Running the Numbers (#320)

Everything carries a risk.

Walking outside exposes you to pollution, pollen, an aging population that refuses to give up their cars until they kill people.

Staying inside? You risk depression and poor physical health without sunlight, nature, human contact, and exercise.

Getting married? Well, for heterosexual men it’s a win; you live longer and you’re happier.

For heterosexual women? Your partner is the most likely person to murder you. Even if he doesn’t, your life expectancy is shorter (but that’s okay because you’re more miserable than single women).

I’m apparently something of a risk-taker. I brave the great outdoors on a regular basis. Despite nearly being run over IN THE CROSSWALK by hundreds of old folks in big cars, a dozen moms dropping their kids off at school, and multiple bicyclists.

I’m a heterosexual woman who got married—even after watching the extraordinary marital train wrecks of multiple parental units.  I’m still married (possibly it’s my husband who fears being murdered by his wife and RIGHTLY SO).

I even survived pregnancy. 17 out of every 100,000 American women don’t, which is the highest maternal mortality rate in industrialized nations and a goddamned travesty.

I take birth control pills, which puts me at a 0.03%  to 0.09% risk for a blood clot. (But since I’m not a complete adrenaline junkie, I don’t drink or smoke, which increase the risk.)

Most recently, I got the “risky” COVID-19 vaccine. No, no, not AstraZeneca—that one is super risky, with a .00065% chance of causing a blood clot. I got the J&J shot— which carries a blood clot risk of .00086% (if you round up).

When I got the shot, of course, no one yet knew the Johnson & Johnson vaccine posed that risk. About a week after my shot, the U.S. paused use of the vaccine.

Birth control pills are still being dispensed, as are guns, which increase risk of death by homicide (2%) and suicide (10% for males with guns in the house) .

Despite the above numbers and snark, I’m not opposed to the J&J pause. Treating these blood clots like other blood clots by using heparin can make them worse. All physicians should be made aware of the potential issue and side effects—especially since the clots appear mostly in women. Doctors have a history of not taking medical complaints of women—especially Black women—seriously.

Still, with such infinitesimally low odds, who would worry more about getting a blood clot from the vaccine than dying of COVID-19 itself (.25% to 20% risk depending on age, health, nationality)?

Apparently I would. Last week at 5:30 AM, I was on the floor of my bathroom, certain I had a clot in my left leg. It hurt to move. I was clearly going to die. My child would be motherless. Worse, son and husband would be referee-less! No one would remember to fill the pets’ water bowls and they would die, too!

I reminded myself that if I hadn’t gotten a blood clot when I was pregnant and stupid (.2% chance), I wasn’t likely to get one now. The pain eventually faded.

It was probably a cramp from kneeling on the cold tile floor in order to beat back an ant invasion.

But if it had been a blood clot?

The smart money would have been on my birth control pills.

Vaccination Nation (#319)

I need my vaccination
Want my arm burning
Immune system strong
I need that vaccination
White blood cells learning
That COVID’s wrong…
(Sung to the tune of the Human League’s “Fascination.”)

After my post on my drive-thru vaccination, I’ve fielded questions on vaccine side effects—possibly because I got the newer, less popular Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Here are all the details you could possibly want. And some you maybe don’t.

For the Pfizer vaccine, which both Andy and his mom got, the most obvious side effect was a sore arm. Neither one had nausea for the first shot, just some fatigue. Before his second shot, I warned Andy to stay hydrated; a nurse-friend had told me that she suspected a lot of the fever, headaches, and nausea people experienced with the second shot were either caused or exacerbated by dehydration (especially common in SoCal during our recent, delightful, low-humidity wind events).

Andy stayed hydrated, but he was literally sprinting for the bathroom when he got back from his long drive for shot #2. Not because of all the water he drank, but because he had diarrhea. (Andy insists that he over-indulged in cheese the day before and diarrhea is thus NOT a side effect. I have my doubts.)

Andy insists his only real side effect was being tired for a day or two. His mom just had the sore arm. But since Andy and his mom both have Chinese-American stomachs of steel and almost never throw up, I wasn’t sure their lack of nausea was typical.

I, on the other hand, have a highly reactive stomach. I’m the sympathetic puker and had morning sickness for six damned months (also threw up during labor).

If anyone was going to hurl after being vaccinated, it’d be me.

I’ve also got a delightful vasovagal response when it comes to blood and some shots (i.e., I’m a fainter). I packed ice (for the back of my neck, helps you not pass out) and an air sickness bag for my inoculation road trip.

Andy eyed me dubiously and asked, “Are you sure you don’t want me to drive you?”

“I’ll be fine. You need to keep an eye on Baby D.”

“I’ll be fine,” Baby D declared. “You’d better drive her, Dad.”

“YOU just want us both gone so you can steal screen time and cookies, mister,” I told Baby D. “I’ll be fine. I haven’t thrown up or passed out since…”

“Since your last tetanus booster? Last August?” Andy offered, with unforgivable accuracy.

