I’ve said it so many times during the past couple of years, I must be starting to sound like a broken record to the few readers I have left. Although my major ideological commitments were towards things like freedom of speech and other individual rights associated with liberalism, I have generally found myself on the political left on most issues since I found first started paying much attention to politics around the age of twelve or thirteen. I think I was thirteen when I first called myself a feminist.

For the past couple of years, however, the left seems to be playing a dangerous game of who can say the craziest thing.

Once upon a time, I thought the left had some ideals that were universal and did not change with political expediency. I thought universal franchise was one of those things. When, in the wake of the Brexit vote I saw some people arguing that people over a certain age should not be allowed to vote, I dismissed it because emotions were running so high in the lead up to that vote people were saying all sorts of crazy things on both sides.

Today, I saw an article in the Huffington Post suggesting that the franchise be taken away from white men. Now, there’s no self-interest involved here for me, beyond the general sense of not wanting to have ideals that are so relativistic that what was a moral imperative today is to be fought against tomorrow. The rationale for this is a confused grab-bag of reasons. The first one the writer, one Shelley Garland, states:

Some of the biggest blows to the progressive cause in the past year have often been due to the votes of white men. If white men were not allowed to vote, it is unlikely that the United Kingdom would be leaving the European Union, it is unlikely that Donald Trump would now be the President of the United States, and it is unlikely that the Democratic Alliance would now be governing four of South Africa’s biggest cities.

If white men no longer had the vote, the progressive cause would be strengthened.

This is pretty clear. The writer would like to disenfranchise the demographic which was least likely to vote the way she wanted them to. Is anyone naive enough to think it would stop there? Who else would be disenfranchised after the white men? If you know what the ideal outcome is, why bother to hold votes on anything at all?

Besides the fact that white men, on average, don’t vote the way Garland likes, she also justifies this by invoking the 2008 financial crisis. The idea that people on the top in the financial sector, an infinitesimally small percentage of white men, are somehow representative of white men is so laughable it’s hard to believe anyone might even float this as an argument. Other white men don’t even like them, let alone feel any kinship with them. Then she just tosses out “toxic masculinity.” I guess she thinks only white men are masculine….?

Her next justification is at least something more serious than two votes in countries where Garland doesn’t even live that didn’t go the way she wanted.

At the same time, a denial of the franchise to white men, could see a redistribution of global assets to their rightful owners.

However, in the case of South Africa, where the writer appears to live, I’m not sure how the connection between voting and global assets works. Eighty percent of the population of South Africa is black, so voting should work in favor of blacks. I’m not sure what disenfranchising white men in South Africa would achieve in this regard. I’m not familiar with the details of how South African politics works, but I think the party in power at the moment is the African National Congress. In any case:

The Land Expropriation Bill was passed by Parliament in May last year – three months before the 2016 local government elections.

In its current form, the bill requires the state to exhaust efforts to purchase property on reasonable terms in the open market before being allowed to consider expropriating it.

The ANC however has in recent months hardened its stance on economic transformation, calling for de-racialising over-concentrated sectors of the economy and transferring ownership from white people to the black majority among other matters. At its annual birthday celebrations, the ANC said the economy will be overhauled radically to allow for meaningful black participation.

She mixes up land ownership and ownership of assets and broadens it to include the whole world, which is necessary because linking assets to democratic representation doesn’t make sense in the case of South Africa.

This redistribution of the world’s wealth is long overdue, and it is not just South Africa where white males own a disproportionate amount of wealth. While in South Africa 90 percent of the country’s land is in the hands of whites (it is safe to assume these are mainly men), along with 97 percent of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, this is also the norm in the rest of the world. Namibia has similar statistics with regard to land distribution and one can assume this holds for other assets too. As Oxfam notes eight men control as much as wealth as the poorest 50 percent of the world’s population. In the United States ten percent of the population (nearly all white) own 90 percent of all assets – it is likely that these assets are largely in the hands of males. Although statistics by race are difficult to find from other parts of the world, it is very likely that the majority of the world’s assets are in the hands of white males, despite them making up less than 10 percent of the world’s population.

