Beth Deitchman

Reader, Writer, Knitter, Slayer

Category: Uncategorized

Oh the Depravity!

I can’t get my mind around what’s happening in Washington. The GOP “health care” plan guts the ACA, making it much more difficult for poor people to get health insurance while providing obscene tax cuts for insurance company CEOs, and several Republicans say they will reject the new plan because it doesn’t GO FAR ENOUGH. Even Ann I hate all humanity Coulter hates the new plan. Take a moment to think about that. And while you’re thinking about that, consider H. J. Resolution 69, the bill that allows hunters to shoot bears while they HIBERNATE and wolf pups IN THEIR DENS. Nothing sporting about that. It’s just cruel. Have you finished thinking about the health care thing and the dead wolf puppies? Now mull over the brand new task force called VOICE: Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement, which will investigate and publish crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. You know who else did that? If you guessed Hitler, then ding, ding, ding! You get a sticker! Except that with Hitler, it was the Jews. In the U.S. Jews are mostly okay, except for the regular bomb threats called in to JCCs and the vandalism in Jewish cemeteries. Every single Senator signed a letter to the President asking him to please address this ongoing mishegoss. Even the Republicans. I wonder what the big man will do when he’s done watching Fox News and tweeting. Hard to say, though he’ll probably whine about how the “deep state” led by President Obama is sabotaging his Presidency. I’m a fantasy writer with a dark side and I would never have made this shit up. The depravity is wearing my patience thin. And it’s only March.

White Anxiety

Here’s what’s been on my mind today–bear with me, this might be a little rough and take some time to work through:

Yesterday I saw a lovely post on a Facebook group dedicated to the Women’s March. It celebrated diversity and inclusion and featured a drawing of a Native American woman. The caption was something like “Women of Color taking the lead.” Under the photo was a comment from a white lady (at least that’s what her profile picture suggested) that said, “Are white women allowed to march, too?” The administrator gave an earnest answer to what seemed a snarky question, reassuring the woman that everyone is encouraged to join; everyone is welcome. I’ve been thinking about that white woman’s comment. Perhaps it was snarky. But underneath it was anxiety about being pushed to the margins.

I’ve been working on my novel for most the day today, so I don’t have the energy for smooth transitions. Here’s the next paragraph–I promise I will tie all this together: Whiteness (like any other structure of domination) maintains its power via exclusion. Though the boundaries of American whiteness have shifted in the past century or two, they have never stretched far enough to include people of color. White vigilance about those boundaries is well documented in American history: from the one drop rule to separate but equal, white people have guarded their position by making it impossible for nearly everyone else to occupy it. This isn’t just an American phenomenon—this exclusion of people of color from power and life has happened around the world for centuries. People of color have been stripped of their power in Africa and Asia, Latin America and Australia. They have been subjugated, dispersed, captured, enslaved, and killed. On our continent alone millions of people were killed or enslaved before the first slave ships arrived from Africa. Whiteness operates by domination and maintains that domination by punishment and marginalization. In other words, white people have a history of pushing other people to the margins.

So it stands to reason that this white woman asked her question about being allowed at the Women’s March. She comes from a culture that maintains its dominance by pushing everyone else out. It makes sense that white people are anxious about “identity politics” and about the Black Lives Matter movement because they fear that they will be shunted to the side–they will be treated the same way that people of color have been treated for centuries. Excluded. Marginalized. They wonder: If we make room for other people to have power, then what happens to us? What happens to me? (This is not a defense of white anxiety and of racism; it’s an attempt to understand something that I abhor. An attempt to find empathy.)

Of course, whiteness isn’t the only power position that operates this way–patriarchy and heteronormativity do the same work.

Where do I go from here in this thought train? I’m not entirely sure. I want to find a way to explode such structures of power. I want to find a way to be inclusive, to share the power. To teach everyone that no one has to be pushed away. There has to be a way to make room for everyone.

