Friday, November 11, 2016

The Elephant in the Closet

Most of my family voted for Trump.  There, I said it.  Some of my close friends already knew.  While I don't yet feel better, I feel a little relieved to type the words onto the page.  
Why does this feel so shameful?  While I have friends across the spectrum, Republicans in New York City are rare, with the possible exception of everyone sharing my last name, including those who immigrated from Italy about a hundred years ago.  My late uncle worked for Jacob Javitz and Louie Lefkowitz and lost an election for City Council in the late 70's. I myself am also registered as a Republican (another statement that feels like a coming-out), but not to make mom and dad happy or because I toe the party line.  By "gatekeeper voting" for the most moderate-to-liberal and rational GOP candidate in a heavily Democratic party-primary state, my goal is to have the greatest chance at a tolerable ballot come Election Day.  I vote on issues, not party affiliation, even dividing my vote between Republicans and Democrats for judgeships or supporting third-party candidates.  Subversive, eh?  Given my RINO status, I feel like the black sheep of the family, yet I rarely mentioned my registration to other New Yorkers.  Some friends and acquaintances, mostly those who would consider themselves open-minded and liberal, say they could never be friends with someone of the other persuasion.  Not to mention, social media rants about defriending Trump supporters hit fever pitch once he won the primary.  This election has left me feeling stranded between two extremes, and I have limited deeper conversations on touchy subjects to confidantes, and even then face-to-face over a beer, just one.  After being bullied in grammar school for being smart, I admit it's hard for me to not feel liked, and I have suppressed voicing my opinions to avoid the possibility of alienating others.  

Though the bloggerati blame white women for this mess, I did not "stand by quietly and allow this to happen."  Mom hates discussing politics, though she occasionally vents her frustration on certain issues.  Dad, on the other hand, will gladly get into it on any topic with anyone of any political bent who will engage.  Often we disagree, sometimes it gets intense, two rams locking horns on a small rocky outcropping.  Numerous exchanges with my parents, my brother, and friends happened about this election, discussing, arguing, rebutting, shouting, pleading.  Though my father admitted he thought Trump is an asshole, nothing swayed them.  Please do not dismiss them as bigoted, neo-Nazi, hateful people.  My father introduced me to a transsexual coworker when I was a preteen and told me he did not like that people made fun of her.  To this day, my parents still hold out hope that I will marry one of my ex-boyfriends, both of whom happen to be Asian-American.  

The common theme was that they could not in good conscience vote for Hillary, and they offered logical and compelling reasons for this: 

"Anyone else who transmitted classified work-related emails on a personal account would have lost their job at the very least, if not prosecuted." 

"Benghazi happened on her watch, and she ignored their requests for additional security and then tried to pass it off like a documentary caused it." 

"There's some shady dealings going on at that Foundation."
"How can they criticize Trump's misogyny after all of Bill Clinton's indiscretions with women?" 
"She said such awful things about Obama during his campaign vis a vis his attending madrasas, and they clearly don't like her.  Why are they all pretending to be friends now?" 
"My son is in the Navy, and I'm concerned her hawkishness will send him somewhere we have no business getting entangled and he'll come back in a casket." 
"Health care fees are going through the roof!  No doctors in Manhattan will take a health exchange plan.  God help us if Obamacare turns into single-payer like Europe.  Imagine the waiting!!"   

I pulled every card out of the deck to refute their arguments, that not liking Hillary should not default the vote to Trump - a third-party vote in a non-swing state could break the BS two-party system if they had the courage to do it; that Trump has no poise or gravitas, he's a reality TV star; his rhetoric smacks of Hitler; he called his own daughter a piece of ass; his connections to Putin would have Reagan on a spit in his grave; his big mouth could piss the wrong world leader off and get us all nuked into oblivion; his father was anti-Catholic in the days of Al Smith; his business ventures are riddled with bad decisions; his supporters now feel energized to behave as badly as he does.  I even threatened to leave the country "if things get really bad" which sent my mother into a panic.  

