Writing Prompt for 10-19

Today’s assignment is to write no more than 200 words based on your impression of one of the two following passages:

  1. Being neither venerable nor beloved, she chose to be practical which was preferable to pointless.
  2. Being neither venerable nor beloved, she became invisible to avoid being irritating.

Write freely. Try to get into the mindset of the character; is this a punishment? a liberation? How old is this person, where have they been and where do they go from here?

There is no time limit. Post your response at your convenience.

Invisible to Bugs

In my early-mid fifties, I noticed the oddest thing; I started to be invisible to bugs.

Imperceptibly at first, then tested and accurate, I realize that somehow I have developed a cloak of visual separation between the entire phylum and myself. Bugs cannot see me coming and for those whom I wish to dispatch with a smack, it is tremendously detrimental. For me, it is both disturbing (WHAT could cause such an anomaly?) and exhilarating! To battle with bugs at such an advantage can really make life easier.

No more sneaking up on that fly in the kitchen— hovering motionless with the swatter in an attempt to lull the bastard into a sense of safety as you load up momentum for the ultimate goodbye-fly. The flies have stopped seeing me, along with the swatter and presumably, my clothing and everything else in direct contact with my person. A sneak attack is no longer required. A good, stout whack with a rolled up newspaper or plastic swatter and, BAM. Goodbye fly.

I mean flies are bad, REALLY bad. They carry disease and fly around and land on our food and get into our glass of wine, necessitating throwing away the WHOLE glass. Grrr. Flies truly suck and it is strange to have inherited such and odd superpower as bug-invisibility but it is mine and I find my stealth to be both useful and amazing.

Flies aren’t the only bugs that can’t see me coming. Cockroaches are a part of life and in my house—which is over 100 years old and has plumbing pretty much as old—those huge, winged, horrible cockroaches that skitter around are ubiquitous. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do not have an infestation. Not like those poor homeowners I have seen on TV shows who follow pest control and animal nuisance technicians around with cameras as they open kitchen cabinets to reveal swarms of disgusting tiny roaches crawling everywhere. (OMG it gives me chills just to think about it and frankly my bug invisibility would not do shit for this type of problem). No, I’m talking about the big roaches that come up through the drain at night. I see about one a week in the bathroom. They are BIG and GROSS.

They are tough too. I have sprayed them with a descaling product; pretty toxic stuff! It is meant to dissolve hard water minerals from bathroom tile, and it does put down a roach—in about five minutes. They try to escape it. They kick their feet and turn over and scream (I’m sure if I had the tiny ears to hear). It’s traumatic to watch, awful as they are, and then I always need to pick them up for disposal somehow. (Look for a long stick; get as far away from actually touching it as you can, just get RID of it.)

Thing is, when the roach can SEE you, game is ON. They will try to hide; they will escape into a crevice, a chest of drawers (where all of your clothes are, so now you both NEED to find them so they don’t pop out of a blouse you are putting on, AND you need to wash all the clothes in the dresser to get the cockroachiness off them).

They don’t want to go down and they will fight. They fly. They run at you. They do those little aggressive pushups. They are pretty brave. But they have to GO.

Being invisible helps. The issue of course is with the light; when I get up in the middle of the night and turn on the light (frankly JUST to be sure I’m not going to encounter one in the DARK) they are confused. They see the light is on, but WHO turned it on? It’s a mystery. They can’t see me; they freeze. Fly? Do push ups? Skitter in the folds of the freshly washed and neatly hung towel to be discovered later by an unfortunate bather? All of the above?

All I need is a good leather or rubber flip-flop and BAM. Goodbye roach. No agony, no kicking and screaming, just mush. At this point, what is left to pick up is made more handleable by the fact that it is no longer really recognizable as a roach. Just close your eyes, use a LARGE wad of paper towels and—pinch— pick it up then throw it away. I’ve GOT to imagine that was easier for the monster to die and it’s fair to say that even monsters deserve a quick death over suffering.

I’m beginning to wonder if this all had something to do with the flytrap I bought for $4.99 at Home Depot. There was a great big bin of them right by the door leading out to the garden center. I was intrigued by the product’s simple design and its claim that it was non-toxic and could eliminate up to 20,000 flies from any area. I don’t have a huge fly problem (like some people do when they have livestock or lots of smelly stuff around); we are good about keeping stinky things in check. But flies are ubiquitous in summer and they are annoying when you are just hoping to sit outside for a while with a beverage. So I bought one.

The instructions are simple: cut a hole in the top of the bag, pull up on the “one way gate” to open the hole for flies to enter (but NEVER exit) and add water. The water mixes with a packet of unholy looking substance that creates a smell that flies LOVE and I would recommend NOT taking a whiff of. Add a rope and hang it up then sit back and observe flymageddon in real time. Seriously they go nuts over the aroma, fly in, and VIOLA! Bye Bye fly. In no time flat the trap is literally FILLED with thousands of flies. They have taken the stinky bait and met their watery fate in your Home Depot plastic-bag fly dungeon of death.

It is possible that exposure to this deathtrap is what caused my bug invisibility. Who knows?

