.

Which is what it’s giving me now, too. I have to swallow myself at work sometimes, hold back my honesty, pretend to a version of myself that can be made to fit the space I’m given. Like not lashing out when a superior refers to  formerly-incarcerated youth as “little criminals” and can’t seem to understand the value proposition of creating education and job training programs for them. Like not slapping the hand of the coworker who reaches out to touch my hair.

That fist is a signpost, a reminder that I’m still here. A reminder that, even when I have to walk softly, I can still fight, can still push back. That my voice can still shout, even in the dark, especially in the dark. That fist is my mantra, my affirmation, my vision board all rolled into one.

I need the picture poster-size and on my wall at home. That fist. To wake up to it, to fall asleep under its watch. Imagine.

In 2017, I’m on my #GriotGrind, committed to writing an essay a week … I’ve fallen behind, but I’m still committed to writing 52 essays by year’s end.
I’m following the lead of Vanessa Mártir, who launched #52essays2017 after she wrote an essay a week for 2016 … and then invited other writers along for the ride.


I is for: Insta-stories

April 1st was the 24 Hour Project. I had the pleasure of participating with my IRL and blog friend, Raivenne. We met up in a cold, rainy, windy Times Square and set off. Our first stop was to buy a hat for ridiculous me who’d left hers home and forgotten to zip the hood onto her coat. Can you say “foolish”? Once I was properly hatted, we were ready.

My Saturday had other plans crammed into it: a Girls Write Now genre workshop with my mentee, a friend date for lunch with some VONA loves I hadn’t seen in forever, and a coworker’s improv show. All of it found its way into the Project, my picture of my city for one day in this year.

As I did both of the last years, I wrote mini stories for nearly every photo I posted. It’s what did when I first started on Instagram, use my photos like Duane Michals, like prompts, illustrations. I’ve gotten a little rusty, though. I had a hard time calling stories out of the ether this time. I’ll need to stay in practice so next year’s Project is easier.

Yes, I’m already thinking about next year. I hope Raivenne’s ready!

And now, without further ado, here are the pictures and stories.

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Spinning Yarns

I tell stories, lies,
made up worlds, dramas, joys.
Characters light up,
dance their tales across the page,
show me where to turn,
how to tell, what’s next to show.
Living in moments,
flashes of bright narrative
gleaming, line by line …
on to the next and again.
A new story. Keep spinning.


A chōka is a Japanese form poem with a specific syllable count per line. The shortest form of chōka  is: 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 7. The 5- and 7-syllable lines can repeat as many times as needed. The poem’s end is signaled by the extra 7-syllable line. The final five lines can be used to summarize the body of the poem.

(Also, Raivenne wrote an arun! It’s not her first one, but I’m always surprised to happen upon one, out there in the wild, off the tip of someone else’s pen. I made a form!)

24 Hours of Love and Madness

Today I realized that one week from now is the 24 Hour Project. By the time this time rolls around on April 1st, I will be one or two photos from the end of my day-long extravaganza. I’ve only managed to do this successfully once, back in 2015. Last year, I had a training all day Saturday and knees that were on the path toward surgery, so walking the city for 24 hours just wasn’t in the cards. This year is different.

Yes, I am still recovering from my last knee surgery, but I think I’ll be able to make this work. I know ways and places that I can rest my leg during the day, and I think I’ll try to walk less and position myself strategically instead, find places where there will be enough random characters for me to photograph.

As is my wont, I will post my photos with super-short stories. If you’re curious, you can drop by on Instagram throughout the day to see the fruits of my labors. And at some point during the day, I’ll mosey over here and post my first poem for NaPoWriMo–because there never seems to be a possibility that I will say “no” to a challenge!

There is the lovely chance that a certain slicer might be joining me for all or part of the day, which will be so much fun. If you’re in New York on the 1st and want to get coffee with a very tired and achy street photographer, left me know!

For now, here are some of my favorites–in time order–from 2015:

It’s the 10th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see all of today’s slices!

Office Roadtrip — SOLSC 25

Finally settling down to write the slice I hinted at ages ago. I’d planned to write on the day it happened, the 18th, but the story was eclipsed by my visit to my orthopedist and the discovery that I need another knee surgery. And then other slices just kept coming up. Well, today I am slice-less, and so …

On the 18th, my job hosted a meeting at the training facility for the Plumbers Union. Obviously not a place I would normally find myself, but I’m so glad I got to be there. The facility tour was fabulous. The classrooms look great — and I was quite happy to see some women in those classes — and I learned a lot of terminology I’d never heard before. My favorite of these new terms was … wait for it … the Torturous Waterway. Seriously. Could you love that more? I couldn’t. So dramatic, so powerful. I imagine raging rapids firing through some narrow, deadly, serpentine sluice.


The Tortuous Waterway?

Torturous Waterway

It’s part of the flushing system in your toilet! You activate that waterway every time you use the bathroom!

I love it, love the fact that it has such a dramatic name.

Now I want to know the names of all inner machine workings. Who knows what other excellent fabulous is hidden in plain sight!

There was another fabulous term I spotted in the main hall at the center. It wasn’t a new term — in the world, or to me. It was a really old one, and I was super happy to see it on prominent display:


All hail the continued use of Journeyman! This is a word that was coined at a time when language was still magic and often majestic. JOURNEYMAN. Love it.

Another wonderful part of the tour was seeing the displays created by the students. The students are given free rein. They need to show off the skills they’ve learned, but they can do that in whatever way they like. What at great teaching tool!

