“But I did skip first grade.”

“I was born in Venezuela. I moved here two years ago. I want to be President of Venezuela to change things and make better the world. Did you know that sometimes in Venezuela people shoot each other on purpose? I will change that. Also there will be rules against pushing people or thinking bad thoughts about people. I will make a rule so that there will not be too much cutting or killing of trees. And there will be a rule against killing too many animals because animals eat insects, and we can’t have too many insects. I will also make sure that we don’t waste water or food. Or if there is food left over, we have to be sure to put it in the trash. I can’t be president now because I’m only eight. But I did skip first grade.”

                                                                                                          from Humans of New York 

Just thought I’d share

Image result for preggers

The other day my colleagues were talking about the difficulty they have discussing sex with their male clients. The reasons for this shyness with the “emerging adults” in our program are complex, but, to illustrate the complexity, I told them about an experience I had had just the day before.

My supervisor, whom I adore (I realize this point is apropos of nothing), and my counterpart at work were discussing the sister of one of our young men when I blurted, “She’s, uh, with child, isn’t she?” Had I wanted to sound any more like a character straight out of “The Monk’s Tale,” I might have asked, “Hath she child in womb?”

We laughed heartily when I said, “I don’t know why I couldn’t just come out and say the word p-p-p-pregnant,” but later I reflected on my embarrassment (interestingly, in Spanish the word for “pregnant” is embarazada). I realized I had never been comfortable using that word because the “preg” part of it conjures for me the act of a man impregnating a woman — as in putting his (p word) in her (v word) and depositing his (s word). So asking flat out if the woman being discussed was pregnant also could have suggested that I might have had intimate knowledge of how she came to be with child in the first place.


location, location, location

Last night I brought my new license plates to bed with me, and I admit I felt pretty pleased with life. It has taken me more than two years to finish replanting myself and to grow some shoots after a long period of defoliation, so there was cause for delight. During the time of my walkabout, I had no permanent address — not that any address is permanent in the grand design — because I had sold my condo, which would have floated down river had it been any more under water, and had set out to find my future.

To begin the adventure I slept for several months on a friend’s scratchy couch; by my choosing, we are no longer friends. I stayed with my daughter under a few roofs, and we soldiered on, but barely. I lived for a good stretch in a sad hotel with a kitchen, and I almost got used to the brown carpet and the plastic plates. Finally, I ended up in a boarding house for the unhinged, where even the cats had lost their minds, and I knew then that my wandering days were coming to a merciful close.

I wouldn’t recommend dislocation to most people since human animals typically tend toward amassment and above all seek comfort and safety, but I can say to those who have an interest that my experience taught me to loosen my grip on all things earthly, except for Keurig’s Dark Magic coffee, and to seek a higher, more ethereal location. Still, as I looked at those license plates resting where another might find her lover, I understood that they were an emblem of my transfiguration, and I was more than a little pleased to share a bed with them.



NSU: German History X, a crime drama produced in Germany and introduced to US audiences as a Netflix “original,” chronicles the growth of the ultra-right National Socialist Underground (Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund) terrorist movement, which began to gather its destructive energy in the 1990s after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Though based on real events still playing out in Germany’s Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof or BGH), the Netflix series is nonetheless billed as “a work of fiction, not a documentary” and is told in three, movie-length episodes. The first episode focuses on three perpetrators who, after founding the NSU, go on a killing rampage across Germany that spans many years and that takes the lives of eight Turkish immigrants, one Greek immigrant, and a German policewoman. The second episode centers around the 2000 murder of Turkish florist Enver Simsek, one of the ten victims, and shows with heartbreaking poignancy the impact his violent, senseless death had on the wife and children he left behind. The third episode exposes the police investigation of the crimes for what it was: drawn out, cruelly executed, badly bungled, politically charged, and morally ambiguous.

While the second episode is one of the most unflinching—and wrenching—portraits I have seen of a very particular and, but for this episode, ineffable kind of suffering immigrant families are made to endure wherever a climate of xenophobic, nativist sentiment exists, it is the chilling story of the three young, right-wing reactionaries that I cannot quite shake.

It would be simplistic to say that these three were disaffected, uneducated thugs with a misguided belief that immigrants, Jews, and other so-called minorities had taken away their jobs, had overrun their country, and had somehow usurped their birthright. It would also be simplistic to say that one of them behaved as she did because of a weak, neglectful, alcoholic mother or that all three were looking for ways to feel powerful and visible because they actually felt impotent and unseen.

But there are no easy answers here: Just as there is no explaining the why of a Hitler, perhaps there is no explaining the why of these three neo-Nazis. Evil exists, and who but God knows why.

Yet I am left with an uneasy feeling about these perpetrators, who came of age during a turbulent time of reunification in Germany. While two of the three are now dead and the one still standing is in prison, their strain is alive and spreading infection not only across an increasingly right-shifting Europe but also across this country, where racist, anti-immigration sentiment has once again found a witting mouthpiece for its message of hate in none other than a Republican presidential candidate.

An ocean might separate the US from the current tumult in Europe, where right-wing nationalism has taken firm political hold in Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, Sweden, Switzerland, and elsewhere. But Donald Trump’s racist populism provides just the right kind of bubbling broth needed to grow a thriving culture of extremist microbes right here at home.