15 Ways Burning Man Prepared Me for the Big Quarantine of 2020

As I entered day 20 of my quarantine, I strangely started to feel like I’d been here before. That’s when I realized that in a way, I have! My experiences at Burning Man (I’ve gone twice: 2017 and 2018) have prepared me for this. The masks, the hand sanitizer, the toilet paper obsession, baby, been there, done that! I thought I’d pass along some of these handy-dandy 15 ways attending Burning Man helped ME cope with the Big Quarantine of 2020. They might help you too.

  1. Have a routine  

We developed a morning routine at Burning Man. We figured out a way to make a pot of coffee without electricity. We brought little squeeze bottles of Hazelnut instead of our Coffeemate. We made breakfast over a little propane stove, and afterwards, we washed our dishes in a make-shift plastic tub with water we’d brought in jugs (10 gallons per person) and brushed our teeth. We’d straighten our tent and sweep out the dust that had accumulated from entering and exiting and organized our clothes and supplies. Then we’d make a bike ride-run to purchase ice from the “Antarctica” building and bring it back and organize our coolers of food. We’d finish by noon and after refilling our backpacks with water and porta-potty supplies, we’d grab our bikes and venture out for the day. 

It’s important to create some sort of routine for yourself, especially if you’ve got young children. Structure seems to make us feel less out of control of our lives and also gives you a feeling of accomplishment and meaning to this extraordinary situation we are in.This isn’t a staycation. We didn’t ask for this. This may sound silly, but make your bed when you get up and right away you’ll be on your way to feeling you’ve got a little more control over your situation.This is your new normal. Unlike Burning Man though, we don’t know when this will end, but both require some stability.  Having some sort of routine has helped me feel a little less psycho. 

  1. Move that body!

There aren’t any gyms on the Playa, but Burning Man is 7 square miles. Whether you walk or ride your bike, you are getting plenty of exercise every day. I wore my tracker and was astounded we’d done an average of 10 miles a day. Even if the weather is shitty where you live (we’re on day four of straight wind and rain here in Wisconsin) you can exercise at home. My 90-year old father walks in circles around his living room. With his walker. My brother jumps rope. I saw on Facebook that a marathon runner did a whole marathon, circling his backyard 100 times. There are endless YouTube videos for yoga and all sorts of do-it-at-home exercises. I do crunches and stretching and try to get out and walk/run 4 miles a day. It’s not just good for your body, it gets those endorphins going and helps keep the depression at bay. Exercise is the absolute best way to cope with being quarantined. Remember, you’re not a convict with an ankle bracelet although many times it may feel that way. You CAN leave your house. Go for a walk around the block or the kitchen. Dance! Don’t let the Big Quarantine of 2020 turn you into a schlub. 

  1. Boost your immune system

The environment at Burning Man is incredibly harsh and there are very real threats to your well-being. The extreme heat during the day and lack of shade (remember, there’s no electricity so no air conditioners) so sunscreen is a must as well as making sure your Camelbak has enough water to sustain you at all times. The Playa isn’t sand as many believe; Burning Man lies on an inhospitable ancient lakebed made of a white, powdery alkaline dust. It gets into everything. Everyone’s walking around covered in it, but wearing some sort of face mask (bandannas, scarves) to keep from breathing it in. Protective goggles are a necessity too. You never ever leave your tent without them. There are vicious, blinding dust storms that literally come out of nowhere and you never know when that will happen. You have to be ready.

Going to one of the porta-potties is a fact of life at Burning Man; carrying wipes and hand sanitizer and a ziploc baggie to put them in is just how you deal. Chapstick is a must for those dried out lips from the harsh heat and dust. Every time you leave your tent, you’re prepared for anything. Sound familiar?? How many of us are walking around carrying the same items? Masks, bandanna,scarves, hand sanitizer! It’s crazy! Everything is a biohazard. Although Playa dust won’t actually infect you, you know better than to touch your face with dust on your hands or fingers, and hand-washing is challenging in an environment that has no running water, but you get ‘er done somehow. People know to pack LOTS of hand sanitizer.  Playa dust will also give you a chemical burn if it stays on your feet. You must wear shoes at all times. And like we’re doing now, you take them off and leave them outside. You don’t want to bring the dust into your tent if you can help it. And here at home, we’re leaving our shoes out in the hallway of our high-rise just in case there’s coronavirus somehow stuck onto the soles. Do your best to stay healthy because it’s been said that we will all be exposed at some point, and all you’ve got is your immune system to fight it off, not to mention just dealing with all the stress of lost income, too-much togetherness with roommates or family, or just the very real hell we are living in right now. Do all you can to get sleep, eat healthy, all that shit. Keep the negative to a minimum and limit your exposure to news.

  1. You don’t need “more” of anything.

The biggest lesson I learned at Burning Man was how little I really needed to survive and be happy. I will never forget after I got back from my first “Burn” and saw a dear friend of mine. She was very excited to hear about my adventure and before the words could come out, I burst into tears, threw my arms around her and said, “all I need are my friends and my family”. I feel that way right now. I can’t wait to throw my arms around some of my dear friends and family that I’m estranged from due to circumstances. “Going without” is when you appreciate what’s most important. Each other. 

Although it angers me to see stories of people hoarding food and toilet paper and even fighting in the grocery stores, I understand their panic. People feel out of control. And no one told us how much we’re going to need or for how long. But really folks, calm the fuck down. The stores are staying open. You aren’t going to run out. I have spent way less staying home. I’m not Uber-ing to bars and restaurants or going to shows or shopping. It’s extremely detrimental to our economy and our collective mental health.  I really miss my nightlife and going out with friends. At Burning Man, money is basically useless. All you can purchase there is ice for your coolers ($2.50 for a 7 pound bag) and there’s a little Burning Man coffee house in Center Camp. You already planned for 7 days in the desert and can’t go to the store for more. I’m sure all of us have enough in our refrigerators and pantries and shouldn’t be panicked about running out of anything. Even toilet paper is reappearing on store shelves. Go through your closets and get rid of shit you don’t need. Donate, donate, donate. Look up Marie Kondo on Netflix. She’ll help you.

