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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Writing down the Tired

 I'm a writer. When I don't write, my soul becomes constipated. When I write but don't share some of my writing, my psyche begins to atrophy. There is no Activia yogurt for being stoved up in this manner. But modern day communication has provided an answer: BLOGGING. So I'm taking it up again, despite my fear of not being accepted or understood. Here goes.

 Fuck, I'm tired of the dumb shit. Tired of apologizing for who and what I am. and watching other people have to do likewise. Tired of having to defend my power which isn't what this narrow assed society defines as "real" influence, but a collaborative construct involving respect of other people's stories and the continuing effort to  understand other cultures and ideologies.  Tired of people saying it's about class and not about race. Tired of losing my sense of humor about all of this. Tired of not being able to find clothes that fit or finding the clothes that do are 3 or 4 times as expensive as clothes in lesser sizes. And tired about not quite knowing how to effectively fight the fight. Tired of having to call it a "fight."Sheeeit.

And I'm tired of giving in to those who say solutions aren't simple, for example:

We could fund free college educations to hundreds of thousands of students by  NOT building one more useless aircraft carrier.

We could effectively combat police violence against people of color by having country wide peaceful protests and town meetings to pressure federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to review and fix their racist policies (as happened in Ferguson and in the highly successful Civil Rights Movement).

We could all vote and thereby exercise our uniquely American right to MANDATE that our legislative representatives stop all of this schoolyard bullshit and actually work together.

We could boycott media outlets that have  distanced themselves from the real tenants of journalism and consistently sensationalize  every story.  I dig the cat befriends owl stories, though, but I'm pretty convinced that the cat will eat the owl in the next frame.

We could stop shaming people for being "different." Lots of women like to have lots of sex with lots of different men. They are not sluts. Lots of men eat lots of french fries. They are not lazy because they are overweight. Lots of people like to pierce their noses. They are not freaks though I wonder about what happens when they blow.

I know it's all so overwhelming so let us pick one. We all want a better world. And clothes that don't look like tented tablecloths and that cost 1/4 of our monthly salary.

And let's admit that the cat and the owl could lay down together but it's in the feline nature to eat birds. CHOMP.

 This week in Designation Despicable:
(please imaging a jpg of daffy duck here because I don't have the dough to pay the licensing fee)

Ted Cruz enrolls in Obamacare
If you can't lynch 'em and destroy their ideas, join 'em! Those who are fighting the federal health care law shot themselves in the foot thinking that calling it ''Obamacare' is perjorative. Ha!

Sign my petition:
Federal level action to stop modern day lynching

And I ain't afraid to admit that though I'm a middle aged woman I still have to apologize to my mother, my biggest fan, for cursing in this post. Sorry Momm!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Toni Morrison's "Song of Solomon"

I've read this book many times and it is my favorite book of fiction. I re-read it often because of the magic realism that pervades the story, the casual cruelty of the more privileged (read wealthy) Black characters against those less fortunate, the issues of internalized racism that it raises, and the fierce yearning for family and connection that guides the whole plot. And the names, names of meaning and significance, are names which inform my own fiction as I seek character names that emanate from ancestry, or internal strife, or serendipity.

I've just finished my latest re-reading, and the story touches me as powerfully as ever. The character of Macon Dead reminds me of my father--Black men who "transcend" the tyranny of race and view acquiring wealth as life's mission and thereby warp their sense of family and ability to love themselves and others fully.  The character of Hagar is very compelling--she's a woman, made mad by love as she wraps herself up around Milkman Dead, a man who can't love because he doesn't understand the value of it until very late in the novel.  Again, an alienation of the family dynamic as these Black people who live in the early 60's, descendants of slaves one or two generations back, people who were born and lived their early lives in rural poverty and absolute familial love and devotion, lose themselves as a reaction to racism.