Besides flies, and roaches, I don’t have that much of a beef with insects. Mosquitoes perhaps, being one of the most destructive forces on the planet vis-à-vis human health, are evil creatures and frankly, what kind of omnipotent creator would add such a cruel and pointless creature to our retinue of fine, productive species? But mosquitoes can’t really be smacked, whether they see you or not. They just flit around delivering random itchy bites and worse. The only good time to smack one is when it has already landed on you and is distracted by the act of inserting its tiny little drill into your flesh and removing a gut full of your blood. By then the damage is done and the only satisfaction you might get is in knowing that you’ve interrupted this little asshole’s final meal.

Other insects are frankly fun to watch. Some go about their business whether you are watching them or not. Ants for instance, never look up. When a predator casts a shadow above their work site, they just keep on going. “Yeah, you might get a few of us, but you’ll never get us all! Cost of business buddy!”

Some bugs DO see you. I imagine by virtue of their multiple eyes and need to be acutely visually aware of predators as they themselves predate, spiders will stop and look at a nearby human (I suspect other large, moving objects as well) to assess threat. The spiders who share our living spaces are cooperative roommates and we ought to forgive them their awkward and off-putting appearance. They can’t help it. No don’t get me wrong, a VENOMOUS spider, that is another thing. KILL them immediately, no upside-down glass and piece of cardboard removal to the garden for you. Black Widows, Brown Recluse and any other harmful-to-me-or-to-my-pets species are strictly mashable. But have you ever seen a spider spin a web or catch a meal and wrap it up tight in the blink of an eye? It is fascinatingly beautiful and a sight reserved for famous up-close bug photographers, and those of us who are invisible to bugs.

I would not mind at all if this phenomenon were to spread to other creatures, say lizards and birds. I am especially fond of lizards and they are so shy, it’s hard to catch even a fleeting glimpse. Hold on there little lizard, I’m not going to hurt you…

Birds would be interesting to be able to observe without them fearing you. But they have every right to be afraid of people; we have a bad but well deserved reputation among bird populations for shooting and eating them. It’s no wonder they look at us askance, with their sharp eyes. It’s like they know we can’t be trusted.

I’m also pretty sure that in my mid 50’s, I’m entering a long phase of becoming more and more invisible to my fellow human beings with every passing year. Already I can see—especially in crowds of younger people—it’s obvious that I can be seen right through, like a ghost. At art openings, concerts, lectures, events, I’ll notice someone’s glance, which is quickly terminated upon their realization that whatever there is to see in me, is not worth the effort. Pretty soon I’ll be invisible not only to bugs but to people. It’s funny, that was the superhero power I wished for when I was a kid (most pick flying). But I didn’t really think about it, because it’s a little isolating, like the punishment of exile for something I didn’t do wrong (growing old).

If there is no fighting it, I imagine that what I will do is try to find ways to use this new power for my own advantage. Like the way I always thought I could sneak, invisibly, into conversations to overhear a juicy tidbit with which I could thwart the bad guys. I’ll listen to everything that people say when they don’t think anyone is looking, then BAM.

On second thought, I think that those who deserve to be smacked are beneath my power. I’ll set a trap for them instead. A juicy, irresistible, deadly trap of their own making. Why get my hands dirty if they can do the work for me?




Dear @TheEconomist #Whyaren’tmillennialsbuyingdiamonds?

The question posed by the venerable, The Economist, offers a revealing comment on our society’s generational disconnect.
My folks, in their late 70’s early 80’s, just do not understand why my kids can’t just work their way through college like they did. Why do they need to take out huge college loans? This question posed by The Economist is another clueless, tone deaf revelation about boomers not understanding the real world in which Millennials are growing.

If these kids don’t go to college, they have no student loans, but they have limited themselves to a few, low-paying jobs like call centers, retail, and hospitality. Then they are called losers; they need benefits like healthcare support and supplemental nutrition, and we call them lazy welfare moochers.

If they go to college, even a relatively inexpensive public university, the are facing a 4 or 5 year degree more, both their work and their school suffers (bad grades as an undergrad practically guarantees that grad school is out) then they earn a BA which is the 2016 equivalent of the High School diploma of the past.

As the article states, “We’re not all studying women’s studies or Greek mythology either. There’s been a trend of lawyers graduating from prestigious law schools, passing the bar, and not finding any work. Americans specializing in STEM jobs are getting replaced by cheaper foreign employees with H-1B visas. Then there’s the constant outsourcing of jobs to countries like India and China.”

So even if they earn challenging degrees in science, engineering or law as suggested, these kids are lucky to get anything that can help them try to start to pay those debts. Then when they can’t get a good job or pay their debt or move out of their parents’ house, we call them lazy parent moochers.

So essentially, we are seeing an entire generation of loan slaves, told that their plight is their fault. They can’t buy diamonds because they can’t buy ANYTHING and they never will because they took the calculated risk to get an education. They will not be buying cars or homes. They are not inheriting anything from mom and dad either because we all lost everything we had saved in the crash; younger boomers and Xers are living paycheck to paycheck too, and they will all be working until 70 and beyond to avoid living in a box.

