Right this very godforsaken minute beneath a city of millions

Arrive at subway station. Wait 15 minutes for N train.

Q train arrives instead. Board Q train.

Feel okay about progress, both trains go to Union Sq.

Make next station stop.

Bw that stop and the next we are informed that train will go local from here on out.

Proceed very slowly to local stops.

Arrive at express stop. Everyone gets on, bc there’ve been no express trains.

Proceed slower than my walking pace to next stop.

On the way, stop in tunnel for 15 minutes to let several express trains pass us.

During this time, a woman faints on our train car.

Arrive at local stops. No one gets off, bc everyone who boarded wanted an express train.

People begin to lose patience as even more express trains pass us, and we are told that we are delayed by train traffic ahead of us.

Wtf are you doing mta? Are you trying to reduce the population of the city? Get us all fired? Show how much power you have over every aspect of our daily lives?

Why do you hate us lowly commuters, oh mighty nyc transit?

The subways are the arteries of this city, w express and hub stops so many little hearts keeping the blood, all us people, flowing through it. You are bleeding us out. We are fainting on subway trains stuck in tunnels. I am so angry I could scream, but out of respect for my fellow subway riding new yorkers, I will not.

Oh my god, woman, stop sucking that hard candy before I have to hurt you. I can hear the sick sound over The Runaways. That’s loud, belligerent, agitated, passive-aggressive sucking.

I’m dying. She’s unwrapping another one.

Every time the conductor gets on the loudspeaker to say “after blah blah blah something something on the bridge there are delays on N Q R D B lines,” she sounds angrier and angrier, as if we keep asking “are we there yet,” instead of quietly fuming. Except for this woman and her hard fucking candies.

I may never make it where I am going. It has been an hour and fifteen minutes into my hour long trip and I’m not even half way there.

I wish I’d brought some water. And a way to get off this train.

There goes another express train while I stand here crammed in w hundreds of people bw two local stops where no one will get on and no one will get off.

So far the amount of time this train has spent not moving is about 40 minutes. I’m supposed to be at work in 6 minutes.

That is all.

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I finished.

I finished my book last night. My novel. It feels strange to say, like after you get married and say “husband” for the first time.

I finished the first real finished draft. There’s still bits and pieces, like I know there’s a thing I forgot to put in near the end, and some moments and small threads that need to drop in and weave. But I got to the end and I felt… well I felt I needed to commemorate that. It’s been years I’ve been writing it. This story about a girl and her best friend, and what they go through together, and what she goes through alone, and the perils of a divided heart, and the dangers of truly pretty, deadly things, like comfort and flooding basements full of missing books and library databases with as many citations as there are drops in the ocean.

I ride the subway to work. I try to avoid being late, on this crowded subway. When you have a gig that is one day per week it’s essential to keep up appearances. I imagine each one these commuters as books, each of these people, bundled and gloved, holding coffee cups, playing iphone games, carrying lunches, checking their twitter, as writers finishing up books of their own. Gah! If we could all tell our stories… I’ve told mine, time and time again, pages using pages. And I’ll tell it again, bc what are we if not the stories we tell, the stories we consume, the stories we heroically lead through our own defiance against the slow, plodding March of consumption.

Soon I will be miserable. I will come down off this high of feeling fulfilled, feeling finished. I will panic about getting an editor, a publisher, a lit agent. But for now, for this moment, stuck in a bridge in a tin can perched high above the frigid East River w it’s roiling currents, I wanted to acknowledge what I have done. It was excruciatingly difficult. I wrote encouraging missives to myself in my notebook, and gilded them w gold and shining watercolors. “You can do this!” I wrote. “Trust that the book is good!” I wrote. I wrote enough that I believed it.

I look forward to beginning again. But for this moment… for this moment there is this.

giving gifts: bah! humbug.

My son’s backpack came home from school yesterday stuffed full of gifts. “Christopher gave me a Playmobile guy!” He said, “and Valentina gave me an activity book. I got Hershey kisses, and candy canes!” He was so excited, but with every addition to the list of loot the knot in my stomach tightened.

