Mary Beth Writes

The photo is from a trip to Arizona that Len and I took several years ago. His employer had said he had to take vacation time.  We sat here in our office not knowing where to go or what to do; it came up that fast. We looked up cheap flights from Milwaukee,; Phoenix popped up for $150 round trip. That was how we decided.

Of course, we rented a car and stayed in motels and ate in restaurants so no, it wasn’t a $300 vacation.

I don’t remember where we ended up the first day but we saw a state park, pulled in, and hiked our first desert hike. It was February and we’d been wearing parkas the day before. Now we were cruising a desert in jeans and t-shirts, agog at saguaro cacti.  I can’t remember why we split for a while, but I had to hike through a wide creek and thick grass that grew along the bottom of what was probably a river other times of the year.  I came up over a low hill and saw Len taking a photo of the hawk that is on that cactus.  

Curiosity and love. 

9/11  

I remember 9/11 the way you probably do, with particular images etched into my mind. I was standing, my hand was on the doorway of the family room when the second plane flew into the second tower. To this day I see the room I was in, the TV on its stand, the plane on the TV. I understood as I gripped the frame of the door that people were dying right then.

Ascene from a book I’d read years before popped into my mind. The novel was D.M. Thomas’ 1981 novel, The White Hotel. The story is told as an erotic journal. It’s the 1920’s and a fictionalized Freud unsuccessfully analyzes an opera singer who is suffering phantom pain. Freud (in the novel) insists her pain arises from repressed memory. She’s not so sure, she relates a dream. She eventually leaves analysis and lives her life, sings opera, marries a Jewish man and they have a child.

The cataclysm that is WWII in Europe overtakes them. As she and her family go to their deaths for being Jewish, she realizes the dream she had was of the reality she is living now. The pain she felt was from the future she would suffer into and die from.

Her dream is of an enormous quiet, grassy field. Silent people in white clothing are setting up endless rows of cots in the field for the thousands of people who are coming through death on earth. There are too many people to process. Traumatized and newly dead people are being helped to lie down on the cots in the field to await whatever comes next.

I’ve probably related this incorrectly since I’ve not read the book in decades. But that image had always haunted me and on 9/11, watching the tower fall, it’s what I remembered. It was an image waiting in my mind for unfathomable reality. Too many people dying at once; cots in lines across a massive field to receive them.

After 9/11 we began to hear from Muslim Americans that they were experiencing intolerance and threats. It sort of seems to me that 9/11 allowed American racism to stand up powerful and arrogant. And here we are now.

What do you remember?

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I remember being on the phone with you MB for what seemed like hours and not being able to take my eyes off the screen….

I was at work - it was a patient day. Garry called and asked if we had a tv to watch. The second plane had just hit the second tower. I remember the stunned disbelief from us all. Patients didn’t show. The phone stopped ringing as we watched. That night, our oldest and his wife came over as we watched the tv. It was to hard to be alone. I remember the silence from the skies in the next coming days. None of the feelings have lessened in the 20 years since

On September 11, 2001, I was at the Veterinary Clinic where I worked at the time. We were getting ready for our morning surgery, and my boss's wife called, frantically telling us the World Trade Center had been attacked. We had a TV in one of the offices, and turned it on, trying to take in the images we were witnessing. Stunned, we saw the first Tower fall; then the Second. I remember hoping that too many people hadn't gotten to work in those buildings yet. But . . . we had work to do, and it offered a sanctuary of routine and sameness, while we held within us the knowledge that nothing would ever be the same again. The news kept getting worse, the reality more unbelievable. The moment that chilled me the most that day, was when one of our Technicians came in for her afternoon shift. She had thick dark hair, large beautiful dark almond shaped eyes, and olive skin. She told us a man had approached her on the street and accusingly asked "What are you?" When she asked what he meant, he said "What's your background?" She replied "Polish and Chinese." He scoffed and stalked off, leaving her shaken and terrified. I hugged her close, realizing that he could have harmed her, as he looked for someone of the wrong "background" to do God knows what. I realized that in the face of fear and loss of control, Compassion can be hard to maintain; but that is when it's needed most of all.
Mary Beth's picture

That's a really strong story. that very afternoon. 9/11 didn't cause that hatred and racism, it unmasked what was there all along.
Leonard's picture

I loved The White Hotel, and I'm glad you reminded me of it. It was about a woman who was remembering something that hadn't happened yet, something that happened to millions of people, and part of the memory (that she survived the attack) was a memory of someone who wasn't her, but could have been. It made the horrible thing even more horrible, if that's possible. There was an interesting story on NPR regarding movies about 9/11 (https://www.npr.org/2021/09/09/1002261083/how-movies-have-shaped-the-perception-of-9-11) in which he talks about the 2006 movie "The History Boys." The teacher takes the kids to a cemetery, and explains that memorials are a way of hiding things that are too difficult to think about: "Cause so many of our people died. It's not lest we forget. It's lest we remember. See; that's what all this is about - the memorials, the cenotaph, the two-minute silence - because there is no better way of forgetting something than by commemorating it."

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Cabeza de Vaca & Company: A 500-Year Old Story for Our Time.

I’ve been thinking about Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca for years and I’ve also been thinking about him for a week.

It’s crazy out there in the world right now and people are, I think, kinda sick of each other. Racism, sexism, and classism are the muck we walk through to get to our cars while our climate is turning into flying monkeys. And the rich keep getting richer.

So let me tell you about a guy I admire.

Three Things 9/3/2021

1. This morning I was texting with Franc about our heritages. He was born and raised in the Midwest although his ancestors are from Puerto Rico. Being the child of children of a Caribbean Island means he probably has Taino DNA as well as African and European. Heck, he probably has Phoenician and Viking and Pacific Islander because island people and sailors have always thought each other cute.

Three Things 9/2/2021

Regarding Texas: I’m so angry today.

From The Buried: An Archeology of the Egyptian Revolution by Peter Hessler

Hessler is making a case that a significant reason for the failure of Egyptian governments is because citizens are not looking for competent political leaders. They vote for men who lambast the “corruption and immorality” of present leaders. They vote for those who promise a “return to our traditional Islamist values.”

Three Things 8/25/2021

One:

Where did these damn fruit flies come from? I borrowed a 400-page book from the library yesterday and just finished it an hour ago. ONE fruit fly bumped me every twenty minutes through the whole damn tome. I hit at it every time it zipped past but I never zapped it.

I’ll get him (or her?). I put an inch of apple cider vinegar into a glass, covered it with plastic wrap, punched some tiny holes, set it next to our fruit.

Bugs bug me.

Two:

Is it really August already?

I woke up this morning feeling wistful. It’s the third week of August. Where did this summer go?

I have not ridden my bike even once (there are giant construction trucks all over my favorite route). We’ve hardly entertained friends at our Bistro (the apron of the garage that I painted last year). We’ve not traveled other than to see our kids. My six tomato plants are producing an unenergetic number of tomatoes. Didn’t see the Perseids. Didn’t serve umbrella drinks by our pool. Oh wait, we don’t have a pool.

Len is Raising $ for the MAAC Fund Again

About this photo: these are the four guys who first started riding together, years ago. Jack heard about the MACC fund, so they all did it together. Last year, out riding one fine day for the fun and exercise of it, Tom, the tall guy, suffered a terrible accident and passed away. Sometimes when they ride together now, Tom's humorous and kind spirit accompanies them. 

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This is the MACC Fund  https://maccfund.org/

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