“Mom’s gonna faint, Mom’s gonna faint!” Baby D chanted.

“I did not pass all the way out,” I countered. “I just had to lie down and couldn’t see anything. Besides, I haven’t heard about people passing out. Your Engineering Cousin’s husband’s only side effect from the Johnson & Johnson shot was sleeping for two days. Two days! How awesome would that be?”

Sadly, I did not sleep for two days. But I didn’t pass out or throw up after my vaccination, despite the 11% humidity (possibly because I guzzled water all morning and throughout the weekend).

I didn’t get a headache, either. Nor did I get a fever. Yes, I popped some ibuprofen before the shot and several times over the weekend, but even when it wore off, my temperature stayed a degree or two below normal.

My left arm was sore, but the injection site hurt less—and did not hurt for as many days—as it did for other vaccinations (and cortisone shots). I could even sleep on my left side!

I definitely didn’t have my normal energy, though. On Saturday, I let Andy handle the three-mile morning dog walk (which hasn’t happened in years). I wasn’t sleepy, and I didn’t nap, but I was definitely lethrgic.

Sunday the dog and I only made it two miles. Monday morning I was still tired, but we made it three miles.

“So really,” I told Andy, “the only side effects of the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccination were a sore arm and fatigue. Which is way better than being unvaccinated and risking a trip to the hospital…or the morgue.”

Still bummed I didn’t get the side effect of sleeping for 2 days, though.

(Note: Andy would like me to tell you all that there was one other side effect. He insists I was super cranky when I came back from being vaccinated. I even “yelled” at him! I would say the crankiness/ yelling was caused less by the vaccine and more by him sitting on his ass for three hours and leaving certain physical chores in the yard for his spouse with a sore arm to do when she got home. You be the judge.)

 

 

When the Drive-Thru Will Save You (#318)

I am not a fan of car culture. I believe in public transportation: trains, the subway, buses. Do not get me started on the lost and lamented Los Angeles Red Car.

But damn, cars came in handy during COVID-19. Cars were a way to maintain social distancing in drive-thru testing sites. There were Ubers and Lyfts for those who didn’t dare brave buses, even with masks. There was Instacart for those who didn’t dare brave the grocery stores. With restaurant dining off-limits, at least you could still pick up a pizza or have it delivered.

Drive-in Theaters became a thing again. Fast-food restaurants brought back carhop service. We went from Escape Rooms to Stranger Things: the Drive-Into Experience. The majority of Americans opted for road trips this Spring Break, rather than risk flying.

Aside from take out, Andy and I mostly skipped the resurgence of car culture.

Until it was our turn for vaccinations.

Andy, being part of some top-secret national defense project, and being asthmatic, was up first. Now, a lot of folks are very pro-Pfizer (the first vaccine out), which requires two shots. But since all the vaccines will keep you from being hospitalized or dying, I’m with the California website My Turn, which says, “the best vaccine is the first one you can get.”

The first appointment Andy could get was the Pfizer vaccine at the LA Forum at the beginning of March. Run by volunteers, Andy drove up on Sundays, three weeks apart. He reported that it was smooth sailing, with minimal traffic and no wait times.

The first appointment I could get was last Friday afternoon, for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. (Andy reported that his coworkers eligible at the same time couldn’t get appointments as quickly as I did, possibly because they don’t get up at 5 AM. At least there’s one good thing about having a kid who wakes up early.)

The vaccination site was a drive-thru at Cal State Los Angeles, run by the California Office of Emergency Services. In practical terms it meant the vaccination site was being run by the National Guard.

It also meant I would have to brave a fifty mile round trip through Friday afternoon traffic. In Los Angeles.

So be it.

There’s an LA-specific greeting card that says, “I love so much I’d take the 10 to the 101 to the 405 for you!”

True love has nothing on inoculation against death. For the COVID vaccine, I took the 405 to the 91 to the 710 (because the 110 had 3 accidents). The 710 was stop and go, because it was, as always, filled with big rigs hauling containers from the Port of Los Angeles. Those trucks can’t accelerate quickly and thus cannot merge for shit.

About the time I exhausted my supply of swear words, I arrived at Cal State LA. There was a ton of signage, plus literally thousands of orange cones to make sure everyone went the right way. For 5 minutes, we literally followed cones around the campus and through two parking garages.

In one parking garage, we stopped in front of a sign that offered translators in every language I’d ever heard of (yes, including Tagalog). Next to the sign were members of the National Guard (who looked like 12-year-olds-dressed up in camouflage uniforms which is probably a sign that I skipped middle-age and went straight to old ladyhood).

The National Guard member checked my ID (which was my license but could have been a library card or a utility bill) against his electronic tablet, filled out my vaccine card, and had me put it on my dashboard. A laminated card with the time went under my windshield wiper. I drove through another parking garage to the actual inoculation site.