And then there is Pilate. Aunt of the protagonist, Milkman, and sister of Macon Dead, she retains the magic and devotion of her father who dies horrifically when she is 11. She is "like a wild thing", who grows up knowing the value of love, family, and and nature and is the moral center of the book.  She can't read or write, and yet she knows how to live, how to treat people with respect, how to listen to their stories. And she is the grandmother of Hagar, and so must deal with the messiness, the tragedy of her nephew having "killed" her granddaughter through lack of love and respect.

I've always been drawn to Black women with this earthy sense of a wider world, some highly educated women who still maintain a link to the earth, some women who didn't get a high school diploma and sit next to me on the bus and tell me their stories of faith, some of the students I come in contact with who live in the paradox, or perhaps it's the conundrum of this stubbornly racist society and yet still open their hearts, hug others to their bosoms, and are determined to meld the good of the natural world with the knowledge they've acquired through higher education. There is knowledge, and then there is knowing.

So this is why I'll read this book, this fable, this teaching again and again. This is why I'll recommend it to friends. In the face of lack of education about Black history, and the desire for some understanding of the racial divide, the quest to find our way back to each other, this magic book at the least provides an insight, and at the most lights the world with its author's appreciation of the power of transformation and the value of connection.

Monday, September 2, 2013

rock 'n roll

Oooo I'm outing us, depressives! My friend, Bill who's endured a life time of depression would call us "the depressives" which I thought sounded must more active or like a rock band then "I suffer from depression." And the word "suffer"--so anti-American! Sufferers were made to be healed and raised up and medicated back to life!

We are masters at masking our despair. We would be very successful actors if we could get out of bed. Most of you will never know when we're having a bad period. Perhaps we're not as in touch with you as we were, but you've experienced this before. Maybe you are like one of my friends who assumes that I'm having creative epiphanies when I'm really sitting in a dark corner eating ice cream.  And I am the epitome of cheeriness at work, which is a blessing, really, because I've worked with the actively depressed and hearing the windiness of their sighs and their resistance to suggestion makes me want to put my anti-depressants in their morning yogurt. So fucking mean. If the show were on the other sad foot, of course I'd expect them to give me pats on the head and assorted mini-sweets...actually, I wouldn't do that at all. My work mask is firmly superglued into place. "You are always so positive," co-workers say, and I applaud myself on hiding the black cesspool within sucking it up until I get on the train with the other perpetual frowners.

Sometimes I don't talk about my depression with my doctors because they then don't try to find out what's really causing my symptoms. Some yahoo has written a useless paper that says that depression could be the cause of a plethora of physical symptoms, and some doctors have latched onto this as a panacea, attributing chronic fatigue and autoimmune symptomology to being depressed. I'm not saying this isn't the case, but shouldn't you also be looking at more than that? As a recent article that I'm too lazy to find and insert as a link here pointed out, many doctors miss "physical" symptomology because of this. Of course depression has been declared a biological disease, thank gawd, and if I wasn't so depressed I'd go into medical research to find out exactly what mixture of chemicals causes it.

We don't want to be a burden. Thinking we are a burden is part of the disease. When Phil gets blue, he becomes "not worth the bloody trouble." Sometimes when I'm in the grip, positive things people say about me put my teeth on edge. Don't stop saying them, of course.

I once rode on the back of Bill's bike years ago, and we screamed until we were hoarse. Bill claimed that I'd blown out his eardrum but I could tell by the number of bugs that littered the face screen of my helmet that the wind was blowing in our faces. Cheeky sod.

And then all of the suggestions and potions and exercises and role-playing and accupuncture needles sticking out of your ears like cable station antennae are a tad disappointing. Bill's tried every legal anti-depressant and some that you won't find in the Physician's Drug Reference. He had some success with St. John's Wort but then his tongue got numb and he couldn't taste his scotch. A truly depressing thought. Blech.

I've had better luck with medication and some behavior modifications and that's due to the flexibility and skills of my doctors and therapist.  But sometimes I feel like I'm falling and I try, by myself, to put it right. Even after all of these years knowing that it's the misalignment of juice tubes in my brain, it still strikes me as a bad attitude  or just some chronic unwillingness to BE HAPPY. And it's hard to grab onto the logical brain bits that know that this just isn't true. Some have said "you just don't want to be happy." Are you out of your tree? Of course I want to be content, serene, glowingly alive, robust, plump like a partridge, and cast off my mask. Damn, it's hot in here, the adult acne is vicious, and my mascara melts."

