Wisdom of MY Words

Random Musings & Book Reviews

Archive for July, 2017

30 July
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Books & Ferrets – Worse Name Ever

A decade ago I registered for a French Classe that met by Lunds Uptown. It was inexpensive, but the instructor, Fawn, was super disorganized. I’ve a low tolerance for air headed disorganization. I attended twice, and at the second classe Fawn said something shaming to me. I don’t remember what, but I do remember the feeling, as I captured it in writing in a notebook. I remember that it was based on my opinion and that she shot me down about my own, personal study-abroad experience in France. The luxury of being slightly literal and elucidating facts in an Asbergery, detailed, precise manner in a journal every day of my life since Nana Wolski taught me how to read. “Felt dirty and hot. Shame seeped through me. Fawn is insecure. Needs to be center of attention. As a black woman she believes her experience is more valid than a white woman being raised by a divorced, single abusive lesbian.  Juan Carlo convinced me to give the classe another chance, even though it was filled with women I didn’t like who were sycophantly sucking up to Fawn.

29 July
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Muslim Notes

Gov’t Food Stamp Program Discriminates Against US Citizens, Favors Illegals

It’s been nearly six months since Donald Trump took office, and some families with illegal aliens get food stamps (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) while identical all-citizen families of the same size and with the same income do not receive them.

This is not a question of treating illegal aliens like other residents of this country, it is clear-cut discrimination against citizens and in favor of illegals.

This long-standing (and peculiar) arrangement is the sort of thing that one would expect to be corrected by the third, if not the first, month of a new get-tough-on-illegal-immigration administration, such as that of the campaigning Donald Trump.

I checked with the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service this week, the $110 billion-a-year <https://www.usda.gov/sites/default/files/documents/USDA-Budget-Summary-2018.pdf> agency that runs food stamps and some other nutrition programs.

Two questions were on my mind: 1) does the food stamp program still, under a particular set of circumstances, operate with this anti-citizen bias, and 2) has the Trump administration made an appointment of one or more outsiders to help run the agency?

The answer to the second question came quickly: No, but there is a civil servant running the program on an acting basis who was placed in that job by the White House. Does an agency have to have a budget of, say, $200 billion a year before the administration notices its existence?

It took a little longer to get the answer to the first question, because the nature of the discrimination is subtle and a lot of professionals in the welfare business do not want to make the distinction between legal and illegal residents of this country.

Here’s how the system works: Illegal aliens are not allocated food stamps, but if the family is mixed, with some citizens and some illegals, the mixed family still gets some benefits. States are allowed, to some extent, to pick and choose among benefit-determination methods. Most states have chosen a technique that does not record some of the earnings of illegal aliens, while always recording all the income of citizens.

Let’s look at the system as applied to two similar families who live in adjacent houses; both have incomes of $2,400 a month, both have the same assets, both families consist of a working male, his stay-at-home spouse, and their stay-at-home toddler. The only difference is that one of the men is a native-born citizen and the other is an illegal alien. Everyone else in the two households is a citizen.

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OK, so far. Now let’s walk through Alice’s special mirror, and see how the government handles the situation. It sees the three-citizen family as three people and says that $2,400 a month is too high an income for food stamps. It looks at the other family and sees it as a two-member family, because the man is an illegal, and then — here’s the key — the government decides that only two-thirds of the family income should be counted, and that $1,600 is not too high for a family of two, hence the family with the illegal alien in it gets food stamps and the other family does not.

There are bands of income in which this situation plays out with different sized families, giving benefits to some mixed families, and denying them to all-citizen families of the same size and with the same income. For more on these strange arrangements, see the CIS report “An Aid Program that Routinely Discriminates in Favor of Ineligible Aliens” <https://cis.org/Aid-Program-Routinely-Discriminates-Favor-Ineligible-Aliens>.

That’s the way it was under Obama, and after I explained the (admittedly bizarre) matter to the Food and Nutrition Service publicist, she told me that it remains that way under Trump.

This story is symptomatic of two larger realities. Both the Obama and Trump administrations managed to conduct big immigration operations to their own liking; think of DACA with Obama, and, under Trump, the way that enforcement people were given the freedom to do their jobs.

But Obama was much more successful in the minutia of immigration policy than Trump; for years I wrote about this little move to admit a small class of migrants, or that little move that prevented another subclass from being deported. We are not seeing that, or maybe not yet, with the Trump administration. You can’t change policy, at least at the retail level, without people to write and push the new policies.

So an unknown but substantial number of mixed (illegals plus citizens) families are getting food stamps when equally poor neighbors, who happen to be in all-citizen families, go hungry.

David North, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, has over 40 years of immigration policy experience.

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published by the Center for Immigration Studies <https://cis.org/North/SNAP-Still-Gives-Preference-Illegals-over-Citizens>.

29 July
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Vulnerbilities

I tried to find something, anything, that revealed a good intent. Still, even though he sat there quiet, I missed the point. I saw the entire world as spiteful. All I felt, everything my soul ached to persevere, told me his spiteful comments actually aimed to penetrate my pride. Of course, my penetrated pride arose only half-way from him and half-way from me.

In my mind, he shoved his hand into my chest and ripped my heart out with his words. Symbolically speaking, his words flew at me across the table. When these words struck me like a thunderstorm, my knees shook from way beneath my skirt.

I felt like fleeing, running away, not facing him, discarding him, forgetting the reasons for his words, the background noise that entailed the key to the riddle.

Instead, my mind wandered and cried.

The truth I looked for vanished. He’d invited me here out of love, or so he said. Love? Love.

Now this.

Women, the look seemed to say, they are all mean.

They all mean harm.

I looked away onto the street, looked at the cars whizzing by, the couples sweetly cooing and cuddling next to us, the summer breeze stroking their hair, the soft music kissing their souls. I tried to maintain a little of my pride, just in spite of the fact that I felt like screaming. Other couples wining, dining, eating, laughing, drinking.

When I looked back at Peter, his face subtly lit by oncoming dusk, his eyelids wavered up and down just like they always did when I knew his fear overwhelmed him. First the hatred, then the fear, then the remorse.

Peter pleaded with me to say something. He pleaded, cocking his head and giving me his cocker spaniel-look. I lifted my hand and asked for the waiter’s attention, ignoring his words. A part of me wanted to answer that. I couldn’t stand it. I had to leave.

One hand, one finger, actually, raised in the waiter’s direction made him gaze over from the table he headed for at that moment. The young, twenty-something blonde guy walked up to me with a tray. There were nice men after all, even waiters who put me ahead of other guests. He stopped by our table, inspecting my gaze.

Hold on. This guy, had I not met him somewhere? Maybe he just resembled my gay brother.

I looked down, trying to collect my thoughts.

Who was I kidding? Peter’s reactions proved to me his entire focus devoted itself to his own feelings.

The scenery, this place, our romantic encounters here through the years rushed back into my heart, my fear rushed through my stomach and hit my head, the wine hit my lips and I found myself searching for words.

“Yes, miss?”

“Could I pay, please?”

I tried to hold back my tears, in spite of all that damn French wine.

The waiter looked at my agonized face, a trifle dumbfounded for a moment, gazed over at Peter and then back at me. He nodded, hesitantly, and tried to give me a smile.

“Only your bill, miss?”

I nodded, trying to remain calm. The hard part still waited for me, trying to keep cool in spite of the fact that I knew Peter sometimes went crazy when I threatened to leave him. Too many times now, I thought to myself. Was it me or him?

“The man will pay for himself,” I spat sarcastically, looking down and not daring to look into his eyes.

The waiter gave me a slow nod and left.

“The man?” Peter said, his voice trembling. “Is that all I am to you now? The man?”

“Peter,” I cried. “All I am to you is just a statistic.”

“I didn’t mean it that way.”

“I’ve had enough of your constant egotistical nonsense.”

I looked down, my face turning red.

I could at least let him finish.

No, that other voice retaliated. That bastard has to pay for his own medicine.

I could positively hear Peter’s heart thumping inside his chest. His hands began fidgeting with the napkin when he realized that I kept my mouth shut. He made little boats with them, little ships that sailed away on their own sad sea. Our shipwreck. He then finally put the napkin away, shook his head and swallowed a few times, quite loudly, a real froggy-like gulp, before he spoke.

“I don’t have to explain this, do I? Not after that scene with that washcloth yesterday? What was the problem, dear? That I took the blue one instead of the green one?”

I looked him straight in the eye, winced. No, I narrowed my eyes in order to prepare to penetrate his innermost spirit with hate. I couldn’t stand his sappy face anymore.

“They have different functions,” I said calmly. “But that doesn’t make me a cliché.”

“Love,” Peter said. “I am just saying that so many women today spend their entire days screaming at their men how stupid they are. We have to stop playing that game. It is a sociological sickness. Men playing the stupid brutes and women playing the hurt victims. We can relate to ourselves as people. We don’t need to be stereotypes.”

“I relate to you as a person, someone I love,” I said. “Not as a cliché.”

“Then let us stop this,” he said. “I will stop taking everything seriously and you will stop constantly complaining.”

“Look, Peter,” I groaned. “You asked me out, you reserved this damn table. I am pregnant. Who am I kidding, God in heaven, who the hell am I kidding?” I screamed. “I am a just some damn statistic. How many girls did you hump to get to where you are.”

“It’s useless,” he said, shaking his head and leaning back, looking the other way.

Even that gay waiter in the corner turned around. I wanted to sink into the floor and forget that I existed. My face throbbed.

“What is that supposed to prove, Peter?” I whispered, quietly, trying not to speak louder than the audible width of this table. Peter leaned forward and, honestly, I thought he really turned sincere for a moment. He hoped for my love. I wanted it and yet I didn’t.

“You think I am saying that it all seems to prove that women use their men and that emancipation is a bunch of crap. But that is not what I mean. I am talking about something very different.”

“What? What? For Pete’s sake, what?”

“Respect! We agree on the importance of equality, emancipation, mutual fulfillment, the works. The only thing lacking, on your part, is respect.”

I blurted out, “You cheated on me, damn it! You talk about respect!”

“Where else am I supposed to get tenderness, girl? If I ask you on my hands and knees for tenderness and all you do is tell me that I didn’t clean up my mess. Is cleaning up more important than me?”

I hollered, my entire inside turning inside out. I felt like throwing up, my heart looking at this man I thought I knew. I thought I knew. Why had I married this strange man? Why? My heart started accelerating in speed. I wanted to cry, turn the tables over, spit and curse.

