First World White Lady Problems: An Open Letter to Trevor Noah (with photos)

Dear Trevor Noah:

I hope you are taking good care of yourself and feeling better. But I feel moved to inform you that rescheduling your November 9th Milwaukee show threw me into full-on “First-World White Lady Existential Crisis” mode

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Bruised vocal cords are no joke. So I’m glad you stayed home and took care of yourself. (That’s me in “Jewish Mother” mode…sort of.) (Real Jewish Mother mode would have involved leaving a container of homemade chicken soup on your doorstep*.)

When I got the email that you had added that 10 pm show on the ninth back in September, I thought “We’re still broke. Oh, well.”

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Then I remembered that Sweetheart’s birthday is November 20thand that November 9thwas the Friday after the mid-term elections. I looked at my calendar to see whether I was off that Friday.

I was.

So, as it turned out, was Sweetheart.

Who knew a January heart attack would be paying dividends in November? He’d already taken the ninth off for a cardiology follow-up appointment. My manager was handy, and okayed an hour of comp time, which meant I could show up for work at 9:30 the day after the show.

Everything was lining up. Except, of course, for the money.

“Screw it. We’re gonna be dead in 50 years, what’s a little more credit card debt,” I thought, and snapped up a pair of sixth row center seats.

That night, when I got home, I meant to tell him right away. But I forgot until we were getting ready for bed.

“I got your birthday present today!”

There are a lot of reasons to love Sweetheart. One is that he is extremely practical.

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Sweetheart outside our bedroom window, doing something practical.

“My birthday isn’t for two months.”

“So what!? Guess what I got you!”

“A dumpster?”

Our house needs to go on a diet and lose 2/3 of its internal mass, so this was not an entirely insane guess.

“A nap!” I said.

He looked at me.

“Because we’re going to see Trevor Noah at 10 pm. on November 9th!”

Cut to November 9th:

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The cardiology appointment went well. The waffles before the cardiology appointment were tasty. The trip to Target to get a battery for the motorcycle key was a success, as were our other pre-birthday present nap errands. We even got to our favorite rogue dog park, aka the cemetery.

At about 3, I booted up my computer to do a little writing, but first I checked my email.

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We live relatively close to the theater. I needed to swap out some Milwaukee Rep season tickets for a different date and the box office is right across the entrance from the one handling your show. I figured your box offie would be getting slammed with phone calls but not a lot of actual people. Going in person seemed the most efficient way to find out what was up with rescheduling/refund protocol. Also I’d be able to hug someone dealing with it, because she’s marrying my unofficial daughter Ivy and I figured she might suddenly be having a bit of a rough afternoon, which, as it turned out, she was. (Ivy showed up while I was there to pick something up. I got to hug her, too.)

So, instead of seeing you on Friday, we drank hot cocoa in our pajamas and watched “Standing in the Shadows of Motown,” which I highly recommend if you haven’t already seen it.

The next day, I got another email announcing “great news!”

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This was not “great news.” This was terrible news. January 5th is smack-dab in the middle of my annual weekend writer’s retreat three hours north.

First thought: “Dammit, even if I am a Gemini, I can’t be in two places at once!”

Next thought: “This is a First World problem if ever there was one.”

End result: “White Lady Existential Crisis”

One one shoulder:  A weekend with my writing crew, making words in the middle of beautiful nowhere on the north end of Lake Michigan. Amazing food and the amazing companionship of a talented group of fierce and fabulous women led by the Queen of Fierce & Fabulous who is also the author of “Shut Up and Write.”

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Beautiful Nowhere
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The Cliff House at  Beautiful Nowhere. George Washington never slept there, but I did.
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The view of Lake Michigan at Beautiful Nowhere.
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Judy, the Queen of Fierce & Fabulous
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Fiercely talented fierce writers sharing our output

On the other shoulder: Sweetheart and I, together in Row F, sharing the “3D Trevor Noah in Real Time” Experience, even without the immediacy of the post-mid-term breakdown that was definitely a factor in deciding to spring for those tickets.

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Probably more like seeing you from Row B (and through a time warp), but you get the idea….

 

Grrrr. It turns out that I hate it when birthday presents spill over into my writing life, especially since I never get as much time as I’d like to write.

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Me, when I had more time to write.

Which is not your fault, Trevor Noah. Me not writing as much as I want to is totally on me. Which is why, after much deliberation, I have decided to turn this batch of First-World lemons into lemon cake. Or maybe half a lemon cake, in the “glass half full” sense.

