Wednesday, November 30, 2016
The growing alliance between Sanders and the Democratic Party—his being in a position as it were to save the Party from itself—has been a source of disquiet for those who feel that his movement could go in other directions. On stage at the main branch of the Free Library, Sanders was interviewed by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, who admirably pushed him on the two-party “duopoly,” and the innovations of the Obama presidency—the extrajudicial “kill list,” for example—that the grotesque Trump will inherit. You knew these weren’t questions that he was ready to confront, because he would sink back into a deeper slouch, his voice dropping to a quiet guttural croak, as he offered, “That’s a fair point. That’s a fair point.” When Sanders is slipping into the well-worn groove of his talking points—income and wealth inequality—the volume is more likely to turn up higher than the room can plausibly bear. But when Goodman asked him about the possibility of a future independent run for President, he demurred quietly, indicating that his efforts were focused on “transforming the Democratic Party,” in a tone that exuded concession rather than triumph. Sanders’s other effort in this vein—also called Our Revolution—is off to a bad start, with many of its staff having resigned over the appointment of the much-loathed Jeff Weaver as its director. It remains to be seen whether it develops into a real alternative force, or something more akin to MoveOn—a way of generating dollars and door-knocking for already existing “progressive” candidates.
The conversation exited the distorting gravitational pull of the US when it drifted to Fidel Castro. Here, too, Sanders was circumspect, cautiously lauding the island’s health care and education systems, while admitting the lack of real avenues for dissent, and that “the economy is in bad shape,” and not just because of the US embargo.
Dennis Mahoney in The Morning News:
On election night, when Florida’s results mysteriously stalled and Clinton supporters such as myself grew nervous, I drank some gin. My 12-year-old son went to bed. My wife went to bed two hours later. By midnight, Trump’s victory looked all but certain, and I wrote my son a note. If I’d known that a million-plus people would read it within the coming week, I probably would have worded things more clearly and attempted better penmanship.
Trump won. Don’t panic.
The world won’t end. The country won’t fall apart. We’re just underdogs now, caring about women, minorities, decency, and truth.
You’re going to have a job now: Be Extra Moral. Rebel against meanness. Be kind. Heal things. Inspire people with optimism.
Most of all, LOVE.
Cornball, yes, but totally sincere. My wife and I, along with many of our friends and relatives, had spent the year discussing a Trump presidency as the worst-case scenario for our country, and perhaps even the world. We were revolted by Mr. Trump’s hateful and untruthful rhetoric and behavior. We feared his environmental policies. We were alarmed by the thought of Mr. Trump gaining control of the nuclear codes. I worried my son would wake to the news of Trump’s win and be scared shitless. I was scared shitless. What exactly would a Trump presidency look like, what were we supposed to do about it, and how could I explain it to my son? I wrote the note with a Sharpie on a piece of printer paper. It was the least thought-out message I’d written in weeks (I’m someone who often proofreads texts) and was primarily meant to soften the initial blow of Clinton’s defeat. I left it on the dining room table and went to bed. I’m a later sleeper, so my wife was the parent who watched Jack discover the note the next morning. He read “Trump won,” said, “Fuck,” and walked away. My wife sympathetically pardoned the F-bomb and encouraged him to finish reading. And the note actually worked: he calmed down, felt reassured, and discussed the election with my wife over a plate of Eggos.
Right there, the note was a homerun.
Heidi Ledford in Nature:
After decades of frustration, efforts to develop antibodies that can ferry drugs into cancer cells — and minimize damage to healthy tissue — are gathering steam. The next generation of these ‘weaponized antibody’ therapies, called antibody–drug conjugates (ADCs), is working its way through clinical trials. Researchers will gather to discuss this renaissance on 30 November at the Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics in Munich, Germany. The improvements come after the first wave of experimental ADCs failed to deliver on its promise. “Initially there was a lot of excitement, and then slowly many of them did not work,” says Raffit Hassan, a cancer researcher at the US National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. Now, he says, there are two new ADCs in phase III clinical trials, and many more in earlier-stage testing.