Peter leaned forward, gritting his teeth, speaking through his closed ivories, “You’re making a scene. Be quiet!”

I wanted to say the D word, but I dared not. After all, I had known this guy since grade school.

Very softly at first, he spoke like a little boy afraid to tell his angry teacher the truth. He had been caught with the hand in the cookie jar and, according to him, his wife was the Commander General whipping up a storm because of it.

He whispered, his voice trembling again, fearing his own words. “Are women the weaker sex? No. Of course they are not. Women are much stronger than men. They always have been.”

“What are you driving at, Peter?”

“That because, in the past and in other cultures, women have been pushed down. We need to fight that. But we fight it the wrong way. So, in the western world, we go to the other extreme and turn many relationships into a complete female dominated scenery, where the male never tells his wife the truth. Why? He knows he can’t. She will undoubtedly just explode. If she would cool down, he would. Calm honesty helps.”

“So, I am a bitch?”

“No, you are the love of my life. Just cool down. I am on your side with emancipation here. But half of all domestic abuse is committed by women. That is a truth that no one speaks of, because, heck, males are stronger. So they say. We men need female strength. It is vital for our survival. But we don’t need female abuse.”

“Does that mean that women abuse their men mentally?”

“It means that, in spite of the fact that I love you, you should try to control yourself!”

“Then why did you invite me here in the first place?” I spat, my heart beating like crazy now, I felt like punching him in the face.

“Because I thought we could have a civilized conversation in this place. I guess I was wrong.”

I leaned across the table, giving him a glimpse of my cleavage. I knew that he loved my cleavage and now I used it in order to give him a ride he would never forget.

“Take a good look at them, Petie,” I spat. “Because it is the last darned time you a getting any of this.”

He shook his head. “Come on, Barbie …”

“Don’t you Barbie-me,” I screamed. This time, several heads turned in our direction and this time I didn’t care at all. In fact, I wanted everyone to hear this. “I’ll tell you what can’t go on like this,” I bellowed, feeling the eyes of all of the other guests upon me.

Now, he shivered. He shook. I felt afraid, too, but I also felt strong, strangely strong, as if I to cross a mountain in order to do this. A mountain I could cross, but one I feared crossing. I knew nothing what was on the other side.

“What?”

The corners of his feeble smile shivered.

“You,” I kicked him with my voice. “You jumped into bed with that crumpet and I still stayed with you. That is over, Bubba.”

He started shaking his head frantically, almost to the point of looking like one of three stooges.

“You painted me into a corner, Barbara,” he spat. “I fled.”

I laughed in his face. That really dropped the bomb on me thoroughly. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I sing-songed. “Poor little male squirrel, dominated by his horrible dragon-lady.”

“Susan was the only one who gave me any sort of sweet understanding. That’s what I meant. You are so angry at men for what happened generations ago, that, by Jove, you take it out on me.”

“What is this? Huh, Peter? What is really going on here? Testosterone? Estrogen? Adrenaline? Male self-respect? What? Tell me, Bozo, ‘cause I am dying to know.”

“Okay, I‘ll tell you,” he spat. His hands shook more than ever now and the courage that it took for him to say this would electrify the entire city. That obvious fact almost made me laugh. “Damn it, every woman seems to be acting this way these days. You never used to be this way. You spend too much time with all these divorced women. 2 million men were assaulted by their wives last year.”

“I am not every woman, damn it, Peter. I am your wife.”

“And I love you. But you get so angry sometimes, I just want to split my whistle. One woman even killed her husband accidentally, because of rage. She was waving a knife about and shoved it into his belly.”

“You can’t possibly compare that to our relationship!”

“You told me that if you had a gun …”

“Are you any better?”

“I try to keep cool.”

I catapulted out of my seat, picked up my glass of 2011 Chateau St. Michelle and threw it in his face.

“I’ll give you a statistic, creep,” I mused. “According to new numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012 full-time employed women earned just 80.9% of the salaries their male counterparts did, down more than a full percentage point from 2011 when the number hovered over 82%. Google that.”

I dug nervously in my leopard skin purse, my hands shaking like crazy, feeling like a lunatic. I found my wallet, took out two twenty-dollar bills, crumpled them and threw them into his half-eaten steak.

“See you in court.”

My right hand now shaking to the point of insanity, my tears streaming down my face, I pointed at him, feeling like some damn hot potato stuck itself in my right cheek and refused to let me speak.

I deliberately swung my ass really seductively as I walked out, giving him the chance to sit there with my white wine dripping all over his suit and tie. He still sat there like an unhappy dog, motionless, as I quickly told the maitre-d’ that my former husband was paying for his useless steak.

As I walked out from the gates of the outdoor seating in front of this chic restaurant, tables and tables aligned with lovers, I saw, no felt, in my deepest soul, how everyone looked at me. Men, many of these brutes, anyway, felt for Peter, I’m sure. The women, at least some of them, felt that I was in the right. At least, I thought so.

Every action froze to a halt. My knees shook to the point of lunacy. I felt like turning back and trying to talk this out. Help me, but in some weird way I loved him. His eyes were on my neck, wanting to go after me. I really knew he didn’t want to make a scene. Choleric outbursts, of course, being the reason.

That line from Star Wars came to mind:

Fear will keep the systems in line.

But, holy crap, I wasn’t Governor Tarkin, was I?

I had my reasons.

Infidelity.

Go after me, Peter, I felt myself thinking. Fight for our marriage. Please. I haven’t fought so long for you to have it end like this.

That other part of me hated him and his stupid words of disrespect. Had I disrespected him? Bossed him around?

High heels clicking away from that horrid creep, I stepped onto the pavement, wondering if I should turn back. Obviously, I didn’t. My feet feeling like overcooked spaghetti and my thighs like chicken dancing on the bone, I strode onwards away from the L’auberge Francaise, feeling like a very scared cat, pretending to be strong. Strong? I had no idea what I was or who I was now with Peter throwing his statistics at me. Every woman? Me? I had always prided myself in being special. Never every woman. Now, my husband was calling me a cliché.

As I walked away from what used to be our favorite restaurant, my head made leaps and turns, my brain aching, my head spinning, I think, in reality, everything turned topsy-turvy inside me. I heard my brown high-heeled shoes clicking on the pavement, I felt my hair swinging to and fro on my back, I knew that the men were turning around to take a closer inspection at my buttocks and maybe get a glimpse of my swinging breasts and that in spite of their girlfriends.

Gosh, why couldn’t they just look away?

I felt hurt. I cried, moaned, producing loud sobs. Yes, yes, yes, I knew I was choleric. My outbursts were legendary. Peter was a poor sod. But he always came with these bloody accusations about domestic abuse carried out by women, that emancipation had good awry, that females pushed down males in western society more than males did females. Hogwash.

I left the restaurant behind me and headed for … where ever, whatever the case may be. Not our penthouse, anyway.

I stopped at a traffic light, in my heart hoping that Peter would come rushing behind me, drying his stupid face off, still munching on his last ounce of beef and the waiters screaming at him from behind.

While the DON’T WALK sign still blinked, I took a glance behind me, hoping to see him rush up and say that he was wrong. Of course, he didn’t. Guys were glancing at my butt, sure. Peter? He probably sat by his table, crying, glancing at his half-eaten steak.

I turned back toward the stop-lights.

“Damn it,” I whispered to myself. “Horseshit.”

My feeble, shallow breath caused me to tremble worse than ever.

My feet felt like they wanted to go back and discuss this with him. Maybe I had overreacted. What if he had been right? What if we women really overdid it?

Go back?

I turned around, facing the other way. What kind of impression would that make? Going back? But I had to solve this? Talk to him? I couldn’t …

No. No. No. And no.

The WALK sign now blinked and I hesitantly walked onto the street, along with some dog-walkers and teenagers and old farts. My hands, I don’t know why, automatically grabbed into purse again and took out the cellular phone. I flipped the pages and looked for Peter’s number. Without thinking about it, I dialed.

God, what was I doing? Little woman, feeling scared, calling her hubbie. Soon, that gorgeous looker would be beaten and calling the abused women’s association. Darn it, before I could react I heard the tone beeping on the other end. His phone was ringing. Oh, no. Then, I would have to say something. I arrived at the other side of the street, a few teenagers giving me the double whammy. I felt scared and very abused. I didn’t want to be a sex-object right now.

I felt like screaming at them to get the hell away.

But I didn’t.

Oh, shit. I … Now, the tables were turned. I was calling him. He was ignoring me. This was bad. I was turning into the bad girl.

He wasn’t answering the phone.

Oh, heck, he played that game with me again.

I sighed, hanging up the phone, pressing it to my Revlon lips, closing my eyes. I trembled. Trembled. Tears by now streaming down my face, I felt like a leaf being thrown back and forth in the wind, my insides shoved up toward my throat.

I opened my eyes again and saw that damn lipstick on my phone, as if that meant anything at all. Traces of all that beauty I displayed stuck on an Asian scrap of technology. I looked at the red mark I had left, as if all of the answers lay imbedded in that little leftover of all my female cosmetic bliss. Wondering what had just happened, I stood there for a bit on the sidewalk, thinking. The world seemed to pass in record speed past my vision. Cars, loud cars, passing by and yet: all that noise didn’t seem to matter.

Elegant houses that remained empty. Crowded streets remained abandoned. Noisy streets lonely. Sure, I hated him. But divorce him? It all seemed so remote, so strange, so foreign.

My hand with the phone sunk down toward my skirt. I could feel it trembling. Numb. Really numb inside, it felt as if I really had no choice but simply stand there and wait for my spirit to make a decision. No single thought appeared in my brain. Not even a clear sense of hatred. Why was he saying this? Me, bossy, choleric, disrespectful? I ached, too. I ached and hurt inside. Infidelity kills.

People didn’t seem to notice me anymore. I simply stood there, about five minutes away from my home, watching the world go by and crying, calmly, silently, to myself, watching that damn lipstick on my phone, wondering what to do, where to go, what decision to make.

So, I took a walk down the street. Aimlessly, I passed by cafés on the street corners, fast food-joints, shoeshiners, theatres, supermarkets, all the time wondering if my husband still sat there with that stupid look on his face. I circled the block five times and wondered if he really meant what he had said.

Half of domestic violence due to female abuse? Where had he got that from? Some porn site? My anger, no, that extreme rage had now been replaced by a very deep sadness. A sadness I rarely had felt in my life. Peter? Sure, his male egotism kept challenging me all the time. But was he right? Had I expected too much of him? Had I really given him too hard a time back when he chose to go to bed with Susan instead of with me? Had I been a bitch back then? Had he actually slept with Susan because I wouldn’t listen to him? Because I kept making fun of him at parties and screamed at him to clean up his mess? Did he feel disrespected? Was I the reason?