Sticking to land for the moment, since white people are the indigenous people of Europe, it would only be expected that they would own most of the land there. In China, “most land is owned by collectivities or by the state.” (Strangely, a search for “land ownership India” came back with a result for the Dawes Act.) I wasn’t able to find quickly a racial breakdown of land ownership in India. The articles on land reform I came across focused more on economic factors than racial ones. So, basically, it seems to me that we’re talking about Africa, the Americas and Australia.

Anyway, I was about to go on a rant regarding white guilt (which I don’t believe really exists) but that would take some time and I have to get other things done today, so let me return to where I started.

Either you have principles or you don’t. Either I believe in universal suffrage or I don’t. My views on this have not changed. Apparently the view on the left is changing. If I had found this on a personal blog like my own, I would just ignore it, however it was in the Huffington Post and I fear that this is the way the left might be heading.

Sorry this is garbled and all over the place. Although I don’t feel like my own politics have changed much, it is clear that the political terrain around me has changed greatly. I’d like to try to articulate my positions, but it’s such a big job and I don’t have the leisure at the moment to do it full-time, which is what it would take.

A number of years ago, my family went on vacation and we stayed near the ocean. Every night, I slept soundly and woke up the following day with the sunrise. My family remarked on it because I was a little bit notorious for staying up late and waking equally late. It puzzled me too, at first. What I came to realize that it was the darkness. It never really occurred to me that I had spent most of my life sleeping in places with quite a bit of ambient light. I thought my room was dark when I shut out the light, but it turned out that it wasn’t dark enough. Ever since then, I’ve made a point wherever I’ve lived of trying to get my bedroom as dark as possible. This is one of the reasons I’m so obsessed with making drapes.

My new apartment is great but there’s one little catch. My bedroom window faces what appears to be an assisted living facility and the rooms directly across from mine seem to be nurses stations or something similar. There appears to be three rooms in a row on each floor, with a pair of window to each and banks of florescent lights on the ceilings. Most of the time, most of the blinds on those windows are open and the lights stay on all night. There are about fifteen floors and all those lights make my bedroom quite bright at night. So, I am in the process of making drapes with blackout linings.

From talking to people I know, it seems to me that people underestimate how much light can disturb one’s sleep. If you have difficulty either falling asleep or staying asleep, I highly suggest that you try making your room darker.

I said I was going to write every day, didn’t I. Why did I say that? Now it’s eleven o’clock, well, past eleven now, and I haven’t written anything.

So, this probably would be better as a TIL post on Reddit, but, since I need to write something to fulfill my little promise to myself, I’m putting it here.

What is the country with the cleanest air in the world? According to the World Health Organization, it is Kenya.

I know this is a throwaway post. Perhaps I’ve been a little burned out from moving, but I’ve been doing things like surfing the internet aimlessly. I chose this little factoid because it seemed cheerful.

What I wrote yesterday reminded me that, when I was learning French, I listened to songs a lot. My ex expressed puzzlement about it because, according to him, they all listened mostly to American music with some stuff from the UK mixed in, so nearly everything was in English. The problem I was having, I explained to him, was transitioning from what I used to call “schoolgirl French” to being fluent, or at least something close to fluent. I had actually done reasonably well in French classes in school. I can memorize vocabulary easily and grammar comes easily to me as well, but normal, casual social interaction in French was very hard for me to master. Incomplete sentences, mumbled pronunciation and dropped syllables left me staring in puzzlement.

The other thing which was strange, and I may have mentioned this before, was the feeling that the world lacked color. In our own languages, words have texture, nuance, associations and feelings. We choose one expression over another when we speak or write, not only due to the literal meaning, but due the feelings it may convey. In class, a word or expression might be marked as “familiar” or “formal,” and while that can be helpful for a total novice, it misses the full range of tones. It was a strange sensation when I was first living in a francophone environment to realize that the emotional content of the language was invisible to me.