The concept that underlies these drugs is simple: repurposing an antibody as a vehicle to deliver a toxic drug into a cancer cell. When the antibody in an ADC seeks out and docks onto a tumour cell, the cell takes it up and cleaves the molecular links that bind the drug to the antibody. This frees the drug to kill the cell from within. But this approach has proved tricky to realize. Sometimes the molecular linkers are too tight, and do not release the drug inside the cell. Sometimes they are too unstable, and release the drug near healthy cells — limiting the dose that can be administered. Even the drugs themselves can be problematic: because most are toxic mainly to rapidly dividing cells, they can leave behind the slowly dividing cells that seed some tumours. And some have had trouble penetrating more than a few cell layers into their target tumours.
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Mark Peters in the Boston Globe:
Slang is probably as old as human language, though the first slang dictionaries only started popping up in the 16th century. But nothing has been a boon for slang lexicography like the digital age, as the searchability of newspaper databases has allowed the past to be explored like never before.
For fans of English at its rawest, the recent arrival of the online version of Green’s Dictionary of Slang is a major event. It’s also a reminder that slang — for all its sleaze and attitude — is just as susceptible to careful research as anything else.
British lexicographer and author Jonathan Green’s GDoS is the largest slang dictionary in the world, collecting terms from the United States, England, Australia, and everywhere else English is the dominant language. GDoS, like the Oxford English Dictionary, is a historical dictionary. This type of dictionary provides a lot more than definitions, etymology, and pronunciation notes: Historical dictionaries trace the evolution of terms over time. Since the best fossil evidence of word change is quotations, historical dictionaries are full of them, allowing readers to see how words function in the wild. A regular dictionary is a little like snapshots taken of zoo animals. A historical dictionary is more like footage from a hidden camera in the jungle or ocean.
This example-based approach is also the opposite of user-generated dictionaries such as Urban Dictionary. All major dictionaries crowdsource. But when there’s no editing or fact-checking, you get an entertaining product that’s far from a reliable source on what words are actually being used.
Ed Yong in The Atlantic:
In 2009, Danny Cahill won the eighth season of The Biggest Loser, a reality TV show in which contestants compete to lose the most weight. Over the program’s seven months, Cahill’s weight dropped from 430 pounds to just 191. But since then, he has regained 100. The same is true for most of the show’s contestants, several of whom are now heavier than they were before they took part.
Their story is all too common. Even when people successfully manage to lose weight, in the majority of cases, the vanished pounds return within a year—and often with reinforcements. For many people, weight loss isn’t just hard, it’s Sisyphean.
No one really understands the reasons behind this “weight cycling”, this so-called “yo-yo effect”. It seems to happen no matter your starting weight, or how much exercise you do. As my colleague Julie Beck noted earlier this year, the speed at which people lose weight might be important—but even that’s controversial. “There’s a lot of speculation but very little knowledge,” says Eran Elinav from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.
Now, by studying mice, Elinav and his colleague Eran Segal have shown that the yo-yo effect might be at least partly driven by the microbiome—the huge community of bacteria and other microbes that share our bodies.
Amanda Taub in the New York Times:
Yascha Mounk is used to being the most pessimistic person in the room. Mr. Mounk, a lecturer in government at Harvard, has spent the past few years challenging one of the bedrock assumptions of Western politics: that once a country becomes a liberal democracy, it will stay that way.
His research suggests something quite different: that liberal democracies around the world may be at serious risk of decline.
Mr. Mounk’s interest in the topic began rather unusually. In 2014, he published a book, “Stranger in My Own Country.” It started as a memoir of his experiences growing up as a Jew in Germany, but became a broader investigation of how contemporary European nations were struggling to construct new, multicultural national identities.
He concluded that the effort was not going very well. A populist backlash was rising. But was that just a new kind of politics, or a symptom of something deeper?
To answer that question, Mr. Mounk teamed up with Roberto Stefan Foa, a political scientist at the University of Melbourne in Australia. They have since gathered and crunched data on the strength of liberal democracies.