Why? Why do parents send in all these stupid gifts that turn into garbage as soon as they hit my house? Candy wrappers and torn papers, crushed crayons and little bits of horrible glitter, litter my home. Plus I feel guilt for not having sent in anything for my son’s classmates.

I asked my husband if this makes me a Scrooge, and he hesitatingly said “a little,” which makes me think that yeah, I’m a super Scrooge. But that’s fine. I wish we could dispense with the gifts. Instead, let’s share a snack, or a layer cake, or some bread pudding with fresh whipped cream. Let’s raise a glass and have a toast. Let’s take all those gifts and give them to children that don’t have.

I’ve had friends who are really into gift giving, and it makes me feel bad because I am really not into it. I’d rather get some time with friends, instead of gifts let’s buy travel and actually see each other.

Please don’t expect me to get you anything for Christmas. Sorry.

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Reinforcing trauma based delusions on DS9

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Kako and Chief O’Brien, traumatized future Molly

I’ve been using this year’s round of holiday malaise as a great opportunity to rewatch some Deep Space Nine. I’m up to Season 6: Episode 23, Time’s Orphan (I’ve been skipping around), and while I remember watching the episode previously, this time through it really rankled. Like I was sitting there yelling ‘wtf, O’Briens,’ at my phone.

Here’s the gist– O’Brien and Kako take their two kids, Molly (eldest) and Yoshi for a picnic on Bajor after the end of the Dominion occupation of DS9. This is a poignant picnic, because the family has been separated for a while– for the whole war, in fact– and this is the first time they get some idyllic ‘this is why we love each other’ times since they’ve been back altogether on the station.

What happens? Molly goes tumbling into a well, or rather a time vortex, and by the time they get her out, she’s aged 10 years. Not only that, she spent those 10 years in prehistoric Bajor, and has gone completely savage.

The O’Brien’s first thought, upon meeting their tree-dwelling, pre-verbal 18 year old daughter, is to transform her back into the 8 year old girl she was earlier that day. Makes sense. Seems like the only logical option. Because of an accident, the child was transformed from someone who is 8 years old, verbal, social, educated, and well-adjusted to someone who has experienced extreme trauma and barely survived to make it out the other side. If you could return your child to the state before that trauma, isn’t the right thing to do to do that? If a child is hit by a car, wouldn’t everyone involved rather reverse time and return to before the car accident and prevent it from happening? If such a thing were possible, I bet AAA would cover it with road-side assistance.

Instead, the know-it-all Dr. Bashir tells the O’Brien’s that such a reversal would be unethical, “because someone has to grow up to be this Molly,” meaning the savage. And he smiles at them condescendingly, with a look that says he has the advanced, more humanitarian view. The O’Brien’s go along with it, and try to get used to this new Molly. They get her set-up with a false forest in a cargo bay, and take shifts staying with her. They try to bring her back around to space station life. They bring her crayons and toys from her childhood room, and are thrilled when she starts drawing.

It is Bashir who points out that her trees have faces, and that she’s anthropomorphized nature. This Molly thinks trees are her parents, and is desperate to return to nature. The O’Brien’s do their best to sympathize and to provide what she needs. They get some holosuite time and recreate Bajor, and the location of the ill-fated picnic. It is as though she is an infant all over again as they rejoice when she learns to use a spoon, and potty-training an 18 year old sounds like a nightmare.

That her parents do not try to give her back her life, but sink down into the primordial muck with her is one thing, but when, in the end, they decide that the only option is to send Molly back down into the time portal, it is as unforgivable as when Audrey Hepburn lets her cat out of the cab in the pouring rain because she’s afraid of commitment.

If, only gone for a few Bajoran hours, ten years had passed on the other side of the time portal, then how much time has passed over the course of a few days when Molly was back aboard DS9? They’re not sending her back to the same time period that they extracted her from, and she’ll be retraumatized all over again. They don’t know what they’re sending her back to, yet they do it anyway, all because Bashir wouldn’t allow them to undo the trauma.