  1. Lean on one another

At Burning Man, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, or thirsty, or tired, or looking for someone to hang out with, there’s always someone willing to lend a hand or a hug. People are extremely giving and loving and affectionate if you just ask. We hunger for human touch and interaction. It’s just not natural living this way. When you’re feeling the soul-crushing nature of being quarantined, remember, PEOPLE. Call your friends, call your family. Reach out.  It’s become a “coronavirus cliche” but it’s true–we really are all in this together.

Thank goodness we have the technology to connect–apps like HouseParty and Skype and Zoom and FaceTime keep us all from feeling so alone. Can you ever remember a time when you felt something and realized everyone in the entire world is feeling it too? How amazing is THAT?! There is no shame in admitting you’re going cuckoo. We are all going cuckoo. Relationships are being tested like never before. Our collective mental health is in jeopardy. We are becoming terrified of one another’s cooties and I’m worried about the fallout in rising rates of depression, divorces, domestic violence and anxiety disorders. How about rising rates of OCD as we are all furiously washing our hands and agoraphobia as we have habitually become afraid of leaving our little padded cells? At Burning Man, it’s very common for people to “freak out” at least once due to the extreme conditions of the experience. How to cope? Lean on a friend if you’re having a rough time, and BE a good friend to someone else who might be. Just like now, everyone at Burning Man comes to expect freak-outs and we console one another and get through it together. Which leads me to….

  1. You will feel totally claustrophobic at some point and freak out.

It’s common to feel trapped at Burning Man; it’s a hundred miles from the nearest store (no Kwik Trips or 7-11’s you can just “run to”). For 7 days, you are stuck there. I remember being warned about feeling claustrophobic, and sure enough, it happened. The excitement started to wear off around Wednesday as the temps rose once again beyond a hundred degrees and relief was nowhere in sight. I became panicky and felt I was suffocating. I began to have a breakdown that totally freaked me out. I was shaking and nauseous and frightened and began to spin out of control. I had never experienced a panic attack and was quite shaken up by it. I got through it but I was terrified of it happening again. Thankfully, it didn’t.

Around day 8 of quarantine though, it happened again. I knew the signs but it was odd because the circumstances were so different. I had running water. I had electricity. I have heating. However, I didn’t actually know if I have enough food or toilet paper, because I don’t know how long I’m going to be quarantined. And when will I get to see my kids?? When will all the bars and restaurants open up again? When can we travel again? WHEN WILL LIFE GO BACK TO NORMAL???? WHEN WILL THIS END??? The walls started to feel like they were closing in on me. My head started to feel dizzy and I felt sick to my stomach. And I felt that same panic that I had felt at Burning Man and recognized what it was. I felt trapped. Suddenly my home wasn’t my sanctuary anymore. It was my jail. And that’s how it felt in that little tent. Ok so it was a big tent, but it was a TENT. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DESERT 100 MILES FROM CIVILIZATION. I was overwhelmed with the lights and sounds and heart-thumping music and sick of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and everything being so damn hard and the oppressive heat! And the stink of the porta-potties! It hit me all at once and I was spinning out of control. 

What helped me then and what helps me now is reminding myself this is temporary. The cliche’d quote, “this too shall pass” is quite helpful when those suffocating feelings return.  Take a page out of the Burning Man playbook–hydrate first and foremost. Find a spot in the shade. Sit down. Breathe. It will be ok. “This too shall pass”. And, as in #5, lean on someone. Don’t suffer alone. Get out of your tent. Go for a walk, call a friend, pet your cat, watch or read something uplifting. Stay away from the news. 

7. For God’s sake, bathe.

At Burning Man, some camps set up make-shift “showers” with a gallon of water you let warm in the sun and “wash” your body with. It feels good to let the water run over your skin and everyone knows that a shower just makes you feel better.  Burning Man makes you appreciate how we take for granted the simple act of showering (and toileting). When you finally return home, the very first thing you want to do (next to going to the bathroom on a real toilet) is take a very long, very hot shower. If someone had been listening they’d have thought I was having sex in there with all the feel-good moaning going on. 

One of the most fun things in life is spending all day in your PJ’s and for us women, not having to wear a bra. Woo-hoo!! Not to mention not having to do the whole beauty routine of washing and styling your hair and putting on makeup. At Burning Man, you can’t flat-iron your hair nor blow dry it (no electricity) and you’ve got that “awesome” style in your hair from 7 days of dust in it. There isn’t any running water, so not-showering/washing your hair for days on end is just one of the things you give up at Burning Man, and I’m guessing, many of you are doing the same. Also, giving zero fucks about it. Getting past feeling dirty both at Burning Man and now, quarantining, is so similar it makes me laugh. 

I ask myself, “why bother if no one’s going to see me anyways?” But you know what? I’ve found it helps my mental health. I have found that when I have a day where I “just don’t feel like” it, it often turns into two days, then three, and then despair has set in.  The less I feel like showering, the more I know I need to. Just because no one else is going to see you isn’t a good enough reason to neglect yourself. While you’re at it, put on a little blush, eyeliner and do your eyebrows. Do it for YOU.