As I circled the block in this posh part of town, aimlessly as ever, I wondered. I tried to remember. What had happened back then? He had been promoted, right? There was that really difficult situation at his workplace with the … What had it been? God, I couldn’t even remember. The company from Japan that cancelled all their orders and left them with a terrible debt.

I hadn’t listened. Was that it?

I think I stood there for quite a while until I realized what was going on. I had to go back.

I stopped in my tracks, blocking all of the pedestrian traffic and having people walking around me. It didn’t matter. I was on a side street, somewhere in an area I rarely strolled around in.

In fact, the more I thought of it the more I realized that during that entire time I had never ever listened to him. Okay, his words were way out of line, but he was hurt and I had to talk this out. If he was still an asshole after that, then so be it. The brick walls of that strange side street spoke to me of solitude. The dead-end I faced gave me no comfort. What would the future be like without Peter?

Right now, the prospect of actually divorcing him would leave a hole in my soul. I began crying, sobbing, leaning against the wall. I couldn’t. Peter, the love of my life. My shaking hands reaching for the kleenex. I searched for it beyond my mascara and unfolded it. When I dried my tears, I realized what I mess I was in.

God, I sobbed. I had to talk this out with him. I really had to.

This fault, I shoved it all on him. Sure, his infidelity shocked me to my bone and I really needed a divorce at that time. I had even called an attorney. Now, although his mistake evidently shone on my face like the Statue of Liberty shone in the face in my mind’s eye, my mistake also became increasingly more clear.

We never really talked. Not anymore, anyway.

We fought.

What kind of future would that be to my unborn child?

Living with a mother who never took responsibility for her own action, who said that father always was wrong and discarded any opinion he had out of a male cliché.

I did not want to be a cliché and neither did Peter.

Had I ever had the patience to listen to what gave him grey hairs back then? Not really. I had been so preoccupied with my forty hour week at the nail studio and my quarrel with that awful … what had her name been? Linda? Luisa? Laila? Whatever. I realized, then and there, that I, partly was to blame. Partly.

I shook my head. Holy crap, my girlfriends would throw garbage on me for thinking this. But, obviously, my husband had been very hurt. Still was. Choleric. Had my reaction been normal just now?

I turned around and faced the other way, slowly walking from where I had come. My mascara now runny, my tears streaming down my face, I picked up the kleenex again and tried my best to wipe off whatever marks still were on my face.

As I faced the main street again, I heard my high heels clicking on the ground. Emancipation. A good thing. But wasn’t a relationship supposed to work both ways. If I didn’t listen to my husband, give him a right to speak his mind, what good was I? He respected my opinion. He listened. He rarely raised his voice. I should respect his opinion. Had he listened to my problems with that girl, whatever her name was? Yes, he had. Had he really ridiculed me in front of my friends? No, only when I ridiculed him.

My steps now increased in speed like a train leaving the station. I saw myself running away yet again, a victim of the lack of tolerance of my time. A nervousness, it felt like butterflies in my stomach, started aching in my belly. Those butterflies circled even faster in my belly when I found myself back by the pedestrian crossing. The light wouldn’t change. More and more cars passed by on the street and the more cars passed, the more nervous I got. Night now covered the streets, a laugh echoed from across the dead-end street where I had just spent one minute contemplating my fate.

I smelled the sting of the night. I smelled it like a bee would smell the nectar of a flower, just like I smelled the food being served over at the restaurants. Suddenly, I felt Peter leave my soul. Strange, how that feels when somebody loses hope.

I knew him too well, I could not leave him.

The traffic light changed to WALK and I began running down the street toward the restaurant, having realized that I really needed to solve this. Now I didn’t only smell the night. I smelled my own panic, my own fear of having overreacted. My high heels clicked in presto-speed over the sidewalk, I cried to myself, hollered in hope that my husband would not have left me.

“Peter,” I mumbled to myself. “Please let us talk about this. Explain to me what you meant. Explain.”

The word Explain came out so many times while I ran down the street that, finally, it mumbled out as Splay. I must’ve seemed like a crazy person in my high heels running down the street toward the place that I had left around an hour ago.

I arrived back at the restaurant. Arrived? I stopped and felt like a statue. Suddenly, my heart trembled. The pain in my heart of again seeing this place hurt my pride. I wanted to save face and leave. That other part forced me to stay.

I saw waiters cleaning away dishes, a few scattered guests here and there, but my entire scene had obviously cleaned up business pretty well. The waiter I thought was gay gathered himself around a table by the door to the terrace. A couple just leaving the outside area saw me and the woman looked over, obviously wanting to say something. I saw compassion. Something had happened while I had been gone, but … what? I opened my mouth in order to ask and I saw her getting ready to tell me. Maybe she had been sitting at the table next to us and witnessed what Peter had done. The man, whoever he was, pulled her with him and made her come. She shrugged and left.

As they left, she hollered at her boyfriend to let her go, or else.

I saw myself here, completely alone, without Peter.

I watched the couple leave, feeling like someone whose heart had been ripped out of her chest. Alone, I stood here alone. Peter long gone, I rummaged my handbag again for a new kleenex.

Peter. Maybe he sat on a bench somewhere. Where? As I dried off new tears, I looked around, feebly hoping to find some reality in the situation. Hoping to find him. One small ray of light entered my heart and again I hoped to be able to talk with him, seeing that he had not meant harm. Something very wrong had happened right now and, God in heaven, my outburst had triggered it.

I smelled the pain in my heart. I smelled it in the whiff of the steaks that were delivered at the tables with the last remaining guests seated at the tables of the restaurant. I smelled my own pain like I smelled the roses that bloomed outside by the sidewalk.

I turned around, trying to find him. Onwards past the L’auberge Francaise there were only small shops and a few trees, a school and a park, a few dog walkers. Girls, whose laughter sounded ominous in their mirth. A weird looking moon. A topsy-turvy side street.

Hopeless.

“Excuse me, miss?”

Startled by the strange voice, I smelled the perfume of the waiter that I had perceived as gay. Brushing away my hair from my face, my eyes saw the young man holding a note. The expression on his face conveyed sympathy. I watched his lips slowly form a smile, a sadly sympathetic one. Hesitantly, he looked down upon the note.

For a moment I felt sympathy for the man standing opposite me. At least until I realized that this man actually felt sorry for me.

I passed him a questioning gaze.

He waited for a moment, his lower lip quivering in mid-air for one moment, his voice producing little grunts. I tried to give him a kind smile, for one second forgetting my own pain. Trying to, at least. My Lord, I felt like screaming and shaking. I felt like someone holding on to play-doh, while she felt it slipping through her fingers. Slowly and surely, I felt like Peter really disappeared out of sight down a very long tunnel. I could still see him, but once he vanished I felt that he would be out of my life forever. I felt like shaking the man and asking him if his senses and his mind had left for coffee.

“Your partner told me, in case you would come back here, to give you this note.”

He handed it to me.

My face seemed to project great insecurity. I still sensed the pain of being so close to where I had thrown my wine onto my spouse’s face just an hour ago.

A few scribbled words on a left over receipt. The words seemed to be dampened. Maybe a tear, maybe white wine, resided there.

A cry from my belly hit my vocal chords. Biting my lip, I slapped my hand against my left cheek, my left eyelid shaking. The waiter put his hand gently on my shoulder.

I shook my head. Violently, I think. The waiter hesitated, just like before and stood there for a bit. The smell of the food I had enjoyed an hour back felt as if it rumbled in my stomach, getting ready to reappear from my insides. Too many harsh words and hatred indigestible for a female belly.

“Mister,” I said, my voice trembling and shaking, tears streaming down my face. “Please tell me where he went.”

The waiter looked like he actually tried to find the answer to his own insecurity right down toward where the DON’T WALK sign now blinked. He shrugged.

He looked at me, pursed his lips in a sort of helpless fashion.

He pointed toward the sign.

“My boss is going to wonder why I am not waiting tables,” he whispered. “I know you.”

I pulled my head back in a gesture of shock. I saw myself now an infamous loon. I know you? Was I now a famous freak?

“What do you mean?”

“Your brother was my colleague back when I was still on Broadway,” he said. “Waiting tables is now my main occupation.”

He made a long pause, smiled.

“Kevin Arnold?”

He shrugged. “Me and your brother were never meant to be. You and Peter …”

Now, there was fear in his eyes.

“My God, this is way past my turf. But I just wanna say that he really loves you. That note proves it. Do something.”

Kevin pointed toward the DON’T WALK sign.

“Peter went that way.”

I nodded, holding back my tears.

After putting his hand on my shoulder one last time, he left. That insecure gaze back across his shoulder told me that everyone had witnessed our fight. I expected everything and gave nothing in return. I gave him dirty looks at the end of the day, screamed at him when he didn’t mop up the kitchen and called him stupid in front of his friends.

Walking back toward the main road again, I looked at the note that Peter left me with that waiter.

Now those tears that never seemed to stop burned my cheeks. The sadness went full circle. I felt so sad that I almost enjoyed it and I really didn’t care, where I walked in that darkness, if the people still out and about wondered who the crying woman was.

The closer I came to the street lights, the more afraid I got. Just closed up homes and a few hardware stores. One homeless bum picking his nose and a cat chasing a mouse. That homeless bum stopped short and called out some sentence from behind a tree. I couldn’t understand him. Only that I didn’t care. I had made a mistake. One that really might prove to be completely irreparable.

Back at the streetlights, I wondered to myself what gay people felt when they had love trouble. The same thing that I did right now, probably. Love never changes. Love never changes, ever. Pain never changes, ever. Pain is eternal. At least, that is what I thought.

My brother was happy with his boyfriend and Kevin was probably happy living with whomever he lived with, if anyone. Me? As I waited for the stupid light to click into the WALK sign, dammit, I realized that I had probably just missed my husband as he walked after me. He had probably had his phone sounds off when I called him. I then disappeared and he had followed me.

The poor sod had followed me and I had just missed him. Now, I walked across the same pedestrian crossing looking for someone I hated ninety minutes ago and couldn’t stop thinking about now.

I laughed and cried at the same time.

Okay, this guy defied gravity with those stupid comments of me being stereotypical and all that.

But this was a sensitive guy, right?

We were sensitive people.