And here I can’t help but think about a moment in the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Fellow fans know what I’m about to talk about. In Buffy’s world there was only one slayer at a time. A new slayer was called only after the current one died–it’s an apt metaphor for what I’m talking about above, really. Only one person at a time has access to her incredible power (except when Buffy dies in season one and Xander revives her, thus creating a second slayer). In season seven Buffy says screw this noise. A group of men decided it should be this way a long time ago. Instead she offered to share her power (via a whole magical thing–seriously, just watch it) with all the young women who had the potential to be slayers when either Buffy or Faith died. I’ve watched that moment over and over and over again and I still cry every time. It’s an amazing moment–and an amazing idea. Power can be shared and in that sharing, the world can be changed.

If you’re still reading, thank you. I don’t have a conclusion. I don’t know how to conclude except to say that I want to find a way to share, to include, to invite everyone to the table. There has to be a way. Even without a magical scythe and a powerful Wicca.

Voting Your Conscience

When I was a graduate student in the late 1990s I took a seminar about postcolonial literature and theory. We spent a lot of time discussing how colonizers oppressed those they conquered by taking away their ability to understand and make meaning in the world by, for example, making it illegal to teach or speak their native languages. The term we bandied about for this and other similar processes is epistemic violence. It is a brutal, devastating tactic that worked. Imagine one day not being able to find your way around your city because all the street names had been changed and all the informational signs were written in a language you didn’t know. Imagine the sense of dislocation, of fear, of confusion.

I found those discussions fascinating. But I remember one afternoon looking around at the mostly white faces in the room and thinking about how sterile the discussion was. There we were, eager graduate students, sipping our tea or coffee from travel mugs, talking with great passion about our assigned reading in the safety and comfort of an air-conditioned seminar room. So I asked why we weren’t talking about the physical violence—the raping, mutilating, and murdering—perpetuated by colonizers. Why weren’t we talking about bodies? I don’t actually remember the answer. I’m sure we did talk a little bit about the physical violence, but then we retreated from the blood and gore and stickiness to the clean, pure realm of theory.

I’ve been thinking about that particular day a lot lately because I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m so bothered by my friends who insist that they are voting for Jill Stein (or Gary Johnson) because they have to vote their conscience or their principles. I admit that I don’t know many people who are so angry with the major parties that they are choosing to vote Green or Libertarian. But the ones I do know often include the caveat that they “have the luxury of voting their principles because they live in [insert solidly blue state here].” I saw something like this posted by a complete stranger on Twitter just last night. He was arguing with an ardent Hillary Clinton supporter and then tweeted that because he lived in California he had the “freedom to vote [his] principles and would probably write in Bernie.” I asked him if he would still write in Bernie if he lived in a red or swing state. So far he hasn’t replied. If he says no, I’ll know that he understands more than he lets on about what is at stake for millions of people in this country. If he says yes, then I’ll wonder how he can privilege his principles (which are by definition abstractions) over the actual safety of millions of other Americans not so lucky to be born a white guy. But when challenged about this privilege, so many of the people complaining that Hillary is just as bad as Trump (a mind-bogglingly infuriating statement by itself) say that they refuse to let FEAR dictate their votes. Of course they won’t. They have nothing to be afraid of.

So these same voters can fantasize about how a Trump presidency might be good for America. Like a controlled burn in a forest. Burn down the old establishment! Then a new one can rise like a phoenix! But think about what this means for the Americans who do not have the luxury to indulge in that fantasy. Think about the Americans whose hard-won rights will begin to evaporate. Think about their actual lives, their actual bodies. Think about what it is like for a Black man to drive in states where the police force has demonstrated a willingness to support officers who kill them. What does it feel like in that man’s body when he sees a flashing light behind his car? What does it feel like to be shoved onto the ground with a gun in your back? What does it feel like for a bullet to enter your chest? What does it feel like to die on the street? What does it feel like to be that man’s wife or child? Think about the young Black man walking down the street who is subjected to searches because a cop thinks he looks suspicious. What does it feel like to have some stranger’s hands patting you down when you’ve done nothing at all wrong? What does it feel like to be afraid of cops?

