A venal monster by any other name …

I have taken to calling the president “Caligula.” Seth Meyers put this in my head by referring to him a few weeks ago as “our drooling, potato-brained Caligula.” It felt perfect. I used the whole description for a bit, but have given up the adjectives. They offer too much cover for evil.

At the start of the administration, I refused to put the word “president” beside Caligula’s name. Also wanted to avoid using his name. I started calling him “THOTUS” instead: Titular Head of These United States. (I was pretty proud of that one, I have to admit.) THOTUS worked for me on many levels. It gave a nod to the man’s baseness by including “tit.” It acknowledged the obvious fact that the decisions he was making were guided by his masters even as he wore the crown. And it let me bypass saying his name or calling him by the office he held.

Eventually, I had to give up THOTUS. It still worked for me, still felt satisfying, but the damage being done to and by this country was too great to be tossing around a cutesy name for a greedy, self-aggrandizing, painfully unintelligent, insecure, hate-monger bent on theft and destruction. And so I finally succumbed, began calling him both by his title and his name.

But now the power and horrific majesty of “Caligula” has been presented, and I find it too fitting to pass up. I’ve been using it almost daily, and it satisfies utterly. Or … almost utterly. Sure Caligula’s rep is that he was a monster and a sexual predator who thought he was a god. That all tracks. Yes, the homework I did that turned up questions about the accuracy of those accounts, but it still felt right. But somehow not enough right. And, of course, that’s because of Caligula’s grand-nephew, Nero.

Nero keeps getting in my way. Famous for “fiddling while Rome burned,” which definitely feels right if you sub in playing golf for fiddling. But “Nero” doesn’t feel as right for me, and “Caligula-with-a-side-of-Nero” is just ridiculous.

And, too, there is the concern that saying anything other than his title and name is just repeating the mistake of THOTUS, the mistake of being funny when there isn’t a single funny thing happening.

I’m sticking with Caligula for now, despite the inaccuracy of the comparison — the Romans at least got one good year of not-insane rule before Caligula turned into a horror legend. I’ve dropped the almost cutesy, doddering-old-fool additions of “drooling” and “potato-brained” and settled fully into this usage. Hoping that I only need to use it for the next seven and a half months.


Toby or Not Toby

Today, on this first day of spring, we’re gearing up for yet another winter storm, the fourth nor’easter this month! This one, Toby, apparently has more ugly potential than the last three. Fun times!

I may be the only person in the city who had no idea a storm was on the way. I didn’t know until one of my coworkers sent an email about it this morning, and didn’t see that email until I was halfway to work, so I didn’t have storm-starting-before-the-end-of-the-workday supplies with me. No umbrella, no super-warm scarf, no hood zipped onto my coat. Annoying.

Furthermore, unlike the happy and healthy state of my kitchen before Quinn (the first of these storms), I needed to do a little shopping on my way home. I didn’t get much, but I feel much more prepared: pie crusts so I can make quiche, ice cream and raw cashews because … whyever not, some pretty produce, and some hummus. I really have to learn what you’re supposed to buy when you stock up. That list doesn’t seem at all right, despite being exactly what I wanted. But let’s be honest: I really only have to be stocked to make it through Wednesday.

The real point here is how over all of this winter storm business I am. So totally over it. It’s the vernal equinox, for pity’s sake! We should already be making that sweet, smooth turn from like-a-lion to like-a-lamb.

It was sleeting by the time I came up from the subway and walked to the grocery store, those little ice pellets telling their own story about how fab this storm could be.

Feh. That is all I have to say in the face of Toby. Feh.

It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge over at Two Writing Teachers! With hundreds of folks participating, there’s more than a little something for everyone … and plenty of room for you to join in!

Calling a Spade a Spade

A year ago, in the moment when Trump was declared the winner of the election, I made the decision never to say his name in relation to the title he had managed to usurp, and also to say his name only when I had no choice. I spent some time trying to decide what I’d call him instead.There were only about ten gazillion options. I could choose comical, cruel, or creatively crass. In the end, I settled on one of my own: THOTUS: Titular Head of These United States. It worked well for me, and I’ve been using it ever since both in conversation and online–blog, FB, Twitter.

The replacement sat easy with me. I could talk about him and not disrupt conversations too much–most people seemed to think I was saying “POTUS,” so the dialogue could move on without me having to explain and without getting derailed by laughter or people sharing their own creations.

But something’s changed. THOTUS no longer rings right when I say or write it, and it’s not even a full year yet. I’ve kept using it, but have been trying to figure out why it’s soured for me. It’s still got all the goodness it had when I thought it up. How could I have gone off of it already? And yet, I really seem to have done just that. And now I think I’ve figured it out.

Giving Trump a name–whether kitschy, clever, insulting, or crude–seems to let him just a little bit off the hook. And that’s entirely unacceptable. I have no wish to give him any room, to let a cute or funny name shine even the dimmest light of humanity on his hatefulness.