©Jo Craig 2013

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Sexy, sexy, sexy

Yet again, I begin, or continue, as my wise friend Ruth writes, to find the flow. The winter and early spring were miserable times of self flagellation, a habitual eroding of spirit and bodily dysfunction and depression as I struggled with my first almost full time position in almost 20 years, grief over my father's death, and the self-doubt that I've spent lots of time and funds on to master. The last few months at my last job being made too much use of and being blamed for mistakes that I didn't make eroded my confidence. I tried, tried tried not to let it but it led to a kind of low level terror at the new gig, a fear of making mistakes that was kind of ridiculous given that I was learning a whole new industry, system, and working almost twice as many hours while still experiencing the energy sucking rebellion of this wacky body.  Couple that with my attempts to be relentlessly positive and high stress ensued. That's my intellectual version of what was happening, anyway. It could have been that the moons of saturn were in retrograde or an infestation of the Asian Depressive Beatle invaded the neighborhood.

I think of these periods when I'm better as clean up and aftercare. Back on the stricter healthcare regimen, back on the medicines and ungents and treatments that seem to help, back to being more social, back to writing and other creative pursuits and dreaming, and playing with Dolce for long periods. Oh, but that all of us could be as satisfied and happy as he is playing with a piece of yarn. 

I think one of the other terrors of my winter of discontent is that I'll be 50, 50 years old, next May (with the skin of a goddess in some areas. ha!). It's funny now, that that seemed so sad, in winter, when now it seems like a blessing that I made it this far. And I'm back to writing again (again and again and again). 

So look for my "save the date" for next May's celebration of making it this far and still being as sexy as Sally O'Malley (see link, below.)

I'm 50 years old

Monday, April 22, 2013


It started setting in today physically. The muscles, the facae, the cramping and spasm of spastic nerves that somehow don't know how to turn off fight or flight. I saw a nubian princess reciting her rosary on the inbound train platform. "Hail Mary, full of grace, let me and all I know come home with all of our limbs tonight."

Today, at the time of the first explosion one week ago, we formed at the corner of Boylston and Charles Streets, and gazed down the four blocks to the incident site, observing a moment of silence and listening to the church bells playing "Amazing Grace."

"I wonder why we didn't hear it?" one of the students asked.

"Probably because we were so high up," another replied. Thank goodness we didn't hear it. It haunts us enough already and must be a continuing nightmare for the people who did witness it.

I remember this feeling, amid all the others, in the aftermath of 9/11, looking at a photograph of one of the hijacking murderers and seeing the emptiness there--what happened to you and this kid and his brother, that you turned into monsters, and how sorry I feel for your families who most assuredly didn't see this coming but will be tainted with it forever? You were innocent little babies once, full of brown eyes and promise, and now you are dead or as good as.

People want to make some kind of definitive statement about all this, wrap it up with a bow, outlined what we've learned. But I already knew how good most people are in times of crisis and we do an injustice by not allowing ourselves time to think and feel our fear, our horror, our pain. There's not a damn thing wrong with feeling all of this deeply even if you weren't directly involved. If you have a heart, you were wounded.

I don't have anything new to offer. I feel awful and will for a while until I don't. Synapses will misfire until they calm again. I'll hold loved ones close and be a little kinder for a while. There will be shop therapy, and a few hard ciders, and some serious nap time to cope.That's all that can be done.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Erica America

My Sweetie Pie

On June 1st, my sweetie pie niece, my baby, Erica, will graduate from high school. The day that she was born 20 Novembers ago, my brother called to tell me that she'd been born and then called 10 minutes later with tears in his throat to tell me that she had Down's Syndrome.  I cried hard for 10 minutes in my bosses' office and then I did some research. Even then, there were lots of words like "retardation" and "limitations" and the whole family mourned our dashed expectations for this first child, grandchild and niece. But like so many experiences in life, I didn't have a clue. From the moment I met my little Boo Boo when she was three months old, she's had a hold o' my heart.