While I'm on a roll with the confessions, I concede that I do not like Hillary Clinton either.  She and I having the same genitalia is not an acceptable reason for me to vote for her.  Sarah Palin is female, need I say more?  Yes, she's busting through glass ceilings, she has a lot of experience, she has (of late) taken the high road.  But if you take the liberal-rose-colored blinders off for a minute, all of the above things are true.  Her suboptimal candidacy was corroborated in her own team per emails from Podesta's phished Gmail account.  (C'mon people, if you don't want to see it on the front page of the Times, don't electronically transmit it! And don't click strange-looking URLS in your inbox!!!)  Rather than let the people select their candidate, Hillary shoehorned in.  But if someone had put a gun to my head and told me to choose one of the mainstream party candidates, under pain of death I would have chosen her.  

Once Michigan and Wisconsin started toggling between baby blue and pink on Tuesday night, a maelstrom of emotion swirled in my abdomen.  Frustration that out of 320 million people, these ragtag candidates were the best each party could muster.  Guilt that maybe I should have called out extended family members on the misogyny of the "bitch of Benghazi" Facebook posts.  Regret that I didn't challenge my friends on both sides of the fence more than I had.  Anger and disappointment that my parents would implicitly condone pussy-grabbing with their ballots.  Nausea when a married Trump voter tried to put his arm around me and rationalized it with "you know I voted the same way as your friend"  when I gave him the brushoff.  Uncertainty about how the economy will react.  Apprehension of Trumpkins buoyed by victory to invade my personal safety and of loved ones who are "different". This fear persists, and so does the shame.  

The hangover from the late-night returns persists, and emotions are still running high.  It feels like the 9/11 aftermath, and in a way something massive has come crashing down right before our eyes.  Sidewalks and subways were somber on Wednesday, no one spoke or made eye contact.  My daily phone calls with Mom went unanswered because I don't want to say something that I will regret later.  Hearing about graffiti, violence and threats is upsetting, although I remind myself that the streets are not flowing with blood-yet.  I try to be hopeful as Trump softens and supportive of others as they vent their pain.  None of my "Trump friends" have gloated, although some have sparred with me.  Despite our disagreements, they're still my friends.  One thing I respect about my dad, he's not afraid of a heated discussion, he doesn't name-call, and he would never disassociate or unfriend someone who disagreed with him.  Maybe more people should emulate that behavior instead of deriding and blocking people with whom they don't agree.  Maybe if they hadn't insulated themselves in a bubble of cat videos and progressive news links in Hipsterville, they would have seen the election results coming.  So far one pro-Hillary friend from high school lashed out at me as being naive and then blocked me when I called him out on it.  The irony of people who consider themselves accepting then shunning difference of opinion is what got us into this mess, but most Hillary voters can't swallow that there is any fault in her campaign and that a Trump win was remotely possible.  As I see this, I start to care less about keeping "friends" who won't find common ground with me and more about facing these tough topics head-on.  

Where does this leave us?  Will our great country still shine as a beacon of democracy?  Will the Apocalypse happen when Trump is inaugurated?  Will the country progress or go back in time over the next four years?  Will we segregate ourselves based on political leanings or maybe get closer and be more fortright and less PC?  Will my friends still love and accept me?

Friday, January 01, 2016

Standing Resolute

Some people say it's cliche to make a pile of resolutions especially if you can't keep them.  At the gym today, it was pretty full for a holiday, but I'm sure the crowds will drift away come February when folks escape the harsh cold for warmer climes or choose to hibernate instead.

For me, I've always been a goal-setter.  Even if I feel a bit short of an ambitious high bar, the results were generally admirable.  Often I find myself slacking or erring on the side of laziness when I should be stepping up my game and going all-out hardcore.  This year, I feel no different.  In fact, I want to set the bar really high to keep me focused and working hard.  My childhood love of Zelda and Might and Magic see these more as quests.  And they say that make a very public statement about your goals helps keep you accountable.  So here goes:

  • Finish small projects in my apartment, like the living room light fixture and the towel warmer
  • Save more money than last year
  • Read 35 books
  • Do some form of exercise every day
  • Unassisted pullups
  • Sub-2 half marathon
  • Face my fears and get my bike mojo back
  • Lose 10 pounds, some of which has creeped on with my new job (talk about cliche)
  • Complete Toughman
  • Visit Portland, Colombia, Cuba, Denmark, and Sweden
  • Get more serious about writing.  A family friend said to me on the phone, "you do so many interesting things.  Have you ever though about writing it all down?" Hey, why not?
  • Remember to take care of myself

May 2016 bring the realization of many of your own dreams.  At the very least, with the US presidential election, it's going to be one hell of a ride.  Please keep your hands and arms inside at all times and secure hats, glasses, and bags.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Open Letter to Random Drunk NYSE Trader at Dead Rabbit Last Night

Dear sir:

Allow me to recap how our exchange began, seeing as you appeared quite intoxicated. Earlier in the evening you told my companion she had beautiful eyes, and I asked your work colleague for two vacant barstools. That was the extent of our interaction.  So there I was, enjoying a drink with a close friend, minding my own business, when you and your associate started a typical bar chat.  This quickly devolved from the norm as something inspired you to want to talk politics.

Now, I tend to shy away from intense political discussion unless face-to-face with fairly close friends. However, I am happy to engage if the tone remains respectful and will go toe-to-toe when verbally assaulted. Perhaps I can give you some pointers so that the next unlucky victim you chat up doesn't walk out:

  • Reserve prejudging my political leanings and opinions based on my occupation. 
"Where do you work?
"A nonprofit."
"You must hate me."  
"Really? I worked in financial services for nine years, do I hate myself?" 
"You're a Democrat."
"Am I?"

  •  Start off with lighter topics. It's Thursday night, we are all trying to relax. For most people, that doesn't include statistics on crimes committed by illegal immigrants. Can I suggest how well the Mets are doing? 
[shooting sideways glances at my friend to save me, but our attempts to change the subject failed]
  • Review your high school biology textbook. 
"Lady, if you don't want to get pregnant, control your vagina."
Methinks that's under control if I'm thirty-something and childfree. Last time I checked, a man needs to provide a sperm delivery to conceive a baby. (NB: I passed the NYS Biology Regents with flying colors.) Control your penis, dickhead.
[asked for the check]
  • If I have a valid viewpoint, lashing out and calling me stupid is an ineffective debating technique. I will not be shamed for disagreeing. Don't tell me that your daughter will be smarter than me. Go live your values and spend time with her at home in Westchester rather than getting wasted and acting like an ass at a FiDi watering hole. 
[friend and I get up from barstools] 
  • Yelling at me to get the f- out of the bar only makes you look even more boorish. You claim your wife is "so happy", but if you treat her the way you interacted with me I would beg to differ.
You seem very angry and tormented. I hope you find something in your life that gives you peace and fulfillment. In the meantime, you are the reason this country is going down the tubes, as much as you want to blame our sitting President. I lament the loss of dialogue and finding common ground. Defunding Planned Parenthood will not restore the fabric of our society, minding your own business and your manners will. Gentle-man up.

"You are very rude and disrespectful."[exit]

Monday, June 08, 2015

Reunion, Take 3

In the blink of an eye another five years has passed, and the Class of 2000 made the pilgrimage up The Hill to relive our undergraduate shenanigans.  Though fewer took part than the five- or ten-year edition, there was a good turnout of old friends and new (to me) faces in Low Rise 9.  Made the drive up solo Thursday night with Spotify loaded for 240-mile trip from NYC and anticipation of fun times.

In short, the weekend included:
- corn nuggets at The Nines
- morning run up The Slope - feel the burn!
- Cafe sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee - shout out to MFL and the fabulous trip to Vietnam we planned at the ten-year)
- saying hey to my academic advisor and talking about life post-ILR
- Junot Diaz keeping it real
- laughing at frat-tastic bruhs who snuck Mad Dog into the dining hall
- stealing wine from the lounge to drink upstairs
- snickering at same bruhs unsuccessfully kicking it to any XX chromosomes while wearing their wedding rings
- rained-out tents, whomp whomp
- Rulloff's, one of three bars left, and probably the only good scene left
- lamenting abovementioned changes in Collegetown
- Reunion 5k in the Plantations, including a warmup run there - kill me!
- morning coffee at Stella's
- aimless meandering around campus
- heel clicks with the saxes
- Chi-O Meetup at CTB
- Dino BBQ
- more tents, including lots of cutting the rug (grass?)
- late-night karaoke, where I may have put my hair in pigtails and sang a few bars of Baby One More Time

