So for a financial donation to its well being, the City of Barrow renamed itself Jolt, USA for the day of the summer solstice. Apparently there were cans of Jolt for everyone to help them through the longest day of the year. And I only have two questions. One, have the kids come down yet from their caffeine high? And two, did anyone mention to Jolt that the sun hasn’t set in Barrow since May so really, the solstice is just part of the longest day of Barrow’s year?
I’m sitting here trying to finish up some work. The dogs want to walk. Blue keeps jumping up and down and heading towards the door in case there is any doubt in my mind about what she wants. And she is doing this with a sunflower seed from the bottom of the bird cage plastered on her nose. She apparently can’t feel it because she clearly is unaware of just how silly she looks. And i find myself feeling very loving and protective all at the same time because it’s clear that her intellect will not keep her safe in this world.
Alaska’s former chief medical examiner Franc Fallico died last week. This would normally be of only passing interest to me since I didn’t really know him. Except I kind of did. Soon after I arrived in Alaska in the early 70s, back when I was still under the mistaken impression that I liked nursing, I helped medivac a patient from Barrow to Providence Hospital. As I walked down the hall after the patient was admitted, this doctor passed me by and I had one of those out of body experiences. I knew the guy. He had been dating a nurse, a friend of mine, from Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn which is where I’d been before moving to Barrow. I wondered just how far that plane had flown.
And then I went back to Barrow and forgot all about it and concluded that the guy I knew was probably still in Brooklyn dating Lula and I was just homesick and seeing someone who resembled him sent my mind down a wrong path. And then Franc got a lot of publicity for his stint in Grizzly Man as the doc who explains the autopsy and what it signified went on during the bear attack. And I saw that face again and heard the name again and read a little more deeply and darn if it wasn’t the same guy I used to know from Brooklyn.
In the end, we live in a pretty small world, no matter how big it looks.
I had to buy a pair of gym shorts and a T-shirt for a young man in Barrow who was turning 14. Because I knew if I did this alone I’d buy something only a dorky old lady would buy, I brought my buddy Page along who is 16 and very in tune with what should be worn. You could tell how bad my choices would have been from the look on her face every time I picked something up and asked her what she thought. After a while, I just shut up and walked behind her until she handed me a pair of shorts and shirt. I then bought them without a second thought.
At least I’ve grown wise enough to know I have no taste.
The dead zone in front of my house seems to be supporting some ferns and a bleeding heart. So walk softly when you come to visit. The least vibration and the ground there may notice something is growing and kill it again. And don’t worry about that little aborted dead tree that’s there. I’m leaving it to fool the ground into thinking it won.
So in the end, history this year will be written by an African-American, not a woman. For a lot of women, not just Hillary Clinton, this is a huge disappointment. For those of us of a certain age, Hillary seemed to represent the only chance to see a female president in our lifetime.
There is a reason why this is such an issue for some women, a reason we tend to forget until we watch one of the Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies in which she prances around in pearls and high heels making him dinner while he laughs at the idea that his little lady could ever wrap her head around a check book and balance it. Those weren’t just movie and TV fantasies. Lucille Ball may have been an extremely competent corporate executive at Desilu Productions, but the reality for most women was more likely to be Laura Petrie except they did push their beds together.
As that saying goes, we’ve come a long way. But not so long that we can’t still remember what it used to be like or how hard we had to fight to make it better.
After Hillary finally conceded, I received an e-mail from a friend who asked that her name not be used but gave permission for me to repeat her story. She is a bright, capable woman who ended up both happily married and with a long and productive career. But it wasn’t also easy. Here’s what she remembers.
“In 1958 I built a mock-up of a nuclear reactor for the science fair. I won in my category. It was a trip to the Naval Academy. I couldn’t go because I was a girl. I got a transistor radio and the second place winner, a boy, got to go. In 1960, I built a mock-up of a missile launching system. I once again won in that category. It was a trip to the Air Force Academy. I couldn’t go because I was a girl. The Air Force gave me a certificate of appreciation and the boy who won second place got to go.”
