Friday, July 20, 2018

Reality Show (Rising Phoenix Review)

Reality Show By Joan Annsfire

Reality Show
I was weaned on fear,
marinated in bitterness;
My grandparents fed me stories
of fleeing the Czar,
the Cossacks, the pogroms.
Growing up in Ohio,
the fifties were difficult years
my Jewish family, outsiders, determined
that the events in Russia, in Germany,
would not happen again,
could not happen here.
With this election the universe shifted.
Words, like bullets, ripped through
a veil of pretense leaving us
stranded on an ice floe
of worse case scenarios.
Distortion, dystopia;
Daily news coverage
has become a reality show
in which I am powerless
to change the channel.
A ship of state,
tilting menacingly off balance,
leaning precariously
over a roiling sea.
Unlike the frogs in the pot,
I am aware of the heat rising.
I move in sometimes in anger,
other times in hypnotic denial.
Witnessing the frontlines of a culture war
that has enveloped us
without warning.
In nightmare visions
I dodge cars, teargas, bullets,
escape down totalitarian streets,
covered in the toxic white dust of nationalism;
a caustic mixture
of hatred and despair.
Perhaps I will get used to it, become inured,
the same way that online comments
about lampshades, ovens and gas chambers,
one day lost much of their capacity
to shock or wound.
Now casualties mount
and desperation rules.
I re-examine history, mobilize inner strength
and measure resistance
against the weight
of authoritarian forces.
History’s clock is unrelenting.
It ticks off minutes, hours;
we watch, mesmerized,
as the needle of racial memory
moves closer to zero.
The longest night has just begun.
Shapeless as shadows,
my ancestors surround me;
gather like exiles,
hover like phantoms,
whisper in foreign tongues.
Awake, alive, afraid,
I understand every word.
By Joan Annsfire

Monday, July 2, 2018

Young Women Attack Dykes their Grandma's Age

Oh my god, they really are old!
It was a nightmare scenario. Imagine the Lavender Menace meets Lord of the Flies. Twenty-something participants in the Dyke March swooped down on our small contingent of old lesbians like crazed predators thirsty for blood.

There were eight of us marching together at that point. Many were old friends from the seventies. Each one of us has different political views that include leftist activism, mainstream liberal Democratic politics and radical feminism to name a few. Three of us were holding signs. The rest were not. I was wearing a t-shirt from the 2004 Dyke March that read, "Uprooting Racism," with a creative graphic of a brown, tree-root woman holding the earth in her branches. I am 67 years old. Another seventy-something woman wore a Dyke March T-shirt from the year 2000.  A younger woman was carrying a cane and wearing a t-shirt that read, "My favorite season is the fall of the patriarchy."

Suddenly the youngsters were surrounding us. One was yelling through a bullhorn which made answering back nearly impossible. She was calling us TERFs, an acronym that stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists. The background story would take three more blogs, but just be aware that "Kill TERFs is a favorite slogan of this population. And, if you're old, you are automatically under suspicion as a target. When she belligerently yelled, "Don't touch me!" when my shoulder accidentally brushed hers, I knew she wasn't kidding around and moved away.

Two of our group carried signs they didn't like. Ironically, one sign said, "You Cannot Silence Us with Violence," and underneath that, "Stop Lesbian Erasure." I knew that was currently in the news and certainly didn't consider that sign "fighting words." That sign was torn up by the end of the march. Another sign about puberty blockers I knew was controversial in the medical community but I (wrongly) assumed that lesbians, like other members of society, have a right to differences of opinion, just as doctors and nurses do.

But these baby-faced gals couldn't figure out that we were all individuals, let alone old friends, or that free speech is still the law in this country. They descended screaming "TERFs go home!" and "Down With Trans-phobia," although no-one had spoken a word against transgender folks and most of us are progressive activists in various communities. It was strange coming from these females who certainly looked like cisgender girls barely pushing twenty-one. They all wore the smooth, impenetrable faces of pampered youth, strangers to adversity who, most often, live with their parents.

I tried to reason with them, explaining that falling for Trump's agenda of rabid hate is playing right into their hands. But their eyes were on fire, their bullhorn loud, their white faces contorted in a distinctly unattractive way. I was surrounded by flying hands and hula-skirt hair, you know, the kind that dances around heads in strands and is produced only by round follicles found on the heads of the master race. As they screamed their hatred at me, I politely informed them that I was Jewish, just in case they ran out of insults.

But for the likes of us activists, our crime was not trans-phobia. Our offense was obvious. You could see it in the sag of our lined faces, the soft outlines of our not-so-svelte bodies. We could not deny it. Every one of us was guilty, guilty, guilty of being old. Yes, that terrifying state that, if all goes well for these young tormentors, they would reach one day.

At that moment, my partner and I absconded to take a break in the shade. By the time we caught up with our contingent, mob mentality had set in. Two signs had been torn up and their bearers repeatedly knocked down. The whole group had procured a police escort to help them leave the march in safety.

We certainly have fallen a long way since the early, heady days of the lesbian movement. Elders' horror stories of being beaten, spit on, fired from jobs and refused all kinds of services simply for being lesbian or gay are clearly not of interest to many of this generation. Learning from history has become a concept discarded and forgotten. I suppose it's much easier to hate the people around you, folks to whom you have access, than to direct righteous anger toward the real enemy, the corrupt, fascist administration we live under, in other words, the powers that be.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Starbucks Opens its Bathrooms

The policy has officially changed
So there might be a silver lining to that racist scene involving two Black men in a Philadelphia franchise who tried to use the bathroom while waiting for a business colleague and wound up in police custody. Starbucks has now announced that, unlike other capitalist enterprises, it will officially make their bathrooms available to anyone who enters their premises, whether or not they purchase anything at all. 

It's about time as far as I'm concerned. Why should libraries and hospitals be the only institutions that cater to the public biological needs? Those of us in the tiny bladder brigade salute them.

Restroom philosophy varies depending on the country and culture. Public markets and spaces in Mexico usually have bathrooms available for a small fee. They are run as a business enterprise, kept clean and waiting for customers. It can be a drag to always have change available but it's well worth it for the easy access.

However, sometimes paying to pee is a slap in the whatever. In Peru, at Machu Picchu you have to pay an arm and a leg for admission and then pay extra to use the pisser. This is an unfair tax on women and old people. If you spend, say six hours, there (and it's a big place where it's easy to spend the day) you might, if you're like me, have to go three times. In that case you should be able to purchase an express pass or something. But if you're like my partner Deborah, who is a woman with a super-sized bladder, you may only have to go once. It's simply unfair.

Then, there's Paris. Well, it's different everywhere but in Paris most cafe/restaurant owners were not thrilled if I snuck in to find a toilette. I had to be single focused and pretend I didn't understand them when they used that francophone logic in a futile attempt to deter me. It's not that I'm cheap, well maybe a little, but ordering another drink of something because you have to pee too often is counterproductive, to say the least.

Ah, but Madrid, my beloved city. Any haven for drinkers of wine and beer will inevitably be heaven for perpetual seekers of the aseos, their name for the old servicios where you aseo belongs.  Spanish bathrooms are plentiful and easy to find. They have a lot of small rooms with full walls for privacy. In fact, most espanoles find the type of public restrooms in the US, that consist of a row of stalls, disgusting and invasive, a kind of TMI of bodily functions. In Spain, even in hotel lobbies, people will kindly point you to your destination, even if you are not a guest.

So Starbucks is making its mark on US restroom history finally providing all Americans that proverbial pot to piss in. We have lost so much of late, it's the least they can do.