Driving two friends back made the trip home, including lots of bad drivers and the Tappan Zee/GWB traffic, all the more fun.  They may never want to ride with me again after hearing me sing along to my favorites.  If only I had the same company on the drive up.  No matter, I had a good amount of me-time on the trip, not only on the drive but also long walks reminiscing of the glory days of college.  The solo wandering gave me an opportunity to reflect on life and where I think I'm going, also considering some big decisions looming on the horizon.

Shattering the euphoria and sleep-deprived daze was sad news that a fellow alum and bandie died suddenly Sunday.  It is very trite and overplayed but still true that we don't appreciate the special times and the small moments until the carpet is ripped away from underneath us.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Thank God That's Over

Another year has come and gone.  It feels like each year passes faster than the previous, and in 2014's case I'm glad that it's over.  There were many ups and downs, trials and travails to struggle through.  It was not all down, and the troughs definitely helped me appreciate the bright spots and fun times with cherished friends and loved ones. In the past 12 months, I lost a friend/lover, my aunt, dad's cousin, and three former coworkers.  Throwing my back and my neck out right before the marathon was a double whammy that wounded my confidence and added five pounds to my midsection.  My problems are not as bad as others', and I know I should not complain.  It was also hard for some of my friends, with bad breakups and divorces thrown in the mix.  I think the ball drop this morning was a sigh of relief for many who fought through the curveballs life threw at us.

For the life of my home search, it seemed like my dream of finding a "big-girl" house would never be realized.  A year ago, I still hadn't closed, and even the closing was a nailbiter until the bitter end.  That experience taught me that having a strong advocate are absolutely key.  After that, the daunting task of renovating and decorating seemed to drag on.  At first I thought that painting and sprucing up would bring me and TT back together.  Unfortunately, it often felt like the apartment was more important than our relationship.  As a result, our separation turned into a full breakup, and I had to find a painter on a moment's notice.  Getting the other work done went from "two weeks" to three months when my contractor took a three-week-turned-five-week vacation.  There are still a few items I need to take care of, like a living room light fixture (and according to my mother, blinds in the sun parlor should be my highest priority).  The waterbugs have also diminished, although I've had two waterbugs get trapped in my bathroom light fixture and die - yech.  It feels like the apartment will always be a work in progress, but it's finally at a point where I can sleep, eat, cook, watch TV, work, and have friends over.  It's my sanctuary, my nest, my little slice of peace.

That peace has been desperately needed when I found myself single again.  Living at home again became very stressful.  Downsizing from an already small studio apartment to my childhood bedroom was very stifling, as well as navigating through my family's stuff and cope with the house breaking down piece by piece.  Having somewhere else to live couldn't have come at a better time.  It also became apparent this year more than ever that my parents are aging, and instead of leaning on them for help I now have to give them that support.  This very much hit home during my aunt's declining health and at her funeral.  During that experience I had to have strength to support my parents during their grieving.  In other areas, I had to put my big girl pants on and take on more things alone.  Instances like that made me wish I had a partner just to hold my hand, and I missed TT a lot.  The training wheels are off, I have to ride the bike myself now.  After my fall in Croatia and the month of agony while my forearms recovered, that is terrifying for me.

I'm grateful to have come out the other side stronger and in a better place.  Through many of these tough situations, I sought the humor and the positive side as well as a lesson.  My goal to face life with equanimity helped me ride the rough surf this year.  If I could name a resolution for this year, it would be fearlessness to continue pushing myself out of my comfort zone and tackle things that scare me.

May 2015 bring you the realization of your wildest dreams.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

DobrodoŇ°li u Hrvatsku!!

