Saturday, March 22, 2014

Rage Therapy

I was having a good day.

That is, I was in the process of spending the first 4 hours of my Saturday chauffeuring kids, after a week filled with hard work and sleep deprivation. My house was dirty, the fridge empty, the bills not yet paid. The man I liked best hadn't called, I hadn't lost the 5 pounds, and I hadn't gotten the new job.

You know, a typical good day.

Last week a friend had written down the Ho'oponopono prayer for me, and I had let it run silently through my head, intermittently throughout the previous week.

i love you. i'm sorry. please forgive me. thank you.

Nothing much had changed.

But it was a good day in that no-good-news/in-fact-some-setbacks/good-enough-I-guess/or at-least-I'm-not-going-to-let-it-get-me-down kind of way.

I slowed to a near stop on the short ramp, at the "Yield" sign, potentially yielding because it was not possible to see over the traffic on my left and I had to nose out in order to be sure. Nothing coming, so I pulled forward. 

A very average and safe driver with no collisions in my 30-some years on the road, I didn't linger unnecessarily, but I always do check for cars that might be swinging through that particular intersection from the left, just ahead of or against a red light. 

That is to say, the "Yield" sign was there for good reason. 

But not in his Majesty of Hatred's opinion. 

Apparently that pause of mine was intolerable to the driver behind me.
Apparently he was just boiling over at that point.
Because no sooner had I made the turn, then immediately put on my left turn signal to go into the parking lot across 2 more lanes of traffic, then he zoomed up on my right, cut me off and made the left turn just ahead of me.

Quietly, I let the prayer repeat in my head.
i love you. i'm sorry. please forgive me. thank you.

My brain divided, the primal part of it blood lusting after the threat that easily could have crashed into my right passenger side had I not reacted defensively - the impact would have occurred where my 12 year old sat. 

The rational part was outraged at his obnoxiousness and dangerous driving, wishing for another adult with whom to exchange judgmental remarks. 

The sensible side of course meekly sighed in her resigned corner: "Let it go; not worth giving it another thought. Just keep going. This is your life now. Good old Mom. Nice lady. Just take it. Pack mule. Sheep."

i love you. i'm sorry. please forgive me. thank you.


Fuck this.


So, it was some combination of my primal and my rational minds that parked my car alongside his and walked into the bank where he was using the ATM.

I used to be a yeller.
Well, and I suppose sometimes that side of me has a reprise, I mean, on occasion.

But this was a good day.
On this day I was going to rise above.
My rational and primal minds conspired to present a contained, composed, reasonable person who nevertheless was not going to let a wildly aggressive move against me and mine go unanswered.

Even before I spoke, I saw just how extreme his condition was.
Seething, twitchy, absolutely loathing me. Ready to tee off at the slightest provocation.
(Yet, who had really done the provoking, ...Mr.CrazyDriverson? Hm?)

So much going on, in such a small space and such a short period of time.
Using the ATM and jerking his head toward me (good multi-tasker!) in repeated, staccato looks of rage, he shouted "Get the fuck away from me!"

I replied in a tone that I would want the female lead in the story of my life to speak. 

"Sir, what you did back there was dangerous and I am asking you to stop driving like that or someone will get hurt or killed."  

i love you. i'm sorry. please forgive me. thank you.

"YOU GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME!! I will call Security! You have no right to come anywhere near me!"

Oh My.  

I felt the tension in my stomach and chest. Oh, here it comes. The adrenaline. The fighter in me is sizing him up and there's nothing I can do to stop her. It's not as if I would ever get into a physical confrontation with a person, it's just that she just does this as a matter of course. 

He is taller, an ordinary sort of guy but bigger than me as most of them are.
Not fat, not particularly athletic. He's got about 30 or 40 pounds on me, but no self-control. His rage is a detriment.
I could strike upwardly, into his neck. Choke him with a jab while more words of hate are still on their way up his esophagus...

On the outside I'm still taking it slowly: "Do you understand that I have kids in the car..."

"LADY YOU are a FUCKING SHITTY DRIVER!!! You're sitting there like an idiot when there's NO TRAFFIC COMING and if you had ANY understanding of how traffic lights work, there was NOTHING COMING..."

Grrrrrrrrr.

I'm not going to shout, I'm not. Yet, my voice takes on that clipped pace...

"Sir. Actually that's not true. Southeasterly-bound traffic can come from the left at that intersection even if.." 

He is turning purple. "GET! AWAY! FROM! ME! ...SECURITY!"

What a fucking assdouche! 
I am nowhere near him! 
I am as far as I can BE from him within this little room! 
It would take a very long step to even reach a good striking distance!

i love you. i'm sorry. please forgive me. thank you. i love you. i'm sorry. please forgive me. thank you. i lo...

My feet take a sliding half step toward him.

Quickly and quietly a voice hisses out from between my clenched teeth aimed toward his right temple:
"Go to hell you miserable piece of dogshit," it says.

Not sure which lane on the "high road" I was taking at that point...

I leave as he's shrieking "Oh I'M a piece of shit, huh?!?! I'M A PIECE OF SHIT!?!?!"

And back to my car I go, tralalalala, stepping fast-fast-fast, a silent excited giggle inside at the sound of him bursting out of the building behind me screaming that he is a piece of shit.

The kids are of course aghast, wondering.

I am ashamed. I know that this was not a victory.

I have indulged myself and put others in harm's way.

But he started it!

Right. That's a good reason.

Because adults get to use the rationale of cranky children.

i love you. i'm sorry. please forgive me. thank you.

There's no way that any action other than ignoring the guy would have been the Right Action.
I know this now. Have known this all along. But No. I had to engage. I just couldn't let it go.

I compose myself, preparing to back out with whatever grace is still salvageable.

And there he is striding across the front and side of my car, red-faced and seething, both hands raised with middle fingers extended as he glares at my windshield.

Aaaaand I'm back in.

I roll down the windows, so that he can see his audience of 4 astonished young people, and smiling, I taunt him: "You're proud of yourself now, aren't you? Big man? Good for you! A very proud moment!"

"YEAH, YES I AM! AND YOU AND ALL YOUR FUCKING BRATS CAN FUCK OFF!!!"

I'd like to say that the kids and I exchanged shocked looks of bemusement and broke into a round of appropriately morally superior applause at that moment. 

Unfortunately this is real life.
They were merely appropriately frozen in their seats, and I mouthed off artlessly before putting the car in reverse.

"Aw go to hell you bastard!"

And then I re-apologized to the kids, rolled up the windows, exhaled and backed out.

i love you.
i'm sorry.
please forgive me.
thank you.

Of course he followed me to the next parking lot. 

And, as I put on my signal and began to turn into a space on my right, he leaned on his horn as well as his gas pedal, and it was only by abruptly hitting my brake that we again avoided a collision on my front right side as he zoomed past the front of my car.

Thus ended our brief relationship in this lifetime, bookended by near collisions.

So, just to review, according to this prince of vehicular finesse, a woman significantly older and smaller than him speaking to him personally about his actions was an unacceptable physical threat.
However his aggressive-to-the-point-of-recklessly-endangering moves that could have crashed 2 large vehicles into each other and injured youngsters were okay.

Yeah. Just checking.

i love you. i'm sorry. please forgive me. thank you.

The energetic cost to me is instantaneous as I notice my accelerated heart rate, and hands verging on shakiness. 

Then the busy brain gets going again.
I find myself playing out more clever responses in my head, or visualizing the higher road not taken - of having done exactly nothing after his first asshole move.

Something that could have been shaken off as a non-event is now a bigger part of my day.
Interesting how that works.

My thoughts meander in the other direction. Dark places.
I fantasize that his wife thinks less of him now, for having witnessed that. She says so.
He says terrible things to her and she decides this afternoon that this does it. She wants a divorce.
Oh please at least let him get a speeding ticket, or tangle with somebody bigger and meaner than himself.
Or,
God forgive me, I visualize with pleasure his vehicle rolled over on the side of the road. 

Stop.
What's done is done. Now my only option is recovery. Repentance. Make it small again. Neutralize it.

i love you. i'm sorry. please forgive me. thank you.

For what it's worth I will use my meager resources to replace the venom that I put out into the world.

With words of contrition. Right here. Right now.

Here, on my very own blog, I will issue my apology:

To all of the dogs out there, noble loving beasts that you are, I am truly sorry for referring to that guy as any part of you, even the part that gets excreted from your bottoms. 

I love you. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.

Ahhhh.  That feels so much better! Hey that prayer really works!!!

Friday, January 31, 2014

My DIY Speed Date Valentine Plan

The problem is, I'm not getting enough interest on HowAboutWe.com to fill my roster for this experiment!

DIY Speed Dating

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Culinarily Cursed


I was a foodie.  Not that I referred to myself as such. The word was not widely used in the 80's-into-90's.

In those days, a love for and interest in food was just that, and had not yet been perverted into a competitive sport or one-uppy status-inflated self-exclamation lifestyle choice as also happened with weddings, fitness and in some cases scrap-booking.

Friends from the office were always happy to sample my results, and I recall many content weekends: Leaving work on Friday eager to journey into Chinatown for ingredients or visit that butcher my boss knew about, then enjoying a slow Saturday in my big East Harlem (or later, small Hell's Kitchen) kitchen.

There were cooking shows, I guess, but I didn't watch tv with any regularity; there wasn't enough time, and anyway I had an old black & white rabbit-ear (for those under 50) that required constant adjusting. It was so bad that when my apartment was broken into, the thieves dragged it to the door but then thought better of it and left it there.

The only white person on my block and away 10 hours a day, I had rushed home, afraid that it had finally happened, and seeing my half-open door confirmed it. My pace slowed, frantic suspicion decelerating into dread-infused confirmation. 

The tv was the first thing I saw, on the kitchen floor. Poor old clunker that Mom & Dad had so kindly donated to my city life. It had a forlorn appearance, facing outward -- as if gazing after the other stolen objects which had been given preference. 

As deep as it was wide, the television had skid marks on the floor behind it (Had they kicked it?), dustballs hanging off it's protruding backside. Adding insult to injury, it was later given a coating of black fingerprint dust by the police (which helped to solve nothing, and added to the post-burglary cleanup chore). I dated one of the officers for a short time after the investigation and my subsequent arrest.

But that's another story. 

There were no food blogs. I didn't take photos of anything. I borrowed Escoffier from the public library and took notes. No "followings" or "likes."
The closest thing to a farmer's market was Fairway and that was pretty good.
Once, a moneyed friend took me to Balducci's.
Occasionally a daytrip on the train would mean coming home with a prize: fiddleheads from a hike "upstate," or off-the-boat stripers from Montauk. 

But mostly there was just neighborhood-based shopping, or missions to Chinatown or specialty shops, then time in the kitchen with food aromas and the radio, and afterward sharing with friends or a sometimes deserving man (or stray cats/rats in the case of failed experiments). 

And of course eventually fantasizing about future family meals. Which brings me to the point.

Like any pre-parenthood snotnose little 20something, I had great ideas about how I would raise my kids. Among other high-falutin' notions was my commitment that there not be a separate food category for them. What form of madness was that, anyway?

I looked forward to the birth of my first child; anticipation of an ally, someone who would greet with curiosity and pleasure whatever I put on the table. Someone to joyfully watch the little yellow blossoms turn into tomatoes on the fire escape. A tiny hand, grabbing a few stems of fresh herbs from the windowsill. I can still picture it (as an unfulfilled dream).

As for their father, it's not that my former husband was a picky eater. It's that maybe he was food phobic. He had revulsions when it came to certain things. Cheese. Nuts. Chocolate. (So it went over well the first time I surprised him with my famous chocolate-amaretto-cheesecake. At least it was an efficient 3-in-1 hit when it came to adding off-limits foods to the list.)

I can respect peoples' food preferences. I mean, who am I to say that you should put up with that yucky feeling on your teeth after eating spinach?  And though I believe that there is a place for every ingredient at the market, I have yet to find one for green bell peppers. 

However, when you really-really like the taste of oxtail but are just too lazy or precious to pick the meat off the bone... The person at the stove can feel overly tested, really.

Or, take poultry. If you enjoy the roasted chicken or game hen, then you owe it to the bird and the cook to be wiling to find a way to get the meat off its skeleton and not get all qualmish over a few tendons. 

But no. That work was left to me. 
Not really, of course. I always had the option to leave things intact and let them figure it out for themselves. But then my value system would override my sense of fairness. 

Wasting food is bad. If making the effort of taking all the meat off the bones means that it will get into people's stomachs instead of being left on the plate, I concede. 

Imagine what this meant when it came to short ribs.

But where was I?

Right, my kids.

The elder is now 14-going-on-15. Still a sweet girl, always has been. And still a sweet little nightmare when it comes to food. 

This week brought a confounding "I just can't win" moment. It is profound, the timing of this one. Just stupifying.

Apparently there is an intestinal bug going around.

Most people believe that they have food poisoning when they become ill and vomit up whatever they last ate. In all but very few cases, the food didn't do it. A virus did. Also, if coming down with the flu, sometimes the initial onslaught is accompanied by pre-fever vomiting. And whatever food happened to have been last eaten, becomes intolerable to the victim, sometimes for years afterward.

So it was, in days of yore, with paella and me.

When I was in middle school, my Mom would occasionally experiment with new dishes. Ordinary Tuesday meatloaf, Wednesday pierogis, and Thursday baked chicken would be followed incongruously by a Friday paella feast, or a weekend foray into a moussaka recipe, which had been copied and sent through the mail by her city sister.

So, one day there was paella. Little did I know that I was harboring a nasty bug. I felt fine. At 5:00 it was delicious. Six hours later it came up almost hourly until daybreak. That was it for me and paella, for almost 2 decades. 

So, I do understand.

It's just... What are the odds? The timing of this one has been downright cruel.

You see, the last time I made homemade multigrain bread was so long ago! It had to be when she was no more than 2 years old. I mean, it was one of the first things I had given up on. Her Dad preferred challah, and she preferred white (very lightly toasted, crustless, evenly buttered, cut in exact squares, need I go on?). 

Lately I have been revisiting some of my old personal favorites, whether the kids want to eat them or not. When a gorgeous hunk of smoked ham arrived via FedEx from my brother, for example, the pea soup was going to happen, regardless. My younger kid was kind enough to have a bowl before it was apportioned into containers and relegated to the freezer. Hey, if the upshot is that I get my own stash of homemade frozen entrees, so be it.

But, my lovely wholegrain bread! It was nearly perfect; not bad for the first time in years & years, considering i was missing my dough hook, and constantly interrupted during the process. A sturdy loaf. Coated with a golden brown smattering of rolled oats, nubby all through with grains and sunflowers seeds... and the aroma in the house!

I didn't even bother to offer it to her when she came in the door. In fact, when she requested it, I almost denied her: 
"Look. We've been down this road. I'm tired. I unwrap this bread, I slice it and toast it, and the next thing you know I'm re-wrapping cold effing toast and forcing myself to eat it later or feeding it to the crows and you still need something to eat. Are you sure you want it? Are you really really SURE? It has texture, you know..." And so on.

But, lo & behold, SHE LIKED IT!  She REALLY liked it! We finally had turned the corner. After all these years. 

She  a s k e d  f o r  s e c o n d s. 

I was finally through my food trials. It would only get better now. A brand new day.


She appeared in my bedroom doorway at 2:40 AM. 

"I threw up." 

It's uncanny the way the color of her vomit so perfectly matched the color on some of the walls of the house. In case they need a new name for the labels of muddy-peachy-beiged-down-pale-orange paint: They should try  "Toast Vomit - Wholegrain."

So, now a new revulsion for her, which is likely to last at least until she is 35:
The smell of toast, and more specifically, the mere thought or mention of ANYTHING WHOLE GRAIN.

In case anybody out there has concerns about your parenting performance: Allow me to ease your mind.

I am the custodial parent of a kid whose last portion of whole grains was perhaps sometime during the year 2000. If the most recent serving counts (no telling how much if any of it actually was digested), then it took well over a decade to get another portion into her. And, given how she feels about it now, I may well be a grandmother before another child who shares my genes takes a bite of wholegrain bread from my oven.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Why Tuscany Can Wait - Perhaps Indefinitely


Call them upsides or call them silver linings, but there really are a few benefits to being a divorced singleton at midlife.

For example: You can accept an invitation to take a whirlwind trip to Italy with a man you haven't seen in ages, and nobody will question or blame you.

Mostly, nobody will really care, because middle-aged women are of interest to pretty much nobody. Anyone who notices, if anything, might be glad for your demonstration that life isn’t over yet.

Well, aside from anyone you happen to be dating who does not happen to be the potential travel-mate. Gladness might not be the first thing that comes to mind for that guy.

But if your current sweetheart is holding out on you, either “better dealing” or just taking you for granted and hedging on commitment, then maturity brings with it the courage to graciously keep your options open. No fights, no making the other person “wrong,” just living your life and gently not accepting an over-compromised position – having finally learned to recognize what that is.

So, yes, I am involved with a steady man and of course that played a part in my decision to turn down the wonderful invite from Mr. Romance.

It’s been several years with Steady Man and it seems to be falling short of a complete partnership. Some might think that Tuscany with a childhood sweetheart is exactly the kind of revitalizing choice that would inspire a new lease on life. Some might be correct.

But no. Steady Man may not be a great romancer or even a potential domestic partner, but he shows up for me. 

The person I play in the would–be movie of my life would be packing a suitcase this instant. The person who has to live the actual life on both sides of the trip prefers the man who brings her firewood from time to time, and she doesn't want to hurt his feelings.

So I guess Mr. Romance and his lucky Travel Gal have made their reservations by now.  And he won’t be checking in again, for at least a few years, I expect.

He was my First Love, and has been in touch off & on over the years, usually expressing what a unique and lifelong connection we have as the compelling reason that he has looked me up and absolutely must see me. Perhaps I am emotionally challenged: Why did it take me over 30 years to realize that this so-called unique connection only seems to exist when he is recently unmarried or between girlfriends?

Not that that’s a problem. Only that it’s important to see it for what it is. Not magic. Not soulmate-hood. Not a chance for singular, unbridled love and affection that must be had and can't be denied regardless of what happens afterward, because of, you know, the *magic* and all.

Nope. Through the lens of Reality I see a person who has me framed as a potentially reliable back-up option, but fancies the idea of describing it in more romantic terms. No harm, no foul, and no thanks.

Where the humor and astonishment lie, is in his indignant raging.

This, I would love to know more about. That a vulnerable single parent with a lot to lose emotionally might put her heart and personal sense of security first: That has been my grave injury to him.

Astonishing really is the word. What’s become of men, is what I’d like to know? Can someone explain why he believes that he is an aggrieved party here? Why not just respect or at least understand that I prefer a more whole and reliable experience of intimacy?

From what I could tell, he was most upset that I was NOT upset. His life is on an upward trajectory, his kids raised, his divorce behind him and a great, burgeoning career well underway. I am at a financial low point, still raising my kids, feeling a tad beleaguered, underemployed/underinsured, basically carrying a world of worries. I wished him a great trip, and meant it.

That was the worst thing, apparently. "At least you could be jealous!" I'm not suffering enough; I have to do him the courtesy of being jealous of the next woman he calls.

As they used to say in days of yore: "Things that make you go 'Hm.'" According to his thinking, I’ve made a mistake, missed an opportunity, and much worse: insulted a generous offer.

And what has he offered, exactly? He has offered me the honor of being his perennial fallback position, and because he is willing to foot the bill for a trip – but with no promise of commitment, or even declaration of love – I am supposed to be ever so grateful and jump at the chance? There is a name for what he is offering, and only the dollar amount and romantic atmosphere distinguish it from my leaning into his car window on a dark street.

I don’t mean that 2 people can’t take a spontaneous trip with no strings and have a great time, and have it not amount to a sort of prostitution. Of course not. Of course not!

And, with a different man, perhaps I would have been capable of that at some point.

Wait a sec, actually, I DID enjoy such a thing at one point. Oh, yes indeed I remember it well, and it was so sweet! You really have to try it sometime: A real Romantic fling. Not an arrangement, not fuck buddies, not an illicit affair. But a real, sweet, tangible and luscious trip to the moon and back. It wasn’t Tuscany, it was New Orleans. And it was superb.

Am I so different now? Not really. So, what are the deciding factors? Kindness. No baggage. Generosity of Spirit. Nobody putting their ego first. And clear terms, set out from the get-go, briefly & discreetly, then never mentioned again. Perfect.

Now if only Mr. Steady would come up with an itinerary!

A Good Dunking When All Else Fails

What if I were to jump into the stinking pond?

Sleep deprivation accumulates with each weekday.
Not enough exercise equals going off meds.

On BBC news a stunning sign of progress in Pakistan:
"My Daughter is a Blessing, Not a Curse" day.

Onto the school bus go my 2 loveys, then to their Dad & Stepmom's for the weekend,
Two Fridays per month I text him: "Dropping off the girls' bags."

There will be no response if I ask about what time or where I should deliver them,
So I put them on the back porch and don't look in the windows.

Sometimes I can smell dinner cooking, or see movement in the yellow-lit inside.

Another job rejection, and to top it off anticipated income cancelled.

They say Sales makes far better money than Wages.
But you have to not only make, but close and keep the sale.

So many hours. Bank account dwindling.
More worries. Fewer home-cooked meals.

Another car repair.
The commission would have covered part of it.

The lease is almost up, and then the house goes back on the market.
When we moved here, we skated on the pond, laughing.

Years ago, a student loan officer told me I "would never be able to buy a house,"
Apparently she had some power.

Because that loan was long since paid off.
Yet, a consistent home address eludes me. Downsizing as lifestyle.

I gripe at perennially unpacked boxes.

In Pakistan, a toddler thrown into the river by her father who wanted a son.

Useless, bereft mother.
Wild, tyrant father.
Primal scream, choked with silt.

Oh sweet baby body, plump soft white.
Lodged in the mud. Finally still after her horrible struggle.
Ripped and eaten by innocent scavenging creatures.

My petty pain du jour should be water off a duck's back.

If only I were a duck.

Brown ice water; shock-to-numbing cold, reeking, sucking mud and rot.

If I could emerge changed, truly changed and re-alive, then I must do it.

The deep thrum-penetration of coldness, the realization that these sneakers are ruined.

Will this odor wash out?

Don't trip on the roots, while the muck pulls and pulls.

Struggle, lurch, sputter, thinking only of following through to complete soaking, and then
Out, clawing mud, and on the path back.
To the house as fast as possible. Little flustered domestic beast.

Welcome the acuteness of extreme discomfort, appreciate hot water.

Why is chronic pain so much worse than total affront to the senses?



Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Every Breath You Take

Realization du jour: Every one of us is dying, not just the ones who are dying.

How's that bucket list?

How about a new bucket list: Not things to achieve or see or do, but things to let go of, heal and accept?

Thoughts?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why Law Enforcement is Like Sushi

"The way to know that you have successfully dominated someone, is when you let them off with just the speeding ticket and they say "Thank you, Officer." Then, he giggled.

He had been a good-looking man, until that remark came out of his grinning mouth. A wiser woman would have left it at that -- a "one-date wonder." But ever the "masochoptimist" in those early post-divorce years, I gave it another try, then saw him once more before opting out (After all, a 40-something hetero male with a decent job, willing to be with a woman his own age who had kids, who also did yoga? I mean, maybe there was a shred of hope?).

But no. The rest of that predictable tale can be saved for another time. Because while middle-aged dating is an endless source of harrowing stories, there are some things that qualify as worse.

Here's a doozie from recent news. See if you can watch it and not have a strong reaction:

An autistic, naked, eleven year old girl was tasered by police in Ashland, Oregon.

No, it could not have been to prevent her from wandering into traffic; traffic had been stopped. And No, she was not being aggressive toward an officer; she was tasered from the back while walking away.

Yesterday, a nice young man named Will suggested to me that it's because the police are not trained to deal with autistic people. He makes a good point.

Apparently they also are not trained to deal with potentially deaf people, annoying people, people in shock, or people who respond in ways that are not 100% submissive and predictable. Generally according to what I have been reading, the police are not trained to handle people who behave like anything other than domestic herd animals who have been dosed with a mild sedative.

Another case that went viral: A dog in Hawthorne CA, was shot dead by police. This is not to depict the dog's owner as blameless. It's to point out that there were so many other options that would have prevented things from reaching that point, and the officers in question were obligated to have known, and done, better. The bereaved dog owner now faces felony charges for confronting a witness.

The dynamics of that case (when a tragic ending was preceded by multiple opportunities to prevent it) brought to mind a childhood incident from the 70's. A local bully/cop noticed a teenage kid acting strangely at a convenience store. Instead of detaining him after an initial approach indicated possible intoxication, he decided to follow the boy home -- allowing a potentially drunken kid to get behind the wheel -- looking to bust a party for illegal substances, apparently.

Turns out the only "party" going on at the house consisted of the kid's younger brother and friends, playing in the back yard.

The older boy, operating under the influence of being a male teenager and possibly drunk, declared that he would go into the house and get a gun. Did the officer detain the unarmed kid at that point? No, he did not. He instead radioed for armed backup. These events happened in rural northeast Pennsyltucky, and the details are based on what I remember from my parents' conversations.

The conclusion is undisputed: It ends with a little boy witnessing the death by multiple gunshot wounds of his big brother (who had grabbed an antique, unloaded/inoperative shotgun from a display case inside and was waving it on the front porch of the house).

That cop got to keep his job. So many officers commit errors, ranging from outrageous acts of abuse to unintentionally life-ending/altering missteps, and remain in law enforcement. If the rest of us made a big mistake at work, especially one that cost another human being's life or personal security, wouldn't we expect to be fired -- even for a lesser infraction? 

For example, when I was young and volatile and inexplicably working as a poolside cocktail waitress, I once mouthed off in response to harassment by a drunken customer. Okay, and maybe a serving tray was flung in his direction. So, my super-brief career as a cocktail waitress ended. Unfairly in my opinion, but understandably. And it turned out I was much better-suited to working as a prep cook anyway.

Back to the present: Still steaming over the poor 11-y/o tasered girl, I read last week's New Yorker Magazine article by Sarah Stillman which investigates the common police practice of civil forfeiture. Innocent citizens have had their jewelry, cash, cars, homes and even children taken from them, regardless of there being no legal charges of wrongdoing against them. Please read it.

The assumptions made by police during unwarranted civil forfeiture are akin to what made NYC's "Stop and Frisk" policy problematic. Atypical of the sort of people who have suffered civil liberty violations, I nevertheless had first-hand experience of being stopped and frisked in New York.

When I was a young 20-something, walking home from the gym with my hair still wet, wearing Levi's, boots and a plain t-shirt, I was accosted by police and threatened with arrest. I lived in East Harlem at the time (during the mid-80's). As I was deep in student loan debt and working in non-profit arts, though "iffy," that location was both affordable and convenient to my grad school classes and job.

I mention the neighborhood because I can easily imagine what would have happened were I dressed exactly the same way but walking 30 blocks south, in the posh East 70's. Nothing. Because I would have looked like a young woman walking home from a workout in her grunge-chic clothes.  But in El Barrio I guess I looked like ... actually I don't know. What? A drug dealer, or customer? A prostitute? I'm still not sure what they were thinking when they nabbed me.

What was for certain, however, was that I was being followed. I crossed the street and turned a few random corners just to confirm, and the unmarked van followed me. Not expecting the police, but simply aiming to not become a victim in the back of a van, I took next steps, making sure that I was on a well-populated part of the block and retrieving my mace from my gym bag.  That's when I felt the heavy hand on my shoulder:

"Hey how you doing -- Don't-move-please-Miss -- tell me what is that in your hand?"

After a giant exhalation: "It, is. Mace? Sir?"

"Are you aware that that is illegal in New York City?"

I was silent, pausing while the answer that I couldn't say played in my head. "Yeah, but so is mugging and rape and burglary and assault and child abuse and for Chrissakes in this neighborhood are you seriously coming after ME?" Instead I muttered something like:

"Well, yes, I guess I realize that but it's starting to get dark and it felt like I was being followed and well that turned out to be just you guys but..."

"Right, so what are you doing up in this part of town anyway?"

"I am walking home."

He did not believe me. "Right. Like you live here."

"Yes, I do."

So, we continued back & forth with me showing ID and being patted down, my bag being searched, and a sidewalk audience forming. Then, he said "I'm gonna let you go, but before I do, I want you to walk over to that dumpster and get rid of this can of mace."

I couldn't help but suggest that perhaps the kind officer would rather confiscate it, since this was a neighborhood known for high crime rates and perhaps the dozen or so witnesses might include someone who would retrieve the mace and use it for wrongdoing?

That was when he threatened me with disorderly conduct charges and told me to stop telling him how to do his *F'in* job unless I wanted to discuss it at the precinct while I got booked. The remainder of my walk home I do not clearly recall.

And, you know, it has never felt like a coincidence that my apartment was burglarized shortly after that incident (Remember, crowd on the sidewalk, observing, listening to all of my personal info while I was being questioned by the police...). Then again, it was East Harlem and I sort of stuck out demographically, reason enough to be burglarized. So I don't mean to draw unprovable conclusions.

But as I said, I'm fine. So many people aren't. And these stories are a jarring reminder that we are all (Wait, not all of us. The wealthy are immune of course.) potential prey for abusive practices and individual bullies who for some reason get to stay in the PD even when they harass and intimidate rather than protect and serve.

Oh and in case these few disgraceful instances aren't bad enough, let's top it off with not one but many (Many?!) cases of unwarranted personal cavity searches, alongside public roadways. Right here. In these United States. And in the video that I watched, the officer didn't even have the decency to go from *front to back!*

It may seem unreasonable to focus on the negative aspects of what is obviously a very difficult job, which many officers do so well. But that's just it. They're supposed to do it well!

Because really, isn't bad policing kind of like bad sushi: sickening and possibly deadly?

Perhaps, if we want more thoughtful police officers, we should work on reducing the anti-intellectual prejudice in law enforcement hiring practices?

Has it always been this bad? What do you think? What can we do?

I know. It's late summer. Let's do nothing for now. How about this: Have you had interaction with the police -- either bad or good -- and will you share it here? Please? Thank you.