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Sure, the meeting was great, but this tour? It was everything!

It’s the Slice of Life Story Challenge! Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see what the rest of the slicers are up to … and to post the link to your own slice!

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Only a Few Hours – SOLSC 19

Today was the first full day of the Undoing Racism workshop … and after the training I had tickets to a concert at Carnegie Hall, so I didn’t get to be out on the street much during the day. I was determined to participate in the 24-Hour Project, at least in a small way, so I took pictures when I could — walking to the subway, during breaks in the training, walking to lunch, walking to the bus after the workshop, etc. I’m too tired to say much more than that, so I’m just going to share the photos and stories:

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It’s the Slice of Life Story Challenge! Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see what the rest of the slicers are up to … and to post the link to your own slice!

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Prepping for the Project — SOLSC 15

I managed to force my well-past-its-prime cell phone to last long enough for the new model to come out … barely. It was so close to dead: it could no longer vibrate or ring, once it was unplugged from the charger, it would lose all power in about 45 minutes. Definitely not a hugely useful device. But I was determined that it would hang on until now, until the Galaxy S7 was finally a real thing and not just fantasy speculation on Cnet.

So I picked up my new phone last night, and tonight I had the giddy, Lady Bountiful pleasure of going to buy a raft of accessories: case, extra charger, an external battery, a screen protector.

The new phone and all the equipment are nice to have, sure, but are also necessary if I have any chance of making it through Saturday: the 2016 edition of the 24-Hour Project. I think my painful knees (and my newly-injured foot!) are going to keep me from walking the city for a full day, and I can accept that. What I can’t accept is failure due to a dying phone. And now I don’t have to worry about that. I’m all geared up. Now, what to do with the fact that I’ll be in a training all day Saturday? Hmm …

We’ll see if I can still make it happen. Perhaps for me it will end up being a 6-hour project or a 12-hour one. Time will tell. Here are last year’s post-project posts:

Just Like Rory Calhoun

24 Hours Later (this one has the slide show of all my photos)


(Update! I hit “publish,” and WordPress sent me a note to say that this little slice of life makes my 1,000th post! Given how sporadically I’ve been writing here in recent years, I really never thought I’d get to 1,000. I owe it pretty much to these March and April challenges. No question.)

The Ides of March and the Slice of Life Story Challenge! Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see what the rest of the slicers are up to … and to post the link to your own slice!

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24 Hours Later

(Yes, I know, it’s really many more than 24 hours later, but I’m taking full poetic license.)

A second night’s sleep has retuned me to just-about-normal (thank goodness) and, though still pretty tired, I’m finally ready to talk a little more about my experience.

In a comment on yesterday’s post, my friend Sonia said it might be better to have the 24 hours run from noon the noon. That way, I could have gotten a full night’s sleep before starting out. As much as the idea of a full night’s sleep appeals, I think noon to noon would mean more people dropping out before the end of the 24 hours.

Because midnight to six is the hardest part of the day, it’s good to get it over with first. If I had gone out at noon and shot for 10, 11, 12 hours … and then been faced with the long day’s journey into night of midnight to six … well, it’s pretty unlikely that I’d have made it through. Starting with the roughest patch makes the remaining hours look easier.

I did work myself up into feeling more nervous than I’d have liked about the midnight run. Not enough to keep me from starting out, but definitely nervous. On the safety side, I didn’t see a lot I could do. I’d be fine, or I wouldn’t be. Yes, I would avoid particularly dark, empty, dangerous-seeming places, but what else is there? I don’t have weapons, don’t carry pepper spray. So really my being safe is more in the hands of other people on the street. I hate the truth of that, but isn’t that what’s always true?

As for making myself look safe to other people … similar quandary. People would either see my harmlessness or they wouldn’t. There were a few things I could do, though. I know that making eye contact and giving a tiny bit of a smile can help, so I figured it could do that. Wearing a dress could help, too. A dress can fool people into thinking you’re soft. We had a snow storm on Friday, and it was sleeting as I got ready to go out, but I decided to wear a dress all the same (with leggings and boots and under my down coat). So yes, in order to look less dangerous to some people, I made myself look more vulnerable to other, less savory people. Feh.

There were tricky moments, out on the street alone. Around 3am I was in the West Village, heading downtown, and a man approaching me changed his direction to walk with me and then to follow me when I wouldn’t talk to him. That was when I found the diner I was sitting in when I took the photo of the police officers. When I came up from the A train at Port Authority so that I could walk over to Times Square and meet my friend and his friends — it was maybe 4:45am — there was an angry, not-at-all-well man at the top of the stairs as I left the station, and I didn’t immediately notice how “off” he was and almost walked right into the middle of the scene he was making. Just as he took notice of me — the kind of notice that meant he turned and began to come at me — I realized my error and took a sharp left and crossed 42nd Street so that I could be away from him. He could have followed, but chose not to.

There were also excellent moments. I got on a bus at about 2:30 hoping to get some pics of the other riders … only to find that I was the only rider. The driver smiled and asked where I was going. “No one here,” he said. “I’ll take you wherever you’re going!” There was meeting the guys in the, “Peace, baby!” photo, who were very nice and just made me laugh.

Hmm … fading fast. There were many more moments, both tricky and lovely, but once again, I need to sleep. It’s time to put my tired self to bed so I can close the distance between myself and my rested, no longer sore self. I’m hoping tomorrow I feel entirely like myself. So I leave you with my slide show of the night. I would love to hear what you think of the pictures, of the stories, of how well or not they two fit together.

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It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

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