She goes on to relate how, when she was first married in the mid-sixties, she and her husband were both working and they applied for a loan to buy a car. The loan wasn’t approved because her husband didn’t make enough money and they wouldn’t count her income because she could get pregnant and quit. When the women’s movement started, she jumped on the first train leaving the station. Does that surprise anyone?
Young women today aren’t as frantic as some of us older gals over getting a woman into the White House because they just assume it will happen in their lifetime and they are probably right. And despite the many comments made comparing Michelle Obama to Jacqueline Kennedy, the truth is that she is a high powered, hard charging attorney who probably takes a backseat to no one as her husband’s partner and confidante. If she becomes First Lady, I doubt her legacy to the nation will be her fashion sense anymore than Hillary Clinton’s was her cookie recipes.
So I understand that I’m merely being impatient. But the young women for whom the future looks so bright and unlimited need to step back and understand just how close they are to the days when the only careers open to them were nursing and teaching. And even in those fields, they earned less money and got less respect than their male counterparts. The majority of teachers may have been women, but the majority of administrative positions were held by men.
When I became a nurse in the late sixties, there were three male nurses at the hospital where I trained and worked. One of them was the nursing supervisor for evenings and one was the supervisor for days. I think that says it all.
So forgive us for being so impatient to see a woman grab the gold ring. But the bad old days aren’t history to us. They are our memories of growing up female. I’m happy Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee. It gives me incentive to keep exercising and taking my medicine so I can hang around long enough to cast the vote that elects the first woman president.
I plan to ride this train to the last station.
As I stood in my kitchen preparing dinner and listening to the umpteenth million rerun of CSI, a commercial for male enhancement drugs came on. I’ve somewhat gotten used to that with dinner. But this had a special offer. If you called now, you could get two free tubes of a special male enhancement pleasure cream absolutely free. And while I agree that it was silly in the early days of TV that Rob and Laura couldn’t push their beds together, I can’t help but think we have perhaps moved just a tad too far the other way. Shouldn’t we draw a line in the sand somewhere on this? I mean, if we haven’t gone so far beyond anything resembling taste and decency that we can’t even find the sand?
I went to pick up some Zyrtec and found that one option was to buy a pack in which each individual pill was packed inside it’s own totally separate piece of plastic and cardboard, lined up one behind the other, all inside another pack of plastic and cardboard. Have these idiots not heard about pollution? Why the hell would you need each pill packaged separately? Not only would I be ready to put a gun to my head trying to get the damn pill out each time I needed one, but I would be horrified at how much waste I produced each time I took one. So I bought a different brand that had reasonable packaging.
I finally made the hard decision that this is as good as summer is going to get in Anchorage and I should no longer wait for sunshine and warmth before planting flowers in the planters on my porch. So in total defiance of the gods of weather who have absolutely crapped on Anchorage this summer, I planted flowers. I fully expect a blizzard anytime this week to punish me for my chutzpah.
It’s June 12. I am walking my dogs. Coming down the street towards me is a woman taking a walk. She is wearing fur ear muffs. What is wrong with this picture? And where the hell is our summer?
On Tuesday I got nailed by an osprey. What a wild looking bird. Never had one before at Bird TLC. We were trying to tube feed it and one of the feet got loose and it sunk its talons into my right forefinger. Damn they’re fast! Then came the joy of trying to pull the talons out without doing further damage. It’s a good thing I love birds.
It’s bird lovers who will keep newspaper alive and well. Because without them, what the hell will we line all our birdcages with? During election years, I take particular pleasure in making sure that the politician or candidate who I find most annoying has their face directly under my bird.