The site had tents and about 20 rows of cars. A pair of National Guard members walked down each row, giving shots. 15 minutes after the last injection in a given row, that row was allowed to drive away, following more orange cones off the campus and practically right back onto the 710 freeway. (Spoiler alert: equally awful traffic on the way home.)

You can check out more snippets of my drive-thru vaccine experience on my Instagram account if you are so bored so inclined.

I probably spent less than a half-hour at the vaccination site, but the whole excursion was over 3 hours in the car.

Pretty much a typical roundtrip commute in Los Angeles.

No wonder I’m still a big fan of public transportation.

 

Shoe In, Shoe Out (#317)

When you marry across cultures, there are bound to be a few differences.

Some differences are jarring at first—like my husband’s Chinese-American family openly discussing money. If you’re open-minded, however, you can learn to embrace coupons and brag about how much money you saved.

Other differences seem insurmountable, especially when much vaunted Western autonomy clashes with Asian filial piety. That’s when it’s important to distance yourself from the issue. I found that 3,000 miles proved effective. Mostly.

But every so often, a practice from another culture makes you say, “That’s brilliant! Why don’t we do that?!”

Like shoes.

*****

Most Asian-Americans don’t wear shoes in the house (no matter what you saw in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before). Multicultural blogger Mabel Kwong has a great post on all the reasons why.

My husband grew up in Hawaii, leaving his shoes outside. I grew up on the East Coast, where the only shoes I took off before coming inside were snow boots. (In rural area with lots of winter snow and spring muck, some North American homes have “mud rooms” for outdoor shoes.)

When I moved into my husband’s townhouse, I left my shoes in the front hallway and never looked back. Sometimes my white guests looked at me askance when I told them to take of their shoes. One even commented, “No shoes? Weird.”

I said, “Dude. Weird is allowing people to track all the dirt on their shoes all over your house. As Vacuumer-in-Chief, I endorse the no-shoe rule!”

When we moved into our little house, there wasn’t a convenient indoor space for shoes. We left shoes on the porch by the welcome mat or at our backdoor.

The first things to make me reconsider the no-shoe rule were our rescue dogs. When ninety-pound Woofie stepped on my bare foot, it HURT. Because the giant goofball neither knew (nor cared!) where his massive paws were, Woofie crushed my toes daily. Even seventy-pound Fey, who was far more considerate with her comparatively dainty paws, could draw blood if she made a misstep, thanks to her strong shar-pei claws. Furry leather slippers with suede exteriorI finally bought super sturdy (super expensive!) slippers and wore those even through the hottest summer.

Problem solved.

Then my old, white neighbors very considerately warned me that thieves in California targeted houses with shoes outside the house. Apparently Asian-Americans have a reputation (at least among thieves) for keeping a lot of cash in the house. I pooh-poohed this claim—until some would-be burglars tried to get by Fey the Fierce. (Spoiler alert: Fey was having none of it.) After the attempt, however, I found the perfect welcome mat/ warning sign to surround with shoes:

Welcome mat reading: "We like big mutts and we cannot lie" with silhouette of large dog.

No one has tried to break in since.

My child and his non-Asian friends, running in, out, and around the house with Nerf weaponry, often neglected to put on or take off their shoes. (The heat of battle has that effect.)  Many times I’d have to remind them that “no shoes in the house” was useless if they ran around in socks outside and then wore those same dirty, debris-covered socks inside.

Baby D, impatient child that he is, hated having to take the time to remove his sneakers when he had to go back inside for a single forgotten item. But as the Vacuumer-in-Chief refused to relax her no-shoe policy, he adapted. He skirted the no-shoe rule by hopping back into the house on one unshod foot—while holding his still-sneakered foot up high. The kid would hop through the entire house at least 3 times a week, hunting for his backpack or water bottle.

More than one coach has commented on Baby D’s extraordinary balance and leg strength. Credit the no-shoe policy. (You’d think the kid would eventually learn to do a mental checklist before going outside and putting on his shoes, but YOU’D BE WRONG.)

There’s one final issue with leaving shoes outside: critters. While SoCal lacks the over-abundance of insect life that characterizes the East Coast, we do have crickets, brown and black widow spiders, and lizards. I always warned Baby D to shake out his shoes before putting them on.

Lizard inside an athletic shoe
Lizard in my shoe. Not an uncommon occurrence at our house.

Unfortunately, the kid has to do things the hard way. Baby D returned from soccer practice last week indignant. “Mom! When I got to the field and put my foot in my cleat, there was a lump! So I reached in and grabbed it and it was a lizard!”

“Guess you won’t forget to shake out your cleats before you put them in your soccer bag again, will you?”

Baby D glared and said, “No, because I’m keeping them in my bag from now on! Inside the house!

And so it came to pass that the Vacuumer-in-Chief granted a special dispensation allowing soccer cleats in the house.

Because next time, it might not be a lizard.

Black widow spider
Black widow found in my watering can.