Really, any of the replacement names should work for someone like me who doesn’t want to say his name:

Twitter Fingers
Toxic Cheeto
Satan’s Cheeto
The Orange One

Obviously, I could go on. Couldn’t we all? You’ve surely heard so many of these names. Dozens, maybe. Everyone has come up with at least a few. (And I’d be remiss not to give special mention to a decades-old fave: short-fingered vulgarian.) We’re all clever and we all despise the man enough that the bile rising in our throats makes us creative in our naming.

But I’ve hit a wall. I’ve come to a place where, for me, calling him anything other than his awful, annoying name … is too cute, too kind, as if by saying “THOTUS,” I’m not really naming him, not really calling him out for every horrible thing. His name, his actual name, needs to be associated with each and every bit of horror he is enacting, enabling, condoning.

The name THOTUS still pleases me some. As I said a second ago, I still like the things I liked when I thought it up in the first place. I like the rhyme with POTUS. Of course. I like the way “Titular Head” draws our attention to his masters, the evil crew of greedy, racist scumbags who guide his every move. And then there’s the casual, sideways double entendre of “titular.” Sure, all of that. And I want to be thrilled if tons of folks were using that name. But no. I’ve got to work on letting it go, weaning myself off.

Does it really matter what I call that man? It certainly doesn’t matter to him. I’m not an active or influential enough online presence to register on his Twitter-ravaging radar. And I’ve never threatened him or anyone else, so There’s no reason for me to find myself on anyone else’s radar, either. But clearly I imagine I have the ability to sway my tiny circle, to anyone who reads my angry rants and latched onto “THOTUS.” Maybe you’ve been casually inserting it into conversations and status updates. I love you for that, and thank you for allowing me to have some small impact on the ways people talk about this man. But now I’m saying let’s pull back.

Is my choice to call the man by his official name a sign of maturity? Ha! Hardly. I’m plenty old, well past my formative years. If I haven’t matured by now … No, I just want to call him out as clearly and directly as possible.

In the last week, I’ve said “Trump” more times than in the whole of the last year. I don’t know if I can sustain it–I feel a little sick to my stomach every time his name comes out of my mouth. We’ll see how I do.

I’m following Vanessa Mártir‘s lead, she launched #52essays2017 after writing an essay a week in 2016 … and then deciding to keep going.
I’m months behind on my #GriotGrind, and it’s unlikely that I’ll write 52 essays by year’s end. But I’ve written more this year than in in the last two combined, so that looks like a solid WIN in my book! Get ready for #52essays2018!

Test Drive (SOLSC 30)

Almost April and, much to my surprise, I’ve got a poetry form in mind and I’m ready to jump in for an as-much-of-the-month-as-I-can-manage challenge. Wednesday’s unexpected poem and the even more unexpected possibility of having created a new form has inspired me. I won’t be able to write every day — though it might be interesting to see what I’d write while hooked up to my post-surgical morphine drip! — but I want to play around with this form a while, see if it’s as viable as it seemed Wednesday and Thursday.

And so, I give you the newly named “Arun.” (I was definitely leaning toward the Yoruba words, undecided as to which I liked better, so it was funny to see that they tied in the voting.) April will be a bit of a test drive for the Arun, taking it for a spin around National Poetry Month. This should be interesting. Care to join me?

I’ll also use April to do some homework and find out if this really is a new form — that still seems entirely impossible, but I’m going to try to keep an open mind.

For those who want to play along:

The Arun:
fifteen lines, line length increases by one syllable up to five syllables then repeats

I wonder if I want to be so rigid about the 15 lines.  For some reason that seemed to have the right weight (better than one, better than two, not as long-winded as four …).  I’m open to some — ahem — poetic license on that one.



Check in on this penultimate slicing day at Two Writing Teachers!

Naming rights? (SOLSC)

Last night I wrote a poem. I got the idea for the form from thinking about Paul’s snowball poem. I liked thinking of another way to play with the words.

But …  Is it that simple? Can I really have created a new form? Just like that (snap of fingers)? That seems impossible.

But …  What if it’s true? What if no one ever had that idea before? What does that mean? I get to name it, call it some trying-to-be-clever thing that no one (maybe no one) ever called a poem before? That really does seem impossible.

But …  That doesn’t mean I didn’t take some time today to think of names. I thought immediately of using numbers, or using the word for “syllables” in some language other than English. I thought I should use an African language, but which? And besides, isn’t that obnoxious?  And pretentious?  But I couldn’t make myself set it aside, so I apologize.

I have a few now that I like, and maybe you can help me choose.  Here is tonight’s poem:

a language,
a way to talk,
share myself with you,
a shield.
This frozen,
calm hides all terrors,
you back,
holds me back.
I am smiling
and saying nothing.

And now for the voting:

Let me know what you think.  I’m open to other suggestions, too!