Tuesday, October 30, 2018

My latest novel and a different look at sexual assault

My fifth novel, 6 Guys, 1 Girl, 1 Night, has just come out. The title reveals the precipitating event: a group of fraternity brothers meet a girl at a tavern, take her to an apartment, and each have sex with her. However, they have her consent and they don't think any more about it. Then, 27 years later, the child born of that night comes looking for his dad and justice for his mother, whom he has never met.

This isn't a date rape story. It's a story about another kind of sexual assault, for she gets pregnant that night. None of the men thought about birth control. They figured that was her problem. And of course it turned out that it was. And decades later it becomes their problem. Jason is angry and wants to hold these men accountable for his life.

The novel is based in part on a true story. A man who was in my life for a while told me that he and his frat brothers had been the 6 guys in 1 night. To his credit, he was ashamed of the experience and didn't try to justify it at all. That story has stayed in my memory and although I could have made that night the center of the story, it isn't. My interest was in exploring the men's reactions all that time later and what that might say about men in our culture. Who will and who won't take responsibility?

6 Guys, 1 Girl, 1 Night is available from amazon and kindle (https://amzn.to/2xIjYWL) and smashwords (http://bit.ly/2Djp3Lm). If you read, let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

In a New York minute

One of my favorite Don Henley songs is the New York Minute, whose refrain goes "In a New York minute, everything can change." We live our lives as if it's all available, only vaguely and occasionally aware that nothing is certain and everything can change.

I met Rebecca in 1991 when I was teaching a class on African women's literature for the Pennsylvania Humanities commission's adult program. She was a student in that class and an astute reader. She was getting a PhD in education administration and worked as a high school principal. When I left Pennsylvania, we started an old-fashioned correspondence by mail, sending cards and letters to each other every couple of months. From time to time, I'd also receive a package: a calendar, a newspaper clipping, a book. I'd send her art I was working on or readings I found interesting. It has been a wonderful friendship of intellectual intimacy.

I hadn't heard from Rebecca since April but there were occasionally long silences. Then last week, I heard from a mutual friend on FB that Rebecca had been in an accident and had been in several hospitals and then a rehabilitation facility. To make a long story short, she fell while walking her dog (slipped on some grass), injured her shoulder, made it home to the front walk and passed out from pain onto the concrete steps leading up to her home. She broke her nose but worst of all, she broke her neck. She 's now a tri-plegic with use only of her right arm below the elbow. 

She is in good spirits and her mind is clear. For that I am so grateful because I know she will find a way to be in herself that works for her. I have been sitting with my sadness for her and my admiration at the same time. And holding to the preciousness of life in whatever form it takes. I'm going to go listen to that song.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Completing a 10-year-old drainer

Drainers are those tasks we put off doing, even though every time we think of them our energy goes down. For over 10 years, I've wanted my living room ceiling painted. It got painted last in 2002. I remember it well as it was painted the Sunday that my dad died. A friend of a friend with painting experience had agreed to come that day and paint the kitchen and the living room for a price I could afford. So I gave him the keys, went on to the hospital and did the last vigil. Then I went to a friend's house to crash, as I had been up most of the night for several days.

Six years later, I had the walls repainted because the stark white he'd used didn't please me and it had grown dirty with the inevitable city air. But I didn't have anyone willing to paint the ceiling again for something I could afford. So for 10 years, I've wanted to have it done in the same color as the walls, a soft gold white. But the quotes I got for ceiling painting were way beyond me. This fall I determined to get it done, even if I had to do it myself. Turned out I didn't.

My nephew, who is 6'5" was able to do the ceiling with ease and no ladder. He was delighted to have the money for it and I was thrilled to have the ceiling match the walls and be off my list after a decade. Hurray!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

An interesting look at my past and maybe yours

I recently watched a good BBC mini-series called White Heat (available on Brit Box, a Prime network). It stars Clare Foy, who is playing Elizabeth II in the Crown series. It's a bit like the Big Chill. Old friends come together after the death of one of the gang. But the series is really about the past, not the present. It starts in 1965 when the seven young people come together as flat mates in London. Lots of it reminded me of my own past: abortion issues, Vietnam, the miserable politics of the late 70s and 80s that planted all the seeds of destruction we see today.

The first episode was particularly interesting to me because I am in a big inquiry about vocation and calling and one of the premises of the course I'm taking is that we are often following someone else's map for our lives, not our own. In three different scenes in that first episode, the parents of these kids, suriviors of the Depression and WWII, all try to impress their map of life onto their children, regardless of the children's own intuitive needs and desires.

It has helped me in my thinking about my own life and how it reflects the experiences of my parents both before I was born and as I was growing up.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Is real leadership possible in an infantilized culture?

It's no secret that we live in a youth-oriented culture. We don't value or respect the real goals of education: intellectual development, critical thinking, lifelong learning. We don't ask kids to do much that's hard anymore, we see college as job training, and most institutions of higher learning tolerate huge amounts of sexual misconduct and substance abuse. We condone bad behavior in our leaders that should have stopped when these guys were 15. Sadly, the same kind of kids who broke into Watergate are now running the big companies and the Congress. The back row of white male glee at the Kavanaugh hearings struck me as both sickening and tragic.

I don't have any answers for this conundrum. We have turned our pursuit of happiness into an obesity of greed and an obesity of power, things that traditionally have been seen as negative qualities, as sins. Now they run the show and enough people recognize their own immature selves in the power-holders to keep electing them.

Not every older male I know is a boy. I know some wonderful men. But I know more boys who are 50 and 60 and 70. All you have to do is go on dating sites and read what they like to do. Boys' things: cars, sports, TV, video games, killing animals.

Now a boy has joined the Supreme Court. I don't know of the other males on the SC are boys too, but Kavanaugh certainly is. You only have to watch the hearings to see that this isn't a man. I feel a lot of sadness about this.