Celebration Mash-Up (#316)

Holidays were huge in my white family. We wore green, pinched each other anyway, and listened to the Irish Rovers on St. Patrick’s Day (despite being Protestant or atheists). Small gifts appeared on Valentine’s Day morning. There were Easter egg hunts and chocolate bunnies. Our birthdays began with presents and towers of doughnuts. Christmas magic (and excesses) went on for days.

Holidays were not big in my Chinese-American husband’s family. Growing up, he got a red envelope with cash, usually from his Popo, on Chinese New Year.

That was it.

Even though some Wong family members were very earnest Christians, there were neither Easter baskets nor Christmas stockings.

Birthdays might involve going out for dim sum. There wasn’t even a cake until Andy turned 18—when his mom told Andy to pick one up for himself at the grocery store. Andy had a job at that point; I suspect he even had to pay for it.

Since holidays were the highlight of my childhood, I was horrified every time I discovered a new one Andy had “missed.”

You never carved a pumpkin?!” I’d screech. “What did you DO on Halloween, then?”

“Went trick-or-treating.”

“Oh, good. At least your parents let you do that.”

“Of course. The candy was free.”

I was sad for all the fun things Andy missed, but, even though he was the child of immigrants, Andy had a more secure childhood than I did. He was the apple of his mother’s—and his grandmother’s—eyes, the first male in two generations. As the much beloved Number One Son, his mother and grandmother constantly pushed him to eat more. When they went out for dim sum, there were always leftovers to bring home.

I had years on free lunch tickets, plus I had to guard my food from my hungry siblings. My parents were terrible cooks. When we went out to Shakey’s Pizza or McDonald’s (a HUGE treat!), there were never leftovers. Probably the reason we loved holidays was in no small part due to the abundance of food, especially sweets.

Andy, in turn, was horrified that a) I grew up without quite enough food, and b) Kraft Mac & Cheese with Hormel Chili was my favorite dinner.

Over the years, I introduced Andy to holiday fun. He showed me that cooking meals from scratch was tasty (and, when it wasn’t beef Wellington, economical).

Andy’s homemade mochi doughnuts.

This year, our child’s birthday, Chinese New Year, and Valentine’s Day fell within days of each other. Piles of candy and gifts accumulated on the dining room table. At that same table, I watched Baby D devour Andy’s homemade mochi doughnuts, Andy’s beef Wellington, carryout from Din Tai Fun, about twenty shrimp dumplings from the local dim sum joint, and Andy’s homemade chili and cornbread.

Baby D’s homemade cake.

Meanwhile, Andy watched me make a six-hour chocolate cake and arrange a surprise birthday COVID car parade for our kid. He laughed as I swapped out birthday balloons for red lanterns and lucky money envelopes for Baby D’s favorite See’s Candies so our kid could fully enjoy each special occasion.

After Valentine’s Day dinner, Andy surveyed the accumulated culinary/ holiday debris and said, “Our kid is spoiled.”

“We’re just giving him everything we wished we’d had,” I countered.

“But it’s so much!”

“Maybe you’re right. But there’s one really important Ashbough tradition left.”

“Even your family cannot possibly do anything for President’s Day.”

“Hahaha, no, we’re not celebrating problematic old white men. It’s something else.” I raised my voice and called, “Baby D! Come here! We have one more thing for you!”

Baby D ran into the kitchen. “Is it a giant gummi worm? More hong bao?”

I placed a towel in his outstretched hands and said,

“It’s the dishes.”

Consider the Dachshund (#315)

Comedian Sarah Cooper started a funny dog thread on Twitter with this tweet:

https://twitter.com/sarahcpr/status/1350622446848770049

Thousands of replies told Sarah all about dachshunds. About how they were bred to be small enough to fit into badger holes, but aggressive enough to drag badgers out of them. About how neighborhood and household dachshunds terrorized all other dogs.

Twitter, which never agrees on anything, agreed that dachshunds are assholes.

Even dog breeding groups, which put the best possible spin on all purebreds, concede that dachshunds are “more likely to be aggressive towards both people and dogs,” although the they do not specify more likely than what.

More likely than ANYTHING would be my guess.

My father had a dachshund. When two German shepherds tried to invade their yard, twenty-pound Ziggy Star Dachs attacked them. The German Shepherds fled, tails tucked between their legs.

So when Andy and I packed up our two big rescue dogs and went off to visit Dad, I had concerns. Not about Woofie; he could convince any dog to play with him.

Fey (orange) and Woofie (dark brown).

But Fey? Fey grew up starving on the mean streets of Los Angeles. While she was obedient for humans and would never start a fight, she’d sure as hell finish it–usually by biting an attacking dog’s ear with her sharp, almost serrated teeth.

Fortunately, Fey ignored well-behaved dogs. Most dogs ignored her right back.

But Ziggy Star Dachs wasn’t most dogs. Like many small dogs, Ziggy wasn’t well-trained. Or even remotely trained. Which is often typical for smaller breeds. If a small dog misbehaves, the owners simply scoop up the dog, removing him from any problem situation. When Ziggy tried to run off with the butter dish, all Dad had to do was take three steps and grab him.