Think about the immigrant whom Trump wants to round up and deport. What is it like to be pulled from your home? To be sent back to a country you fled? What does it feel like to be separated from your family? What does it feel like to be denied entrance to this country because you are Muslim?

And think about the woman who, if Trump gets his way, may be forced to carry a baby to full term no matter the consequences to her health or the cause of the pregnancy. Do you know what pregnancy is like? Do you know what giving birth is like? Think about it. Imagine the pain. The blood. Imagine someone you love being forced to go through that. Then imagine what might happen to the actual child. Will she be adopted by loving parents? Will she end up in foster care? What will her life be like? What might happen to a woman who gets an abortion? Will she go to jail? What happens to bodies in jail? What happens if she gets an infection from the illegal abortion? What happens to her body?

What happens to the body of a teenager harassed because he is gay? What does it feel like to be told that you are an abomination? What does it feel like to be denied a marriage license because some clerk objects to your right to get married?

These are only a fraction of the questions I could ask about many different Americans’ lives. If you find them uncomfortable it is because they are meant to be. It’s easy to retreat to the safety of abstractions. That’s why I find my friends’ conviction so disappointing. That’s why I find their desire for more ideological purity in their candidates so frustrating. They are privileging their fantasy—because what else could the notion of an ideologically pure candidate be—over the reality of millions of Americans’ lives with nothing at all at stake for themselves. I don’t know how anyone’s conscience could allow that.

p.s. The Hillary supporter replied to Mr. Principles with “Vote Garfield.”

Interview on Laughing with Lizzie!

The lovely Sophie Andrews interviewed me about Margaret Dashwood and Regency Magic on her blog, Laughing with Lizzie.

Flash Fiction at The Angry Hourglass

My bittersweet little story, “Le Moulin,” won this week’s Flash Frenzy round at The Angry Hourglass. I’m planning a post about writing flash fiction, but for right now, you can read the story here.

Interview on The Field Trip

Yesterday afternoon I chatted with my friend Mitchell Field about writing and about the publishing company that I co-own with my writing partner, Emily June Street. It was fun!

You can listen to it here.

Line Painting Day

I didn’t mean to take two days off from writing but Monday night we had no Internet and Tuesday I was just too tired.  I’ll explain why in a moment.

We’re back in Salt Lake City, half way home to San Rafael.  This afternoon we covered much of Utah, which is how we know that today is line painting day.  We got stuck in traffic (ever so briefly) a few times because the yellow lines dividing the two-lane freeway were being painted.  They looked really nice.  The traffic jams lasted no more than five minutes–remarkable as far as I’m concerned.  If road crews were out painting freeway lines during the day in the Bay Area, the traffic would be unbearable.  But we were in the middle of nowhere so it was okay.

That’s not much of a story, but the title is so good I couldn’t resist.  (It was that or “Westward ho!”)

But getting back to the beginning: we left Denver Monday afternoon for the short drive to Glenwood Springs.  This time we were staying in the Sunlight Mountain Inn, just south of town.  All went smoothly and Samantha led us back to Glenwood Springs without incident.  Until we hit the final stretch of the day’s journey.  She seemed so sure of herself when she had me turn right onto a gravel road that wound its way up the mountain that I obeyed even though the road sign said FS 300 instead of County Road 117.  Samantha said it was County Road 117, so it must have been County Road 117, right?  As we drove up and up and up, however, I began to get worried.  Yet Samantha knew what the road we were on looked like, so we figured she must have known where she was going.  When she announced that we had arrived at our destination on the right, we knew she was wrong.  Here’s what it looked like:

So beautiful.  So serene.  And so empty.

As we headed back down that bumpy gravel road I told Dave about the episode of The Office when Michael followed a GPS’s instructions right into a lake while Dwight shouted at him to stop.  That’s kind of how it felt.

Once back on the paved road, we noticed a sign directing us toward the Sunlight Mountain Inn.  When we’d made the wrong turn, we were one minute away.  Choosing not to be bitter, Dave and I laughed about it, then went in to register.