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I have since figured out how to make the icing less runny.

I am going to clear out a space in my house and turn it into a writing retreat location. Then, on January 5th, I am going to get up, eat oatmeal, drink coffee and retreat behind a closed door, only emerging for “little writer’s room” trips until lunchtime. After that, I will again retreat until dark, when I come out to enjoy a well-earned drink, dinner, birthday/First World lemon cake and you, at the Riverside.

On Sunday, as you make your way to Connecticut, or Illinois, or wherever you’re going next, I be in my writing den, churning out words.

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In the meantime, thank you for reminding me how privileged I am, to, in a world where Californians are losing their homes and lives to fire and hate crimes are up 17 percent, get to have First World White Lady Problems.

I hope you have a great Thanksgiving and Christmas (you do Christmas, right? If not, Merry/Happy whatever you celebrate).

See you in January:

Amy

 

 

(*You never knock on a Real Jewish Mother Chicken Soup Dropoff; you call or text after the fact to let the recipient know it’s there so as not to: a) force a sick person to be social and/or b) risk catching what they have if it’s contagious.)

Retain your complaining rights! A “nag you to vote” post featuring Alice Cooper, Mom’s 3¢ postage stamp, Tuki & Ward 201

 

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This display is currently up in my library (minus the book on the left, which got borrowed and replaced with one about the Bill of Rights). The 3¢ stamp is real. I scanned and enlarged the image in the service of democracy.  I found it in a packet of stamps Mom (z”l) bought and never used. (Thanks, Mom!)

I was in the middle of an anxiety dream involving my mother, peanut sauce and Wales when the sound of a door opening jarred me awake.

It was Sweetheart, with our morning coffees.

After I attempted to describe the dream (Sweetheart: “Peanut stew? That sounds terrible!”), I said, “It’s Election Day!”

Then, I started to sing. “Electehhhhhhhd……Selectehhhhhhed…….Hallelujah……..”

Sweetheart just looked at me. After more than a decade together, we’re pretty used to each other’s quirks. One of mine is breaking out in song. Sometimes before coffee.

“Alice Cooper!!” I said. “You’ve never heard ‘Elected?’ ”

Sweetheart is a metalhead, so even though I was in eighth grade when I bought “School’s Out,” and “Billion Dollar Babies” (“Elected is on the latter) mostly because I had a slight crush on Lee Rubin and he was all about Alice Cooper, I was a little surprised he hadn’t heard it. But then I remembered that he’d been in second grade back then, an automatic youth-vote-pass situation.

Getting back to that crush, it turned out to be a good thing, because those were albums to which I would not have otherwise been exposed. Rolling Stone hated both albums.  I didn’t and it broadened my musical horizons. (The crush ran its course, and LR was never the wiser.)

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Tuki (z”l) was a gentle soul in a dog suit. She died three years shy of being old enough to vote, but she always loved to come to the polls and make sure I selected the right candidates.

In the kitchen, the current non-voting dog roamed about. I made Sweetheart a hummus, olive & lettuce sandwich after cuing up two versions of the song, a live version Alice performed on Jimmy Kimmel from 2016 and the original studio recording.

For the more musical-theater inclined, Randy Rainbow (who we saw live this past Friday when he toured Flyover Country – thanks, Randy!) dropped a new voter-encouragement tune last night. The man is a genius at lyrics and also, clearly, a time-management god.

I have not written any songs by which to vote, but I do have some encouraging pictures.

It’s 6:49 a.m. and the polls open in 11 minutes……gotta run.

POSTSCRIPT@ 7:11 am: I was Voter #4. There was a line of about five people behind me; a man was registering on-site. That’s more mid-term activity than I’ve seen at my sleepy polling place in the 18 years I’ve voted there!

POSTSCRIPT@5:26 pm: Sweetheart sent me a text after he voted at 4. “199. They cheered for 200!” So I stopped by the polls on my way home from Unlearning Racism class. Voter #238 had just slid his ballot into the box; an observer from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin was sitting in the corner & a steady stream of voters was cycling through the school library-turned-polling room. The chief poll worker was ecstatic, and so am I.

“I think we’re going to hit 50 percent!” she said.

I told her I will stop by after my MIRACLE (Mental Wellness in the Urban Church) meeting and see how many more people had voted. Because I talked to the election observer, I had to sign the sheet that said I was observing. There was a spot to indicate who I was representing.

I wrote, “My neighborhood!”