Everyone has been asking about my trip to Croatia in July. It has taken me a long time to get all my thoughts down mainly because I may have an exciting opportunity related to my trip. More on that when the time is right. For now, here's the short-short version:

Go. To. Croatia.

It's friendly, safe, relaxing, delicious, stunning, and less expensive than other parts of Western Europe.

Traveling solo, which I was encouraged to do by everyone except my mother, was treated strangely over there. Sometimes it allowed me too much time to think about stuff from which I was trying to distract myself.It was especially hard when I fell off my bike. You don't appreciate how much you use your forearms until turning a key or getting dressed is excruciating.

Despite the pain and the loneliness, I loved it. Would do it again, in a heartbeat. Book your trip before it is overrun with Russians, hipsters, and other undesirable tourists.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cold Shower, Warm Memories

While the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was intended to drum up support for research to find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS for short, commonly known in the United States as Lou Gehrig's Disease), it has generated a host of mixed reactions.  Many have posted videos of themselves enthusiastically dumping large buckets of ice water over their heads and challenging others to do the same.  There has been a smattering who are sick of these videos clogging their Facebook and Instagram feeds. Others think charitable giving should be a private matter.  Some have even cited the disparity between donations to research organizations, which have spiked for ALSA since the challenge went viral, versus the number of deaths in the US from various ailments.  Pamela Anderson even went as far as to withhold her donation and instead challenge those conducting ALS research to halt animal testing.

I can see all sides of this scenario, although it baffles me why people would discourage any form of charitable activity or awareness building.  A few weeks ago I posted my own video, which I have since taken down because I didn't like how I looked and sounded.  My motivation to participate was not for recognition or trendfollowing but heartfelt.  

Just over six months ago, I lost someone very dear to me from ALS.  We first met at a training class for newly promoted Consultants and clicked instantly.  Yes, we were dipping quills in company ink, but our home offices were separated by the Atlantic Ocean and we were on assignments across the country from each other.  He was more than a colleague and occasional romantic interest, over time he became a good friend, confidante, and fellow funseeker.  

In September 2009 he was diagnosed, a month after the last time we were together in New York.  During the past four years I kept up with him on Facebook and Google Talk, sending pictures of travels and marathon medals.  When I knew I would be in Europe I would reach out to try to coordinate a visit, but between doctors vists, trips to Ayurvedic clinics in India, and bucket list vacations, we were not able to connect.  

The avid surfer, globetrekker, and guitar player I knew and loved became confined to a wheelchair, then lost the ability to speak, eat, and move.  Towards the end he would sleep with a ventilator and "type" with a special keyboard using his eyes.  He never lost his sense of humor.  Sometimes I wonder if he hesitated from seeing me because he wanted me to remember him before his diagnosis.  

Sadly, I did not get to see him before he left the earth.  His personality shone through at his funeral, where he asked close friends to "pimp his coffin" with photos of happier times. He had selected music as diverse as "Redemption Song", "Purple Rain", All Along the Watchtower", and "Lose Yourself to Dance".  I often found myself smiling through tears and thinking of that mischievous smile.  It blew my mind that he came to terms with his imminent mortality and was able to plan every detail of the memorial.  Now, when I hear a song that reminds me of him, or look at photos from one of our adventures, I laugh and feel a little wistful because I know his spirit is with me at that moment.

I wore a "patriotic" bikini top in my video in his honor.  Why did I do this, if not to give you lovers of the female figure something to ogle? When we first met, he asked me if American girls wear flag bikinis on spring break, to which I responded that I had never even seen one.  Sure enough, weeks later I texted him a photo of a mannequin in said bathing suit at a local boutique.   So I embarassed myself on Facebook to celebrate his thirty-eight-year life, keep the happy and playful memories alive, and tell a story of how ALS can impact not just the afflicted but also those around them.  

This is not meant to spur you to open your wallets or fill a bucket and ruin your clothes and your hair with it.  If anything, I hope you have learned a little bit more about this disease, gained a little more compassion for those who slowly and agonizingly slip away from their bodies as a result, and are inspired to reach out to your loved ones and make some happy memories of your own before it's too late.