Saturday, November 14, 2015

Not everything in Santa Fe is beautiful.

Santa Fe has a past. It's a past of diversity and beauty and magic. But it's also a past of colonialism and racism. Of course, I knew that when I came here. I even knew that there was a Civil War battle nearby in Glorieta.

But here's something I didn't know: Santa Fe was the site of a Japanese internment camp from 1942 to 1946, where 4,555 men were imprisoned without due process.

Today -- two days after Veterans Day -- I visited the monument at the site, dedicated in 2002. If most of us have forgotten about this despicable piece of history, it was clear from the flowers and origami cranes left behind that the memory is still fresh for some.

I write this in the hours following the infuriating, devastating attacks in Paris. So far, it looks like it was the work of ISIS or Al Qaeda.

Fear, anger, and the desire for revenge are natural. I'm feeling all of those things right now. But I hope that, as a nation, we don't allow those feelings to translate to policy.

The plaque at the Santa Fe camp ends with the following sentence:


Here are some of the photos I took today.

Tonight, I pray for peace, wisdom, and restraint.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Lazy-Ass Librarian Tuesday: Moms Try To Guess If It’s A Dog Toy Or Sex Toy

Now I'm mad.

Someone poisoned my dog Forrest. He will probably recover, thanks to good veterinary care, a cool grand in diagnostics, and a near future of frequent blood tests and medication.

The vet said it had to be a large dose to do so much damage, so it didn't just casually blow into my patio. Somebody had to put it there. I live in a gated condo community, so whoever did this apparently belongs here. How comforting.

These are mostly rentals, and we're in the hood. So it's not terribly surprising that various annoying things have landed in my little portal since I moved in. I found the bits of trash, the tail end of a joint, and a couple of weeks ago, a very gross, very used condom. I found those.

Forrest found the rat poison.

Now, I don't know if whoever threw this shit over the fence meant to hurt Forrest in particular. And frankly, I don't care. Forrest still bled internally and went into shock. He still suffered terribly. And he's still not out of danger.

So whoever did this, I really hate the motherfucker


Friday, October 16, 2015

The Jason Debacle of 1999

Halloween! Ghosts and ghouls. Parties. Costumes!

I'm not good with costumes.

When I was a kid, I dressed up as a weeping willow one year, complete with long, long strings of knotted green crepe paper to represent flowing branches. But instead, people thought I was the Creature from the Black  Lagoon. You would think the bird's nest on top of my head would have been a clue. Philistines.

The next time I wore a Halloween costume was at a gay sober dance in 1999. It was my first dance as a single woman, my first dance as an out lesbian, and, in fact, my first dance. What would I wear? What message did I want to send?

Well, I went as the Crash Test Dummy. It looked exactly like this, only without the steering wheel:

As my friend James said afterwards, "Could you have chosen anything less sexual?" Considering I looked like Jason in a hazmat suit, I'd have to answer in the negative.

I haven't worn a costume since.

So anyway, there's this dance on Halloween. Dances are hard for me, even harder than other social events, but I'm determined to go. Life begins where your comfort zone ends, right?.

There's just one problem: The invitation says to come in disguise. Oy.

Not wanting to repeat the Jason Debacle of 1999, I got on eBay and started looking for a costume. What should I wear? What kind of message do I want to send?

At least I have a starting point this time: It has to be sexier than a crash test dummy. That eliminates Mrs. Potato Head. And Elmo. And probably a weeping willow.

I can't wear anything short, or clingy, or braless, because I'm pretty sure I can't lose 60 pounds by October 31. That disposes of 99.2% of the costumes remaining.

And nothing that just plain annoys me. That eliminates Disney characters and anything with antennae.

So what's left? Well, let's see. I'm down to Pirate Wench, Renaissance Wench, or Oktoberfest Wench.

Except... High heels are out of the question, because I'm a complete klutz. Is it possible for wenchiness to co-exist with flats?  

It's starting to look like I'm going as Librarian with Cleavage and Sensible Shoes.

In a disguise. Somehow.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The abortion thing.

Dyed-in-the-wool, old-school feminists aren't supposed to be ambivalent about abortion. But, you see, I am, so I've never taken a position on this important issue.

Now it's time.

You may as well know, I had an abortion when I was nineteen. My fiancee and I were about to go to college, me on a prestigious scholarship.

We were very much in love. I got birth control, but I wasn't very careful, and that's how it happened. Now I had to make an impossible choice.

And oh, boy, everyone had an opinion. My fiancee pressured me to have an abortion. My dad also insisted on an abortion. My stepfather said just the opposite. Funny how all the strong opinions came from men. Funny how this has only just occurred to me.

There was only one person who asked what I wanted, and that was my mother. She told me she would support whatever decision I made. I'm forever grateful to her for that. It was a breath of fresh air -- one last, deep breath before I suffocated.

In the end I had the abortion because my fiancee wanted me to, and I didn't want to lose him. At the clinic, the women were kind and conscientious. When they asked if I was really sure, I told them I was. How could they know I was lying? I cried before, and I cried after. The next day we moved ourselves to college, lugging boxes up the dormitory stairs.

How I longed for my fiancee to say "Let's have a baby! Let's make a family!" Instead he said, "We have to erase this mistake." I remember calling abortion clinics. Asking my dad for money. Making sure I converted to Judaism before the abortion, because the child follows the mother's religion. It makes no sense now, but it seemed important at the time.

Did it turn out all right? It did, in the long run, but it came at a high price: many years of guilt, grief, and dread that I might never get pregnant again. It wasn't until we finally had our daughter that I could even consider forgiving myself. The fact is, I made the best decision I knew how to make at the time, and finally, after many years, I have no regrets.

Let me be very clear: The lesson here isn't that abortion is wrong. The lesson is that it was wrong for me.

I wanted something good to come out of the darkness. So that first semester, in speech class, I gave a speech about birth control. I described each type, complete with props. I explained the pros and cons of each kind, and how to use them. And I explained why I was giving this speech. Not easy for a shy introvert.

Among my visual aids were condoms I got from the student health center, and I was mortified when they turned out to be hot pink. On the day of my speech, I gulped, tore open a condom in front of the class, and proceeded to demonstrate the proper way to put one on. I went well over my time limit, forfeiting a better grade because, goddamn it, this was really important. Who knows if it helped anybody. I'm not even sure it helped me.

This isn't the story you're supposed to tell if you're pro-choice, but it's the only one I've got.  Inherent in the concept of choice is the freedom to make the wrong one.

I can imagine only one thing that would be worse than the choice I made, and that's being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.

I want every young woman to have the right to choose her best path. And so, despite my experience, I am pro-choice.

I am ambivalent about abortion because I believe that a fetus becomes sentient before birth. It's not a person, but it is sentient, and at some point is capable of feeling pain. A fetus may not be person, but it's not just a blob of jelly either. It deserves some level of respect and compassion.

But never, ever more respect and compassion than we give the mother when the time comes for her to make that terrible choice.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Total lunar eclipse, 2015

The moon came back. I knew it would, but seeing that sliver of white on the other side felt both grand and comforting. I started watching at 8pm, shortly before the last light disappeared into the Earth's shadow. I watched for about an hour and a half, until I saw, unmistakably, light bulging from the side, as if it was bursting out of a vessel too small to contain it. By that time, the darkness wasn't a shadow anymore.  There was, clearly, a non-earthly object passing in front of the moon.

An eclipse goes much more slowly than a sunset -- that was a bit of a surprise. I don't think I've ever had the patience to watch an eclipse for so long. But then, I've never had such a good seat for the event.

To be honest, I was ready to go back inside much sooner than I did. But as I watched the moon from behind the coyote fence that surrounds my patio, listening to dishes clinking in a neighbor's sink, I thought about those who watched from this spot 1,200 years ago. It must have been an extraordinary experience. What would they have felt, sitting, watching for hours in silence? Did they know the moon would reappear? Surely some didn't. I felt compelled to wait it out with the Anasazi, to see the thing through, and so I stayed until the moon burst out once again.

Wish I'd taken this.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

On guilt

I wasn't supposed to have the money, but there it was, thanks to my brother. My father was not pleased at my brother's act of sedition, and he made sure I knew it, but there wasn't a whole lot he could do about it. I bought the cheapest, most reliable, paid-for car I could find, and the money was gone. But before I thanked my brother, he had a stroke. Now he has to re-learn how to speak. I have thanked him, but much is yet unsaid. 

And then there is the apartment. It's on the low end of average, but it's not cheap. With a condo still to sell in Atlanta, it's going to be a squeeze. Still, it's safe and pleasant, and they're willing to take me, my 50-pound dog, and my shitty credit with only a hundred-dollar deposit. There's a cheaper place to rent, but the landlady has already proved to be a liar, and she wants a fortune up front. Just how do you tell the difference between wants and needs?

I'm looking at my hands as I type, dismayed by the fat, aging fingers in front of me. The rest of me is even worse. I can't look, and I can't look away. I wonder if my kid is embarrassed by our photos together. Of course she must be, and I want to hide.

And yet, speaking of embarrassment, this is an embarrassment of riches. A dream job in a city of artists and dreamers. If I had done every single thing in my life right, I would be lucky to be exactly where I am now. But I've gotten much of it so terribly wrong. The guy down the street is working his ass off, making ten bucks an hour and trying to raise two sons. I just bought a new car.

Yet failing to enjoy all of this, well, it just seems like that would be even worse than failing to earn it.

So I get in my car, put her in gear, and turn up the radio. I've named her, and I say her name. I tell myself there's still time to earn these gifts.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day: In which I muse domestic.

About a year ago, my ex-girlfriend asked me to make dinner. Manwich, to be specific. (To me, this is cooking, but apparently that's not a universal opinion.)

Anyway, I took the frozen veggie crumbles out of the freezer, opened the bag, and dumped it into the pan, just as I had been instructed. But how to break up that big lump of frozen crumbles in the middle of the pan? It was like a big rock. Stabbing it with a fork didn't seem like a good idea because it could scratch the Teflon.

So I did the only logical thing: I took a hammer out of the drawer and I slammed it into the veggie crumbles. It made a terrific noise, and crumbles went flying. Oh, and I was immediately banished from the kitchen.

Which might explain why the prospect of a potluck makes me blanch. Me trying to cook, well, it's just plain contraindicated.

There was a time when I tried to cook. I really did. I even made dinner from scratch. And for guests! It worked okay if I could just cook one dish. Or if I didn't have to figure out if the meat was completely cooked. Or if I could just serve cookies for dinner, because that I can do, although the cookies will be gone before the guests arrive. But man, did it stress me out. Frankly, I'm mystified by people who love to cook.

But lesbians have potlucks, so what's a lesbian to do?

Well, you can imagine my excitement when the folks from "As Seen On TV" came out with Quick and Easy Dump Dinners.

For the uninitiated, a dump dinner is where you just dump the ingredients in a pan and stick it in the oven. You don't even have to stir. I saw the commercials. And my ex made a dump cobbler once and it was delicious.

I'm a sucker for anything that's "Seen On TV." Or hawked at grocery-store demonstrations. I love my ginsu knives!

Could Quick and Easy Dump Dinners make me the life of the potluck? It certainly showed promise. So when it went on sale at Kroger -- five bucks! -- I was ready. After all, who could resist Cathy Mitchell's smiling face on the cover? With "Delicious Family Sized Dinners in Minutes!" And over 250 recipes! Say, this could work!

But then I sat down to choose my first kickass dump-dinner-potluck recipe. And what did I find?

Verbs. Lots and lots of verbs.

Now, I'm pretty sure you're only allowed to have one verb in a dump-dinner recipe book, and that verb is dump. And maybe pour. Dump and pour. Two verbs. That's all you get.

But here's what I have to do if I want to make the Best Ever Roasted Chicken:
Carefully separate the skin from the meat of the chicken. Brush the bottom with a quarter of the dressing. Tuck the wings under the breast and put the chicken on a roasting pan, breast side up. Brush 1/2 cup of the dressing under the skin and all around the outside of the chicken....
Are you kidding me? I was better off with the Manwich.

Which brings me, alas, to a third verb, the one I'll have to use for the next potluck.  Buy. It'll have to do until Cathy Mitchell writes a real dump-dinner cookbook.

So come on, Cathy, get with the program already. You've got work to do.

Dedicated to my mother, who was a pretty good cook, but once forgot to put the pineapple in the pineapple upside-down cake.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Random thoughts...while I try to decide whether to go to the lesbian dance

So, there's this dance tonight. The Glitter Dance, at the Blue Rooster. In a weak moment, I RSVPd "yes" on the Over-50-Single-Lesbian meetup group. There will be sober people there, and I guess I figured I should visit the gay bar here at least once.

What was I thinking? My mind is running.

I don't think I want to go. I don't think anyone will want to dance with me. What if someone asks me to dance? Can I say no? What if nobody even asks? What if they ask, but it's a pity dance? What if nobody even talks to me at all? What if I get up and dance and make an ass of myself? What if I trip? Do I have to polish my shoes? I don't feel like polishing my shoes. Why didn't I bring some fun clothes when I moved here? Maybe I should go, because I just spent ten bucks on evening lipstick today -- I was feeling daring. But what if get lipstick on my teeth? I'm a terrible dancer. Dancing is sexual. What if I get turned on?

Jesus Christ.

The dance starts in 10 minutes. I guess I'll shower. But I'm not saying I'll go.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

I got nothin'.

When you have a blog, and you know you should be writing, you've got to find something to write about. Do you blog about how you're feeling lonely right now, or how you wonder if you'll ever get laid again? Maybe you talk about politics, or religion, or how you wish you'd packed your autoharp and uke in the car when you moved. Or how you want Emma Thompson for Christmas. Or you write about your gratitude for how your financial hemorrhaging is finally starting to slow down.  Or, what the fuck, you post a video of baby bats.

Or maybe you write about the fact that you've been holed up in your bedroom binging on Burn Notice episodes, and as a result you find you're narrating your life in the second person. Just. Like. This.

The fact is, just because you have to write doesn't mean you have anything to say. This is just one of those days.

Monday, March 30, 2015

"The infinite can be found in the skies of Santa Fe."

Last week I suffered a loss. Just as this grand window onto the West has opened up, I found I had to slam a door shut behind me. And so there was this loss.

My dear friend James suggested that during this time of transition I envelope myself in the beauty of this place. "The infinite can be found in the skies of Santa Fe," he told me. How right he was. These pictures were all taken at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Why "Subversive Librarian"?

So, a new friend -- and already a dear one -- has asked me whether "subversive librarian" might be an oxymoron. Fair question. Since it's been a while, I'm re-posting one of my earliest posts that addressed that very subject..

The Subversive Librarian

“The subversive librarian.” Now, that's an oxymoron . . . . or is it?

The archetype librarian is about as subversive as, well, spinster Donna Reed in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” We all know the stereotype, and there’s no point in flogging it to death here.

Librarians take great pains to prove that we’re really nothing like our stereotype. In fact, listen in on a library listserv and sooner or later, someone will start a thread about how utterly cool we really are. First, there will be a picture of a librarian on water skis. A flurry of comments and photos will quickly follow. Before it’s all over, somebody will post a picture of a half-naked librarian sporting his huge Marilyn Manson tattoo and multiple tongue piercings. Ok, I concede. There are some cool librarians.

Unfortunately, none of that silliness undermines (or subverts, if you will) the one stereotype about librarians that has spawned all the rest: Librarians love their rules – at least when it comes to books.

This rule thing has nothing to do with coolness. I don’t care if your librarian did get arrested in Juarez last May for peeing in the fountain at Plaza de Armas. He’s still not going to let you check out more than two books with the same call number. Why? Because it’s the Rule. And that’s why the words “subversive” and “librarian” just don’t seem to go together.

I’m not here to defend your librarian’s peculiarities. I’ve been to library conventions and frankly, some librarians are just plain weird. Especially law librarians.

But (and isn’t this predictable?) I do want to tell you why I think librarians are cool. Our coolness lies not in our hobbies, or what we look like, but in the profession’s fundamental subversiveness. And yes, I do mean that as a compliment.

What does it mean to be subversive? Well, according to my Brand X dictionary, to “subvert” is to destroy completely; to undermine character, morals, or allegiance; or to overthrow completely. I checked a couple other dictionaries and they said basically the same thing.

But that’s not what subversion means to me. The word “subvert” comes from the Latin sub, meaning below, and vertere, to turn. To me, that doesn’t say destroy. To me, it says dig, explore, and turn the soil if you need to. Even – especially – if someone says you’re not supposed to. And isn’t that just what librarians do?

I’m not the only one that thinks librarians are subversive. Author Michael Moore thinks so, too. We revealed our true nature after a publisher threatened to drop his book because it contained comments criticizing the President:
I didn't know who any of these people were. They -- this one librarian found out about it, and she got in a, I don't know, library chat room. Or she sent a letter out to a list of librarians, and they sent it out to a bunch of people, and the thing kind of mushroomed from there. . . . I really didn't realize the librarians were, you know, such a dangerous group. . . . They are subversive. You think they're just sitting there at the desk, all quiet and everything. They're like plotting the revolution, man. I wouldn't mess with them.
Now is that cool, or what?

Of course, some people are afraid of subversives, but that just means they think we’re powerful. A few years back, the American Library Association came out opposing mandatory Internet filters on library computers. Dr. Laura Schlessinger accused the ALA of “boldly, brashly contributing to sexualizing our children. . . . [a]nd . . . mak[ing] sure your children have easy access to pornography, under the guise of free speech." We did all that? Of course not. But I figure if we got that kind of reaction from Dr. Laura, we must be doing something right. By the way, whatever happened to her?

At any rate, that makes at least three people – Michael Moore, Dr. Laura, and me – who know just how subversive and powerful we librarians are. And while I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, I sort of like being feared for my unbridled power.

My job as a librarian is to help you dig and explore so you can turn the soil if you think it needs turning. It’s really none of my business whether you want to start a new chapter of the Communist party or just find a recipe for cabbage au gratin. Do I make judgments about you? Well, yeah! But do I tell you what I think, or discourage you from digging, or censor what I give you? Nope. I just give you a wise and mysterious look – kind of like the Mona Lisa – and wonder why on earth you would eat cabbage if your mother isn’t making you.

Still, what’s so subversive about that, and what’s so cool about being a librarian? I mean, aside from the fact that last year I got to go to a seminar on mold prevention (as if that weren’t enough!).

There will always be someone who doesn’t want you to know something. In some cultures, women are prevented from reading – supposedly for their own good. The entity that’s trying to keep information out of your hands claims to have good reasons too. But being sincere doesn’t make it right.

Librarians get to right the wrong. We get to put the decision-making process back in your hands, where it belongs. We get to provide the digging equipment, let you find what you find, and let you decide what to do with it. And sometimes we get to watch your garden grow, knowing that we helped plant the seeds.

And if it’s bad? Well, then, soon enough, another of you will come looking for a way to fix it, and we get to help plant those seeds as well. In fact, every once in a while, librarians are the only ones willing to help you start digging. And if the government will let us (and for some librarians, even if it won’t), we even get to keep your secrets.

Quietly subversive. Just powerful enough. And very cool.

KEYWORDS for FBI file on Lynne RhysSubversive. Librarian. Communist. Cabbage.

Monday, March 16, 2015

How many second chances does it take to change a lightbulb?

It takes what it takes, that's how many. Or so I'm told.

For whatever reason, I have been given yet another second chance. An amazing library job in one of the most beautiful places in the world.  Santa Fe, New Mexico. Home.

Word came in January.

My daughter and I packed up the car and the dog and the cat, and off we went on a lovely  three-day, 1,300-mile adventure. We stayed in charming, cheap old Route 66 hotels, and we stopped at the Cadillac Ranch, and we drove into the high desert. I took my daughter to the Santa Fe airport to fly home. And now here I am, a month into my new job and in awe of what's become of me.

That's not to say it's been easy. There have been tears and painful endings. My finances have really taken a beating, and I've got a condo to clean up and sell. Sometimes I'm lonely and a little afraid, and I'm probably sleeping more than I should. I miss my wonderful kid and my dear friends. Georgia is slipping through my fingers, That place, that time is a dream I want to remember forever, but I know that dreams fade. I grieve as I divest myself of commitments there, one by one.

On this end of the road, though, there's footwork to keep me busy. I've found a sponsor and a home group. I'm sharing at meetings.  I'm finally beginning to explore the city after a few weeks of hibernating in my safe little adobe house,  I'm even starting to dip my toes into some social activities. There's a hell of a lot to do here, and an awful lot of smart, interesting people.

But this is a town full of writers and artists and incredible beauty, and that's calling something deep within, It's reminding me
that I have to write. I just do. It's part of this second chance I've been given.

And so it's time to look inside. Time to discard the dark cloak of writer's block.

Time to brave the naked page once again.