After we unpacked the car, fed Ralphie, and ate dinner, we wandered around outside where we met Clayton, who runs the inn with his wife (I think her name is Kate, but I’m not sure).  He suggested that the next day we hike up the mountain, which is a ski resort.  He told us about all the wildlife in the area: elk, moose, bears (both brown and cinnamon), and cougars.  Possibly because he saw the look of panic in my eyes, he reassured us (me) that the bigger animals would leave us alone because we had a dog.  (Whether because of Ralphie and Bella–you’ll understand in a minute–or not, the bigger wildlife left us alone).  We did see a porcupine during our evening walk.  Ralphie really wanted to go after it but wiser heads prevailed.

There were only two other people staying in the Inn that night so it was quiet except for the brook running just outside our room.  Before going to bed, we went out to look at the stars.  There may not have been internet access at the inn, but that was okay.  It was peaceful and beautiful.  Like camping, only inside.  The way I like camping.

In the morning we had a quick breakfast then headed up the mountain.  On the way there we were joined by a shepherd mix whose name we later learned was Bella.  (At one point during the hike I called to her, trying out the first name that came to me: Bella.  Because she didn’t respond, I figured I was wrong. Turns out she was just ignoring me.).  Bella is a very friendly dog who knows the mountain really well.  She seemed to be guiding us as we hiked.  Dave called her our outrider; I called her the vanguard.  She’d run ahead and sniff stuff, then wait for us or run back to herd us along.  Ralphie did really well once he decided that she was helping us.  I credit her more than Ralphie for warding off the bears and cougars.

The hike was rigorous but gorgeous.  We passed aspen stands, evergreens, and fields of flowers and butterflies.

But the view from the top made the hike (and the next day’s soreness) completely worthwhile:

And this:

The trip down the mountain was easier, naturally.  Bella chose to stay on the mountain, but we knew our way home so that was cool.  As we neared the bottom, we saw what appeared to be trampoline camp going on behind the ski resort.  That explained the noise that we’d heard on our evening walk: little girls at camp.  It looked like fun.

When we made it back to our room to finish packing, we realized we had been hiking for two hours.  That’s why I was too tired to write anything last night.  Promising to return, we checked out and packed the car.  Before we left I made Dave take a picture of the car because it will probably never again be so dirty.  I felt like an outdoor adventurer for just a little while.

Then we headed back to town for lunch.  I can confirm that the Daily Bread, the diner where we ate breakfast last Thursday morning, has the best Greek omelette I have ever eaten.  I’m going to miss that place.

We finally got on the road for Green River, Utah around 1:00.  Dave made a kick ass playlist for that leg of the trip and we played a game in which I tried to identify the song and artist.  I lost.  Spectacularly.  It seems that Dave is fond of Warren Zevon, who, until yesterday I could not identify.  The list also included They Might Be Giants, Amos Lee, Johnny Cash, the Cure, the Pogues (I knew that song!), Siouxsie and the Banshees, Mississippi John Hurt (another of Dave’s favorites), Sinead O’Connor (another one I knew), Paul McCartney (from his Wings days), and John Lennon.  I know there were more, but I can’t remember them.

Green River remains hot and boring, so we didn’t do much there.  At least I didn’t do much there.  Dave took Ralphie for a walk and took a few pictures but otherwise we hung out in the room and read.

If I hadn’t been so tired and if I had known the view of the river was so nice, I might have gone with them.  But I didn’t so I have to settle for the picture that Dave took:

This morning I woke up with the sore neck that has been bothering me for a few days (a Wii injury, I think) AND with a sciatica flare-up (what I get for hiking up a mountain and then not stretching.  Learn from me and stretch!)  The drive from Green River to Salt Lake City was uncomfortable at best until all the ibuprofen kicked in.  I finally started feeling better around the time we checked into the hotel and took Ralphie for a short walk to play fetch with his new toy.  But I’ll write about that tomorrow.  Now I’m heading to the hot tub to soak.