I strolled and strolled away from the corner where I had called him. I passed the spot where he had asked me to marry him many years before that, I passed the spot where I had danced with him the first time by the lake one night at two o’clock at night to the music of his old transistor radio. He had made a waterlily in the form of a napkin and given it to me as we danced. God, how I complained at his habit of folding napkins. Now, I missed those napkins. Then, back then, in the beginning, we walked back to his little flat and made love to the sounds of Hall & Oates singing “Your kiss is on my lips”.

Now, so many fights later, I walked all the way through the darkness of the night, crazy me, close to Central Park and stood there close to that darn place I knew so well and waited and waited. I waited, I hoped. Maybe he had lost all hope.

God, I waited so long that I cried.

I looked at the note again.

If you still want me now,” it said, “then come to the place where we kissed for the first time. Otherwise, I will kill myself.

I don’t know what happened, but, in spite of all that bottled up anger, all my sorrow came pouring out. Convulsions attacked my body, tears streaming down my cheeks, so hot they left red marks on my cheeks. Again.

“Please, God,” I whispered under my breath, afraid that anyone would hear me. “Please send me an angel. Please send me my husband.”

I took two staggering steps back toward the wall of that little street corner where we had kissed for the first time so many years ago. I could still smell his after shave, his cheap, two-dollar after-shave. I smelled my own fear now. My own fear of choleric outbursts. I smelled his anger, I smelled my own hatred of male chauvinism. But I also felt my own love.

“You bring me closer to my own heart,” he had told me back then. “If a partner shows you how to feel your own soul, this is heaven.”

His age-old words rang in my ears like the bells of the Sacre-Coeur on a calm Sunday in Paris.

Crumpling the note to my chest, I declined picking up a kleenex to dry my face. I just leaned my face against the wall of the side street of that hotel, torn between my own screams of divorce and my deep love for losing a best friend. Cars whizzed by, dammit, and people walked by without even noticing me. I saw Peter actually at the bottom of the Hudson River and me, stupid me, powerless to stop it.

Just when I really lost all hope, that little voice within me reminded me that there was a little soul resting in my belly. Me, a mother? God, a mother? Pregnant, who would believe it? But Peter? He had to know. I wailed into a giant panic. My husband would never see his child. Where was he? What if he would kill himself and I could never tell him that I wanted him to be there when his child was born. I couldn’t leave this place. After all, this was the place where he had summoned me. But … no. Wait.

I looked at the note. His handwriting.

At home? I picked up my handbag again, fumbling for my phone. Lipstick, nail polish, money, kleenex, mirror, keys, no. Where? No phone.

That was when I saw it.

I small, yellow flower. Not a real flower, mind you. Just one made out of a napkin. A yellow lily. The only yellow lily in the world made out of napkin.

A man held on to it, his hand shaking, his lip trembling. I could still smell my own fear. The fear of being abandoned. That old two-dollar after-shave had been replaced by a more expensive brand. But, gosh, it was the same old crazy guy that claimed women were stereotypes, saying it, knowing it wasn’t true, could never be true.

Apprehensively, I took the napkin away from his right hand and looked at that silly flower.

Now, I saw that his eyes were bloodshot.

Now, my lower lip trembled. I laughed, my eyes shifting from his bloodshot eyes to his stupid little flower. My shoulder bounced a few times up and down from the relief cry I experienced.

Gosh, I was emancipated beyond belief. I, if anyone, would fight a man to the grave for equal rights. But I also realized that I had given my husband a horrible time and I never wanted to do that again.

As I admired the paper flower my husband had made me, I noticed a homeless bum, another one this time, clutching his bottle, burping, uttering his lovely hiccup, looking at us. It was his private show. No, wrong. That bum, an angel? A messenger? He waited for a kiss. God, yes. I needed a kiss. Not from the bum, from my husband.

I looked back toward my husband and noticed he also gazed at that old codger.

The bum gestured for him to make a move.

Peter smiled and, as he did, he looked down in that silly way I loved so. I lift my hand and caressed his cheek.

“Please, Peter,” I cried. “Don’t ever compare me to other women again. Just let me be your wife. Respect me for what I am, even when I go crazy.”

He nodded, trembling. Looking me in the eye, his eyes closing half way, he shook his head, pleading with me in a quiet fashion. Not with so much noise, but like a squirrel would plead with a bear not to eat his last nut, his special nut. Me.

“Could I then ask you not to start screaming at me if I use the wrong wash-cloth to clean the balcony door?”

I chuckled, sadly.

After one moment’s thought, I nodded.

When our lips met, somewhere near Central Park in New York City, that toothless bum started cheering. We didn’t care, because we could stand here kissing for hours.

And we did. Hot kisses, as enjoyable as the tears that had streamed down my face ten minutes before.

And we knew exactly what music to put on once we were home.

Our kid is going to know their father and see our love.

28 July
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What the People Think

Thankfully it was a Somali American police office that killed a white women. But since it was a white women that was killed the media will have no propaganda to spew. Fuck you BLM supporters, where are you now? Oh it must not matter because she was white. All lives matter dipshits…

Mark Dayton, Quiet on Minneapolis Police Shooting

Within hours of the police involved shooting of Philando Castile Governor Mark Dayton was on television stating that when a person gets shot during a traffic stop for a broken taillight, that is evidence that racism exists. Dayton made those comments before seeing any evidence and the recklessness of those comments contributed to riots and protests including the death of three police officers in Texas. A year later a jury finds the officer not guilty of any wrongdoing and judge who oversaw the trial commends the jurors for their work.This weekend we have a woman call police for help, they arrive and are talking to her from their squad car when one officer leans over his partner and shots the woman dead in cold blood. Police are mute on what happened and Dayton is mute on any inquiry or condemnation of the action.

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Minneapolis Police Shooting – When BCA Gets Around to it (Minneapolis)

The BCA is withholding comment about until the “have a chance to interview the officers”

As of this morning, its been 70 hours since the shooting and they still haven’t interviewed the officers? Where are their priorities?

You can bet if this was someone shooting or shooting at a police officer, that individual would have been apprehended and interrogated. But a police officer guns down a citizen in cold blood and pure complacency.

No witnesses, Body Cams not turned on, Dash Cam didn’t capture it, BCA dragging their feet. Sure looks like a police cover up.

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Betsy Hodges’s has been working really hard to destabilize the north side of mpls . Her and her city council that think that adding more PC candyass bullshit gonna make people live in some kind of strange ass utopia that simply will never exist . She has a very short sighted agenda now will fuck all of us real hard down the road . I think we’re done cleaning up strip clubs for hoes and johns they just gonna slime all over the place again . And kitty hall , I will never bring any of my kids to a gay parade sorry , I’m not against it , it’s just not nessacarry . Just cause you preform sex in a way that no procreation is commited just means that they are use if tax dollars to push a homosexual agenda . Yeah that shit exists . The government likes to codifying your thoughts .Betsy wants to put 300 more Somalian cops and give them a nice shiny gun with a lisence to kill you , um Betsy you need to do better . 300 more cops is not going to solve your problem it’s going to exacerbate your problem . When they hit the wrong boss playa in my hood your city will burn , like my dick going strait up your ass . And if it’s not spelled right it’s cause I don’t give a shit.

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Betsy Hodges is working terribly hard to destabilize the north side of mpls . This is more treasonistic activities that have been carried out by latte liberals, who think they should get a pat on the back for spending tax payers money on foolish bullshit , like makeing sure the strip clubs at extra sanitary for the whores and Johns. Wake up people your entire countries being destroyed by a clever orchestration of removing your rights , for others convince. Keeping loving Betsey , she is a snake just like officer Noor.
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Murder in the Second Degree (mpls)Believe me when I say, you will hear nothing from the Governor; Hodges is hiding under her desk and the County Attorney’s office has already shit a brick. This will be white washed due to the fact that both the city and the county are scared to death (no pun intended) of dark skinned minorities. BLM the perfect example.My guess is the cops will say they thought she had something in her hand and they were in fear for their lives. No evidence and no witnesses to refute their fear of death. The shooter should be charged with second degree murder. If I was his partner I would sue the shit out of the shooter for reckless discharge of a firearm.

But we’ll see. This will require much investigation and a Grand Jury. Don’t expect anything anytime soon.

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Roommate (Southdale area) hide this posting

I don’t get it…. I’m a 64yo, single, retired straight, male just trying to find a place to live. I only have social security, so I’m not able to get a “regular” apartment as I don’t have 3 times the amount of rent to qualify. I’ve been trying to find someone (M or F) that has their own place that wants a roommate. The only things out there seem to be looking for college age guys. I have a couple ads out, but all I get are crap responses. They give me a weird website to go to and log into facebook; yea, right. There are responses from women…”I read your ad and you sound so wonderful. I’m looking for a lover to be friends with”. Again, yea, right. The one I had last weekend was the best. A nice sounding lady emailed me saying she had a condo to share. We exchanged numbers and spoke for a while, then agreed to meet the next day. She emailed me and said something came up and would get in touch later that week. Haven’t heard back yet. When I called, it went right to voice mail.

OK, I’m done here, but I’ll keep looking….I have no choice. If anyone has some USEFUL advice, I’d appreciate it.
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City of St Paul HOMEOWNERS FUCK YOU PAY UP Illegals No PaY (St Paul) So the pieces of garbage running the city of St Paul want more homeowner cash for water run off. They stated in a phone call if you don’t pay the extra $100.00 they will take your home away. I say our leaders of Illegals are garbage and I hope the tax payers Voters will take the trash out. Not safe to go out after dark in both city and the garbage don’t need money for cops. Stadiums and Illegals that’s what the trash need money for. So in protest I will be throwing trash out in front of all the Stadiums. Super Bowl I will be trashing it. St Paul Police say they will not enforce the law on trash or garbage. So0 be it. TRASH the Freeloader leaking stadium.

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This is a warning, Betsy Hodges,  your party is over south mpls and northeast mpls. Worrying about how clean it is for Sex workers is not priority and never will be , nor will be it kitty hall anymore , Funtime stops now ! I know that Hodges is systematically attempting to destabilize the north side of mpls . She is scratching someone’s back and I think we know who it is . She is attempting to socially cleanse it so more get more refugees to vote her in so all thier relatives grandma , uncles aunts just the whole family over here so we can support them financially get them thier dream job and just shit on anybody who disagrees , I hope you wake up Hateing your job CUNT , Treasonistic BITCH , FUCK YOU Betsy !!!
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You all suck and i suck too (wanna know why)         Because were not John Wayne .Sorry but its true, John Wayne is the only man that ever walked this earth i would ever bow down to . Well Jesus too but hes all in a class by himself .no one else comes close , Jesus and John didnt need to be propped up ._________

In 1982, me and a chicky-babe were in a bar in Sarasota Fl., and in walked a man with a tea shirt that read “Rap is crap!” We all laughed with delight. I remember believing at the time it was a passing fad, and just grit my teeth and let it pass. Several days ago on TMZ they reported that Rap sells more than Rock & Roll for the first time.