Also, what about the Prime Directive? Everyone’s always so gung-ho to preserve the indigenous land and the natural unsullied origins of planets. Doesn’t a little Earth girl landing in the prehistory, pre-human Bajor disrupt the time continuum? Didn’t they read the story about the squashed pre-historic butterfly and then everything’s orange and totalitarian back in the future?

Why is the acceptable move, the one that all the Star Trek people in the episode know in their heart-of-hearts is the right, non imperialist thing to do, to reinforce Molly’s delusion? When curing her of her savagery is difficult, they give up on her and say well that’s that, she must be better off in the prehuman beginnings of Bajor. How is the right thing to do to give up on your daughter, accept her delusion, and push her back into a time vortex? By doing this, they give her a death sentence. She will never see another human being (unless centuries have passed on Bajor and people have emerged from the ooze), she will never experience the love of other people, or even of her mother and father, ever again. She will not be a mother, not have a career, not read a book, ever again. This is not a reasonable fate to bestow upon your traumatized daughter simply because it appears to be what she wants after a few days of a really difficult transition back to real life.

It also doesn’t make any sense that the O’Brien’s, who have dedicated themselves to very advanced pursuits, that of engineering in Miles’ case and botany in Kako’s, believe that the natural, pre-human culture that Molly has been living in is better than the big bright present of DS9. Can’t they be even a little culturally imperialist? After all, they live on a space station orbiting an alien planet, you’d think they’d have some respect, appreciation, and pride in where human beings have landed in the Alpha Quadrant. Instead, they equivocate their advanced way of life with one in which humans are barely more than animals, barely aware of their own consciousness.

Certainly, Avery Brooks’ Capatain Benjamin Sisko would not have made the same choice. In Season 6: Episode 21: The Reckoning, Captain Sisko watches his son fight an insane battle when he is possessed by a Pah-wraith. He has the opportunity to stop the fight, to push the entity out of Jake’s body, but he chooses instead to let Jake fight his own battles. A big difference is that Jake is a grown man, who makes his own choices, and fights his own battles. Captain Sisko knows this, and he watches on in agony. Were he an 8 year old boy instead, Captain Sisko would have jumped in.

In sending Molly back to the past, the O’Brien’s steal her future, imagining that the trauma she’s experienced will never be undone, no matter how much therapy, time or attention they put in. They should know better, after what they saw on the Enterprise with Captain Picard and the Borg, than to assume the effects of trauma are unable to be overcome.

In fact, when they go back to the time vortex to shove their traumatized, delusional daughter back into it, they find original, 8 year old Molly. Presumably she’s been sitting on the other side of the time vortex for several days, while her grown self was on board DS9. She hasn’t had any food, or socialization, in that whole time. Yet she is not horribly traumatized and falls back into life on the station with no problem at all. Other than that her drawings show trees with smiley faces, there is no indication that she is connected to savage Molly at all.

The Sexual Harassment of Lily Bart

Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth, over a century after its publication, is a transcendent work exploring the trauma of sexual harassment. It was criticized in its time as a ‘novel of manners,’ while its proponents called it a social satire.

Maybe it’s about manners, maybe it’s a scathing commentary on wealthy socialite culture, but mostly what it’s about is a single, broke woman trying to navigate a career, life, and society while being continuously and solely valued for her sexual attractiveness and perceived availability. She was trained to be a rich man’s wife, but she can’t stomach the men to whom she could be wed.

Miss Lily Bart, heroine of the novel, is from a fallen New York family. Well-connected but broke, beautiful but desperate, plodding the path of privilege and wealth for which her shoes were made, Lily is of the fashionable set of late 19th Century New York. What she’s got is is beauty, charm, masses of debt, and that most cursed of all things, standards.

Older, married, well-connected men make passes at her, and though she turns them down so much of the time, her reputation is sullied by the existence of their advances at all. Friends and enemies alike ask what she could be doing to lead these men on so, and answer with a wink and nod.

Miss Lily Bart is a hanger on of power, a socialite with her body and cunning as her only assets. Try as she might to wield some of that power on her own terms, without giving over her body to men, she is unable to gain any traction. It’s simply not allowed.