Their conclusion, to be published in the January issue of the Journal of Democracy, is that democracies are not as secure as people may think. Right now, Mr. Mounk said in an interview, “the warning signs are flashing red.”
Video length: 25:02
Cuba has long had a nearly identical life expectancy to the United States, despite widespread poverty. The humanitarian-physician Paul Farmer notes in his bookPathologies of Power that there’s a saying in Cuba: “We live like poor people, but we die like rich people.” Farmer also notes that the rate of infant mortality in Cuba has been lower than in the Boston neighborhood of his own prestigious hospital, Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s.
All of this despite Cuba spending just $813 per person annually on health care compared with America’s $9,403.
The difference comes back to the basic fact that in Cuba, health care is protected under the constitution as a fundamental human right. The U.S. protects unlimited firearms and freedom from quartering soldiers but does not guarantee health care. Instead we compromise, taking inefficient and expensive half-measures to rescue people in serious peril.
As a poor country, Cuba can’t afford to equivocate and waste money on health care. Much advanced technology is unavailable. So the system is forced instead to keep people healthy. This pressure seems to have created efficiency.
In May 1940, Hitler’s armies swept lightning-fast into France and the Low Countries. Fearing the worst as the Nazis advanced, more than eight million panicked civilians left their homes and fled south. It was soon one of the largest mass migrations in recorded history. Today, the French simply call it l’exode: the exodus. Two million Belgians were on the road by June, roughly one-third of the entire country. Six million of the refugees were French. Somewhere between one quarter and one third of them were children. Entire cities emptied overnight. Reims, a bustling regional center in Champagne, lost 98 percent of its quarter-million inhabitants. The town of Evreux shriveled from twenty thousand souls to fewer than two hundred. By June 13, even Paris had been deserted; only the old, the sick and the poor remained behind. Southbound roads coagulated and clogged with overheating cars, teenage boys on bicycles, pushcarts piled high with suitcases and mattresses and tired children. The last trains to leave the capital were choked with people.
One of the refugees, a 62-year-old French novelist named Léon Werth, produced an astonishing eyewitness account of his passage into exile. “We’re not living in ordinary times,” Werth wrote that summer. “We are shipwrecked.” That the memoir was ever published is something of a miracle. Thirty-three days after they left Paris, Werth and his wife Suzanne arrived in Saint-Amour, a village in the foothills of the Jura mountains. The text was completed by autumn, but publishing it in the so-called “free zone” of Vichy France was out of the question: Werth was Jewish. In October, however, Werth was visited by his best friend Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, a gifted writer and pilot who smuggled the manuscript out of France via Algiers and Lisbon. Werth never saw the book in print. Lost mysteriously for fifty years, the memoir first appeared in France in 1992. The first English edition of 33 Days appeared last year, a slim volume translated with great dexterity and feeling by Austin Denis Johnston.
The first time I was arrested by the Cuban police was almost thirty years ago. I was at Los Cocos prison, a half-hour drive outside Havana, talking across a wall to AIDS patients locked up there by the authorities. At the time, Cubans were being tested for HIV at work, and those found to be suffering from symptoms were taken and put away in this prison hospital facility, denied visits from family or friends.
At the time, soldiers returning from campaigns in Angola and Ethiopia were blamed for the outbreak of HIV-AIDS in Cuba. A few days after my attempt to interview the patients at Los Cocos, I found myself at a parade ground on the outskirts of Havana, where commander-in-chief Fidel Castro was to welcome the male and female troops back and bestow medals on them. This was the closest I ever came to El Comandante. He and his entourage brushed past me on their way towards the ranks of troops, and I could swear that the glare from the big man (and he was very big and burly, the son of an immigrant from Galicia in Spain) was meant just for me. Again, my attempts to interview any of the soldiers were cut short as I was bustled away from them.