All I know is after a generation of men having buz cuts, no facial hair, the “G-Man” look, my generation began growing mustaches and beards, wore our hair down to our asses (literally,) wore garish, outlandish cloths, smoked things, drank things, swallowed things, was in your face sexually unrepressed, mistrusted anyone over 30, anyone who worked or went to school, owned nothing, was motivated towards nothing, had loud, anti-establishment, anti-religious, anti-government, profane music older people said was NOT music. I swore back then I would never become one of those old, fussy people. My how times have changed.

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28 July
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Pacific Nights

The deep blue tone of the Sunday morning sky drove her out of the house, away from her lonely breakfast table, onto her private beach. The green grass on the peninsula gave Amanda a reason to take the easel, the canvas, the paint and the brushes out and discover a familiar view anew. She chose her favorite spot and settled down a few paces away from her house by the bay, close to the water.

At first, she watched the almost cloudless early summer sky. The occasional cloud slowly drifted across the blue eternity. The slight wind blew little bubbles into the white fog of the cumulus gave her a kind promise to remain steadfast until she had captured it in oil. The deep blue color shifted into turqoise and onto a kind of greenish blue color. Higher up in the stratosphere, though, the lighter blue tones transcended almost into white. Deeper down, the darker and richer shifts and tinges appeared.

Four or five different colors and one mornings work waited right here.

Amanda began, hearing those Pacific echoes splash against the shore. She lifted her brush and dipped it into the color, mixing the blue with the white and adding some water. Her brushstrokes light, she created a shifting range of differences. Subtle and sensitive, the clouds slowly moved in with the sky.

The shadow in a dark corner at one point blended in with the cloud itself.

Amanda’s hair blew from side to side in the gust of a warm wind. It fluttered past her countenance, slipped in past her neck and down her back. The ocean breeze caressed her, giving her a closeness to nature that she needed in order to portray this bay in the right manner. As she moved the brush up and down, her eyes caught sight of the golden ring on her finger.. Memories of Alan and Johnny flooded her braincells. Pancake breakfasts on the terrace. Piano lessons in the music room, board games on the kitchen table. Amanda’s happiness over professional family luck proved greater than her own longing for their company. Naturally, she felt happy for them working together in such a great city.

Still, with them not around – life seemed emptier.

Shaking it off, she turned to the painting again.

Amanda’s artwork of this scenery had a three dozen faces: a nighttime view, a morning view, an autumn sky, a winter landscape, at sunset, at sunrise. During the three years she had owned this house, the sky had never been so clear as today.

The bay all to herself, she could afford to feel free and easy. She didn’t. A light summer oufit thrown over a drying body. The painting beckoned, but so did the water. And for a while there, Amanda conversed with those two emotions. Yes, she came here to paint. Didn’t she actually want to arrange an exhibition near Sunset Boulevard with a selection of these paintings? Restlessness overcame her again and Amanda’s head snapped toward the left, as if the answer lay over there.

“Restless,” she whispered to herself. “I feel restless.”

That emotion smiled at her, giving in, telling her that the call of the water could claim its own right to abduct her for a moment.

And so, Amanda took off her sandals and stood up, letting the fingers of her right hand make love to the white canvas. She took a long, healthy, romantic look at the whiteness of it and wondered what the painting would look when it was finished.

The water called her to discover what was inside. Something.

She expected no one today and the private beach was deserted. Amanda threw her sandals off and walked barefoot into the cool water. The chill felt unusual on her warm body at first. It reacted with surprise. Her own gentle and large swim strokes resembled the technique she used when painting. Long and sweepingly emotional gestures. The unique sound of splashing water giving her a sense of security.

That “something” beckoned, called for her to come closer.

That “something” waited for her to discover it.

Soon, she found herself way out beyond the territory of her private beach.

Amanda Hines looked back onto where her canvas stood, splashing with her arms. The clouds appeared in a different light from here. They were not friendly. Cold. Maybe the chill of the water inspired it.

Amanda swam back, remembering a time when she had been a hardworking artist trying to make it in the competitive business. Back then there had been no million dollar beach house. No busy director husband travelling with his acting son. No thousand dollar paintings, no ten thousand dollar scenery for the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Just Amanda, a chick with a Masters Degree. A girl desperate to get a job. Today, in her successful life, her husband and son took an increasingly more important role in her life. With them gone for longer than a month, Amanda felt restless.

“I need them,” she sobbed. “God, I need them. Why am I so dependant on them?”

As she swam back, she cried. The salty ocean water mixed with the saltwater in her eyes. Having them around at important exhibitions exhilarated her life. Those Sunday morning breakfasts with pancakes and maple syrup on the terrace gave her the joy now no success could give her. Here at home, she wasn’t the successful painter, the famous stage designer or the celebrity sculptor. Here, she was Johnny’s mom and Alan’s wife. With them in Paris, she felt incomplete. Lonely. She missed helping Johnny with his homework, making kissing Alan good night or complaining about how much washing there was to be done.

The water cooled down the rest of the jitters she had felt up until the opening of the gallery. As her beach approached nearer with every stroke and every splash, she remembered the buzz, the music, the stars, the food, the press, the interviews, the press conferences and the fans.

Back on the beach, she sat down again on her garden chair.

Sighing, she closed her eyes, swearing to cool down.

After all, just a month and they would be back.

Not long.

Not long at all.

The colors mixed almost on their own without effort. A sunrise appeared, a bay, green grass, waves crashing against the shore. All the while, the warm weather eased the pain.

Soon, she could inspect a painting of her favorite beach.

Something called her onto the shoreline. Again.

That “something” called for her to wander and uncover it.

“Give me a sign, God,” she whispered to herself. “Anything.”

A sign that tells you what? God mused.

“A sign that relieves how much I miss my family,” Amanda cried. Her feet shuffled along the beach. As she gazed at the large house, she felt like screaming out at the entire paparazzi that fame really gave no security to avoid pain. First after having spent the last four years constantly with your family, she knew what it meant not to be with them.

Okay, she mumbled to herself, either Johnny was here or Alan.

Both of them gone?

Hard.

Very hard.

We already have given you a sign, dear, God answered. You just have to find it.

The sand tickled her naked toes and made her feel at one with this beauty. Where was Alan right now? Preparing a scene with Johnny, taking a walk in Paris? What time was it there? Six o’clock in the evening. Maybe, he dined with a friend. Arranged a Sunday shoot? Helped Johnny’s tutor coach him? Maybe Alan, Johnny and the other co-stars sat at Foquet’s half-way down Champs Elysée, chatting with Barbra Streisand or Mireille Mathieu.

Amanda remembered Alan proposing.

And cried.

Three months without them?

Too long.

Much too long.

These two months felt long enough.

But another month might force her to fly to Paris.

As she contemplated what her husband and son were doing in France at the moment, one bobbing bottle approached her. She saw it lightly dancing on the waves. It looked like an old friend, coming back to say hello. Transparant and most certainly one that they would sell at IKEA, it held a small note inside. It seemed no bigger than an A5 sized paper.

Amanda froze still, hearing God’s voice echo in her mind.

You wanted a sign, girl. There it is.

            A revelation, she told herself.

Or maybe just a surprise.

Somehow, Amanda knew the premonition by the painting soared within her still. The manifestation floated on the waves. A message in a bottle.

A certain spookiness overcame her.

She quickly discarded it.

“From Alan?” she whispered to herself and then laughed.

How silly.

Of course not.

A famous woman on her private beach finds a message in a bottle, she rambled in her mind, imitating the press. Extraordinarily enough, Amanda looked inside herself and discovered that the pain in her subsided.

Why? Alan and Johnny were still just as gone.

Like a rainbow after a storm, the winds of change offered Amanda a resting spot.

“God always keeps his promise,” Amanda whispered to herself.

Now, Amanda felt like a little girl opening a present.

Amanda waded into the water, letting her body slowly dwelve deeper into the salty bay. Her hand stretching out and reaching for it, she slipped and fell. Seaweed trickled into her nose and, subsequently, a stone cut her foot. She yelped with pain, clutching her foot, the pain sending signals to her brain to sit down and take care of herself.

The sting that bugged every part of her foot made it diffucult to walk. The waves were up toward her hips now. Suddenly, her fear crawled up from that foot to her hands and made them create fists. Amanda struggled to escape the waves, holding the bottle up above her head like runner holding a trophy.

Hobbling up on the beach, she sat down and examined it. A small cut graced the her left big toe. The blood trickled out quite badly, but she knew that saltwater had a healing function. And so, she stretched her feet out in the oncoming waves of the tide. Every wave at the moment felt like a really mean wasp penetrating her skin. However, she knew that the cut would be gone in ten minutes. Accordingly, she remained sitting at the edge of shore.

The bottle beckoned, like the painting had before.

She gazed at the canvas and the easel quite a way over toward the other side of the beach. A connection? God called her out to paint, but here she was holding a message in a bottle. How quaint.

“Who threw you in the water?” she remarked, talking to the bottle, feeling a bit silly again doing so. Would the bottle answer her? Probably not. Even big celebrities feel insecure at times, she thought to herself. At those moments, they talk to bottles. Or drink what is in them, she added with a laugh.

But this bottle was special, was it not?

It held a message inside it.

When she opened the bottle, it made a small pop, like the sound of a small champagne cork. The bottle indeed looked like the ones she had in the kitchen. Indeed, she bought these kinds of bottles at IKEA and God knows that the fans had been there, too. But she was almost positive this bottle had a few more years on its back that that. The clear marks of years of salty ocean waves could be noticed and the message itself yellowed with age.

Turning the bottle on its head, the message fluttered out on her lap and made a little dance in the gusts of wind. These gusts felt almost divine. Amanda felt something she hadn’t felt in years. The texture and feel of the paper seemed familiar. Childish excitement spread like wildfire in her spirit. She recognized this thing. That couldn’t be, could it? That small paper, pink on the inside and white on the outside, resembled her own child stationary.

An excited little bird fluttered around inside her soul.