Glenwood Springs and Beyond

I could live in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, death place of Doc Holliday and home of the best Greek omelette I have ever eaten.  After four days of staying almost in the middle of nowhere (except for Salt Lake City, but we were so far outside the city we might as well have been in the middle of nowhere), it was so refreshing to stay in a little tourist town, especially since it was not swarming with tourists.

We arrived pretty early yesterday afternoon and checked into the lovely Hotel Denver.  Once we finished unpacking (ish) and had a quick lunch, we set off on a short hike to the burial place of Doc Holliday (in case you can’t remember who he is, Val Kilmer played him in Tombstone).  Although the hike to the cemetery was only a half a mile, we were exhausted by the time we got there.  The trail (more of a path really) was steep and exposed to the sun, which is much stronger here.  Not to mention the altitude of 5,700 (ish) feet.

Once we reached the cemetery and recovered enough to explore, we discovered that Doc Holliday’s grave isn’t clearly marked.  Apparently he died a pauper and is thought to be buried in Potter’s field with a wooden cross–long since rotted–to mark his grave.  So we settled for a picture of Dave at a grave in the cemetery that holds Doc Holliday’s remains:

Then somewhat disappointed and really hot we headed back to the hotel to rest.  (It is a really nice picture of Dave and Ralphie, though).

The remainder of the day was uneventful–except for a trip to the grocery store, which wasn’t so much eventful as exhausting as I chose to walk the seven blocks.  I almost scoffed when the nice lady at the reception suggested that I might prefer to drive, thinking to myself, “seven blocks? please!  That’s nothing.”  Turns out that seven blocks uphill in the sun at 5,700 feet is more daunting than I could have imagined.  But I did it.  And I made it back in one piece.  Shortly thereafter I was asleep in a chair with my book on my lap.  And I was pretty much done for the rest of the day.

But after a really good night’s sleep, I felt much better.  The headache that had been bothering me all day on Wednesday was gone.  Relieved that I didn’t have altitude sickness, I was ready to face the day.  (I almost called this post “Altitude Sickness” because I looked up the symptoms on the Internet.  It’s what I do.)  Dave, Ralphie, and I took a really nice stroll by the river before heading to breakfast at a little coffee shop with outside seating.  It was the first restaurant we’d been able to bring Ralphie to because of its outside seating.  And that is where I had the best Greek omelette I’ve ever had.

Fortified with a solid breakfast, we were ready to pack up and head to Denver (Highlands Ranch to be more specific).  The drive here included some truly spectacular scenery.  But you’ll have to take my word for it because we didn’t stop to take any pictures.  We didn’t stop for anything because I wanted to get here and be done with the driving for a while.  I-70 took us through the mountains, which meant a lot of up and down driving; our car strained on the uphill but seemed to enjoy the downhill.  I really liked passing 10,000 feet at the Vail pass.  We spend most of our time at around 23 feet above sea level, so these high altitudes make a nice change.

We spent the afternoon with Dave’s family, which was really lovely.  Our nephews Cory and Clark were both there.  We had not seen Cory since he was 12 and he just graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder.  The last time we saw Clark he was about 6 months old.  Now he’s almost five.  They’ve both changed a lot.  After dinner we took a family walk to the park where Dave and Cory threw a frisbee around for a while.  Cory has always been a really athletic guy and it shows.  But Uncle Dave held his own!  Clark loves to play Lego Star Wars on the Wii that his grandparents bought for him.  So Dave and Clark played together.  Uncle Dave also held his own with Clark.

Ralphie enjoyed wandering around Dave’s parents house sniffing things.  Then he enjoyed running around in the backyard where he found and killed a plastic soccer ball that was meant for Clark.  Luckily Clark didn’t seem to care (or notice).  And now Ralphie is sacked out on the couch in our room.  It’s almost like home, with me on one end with my computer and Dave on the other with his and Ralphie stretched between us, taking up most of the room.  We’re staying in a Residence Inn, which is nice because there’s so much more space and we have a little kitchen.  It’s good to know that we’ll be in the same place for the next several nights before we turn around and head home.