Jane Brody in The New York Times:
What do you think is the most commonly asked question of a person who has, or has had, cancer? If you guessed, “How are you?” you got it right. But as caring as those words may seem, they are often not helpful and may even be harmful. At a celebratory family gathering a year after my own cancer treatment, a distant relative asked me just that. I answered, “I’m fine.” She then pressed, “How are you really?” “Really” I was fine, I told her. But what if I hadn’t been? Would I have wanted to launch into a description of bad medical news at what was supposed to be a fun event? Would I have wanted even to be reminded of a bout with cancer? Although my relative undoubtedly meant well, the way her concern was expressed struck me as intrusive. A diagnosis of cancer can tie the tongues of friends and family members or prompt them to utter inappropriate, albeit well-meaning, comments. Some who don’t know what to say simply avoid the cancer patient altogether, an act that can be more painful than if they said or did the wrong thing.
...Another author of very helpful books on living with cancer is Dr. Wendy Schlessel Harpham, who has had a recurring cancer for more than two decades. She suggests that people offer specific ways they can help. For example, they may say they can shop for groceries, care for children, take the dog for a run, or accompany the patient to the doctor, and then be sure to follow through with the offer. Many people now use online sites like caringbridge.org to keep people up to date on their health and needs or organizing platforms such as mealtrain.com or lotsahelpinghands.com to ask for specific help. Dr. Harpham said she came to dread the query “How are you?” because “no matter how it was intended, being asked ‘How are you?’ rattled my heightened sense of vulnerability. I found myself consoling those who asked and then fighting the contagion of grief and fear. Even when the news was good, I didn’t have the energy to include all the people who wanted updates.”
James Bond flies into Phuket, which he pronounces
Fukit and this announces the demise
of the colonial era.
My mother sits on the Left Bank, harvesting rice.
The Baron announces his arrival
with a slice of lemon between his teeth and
Panama with razors embedded in its rim, to wear
to restaurants with a view of crossfire.
The iron butterfly folds back her wings, and rests awhile
on the pillows of this city.
But they are soaked
with the formalin of diplomacy
and the perfumes of an irresistible corruption.
Finally the old merchants
dig up their gold and re-invest in a
coat of arms they wire to a security gate.
Guard dogs with degrees, and lap-dog breeds
that do not bark.
Here a childhood made sensitive to bombs,
a kindergarten closed down with prayer,
American linguists in a helicopter, dropping
ration packs of Chiclets and brand new grammar.
by Adam Aitken
from Romeo and Juliet in Subtitles
Brandl & Schlesinger, Sydney, 2000
ISBN: 1 876040 20 3
Monday, November 28, 2016
by Yohan J. John
Ever since Donald Trump's shocking victory in the recent US Presidential Elections, I have gotten a kick out of reminding people of the following: next year we will mark 50 years since the Summer of Love. One response, which I imagine reflects a common sentiment among left-liberals, was a sardonic laugh followed by the line "So next year will be the Summer of Hate, eh?"
We may experience more than a summer of hate next year if our worst fears about Trump and the Republicans come to pass. The absolute control they will soon wield over all three branches of government give them the power to roll back half a century and more of progressive policy, if they so choose. So can we convince the Right, or at least some sections of their supporters, that a better solution to their grievances is possible? Is there anything we can do to breathe new life into the dreams of the 1960s hippies and radicals? Peace, Love, Equality and Good Music For All? Perhaps, but this will require a major reorganization on the part of the Left.
And this reorganization needs to start right away. Liberal and left-leaning people all over the world are still reeling from the election shock, but we need to snap out of it and get to work. Our delusional confidence in the liberal media establishment lulled us into complacency. Now we are having to confront our biases and filter bubbles: one of the few silver linings in this ominous time.
The soul-searching on the Left is necessary right now. But there is a danger that social liberals will double down, continuing their losing strategy of framing all political debates in terms of identity politics: they will cry racism, bigotry and misogyny until they are blue in the face. This election should have proved that this is politically naïve in the extreme. The media was virtually unified in its revulsion of Trump. If months of decrying racism and misogyny during the election campaign did nothing to sway the electorate, what will protests (to say nothing of KKK-bashing internet memes) now achieve?
.... —ode to cells
Before metaphorical allusions
we are warm and wet.
Seas surge within us.
