Saturday, August 02, 2014

Hobby Lobby

Praise to Civil Liberties News, publication of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota. I am scheduled to volunteer at the ACLU-MN booth at the Minnesota State Fair this year and am looking forward to it. Nevertheless, I feel out of the loop re: Hobby Lobby, a craft store chain. I read in an interfaith newsletter that Hobby Lobby had fired a woman worker who had requested unpaid leave when she was four months pregnant. That case was described by the interfaith newsletter as Hobby Lobby's religious hypocrisy. In general, I have had the question: Are employers required to pay for the birth of newborns? Birth is much more expensive than any form of birth control. In my days as a low-paid employee, $5/hour when minimum was about $3.50 and $18K/year, one job offer I received in the publishing industry in New York, two single-owner business employers informed me that their insurance premiums were $2K per year higher if they employed fertile women than premiums they paid for men. I wish the debated subject could focus on condoms, in frankness. Condoms are instantly reversible as birth control; they prevent the potential spread of sexually-transmissible infections; and they are mutually consensual. Users of condoms are aware that no conception has taken place. In human rights, a man and a woman may marry and bring forth a family. It is a civil right in the U.S. but not a human right (as far as I know) to raise a child singly without the knowledge of the other parent, the father in natural circumstances or either parent in clinical circumstances. I see Ruth Bader Ginsburg's photo floating the Internet. One wonders if she is actually agreeing to be represented in venues such as Salon or if her photo is merely in use as a symbol of "women's right to choose." Women's right to choose is rather bogus. Choice, as I think of it, has turned out to be suitable as the brand name of a dog food. Women disallowed to have children may be more like pets. Roe v. Wade means that the doctor decides and it seems unrelated to abortion's legality; it has been a form of gag order for women, who it is presumed have zero interest in bringing forth children. To me, belonging is a better basis for understanding how a natural family comes about: Two people meet and feel belonging, and a child takes place. Under the Affordable Care Act, must companies finance child birth, that is very expensive and may involve surgery and hospital stays? Is contraception merely a cheap way out of comprehensive reproductive health care? Is it truly the case that women are disinterested in becoming mothers? Is it truly the case that employers welcome women employees' opportunity to have children? Should the costs of child birth only be attached to the mother's health insurance policy with her employer? Please submit your ideas.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Job Needed

Hi, Carolyn Holbrook. I guess you just poked me. Thanks. Sorry for being so lame. There is no excuse for it. I limp because it's comfortable to limp. My ex-cat, Francis, started to limp one day. I brought him in. He liked Doctor Jim, notable since as a smart man cat, he avoided men, except two, not other people's favorites, and dogs. At the vet, Fran leaped from the table without sign of a limp. Dr. Jim said that if Fran was still limping by Friday, he'd test him for diabetes. I told that to Franny at home, who had returned to limping in the hall, apparently for effect. Then, following a separate warning, since he wouldn't let me brush him fully, Fran removed the mat he had let form near his anus and deposited it at the door of my and my dad's former office. It might have made me look bad at the vet that he had grown, that I had let him grow what I had termed rasta balls. I saved the mat after Fran expertly removed it with his teeth, that my sister, visiting, verified was gross to hear described when I showed it to her. In the end, Franny lasted outside each day almost sixteen years without bodily injury. He hunted. He left the house in the morning in Minnetonka as if he were a fire fighter and returned at noon to eat cat food, even after slaying and eating half a junior rabbit. He never gave up cat food or his dish of water in the kitchen. Lizards in Texas, beheadings, bitter tasting, probably, so he didn't swallow them. He walked -- then and then -- the edge of the property as if he had read the deed. He was a Himalayan/tabby mix from upstate New York, gray long hair. Here is the point of my correspondence: I have enjoyed three paid teaching days in Minnesota, since my return in 1996. All three paid days were fielded through S.A.S.E., all three at Patrick Henry. I loved it there. I hope never to become certified to teach. I'd go in again, especially to Saturday morning detention. The kids were so responsive to my creative writing lesson that morning. Did the proctor tell you, as she told me, the kids had never liked a lesson as much as they had liked that lesson. Please get me a job! Is there a way? I'd hoped to be in St. Paul tonight for Mankwe's performance. Stan Kusunoki invited me. I lost time today, so I feel welfare-lost in outer space again. It's $1.33/hour for a 24-hour day that covers medical co-pays and insurance only. The last therapist, a nice one at JFCS, said I'd be unable to hold a job. I have signed up for a job fitness test in Minneapolis in August. Minnesota Workforce Center offers the test but has been otherwise uncivil. -- If you go this evening, please give everyone my regards. ~AMB

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Gift, short story

That's it. The rest is history. And history is never as interesting as what your imagination can give you. History is what you get when the projector gets stuck.

It turns out that art, like everything else, is what some people do for a living. Art, what passes for it, is a commodity. It is just one more thing to pay for, lug home with you, borrow, or steal—hurtar para dar por Dios, as it says in the dictionary.

If I could rouse any interest, I would start a support group for people committed to art. I would circulate a petition, start an internal movement to bust people out of the art hospital. I would get a witness to say that I were healthy enough to live on my own, to make a decent living. What is stopping me is thinking that I am bound to the commitment I made to art as a child.

One way to make something real is in solitary confinement. Some people walk with God and honor their commitments. Those people may live anywhere on Earth except in the limelight.

Lock-up, I queried. Where is lock-up?

I would not have asked where lock-up is had I known it would seem forensic. The first thing you find out in lock-up is that God exists. In other situations you could just dismiss this information. In lock-up that is impossible. The second thing you find out is that God is everywhere, even in you. Your job as an artist is to come up with a reasonable gift to present to God.

Most people who go into the art hospital never get out. They just get moved to more comfortable quarters. Some of them, the invalids and life-long convalescents, live on the deluxe wing. The worst thing is knowing that deep down I want to stay. I would show no sign of resistance if they offered me a room with a view. "Put the trophies over there," I would tell my students from my comfortable bed.

For about one month out of solitary I would have appreciators. There would be no question about it—I had served both God and man. After that, if I managed to do anything more, they would give me students. It is very strange, these students. They come from miles around to be put in the hospital with you. Most of them are starving and craven. Usually it is because they had a parent or step-parent who belonged in one hospital or another themselves but who managed to hold on by sheer will power to the world outside. Then values changed, and these offspring lost the wherewithal to define their own existence. There are millions and millions of them, and their numbers are growing. There will never be enough beds.

The easiest wholesale solution is for everyone to drink their gift to death. That way is the most popular, but it is not the only possibility.

If people were willing to open their minds a bit, they could find constructive uses for creative energy. They could leave the hospital, even for day trips, and no one would blame them for changing their minds. They could write to their congressmen. They could volunteer at shelters for the homeless; better yet, they could go on the road with Jimmy Carter and build habitats for humanity. They could sing in the church choir. They could grow a garden. They could raise their own children. We do not need as much art as we are making. There are many other things we need more.

Some people, women especially, go the sex route. They devote their ingenuity to making themselves as sexy as movie stars. Artists can never be worshipped as mindlessly as movie stars, but some of them come pretty close. Other artists, the men especially, sleep around or mulch up their brains on fame.

The very lucky few get shipped back to solitary confinement. Most of these do not know they are lucky, chosen. They think they are being punished for bad reviews. They think bad reviews cheat. They think good reviews tell the truth.

There is no need to worry about art. Art in its ideal forms stays safe. Real art resists being the object of attention. It directs your gaze, and it swings in you forever.

Of the inmates with windows, every year, one or two of them, the purest at heart, beg to be let back into the cell. They are afraid they might jump. That would be going beyond the call of duty, something no one might say. They say that they have learned their lesson, and they promise all the real powers-that-be that they will work harder this time. They sign statements to that effect and they apologize to their loved ones for the emotional and financial turmoil they have caused and will continue to cause until death. (In some of them, the very exemplary, this bad behavior will be held up as customary, even as tax-exempt.) They say goodbye to them and vow never to look outside themselves for companionship or diversion again. Of course, it does not last. Pretty soon someone or something better comes along.

They all have one thing in common. They discovered their gift in the first place because they needed a friend, so they made one up. They kept on making things up until they had a world. Now that they have real friends, and sex, you would think they could just let it rest, but they can’t. They still have something to prove, so they put their name on the waiting list to perform their very own, original talent shows in the seasick cafeteria.

Most of the shows are the same, except in detail. It is rare indeed when someone gets the wind whipping through your grapevine. These days most anything is acceptable as an offering—a stick of wood, a drum roll, a shitty conversation ya had with a friend. The ones who feel ashamed of their limitations almost quit.

It was better in the days before promotion, when having a gift meant something in Latin. In God, a token to His allness in your smallness. A simple nest egg.

(1991)

Published in Mad Hatters' Review, issue 10, 2008.