With big dogs, training is crucial. I spent months training Fey and Woofie to “stay” and “come” when called (because if they decided to run, not even Usain Bolt could’ve caught them). I taught them “leave it” because I didn’t want to be dragged every time they spotted a squirrel, an aggressive Yorkie, or a fast food wrapper.

When we arrived at Dad’s, I had Fey and Woofie sit nicely for their introduction to Ziggy.

Ziggy charged ninety-pound Woofie immediately.  Woofie responded with a play bow, and followed up with a pounce. Ziggy darted under a table. Woofie bowed again and whined. Ziggy charged. Woofie danced back, then pounced again. Ziggy scooted under a different table. Woofie loved this new and awesome game.

Fey sat at my side and watched until the male dogs were tired. Dad brought out chewy treats to keep the canines occupied while the humans chatted.

Ziggy wasn’t content with his chewy. Bit by bit, the little dog scooted our way. Which would have been fine if Ziggy was after Woofie’s chewy. Woofie would have happily played chewy tug-o-war with for hours. But Ziggy had designs on Fey’s chewy. When he got within 2 feet, Fey raised her head and growled.

“Leave it,” I told her. She went back to her chewy.

Dad picked up Ziggy and put the dachshund on the other side of the room with his own chewy. Ziggy inched back toward Fey. Dad put Ziggy back on the other side of the room. Ziggy again began his inexorable crawl toward inevitable conflict.

Dad put Ziggy on a leash and gave him a new chewy. Ziggy ignored it, moving as close to Fey as the leash allowed. (Meanwhile, Woofie ate all Ziggy’s untended chewies.)

Dad kept the relentless Ziggy leashed until I took all the dogs outside for a potty break.

Outside, the dogs had a blast in the Utah snow. Woofie’s giant paws gave him enough traction that he could finally out-corner Fey. She chased after him, determined to take him down. Ziggy manfully ran after both large dogs, barking—only to dive into snow drifts when they changed direction and galloped at him.

While little Ziggy labored mightily to get back to the patio, I took advantage of his absence to feed Fey and Woofie their dinner. Woofie finished in seconds and took off again. Instead of playing with Woofie, Ziggy zeroed in on Fey.

“I wouldn’t,” I warned him. “Sit.”

Ziggy didn’t sit, of course. He continued stalking Fey. I stepped in front of him. Ziggy tried to scramble over my boots.

Fey turned toward Ziggy. Slowly, silently, she pulled back her jowls and bared her teeth.

Ziggy stopped. Fey returned to her food.

“Well,” I told Ziggy, “at least you’re not a complete idiot.”

Wrong. Ziggy zipped around me, heading straight for Fey.

Fey spun, snarled, and snapped her jaws a foot from Ziggy’s nose.

Ziggy dropped.

He rolled onto his back.

And then he peed himself.

Turns out there is an animal that can out-aggressive a dachshund.

The Los Angeles Ghetto Elk eating her dinner.

You’d think Ziggy would have learned his lesson.
Instead, he spent the entire weekend trying to steal chews and food from Fey. Because dachshunds.

Waiting (#314)

I am not a patient person. I was the kid in the car asking “Are we there yet?” every 10 minutes. My many siblings were equally impatient. Road trips were an endless chorus of questions about how long it was to the bathroom, restaurant, and destination.

Unsurprisingly, we didn’t go on many road trips.

My Chinese-American husband is patient (sadly, he grew up on Oahu, which is too small for road trips). I’m not sure if he’s naturally mellow, or if the tropical “hang loose” vibes worked on his personality the opposite way that the intense, political atmosphere of Washington, D.C. affected me.

Perhaps our different levels of patience exemplify the difference in our cultures. My Western mindset insists that I can control my destiny if I work, scheme, and worry enough. At the very least, maybe I can get someone incompetent fired if I document the crap out of his failings. But Andy doesn’t see the point; people are gonna be stupid and other people are gonna cover for them. That’s life, and you have no control over your own fate, let alone anyone else’s. Why exhaust yourself changing nothing?

Much of my experience reinforced my Western views. After all, if I argued long enough and logically enough with my father, he’d come around to my point of view on everything from childrearing to Black Lives Matter (though it usually takes about a year for him to process, do his own research, and then lecture me using my own arguments).

Andy’s parents? You can talk until you are blue in the face. They don’t hear a word you say if it contradicts their ideas.

Maybe that’s how Andy learned to wait. He had to bite his tongue and bide his time until he got a job 3,000 miles away.

I left home at 18 and stayed impatient. Impatient with waiting for guys to ask me out—so I asked them out instead. Impatient with college—so I graduated in 3 years. Impatient with friends, which cost me more than a few relationships. And impatient with waiting for Andy to kiss me, so I kissed him.

It wasn’t until I was pregnant (MISERABLY pregnant) that I learned a modicum of patience. Unless modern science comes up with an artificial uterus, there’s no escaping 10 months of nasty pregnancy side effects. There’s no point in complaining, or crying, and it takes too damned much energy anyway (especially when you’re low on energy because you’re anemic).