God sent you a message. God sent you a message, it sang in a famous teasing melody. Amanda laughed at that little bird.

“Stop it,” she reprimanded the bird.

But it’s twue, the bird answered.

And now, Amanda knew the name of that teasing bird: her own favorite cartoon character: Tweety.

Tweety graced the top of the child stationary.

She looked up, letting the wind kiss to her again, and wondered.

The writing of a girl seeking a loved one decorated the pages. Curved, elegant, childish, it entailed an attempt at adult attitudes. Memories came flooding back, memories of early love, schoolgirls on yards writing boyfriend’s love notes. Lost youth, gained wisdom, inner pain? Whatever that meant, here in her hand lay a proof of youth. Some people would say that Amanda still retained her youth with 36. But these words echoed of an earlier time.

One tear trickled down her cheeks, her heart throbbing.

She slapped her hand on top of her own mouth, giving out a shriek of excitement.

Amanda started laughing uncontrollably.

She looked out toward the sea, trying to imagine where this bottle had been all this time. Had it travelled the entire coast from Washington State to the lower Californian coast. And why did it come to her, exactly at this time, when God promised to give her a sign.

Words of confusion and surprise buzzed about inside her head.

This message had been thrown in the water by herself many, many eons ago.

Quickly as a speed train and light as a feather, she picked up the bottle and left for the house. Arriving on the terrace, she realized the canvas and the easel and the rest of the art waited somewhere down the shoreline. So, Amanda set down the bottle, pointed at it and reprimanded:

“Don’t you dare move!”

Feeling like a little kid, she ran to her painting, thinking about how good God was and how much he helped her through all of the difficulties in her own life. She felt not at all like the graceful woman that had jet-setted through Hollywood yesterday. She probably looked like a silly, female version of Mr. Bean running off to save her own painting from the approaching tide.

Giddy and giggly, she mumbled non-distinguishable words to herself about returning to paradise. What a joy to have a private beach house, she thought to herself. You can run around looking silly and nobody cares. Nobody tells you to stride around and try to impress the press or give them all perfect dental gloss when CNN orders a press conference.

Scrambling and shoving adding her summer frock to her bathing suit, she hummed the family song. It was actually Alan’s and her song. With Johnny’s arrival out of her tummy, the song elevated to the status to family song.

John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” took form within the confines of a female painter’s voice.

“You fill up my senses, like a night in a forest,” Amanda chanted.

Running like crazy once again to the house, she tore the terrace door open and rushed inside. The painting artillery landed straight in her art studio to the left of the living room.

Not much time was wasted on this action.

One thought was in her mind and one thought only.

She headed for the phone, trying to remember the telephone number of Alan’s hotel suite in Paris. She called the number every day. It didn’t matter. Her mobile phone knew the number. But where was the phone? The spacious house deserted and twice as large today, it took a while to comb through the white emptiness of it. The beige couch. Had she dropped it over by the big windows overlooking the grassy patch? Had she left it on the brown cupboard? In the kitchen, maybe? Gosh, sleeping on the couch last night probably served her ill. In the art studio? On the stairs? Why would it be in the bedroom?

Finally, she sat down on a chair in the kitchen for a while, desperate, realizing in all the hubbub that she had left the bottle outside on the terrace.

Tired from all the searching, Amanda finally loafed in slow motion out to get it.

Once out there, with the bottle in her hand, the phone rang.

“Oh, come on,” she yelled.

Running in to get the call, she again stubbed the same big toe that had been wounded in the water before. Yelling in pain, again, she hobbled, spitting swearwords to herself over her own clumsiness.

“Don’t hang up, don’t hang up, don’t hang up,” she whispered to herself, frenetically.

Plopping herself down on the big couch in front of the widescreen TV, she answered the phone, panting. “Hines Residence.”

The other voice on the other end possessed male depth. Sweet like a warm blanket, it tasted of rich wine and melted on her tastebuds like dark, rich chocolate.

“Hi, pookums,” Alan mused.

Amanda sang inside. She felt like flying. She wanted to embrace him.

“You been running?”

Amanda laughed, rubbing her toe.

“I stubbed my toe running to the phone just now. It is the second time today.”

“Oh, dear. That’s not like you,” he whined. “You’re always so in control. Is it bad?”

“Nah,” she said, shaking her head. “I’ll rub it for five minutes and then it’ll be fine.”

“My clumsy princess.”

“Hey, big guy,” she spat. “Don’t get arrogant or I won’t let you back in.”

“Oh, dear,” he mused. “Johnny is already going crazy here. We miss you.”

“Oh, I miss you, too,” Amanda cried. “I’m going nuts, man.”

Alan laughed.

The silence seemed to wait for one of them to make a move.

Neither one of them did, so Amanda picked up the conversation again.

“How’s the film coming along?”

“My bones feel like Jell-O. Johnny is super. He’s a real pro.”

“Glad to hear it.”

“How was the exhibition?”

“Vogue was there. A girl from this art magazine … Uhm, what’s it called?”

“What? The one that did the interview with you in April?”

“Yeah.”

“Art’s Fair.”

“That’s the one. They were there, too.”

What a joy to hear his voice.

Electricity danced across the Atlantic Ocean.

“Good to hear your voice.”

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“When you guys back?”

“4th of July.”

Her heart sank. His response opened a canyon a mile wide.

“Alan, I think I’ll take the plane to Paris and see you guys. I just have to.”

“Please do.”

A moments pause served as a good oppurtunity to mention the bottle.

“I have something amazing to tell you, Alan,” she said, shaking the note back out of the bottle again. Amanda laughed. “I still can’t believe it myself.”

“Funny,” Alan responded. “I have something to tell you. Who reveals the first secret?”

Although Amanda felt a great quantity of eagerness, that certain “something” told her to let her husband tell his story first. Another cute surprise awaited her on the other end of that patience. Maybe that little Tweety bird, fluttering in her stomach, had something special in store. The bird chanted, again and again:

God sent you a message. God sent you a message.

            “I had a dream about you last night,” Alan began.

“Oh, really?” Amanda chirped, just like Tweety.

“Yeah, it was really cool. You were on the beach alone, painting. Then you walked along the beach and guess what you found floating toward you in the water?”

“Please, don’t tell me, Alan. Please, don’t.”

“A message in a bottle,” he laughed. “From yourself.”

Amanda dropped the phone, feeling a mixture of confusion, divine intervention and joy. On the other end of the line in Paris, where Alan soon would be taking his son to eat supper at Fouqet’s, a voice called out a worried: “Hello?!”

Amanda picked up the phone again.

This time she stuttered.

Never before had she stuttered and laughed at the same time.

“Amanda?”

“Y-yes-s?” she laughed.

“What are you on?” he cackled. “I thought you gave up coffee.”

Amanda started laughing again, this time so hard that she almost fell over.

“Alan, you are not going to believe this …”

The stunned silence at the other end made the line crack and tingle.

“Please,” he said, “don’t tell me.”

“I h-have a message in-n a bo- … bottle here,” she giggled. “It’s from myself.”

“What?”

“Do you remember that I threw a bottle into the ocean back when I was a kid in Washington State?”

“Yeah,” Alan said, suspiciously. “So?”

“I found it.”

“Huh?”

“The bottle. It just appeared here on our beach.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Alan said, laughing.

Amanda waved the bottle around, laughing so uncontrollably that she felt like a girl on the way to her junior prom.

“No, sweetie,” she giggled. “That message is in my hand. The wish to find my heart’s true love is in my hand.”

“How did that message end up in your hands after all these years?”

“I wrote it myself,” she exclaimed, sounding like a proud seventh grader with her first essay in her hand. “I was 12 at the time.”

“I know the story, Amanda,” Alan interrupted. “You’ve told me a thousand times.”

“I wanna tell it again. Everybody had a boyfriend. Everybody but me. So, I wrote this ‘love contract’.”

She took out the paper, rustled it a bit and cleared her throat.

“Should I read it for you?”

“Okay,” Alan answered.

“All right, here goes nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“Nothing.”

And Amanda began reading the note.

It read:

 

To whom it may concern:

            I am seeking somebody to love.

            So, please, God from above.

            Or the finder of this flask,

            It is not too much to ask,

            My heart, it seeks a home,

            For I feel so awfully alone,

            So, if you read these lonely lines,

            Think of Amanda Hines.”

           

            Extraordinarily enough, after that, Amanda and Alan did not stop laughing for twelve and half minutes. After that, she called her secretary to book the first fight over to Paris, France. All the way to the airport, Amanda whispered her I love you’s to the message in the bottle that lay on the passenger seat. She had glued a picture of Alan and Johnny on the flask.

 

Riding in business class, Amanda smiled all the way to Europe.

Needless to say, God was with her.

At the airport, her husband and son greeted her with such warmth that it seemed they would never be able to let go. Spiritually, they didn’t.

She spent a week in France with her boys, playing with her son, eating créme brulée and baguettes and getting drunk on tasty French wine. She watched Alan and Johnny work. They ate at fancy restaurants. At night, she kissed her husband good night.

Alan read the note from the bottle to Johnny, Johnny read the note to Amanda, Amanda read it to everyone else. And the painting she had painted that day by the beach received a very special place at the exhibition on Sunset Boulevard.

One twelve-year-old’s wish, written on pink stationary and thrown into the sea, had reached divine ears.

Amanda Hines

26 July
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Terminal Illness Insurance

I had the bandwidth after the walk to call MNCare. My 3rd phone call for Medicaid. Again I was told they COULD NOT help me over the phone and I’d have to do a paper application that takes 45 days to be processed.
Meanwhile bills from 01 April 2017 are already in <B>collections</B>.
Pink notices and hassling phone calls have begun even though UCare is rerunning my claims because they charged me $4000 more than my deductible.
So Wenzel, when you say it was immediate for Kim, I’m glad. Clearly Wisconsin in 2014 gave terminal cancer patients a better experience than I’m currently having just cross the ole Mississippi.
Jon called and ended up hearing that “Michele’s disability does not qualify her for anything. Benefits are based on income.”
Thank you Minnesota. California is looking better every minute.
Calling the Federal Social Security office tomorrow.
I’m exhausted and I’m a mess. Crying. Anxious. All upset.
And today I miss my Grandma. I miss her so much, because she’d talk to me about the The District health insurance crazy and she’d tell me she loved my piece about high school and turning 18. My baptism of fire in to health insurance, October 1983.
Pre-existing conditions. Sadness from teachers and an actual hug from Irwin.
26 July
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American Health Insurance

In October 1983 I turned 18. My mother was a teacher, no longer at Custer, but we’d run her out of the North Shore. She’d moved to the City of Milwaukee. They had a rule or a law that said that teachers who lived in the city could not move out of it if they wanted to continue working for the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). My mother had stayed in Fox Point. In 1981 I moved to my grandparent’s home on 7505 Links Way. My mother and her GF moved to the city. I’d been born on Monday and it was a Monday I turned legal majority. My mother showed up at school and met with Dr. Irwin. I didn’t know anything until I was walking dow the B wing and I heard several teachers whispering about Margaret Davis and her “poor daughter.”