In little cytoplasmic bays,
tiny ships of golgi moor
near lysosome cays enclosed by
permeable breakwater membranes
that all rise and fall with nucleo tides
in ebbs and flows through generations
rendering noses pug or aquiline
and eyes skybright or in colors of loam;
tides that sculpt with Darwin’s surf
graceful geographies of bodies
that draw the tissue curtain
between what is and what’s not
over muscle and bone
inflaming passion, heat, desire
to close the current’s ring,
to come together again
immersed in what is warm and wet,
to touch, embrace, to recombine,
to love, to sing, to lose,
to remember to forget
by Syed Tasnim Raza
Denton Arthur Cooley, founder and president and at the time of his death president-emeritus of the Texas Heart Institute (THI), died on Friday November 18, 2016. He had celebrated his 96th birthday only three months earlier. Texas Heart Institute, founded in 1962, became a premier heart surgery center in the world, where Cooley is credited with performing 100,000 heart operations over 45 years. There were many highly skilled surgeons working at THI, who opened and closed the patients' chests and Cooley would just come in to do the main part of the operation. At his peak, he could complete 30 to 40 operations in a day!
Perhaps Cooley was the Henry Ford of heart surgery. While heart surgery was developed by many surgeons until it matured into the modern specialty as we know it in 1950's and 1960's, under the pioneering work of C. Walton Lillehei and John Kirklin both of Minnesota, it was Cooley who turned it into an assembly line operation at the Texas Heart Institute in the 1970s.
Heart surgery developed in fits and spurts, beginning with a simple suture of a stab wound of the heart by Ludwig Rehn of Frankfurt, Germany in 1896. One of the big steps, particularly in surgery for congenital heart disease, came in 1944 at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where Helen Taussig, pioneer pediatric cardiologist, proposed and Alfred Blalock, the famed chairman of surgery there, performed the first Blalock-Taussig shunt (also known as the Blue-baby operation) as treatment for cyanotic infants born with Tetralogy of Fallot, until they could grow up and a more definitive corrective operation could be performed. Denton Cooley was present for the first history-making Blue-baby operation on November 29, 1944.
Carrie Mae Weems. From the Series "Not Manet's Type", 1997.
by Katrin Trüstedt
Much has been written by now in attempt to explain the outcome of the recent US presidential election. Some recent interventions pitted the Democrats' "identity politics" against economic issues and have charged the Left with neglecting hard economic realities by focusing on supposedly marginal or imaginary problems. Such an opposition misses the point, however, that the relevant economic questions are inherently connected to problems of identity. Didier Eribon, collaborator of the late Michel Foucault (one of the presumed champions of identity politics), gives a compelling account of this connection between identity politics and economics in his 2009 book Retour à Reims. Revisiting the social and political situation of his upbringing in Reims, Eribon describes how processes of economic downgrade are intertwined with complex processes of re-identification. When he returns to the working class upbringing that he had escaped to become the Parisian gay intellectual he is now, he finds that his relatives and their peers – who had always been voting for the Communist Party and who had built their social and political identities around it – have shifted towards voting for the Front National.
The decision to vote a certain way and the entire social and political subjectivation underlying this decision cannot be traced back to a given political stance or factual economic interests, but is instead indebted to a complex dynamic of identification and demarcation. In order to explain the striking shift in the milieu of his upbringing, Eribon foregrounds not "just" the considerable economic hardship the working class has endured in France, but more importantly, the fact that this economic hardship has been ignored in the past decades by the left party under François Mitterrand (with many parallels to the Democrats in the US, the Labour Party under Tony Blair in the UK and the Social Democrats under Gerhard Schröder in Germany). The way that his relatives, like so many others, have turned away from a strong allegiance with the Left is connected to a feeling of being "hurt" in a particular way. Not only has their economic status deteriorated, but the degradation also has remained unacknowledged.
by Katalin Balog
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
(Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”)
*This essay, on the personal in politics, is written in lieu of the final instalment of The Brain’s I, a series I have been publishing here on the subjective/objective divide in our lives and thought. The Brain’s I, Part 4, will appear here after the holidays.