POSTSCRIPT@8:07 pm: At 7:45, Voter 276 was registering. As I walked out and toward my car, a man was getting out of the leopard-print-covered seat of his late-model Camry.

“Are they still open?” he said.

“Yes!” I answered, “You’re #277!”

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Me, at the August primary election, doing my civic duty and getting to cross “being the first one at the polls to vote” off my bucket list. I was going to try to reprise it 18 minutes after writing this caption. It didn’t happen. Which is a win for the rest of us.

 

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Cutest couple at the polls.

Accidental landlording & purposeful librarianship: a dispatch from the busy zone with a reminder to VOTE TUESDAY!

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Five years ago, my pal Molly and her husband Richard flew in from New York to visit her parents, “Mel” (z”l) and “Sally.” It was their first visit after M&S moved into “Old People Harvard,” the independent and assisted-living community where Mom had been living for two years.

It was a great gift to Mom (z”l). She’d moved from her community six states away, a place where she had deep roots and was both valued and valuable.  It was a courageous move on several counts: facing that Parkinson’s disease was making it impossible for her to maintain her independence and leaping into an unknown social scene.

Mel & Sally’s move wasn’t as easy as Mom’s had been. They were uncertain about how things would be. Molly had flown out to help reassure them. We met for lunch in the dining room at Old People Harvard. There, Mom was able to be the old hand, telling and kvelling to Mel & Sally about how happy she was there, how much there was to do and the truth about the adjustments she’d had – and been able – to make. It meant a great deal to her to be able to be of service, and the three of them forged a lifelong friendship.

But, back to that first post-move visit. Old People Harvard takes itself seriously when it comes to providing top-notch programming for its residents. I remember on my birthday when I called Mom to let her know I was stopping by to drop off a cupcake. She answered the phone in that whisper I knew meant she was involved in something.

“I’m in the Rubeinstein Room. Russ Feingold is talking about his new book.”

“Okay,” I replied. “I’ll sneak in quietly.”

When I walked in, he was answering a question about the difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. I dropped the cupcake into her hands and cruised back to work, where I spent the rest of the day working and passing out cupcakes to people who’d been kind to me over the past year.

Okay, seriously now. Back to that first post-move visit.

Richard is a photographer for the Associated Press. Trish, the programming genius at Old People Harvard, got him to do a “show and tell” with the photos he’s taken over a 50-year span. I could fill up the rest of this post with names of famous people and events he described photographing. His stories about the pictures were as riveting as the photos themselves. I didn’t want the program to end, and I wasn’t alone.

So, cut to two years ago, when I got my dream job as a public librarian and learned that programming was part of my job. Getting Richard to come to the library and share his photos could be part of my job!?

It was, and it is, and this afternoon it is happening. So, that’s the librarianship part of this post.

In accidental landlording adventures, when a known drug dealer looked at the house next door to us seven years ago, I was all “Hell no!”

I had a little extra scratch thanks to a car accident, and used it to buy the house. It’s basically a free-standing one-bedroom apartment in a park – 731 square feet on a 60-foot lot.

I thought Mom could live in it if she wanted to, which she didn’t. One of my offspring lived there for awhile (I joked that we were running a subsidized housing program – don’t ask!). Since she moved, we’d been pretty lucky to rent it to reasonable tenants on a word-of-mouth basis.

Luck ran out when our most recent tenant stopped being sober and skipped out, leaving us with a $715 water bill and all his stuff. Yesterday, someone I’ve known for 10+ years came over to look at it.

Sweetheart and I have a boatload of work to do to get the nasty tobacco smell out of the house (smoking in the house was prohibited by his lease, but drunks aren’t big on rule-following) and get it habitable by December for a mom, a kid and a dog.

I am looking forward to having someone I know and trust and value next door.

I’m looking forward to this afternoon.

I’m especially looking forward to Tuesday, hoping fervently that enough sensible people in this country see right-wing fear tactics for what they are and vote accordingly.  Please be one of them.

 

 

 

Whistle long enough, dogs show up: Best synagogue shooting response? Weep. Mourn. Vote.

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This was taken at my niece’s bat mitzvah. Mom (z”l) is on the left; Phyllis & Pat (the other granny) are next to her. Taken in 2009, but could have been taken yesterday at Tree of Life Synagogue, or any other congregation.

File yesterday under “Days when you’re glad your mother and aunts are dead.”

File yesterday under “This is why I grapple with knowing that I look and benefit from being white but don’t ever feel entirely white.”

File yesterday under “What part of their part in this do Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Chuck Grassley, Paul Ryan, Jeff Sessions, Steven Miller and the rest of the administration not see?”