8. Plan for the worst and hope for the best.

I was pretty sure I was going to die the first year I went to Burning Man. It’s like one of those “Survivor” shows where you have a list of items you “must have” (tents, food, water, TP, hammer, etc). “Did we bring enough?”  “Did we bring the right things?” “What did we forget?” “Will I be able to handle it?” Same here. I wonder daily how long I’ll be able to handle this isolation.  I found it ironic that one of the things Burning Man has in common with the Big Quarantine is both share an obsession around toilet paper and water. Funny, here I am again mentally trying to calculate my food intake to poop-outtake ratio. It is not uncommon to see people dressed in tutus holding a roll of toilet paper on the way to the loos. Just yesterday, I saw a grown man walking down the street carrying a 6-roll of Charmin. I was like, “WHERE’D HE GET THAT??” 

My husband and I had 6 months to prepare for our first “Burn”. We had plenty of time to assemble everything we needed to bring. But with both, you don’t really know how much of it you will actually need nor what you wished you’d have packed. At least with the Quarantine, you can run to the store if you need something. But both do share a unique feeling of not-knowing what you’re in for. At first you get excited for the chance to drop out of society and reconnect with Netflix and your refrigerator and set your own “happy hours”. I “knew” Burning Man was going to be awesome because I’d heard and read and watched so many videos about it. And it is. The booming music, the lights, the vibes are all exhilarating. The art installations are truly indescribable. The costumes, the art cars, the fire-throwers, the makeshift bars, the PEOPLE. There’s literally nothing else like it in the entire world. However, Burning Man tests your very mettle: the extreme heat and cold, the strong winds, the lack of electricity and running water. Being isolated from the “Default World”. There aren’t any trees, no animals. It’s a man-made city in a barren land. I thoroughly believe the quarantine will test us similarly, albeit in different ways. The thrill of endless streaming and sitting and lack of interacting with the outside world is going to get to each and every one of us. Cabin fever. Monotony. Boredom. Lack of motivation. And don’t forget, there’s the nagging fear of, “what if I catch the virus?” It’s inescapable. Expect you’re going to be exposed. Do your best to avoid it and hope for the best. And remember, it IS temporary. “This too shall pass.”

  1. Access your inner warrior

Burning Man taught me to accept my circumstances and find a way to cope. The Big Quarantine of 2020 wasn’t something we all went out and bought tickets for, and none of us wanted this. It is out of our control, just like the dust storms on the Playa, but you gotta just ride that shit out. You do the best you can and if it knocks you down, you get back up. 

Those that are on the front lines putting themselves at risk to save us and our loved ones are the true heroes. Let’s keep this in perspective folks. The Big Quarantine is about helping save lives. It’s hard, it’s damn hard, but not as hard as some have it. I am grateful every day I stay healthy and my loved ones stay healthy.  We WILL get through this. We WILL cope. We have no other choice. And remember, if you’re sitting at home bored yet healthy, count your blessings. Many are not. Many are suffering from this virus and many will lose loved ones. We don’t know how long this will last or how bad it will get. Will I catch it? Will you? The unknowns can drive you crazy. I’m right here with you. Bob Marley is famous for saying, “You never know how strong you are, until strong is your only choice.” You got this. We can do this. 

  1. Cry it out

There are days you just have to have that big, sloppy, ugly cry.  Don’t hold back. These are scary times. There are so many unknowns and it can feel like one big waiting game. At Burning Man, you cry for totally different reasons, but I think both have in common deep feelings of gratitude, loss, grief, love for humanity, a deep longing for meaning and fear and acceptance of our mortality. We are absent of the distractions that many of us rely on to get by, and like Burning Man, we are thrown into a completely different lifestyle and world. Remember the movie, “Mad Max”? Burning Man is like that. As you drive onto the Playa, you immediately feel as though you’ve arrived on a different planet. Doesn’t your neighborhood feel that way now? I know mine does. It’s nothing like any of us has ever experienced. Everything shuttered and a lack of traffic. Schools closed. We can’t go to a movie, out to dinner, travel, fuck we can’t even get together with friends. We see more than two people together and freak the fuck out. I hate this “social distancing” as much as you do.  I don’t know when I’ll get to see my son. It’s heartbreaking what is happening. We have to adapt to this new world, and when the virus passes, we have the chance to start over. This is a huge re-set button for our entire human species. Just like Burning Man, it’s what you make of it. Resisting achieves nothing, but embracing all the emotions that flow are normal and natural and need to be expressed.

  1. Keep a journal

I love reading my journal from Burning man. I had so many “lightbulb moments” out there. You’re in such a unique environment and situation, that you have to capture them when they occur. Photos are great, but describing in detail how you’re feeling and what everything you’ve done and seen means to you is precious beyond reason. I remembered this and I started a “Big Quarantine 2020” journal just the other day and everyday I write a few sentences about how I’m coping. Someday, this will all be a very bad memory, and maybe I will have some lightbulb moments that I won’t want to forget.

  1. Live in the “now”

There is no Internet at Burning Man for a reason. TO BE FULLY PRESENT. It is honestly a breath of fresh air to be freed of the self-inflicted obligations of social media. You see people taking lots of selfies but it’s gratifying to know not a single pic is getting posted. And guess what?? This is when the emotions come, because you’re in the moment. It’s easy to fill our days with our phones and laptops and Netflix. I have been planning for weeks now a day to turn off my phone and laptop and just go inward for a day. I haven’t been able to do it yet. But I really, really think it will benefit me to just be present. Take this amazing opportunity to play with your kids if you have them, or your pet, and just languish in their beauty. If you’re lucky and have a yard, plant a garden. Stay up late and look at the stars. Find the joy, find the beauty. It’s there if you look.