Double Dream Hands

Here’s what I learned today: 1. the Grosse Pointe Blank soundtrack is really good; 2. I can’t remember this one; neither can Dave; and 3. Utah is prettier than Nevada.

We left Salt Lake City around 9:00 this morning headed for Green River, Utah.  As we were leaving Salt Lake, we started listening to the Grosse Pointe Blank soundtrack.  Ah the memories of the 1980s; you know what I mean: “When I’m a-walkin’ I strut my stuh-uff and I’m so strung out!”  At one point I turned to Dave (figuratively rather than literally since I had to keep my eyes on the road) and asked if it makes me old to say that the music of the 80s is soooo much better than that crap the kids listen to today.  Dave just smiled, or so I think because I couldn’t look at him. (You’re still singing, aren’t you?)  Salt Lake City traffic, while nothing like Bay Area traffic, was still heavier than anything we had faced since leaving San Rafael and I needed to concentrate.  But eyes on the road doesn’t necessarily mean hands on the wheel, and I know he didn’t appreciate my double dream hands to Under Pressure.  (If you don’t know what I mean by double dream hands, have a look at this.)

I wish I could remember what the second thing I learned today was.  I told Dave my list of things, but he can’t remember them either.  It drove me crazy for a while, but it’s gone, and without a pensieve it’s not likely to return.  So let’s pretend the second thing I learned today is that Salt Lake City will be hosting the annual Princess Festival from June 19-30.  I wasn’t able to learn much about the festival from the giant billboards lining the freeway, so I Googled it.  If you didn’t feel like clicking on the link, here’s what the website says about the festival:

A place of enchantment where Princesses learn to become everything they dream while making the world a better place.

Our mission is to touch the hearts of young girls and communities to empower them in acts of service, kindness, and courage through the creative engagement of imaginative characters, stories, and events.

This sounds much better than what I thought it would be–a baby beauty pageant with little girls all made up like creepy little dolls.  I’m hoping we can check it out as we pass through on our way home, but we probably won’t be able to with Ralphie.  I also don’t know if it’s open to gawkers.

As for item number three, Utah is prettier than Nevada, well, it just is.  To be fair to Nevada, we had to drive by Reno, which depresses the crap out of me.  When I moved to California in 1998, my friends David and Dan accompanied me from my dad’s house in Pennsylvania.  We stretched the journey cross-country into a nine day road trip that included a brief stop for lunch in Reno. ( I think the plan had once included spending the night in Reno, but all three of us decided just to press on to Davis.)  I hate casinos.  Row after row of old people playing the slots; isn’t that depressing? I’ve never been to Las Vegas but I can only imagine that it is ten times worse.  Anyway, the Nevada that lines 80 after sad Reno is barren, desolate wasteland with tire store clerks who insist that you should buy new tires now.

Utah also has some barren, desolate parts, but the rock formations that line those parts are spectacular.  Here’s an example of what I mean:

See how blue the sky is?  And how beautiful that big rocky thing in the background is?  All morning we saw stuff like that.  This picture hardly captures the amazing stuff we saw today.

But, also to be fair to Nevada, because we stuck to I-80, we only saw the tiniest bit of the state’s northern part.  Samantha (the GPS) chose a more interesting route from Salt Lake City to Green River.  Instead of taking I-15 to I-70 as AAA suggested, we followed Samantha’s instructions, which put us on US 6 / US 191.  In other words, we meandered through a bigger cross-section of Utah.

On the other hand, prettier doesn’t mean much when you are a food snob looking for dinner.  There is one grocery store in Green River and it didn’t have much in the way of prepared food.  I think we’re going to be eating peanut butter on rice cakes for dinner.  And that’s cool.  Tomorrow we’re going to Glenwood Springs, CO; surely they’ll have snobby food places, right?

So there you go.  That’s what I learned today on the drive from Salt Lake City to Green River.  As you might have gathered from this post, I also learned how to put links and pictures into the text of my blog.  If you are wondering why it took so long, it’s because I’m predisposed to resist all things technological.  But now that I know how embarrassingly easy adding stuff to my blog is, there will be more pictures and links from now on.  I promise.

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