File yesterday under “You can’t spend three years whistling and act surprised when the dogs actually show up.”

File yesterday under: “Thank you to the library system where I work for taking the possibility of an active shooter seriously enough to provide training that may minimize the danger to us and our patrons if we’re ever unlucky enough to be in that situation.”

Pittsburgh is the first time it’s happened to my community. Reading the news as I sat behind the reference desk yesterday, my first thoughts were of Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and the nine people killed by the white guy who got a take-out hamburger in jail because he told the police he was hungry. I thought of the six people killed in Oak Creek at the Sikh Temple by a white guy who did it because he thought Sikhs were Muslims.

This isn’t just about Jews, or black people, or people who wear turbans or hijabs or whose first words were in a language other than English.

President Dog Whistle mused that had there been armed guards in the synagogue, perhaps the shooter would have been stopped.

He is wrong.

Had there been sensible gun laws in this country, perhaps the shooter would have been stopped. But that would mean standing up to Dylan Roof, Rob Bowers and Wade Michael Pages’ enablers. By which I mean the National Rifle Association, whose bullets include large amounts of cash aimed at legislators for sale.

Newsflash to President Dog Whistle and those legislators: All the guns in the world will not kill what’s coming. Thanks to you, Dylan Roof, Rob Bowers and Wade Michael Page were able to carry out their attacks using real weapons. Cesar Sayet, Jr. heard the dog whistle and was empowered to build and mail bombs that would have killed postal workers as well as people who’ve stood up for their beliefs.

But you can’t kill reality, any more than you can stop the 7,000 people who have left dangerous situations in Central America to seek refuge in the land that provided it to so many of us – at the expense of those who were here first, and those brought here in chains.

The country is changing. It’s less white. It’s less Christian. People like President Dog Whistle and his ilk are doing everything they can to ensure that real power and the money that preserves it remains in the hands of people who look and sound and think the way they do and have done.

That’s why income inequality. That’s why voter suppression. That’s why unevenly applied drug laws.

Change is hard, but it doesn’t have to be bad. Banding together for the sake of our shared well-being is our best shot at ensuring any kind of future for ourselves and those who come after us.

Which is why voting on November 6this so important. If you can’t vote because:

  • you’re not old enough,
  • you’re on paper,
  • you’re not through the citizenship process,
  • your felony record says that even though you’ve paid your debt to society we’re going to keep punishing you…

then be an enabler. Make your voice count by making sure the people in your life who can cast votes, do cast votes.

The future will thank you.

 

The 11 people killed in Pittsburgh. May their memories be for a blessing:

• Joyce Fienberg, 75, Oakland neighborhood, Pittsburgh
• Richard Gottfried, 65, Ross Township
• Rose Mallinger, 97, Squirrel Hill neighborhood, Pittsburgh
• Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, Edgewood Borough
• Cecil Rosenthal, 59, and David Rosenthal, 54, brothers, Squirrel Hill
• Bernice and Sylvan Simon, 84 and 86, married, Wilkinsburg
• Daniel Stein, 71, Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh
• Melvin Wax, 88, Squirrel Hill, City of Pittsburgh
• Irving Younger, 69, Mount Washington neighborhood, Pittsburgh

Thank you from the bottom of my heart: an open letter to Dr. Susan Blasey Ford

 

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…to do the right thing.

 

Dear Dr. Ford:

I watched some of your testimony last week and want you to know that I thought you were amazing. You made sense out of something that was hard to make sense of, and you did it with elegance and good humor and decency.

It was easy to imagine you as a very popular and respected professor – when you alluded to concepts you teach, you did so in an accessible and welcoming way. I bet your students love you.

I’m sure your life has been so up-ended by this. I think I read that you had to leave your house, and that your family is all separated for their – and your – safety. That sucks. I hope you are not paying too much attention to people who have nothing kind or charitable to say about this or you. (Yes, that does include you, President That-Was-One-Shameful-Display and Press Secretary Shameful-Display-Enabler.)

I hope things get back to a new and better normal for you soon. Your display of courage and integrity might not have been enough to keep now-Justice Kavanaugh from being sworn in.  But it was more than enough to provide fuel to fans of doing what’s right even when it’s not easy, but are really, really discouraged and hurting right now.

These things change slowly.

I was so ashamed of what happened to me (we were in eighth grade and it happened in school when a teacher sent us out to fetch something from another part of the building). I was sure that it must have been my fault somehow.  I couldn’t possibly tell my mother (or heaven forbid, my dad!).  So I never did. It was 1973.