I learned to endure nausea, hives, exhaustion, strict bedrest, and then the kid being weeks overdue.

As a reward for surviving pregnancy, I got to endure breastfeeding a growth-spurting giant baby. Welcome, cracked and bleeding nipples.

Followed by an energetic child who didn’t nap.

All the while, I would chant to myself: “Just a few more years until preschool. And then kindergarten.”

Call it patience, or call it endurance, but the ability to hunker down and wait out misery came in handy when Trump was elected. Even as I protested, donated, phone banked, or argued Trump cultists, part of me was simply counting the days, much like Imani Gandy’s thread of GIFs on Twitter:

Then came COVID. Which everyone who didn’t vote for Trump knew was going to be a nightmare, given that man’s ineptitude. There was no way we were going back to normal—and no way my kid was going back to school—until we had a vaccine. A vaccine would take at least a year. We were just going to have to wait out the horror, misery, and death. Which was maddening, because it was avoidable.

But if I thought about how much tragedy could have been averted by a competent, compassionate administration, I would spend my hours enraged. I would fantasize about head-butting Mitch McConnell into oblivion. Or putting up signs with the current COVID body count and the phrase “I’m okay with this!” next to my neighbor’s “TRUMP” flag.

Instead, as I waited, I gradually took heart.

Because we didn’t get COVID (yet).

Because Stacey Abrams created Fair Fight and Wisconsin took advantage of it.

Because Gen Zs is smarter than Fox viewers.

And because Treasonous Trumpers are stupid, and Black Capitol Police officers are smart.

And now?

Tomorrow, the waiting is over.

Fucking finally.

I hate waiting

Riot Gear (#313)

I’ve been to marches, protests, and candlelight vigils. Sometimes the police are also in attendance. At the super white, super suburban Women’s March, all the cops wore affable smiles. Some even sported pink hats.

At BLM protests? Lines of police show up in riot gear, generally sparking the following chant:

I don’t see no riot here!
Why are you in riot gear?!

Yesterday, on January 6, 2021, there was an actual riot. Encouraged by the sitting President (and whiny sore loser baby), Trump’s fascist cult broke into the Capitol, trespassing, stealing, and vandalizing.

I watched it unfold on Twitter, NPR, CNN, and NBC News.

I saw no cops in riot gear.

*****

Today, I’m watching all my white people on Facebook clutch their pearls. “I can’t believe this happened!” they moan, adding sad emojis, prayerful emojis, shocked emojis.

Really? Trumpers have been discussing this for months. They had merchandise declaring their treasonous intent. Trump and his Congressional wingmen have fed Republicans the myth of a stolen election since before the votes were even counted. Trumpers’ social media feeds showed them flying to DC, discussing their plans to riot.

And there were no lines of police in riot gear.

*****

White social media is still echoing President-Elect Joe Biden’s claim that “This is not who we are!

The fuck it isn’t. This is clearly who 70 million of us are. Maybe not everyone who voted for Trump was personally prepared to storm the Capitol in a fit of pique, but they all believed that a lying, cheating, misogynist, racist, narcissist, fascist, brazenly cruel, homicidal white man who has spent his entire life flouting every law possible would be okay as President. That alone is an indictment of both our educational system and our white culture. If you believe in a man who doesn’t believe he should follow the law, then you don’t really believe in law and order.

And still there were no police in riot gear.

*****

My fellow white Americans are currently screaming their heads off about how we need “unity.” I hear it on the news. I see it in the comments on Facebook. I just got a damned email about a school contest with prizes for “Visions of Unity.”

Unity.

As in, just ignore that seditious mob. Don’t prosecute Trump or any of his people for the most corrupt Cabinet in history or their looting of tax payer funds. Ignore the obstructions of justice. Forget about the negligent homicide that will kill at least half-million Americans.

Let me answer that call for unity with all the respect it deserves: “FUCK YOU NO.”

Unity is not more important than justice. In fact, I’d say that American History has proven that unity is impossible without justice.

There was no justice meted out to the traitors after the Civil War. There was no apology to those who were enslaved. No amends were made. There was no universal American reckoning with the genocide we perpetrated. Compare that with Germany, who apologized for WWII and the Holocaust, outlawed the swastika, and swore, “Never again.”

Instead, the USA allowed its citizens to glorify the Lost Cause. It let them put up statues of traitors and fly the traitors’ flag. There were no consequences, no justice, because “unity” was more important. And what happened? White folks, unfettered by even the smallest consequence, oppressed Black Americans in thousands of ways. They suppressed their votes, stole their property, and lynched them.

This should surprise no one. As any non-shitty parent of a toddler will tell you, that’s what a lack of any consistent consequence does. It creates an environment of privilege, one where the rules do not apply to your offspring. Children learn this fast.