What we do to our women! What we have done, what has been done, what women have been put through. Yes, fragments, not sentences, because these were lives lived in fragments, lived according to proscribed principles. Women of standing who were socially and financially crippled by their perceived association to men who wanted docile, easily manipulated, willing young women in secret corners, in their beds.

With no fortune of future of her own, Miss Lily runs from fashionable country house to fashionable town house, perfectly made up, well coiffed, perfectly clothed, expensively jeweled– this is what’s expected, and she’ll deliver no matter what, no matter how much debt she has to take on. (MFA, anyone?) But like many women when faced with a job for which they have prepared and interviewed, for which they have worked and sacrificed, she is faced instead with men who take every opportunity to thrust their sex upon her, ignoring everything about her but the wants they impose upon her.

If Lily Bart were facing down her career prospects today, she would have been one of the endlessly talented, fierce women who were never given a chance because they did not go along to get along, did not stand idly by for sexual harassment and abuse. Just as she was in her day, she would have been cast off, obliterated, defeated by men of power and influence who don’t give a damn about the women they tread upon to secure their own aims.

Critics at the time painted Wharton’s heroine as someone who eschews passion and love for money and security. But when the men in control of all of it demand she be used according to their aims, and not her own, she refuses them. Time and time again, Lily holds tight to what she knows to be right, and in not letting herself be used by men, she is destroyed by them.

Why did critics hate her? Why is she still considered a vapid socialite of American literature? Because even in the stories we tell ourselves, we blame women for men’s unwanted advances. We blame women for our perceiving them as slutty and too available. We blame women.

The tables are starting to turn on this, as we’ve seen with all of the men being brought down through the exposure of their illicit actions and unkempt desires. Let’s bring back Lily Bart, sexually harassed throughout House of Mirth, and for a century of criticism afterwards. She is every woman who has been forced to submit to sexual harassment in order to achieve job security, and tossed to the gutter when she doesn’t play ball.

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Gillian Anderson as Lily Bart in Terence Davies’ The House of Mirth.

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Edith Wharton as a debutante, circa 1862

 

Look at her boob.

I was sitting at dinner after performing in Hudson Valley Sticky. It was a Saturday night, and I was tipsy enough that I’d decided to order fettucine alfredo, complain about how big the portion was, and eat the whole thing.

I was sitting across from Ali, my close friend and frequent collaborator, and we were feeling good. We’d performed my short play AutoMoron and got big laughs. We’d watched the Hudson Valley Sticky team make a spooktacularly fun Halloween edition of Sticky, complete with strong, inventive writing, risk-taking performances, and direction that made use of the whole space. Next to me was an actor from the show, and I told him how great he was, and we congratulated each other in that merry way that performers have after a show when they’re still riding high on the rush of laughs and audience engagement.

Next to him, was another man, who had been at the show, but who I hadn’t met. It was a relaxed, congenial atmosphere, until that man said “look at her boob.”

My God I was taken aback. I realized suddenly he was talking about my boob, and telling the actor to look at it. I looked down at my shirt-covered boob and spotted my little blue butterfly pin, pinned above my boob.

“It’s a blue butterfly,” he said.

“I wear it in memory of my grandmother,” I said, trying to regain a footing in a conversation that went from comfortable and fun to belittling.

He ignored me, and spoke to his friend. I gathered that they’d been collaborating on a screen play rife with imagery that keeps popping up for them in real life, like this blue butterfly. I didn’t understand what this had to do with my boob, but I felt small, I felt put in my place, I felt really bad. The men continued speak of their men business. Ali flashed me a look across the table. She’d taken in that whole thing, and also didn’t know what to say. They spoke of other imagery in the script.

I wanted to say something that would make him as uncomfortable as he made me. I thought, I could make a crack about his body, about his penis, for example, but men talk about their penises all the time, and it doesn’t seem to make them uneasy, quite the opposite in fact. I thought about what makes men universally uncomfortable.

“What else comes up in the script, ‘storks,” the man said.