My friend Earl Finkler had a letter to the editor in the paper last week in which he quoted Robert F. Kennedy as saying, “An America piled high with gold, and clothed in impenetrable armor, yet living among desperate and poor nations in a chaotic world, could neither guarantee its own security nor pursue the dream of civilization devoted to the fulfillment of man.” I wonder how Robert Kennedy would feel if he were alive today and realized that America was both the country piled high with gold and the desperate, poor, chaotic nation at one and the same time?
Somewhere in the 1980s, when greed became a good word, the gap between rich and poor in this country started to widen. Under the current occupiers in Washington DC, we now have a gap that seems close to that which fueled revolutions in the past. Ordinary people watch their income eaten up in rising fuel and food prices. Elderly find their savings eaten up in just trying to pay heating costs; extras like medicine and food fall to the wayside. Young couples lose their homes due to bogus mortgages given them by rapacious lenders who are bailed out by the government when their company is overwhelmed with bad debt while the couple is out on the street. No government bail out for them.
In Alaska, we absorb statistics that should horrify us without a shrug. In the same week that has news headlines touting oil at $138/barrel, we are told our state ranks 41st in children’s health. Yet our governor axes money to increase Denali Kid Care, the one program that would give more Alaskan children access to care. We call our children our future but we seem darned reluctant to provide them with the tools for that future.
I go to meetings and hear about the growing crisis of poverty in our state, about the rising number of homeless and hungry who will need shelter and food come winter. Only we haven’t gotten anywhere near enough shelters or food banks to meet their needs. In a state with billions in savings, we have pregnant women and children on our streets wondering if they have a tomorrow.
It seems to me that every time a program is proposed to help people, say universal health care, the argument made against it is that it will cost too much. Yet we always find money for war. We go into trillions of dollars of debt and sell ourselves to China in IOUs in order to fund a war of dubious value that we marched into without as much thought, as we’d give to getting a new hairstyle. We give private contractors with friends in high places billions of dollars to buy protection for our diplomats in the war zone. But we can’t find enough money to provide decent health care and an education to our military who barely make minimum wage while fighting this misbegotten war.
We’ve become a mean and petty country. Our current political leadership catered to our most base instincts and we lapped it up. So now we live in an America in which 1% of our population controls 33.8% of its total net worth and financial wealth; just 20% of our population controls 81.3% of that net worth and financial wealth. That leaves precious little for the bottom 80% of us. Think about that the next time you are trying to find enough money to fill up your fuel-efficient car or pay for the groceries or find a doctor that will take the pittance now allowed for Medicare reimbursement.
There was a time when I would have gotten very angry about these statistics. I would have been horrified that our country could have let this happen; could have become a country of such blatant haves and have nots; could have become a country that resembles nothing so much as pre-revolutionary France with the only thing missing being Dick Cheney saying “Let them eat cake”. Except, of course, he’d say, “Let them walk. Gas is for those God has graced with the money to pay for it.”
Yes, there was a time when I would have been very angry. Now I’m just very sad. I don’t want to yell. I just want to cry.
Happy Birthday, Greta, even though it’s a day early. I wish I had a picture to put up of you but I don’t have anything on my computer. So I’ll just have to remember that little girl with the impossibly tight ponytail and the ironed jeans who used to drag a silly white horse with a pink mane around my house for hours at a time. I miss that little girl but I wouldn’t give up the young lady she became to have her back. I’m enjoying your adult friendship much too much...even if you only ever call when you are bored!
My cousin Joe and I have been reminiscing about the wonderful aunts who filled our childhoods. This is his description of my Aunt Adeline who had polio as a child in the 1920s and spent a life time with physical handicaps that she never let slow her down even a bit.
Aunt Adeline, as far as I am concerned, should be the poster aunt for every Zeccardi niece and nephew that wants to whine and complain. She had limited availability to education, made sure she was not a burden to her family, overcame her disability, took care of her mother and Uncle Henry, learned to drive, got married and always had a great sense of humor. Where have all the Aunt Adeline’s gone?