The United States currently exemplifies a lack of consequences. The white men who created the Great Recession? Exactly one of them went to jail. Election doesn’t go your way? Throw a gigantic hissy fit and toss in some vandalism and treason. And don’t worry about showing your crimes on your social media feed—it’s not like you’re one of the hundreds of Black Americans arrested for protesting police killings.

Trump is the poster child of no consequences. Goes bankrupt repeatedly? Loan him more money!  Worst boss ever? Give him a TV show for firing people. Praises bloody dictators? Make him your President!

Had Trump gotten actual consequences (i.e., been convicted by the Senate when he was impeached), the storming of the Capitol would never have occurred. But Senators such as Susan Collins said Trump, “learned a pretty big lesson” and gave him a final pass to do whatever the hell he wanted.

Now 363,000 Americans are dead. The country, like the Capitol, is in shambles.

So give me justice, not “unity.”

And the next time the white fascists try to fuck with the certification of a fair election?

Give me lines of police in riot gear.

Photo by Rich Riggins

The Best of the Worst Year (#312)

I know of exactly three people who are loving the pandemic lockdown. One is my Genius Nephew who taught himself to read at age 3 and did long division problems for fun on snow days. Genius Nephew loves staying home with the cats. He relishes having complete control of all social interactions via Discord. In October, as his parents and sister struggled with confinement, Genius Nephew sighed contentedly at the dinner table and announced, “This is the greatest year ever!”

At least someone is happy.

The rest of us who’ve followed CDC guidelines and state stay-at-home orders are…less happy. We’ve turned to baking, crafting, walking, and the arts to survive. Yeah, THE ARTS: books, movies, and television. (So think about just who saved your ass the next time you denigrate liberal arts degrees.)

Here’s the list of the books, movies, and shows that made me laugh and cry. Best of all, they took me somewhere else when I couldn’t leave the house.

BOOKS

Network Effect, by Martha Wells. In the first Murderbot novel after four hilarious, action-packed novellas, would-be introvert Murderbot must team up with a moody teenager and an Asshole Research Transport ship to rescue a human survey team. Murderbot has no problem with a potential suicide mission. But dealing with actual feelings? Gross.

The House in the Cerulean Sea, by TJ Klune. The charming, heartwarming story of a repressed social worker investigating an unconventional orphanage of magical children–only to find the family he never knew he needed. Laugh over this island of delightful misfits, but bring your tissues for the end!

In Hench, by Natalie Zina Walschots, superheroes cause more collateral human damage than natural disasters. They also protected by their parent corporation and law enforcement. Until one woman, armed with spreadsheets and a super villain, decides those super bastards are going down.

A Song for a New Day, by Sarah Pinsker. Two women. One is a musician who lives to play for the crowds–until a pandemic hits. The second doesn’t remember life before school, work, and even concerts became virtual. It will take both of them to outwit the Virtual Industrial Complex and bring live music back to humanity.

A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine. Mahit leaves her small mining station to serve as ambassador to a sprawling galactic empire. She discovers her predecessor was murdered. Various imperial factions conspire to consume her home station and its resources. No problem. All she has to do is negotiate deadly intrigue, avert a civil war, and not fall in love with the enemy.

A Deadly Education, by Naomi Novik. There’s nothing warm and cozy about this magical boarding school. Instead of mentors, murderous creatures make hourly attempts to infiltrate the school and eat magical teens (the younger the teen, the tastier!). Can a girl named El survive without allies…or without resorting to dark sorcery? (Note: This book is a total page-turner, but it has some racist/ colonial characterization issues. The biggest is that the heroine El is mixed race. But while her heroic white mother is all things good and supportive, her non-white family gave in to superstition and decided El was evil and should be destroyed. As a child. Yikes.)

MOVIES

The Half of It. Remember “Cyrano de Bergerac?” Okay, how about Steve Martin’s Roxanne? No? That’s fine. This film by Alice Wu borrows the conceit of a genius ghost-writing love letters from a himbo, but it’s deeper and funnier than previous versions. This time, the Chinese-American girl is the writing genius and a Latina is everyone’s love interest. The growing friendship between the genius and the jock gets solid screen time and is equally delightful.

 The Forty-Year-Old Version. Once upon a time, NYC playwright Rhada was dubbed, “young, hot, someone to watch.” Now she’s forty, she’s tired, and she still hasn’t had her big break. Trying to navigate everything from her mother’s death to rich, white theater gatekeepers is exhausting (especially when the old white guy really, really needs to be punched). Rhada finds her voice rapping; Andy and I found her story compelling and pretty damned funny.

 The Old GuardI thought this was going to be another one of Andy’s ubiquitous guns/ car crash/ explosion movies. Instead, I got sucked into a tense, bittersweet story about the joys and horrors of humanity and immortality. Great cast with good banter, too.

MidwayAndy and Baby D picked this one, but I can’t argue (because we didn’t watch many movies). There are cliches galore and the segregation/ rampant racism in the Navy is ignored, but other historical details are spot-on (rarely do filmmakers bother to get the helmets right). The subject matter is inherently dramatic and had us all on the edge of our seats. The special effects were also pretty damned special.

