neighborhood


august fades out into a wisp; a cold, leaden sky spreads overhead. this is not the september beginning that i've grown accustomed to over the years.

the yards fly by in a blur as i cut through sharp air. over and over, my peripheral vision catches the colored rectangles jutting out of dying grass. in english, spanish, and arabic, they read: no matter where you are from, we are glad you're our neighbor. when the signs first started propagating around my city, i found them comforting. slowly, that feeling has faded into frustration that they are necessary. they are little declarations of guilt, an act of parting with a small amount of money to publicly and unceasingly declare, 'look, i'm not a bad person.' they defend against the unspoken: other people are bad. other people hate you, other people don't want you here, other people wish you never existed, it's okay, i'm not one of those people, i think you're okay.

after the election, i walked to my polling station to read the posted results from our neighborhood. i wanted to see how many people voted for a figurehead for hatred. the number was greater than zero, and i wished it didn't fill me with such instant fear and suspicion and anger towards the people who lived around me. who were they? i'd never know. no one in this progressive, cosmopolitan neighborhood would dare plant flags in their yard supporting hatred; they sit in their secret minority, where they feel persecuted for their political beliefs.

the weeks marched on. i have to talk about it more; i have to tell people that i am not disappointed in them, that i am not afraid of them, that i think they have done no wrong, because i feel it everywhere i go. i feel the sudden need from others for approval, for validation, for recognition from the 'other' that they are not bad people. i am part of that 'other' that needs to reassure them. the petty part of me laughs, because i have felt this need my entire life.

but, yes, this is guilt, my friends. this is guilt you are feeling. this is guilt and confusion and worry about whether or not you are doing the right thing. someone asked me recently, 'do you want me to apologize on behalf of all white people?' and i said no. someone confessed to me recently, 'i didn't understand why you wouldn't make eye contact with me when we first met, and i was worried that i did something to scare you.' i gave assurances that i did not feel fear in that moment. i am smiled at more, i am complimented more, i am acknowledged more.

i feel this push, constantly, and it confuses me because i know i have done nothing more to deserve this sudden praise for existing. does it take nazis marching in the streets after our country elects the epitome of affluent white male privilege for people to decide to be nice to those they perceive to be at risk? i am no more deserving of praise now than before the sudden collective realization that there is hatred built into our culture.

i am guilty of this, too. i've changed, i've examined how i speak and how i think of others and what sorts of attributes i am biased for and against, and i have made it a point to be kinder and more patient and more open and more inclusive. i feel the guilt that comes from knowing that some people suffer consequences of their existence that i do not, and i feel guilt that comes from a sense of helplessness in my inability to correct these imbalances. i feel a shift in my behavior that i have not yet learned to control, to spend more of my energy protecting and uplifting the marginalized individuals while leaving the privileged majority to fend for themselves. is this fair? is this just? is this ethical?

i cannot condemn any behavior that i have not fully understood; it is hypocrisy to criticize actions that i have also performed. i have not yet decided if it is hypocritical to criticize hypocrisy.

i don't want to live my days in endless outrage, but i suddenly cannot stop noticing when i don't want to contribute my voice or my attendance or my acceptance to a group because i don't feel like efforts have been made to create a good environment for my perspectives. i suddenly feel this pressure to withhold my participation out of spite, while simultaneously yearning desperately to put my voice and my background and my whole existence into a position that will increase representation for people who feel like i do. i have not yet sorted out how to be a graceful person in this world at this moment.

this is hard, my friends. what i am wishing for is a mass, simultaneous shift in worldviews and attitudes to a true absolute acceptance and respect of all forms of existence, while knowing that there is no one true unifying factor that creates universal tolerance. i cannot wish for us all to be the same. i cannot wish for us all to agree. i wish i could.

now, when i pass the nine-month-old signs in every other yard in my neighborhood, i wonder how much ink has gone into printing them. i wonder where the waste from producing plasticized rectangles of paper has been disposed. i wonder how much gasoline has been burned to deliver them to their current positions, with rusting metal stakes and faded colors splattered with cut grass and insect dirt. i wonder who will be the bravest one to be the first to take theirs down, and what the neighbors will say when they notice. those signs are blood clotting in a sudden wound, forming scabs to show where we've been scarred. how do we heal? have we healed? will we heal?

i have a life to live. i remember that everyone has a life to live.

Permalink
01 September 2017 20:12


bachelor night cookies


steps to success:

  1. flip open the joy of cooking and confirm that you have enough butter to make oatmeal cookies
  2. realize that your butter is all in the freezer, so you have to set up an extremely slow double-boiler to soften them
  3. play with the dogsittee until you remember that your butter is probably melting in the wrappers
  4. put together the dry mix, but deviate from the spices based on what you want to finish from the ancient box of spices
  5. (grate. nutmeg. forever.)
  6. agonize over trying to pound the sugar, egg, and half-frozen/half-melted butter into something that you are ashamed to call 'blended' like the book asks for
  7. stand over the stove for a little more heat to melt the butter, damn it
  8. dump in the dry mix. remember, after getting a nice whiff of your overpowering spice mix, that you forgot the 'vanilla extract'
  9. (you haven't stocked vanilla extract in years when you realized whiskey is a fine substitute)
  10. the only whiskey left in the cabinet is a wee dram of 15 year macallan so you slosh in a wee wee dram
  11. mix, realizing you can keep working on breaking up butter chunks as you go
  12. dump in the last bit of oatmeal from the jar and go looking for the new bag of oatmeal
  13. fail to locate a new bag of oatmeal
  14. realize you're out of oatmeal
  15. add a cup of sunflower seeds instead
  16. bake two cookies to test
  17. decide that this is fine, but it's now almost midnight and you're tired, so you'll only make one more batch and stick the rest in the fridge
  18. as usual, get greedy with pan space and put them too close together
  19. watch in horror as half the cookies on this pan collapse and melt into each other
  20. when they're done baking, scrape them onto a plate in a big pile, because, let's be real, you're just going to eat this mess with a spoon for breakfast. in your oatmeal bowl. because you're out of oatmeal and have nothing else to eat for breakfast.

this, surprisingly, worked. i am not really a baker, though.

the full recipe

heat oven to 350F; prepare for 45ish cookies

flour mixture:

  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground anise

blend well in a large bowl:

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted, softened butter
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • a splash of your favorite whiskey/bourbon

stir in the flour mixture, then add:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds

on a greased cookie sheet, drop smallish spoonfuls about 2 inches apart. flatten, or not, at your whim. bake for about 9 minutes, or until golden brown all over. let stand for a few minutes to set, then remove to a plate for cooling.

Permalink
28 May 2017 01:41



valid?