If I could give any advice to parents of young children right now, it is to get them a good education but also to teach them a good trade. Working with our hands, building and fixing things are proud pursuits and come in pretty handy in tough times; we will always need our hair cut, our cars fixed and our sinks unclogged.

Our House of Cards

Like many of you, I have watched the stunning NETFLIX series, House of Cards, since season one and have been frankly gob-smacked all along the way. Now deep into some fifty-odd episodes—that powerful theme song with its foreboding major/minor key change stuck in my head—I’m formulating my reaction. It took a while to get here. At first, I felt utterly thunderstruck; that “mouth hanging open, eyes wide in shock at the end of every shocking episode” mood is morphing into something more nuanced. The drama arises from the kernel of truth that we sense as we watch the “house of cards” that is politics being built higher and higher. WHEN will it fall? Like watching a slow motion train wreck, we are transfixed in horror, watching this locomotive barreling down the tracks, demolishing everything in its path. So describes our view of our elected representatives and the destructive games they play.
Like that locomotive, and very UNLIKE the delicately balanced house of cards, the leviathan of politics at the national level does feel like a monster. With so much weight and momentum, it seems impossible for us little people to affect it at all much less stop it. However, we are convinced to believe in the monster by the monster itself because it knows itself to be simply, a house of cards, not steel and steam.
I remember driving into work one beautiful morning in fall 2009. I had NPR on the radio as is my wont and the news was all bad. Apocalypse, financial collapse, the dire tone of the Morning Edition staff portended the end of times. I looked up from the dashboard, out through my windshield and into the sunrise. The traffic was still there, the desert was still there, the birds still flew and sang in the autumn sky. It occurred to me that the discussion of the utter destruction and total collapse of civilization on the radio was nothing more than numbers on a computer describing our worth. It was all fiction, a house of cards. In real life, the amount of stuff in the world, a number of resources, number of people, cars, birds, had not changed one bit. It was all just numbers moving around in giant computers that gave us all the feeling that the world had changed for the worse. How crazy is that?
Of course, we have no choice but to go along with the fiction. If your bank account has no pretend magical numbers in it, you can’t redeem them for food, clothing and shelter. If you have no job that credits the magical numbers into your account (remember you MUST have a bank account to be able to transact with money, either earned or spent) then you have no mechanism to convert your labor into the necessities of life.
Think about that for a minute. You cannot only make a product and use it to buy, or barter, for food. You cannot exist in the 21st century without a bank or financial institution converting your work into currency. We are all trapped this way, in a house of cards.
But the fact is that this ground-breaking series is laying bare the hypocrisy of Washington politics and that we, as Americans, are more and more aware every day of the fact that the emperor has no clothes. The monster is a paper tiger, and we do indeed have the power to stop the destruction. The emergence of Bernie Sanders (and in a perverse way, Donald Trump too) is a powerful predictor of the changes coming in the relationship of power and politics with We the People. The Greatest Generation trusted without question, their leadership for right or wrong. Sixty years later, the millennials are asking, rightfully so, WHO are these people and WHY do we think they should be trusted with power? This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius (when, it is said, power structures will be turned upside down, and the grassroots will lead to significant societal change).
Bernie’s message opens the door to see the real abundance before us every day, to reject the idea that the numbers in our computers define our worth or potential. The zero-sum game foisted off on the public by our feckless leaders is a fiction that is collapsing. We are a limitless species, with the rich abundance of the earth and our minds to create whatever world we want to live in. This is the heart of Bernie’s message and the hope of his followers.
Little birds unite, let’s flap our collective wings and create the winds that blow away the house of cards forever!

There is no Substitute for Slate

Looking down the aisle of black-topped, science-class work tables and remembering when they were all made of slate…
I’m pretty sure that way back when school budgets allowed, slate was chosen for its durability and resistance to chemical spills. The material chosen now is for its cheapness. These kids don’t care one way or another, or they are intent on inflicting their personal measure of harm. This classroom sports ten laminate-topped tables, scarred and scratched but standing, hoping not to need replacement; it’s not in next year’s budget.
The kids look a little worn too. I hear their thoughts as they walk into class, “oh, a sub.” And whatever comes next in their imagination depends on a lot on their attitude about being here in school in the first place. Some kids open their books and read, their heads are down, their gazes steady, their pencils flying. Some kids—the smart-asses—need to try to disrupt. They laugh louder than necessary; they scroll defiantly through forbidden cell phone feeds. Some kids put their heads down on the desk and sleep, their hoodies enclosing them in a private moment.
I have no idea what these kids live like outside this room. I’m sure many go home to a world of poverty or abuse. Some are caught up in cycles of crime or dependence. Some undoubtedly will leave school at 4:30 and go to work; some will work very hard and very late, to feed themselves or to help put food on the family table. Still, others have strong family structures filled with loving family members who would do anything to see them get ahead, to just have a chance.
Some of these kids want something better for themselves. They will grit their way through their senior year and look for that escape hatch known as graduation. They will emerge from the dark tunnel known as “K-12” and emerge into the sunshine of a better life, an easier time than their folks had it, a job, a purpose…
I have known these kids all of 70 minutes, but I love them already. I have just started the wearing-out process. But I’m made of slate.