Like so many people who are labeled early on, Erica defies expectation.  She and I bonded over songs like the Name Game, a love of toast, a passion for floating in swimming pools and sheer cheeky mischeiviousness. She learned how to play her videos on the VCR early on and memorizes lines of dialog. She's survived some congenital abnormalities including a broken neck. She won a gold medal running in the Special Olympics. She's a cheerleader on a Down's Syndrome cheerleading team. When we speak on the phone she says "Hi Jo Jo," and then listens to me chatter and laughs and laughs. She loves her long hair and necklaces and long dresses and she loves to snatch my glasses off. Because her parents are wise and strong she's developed a lot of independent skills that were probably unthinkable a generation ago.

I remember that early research which read that people with Down's Syndrome have sweet dispositions--what an understatement. Erica is the most loving person I know. When we see each other, our joy is mutual and contagious.  And though it's still painful to contemplate what her life would have been like if she'd been "normal", I can't imagine it would be more full of love.

So when someone asked me recently what a Down's Syndrome kid would understand about graduating from high school, I couldn't put my finger on exactly what Erica will understand about the ceremony or it's implications. But what she will understand is that her family is gathered about her, she is being celebrated along with her friends, she gets to wear her pretty clothes (and maybe some lip gloss), and that she is very, very loved.

And we'll sing!

Erica America and JoJo

Saturday, December 29, 2012

JoJo Unchained

I still don't understand why we expect movies that take on historical subjects to be historically accurate or that the film makers have some responsibility to the groups represented. Film is art. Art is subjective, which is why it's so powerful and so necessary.

Here's why I saw "Django," Quentin Tarantino's new film about a slave hero:

1. I love Tarantino's cartoony bombast and high moralizing that usually results in some highly satisfying revenge fantasy in most of his films.

2. Despite the protests of Spike Lee and others, I believe that, even in this way, we need to communicate that slavery was an abomination that still has us in it's thrall--witness the last election and all the racial and sexist hatred swirling around this country. 'Who was that n_____?", a line from the film, is probably something some people are still saying about our President. In this film, we see an unvarnished and brutal depiction of that recent part of our history that some would have us forget.

3.  "Django" boasts a African-American male as a hero, one who fights to get his wife back. Love it. Because we haven't dealt with this part of our history and because some people are sliding back into a racially divisive mindset, we all need to see Black male heros and sheros.

Now. I was a little hesitant when I heard that the plot involves a white man, played by the amazing Christoph Waltz, enabling Django to freely begin his quest to find his wife. Once again, a white dude is the answer to a Black dude's problem.  But what I found is that Django, played with restrained fury and cool by Jaime Foxx, ennobles Waltz's character and involves him fully in assisting him to right an injustice that involves him only as a human being and not as a vengeful slave. He becomes invested in Django's quest through Django's determination and his admiration of a man who's survived all attempts to snuff him out.

Of course there is a big fantasy element here as Tarantino pays homage to the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone adding a little sip of the Blaxplotation movies of the '70's. And Kerry Washington only gets to react to being terrorized and used, her great brown eyes sometimes her only avenue of expression--but I'd also call her more than a plot device as I never questioned Django's devotion to her.

Samuel L. Jackson plays a character that I'm sure it was a little difficult to take on but I won't spoil it for you in case you want to see it. Suffice it to say that he's his usual spot on self.

It is hard on us as human beings to witness brutality, fictional and real. We've grown away from the savagery of the jungle, the horror of the Holocaust, the psychopathic notion that one race of people was put here on earth to serve another based on a bit of melanin. But we should never try to forget these atrocities but must bear witness to them and and make sure that our progeny learns the complete history of how this country came to be what it is.  Only then can we revel in the triumph of love and spirit we've created and only then will we be able to nurture it and enable all peoples of all colors to flourish.