PS, It’s Been Twenty-Five Years

Today is Pepper Day!   While Nano Poblano is only in November, Pepper Day is the 22nd day of every month, so it's extra Peppery!  Post something today.  A blog, a photo, a poem- anything at all! Tag it PepperDay!  Enjoy, and Happy Peppering!

As part of my annual goodreads.com reading challenges, I just finished “Postscript,” Cecilia Ahern’s followup to “PS, I Love You.” “PS, I Love You” was a story about a woman named Holly who starts receiving helpful letters from her recently-deceased husband. The letters send her on a journey where she rediscovers herself, finds a new path forward out of her grief, and so forth. It became a movie with Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler. The sequel picks up about seven years later, with Holly in a new relationship. When she retells the story of the letters from the first novel on a podcast, she gets pulled into helping a group of terminal patients who want to do the same thing, leaving messages behind after they die.

Ahern writes about grief with such insight that I was positive that she was writing from personal experience. As it turns out, she’s just a really gifted writer of fiction and a keen observer of humans being humans. In her own words, “when I wrote PS, I Love You, I was 21 and a lot of people asked if you hadn’t experienced grief. How can you write about it? But I do think that grief is made up of so many emotions that we do experience from the moment we’re born. We know what it’s like to feel loss, to feel alone, to feel uncertain, to lose a sense of ourselves and our identity. Grief is all of those things.”

Yesterday was twenty-five years to the day since the death of someone I loved with all my heart. I don’t talk about her as often now as I used to, but the people who have known me the longest know all about that part of my life because I wouldn’t shut up about it. Truth be told, I thought I had mentioned this countless times already on my blog, but I searched my own words tonight and I don’t see a single post talking about it.

For the three or four of you who don’t know the story, she died suddenly on February 21st, 1996. It was tragic and unfair and it really fucked me up for a long time. In the years that have passed since then, I’ve made an uneasy peace with some aspects of her passing. Twenty-five years is a long time to ponder things. I believe now that she didn’t love me as much as I loved her, but that’s not important. I know what she meant to me, and how that has shaped my life in the years since.

Which brings me back to Postscript, and the part of the novel that pushed me into writing about it here:

There is so much about me that Gerry wouldn’t recognize. I am older than Gerry ever was, I know things that he never knew, that he will never know. And it’s the little things that stop me in my tracks. He never lived to hear the word “hangry.” Every time I hear the word I think of him, he would have loved it when his belly was full and hated it when it was empty. The invention of things he would appreciate. New phones. New technologies. New political leaders, new wars. Cronuts. New Star Wars movies.

“Postscript,” Cecelia Ahern

…and this is a true thing. She would barely recognize the person I am now, despite my mostly-never-changing face. I’m more than twice as old now as I was when she died. Pre-1996 Steven was much more of a live-action Muppet than present-day Steven. I’m quieter now than I used to be, less boisterous. Her death was a catalyst for the path my life took afterward.

I’m certain that my friends have noticed in the years since that I take a truly insane number of photographs. I take pictures at family gatherings, parties, special events, and even just regular day-to-day things. (Seriously, let me show you my astonishing collection of photos of the avocado toast I’ve eaten over the years.) I’ve taken tens of thousands of photos in the last decade or so, and part of that is because of her. There are no photographs of her and me together. I have only one photograph of her, just one. It’s off to the right there. I realized years later that I needed more photographs of all the people in my life because you never know when you won’t have another chance to take their picture.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I had been able to save her. The question, “what if I’d been there that day,” is a slow-burning poison, because it’s not something that can be changed. And if it could be changed, it would unravel the fabric of the person I’ve become in the years since. Less than two years after her funeral, I made a decision to enroll at the University of Central Florida to finish my degree. In the years since then, I’ve owned a home. I’ve traveled extensively. I’ve had more than a few failed relationships. I’ve come to know my own heart more precisely than younger me did. I’m not certain that any of that would have been in my path if she was still alive. It’s a dark trade-off to consider, but it’s another true thing.

Whenever I write about her, I feel self-indulgent and mawkish, and it’s NEVER what I was trying to say. My words are never equal to the burden of my heart. I will probably delete this post after a day or so.

Here’s to you, Vanessa. You changed my world when you were alive, but you changed it even more when you died.

Would a younger you recognize the person you are today?

8/52

On Staying In

Sometimes I don’t leave the apartment for a week at a time.

I started to think about why I’m so comfortable not going out, and I thought at first that maybe it was tied to my current sleep routine. Every night I spend time doomscrolling and obsessive news lurking, then reading on my Kindle until my eyes are bleary, then listening to music until I’m actually drowsy. Then and only then do I actually – finally – fall asleep. Most nights, that’s around 2am. When I spatula myself out of bed the next morning for work, I invariably insist to myself that I will go to sleep earlier the next night, but I never do. Hell, I even have a cron running on my computer that makes it speak aloud, “go to bed you idiot” at 10:30 each night. I guess I don’t sleep much.

Part of the problem, for me, is that I am never, ever bored at home. There’s always something to read, a video to watch, small projects to put off. All my stuff is here! There’s always something to do when I should be sleeping like a sane and normal person. (Yes, I know my sleep hygiene is garbage; that’s not what this post is about.)

In the last two weeks, I’ve left the building perhaps three times. Once to the dentist, once to the grocery store, and the other time was a walk with a friend to pick up some dinner. I recently mentioned to that same friend that I hadn’t really been out in a while and she asked why- and I didn’t have a good answer. I mean, yes, part of it was that work had been particularly contentious, including a weekend full of twelve-hour workdays.

I feel a little guilty that I’m being a bad friend by holing up in my apartment instead of trying to socialize more with my friends, but then most of them who are too skittish about Covid to actually do anything social. I don’t blame them – everyone has their own comfort level about being out and about during the pandemic. I don’t know anyone up here who would dine inside a restaurant. And it’s just cold enough to be really uncomfortable dining outside.

Switching to pandemic lock-down was easy for me because my own built-in inertia already makes me predisposed to stay in. Without social plans – a concert, a movie, a musical, pub trivia, or dinner with a friend – I’m perfectly happy to stay at home and do my own thing. Left to my own devices, I can easily stay at home for days at a time. Longer, with food delivery.

There’s really just not that much going on in the outside world lately. Honestly, though, I can’t think of a good reason for not going outside, other than “I just don’t want to.” The only real down side is that the longer I stay in, the harder it is for me to finally get up and go outside.

Do you get stir-crazy when you can’t go out for a long time?

6/52

King Cake

Last week, when I needed a palate cleanser, I completely forgot that I had an ACTUAL palate cleanser, in the form of King Cake! The events of this post actually took place on January 6th, but posting about it slipped my mind because I needed to write about the Capitol Insurrection first to blow off some steam.

Several of my friends are New Orleans residents, so I’ve heard about King Cake on and off for years, but I had never had one. (I did have the German equivalent, Dreikönigskuche, or Three King’s Cake, around Fasching, but I didn’t make the connection until very recently.)

The basic idea is this: Every year, between Twelfth Night on January 6th and Fat Tuesday, when Lent begins, New Orleans is full of King Cakes and Mardi Gras events. You can get King Cake throughout that time, but don’t eat it before January 6th!

When I saw my New Orleans friends starting to talk about King Cake this year, I remembered that one of the DMV’s best New Orleans style bakeries was just a short distance away. I quick check on their website confirmed that they do, in fact, sell King Cake, and so I placed an order.

The Bayou Bakery King Cake is almost a sweet-bread more than a cake. It’s a Danish-style cake filled with “Creole Cream Cheese,” whatever that means. It’s topped with white icing and dusted with sugar in the three colors of Mardi Gras: gold for power, green for faith, and purple for justice. It comes with some Mardi Gras beads, and a little plastic baby.

Some of the stories say that the plastic baby is from the olden days when there would be a bean in the cake and whoever got the piece with the bean would be King for a day, or something like that. The more recent iteration of the story is that you can hide the baby somewhere in the cake and whoever gets that piece is the lucky host of next year’s King Cake party.

The Bayou Bakery King Cake costs $39.95 and serves 14-16 people. Since I was only willing to have ten or twelve servings myself, I took it to a friend’s house and she and her daughter helped me to consume it.

If you’re in the DMV and want one of these delicious cakes, they’re available until February 16th, at Bayou Bakery in Arlington. https://www.bayoubakeryva.com/king-cakes

Have you ever had a King Cake?

5/52

What else is on?

After the rage and ugliness of yesterday’s post, I was in need of a palate cleanser. To answer that need, I bring you talk of some new stuff on television! I watch a lot of television. Too much television. I love a good and entertaining story.

With that in mind, here are a few of the new shows that I’m looking forward to seeing in chronological start-date order.

Call Me Kat: Already started.
Mayim Bialik’s post-Big-Bang-Theory outing is two episodes in so far. It’s a fluffy sitcom with lots of fourth-wall breaking and a great cast. Leslie Jordan is worth watching in absolutely anything, and the rest of the ensemble keeps up beautifully. With Jim Parsons on board as an executive producer (but not a cast member,) this is entertaining so far. I doubt it will get a second season, but we’re all starved for comedy so maybe I’m wrong.

The Watch: Already started.
This is a vaguely steampunk adaptation of a group of characters and concepts conceived of in Sir Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” novels. The adaptation is very loose, as the original Discworld setting was more medieval than steampunk. Discworld purists are unhappy with the project because it’s not faithful to the source material, and Neil Gaiman compared it to “Batman if he’s now a news reporter in a yellow trenchcoat with a pet bat.” While I agree that it’s not really Discworld anymore, I’m still watching it. I’m three episodes in, and it’s entertaining despite the departures from the original stories.

WandaVision: Jan 15.
This is set after the events of Infinity War and Endgame, so we go into the series knowing only that Vision is dead. Because of the pandemic, 2020 was a year with no Marvel movies or tv shows. This gave us an unwanted pause between the events of Endgame and literally all of Marvel’s Phase 4 releases. As you might imagine, I’m dying to see this show. I need to know what happens next!

Batwoman: Jan 17.
While I’m mostly not talking about returning shows in this post, I’ll make an exception for Batwoman because it’s effectively a reboot. Since Ruby Rose surprised us all by departing the show at the end of last season, we have a new woman (Javicia Leslie) in the cowl. The show is setting up the disappearance of Rose’s Kate Kane character as a central mystery for the new season, but I doubt it will have a satisfying resolution since Ruby Rose has no interest in returning to the series. Regardless, I do enjoy a good comic book tv show, and this looks to be a fun second chapter.

Walker: Jan 21.
Now that Supernatural finished its eleventy-fifth and final season, Jared Padalecki has moved on to the CW’s reboot of Walker: Texas Ranger. I’ll give the pilot episode a watch, but I don’t expect to be super enthralled.

Resident Alien: January 27.
This was announced months ago, and I’ve been excited to see it ever since. Alan Tudyk is just so much fun to watch, and this is a really entertaining premise.

Equalizer: Feb 7 (after the Superb Owl)
It is the season of reboots, and Queen Latifah taking on the title role looks like a lot of fun. This seems like it will have more in common with the 1980s Equalizer series starring Edward Woodward than the recent Denzel Washington movies of the same name.

Clarice: Feb 11.
Set about a year after the events of Silence of the Lambs, this show follows the ongoing story of Clarice Starling. It has the potential to be very good or very bad. If it turns out to be very good, I hope like hell they snag Mads Mikkelson to pop up here and there as Hannibal Lecter, just to keep things interesting.

Superman & Lois: Feb 23.
Tyler Hoechlin’s delightful version of Superman was first introduced in the Supergirl series. He’s popped up in other Arrowverse shows here and there, and he has rapidly become one of my favorite actors to wear the cape. I’m both happy and scared for this show because as much as I like Hoechlin’s Clark, I haven’t been impressed with Elizabeth Tulloch as Lois Lane. Add to that the fact that they’ve got children- two boys. Suddenly, Superman is a family man. It’s a different dynamic to any version I’ve really seen before. I want to like it because I usually love Superman stories, so I remain cautiously optimistic that it will avoid sucking.

Punky Brewster: Feb 25.
Soleil Moon Frye is back as Punky Brewster. As an adult. Honestly, do I need to say more about this?

Foundation: Some time later in 2021.
Making a tv series out of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series is incredibly ambitious. Until recent special effects technologies came into being, this would have been borderline unfilmable. Apple TV+ hasn’t announced a release date, but it looks absolutely fabulous. Plus Lee Pace is the Emperor of the Galaxy and Terrence Mann is in one of the main roles. Color me intrigued.

What have you been watching lately? And what new shows are you excited for?

4/52

Let’s talk about last Wednesday.

I’ve tried several times over the last few days to write about last Wednesday’s insurrection at the US Capitol, but was having trouble finding the words. I generally don’t blog about politics, because politics are angry-making and I prefer to stay on the side of whimsy. This cannot go without comment though.

The events of last Wednesday enrage me. I was watching C-Span to see the counting of electoral votes. C-Span’s whole schtick is that it’s parliamentary government in action so it’s usually the height of boring. But then partway through the vote counting and objection speeches, insurrectionists breached the Capitol and the Congress had to be evacuated.

We already knew the so-called “stop the steal” rally was going to be noisy and awful, but then Rudy Giuliani suggested trial by combat, and Trump himself egged on his cultists, telling them to march to the Capitol.

Like so many of you, I watched the news in real time, horrified at what I was seeing. Watching the insurrectionists replace the US flag with a Trump flag was stomach-churning. By 6pm, a curfew had been declared for Washington, DC, and soon after for nearby Arlington, which is where I live.

I’m four miles from the Capitol building, as the crow flies. About six miles by bike. It’s an eighteen-minute ride to the nearest Metro stop for the Capitol. In other words, everything that happened was actually fairly close.

Being on the other side of the Potomac River made it feel distant, but it really wasn’t. That became more evident when I learned that many of the folks who traveled to DC for the insurrection were staying at AirBnB’s in nearby Rosslyn and in the suburbs closer to me.

As more information became available, it became more and more clear that this wasn’t just a bunch of misguided Trump cultists protesting, it was much, much more chilling. Pipe bombs and other improvised explosive devices were recovered from the Capitol building. Members of the alt-right had been sharing maps of the Capitol, including diagrams of the tunnels beneath the building. Some of the insurrectionists were carrying zip ties. A gallows was erected nearby. It became more and more clear that if the insurrectionist mob had managed to reach our elected officials, there would have been public executions. The Confederate flag was finally marched into the Capitol, more than 150 years after they lost the American Civil War. This was an attempted coup.

Image Credit – Shay Horse / Getty Images

Trump has spent four years calling the media the enemy of the people, and so his cultists screamed at journalists, chased them, destroyed their cameras and equipment. I cannot imagine the courage it takes to objectively cover a snarling crowd who wants you dead. They are not paid enough.

We’ve all seen the aftermath. Five people are dead, including one policeman who was beaten to death by the so-called “Blue Lives Matter” crowd. Twitter finally decided that Trump was too dangerous to be allowed to remain on the platform. A variety of seditious insurrectionists and agitators were suspended and removed from various social media platforms. Helicopters overhead have been more numerous and frequent than before. Facebook banned Trump’s account. They’re putting an “unclimbable fence” around the Capitol, and the National Guard will be stationed in and around DC through the Inauguration.

Right-wingers left (or were forced off of) their social media accounts in droves, choosing to go with friendlier platforms like Gab and Parler, at least until Amazon Web Services terminated Parler’s account, making it very difficult for them to maintain enough capacity for all their hateful members.

The FBI and various state law enforcement agencies have been making arrests as they identify people – the last count of arrests I saw was 69 people out of the many thousands who were present. The House Homeland Security Committee is now asking the FBI and TSA to add participants of the insurrection to the no-fly list. Right-wing media like Faux News are still pushing the lie that there were Antifa members dressed as Trump supporters and they’re the ones who overran the Capitol. That lie is easily disproven since the insurrectionists are so proud of their insurrection that they keep posting their crimes to social media.

Thanks to those social media posts, many of those who posted their presence are finding that their neighbors and colleagues don’t much like traitors to the country, and so many of them are losing their jobs: CEOs, teachers, law enforcement officers, elected officials.

One QAnon-supporting Congresswoman live-tweeted Nancy Pelosi’s location to insurrectionists. This was an attempted coup, plain and simple. These people wanted to execute their political opponents and overthrow the democratically elected leadership. I am beyond pissed off.

This isn’t the end of it, of course. The crowd that did this last Wednesday considers it a successful trial run. They’ll be back. They already announced that they’re coming back around the 17th, through Inauguration Day.

I was really excited to live locally for a Presidential Inauguration, but the pandemic was already putting a kibosh on the traditional Inaugural Parade. Between that and the obviously dangerous events of last Wednesday, it’s looking more and more like there will be absolutely no public events to see. And even if there were, it seems like going across the Potomac to see them would be a terrible idea.

This is far from over. Trump incited this insurrection and needs to be removed from office sooner than his already-scheduled departure on the 20th, either by the 25th amendment or by impeachment and removal. His Sedition Caucus need to resign their seats in Congress: Ted Cruz (Tex.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), James Lankford (Okla.), Cynthia M. Lummis (Wyo.), Tommy Tuberville (Ala.), Steve Daines (Mont.) John Neely Kennedy (La.), Bill Hagerty (Tenn.), Mike Braun (Ind.) and Roger Marshall (Kan.).

The people who entered the Capitol need to be found, arrested, and prosecuted. There must be consequences,.

This isn’t over. Trump’s cult is still here, and they’re still dangerous. They want civil war. They want blood. They are not Americans, they are domestic terrorists.

I usually close my posts with a fun related question but I’m really not in the mood today. I’m still angry.

3/52