I was on the smart kid plan, or at least the organized teen plan. I had 4 classes and they ended at 12. Then I walked over to Mister Winch’s to balance his accounts in a small leather bound ledger, like Scrouge, or Bartleby the Scrivener. A piano tuner’s house in Glendale. 2 blocks from Nana Davis’ house. On Christmas Eve Mr. Winch, much older than I with gray hair and a grey beard, rang the doorbell. He was looking perplexed, shocked, kind stunned as he stood there holding roses the color of blood and a plane ticket to some far off warm destination. While I was 18, I wasn’t very mature and my boyfriend was only 16. Neither of us knew how to deal with a clearly older man that wanted me to be in love with him.

I see his face in my head. He was close to tears when Nana Davis said to him, her shrill soprano wafting across Lake Drive down to the lake, “She’s only 18. She’s still in high school. What are you thinking? You want to take my grand daughter to South America? Are you insane?”

Stephan was cruel. He was a nice boy, smart, and as that song goes, “Boys with small talk and small minds really don’t impress me in bed,” but he was kid. At least more of a kid than I was, even though at the time I saw him as worldly and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. He was my 6th grade crush all over again. Bill Frack. Dreamy. He looked like John Kennedy.

25 July
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White House Couture

Everyone seems to cut a wide berth between Jackie Onassis and Michelle Obama regarding the fashion of the White House. No one discusses the fashion choices of the women between the two Os. There is little talk in the American press of Melanie Trump and her fashion choices. The Trump’s have money, so her expensive fashion shouldn’t be a source for ranker, since he’s not raking up the federal deficit buying D&G. Fashion designers came out against this svelte waif who would knock the socks off a whole hella fashion, but there is a list of designers who won’t dress the First Lady. The “not in my clothes, she won’t” group includes  Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Zac Posen, Christian Siriano and Sophie Theallet.

The view of Trump from here is a scary gelatinous mass of blonde hair in a cyclone formation atop an angry reddened skull with a widespread system of solar lentigines across the dome. Think for yourself, they say, don’t listen to Democrats or Republicans. A democracy takes work. But when you’re just looking at Trump, in the vacuum of his presidency, it looks like there is an awful lot of cash opening doors, paving paths and the like. Since no media has had the cajones to get Trump to release this taxes we have no idea of his fiscal astuteness. Melanie Trump’s wardrobe in all it’s ridiculous cost, is reminiscent of another Republican First Lady, Nancy Reagan. Everyone’s realm of knowledge seems to stop at their curb. In the two+ years we’ve been avidly watching Trump, as entertainment not as a President, I’ve seen nothing that establishes Trump as an Anglo-Saxon bred for higher office. Juan Carlo, the Aryan-looking Swede, grew up poor in St. Paul and he has better manners than Trump. If we can’t expect greatness from our elected leaders, especially ones running a global power like America, we can’t expect the woman in Big Sur to not be a racist, Asian-hating bitch. An Airbnb Hostess thought it was fine to agree to an Asian woman, her fiancé and another couple, to rent her Big Sur home. When the Asian was within miles of the house, the Californian wrote that she wasn’t renting her property to any Asian. The President of the free world, as Shonda Rhimes labels the American president, (although since she’s black, she’ll probably say Trump isn’t her president), calls the POTUS the leader of the free world in her show Scandal. Rhimes’ president is no doubt Obama. Barack Obama and his wife Michelle were the classiest of people in the White House. Michelle Obama immediately gained the fashion community’s approval for her all-American style. At 5’11” she is tall and elegant, with the posture of a dancer. She could look regal in a sack, but she chooses her outfits with care. She made it clear that she was to be seen as  more than a well-dressed, beautiful  woman though.

Much fuss is made about Melania Trump’s wardrobe. One can see by her svelte frame ensconced in her $7500 Dolce & Gabbana dress with embellished red roses distended like an ill kept garden, that she starves herself. But Melania was a model. Now she’s a kept woman. Unlike Michelle she intrinsically understands  her value to be in her looks. Contrasting Michelle and Melania is easy because the similarities are numerous. But when you go back farther are we marginalizing an entire group of First Ladies because of their fashion choices? Not since Jackie Kennedy have we had a woman with grace, poise, and thoughtfulness in the White House. While I really don’t want the conversation to focus on Hillary’s fashion choices we have to, nonetheless, interpret them and what her style meant in terms of economics. Since I self-define as part of Generation X, because I’m not putting myself in my mother’s generation, I don’t have the same sympathies as Baby Boomers have towards American Greatness, or fear of Russia. My mother was born in 1945, and is a post-war, Cold War narcissist just like Trump.

I’m a Kennedy baby. Of course, if you consider the assassination I was really born on Johnson’s watch. But we were a Kennedy house. Nana Davis had taken care of Rose for a year or two. Rose Kennedy dominated the conversation and a discussion of her mother’s horrors. “The Kennedys,” she’d say, “They’ve been through a lot. This country hates Catholics. They don’t even think we’re Christians because we have the market on spirituality. Having to hold that baby in and it getting sick because the stupid, untrained nurse couldn’t do her job”.   While the sun rose and set with my Nana, I of course didn’t understand anything. Then at 29 my nurse told me to not push and wait for the doctor when I was delivering my daughter. I ignored the no pushing edicts because I remembered Rose. Poor poor Rose.

I grew up thinking Jimmy Carter and Mister Rogers were the same person. I was only allowed to watch PBS, the news at 5 and 11, and Johnny Carson. The reason I thought they were the same person? The cardigan.

Carter showed up on our black and white box sitting languidly. All he needed was a pipe. For posterity sake I will give him one now. His first Fireside Chat had him looking like the father of the country. His cardigan seemed to convey a sense of security. He was the paternalistic president that would tree-hug up the White House with his energy conservation. Unlike today’s era of uber-stylized image consultancy, and Hollywood Presidents, in which fashion is a cudgel of class, Carter, ever the pragmatist, wore for the taping what he had worn to dinner. The story goes that he asked his television adviser what he thought, and they told him to look like himself. He was comfortable with himself and his fashion choices. “He was folks, and folks is in,” a Republican insider told TIME. “I hate to say it, but from a purely analytical point of view, I loved it.”

Rosalynn Carter also tried to hide behind boring colors and unflattering cuts of polyester, wearing skirts defined as Gypsy.

At the time she seemed ancient. My pretty mother in 1977 was only was only 42 and she looked young, vibrant, and pretty, except when she went through her curly perm phase. That phase doesn’t work on any women. She was frumpy. Rosalynn’s wardrobe wouldn’t offend anyone, but you’d not offer a compliment either. Her clothes looked homemade. Rosalynn Carter was clearly raised poor. Her clothes were farmer’s Sunday best. They were functional, clean, comfortable, boring, and very conservative. The only redeeming quality of FLOTUS Carter’s wardrobe was that it was American made. She’d never tell anyone but I’m positive poverty affected her in a way that has lasted her entire life. You know Jackie went to a dancing school like I did. Two years of Mayhew’s and manners. High tail it over to Wikipedia and Roslynn was 13 when her father died and her seamstress mother enlisted her eldest daughter’s help with the business. A little larger Google search coughs up this information, from a Washington Post article published 30 January 1977. “There is little doubt, though, that President and Mrs. Carter will save their jean-wearing for Camp David and Plains, just as Kennedy had his Hyannisport attire and the Johnsons had theirs for the Pedernales.”

“Mrs. Carter’s reluctance to spend a lot of money on clothes does not mean that she doesn’t like to look right. In fact, she often comments on the attractive appearance of those around her, according to one of her aides. But Mrs. Carter comes from a poor family, has worked most of her life, and finds it difficult to part with, say, $170 for a dress when there are equally respectable dresses at $70.” Carter was a fluke presidency just like Trump. However, the Carter’s fiscally minded austerity as leaders of America during an overarching energy crisis needs to be commended. The fact that Carter installed solar panels before they were popular speaks volumes. It was unfortunate that Reagan threw out our tax payer money with the removal of the panels mere years later, not nearly the amount of time needed to recoup the costs in energy savings.

All I hear from the older people is how great Reagan was, but I don’t see anything great, and I didn’t experience anything great as a Young Republican in the 1980s. Nancy and Ron came into office with their strange spirituality. Nancy was an attention starved woman who liked to be center stage with her flashy gowns. She’d been an actress to match Ronnie’s success, and she, like the First Ladies before her was thin. Nancy wanted to bring back the Kennedy’s elegance to the White House, after she felt there were years of laxity. Nancy was the opposite of Roslynn. She was born in a Mother’s Home, eventually adopted by a wealthy neurosurgeon stepfather. Nancy dressed like she’d been poor, had achieved success, and was NEVER going back to wearing charity clothes. Her interest in high-end fashion garnered much attention as well as criticism. She championed recreational drug prevention causes by founding the Just Say No drug awareness campaign.

Betty Ford on the other hand, could have been a swinger with her hip and fashionable bell bottoms, her avid use of polyester, and the Aqua Net wings of her hair, a helmet reminiscent of the habit wings worn by The Flying Nun. The country was reeling after Nixon left office is a swirl of a scandal that most Americans couldn’t even puzzle through. Why would you tape yourself, the adults around me where asking. In the heartland we puzzled over taping yourself talking to another person. It just didn’t make sense. Wasn’t that kind of thing for blackmailers? In Nixon’s Checker’s Speech he mentioned his wife and her lack of the finer things in life, saying, “I should say this, that Pat doesn’t have a mink coat. But she does have a respectable Republican cloth coat, and I always tell her she would look good in anything.” Now the fashion media are comparing Melania to Jackie O. “Not since Jacqueline Kennedy has there been a first lady who needs less help,” Richard Johnson says on <B>Page Six</B>. He continues with, “She doesn’t need couture. She can buy off the rack, and it looks beautiful,” Bloch said. “She knows her size, and she knows what works on her. She luxuriates in minimal.” And that’s great, but some women actually want to see this information in the mainstream press.

