You are all that

Falling Safely – AARP

Do you remember the feeling of falling? There is a moment when you’re running downhill gleefully, thrilled at the sensation of your feel moving faster than you ever expected yet keeping everything balanced over them. Then a falter, either your feet can no longer keep up and don’t lift in time to match the momentum of your body, or the crystals of your inner ear are sloshing so hard that they can’t tell you where you are in space anymore. There’s a moment when when a voice that sounds like yours says, “I’m going down,” and then you surrender and fall and it feels just like falling in a dream.

Gravity is incredible. Your body, which normally teeters giddily upright meets the ground with incredible force. You and the earth that you are normally dancing lightly atop, slam together, like monster magnets.

How to not fall: Sit very very still in a bomb-proof chair. Do not bend over and then straighten back up. Do not lean back casually against anything solid-seeming, like a bookcase. Do not think about what you will be doing a few seconds from now or how to answer a companion’s question – STAY IN THE MOMENT! Sit on the top step and bump your way slowly down on your butt. If you must leave the house hang on tight to your friend’s arm until you are back to the bomb-proof chair. Meanwhile, undertake a precise, strenuous program of corrective exercise and DO NOT STOP until you are in peak physical form. Simultaneously and systematically optimize your balance and coordination. Get your act together! Meditate more. Regulate your emotions. Modulate your blood pressure and liver enzymes with Brain Power. I know you can do it. You can succeed. You are all that. And More.

The Fathomless Depths That Beckon Cruelly

What do you do when unfathomable, meaningless sadness, lands on you; a sagging, wet weight on your chest? As though one of those giant slabs of old snow slides down from a steep roof in a way that knocks you off your feet and pins you there on the salty sidewalk. Or if you have dragged yourself into town to run some errands and while you are waiting for permission to cross the intersection a delivery truck drops a tire into the huge pothole of black slush that has nowhere to go because the storm drains are clogged with ice and the vomit of undergrads, and it drenches you from neck to knees.

Move to Arizona and cry near a sunny golf course? Go see your therapist so you can whimper without dignity in that big puffy chair? Go about your business, stumbling and weepy and when kind people ask if you are okay you whisper, “no?” Do you remember that alcohol with ultimately make you sadder (but will it?) and is comprised of ruinous but otherwise empty calories, but you drink a little too much anyway? Do you take up smoking? Or maybe you are the type who can express yourself through your artwork. Geez. Go for a run? Again, geez. If that works for you, fine.

Tell the truth.

Outlaws

Tom Robbins taught me to love outlaws. If you haven’t read Still Life With Woodpecker you should now. It might be painfully dated, since I last read it in the 80’s, but there’s only one way to find out. Outlaws are very American.

A year or two ago while I was hopped up on post-surgical pain killers I read American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin, “The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst.” I remember seeing the grainy, iconic bank security-footage photo of her with the giant gun that shocked everybody, including my mother, on tv. Patty’s kidnappers were outlaws and temporarily turned her into one too. The early 1970’s were nuts! Counterculture outlaws were routinely making bombs in their bathrooms and detonating them in places that would either disable or at least disturb The Man. Even though Patty’s experience with the Symbionese Liberation Army was a lot darker than a Tom Robbins novel, some of the 70’s-ish motives were the same.

This morning I figured out Donald’s appeal and the reason for our confusion. He’s just another outlaw! He’s all about sticking it to The Man, no matter who the man is. (That’s where his amorality comes in handy.) Some of his supporters are like Patty joining the Symbionese Liberation Army. She wasn’t exactly happy before they kidnapped her, and definitely not in control of her own life. She didn’t know exactly what the problem was but they told her. They told her over and over and over what reality was (well, with some rape and starvation and LSD) until she was convinced it was in her best interest to be a soldier for their cause.

So we’ve got an outlaw (Donald, in case you aren’t paying attention), who by definition does not operate within normal boundaries, and he’s hell-bent on destroying the way things normally work around here. The confusing thing is that we, the lefties who used to be the counterculture, are now The Man, deserving of all the homemade bombs (ummm, NRA, guns and more guns, domestic terrorism etc.) he can get his soldiers to stockpile and detonate.

I’m at a loss for advice on this so you’ll have to just digest the insight raw.

What To Read: Slavery in the Clover Bottoms by John McCline

The Hoggatt plantation at Clover Bottom, in Nashville, Tennessee was home to one of my slave-owning cousins, Anthony Clopton and his family, and to John McCline. John McCline was born there as part of the enslaved workforce. You should read his book even if he never met your long-ago cousin.

This memoir covers John’s earliest memories of life at Clover Bottoms and his years as a young teenager in the Union army. I’ve never read anything like it before.

One day young John was on horseback, watching the Union army march past the plantation on Lebanon Pike, admiring the men, their uniforms, the horses and vehicles, the whole spectacle. One of the soldiers called out to him, “Come on, Johnny, and go with us up North, and we will set you free.” He was amazed that the Yankee soldier knew his name (he didn’t know they called all southern boys Johnny, like Johnny Rebel). He slid off his horse and into the crowd of soldiers. He travelled and worked with that regiment from Michigan for the rest of the war and they took good care of him. He returned to Michigan with them after the war, got a couple of years of schooling in, worked in fancy hotels in St. Louis, Chicago and Indianapolis and eventually ran the household of the governor of New Mexico, Herbert Hagerman, in Santa Fe. He got married for the first time when he was 85. Never once does John expect the reader to feel sorry for him or his plight. He’s very matter of fact about everything and eager to recount his memories of a remarkable period in his life. John McCline reminds me of Laura Ingalls Wilder with his engaging, detailed, visual descriptions of how otherwise mundane things worked which in turn reminds me of my own grandfather, except for the slavery part.

Now that I’ve compared John McCline favorably to Laura Ingalls Wilder you might veer into the tempting weeds and say, “Gee, yrmama, American slavery wasn’t so bad then, was it. And if it was so easy for him to run away why didn’t they all just walk off into the sunset?”

To which I would say, “Shut the fuck up up and read the book. Mr. McCline is very clear and detailed about the vast evil he was raised to endure, the traumas he and everyone he loved faced, beatings, murders, deprivation, cruelty and outright theft of monstrous amounts of human labor. yrmama is grappling with the knowledge that her ancestors on both sides were slave owners and trying to acknowledge the ill-gotten privileges she has certainly inherited. I may say the wrong thing from time to time, inadvertently, but we are certainly not going to move through this as a society if we don’t talk about it openly. So there.”

https://nikolehannahjones.com/
  • If you have not yet begun listening to 1619, a podcast from the New York Times, you need to get busy with it immediately. It is hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones who grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, where I lived as an infant, and we both are very smart.

Confederates in the Attic

Confederates in the Attic : Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War was a bit hard to pay attention to clear to the end no matter how much I liked the idea of it and the specific things I learned from it. The bulk of the action is Tony traveling around the south checking out the culture of Civil War reenactment by participating. It is really interesting to see a bit into the way southern culture was shaped by history and how the Civil War persists. Sounds obvious, I know, but I am very northern so it’s all new.

The back cover blurb from the Washington Post says, “Hilariously funny.” Not true! At all! By the end I felt a bit like Tony Horwitz was losing himself like Jim Carrey did impersonating Andy Kauffman making Man in the Moon. Published in 1998 it also manages to feel dated. We’re less naive about racism now. Thanks Donald.

Should you read it? Maybe probably, but feel free to power-skim.

*Those who recall yrmama’s reading recommendations from years past will recall they were mostly about works of fiction. Now you’ll soon recall they mostly aren’t. I can’t recall a way to explain. It’s a sense of nausea and creeping dread deep in the gut that for five years I have recalled and consistently avoided.

Clover Bottom

In Nashville I paid a quick visit to Clover Bottom Mansion, associated with my dear cousin, Anthony Clopton (1770-1848). He came from a Clopton plantation in Goochland, Virginia and married wealthy Rhoady Hoggatt in 1804. He and Andrew Jackson, a Hoggatt neighbor and close friend, were central members of the Clover Bottom Jockey Club before Andrew moved to the White House. Apparently everyone had a sparkling social life. A Hoggatt of the next generation had this mansion built in 1859 as the centerpiece of the 1,500 acre plantation. Out back there was pretty much an entire village of 60 enslaved people living in little cabins.

I know being impressed by this (impressed is not necessarily good) exposes my clueless Yankee core, but there you have it.

yrmama at Clover Bottom Mansion, now housing the Tennessee Historical Commission, the State Historic Preservation Office
remaining slave cabins at Clover Bottom

Rebel Wear

bikehistory.org

When I’m feeling rebellious I like to go out and bike around wearing normal clothes. Like – clothes I would wear all day, like a skirt and a t shirt. This afternoon I intersected with a gentleman old enough to be my father out for a spin on his three-wheeler. It’s the kind of bike I’ll want when my balance gets worse. He was also wearing completely normal clothes – shorts and a button up shirt. We both had huge grins on our faces.

#youarentinthetourdefrance #losethelycra