I am so glad this mess was not Leonard Cohen’s last impression of the planet. But the rest of us are left to grapple with the same thing that occupied much of his work: how to affirm living in a broken world. The world was not quite whole on November 7th but we could still pretend, could still hope; November 8th has made it official. A giant crack has appeared – though not at all the one we have expected, and the country and the world has jumped with two feet into the abyss.
It is impossible to write or think anything about the causes of Trump’s victory and the nature of his support that is not hopelessly one-sided and has “particular point of view” written all over it. Right now, what we see divides us. But beyond all the sound and fury, the one inescapable fact is that the election is the expression of the will and soul of a significant portion of America. No amount of rational analysis or soul searching can blunt the message this sends. It hurts.
Early in the day of the election I thought of the pain and confusion Trump supporters would feel upon his loss. I could anticipate their reaction because I knew I would feel the same if my candidate lost. I was nervous and a bit uncertain but still expected Hillary to win. Later, when anticipation turned into dread, disbelief, and a growing sense of defeat, I did not think of the joy of the victors with sympathy. A chasm has opened; they were now the enemy. I was consumed now with a flood of sadness, fear and anger and revulsion I could not imagine just hours before. I was gripped by the same emotions many of Trump supporters, apparently, have felt for years, maybe decades… Was this the bitter medicine we needed to wake up? Was it poetic justice for festering inequality as some on the left suggest? Should we simply tone down the blame, and outrage, recognizing in our newly kindled primal hostility the mirror of the negative emotions we condemn in our adversary, as Martha Nussbaum suggests? There is something to all of this. But it’s all so much more complicated.
There is no sugarcoating this. This is not an ordinary disappointment about the wrong policy, the wrong candidate, things not going my way. It cannot be overcome by more tolerance and commitment to social justice. Whatever the motives and struggles of many of Trump’s voters, his election is an epic cultural, moral and intellectual collapse on the collective level. Crudeness, racism and ignorance has won.
A Dewdrop and The Stars
“Tell a story,”
said the stars to the dewdrop,
“of a garden far from the heavens,
a vanished world
to which the moon sings of love.”
”O stars,” said the dewdrop,
“not a garden but a world of sighs:
the breeze visits only to return
and the rose, the garden’s flourish,
blooms merely to wither,
bears the pain, can’t pluck pearls
even from its own hem, is silent
as the nightingale wails:
the humming bird is imprisoned:
it’s an outrage!
The eye of the ailing iris is forever moist.
The box tree, free only in name,
is scorched by the heat of its own bawl.
Stars are sparks of man’s burning.
The moon naively believes revolving
cures her scarred heart;
the garden is air
a sad image on the horizon’s canvas.
I am the sky’s teardrop
secret of the sea is within me.”
by Rafiq Kathwari, @brownpundit, rafiqkathwari.com
by Carol A. Westbrook
Jurgis Daugvilla (1923-2008) was an artist, and a master carver of wood sculptures in the tradition of Lithuanian folk artists. He was a neighbor, and a friend of my husband, Rick, a third-generation Lithuanian. "Richard," he would say, "Your house is at the crossroads of our town. You should have a Kryžius in your yard."
"Kryžius" (pronounced "kree'-jus) means "cross," and refers to the tall, totem-pole-like wooden carvings which appear as roadside shrines throughout Lithuania. The tradition goes back to pagan times, when they were used to mark sites of cult offerings, especially at crossroads and burial grounds. The monuments featured folk carvings, with peaked roofs for protection from the elements. When Christianity arrived at the end of the 14th century, the pagan monuments were topped with crosses, allowing for their preservation by converting them into emblems of faith. Every region in Lithuanian had its particular cross-making traditions, incorporating folk symbols,
pagan cults, geometrical shapes and religious icons.They were found throughout the countryside, but especially at crossroads and cemeteries, continuing in the pagan tradition.