  1. Let the little kid in you come out and play!

I’ve often described Burning Man as a “playground for adults”. It’s like you get to be 8 again only you get to drink. You can dress the way you want, wear your hair anyway you want. The other day I took all my makeup out and played with garish colors I’d never have the nerve to wear in public. I parted my hair down the middle and hated it and then curled it and then did it all over again. When I was done, I tried on clothes and played around with outfits just for fun and took a bunch of selfies. It was fun. You can start a YouTube channel if you want. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is you make time for fun. Start coloring again, do a puzzle. Make a mess in the kitchen. Create a new recipe, move all your furniture around, have a fashion show with your kids. Get on your hands and knees and garden if you’re lucky enough to have a yard. Pay with your pet. Create something out of nothing. If you’re lucky enough to have a partner, spray one another with whipped cream. Why are you holding back? What are you waiting for?!

  1. Laugh every day

Sometimes Burning Man was so hard I lost my sense of humor. Then I remembered I wanted to be there. I’d paid to be there. I’d asked to suffer. However, we didn’t ask for this, and I had a rough day a few days ago where I found myself slipping into despair. I knew what to do about it: I reached out to my network of “friends” on Facebook. I simply posted, “My sense of humor is gone today. I’m having a moment. Please send memes” and sure enough, I ended up with 97 comments. People responded with a mixture of some of the most hilarious memes and well-wishes. Making jokes and laughing doesn’t minimize the very real terror that’s going on in our world, but we have to cope. There’s nothing funny about the collapse of the economy and everyone being out of work. But we are all suffering together and how can you not find the funny in people hoarding toilet tissue?? Humor is essential to our mental health and also strengthens your immune system. Find the funny anywhere you can. Right now I’m all about the memes and the coronavirus parody songs all over YouTube. 

  1. Go with the flow and stay optimistic

Someone asked in a Facebook post today inquiring, “how are you extraverts doing in quarantine?” They’d said they were an introvert and loved the social isolation but realized how difficult it must be for outgoing folk. I responded it was a very real challenge. Some of us like to spend more time outside our tents than inside them, and that can be a very real challenge during this quarantine. When I’d get overloaded on socializing at Burning Man I’d simply go back to my tent. But I remember the last year we went, we had a dust storm that lasted for hours, and it was extremely frustrating. We were missing so many activities and classes that were scheduled and wouldn’t be rescheduled. We laid there, the tent shaking and dust flying in, and all we could do was literally pray our tent stakes were hammered in securely enough. When it wouldn’t subside, we realized the tent was secure, and decided to grab a deck of cards and a snack. The wind monster was vicious and unrelenting, and waiting it out was all we could do, so why not have a little fun?

The Big Quarantine of 2020 is eerily similar; our homes have become our jail cells. We feel trapped and out of control and can do nothing about the invisible enemy that threatens our very lives if we leave the safety of our “tents”. Waiting it out and finding something to do is monotonous when you think of all the fun you’re missing. The key is to find the fun and the enjoyment and the meaning right where you are right now.  Worry solves nothing. Worry changes nothing. Go with the flow. The news changes practically daily with governmental guidelines. Roll with it. We are powerless. You can hunker down in your tent and feel paralyzed or you can sit up and play cards and grab a bottle of wine. It’s YOUR choice. 

If you or someone you know is really struggling during this incredibly difficult time in our lives, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

Also, most mental health care providers continue to provide services via TeleHealth.

Quarantining can escalate domestic abuse. Please get help if you need it at 1-800-799-7233

 

Who’s the real victim here? Dissecting the Kavanaugh hearing

#IBelieveHer.

I totally do.

However……and it pains me greatly to say this….. that after watching and listening to the entire four hour hearing, I have to admit it’s possible Dr. Christine Blasey Ford may have misremembered what happened that night. Sadly, her testimony didn’t convince enough senators to stop his nomination, and honestly, she didn’t fully convince me either.

I was already in her corner. I couldn’t wait to watch the hearings and see her “stick it” to Kavanaugh. I naively assumed this would put an end to his possible nomination just like I naively believed there was no way in hell Trump would ever be elected president. Anymore than seeing pigs fly.

I asked myself, “Since most sexual assaults have no witnesses, what is it she could possibly say to “prove” that it was indeed Kavanaugh that sexually assaulted her that night?” Since it was a classic “he said/she said”, what evidence could there be 35 years later? In other words, how do you prove the unprovable??

I believe Dr. Ford was incredibly brave to have gotten up there with the whole world watching, retelling her story of being sexually attacked at the tender age of 17. I have a 19 year old daughter and anyone with a daughter had to be as sick to their stomach as I was listening to her. She had no reason to lie. It’s terribly horrific this happened to her, and I believe it probably was Kavanaugh. He had much to lose and she had nothing to gain. In and of itself, it seemed a slam-dunk.

She admitted she was “terrified” to testify, and it showed. Her mousy demeanor and child-pitched voice was quite a contrast to the loud and obnoxious rants and the squished, red and sloppy facial expressions (what was up with the tongue thing and the sniffling??) of Kavanaugh. And by the way, just because you are louder doesn’t mean you’re “more right”. But I’m afraid his loudness and her lack of it is may have been the cause for her lack of credibility.

I cringed hearing the horrendous details of what Dr. Ford recalled that night, and watching Kavanaugh come unglued in response. I don’t feel bad that my gut reaction when he began to cry was to emit a hearty guffaw. I actually did LOL (laugh out loud). I was like, “oh jeez seriously?! He’s CRYING???!!!”  But unfortunately, I think his tears and her lack of them was what ultimately discredited her and in return gave him credence.