Tricky Dick wasn’t in

 

Back in the 80s

23 July
0Comments

American Fashion

Look around you, and you’ll likely notice a sea of different outfits. You might see similar articles of clothing — even the same ones — worn by different people, but rarely do you find two pairings of tops, bottoms, shoes, and accessories that are exactly alike.

That wasn’t always the case, said Deirdre Clemente, a historian of 20th century American culture at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, whose research focuses on fashion and clothing. Americans were far more formal, and formulaic dressers, not all that long ago. Men wore suits, almost without fail — not just to work, but also at school. And women, for the most part, wore long dresses. Clemente has written extensively about the evolution of American dress in the 1900s, a period that, she said, was marked, maybe more than anything else, by a single but powerful trend: As everyday fashion broke from tradition, it shed much of its socioeconomic implications — people no longer dress to feign wealth like they once did — and took on a new meaning. The shift has, above all, led toward casualness in the way we dress. It can be seen on college campuses, in classrooms, where students attend in sweatpants, and in the workplace, where Silicon Valley busy bodies are outfitted with hoodies and T-shirts. That change, the change in how we dress here in America, has been brewing since the 1920s, and owes itself to the rise of specific articles of clothing. What’s more, it underscores important shifts in the way we use and understand the shirts and pants we wear.

I spoke with Clemente to learn more about the origins of casual dress, and the staying power of the trend. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Let’s start by talking a bit about what you study. You’re a historian, and you focus on American culture as it pertains to fashion. Is that right?

I’m a cultural historian. I’m a 20th century expert, so don’t ask me anything about the Civil War. And my focus is clothing in fashion. So I’m a little bit of a business historian, a little bit of a historian of marketing, and a little bit of a historian of gender. When you kind of mix all of those things together, all those subsections of history, you get what I study.

So that scene from “The Devil Wears Prada,” when Meryl Streep criticizes Anne Hathaway for believing she isn’t affected by fashion, it must resonate with you.

Well you know, it’s just so true. People say, “Oh well, you know, I don’t care about fashion.” They go to the Gap, they go to Old Navy, and they all dress alike, they wear these uniforms. The thing that I really harp on is that, that in and of itself is a choice, it’s a personal choice, because there are many people who don’t do that. In buying those uniforms, you’re saying something about yourself, and about how you feel about clothing and culture. There is no such thing as an unaffected fashion choice. Anti-fashion is fashion, because it’s a reaction to the current visual culture, a negation of it.

How would you characterize the way Americans dress today? What’s the contemporary visual culture like now?

Well, I would certainly say that there are, above all, so many more choices than there have ever been before. There’s also a tendency like never before to alternate styles. People will one day dress very conservatively and then the next day wear something much more dramatic, much less formal.

There’s a clear trend toward individualization, as opposed to homogenization. There are so many different kinds of social and cultural personas that we can put on, and our clothes have become extremely emblematic of that. And the thing is, even if you don’t have a lot of money, you can now dress freely, individually. You have written about how American dress, perhaps more than anything else, is characterized by how casual it is. What do you mean by that?

There’s this fashion theorist who wrote in the 1930s about how in capitalist societies, clothing serves as this way to jump in and out of socioeconomic class. Now, he was writing at a time when people were still really trying to jump up, and could feign wealth. You could buy a nice-looking suit and make it seem like you were a lot more wealthy than you actually were then. But in the second half of the 20th century, what we’ve seen is people doing just the opposite.

Americans have come to dress casually in a way that is very interesting as a historian. When you look back at old pictures of students, it’s jarring. We used to dress so formally, just to go to class.

Are there points, chronologically, that stand out? Times that were particularly important for the migration toward less formal wear?

I think there are two key points in the 1920s. The 1920s were really important for this shift.

In the 1920s, when women really broke away from dresses and matchy matchy suits, and instead began to use sweater vests and other outfits, versatility entered the minds of buyers. At that point, people began to mix and match, wear more sweaters, more gored (which is a kind of skirt).

By the late 1920s, very few college men wore suits to class. The rise of the sports coat is an incredibly underlauded change in American culture. Because once boys started wearing sports coats instead of suits, men’s outfits became more versatile, they moved away from ties, they wore all sorts of different things, like sweaters, with their jackets.

If so much of this was predicated on shifts that happened in the 1920s, was there nothing impactful that happened thereafter?

Pants on women. You cannot talk about the rise of casual dress without talking about the rise of pants of women. You first saw it in elite women’s schools, such as Wellesley and Vassar. Once women were wearing pants and even jeans on campus and to class, which happened starting in the 1930s, things really began to change. Even though it wasn’t yet happening on co-ed campuses, because of the mix of genders, and formality that persisted around that, it was still a big deal.

World World II was also revolutionary for dress. The war brought about a whole culture of dress that didn’t exist before. Women wore what they wanted, because it didn’t matter — they were on their way to the victory garden — or because they were working at factories, where practicality was more important.

So in the aftermath of World War II, more casual outfits became commonplace?

Yes, although there was a slight backslide in the late 1940s, where we saw a bit of reluctance around it. In 1948, Christian Dior put out a new look in the United States, which featured long skirts that were tight-waisted. That was a Parisian couture influence, though, and it didn’t stick. Women either weren’t really buying it, or wearing it. It had about a two-year lifespan, and then the college girls migrated toward the freedom of articles like pants and less cumbersome dresses. They had experienced these, and they weren’t going to go back to more uncomfortable clothing.

Then in the 1950s, you really start to see stay-at-home moms wearing casual wear in the house — shirts, pants, jeans, even T-shirts. And it really took off from there.

The only thing I will say is that there’s still a bit of a gender hangover, where women are singled out for wearing clothing normally associated with men.Like the boyfriend jean?

(Audible sigh). Yes.

There’s something in women buying “men’s clothing” that still irks a lot of people. I have been shocked at the e-mails I have gotten. People like to say that casual dress isn’t about freedom, that it’s about laziness. But that’s hilarious, especially to me as a historian, because it simply isn’t true.

There’s something called collective selection. And what it is, is the idea that no longer is it the rich people telling the poor people how to dress, no longer is it that the poor people want to wear what the rich wear. Nowadays it’s a group decision. Because class is so wishy washy today, since everyone thinks that they’re middle class, the collective selection is what is acceptable in different scenarios — the office, the church, the classroom, etc. It’s decided by the group.

What about the development of American fashion in comparison to that elsewhere? Have we gone further down the road of casual dress than other cultures?

Oh, I mean, absolutely. I think that American culture is now associated with casual dress on a global scale. On sort of the world stage, where American culture is so prominent, many countries emulate the way people in the United States dress, and that’s almost inevitably more casually than the way people dress in those places. The version of casual elsewhere, in Europe especially, it just never gets as down and dirty as the American version. Their version of casual is still a scarf and a stylish leather jacket, whereas ours is a starter jacket and jeans.

The American love of sportswear and comfortable clothes has redefined the limits, and it’s affecting the limits elsewhere too, since others emulate us.

Can I ask what might be an obvious question, at least to you. What makes something casual, and something else formal?

That’s an obvious question, and an awesome question. The answer inevitably is tied to history. I can look at something and say “Oh, the history of that article of clothing is such and such, and that history is tied to wealth.” Or, if you look at, say, the turtleneck, and understand that it comes from ski-wear, or flip flops, and realize that they were originally shower-wear, often used by servants, it changes the context in which you understand the clothing.

More broadly, and kind of simply, fit and fabric also tend to be good indicators. The fit of casual clothes tends to be looser, and the fabric tends to be lighter, because there’s less of it. There’s also less covering of the skin in casual wear. When you think of formal attire, it mostly covers the vast majority of the body.

Also, the connotations of it, which, again, are rooted in history. That’s the cool thing about clothing, which people don’t realize. When someone is like ‘those shoes are cool but I don’t know if they’re appropriate for this wedding,’ their opinion is the product of years, even decades of understanding.

Even at the office, we’ve shed some of the more formal, traditional understandings of what’s okay to wear. You mentioned Steve Jobs, but Silicon Valley as a whole is kind of redefining office wear, is it not?

Oh, I love that. It’s this evolution of casual, and even of business casual. In the 1990s, it was derivative of business, and now it’s derivative of casual. It’s amazing for me to see.

But this isn’t your typical business casual. Every time I see that phrase I look it up, and it’s like khakis and a button down still. This is more like business CASUAL, or casual business, where casual is the emphasis.

They are absolutely the spearhead of business casual. They were the first people to do away with dress codes at the office.

Why does it bend toward casual?

I think we dress more casually because we can, because in American culture perennial appearance has become an expression of individuality and not social class to the degree that dressing up is dressing up the socioeconomic ladder. I think that we dress more casually because it’s a middle ground for Americans. I mean look at the presidential candidates. Donald Trump has his own, albeit mediocre quality, shirt and tie line. It’s all about standing out and yet fitting in.

The modern market allows us to personalize that style. Casual is the sweet spot between looking like every middle class American and being an individual in the massive wash of options. This idea of the freedom to dress in a way that is meaningful to us as people, and to express various types of identity.

I know that you’re a historian, and traditionally look into the past, but I’m going to ask you to look into the future. Where is this trend toward casual dress taking us?

How about I make a prediction about a specific technology that’s been long overdue? I don’t know if it will happen, let alone sometime soon, but self-cleaning fabrics, I think that will be a thing. At the very least it should be.

I have to say, self-cleaning fabrics are about as casual as it gets.

Let’s just say I probably wouldn’t put my money in dry cleaning if I had some extra money to spare and wanted to invest in something. Those sorts of things are going to die out.

There was this very cool Italian futurist who in the 1930s made a prediction about what fashion would be like 100 years from then. His prediction was that everyone would dress in uniforms. But that’s the complete opposite of what has happened.  And I don’t think people will be dressing in uniforms anytime soon. Clothing will instead continue to be a way to project individuality and our own personal alliances to the broader culture.

22 July
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Jumping In With 2 Feet

I’ve been jumping in for years. I make a decision and stick with it, never veering doffed course. One minute I’m telling my husband I ‘m going to cheat on him and fifteen later I’m posting a Craigslist ad looking for dick. To hell with the consequences. My exHusband told me over and over when we were dating and then married, that I could not change my mind. That changing my mind was worse than breaking one of G-d’s commandments. The Meister, as my ex was called because of his penchant for guzzling beer like an aficionado. He was an expert in bad alcoholic behaviour and magical thinking.