TV SERIES

The Good Wife.” Andy and I never watched this show until COVID. Then we binged through it every night for about a month. Great cast and just enough witty banter to break up all the drama (and there is SO. MUCH. DRAMA.).

Star Trek: Discovery.” I’m a nominal Trekkie at best and thus lack the hangups  many die-hard Trekkies have with “Discovery” (which generally boil down to white men whining about “canon,” i.e., why isn’t the cast all white men and why aren’t all the white men heroic anymore?). The first season has a helluva twist and the third season finally sends the ship into exciting new territory. Andy is enjoying the show so much he hasn’t complained about paying for CBS all-access.

The Expanse.” I love Sci-Fi, but I did not like this show when Andy first started watching it. It was Sci-Fi film noir and I hated most of the characters: way too much screen time for morally questionable white guys (with one obvious, obnoxious shining white knight exception). Gradually, though, the mystery sucked me in. Later seasons had more women; the banter between the Martian Marine and the President of Earth is a show highlight.

The Right Stuff.” Disney’s series based on the Tom Wolfe novel kept us coming back every week to see which astronauts would excel in training while fucking up their personal lives with liquor and infidelity. As one character says, “They’re all great. And they’re all terrible.” Plenty of critics hated seeing their white male heroes being de-glorified, but we enjoyed the realism.

Selena” is a surprisingly funny series. I expected good music and solid drama in this rags-to-riches American story. But the show’s unexpected comedy was my favorite part, especially when the Quintanilla family members and band lovingly roast and mock each other.

Ted Lasso.” This one is my most favorite of all my favorites. Good comedies are rare. Rarer still is one that doesn’t throw in at least a few racist or sexist jokes.  Instead of wandering into that minefield, “Ted Lasso” mines our changing societal expectations for unexpected, delightful laughs. Combining the best of British and American humor, the dialogue is littered with seemingly throwaway lines that land as comedic gems. Brett Goldstein made us laugh out loud as both a writer on the show and on screen as the angry, aging soccer star, Roy Kent.

If you’re looking for more book recommendations, here are my earlier posts on SFF and Mysteries. Feel free to put your own favorites in the comments, too.

Gifting East: Christmas Edition (#311)

Shopping for anyone from a different culture is tricky.

Shopping for your in-laws is tough.

Shopping for your Chinese-American in-laws?

You’re fucked worse than The Martian.

I’ve written before about how difficult it was to get gifts for Andy’s parents. The nicer the gift, the more Sunny was likely to return it, insisting that we should save our money. She wouldn’t accept an exchange or a credit, either. Sunny would demand that some poor clerk dig up our original credit card number and return it on our credit card.

And if the beleaguered cashier couldn’t find our credit card number? Sunny would call Andy and ask him for it.

We sent flowers next. Sunny complained that they were expensive and didn’t last.

Andy sent her live plants like orchids.

Those were acceptable. Or so we thought.

Then we found out that Sunny was refusing delivery of the plants.

We gave up on plants. Once Baby D was born, I sent baby pictures, often in pretty frames. Sometimes I added preschool artwork. When he was old enough, I made sure he wrote notes on the most expensive, elaborate cards I could find.

Delivery was never refused on those, at least.

*****

A few weeks ago, I reminded Andy that he needed to send his mother a Christmas gift. “Especially this year. She’s all alone. No one can even visit her because of COVID.”

“Don’t we have any school photos of Dashiell?”

“The kid didn’t have any school, how the hell would we get pictures?!”

“Couldn’t we get a photographer—”

“It’s too late, and a photo shoot is too risky anyway. Maybe a Harry & David basket of pears and apples since she doesn’t like sweets?” I suggested.

“Can’t send fruit to Hawaii.”

“What about a cheese and meat basket?”

“Makes her gassy.”

“Wait! She drinks wine, right? You can send wine through Harry & David now!”

“Yeah, but you can’t send wine to Hawaii, honey.”

“Ugh, you can’t send ANYTHING good to Hawaii. But…what if we got it delivered from a local liquor place? Remember how my brother just sent you that special bourbon through that Drizly on-demand liquor service? Can you do that?!”

Andy whipped out his phone and scrolled for a few tense minutes before shaking his head. “Doesn’t extend to Hawaii.”

“Surely now, with COVID and people quarantining, especially in Hawaii, surely SOMEONE has created an alcohol delivery service for Honolulu at least. Keep searching!”

Andy did. He searched for days, checked reviews, and made phone calls. Eventually he found a service called Kakaako Wine that not only delivered wine, they even added “local delicacies” and prettied the booze up in a gift basket.

Andy placed his order a few days ago. Then he sweated and fretted: “What if she doesn’t like it? What if…she refuses delivery?!”

“Call her,” I told him. “Call her and tell her you are sending a basket and they’ve already charged you!”

I don’t know if he called her or not. But here’s the text I got December 23rd: