I saw people cheer on 9/11, too.


Dear people creating fictions about thousands cheering on 9/11 and those who believe them:

I don’t like to talk about 9/11. I don’t posted about it, and I don’t offer up an annual “here’s what I learned” Facebook update. I don’t like to attend the annual memorials, and I don’t even mind so very much that tourists take selfies at various sites around Ground Zero. After 14 and some years I can finally admit that it’s because I don’t believe you. I don’t believe your outrage and grief and loss because as I stood on the roof of a building on the border of Little Italy, watching a much taller pair of buildings fall, there were people next to me who cheered. They weren’t thousands, and they weren’t Muslim. They were white New Yorkers, maybe artists or wannabe-something-or-others or someones squatting in a cousin’s apartment for a while. And they cheered because they viewed those who died at work that day as rich and privileged and unworthy of sympathy and grief. They were youngish, somewhere in between post-college and pre-kids. They were self-involved, they wanted to show how edgy they were, how disaffected. And they cheered and yelled “Fuck you, bankers!” as the towers came down. I had worked as a secretary in a corporate bank. I knew who also showed up at 7 AM. But it doesn’t matter anyway; people are people. And ignorance is ugly whether it’s from a Too Cool Kid or a multi-billionaire.


And there was more. But I don’t like to talk about that either; it’s so fucking disappointing and sad.

Do you see why I don’t like to talk about 9/11? Do you see why I don’t believe your outrage? Your affected mourning? Your posturing and backtracked “reframing” of words.

In my more generous moments, I can buy into those cheering rooftop egos reacting to horrors differently than I do. Perhaps their shock came out as repulsion. But more often, less generously, I believe it’s just one more example of humans being terrible to each other in so many ways.

Oh, by the way, you know where my Manhattan Muslim friends were on 9/11 and the days following? In their apartments. Afraid to leave. Because of things like this.



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May Your Thanksgiving Have a Little of Everything

Stefon Thanksgiving

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Same as it ever was

1_bd6489f7-9ba9-4190-9f54-3531a6198996Endings and beginnings are good places to make change. But I, like many others I know, don’t seem to be able to make it stick. It may be a rut. It may be laziness. It may be fear. There are many things that keep change from taking hold and transforming a mundane, hurried life into bliss. Because that is what would happen, right?

Lately I’ve been telling people that “I’ll have time to breathe in the new year.” (By “new year” I finally mean January 1st instead of whatever day the new school year begins.) Two major uses of my time this fall will be wrapping up during December, and I naively imagine that I’ll have space in my schedule to relax, stretch, sip instead of gulp my coffee, and maybe even make it to the gym.

My husband knows better. When I expressed my anticipation of a more relaxed 2016 to him, he (rightly) answered, “You’ll find other projects to fill up your time.” I denied it in a knee-jerk defense, but later I had to admit that my future will probably reflect my history.

I have to wonder what I like, however reluctantly, about being pulled every which way with work and family and obligations and volunteering and life. I have the nagging suspicion that it has more to do with a fear of sloth than a desire to be accomplished.

And sure enough, with just a month to go in two different projects, I’ve already found another to fill the space left behind.


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The Best We Can Do

This woman, alone, weeping in front of a Cambodian restaurant in Paris. What grief and fear and loneliness she must have felt - for so many reasons.

This woman, alone, weeping in front of a Cambodian restaurant in Paris. What grief and fear and loneliness she must have felt – for so many reasons.

I have many thoughts about the terrible man-made events in Paris, Beirut, Baghdad. There will be more terrible man-made events; there have been others. And comparing tragedies in numbers or methods does any of us any favors. Bottom line: Individuals are suffering.

The completely understandable, even rational response of fear, and the less productive, even harmful, response of rage and vengeance will not lessen the reasons or chances of more horrors to come. Both fear and rage-fueled vengeance feed the twisted motivation of those who are willing to take lives for an ideology or because they feel justified by history, whether recent or far-flung. Which breeds more rage and fear. And the cycle continues.

I’ve also had and have too many jumbled, bubbling ideas about seeing “This was Paris after 9/11” posts versus “Don’t forget Beirut was bombed as well” posts versus “If only more people had mourned dead children on beaches” posts. It can feel like too much for a sane mind to bear. Sadly, the scale of horror and grief is large enough for us all. Comparing numbers and methods when it comes to tragedy doesn’t make sense in a world that supports, even encourages, a constant flow of terror.

Comparison is the end of healthy forward movement. Instead of offering empathy to individuals, we obsess with how much a group or country had suffered and which group or country or leader is most to blame. There will always be someone feeling neglected, left out, forgotten. It’s difficult. It’s sad. It’s depressing. Each of those someone’s deserves all of our attention. But if each of us tries to pour emotion and sympathy and attention to every tragedy, we will be unable to do anything else.

Better: when someone cries out in pain to you, acknowledge, respond, and stop yourself from being defensive about what you have lost and why. The best we can do is respect each other wholly, and request that we receive the same.

And please, look away from the politicians and pundits who feed the blame-game and barely stifle a guilty sense of delight in their roller coaster of relevance. It merely distracts us from looking for The Helpers and becoming The Helpers. Because there will be more horrors and Bad Things in the world. Soon. There always have been, and there always will be. The control we have is whether we encourage more Bad Things or work to make some Good.

Edit 11/16/15: Monday afternoon, this post from the Maya Angelou Facebook page showed up. YES. “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

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Glad I Saw It: A Finer World

MLK, jr Memorial Quotation

From the MLK, Jr Memorial in Washington DC.

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Reject the Naysayers! You Can Be An Artist Too.

art is funThe best, most talented, most passionate Artists I know welcome those with less time, talent, ability, commitment, even desire into the act. They hope it will one day become a way of life, a sanctuary from the humdrum and the hardship, an outlet that enhances joy and makes bearable despair. They know the value of Art for all who dare to take on its pursuit.

Lately (let’s call it 15 years), especially in writing, I’ve been saddened by those who approach the Art of writing with contempt for those who wish to dabble and attempt and stumble and learn and develop and fail and try again. Saddened is too kind. Truth be told, I’ve been disgusted by the insecurity of those who would maim another’s desire to make Art to protect the back-slapping shell of an Artistic Ego echo chamber.

Artists to be! Artists who are! Reject the naysayers and the stifling harumph of those who wish to quiet your budding passion. They have merely forgotten that they were once condescended to and quieted and encouraged and taught and edited as well. Or perhaps, just perhaps, they are close to acknowledging that they too are not yet where they want to be. Perhaps their fear is misguiding their passion and poisoning their Art. Perhaps they are just frustrated sad sacks. Either way, listen no more.

And don’t worry about them either; their eventual realization will only make them stronger Artists. Know that self-doubt faced honestly is the greatest tool for growth in whichever passion you choose to pursue.


Writing encouragement from Richard Rhodes

Writing encouragement from Richard Rhodes

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Symbolism Evolution via Twitter, et al

adorbsOops, they’ve done it again! Actually, let me try that again.

Oh For Fuck’s Sake, what’s with the hearts?

Yep, those on Periscope predicted it a while back: Twitter has gone to a HEART instead of a STAR for Favorites. And now it’s called a LIKE. And the Twitter PR People are selling it to Twitter Users (who prefer to think they are the Cooler, Less-of-a-Joiner, Social Media users) this way:

The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people. And in our tests, we found that people loved it.

Bottom line: Use the heart, or use nothing. And “nothing” on social media platforms actually speaks volumes of apathy and shrugs of the shoulders, and for some of us, no more organization.

Some people have commented that it’s feminizing Twitter (different from feministing). Others bemoan being cornered into using a heart to bookmark a Tweet for later reading. And a red heart at that. Love! Barf!

I mean, couldn’t they have used a Twitter-Blue heart? Or a happy emoticon? Or a lightning bolt? Or just add a whole bunch like a skull & cross bones, an emoticon with hearts for eyes, a pile of crap, and a !?, which would mean WTF. Or just have WTF as an option.

Anyway, it’s coming. And don’t get all high and mighty if you still see the star. It’s coming your way too. You can always express your distaste for the new Twitter Love by taking to your tweets and sharing your #HeartHate. Or just allow the focus groups of social media to direct the evolution of your symbolism.

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Glad I Saw It: Primordial Connections on Pine Street

One of several Devonian Fish by Elizabeth Smith Jacobs

One of several Devonian Fish by Elizabeth Smith Jacobs

Sometimes a space becomes a living, breathing organ, providing a needed boost to the neighborhood surrounding it. 73 See Gallery at 73C Pine Street in Montclair embodies this idea. And the newest exhibition is a clear example of how deeply Mary Z Scotti’s independent gallery connects artistic and community values.

PRIMORDIAL CONNECTIONS includes two local artists, Elizabeth Smith Jacobs (well known in Montclair for her tiles and public installations) and Michele Walker Wenzke. And while their works are very different, this installation works. It really works. I strongly suggest that you stop in to see these works while they are still at 73 See Gallery. They’ll be on Pine Street until December 10th, 2015. 12190904_914587971969548_6316264733696434760_n

Click on this video tour of the exhibition. Although I should stress that it doesn’t do justice to the works. You can also enjoy the Artist Talk on November 15th at 4 PM. It is a free event, but donations are always welcome!

73 See Gallery is located at 73 C Pine Street in Montclair, NJ. It is open Tuesday through Sunday from Noon to 6 PM.

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Introverting: It’s not you, it’s me.


This image feels off to me. As one of those confusing “She doesn’t seem shy” introverts, I feel like I ought to connect to this. It’s trying to be polite, and it’s so very clever with its gerund-like attempt to be fresh. But for me, it’s backwards.

A more genuine reaction to an Introverted Flare-Up, is to get out of a situation that feels too close, not to tell others to leave you alone. That is, of course, if you’ve somehow faltered into a situation in which you must be around many people at once.

PSA: The most useful temporary escapes when immediate flight isn’t possible include bathrooms, porches, kitchens that need dishes washed or food prepared, corners of living rooms with bookshelves, and ironically, hiding in plain sight by making rounds to pick up trash and half-eaten snacks.

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My Appropriation of Dia de los Muertos

12190118_10206911156710935_4676033833522642070_nI’ve always loved Hallowe’en. The elements of fantasy, choosing an alter ego, finding courage behind a mask, and the adrenaline surge of approaching houses — both strange and familiar — to ask for handouts combined to form an irresistible pull for a shy, awkward, bookworm surrounded by social butterflies.

In later years, the attraction became tangled in learning about the veil lifting between the living and the dead, seasons shifting, the cycle of nature welcoming a long sleep, and still the chosen masks that gave me a boldness I lacked the rest of the year. I read about the origins of All Hallow’s Eve, I researched Samhain, and I loved it all.

And when I moved to Sunset Park in Brooklyn, I naturally loved seeing the Panaderias prepare sugar skulls and pan de muerto. The traditions and meaning behind Dia de Los Muertos also appealed to me, as a non-religious person, in the directness of acknowledging death and celebrating those lost with the favorite foods, music, pastimes they enjoyed while alive. What could be healthier than to celebrate life instead of mourning death?

So, when it came time to find a mask for Halloween a few years ago, I decided to paint my face in the Calavera style. Affordable, body-type friendly, non-commercial, masked without blocking my line of sight — perfect! It never occurred to me that it was cultural appropriation. It was something I admired and connected with and could do myself.

Today, Halloween 2015, after a few years of donning a glittery gold mask, I once again painted my face in the Calavera style at the behest of my children. My son especially wanted to see me made up like a skull again. This time, however, I thought about the cultural appropriation first. I didn’t look up blog posts about it; I didn’t ask friends about it; I didn’t try to argue with myself about it. I just thought about what it meant to me and whether my motivation was something I could live with. It was. It is.

And on November 1st, again at the behest of my son, we will celebrate Dia de Los Muertos in honor of my father, who passed this year. Perhaps we’ll eat French Toast and maybe a Chirashi Bowl and listen to The Battle Hymn of the Republic and some marches like Der Hohenfriedberger Marsch. We’ll probably also look at photos and talk about Opa’s contributions to solar energy and our lives. We’ll remember.

Dia de lost Muertos is a tradition that makes a lot of sense to me, and my son. I’m comfortable incorporating parts of the tradition into my life, no matter what you call it.


For some interesting and important reads about appropriation and incorporation see below:

Dia de Lost Muertos: Appropriation or Appreciation?

For This Year, Don’t Be a Racist for Halloween

Love and Loss Drive Campus “Day of the Dead” Art Show

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