I piped up from the dark corner I felt trapped in, trapped with my boob and butterfly. “My son and I were recently talking about storks. He asked me if that’s where babies come from so I told him all about vaginas.”

The conversation stopped. But I felt great. Talk of women’s bodies below the waist make men universally uncomfortable (and if you’re one of the rare men who is not made uncomfortable by vaginal talk, whoop-de-doo for you, Jeff Lebowski). The man didn’t say anything, so I expanded on this conversation I’d had with my son (who does not appear to be uncomfortable when we speak of vaginas), and explained how vaginal muscles expand and contract based on need. I made a joke about labium.

The man left the table under some excuse and didn’t come back.

I ate an entire plate of fettucine alfredo.

Fuck that guy.

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me and Ali at Sticky

Adventures in Being Home Alone

Dave and C went to see fam this weekend while I stayed home. I’m usually glad for some time without responsibilities, but this was freaky.

txts:

1 am, Saturday night.

Libby:
Someone keeps ringing the door bell

There were people ringing the bell and knocking on the door, both exterior front of the house and the interior door, then people came around the back with flashlights just now.

I called 911 and police are coming to check it out. I’m freaked out.

It was the police trying to get into upstairs. Meanwhile upstairs has been quiet all night. No idea what’s going on. But basically I just called the police on the police.

Alls Fine now

7 ish am, Sunday morning

Dave:
Wow. That’s scary.

Libby:
Yeah I was freaked out

Dave:
And no idea what was up?

Libby:
No
It was quiet all night
But these cops would not give up banging on the door and they came around back w flashlights
But the didn’t identify themselves

Dave Marcus:
And what were you eventually told?

Libby:
So I turned off all the bedroom lights and shut the window bc I was like whoever is trying to get my attention is relentless, I bet they come around back

So once they came around back, and I was sitting in the bedroom in the dark the window closed so that no sound with escape the house, I called 911

I told them people were trying to get into the house. Ringing the bell banging on the door and come around to the back door flashlights. I told 911 expecting visitors to midnight and I was freaked out by what I was trying to get in my house

911 said not to answer the door and that police will come in that they would call me when they got here.

So I sat there in the dark for about 15 minutes and then I got a call from police.
But it was actually the 911 operator calling back and saying that it had been police knocking on the door and shining flashlights into the house. And that the police were trying to access the third floor because someone had called police.

I said: Oh, so I called the police and police? And the operator laughed and laughed. But I was pissed. Why didn’t they identify themselves at any point? Like once you’re knocking on the back door, why not say: hello it’s the police?

Dave:
Especially at midnight.

Libby:
After I called them, but before I got the call back, I thought I heard people enter the front door and someone come downstairs from upstairs and talk to them.

It was later than midnight, and yeah it was pretty creepy to know there were people in the backyard trying to get into the house.

But of course I don’t let people in if I’m not expecting anybody. I don’t let in anybody at one o’clock in the morning

I don’t care who it is, if they can’t identify themselves they’re not getting in. So I waited them out in the dark.

Dave:
We might need to find out what’s going on. That’s a heavy police reaction.

Libby:
I thought so too. And there wasn’t any noise from upstairs. It had been quiet since I got home which I think was 7

Dave:
We might be able to see the police report. I’ll ask my dad how such a thing is accessed.

Libby:
You mean of why they were here at 1 o’clock in the morning last night?

Dave:
Yes.

Libby:
I was honestly more freaked out knowing that it was police in the backyard. Because if it was someone else then one could talk to police about how to prevent such things in the future. And also because now I know for sure that people with guns were in the backyard trying to get in my house. And I’m glad I didn’t answer the door what with how trigger-happy these situations seem to get.

Dave:
For sure. You did the right thing. And, yeah. That’s how people get shot.

Libby:
Like that white lady in Wisconsin or wherever. I was really freaked out. Why would police be banging on the back door that’s clearly an entrance, shining flashlights in to the back door and into the bedroom where the curtains were drawn, of course, and the windows were closed, but not identify themselves as officers?