Kavanaugh reminded me of OJ Simpson–if you tell yourself a lie over and over, and then tell everyone else that lie, you begin to believe it yourself until that version is all you know. I believe Kavanaugh believes he was telling the truth. I believe that he believes he doesn’t even remember the party and was too drunk to remember anything else that happened. He paints a picture of himself as this academic and scholar and hard-worker so how can the two co-exist??? Of course they can. People are neither all good or all bad. Some of the biggest partiers on college campuses are also some of the most accomplished. (see https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/CollegeFactSheet/Collegefactsheet.pdf and also https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2017/02/22/health/teens-smoking-drinking-study/index.html) He believes himself to be someone who could never do such a thing (and sober, I’m guessing he wouldn’t) so his fervent cries of denial feel true to him. And he has much to lose–not only the job of a lifetime but the respect of his wife and family and friends. I’d become emotional too if I was in his shoes.

First of all, I believe that Kavanaugh blatantly lied about never having been black-out drunk to the point of passing out or not-remembering things he’d done. He knew he had to lie about that because if he’d admitted it, to many on Dr. Ford’s side, it would prove was indeed drunk (as she’d accused him of being the night of the attack). I get it. He had to lie. To admit it would’ve been his linchpin.

Anyone who drinks has done and said things they don’t remember. Once after a birthday celebration I commented to a friend, “why didn’t I ever get a piece of my cake?” and I was shown a video of me being sung “Happy Birthday” by my group of friends and then taking a bite of a slice of said cake. Oops. So for Kavanaugh to admit he “liked beer”, “had a weak stomach”, admitted “I’ve probably drank too many beers” and was described by his friends as “quite a drinker” and yet deny he’d never blacked out is just a blatant lie. How squeaky clean does he really expect us to believe he is??? This denial alone for me called into question everything he said. I also think Mark Judge was there and he too was too drunk to remember what happened. I believe Dr. Ford believes Kavanaugh was the one who attacked her that night. Maybe it was indeed Kavanaugh that (allegedly) attacked her.

I remember when the allegations first came out; I said to a friend about the therapist notes back in 2012, “That will prove she’s telling the truth once and for all!” because if she’d said it was Kavanaugh back then, it would be in writing.

It wasn’t. If she’d named him in therapy wouldn’t the therapist have written it down??

She said she told her husband it was “him”–Kavanaugh. Unfortunately, this didn’t “prove” it was indeed him. If this was a trial, this would be considered “hearsay”. It’s not evidence.

Alternatively, I was disappointed that Dr. Ford didn’t give a better answer when Sen. Feinstein asked her how she was “so certain” it was Kavanaugh who attacked her. Her response was so incredibly weak. She replied how “as certain as I’m sitting here with you” and then went into some ridiculous diatribe about how the hippocampus records memories. Sorry, to me that’s just not good enough to sit up there and accuse this man and ruin his reputation. I’m not saying he’s innocent–I’m saying, what I wanted to hear was, “OMG he was so cute I had a crush on him so badly and here was my crush trying to rape me!” Something more substantial than how her hippocampus was in good working order. I was extremely disappointed in her response. She did say in her opening statement that she knew him and “he knew me” as they’d both had attended several parties. But in that moment, when Sen. Feinstein asked her directly how she knew “with certainty” it was him, wasn’t this THE moment where she should’ve gotten emotional??? I so wanted to hear something juicy and substantial. I am certain if she’d burst into tears and sobbed, “I looked right at him while he was on top of me and was so frightened I just froze” that he wouldn’t be a Supreme Court Justice today. Kavanaugh was too emotional in his denial of it being him, and she wasn’t emotional enough.

I was squirming in my seat. I yelled at my TV, “ASK HER ABOUT THE LIGHT IN THE ROOM. WAS THERE A LIGHT ON???” Because I’ve been to parties and so have you and we know that it’s not like Sunday brunch at the country club. I’m assuming the lighting was nil or possibly none at all since the boy who pushed her into the bedroom and attacked her probably wanted to get away with it, and how better than to have her not be able to really see his face? Why didn’t anyone ask her that, and why didn’t she offer it up?

I stupidly hoped that her testimony would break him and force him to admit, “I have no recollection of having been at that party nor do I remember having sexually assaulted Dr. Ford, but why would she lie? I believe her. I’m sure I was super drunk and didn’t mean to assault her. I feel horrible I may have done that to her or anyone. I hope she can accept my apology now and allow me to make some sort of restitution to her. And I hope that my record shows I’m deserving of being your servant in the role of Supreme Court Justice.” That did not happen.

But let’s go there…..what if it did??? What if Kavanaugh admitted he “may have sexually attacked her because I was stupid drunk” would anyone give him a chance if he said that?? Am I the only one who wanted to hear that? Am I the only one who would’ve been willing to forgive him and still believe he could be a fair and impartial judge? To me it was so fucking obvious he was lying, and the louder and more snot-faced he got, the more I disbelieved him. How on earth this swayed enough people to believe him over her still baffles me.

Here’s where I get angry.

I have to say that I have come to believe that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) used Dr. Ford to stall the nomination of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. She claims she “wanted to say something sooner” but was “hesitant” because Dr. Ford wanted to remain anonymous. And Dr. Ford said she realized she couldn’t stay anonymous any longer because “reporters were at my door. They found me. It was just a matter of time before they released my name.” I was listening to her testimony thinking, “how did reporters know about her?? Where did they come from???” and that has not been answered yet. Feinstein is accused by the Republicans as having leaked the information, and given how Dr. Ford said, “the only people who had my letter (of allegations) were Feinstein, Democratic California Representative Anna Eshoo and my attorneys”, it’s not outside of possibility that Feinstein did actually leak the information to the press, because no one takes anonymous allegations of any kind seriously. It bothers me greatly that I agree with Republicans that Feinstein used Dr. Ford to stall Kavanaugh’s nomination. It should bother Dr. Ford greatly as well, but again, how the information got leaked will probably never be known. Why do I think Feinstein exposed Dr. Ford? Because she knew it would stop Kavanaugh from becoming nominated, and to the Democrats, that needed to be done by any means possible.

Why would Feinstein and the Democrats stoop to this low?? It’s called Karma baby. This was the Democrats getting their just-desserts in response to Sen. Mitch McConnel’s declaration back in 2016 when then-President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill Justice Anton Scalia’s spot that “no Obama nominee would get a hearing or a vote” for nearly a year and that “this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” This was a shrewd and mean act to prevent a Democratic president from seating a non-conservative to the highest court in the land.

So Feinstein delayed notifying the committee until the 11th hour, knowing full well it would stall the nomination of Kavanaugh, hoping to stall it long enough to have the mid-term elections where (hopefully) the Democrats would win enough seats to stall any future Trump nominees for two years until (hopefully) Trump would not win re-election and instead a Democrat would be the new president.

This is classic dirty politics my friends. (Anyone ever watch, “House of Cards”??) I believe Feinstein and the Democrats are simply using these two people to get back at the Republicans for their stunt back in 2016. And the Republicans are responding like wide-eyed innocents. Give me a break.

Who loses here? The American people. US. YOU AND ME. Because to tell you the truth, as much as I despise Trump (I did not vote for him) I liked Kavanaugh before the allegations came out. I read some of his rulings and listened to some of the interviews with him and he seemed more of a moderate to me. He said he relied heavily on “precedence” and for all Trumps’ inflammatory grandstanding about “if you elect me I will nominate Supreme Court Justices who will overturn Roe v Wade”, I truly felt he wouldn’t allow himself to be Trumps’ puppet. After all, at the most, even if (gulp–God forbid) Trump gets elected for a second term, Kavanaugh’s position as Supreme Court Justice would extend well beyond a single presidency. I’m sure he wanted to become a Justice and therefore allowed Trump and his cronies in the senate to believe he would vote ultra-conservatively, but who knows. He wouldn’t be the first conservative justice to vote liberal (Neil Gorsuch anyone?? See https://www.google.com/amp/s/nypost.com/2018/04/17/gorsuch-sides-with-liberal-justices-in-supreme-court-immigration-vote/amp/). Also look at the ruling in Obergefell v Hodges (https://www.wsj.com/articles/gay-marriage-is-here-to-stay-even-with-a-conservative-court-1531074136) Whether or not Judge Kavanaugh survives the FBI investigation and gets nominated anyway, he will forever be marked as a sexual predator whether he deserves it or not.

And America was robbed of Merrick Garland’s nomination too. The Constitution allows the sitting president to nominate his/her choices for Supreme Court Justice, and the real break-down is the opposing sides acting like kindergarten bullies. How dare they?? My question to you is, why aren’t you angrier at both political parties?? Something needs to be done. If we can’t get a strong third party to offset these two tyrannical, childish, self-serving political parties, we’re just going to get more of this.

Trump has done the right thing by ordering an FBI investigation of Dr. Ford’s allegations against Judge Kavanaugh, and we may or may not uncover more truth on either side. Time will tell, and they’ve got a week to complete it. Depending on the outcome, I can hear the talking heads right now on Dr. Ford’s side proclaiming they “needed more time” and Kavanaugh’s camp proclaiming “this is a ridiculous waste of time.”

You can all thank Senators Mitch McConnell and Dianne Feinstein for this mess.

Please vote in November.

#NeverAgain

How can anyone NOT be inspired by the #NeverAgain movement?? I literally get chills seeing and hearing these impassioned young people. It reminds me of the anti-Vietnam movement in the 60’s I’ve only heard about.  And already, they’ve made quite an impact.

I’m not going to bore you into giving statistics about gun violence and all. You already know them.  My problem is with those who are so extreme in their beliefs, SO closed-minded and can’t possibly fathom giving an inch to solve this problem such as those who think assault rifles should be accessible to anyone, any age. These NRA-loving gun zealots are black and white thinkers who just keep reiterating that they don’t want their “right to bear arms” infringed in any way.

Hmmm, so that means that there shall be NO laws made to protect children who sit in school from being hunted down and slaughtered?  Do you think “doing nothing” will stop the next school massacre? Because if “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” then we just need to accept that ‘these things will happen and there’s not a goddamn thing we can do to stop it”?? What could be more insulting and patronizing then metaphorically just patting these kids on their heads and saying, “thoughts and prayers’ till it happens again again??

Well, young people aren’t buying that crock of shit anymore. And good for them. Something must give. There’s nothing like watching your teenage friends shot down in cold blood to move you to action, and knowing it very well could’ve been you.

I implore for REASONABLENESS. Isn’t there a middle-ground at all? Can’t we agree that children shouldn’t be able to buy guns at all? Does anyone really think we should all be able to own weapons that only the military ought to have? Is there really a need for anyone to be able to buy assault rifles? Just because you “want to own a rifle” for hunting in my opinion doesn’t usurp our collective need to protect children in classrooms.

I get it–you gun-lovers believe your Second Amendment rights are being stomped on when we cry for a ban on assault weapons. I HEAR YOU. Now, do you hear US??? It really boils down to this–the most common weapons used for mass shootings are semi-automatic assault rifles. Does anyone truly believe that anyone should own them for self-defense? Of course not. It’s not about self-defense, although the gun lobbyists will attest to that. With rapid-fire capability that bump stocks give to an already deadly machine gun, it helps kill more people quicker than any gun our Founding Fathers could’ve conceived of. All they had back then were muskets.

It’s the unreasonableness of the NRA and it’s members that frighten and anger us. Any REASONABLE person can admit that there’s no need in our society for assault rifles. There just isn’t. And if they refuse to outlaw them, then make it harder for anyone to get one. How can any REASONABLE person have a problem with that??? Jesus Christ people! It’s harder to get a fucking abortion or a driver’s license than it is to get a fucking rifle. Why is that? Our nation is FUCKED UP.

I believe these young people ARE being heard, as our very own NRA-loving president had the courage and REASONABLENESS of mind to push for a ban on bump stocks. THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT. It’s no secret I didn’t vote for Trump, but tell you what, this impresses me big time. He’s also said he thinks teachers should be armed as well. I’m not sure I agree or disagree on that, but at least he’s listening and trying to come up with solutions that will protect our kids. It’s up to Congress now to pass it through. Will they do the right thing? What if they don’t?

No parent should have to lose a child while they’re sitting innocently in school. The gun lobbyists are content to just watch these children die time and time again and just say, “it’s not the gun that killed them, it’s the person.” How about it’s BOTH????!!!   If this disturbed individual had had only a knife, it’s a no-brainer that there would’ve been fewer funerals this week. Explain to me again how guns don’t kill people?? 

I agree there were major breakdowns in stopping this young man from gunning down his classmates. The FBI as well as many others knew he was violent and mentally disturbed yet did nothing. There’s that. And it’s reassuring seeing that a mother turned in her child and so did a grandmother when they had reason to believe they might be a danger. This is progress. But still the bottom line is, guns are too easy to get, too easy to buy, and the ones that do the most damage are readily available basically to anyone who wants one.

Any REASONABLE person would acknowledge this and agree that laws can be enacted (and enforced) that might just reduce the opportunity for a troubled teen to be able to go and shoot his classmates and teachers. More extensive background checks including what some other countries do in talking to co-workers, parents, friends, etc. In the meantime, I believe we should have armed guards in front of every school EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY as well as implementing metal detectors and/or security systems like we have at our jobs that allow us into our workplaces. Schools are targets because they’re vulnerable and unprotected.

And I KNOW the pro-gun rally is going to say, “If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have them.” We aren’t trying to outlaw all guns. BE REASONABLE. WE’RE TALKING ABOUT SEMI-AUTOMATIC RIFLES ONLY.

Aren’t our young people worth it??

To many of you, I guess not.

It wasn’t YOUR child after all.

#NeverAgain

The cure for bystander remorse…it’s never too late to do SOMETHING

I must’ve left my Spidey-Sense back in Wisconsin, because when I saw and heard an angry African-American man with a large front tooth missing yelling and scolding a group of us to “climb aboard this train”, I obeyed. After all, he was wearing a neon-green safety vest, and he was standing in the open doorway of the MARTA train. He must be the conductor we told ourselves. Being a typical confused tourist, we collectively entrusted him that yes, we did need this particular train to get to our destination, namely, our hotel.

“The Gold Line Goes to Buckhead and the Red Line goes to Noble Springs” or something like that he announced angrily and loudly for us to “get on here” as if we were unruly elementary school children. Being tourists there in Atlanta this last weekend, we appreciated the navigational help, even though he could’ve been a little nicer to us. We got on, and as soon as the train started moving, the joke was on us as this man was not a conductor at all, he was a street-smart panhandler whose M.O. was to round up a bunch of people who didn’t know any better into one train car with his “help” and then ask us all for a “donation”. I felt duped and stupid, and hoped that we indeed were even on the right train at all. (Fortunately we were). We chuckled at his chutzpah and gave him nothing as we saw a sign on the train that said “It is illegal to panhandle on this train.”

A few months ago, on a trip back to Southern California where my father still lives in the house I grew up in, I noticed that the panhandling there had also gotten more creative.  I’d just left the airport in my rental car, and I was sitting at a red light waiting to get onto the 405 freeway, glancing at my phone when something caught my eye. A wild-haired, thin young Caucasian man was walking in and out of the traffic lanes while strumming an acoustic guitar. It was quite a sight: he seemed oblivious that he could be hit and killed at any given moment, and snaked through the cars like a carefree snowboarder gliding down a mountainside. It was though he hadn’t a care in the world and was actually onstage performing for his fans.  The long light offered me the chance to marvel at his performance while I was terrified at the same time I’d be watching his sudden demise. Yes, we were all stopped, but I knew the light was going to change and I was scared for him because he didn’t appear to be paying attention!! He traipsed over to the median, never having made eye contact with any of the drivers, an open guitar case on the concrete with some coins and dollar bills visible. Wanting to hear his music but savvy enough to know better than to roll down my window, the light turned green finally and I drove off, deep in thought about this young man and who he was, how he got to the state he was in, and did he have any actual talent?

I then wondered, where were the window-washers? Oh how I hated them. You’d be stopped at a stoplight and suddenly seemingly out of nowhere someone would spring out in right in your driver’s side face with Windex and paper towels and they’d be cleaning your windshield. It’s frightening and an invasion of your personal space. You’re trapped in your car at traffic lights and being held hostage by someone who is now demanding money because they did something for you you didn’t ask them to do. The incessant panhandling is one reason I don’t miss living in California.

I will always be impressed though with Hispanics, because they’re too proud to stick out their hands and beg for money. They will always create something, usually of beauty, to sell instead.  You will never see a Hispanic person standing under a traffic light median with a sign begging for your money. They will set up a table by a well-trafficked walking path, with a tablecloth, and their wares. You will never see a cardboard sign.  I was in Mexico City once and the impoverished children I encountered peddled “chiclets”–chewing gum.  I’ve never seen a Hispanic of any age panhandle; they have too much pride and self-respect. It’s admirable and I will often buy a bouquet of flowers from a (usually older) Hispanic woman selling them.

Here in Milwaukee, you’ll see mostly young white men holding signs at traffic lights claiming they are veterans. I hate the feeling I get of being a smug, entitled bitch sitting there in my sports car waiting for the light to fucking hurry up and turn green. I had my years of handing money to beggars and have been lectured that most of them just go and buy drugs. I think, “get a job!” And don’t tell me you don’t think the same thing.