But in the 1990s, I had a conversation with my daughters when they were middle schoolers, and when a boy tried pulling that on one of them, he ended up with a swift knee to a tender spot. And now, here we are in 2018. There’s #metoo, and there’s you, who came forward with nothing to gain but preserving your own sense of integrity.

It might seem as if it made no difference.

But it did.

It will.

These things change slowly, but change they do. Make no mistake. Eventually, the power of our stories will overwhelm the deniers hanging on by a thread to power that is eroding. It’s power they don’t deserve. When that happens, our sons & daughters and their sons & daughters will live in a world that doesn’t reward violence and belligerence.

I’d like to see it in our lifetime, but I’m a realist.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart:

Amy Waldman

 

Together beneath the Abrahamic tree: Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom adventures

Two weeks ago Sunday, two carloads of my Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom chapter drove down to Chicago for an afternoon of camaraderie and training in how to engage in thorny discussions.

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Along with the Wisconsin contingent (Milwaukee and Madison), women came from Illinois (Chicago and beyond) and Iowa (Quad Cities).

Our facilitators did a great job, and the hours passed quickly.

The following week, my story about my own experiences pre-dating and since joining the group ran in the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle. So, in the spirit of “well, maybe we can’t all just get along but damnit, I’m not gonna stop trying,” I’m posting it here.

It was interesting to write, because I’d just been told to “write a first-person piece” about the group. Looking at where I’d come from and how I’d ended up as a SOSS member was the most respectful way to accomplish that without accidentally violating the privacy of my chapter sisters.

The journeys for all of us are so different. I’d love to see an anthology of personal journeys to chapter membership.

But that’s another story for another day.

Click here to see mine: Click me!

 

 

 

 

#Metoo vs. #Poormetoo: Senate Committee hears from Ford & Kavanaugh

I caught a little of the testimonies of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

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What else am I gonna use? Something horrible? Thanks but no thanks. There’s enough of that already in this post.

It was horrifying.

The contrast between the two witnesses was stark. Dr. Ford told her story with remarkable composure. She was visibly upset, but did an amazing job describing her reasons for coming forward. She answered questions about the event that had brought her to the Senate hearing room, recounting the feelings of a traumatized teen and also using the vocabulary of an expert in explaining the biology of trauma. She was respectful of the process, answering the questions she was asked and asking for clarity when she wasn’t sure about a question.

Before today, I’d done a lot of thinking about Judge Kavanaugh and whether, if he did what Dr. Ford described, whether it should disqualify him from serving.

My conclusion was that while it would have been horrible and terrible and wrong, it would not necessarily have been a deal-breaker.

Why not?

It’s simple.

If Brett Kavanaugh had said, “In my youth, I did things I regret and one of them was sometimes drinking to the point where I didn’t remember things. I don’t do that any more and haven’t since (whenever he realized that this was not a great thing).”

Then, he would have apologized to Dr. Ford, and there might have been some sort of private meeting between them that none of us need know about. And he’d probably have been confirmed. Which he probably will anyway, but we’ll never know now whether he would have been otherwise.

What we do know after today is that Brett Kavanaugh is an overentitled brat whose sense of entitlement is only matched by his sense of outrage at the possibility that he might be called out for his behavior.  And I’m not talking about what happened with Dr. Ford. If I thought I was being falsely accused of something that big, I’d be salty, too.

It’s the other stuff, about his drinking and his actions around a woman who’d attended a nearby girl’s school.

He reminded me of Ex 1, who was at his nastiest when someone challenged his version of reality, whether or not it matched actual events. It was his way or the highway.

Kavanaugh explained away yearbook references to heavy drinking, eg:  “Treasurer of the 100 Kegs or Bust Club” and “Beach Week Ralph Club, Biggest Contributor,” to his love of beer and“weak stomach” and insisted he’d never been drunk enough to forget anything that happened under the influence.

He insisted that he and a bunch of his buddies who repeatedly referred to a girl named Renate and posed for a photograph as the “Renate Alumnius” did so because they had such reverence for her. That makes him sound like a) a really pathetic liar and b) a patronizing asshole. I mean, seriously. How dumb does he think we are?

It was painful to watch the contrast between the lack of respect he seemed to have for the process and Committee. It was even more painful to listen to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) try to out-nasty Judge Kavanaugh.

Not a great day for the Senate, for Dr. Ford or the Judge Kavanaugh. And most definitely not a great day for We, the People.