Christianity did not halt this tradition, but politics did. Because of their significance as a national and religious symbol, many of these crosses were destroyed during the Soviet occupation, 1944-1990. The famous "Hill of Crosses" in northern Lithuania became a symbol of peaceful resistance, as crosses were added while the Soviets attempted to remove them, bulldozing the site at least three times. In 1990 there were 55,000 crosses on the hill, and today there are over 100,000. The Kryžius remains an important symbol of Lithuanian nationalism, and new ones have begun to re-appear across the landscape.
by Max Sirak
We live in an uncertain world. We hate to admit it, but it's true. So true, in fact, physicist Max Born wrote, as quoted by Leonard Mlodinow, "Chance is a more fundamental conception than causality." (The Drunkard's Walk) This idea probably sits poorly with most of us, quantum physicists aside, for two reasons.
The first is because causality, on a local level, the me-and-you level, is something easy to observe. I can take a full glass of water, knock it over, and cause it to spill. You can go turn on the stove, touch it, and cause your hand to burn. These and thousands of other experiences like them prove our agency in the world.
The second is because it's scary. It's a big, indifferent world out there. It sits in a bigger and more indifferent solar system, which in turn rests in an even bigger and more indifferent galaxy, which itself is part of a bigger and more indifferent universe, one of many in the grandest and most indifferent structure of all, the multiverse.
And, because of the salience of our experiences and the immensity of our universal setting, we don't feel great about uncertainty. Instead of making friends with this fundamental truth and learning the best ways to work with it, we actively strive to do everything in our power to rail against it.
by Brooks Riley
by Maniza Naqvi
Shared a wooden bench at Union Station. Sat side by side. I hunched. Waiting for Red Caps to come get us. Take us to our tracks. To our trains. Mama GiGi and I. Police in black riot gear with dogs, eyed us, loitering nearby. And around us, more of us. With strollers, carry-ons and backpacks, attached. Thanksgiving travelers. People moving like lines of refugees stumbling along, on and on.
Her train departing at 3.30 to Norfolk, Virginia beach. Mine before hers to NYC. She turned to me and talked and talked. And I with my eyes on this and that watched a clock and listened and listened keeping a look out for a Red Cap. She: All my love. All honey. Mama GiGi.
Long hair flowing flaming volcanic lava red, under a floppy red suede hat. A silver cross hung at her chest. Pale white wrists, red scabs. Pant suit. Fire engine red. Also. Crimson nail polish. To match. Bare feet in sandals. A scarf of old glory draped around her neck. Rhinestone encrusted sunglasses. By her side a tote bag full of pill bottles in Ziploc bags.
Mama GiGi talked and talked. Each sentence preceded by the words, my love. I listened on. And on. Mama GiGi, a pastor of her own church: Treasures of the Heart. She gave me her card. Her daddy was mafia. Her mother a drunk. And. So. She'd been dropped. She said. She'd been a lap dancer, a crackhead, a Heroin addict. She'd aborted two babies at age 15. Born Catholic. She'd left all that. To be born again. An addict again. For Jesus.
She'd found Jesus. Hymns in her, abounded. Jesus had saved her. Founded, the lost. The dropped. Picked her up. Lifted up an addict and a whore. You're looking at a miracle, she said. I said, that's way too easy. I'm looking at America.
"Snortin' coke, fuckin' whores and goin' to the track."
Duke Ellington said 'Jack Daniels' was Paul Gonsalves' punch line. The former might have been Mike's. He knew Beethoven symphonies and Coltrane solos, Victorian poets and Tupac lyrics. While welding bolts into steel beams, interval sets danced in his head.
He bought a gorgeous Silver Selmer Mark VI tenor with money from selling his mother's house. Soon, it was in pawn. When a saxophone-playing buddy found out, he paid the ticket and took the Selmer home. He lent Mike a student-model horn and showed up to the gig to deliver it, staying to listen and babysit the cheaper ax. The usurious loan on the Selmer; twenty-odd bucks a week. As long as Mike stayed current with his friend, he could look forward to playing the beauty in a few months. Despite union wages and assorted disability scams, Mike failed to make timely payments. His pal reluctantly kept the Selmer and let Mike have the student horn.