And then, about a half hour after the “non-Conductor experience”, I witnessed something I can’t unsee.

I’d never been to Atlanta, and we were there for a family celebration (my husband’s brother and his wife reside there). The beautiful downtown high-rises and fancy cars I kept seeing mask a dark underside I was soon to experience.

We were travelling via the “MARTA”–or Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority-a rail system that covers 48 miles and has 38 train stations. It serves approximately half a million people a DAY, and Wikipedia tells me that it’s the largest public transportation system in the United States not to receive state funding.

The one-hour ride was extremely unpleasant–the air smelled putrid with the stench of urine. I was immediately nauseated, and it didn’t help that we stood the entire trip, swaying as if we were on a slow roller coaster. I held onto the handrail with my arm because I was afraid to touch it with my bare hand.

The windows were fogging up due to the many souls breathing the confined space and the rainy conditions outside our cell. At every stop I gasped for the fresh air that would blow in as the doors blasted open and shut; people got out, and more came in. Seeing my desperateness to “hurry the fuck up and get there already”, my beloved husband, phone in hand, following the map on his MARTA app, would say, “fourteen more minutes! You can do this!” and counted down at every stop. I cursed him for wanting to save money by not Ubering instead.

At a stop with about a half-hour to go, an alcohol-infused, Beetlejuice looking older woman with bright, drug-store colored hair got on at the same time as a darling African-American little girl about eight years old with Minnie Mouse hair. She was just about the cutest thing I’d ever seen. She had a cute pink Barbie backpack, and I realized it wasn’t a school day. I smiled at her but she didn’t look at me.

She didn’t appear to be looking for a seat; instead, she opened up her empty backpack and to the encouragement of the foul-smelling woman behind me, she walked up and down the aisles begging for money, all the while the Beetlejuice drunk yelled at us, badgering us into feeling guilty enough about our own abundance into giving this darling little girl money.

“She’s just trying to make a living now, go on, a dollar ain’t gonna kill none of ya!”

“She’s doing God’s work!”

“C’mon now, open up your wallets now, a dollar ain’t gonna kill ya!”

“Greed is a sin!”

The crazy-hair drunk was relentless, and she made sure she got one last dig in for those of us who didn’t “reach into our wallets and give” as she exited the train. I was furious. Clearly it was a scam–they got off our car at the very next stop and I’m sure they got on another one in an attempt to use this little girl’s cuteness and innocence to get money for this drunk old witch.

Oh, how I wanted to turn around give that woman a hard shove! With every word she uttered, I fantasized about pushing her off the train at the next stop and grabbing that little girl and whisking her off somewhere far away from that evil witch. It took everything in me not to turn around and scream in her disgusting face,”Eight-year-old little girls shouldn’t be out “trying to earn a living” you drunk piece of shit! SHE’S A LITTLE GIRL! SHE SHOULD BE AT THE PARK ON THE SWINGS NOT BEGGING FOR MONEY FOR YOUR DUMBASS!” I felt my heart pounding in my chest as I searched for the courage to do SOMETHING.

It still upsets me to think about her. No child should ever be used to beg for money for an adult. This was child abuse plain and simple. I thought about how effortlessly this little girl moved about the train, holding her Barbie backpack open for strangers to put dollar bills in. It upsets me greatly knowing that she thinks this is normal behavior. I wonder, how long has this been going on? Since she was old enough to walk?? I’m horrified to know she might be being physically abused as well if she doesn’t collect enough to suit this horrendous woman (who, might I point out, had the nerve to call US “greedy” and “sinful”). I can’t stop thinking about her, and how many more little girls like her are being abused and used to panhandle because who can resist such an innocent little thing like her? This woman was nothing more than a fucking pimp.

But even without the obviousness of being played as a tag-team with that witch, I still wouldn’t have given the little girl any money, because I knew she wouldn’t have ever thought of doing that herself without having been made to by someone else. Even if the adult was out-of-sight, he/she would’ve been there at the end of the train ride, grabbing her backpack to see how much she collected. I was distraught at witnessing this, and feeling so helpless. I wanted to grab her away from that woman and take her to a police station. Why didn’t I? I was frozen. Frozen with shock and fear that this was happening, and of course, worried that if I said or did something, harm would come to me. So now I’m several thousand miles away left with nothing more than frustration and anger.

I want to tell Oprah. I want Oprah to come fix it. I have bystander remorse. Instead of asking myself, “What would Jesus do?” I ask myself, “what would Oprah have done?” Because I KNOW she would have done SOMETHING. But then again, she’s ‘Oprah”. If she’d interceded, she’d have been a hero. The drunk pimp witch would’ve thought she’d seen Jesus in Oprah’s form and repented.   I want Oprah can come to Atlanta and ride that fucking Horror Express and find that Beetlejuice woman and whisk that little girl away safe.

I also realized that this is a way of life for many, many mostly African-Americans who live and work in Atlanta. I realized that these working poor don’t have a choice to Uber instead like I do. And if this was how I had to get back and forth to work everyday (I saw a young girl with a McDonald’s cap and work uniform on) I’m both glad that there’s reliable public transportation that’s (hopefully) affordable, but on the other hand, reading that MARTA doesn’t receive state funding, maybe that’s where the solution begins. Cleaner trains and security guards making sure little girls aren’t being pimped. In other words, ACCOUNTABILITY.

With it’s warmer climate, Atlanta suffers like any other big city with its share of panhandlers.  I can handle white men pretending to be veterans and homeless hippy musicians begging for money, but not a child. That’s something that shouldn’t be tolerated.

I think I will write a letter to someone so they know this is going on. I may be a few thousand miles away, but I can still effect change.

You deserve so much better, little cute Minnie Mouse girl.