Since in songs the music also supplies feelings and usually works in tandem with the lyrics, listening to songs helped to add context and color to words. That happens also in dramatic media, like films, but the fact that a person might listen to a song many times helped to make that emotional connection. Eventually, I could come to understand how certain turns of phrase were effective.

Now, don’t ask me why I can’t just throw everything in a box and have done with it, but as it happens those cassettes I was packing also included some of the stuff I was listening to when I was trying to master French. When some Canadians realized I was listening to Kevin Parent, several of them insisted I shouldn’t because I would learn “bad French.” Kevin Parent is a bit of an outlier for my taste, being more in the singer/songwriter vein. I can’t quite put my finger on why he appeals to me, but why question a good thing, right?

Seeing that I’m moving – yet again – this song seems appropriate:

Have you ever gone through a period when you didn’t listen music for an extended period of time and suddenly you start listening again. In this case, I think moving and dredging up old things got me listening to some stuff I hadn’t listened to in a while. Nearly a year ago, I mentioned ripping my vinyl. As it happens, a lot of my favorite stuff, or at least the stuff with the most memories attached, is on cassette. I went off to college in the era of the boombox and for a time had a car with a cassette player. Consequently, during my late teens and early twenties, that period when a person’s taste in popular music tends to form, most of the music I purchased was in the form of cassettes. So, tonight, I was going through my old cassettes and my memory was jogged of a moment from another period of my life.

I was teaching English in Paris and had been highly encouraged to use songs in class. We were also told to avoid love songs to keep the vocabulary varied. So I desperately tried to go through all my cassettes looking for songs on which the words were articulated well enough to be easily understood, did not have any grammatical constructions that would be too difficult to explain, did not contain poor grammar and were not love songs. All that was a taller order than you’d think.

For those who don’t know, my taste tends towards pretty straight rock and roll, a bit of r-n-b, some glam rock, some of the less hardcore punk, new wave, funk. Loud, hard and fast might be a good summary of my taste. You know, the stuff with barely comprehensible lyrics.

So, imagine my surprise when I popped in a cassette and the Parisians started squealing like stuck pigs, “EEWWW, eeewww! Stop! We hate country!” Now, I don’t want to knock anyone’s taste and start a big argument on that account, but country music doesn’t figure heavily among anything I have. Sure, I have a couple of Johnny Cash records, but that wasn’t what I was playing. If you were to close your eyes and put your hand into my box of cassettes, you’re more likely to come up with early eighties pop than any country. I tried to tell them that what they were listening to was assuredly not “country music.” I looked at the two other Americans in the room who looked as surprised as I was and reassured the French people that we were not trying to make them listen to country. Even more odd, that we were trying to force country music on them seemed to be a unified feeling on their part. The reaction was such an extreme, you would have thought they were breaking out in rashes.

It was just one of those really weird little cultural differences that takes you by surprise.

Oh, yes, that terrible American country music band – The Pretenders, who were mostly English (I think.).

Well, I just followed up The Pretenders with The New York Dolls and then Bonnie Raitt. Thank heavens I didn’t try that. It could have been a diplomatic crisis.

I guess it’s self-evident, but we all like our own taste, don’t we.

And just because – here’s one of my favorite songs by some of New York City’s prettiest gentlemen:

I remember sitting up to watch Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert when I was a kid. (Happened to catch the sign in the background.)

I’m not going to say that I intend to write more because I’ve written it so many times it’s starting to sound ridiculous to me. However, this time I have a excuse!

Within the past year, my landlord has gone from bad to worse – or maybe I’ve just lost patience. In any case, I’ve become convinced that the building is so poorly maintained as to be a little bit hazardous. I’ve become extremely sensitive to building disasters in my neighborhood. They’re much more common than you’d think. If there isn’t a large loss of life, it barely makes it to the paper. On my way to get groceries the other day, I walked by a building going up in flames. A fire in an apartment on the third floor spread to the fourth and fifth and seriously threatened the neighboring buildings. I overheard a woman on the sidewalk say that her mother was trapped inside. She looked about my age, so I’m guessing her mother is not young. Fortunately, only one resident and six firefighters were injured and no one was killed. It barely registered on the news. (Article.)

Until recently, the landlord was storing items in the stairwells, which are the only exits in case of a fire. I called the city and the fire department was here the next day. Generally, the city has been good and responsive. The stairs were cleared and light bulbs were replaced. However, it’s only a couple of weeks later and some light bulbs are out again. Don’t ask me why. I’ve ceased trying to understand how my landlord messes things up so badly. Greed alone doesn’t explain it. It’s some unique combination of cupidity and incompetence. My intercom hasn’t worked since at least August. They’ve hired a locksmith to fix it. The locksmith has been here at least ten times, and that’s not including the several appointments that were never kept. It’s annoying that for over six months I’ve had to let people into my apartment at seemingly random intervals in a Sisyphean quest to fix the intercom. I presume that the landlord is paying the locksmith. Aren’t they at least annoyed that the locksmith appears to be utterly incapable of fixing the lock.

It’s like a comedy. They come, one person from the management company and one person from the locksmith. The guy from the locksmith company takes the intercom off the wall. He looks at the wires and shrugs. He turns to the guy from the management and says something in Spanish. The guy from management asks me what’s wrong. I say it doesn’t work at all. He, presumably, translates this into Spanish. The locksmith guy shrugs. He puts the phone back on the wall. The guy from management asks if I’m going to be home the rest of the day. I say yes. He says they’ll be back later that afternoon. They don’t come back. About half the building has intercoms that don’t work. They fix one, but then someone else’s stops working. Don’t waste your time speculating. I’ve been puzzling over this for six months and I don’t get it. I think I could have learned to install intercoms and put in an entire new system myself by now.

One of the people who works for the management company proudly showed me how they had put hardware cloth over the dryer vent to get rid of the rats after they discovered a happy family of them living in the vent. I smiled and nodded and said it was a good thing. I mean, what am I supposed to say? I imagine the management company doesn’t treat their workers any better than they do the tenants. Still, the rats had been living there for over a year. I bet they were only evicted because they weren’t paying rent.

Did I mention that this is an elevator building? Well, most of the time. The thing breaks down several times a week. They call someone who does something, I can’t imagine what, and it works again for a few days. I have an image of the working parts of the elevator, inside the shaft, as being held together with duct tape and bits of string. It’s a little bit scary. I’ve stopped taking the elevator except when I’m carrying something heavy. I live on the sixth floor. One of my neighbors who has an elderly dog complained to the management. They told her the elevator would cost over $100,000.00 to fix. I just learned this yesterday and now I’m terrified of the elevator, knowing that there is something seriously wrong with it and the landlord is not fixing it because they don’t want to spend the money. There’s an English bulldog whose legs are too short to handle the stairs. His owner has to carry him when the elevator breaks. He tells me the dog hates it. Fortunately, he’s a big guy. And to think that I toyed with the idea of getting a dog when I moved in here. (Note to self: Chihuahuas have their good points.)

In short, I think this building is an accident waiting to happen. I’ve contacted the city about some of these problems. It’s hard, however, to communicate an overall pattern of neglect. I’m going to write a letter to the city just to keep my conscience clear. If anything happened and someone got injured I’d regret not saying anything though I doubt anything will come of it. Then, self-preservation kicks in and I move myself out of here.

That’s the good news. I found a lovely new place not too far away. They probably thought I was a bit nuts because I insisted on taking a look at the basement and other places people normally don’t go. I looked on the city website to see if there were any complaints. Once burned, twice shy.

Hmmm… I was originally going to write about making drapes.

Yes! We’re making drapes again. Fun times.

Typically, when I write my memories, I try to write them in a novelistic fashion. It’s more a question of style than content. However, I want to write because I’m feeling a little emotional turmoil tonight and I think writing might do me some good, so I’m not going to pay as much mind to craft.

Middle school was rough, which might be the most common thought in the world. Back in the seventies, there wasn’t any concept such as “bullying.” Some kids were picked on in school. There was an awareness that picking on kids could be physical, yet somehow it always seemed to be something that happened in another town, in another state, with other kids. After all, many kids’ parents had consciously moved away from big bad cities to our tidy little suburban enclave in order to protect their children from the chaos there.

I had a little clique of friends in eighth grade. They were the not quite fast girls. In our school, for reasons I never understood, the girls were generally tougher than the boys, so we had more than our fair share of tough girls. My friends weren’t tough, but they were a little bit fast.

We had a falling out, which I began to document in another post and I’ll have to finish at another time. Just let it be said that I found myself socially isolated. I’ve heard people debate the circumstances that might contribute to bullying. From my own experience, social isolation is a very large contributing factor. I still had some friendly acquaintances, but suddenly finding myself without any close friends meant that there was no one that would take my side. I was the weak gazelle separated from the herd and it was only a matter of time before the girls who were beyond tough, the ones who were vicious, would take note.

If I understood then what I understand now about group dynamics, I would have tried harder to embed myself into another clique, or at least appear to. As I said, I still had friendly acquaintances, so it wouldn’t have been hard to put up a believable charade, especially since I was still on good terms with the late bloomers who didn’t associate with any of the tough girls. But I’m naturally independent and don’t mind eating alone sometimes or sitting in a corner reading.

Eventually, eighth grade turned into ninth.

The first time it happened, it was after science class. Everyday, I would exit the room and turn left. I don’t recall what my next class was, but since the science class was towards one end of the hall, almost all the rooms were to the left. A girl I didn’t know, and whose name I still don’t know until this day, bumped into me. It was a surprisingly forceful bump and I went flying into the lockers which lined both sides of the corridor. She didn’t say excuse me. In fact she didn’t even pause.

The next day, the exact same thing occurred. At this point it occurred to me that it might be intentional.

I’m not sure how many times in a row this happened, but I started leaving the classroom as early as possible and turning to the right, where there was a stairwell. I went up the stairs, taking a slightly longer route to my next class.

The tough girl had three friends, each one tougher than the next. The toughest was the shortest, and the meanest. She’s the only one whose name I remember. All the others joined in, but it was the short one who was always rougher than the others. Soon, whenever one of them would see me in the hallway, she would shove me up against the locker. As the shoving got harder, it went from jarring to painful. Then the short one started kicking me. In the hallway, as I passed by, she would kick at my shins as hard as she could. This was all done surreptitiously, when no one was looking. Since I was alone a lot of the time, this wasn’t that hard. I started feeling very afraid and leaving the school property as quickly as possible when the day ended.

I can’t remember if I told any adults, but I imagine I must have. I was the sort of kid who would. All I can imagine is that they gave me the sort of useless advice adults usually tell kids. Looking up some self-help psychology stuff online, I just read some tonight: “Ignore. Like dealing with a bully, if you ignore the harshness, it gives them no satisfaction and they will find someone else to pick on.”

(I followed the link in that and found this: “Bullies couldn’t exist without victims, and they don’t pick on just anyone; those singled out lack assertiveness and radiate fear long before they ever encounter a bully. No one likes a bully, but no one likes a victim either.” That’s from Psychology Today, believe it or not.)

Well, let’s just say that’s bullshit. I wasn’t “radiating fear” until I met up with the little sadist and her three side kicks. I tried ignoring them and the physical abuse only got worse. Bullying, I believe, comes out of complicated social dynamics. If I had to point to a proximate cause, although it is immodest to say, I was prettier than any of those four and boys liked me and ignored them.

I should probably add that they didn’t make fun of me, just physically abuse me. They themselves were not well liked in school and had no friends besides each other, so their behavior didn’t result in any kind of ostracism. I did, however, start to feel very powerless. I had no idea how to physically defend myself against four girls all of whom wanted to cause me physical pain.

Then the short one started threatening to “beat me up.” That’s what they said would happen one day soon.

It came to a head just before lunch one day. Lunches were arranged according to grade, so everyone in the same grade had lunch at the same time.

I don’t remember why, but I was late getting to lunch. I probably stayed after a class to ask a question. In any case, the hallway was entirely empty. It was straight and you could see from one end to the next and there was not a single person in sight. The hallway ended in a T shape with a shorter corridor. Straight ahead was the assembly room, which was almost never used. To the left was the office. To the right was the cafeteria. At the far and of the hall, from the right, the four girls emerged. They fanned out across the hallway and began walking towards me. My heart was pounding and I was panicking. This was it, I thought. They’re going to kill me. No one was around, no teachers, no students. There was only one thing between me and the gang, an exit. An exit to the outdoors. The biggest infraction any student could do was to leave the building. Nothing was worse than leaving the building. I panicked and ran through that door.

One of the teachers ran out of the door after me. She tackled me. My arms flailed. She would later say that I hit her and make a big deal out of the fact that she was pregnant, but she shouldn’t have tackled me like that.

Other teachers joined her and I was physically subdued and dragged to the office. Asked to explain myself, I told them about the physical abuse. They told me that it was not possible because shorty had never had a disciplinary problem, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t true. I do know that I had never had one. They were going to suspend me from school.

My mother told me that the school nurse told her that when I got “hysterical” she should slap me. That’s when the slapping started. It didn’t happen that often, only when I got very upset. Often, I felt as if I was being punished for things that weren’t my fault. For failing to have a Spock-like detachment no matter what bad things happen. Sometimes, I think it’s led to my Jekyll and Hyde reactions. I’m calm and cerebral until the moment I absolutely can’t take it anymore, then I scream like a maniac. To an observer, there appears to be no transition, although I can feel the transition inside. Moreover, I know people who have known me for years who never saw Mr. Hyde emerge because they had the good fortune to not be around when I was pushed over the brink.

Well, it’s getting late and I could go on about that for a while, but I can’t.

My mother, I should add, would not slap me in a calm and clinical way, although her claim is that she was trying to calm me down following the advice of a nurse. She would slap me multiple times, screaming, “What’s wrong with you. You’re crazy. I’m going to call the cops and they’re going to lock you up.” Rather than calming down, I would get even more hysterical which would result in more slapping and threats.

Frequently, it would end when my father would intervene.

Worst of all, it would always happen when I was most in trouble, when I most needed support and consolation. That was one thing I remember about my adolescence. My mother always says how much she’s done for me, how much she’s helped me, scrimped, saved, sacrificed. It’s all true. But she always gave me the most when I needed it least.

And I feel really guilty even saying this out loud. I’ve talked about it with my sister and she can mostly confirm my perceptions. Sometimes, I say, “Am I crazy?” My sister says she doesn’t think so.

I desperately need to have an exchange with someone who has been hit by a parent. It happened earlier today, many hours ago, but I still feel in turmoil about it. I don’t think I know anyone who has had a similar experience. Strangely, I feel guilty. It’s not that I didn’t do anything wrong, but I don’t feel like I deserved to be hit. However, this is really, really personal and I don’t know if I want to talk about it in public. There’s a contact form on my about page. Oh, right, this is an elderly parent and I’m middle aged.

I don’t make New Year resolutions, but if I did, one of them might be to write more. I spent the first couple of years cultivating this blog. One thing that surprised me was getting friendly with people who responded. I think I originally imagined something more like a message in a bottle. On the other hand, once as a kid, I put a message in a bottle and someone sent me a letter with a drawing.

Then, for a time, I was very active on this blog and commenting on other people’s. That was very good for a time, but since my internal life and emotions tend to be a bit tumultuous, I think I’ve alienated quite a few people over the past couple of years. In some cases, it was probably inevitable, but in other cases I feel bad about it. I’m not an easy person to get along with.

In any case, it’s gone back to feeling like I’m tossing messages in bottles again. I’ve become faster to write something in a personal email than to write it on the blog.

So, the other day, my mother was here and she was helping me organize my apartment. It’s a little strange because I plan on moving as soon as my lease is up. Still, I had become so disorganized it was becoming difficult to function. One problem was that I never completely developed a “place for everything,” so it is impossible to put “everything in its place.” When I try to tidy, the things without places wind up in little piles which are highly subject to being messed up the next time I look for something I need.

There are a few reasons why I have difficulty making a place for everything. Some are practical. I needed to buy some shelves and containers to put things so they can be put on shelves. Others, however, are emotional.

I was determined to tackle some of those difficult piles and chose to either get rid of things or store them in a proper place where they could be found without rifling through a box of unrelated stuff and making a big mess. I had a small plastic container that had once contained some of those moistened cloths for cleaning the floor which had been bouncing around for a few years. It had “table by the door” written on top of it and, it was, indeed, full of small items that had been in a drawer in a table, like a key ring with no keys on it and a business card from an Englishman I dated for six months who turned out to be married. Apparently, when I moved sometime around 2010, I must have thrown everything in that drawer in the box. I went through the box. I ripped up the business card along with a few others from people I’m unlikely to contact again. (Why do men sometimes give you their business card? What do they expect me to do with it?) Then, I found a little business card holder that a friend had given to me. I opened it up and it was filled with my own business cards from a business I tried to start up back in 2008. I had spent a couple of years developing a product, figuring out how to manufacture it, making designs, securing a loan and buying equipment. I put a huge amount of time and effort and hope into it. In the end, I couldn’t sell it and the company, if you could call what was essentially a one person operation a company, went under.

I stared at the business cards, which were printed up with so much hope, and I started sobbing.

I hesitate to say what’s on my mind because I’m afraid I’ll sound like a great big whiner, but I’ve had a lot of failures in my life. When I was young, I was very smart and I did well in school. I was fairly together. I didn’t smoke, drink or take drugs. Adults described me as “unusually poised.” I graduated from high school early and had an academic scholarship to college. I was the kind of kid everyone expected to succeed.

Ever since then, though, things haven’t gone as well. I try to look for a pattern for my failures, but each time the reason seems different. A failed marriage, a failed attempt at graduate school, a failed business. They’re all different.

There are days I want to get rid of all my possessions and start over again because there are so many painful memories attached to things.

It’s hard for me to straighten my apartment and clean without crying.

Well, this isn’t quite where I meant to go when I started writing. Sorry for being such a downer.


The new year has already started off rather well. In the past, I’ve mentioned wanting to see the no-longer endangered Delmarva Fox Squirrel. Several times, I’ve taken trips to the Eastern Shore of Maryland in hopes of catching sight of the little bugger. We had only just arrived and I got out of the car to take some pictures of some Mallard Ducks when I caught something out of the corner of my eye. What should be running up to me but the biggest squirrel I’ve ever seen. It looks a lot like a heavy-set Gray Squirrel in photos, but I assure you when you see it you know it’s different. It weighs about three pounds, that’s three times heavier than a gray squirrel. After pausing to let me get a better photo than I could have hoped, it darted across the road.

squirrel-2squirrel-3Besides the squirrel, we saw some pelicans.

pelicansWe were driving along and my sister pointed out two lumps in the middle of the water and asked if I thought they were anything. I suggested logs.

eagles-1Her eyes are apparently better than mine.

eagles-2While I was taking picture of some geese and swans, a Great Blue Heron flew into the picture.

heron-1Then a Turkey Vulture nearly flew into me.

vulture-1Really, this thing was close. Or at least if felt as if it was. They are among the largest birds around here with a wingspan that can be up to six feet. Then I looked up.

vulture-2Maybe it’s me, but I think they’re cute.

Then, we saw a bunch of cars pulled over and everyone was taking pictures. It wasn’t too hard to find the locus of their attention.


A big bird in a small tree. As I was taking pictures of this Bald Eagle, another landed on the tree.

eagles-4They are always quite a sight.

eagles-5And just before we left, we saw one more Great Blue Heron.

heron-2Happy New Year!