The thread that’s pulling us through post-election depression

On Wednesday morning last week, overcome with a mix of despair, denial, and a post-election night hangover, I sent this email to over 60 people:

Hi friends and family,

Apologies for the long recipient list, but I’m thinking of you all right now.

Been a lot of tears in our house this morning; maybe yours, too. Still doesn’t seem real.

I remember being in Williamsburg in 2008 when Obama was elected for the first time. The streets were alive. People were yelling from apartment windows, dancing on the roofs of cars. Last night, as Arthur and I walked home from Michael and Hallie’s, this place was a ghost town. We passed a couple sitting on a stoop, the woman crying and the man consoling her. When we got home, we saw the attached was spray painted across the street from our apartment (one of a few on this block); this morning, a couple laid out the pantsuit memorial. (The signs read “RIP America” and “1776 – 2016.”)

Maybe things won’t be so bad. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be a relatively uneventful four years followed by someone better. But this election does throw into relief for me the constantly-important need to live a good and decent life, and to help each other stay engaged and succeed in that. It also reminds me of how much love I have for each of you, and how grateful I am that we’re in all of this together.

Good luck to us all,

A

I attached this photo: the scene across the street from our apartment on November 9:

Hillary Clinton pantsuit memorial Donald Trump graffiti

There was no real intention behind the email; I was just feeling shocked and wanted to reach for my people.

But as they say in clickbait: “You’ll never believe what happened next!”

(Well, I suppose it’s actually pretty predictable, but it did pleasantly surprise me.)

  1. No one seemed annoyed by that long recipient list.
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  2. People began to respond—usually “reply all”—with a beautiful variety of perspectives, stories, emotions, and even some freaky art. (This eclectic group ranges in their ages from mid-20s to mid-70s, in their education levels from GED to PhD, and in their vocations from bartender to retired chemistry professor to child psychologist to sommelier to wood shop teacher to real estate agent and beyond.)
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  3. As the post-election week wore on, people began referring to the thread as a “safe space;” they said they were so glad it was there for them in this trying time; they said it had created a community.

Bittersweet moment

Color me touched, impressed, and more grateful than perhaps ever before to have this outstanding group of people to turn to, in good times and in bad.

Here are some (anonymous) excerpts from their contributions:

  • “I fear that you younger folks will have to live with a very different country ahead.”
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  • “Yes, all we have is each other and love where we can find it. When the going gets tough we’ll probably find less of it around. What I’m finding myself scared and sad about is the need to be brave for maybe years to come, to sacrifice and take risks for each other, and I just feel too tired and scared for another civil rights movement. Getting arrested made me less fierce, not more. Thanks for the missive and the community. Sorry that I don’t have a lot of light right now. Want to come over for a hang tonight? I’m back from soccer by 9.”
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  • thank god my cats have no idea that today is different from yesterday and make me laugh. (scraping week old cat puke off the floor feels appropriate.)”
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  • “As I told my Dad earlier today, this is the first time I’ve lost sleep and then had a nightmare about a political issue. And I’m not even that liberal! I think the overwhelming amount of people that care for one another and are genuinely disturbed by this result will make a big difference. We’re not dead! Either Trump will be just another crappy president, or he’ll try something really bad and the people won’t have it. We aren’t Germany after WW1, we’re a multicultural nation that can’t be tricked completely. It will be OK.”
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  • “I’m thinking that perhaps most or all of you are living ‘Up North’ (as we say here in North Carolina). It is very helpful to read your personal statements of despair and yet hope. My husband and I feel fortunate that we have so many like-minded friends and family and also a strong, progressive and outspoken church community. Otherwise I think we might feel even more depressed and overwhelmed than we do already. At 73, I am crushed to find that our country is still not ready for strong female leadership, which I had hoped would happen in my lifetime. It is hard to keep on hoping after so many dry years (the 70s were a lot more fun). But it is the hope and encouragement of people like you who keep us all going and willing to keep fighting for true change in this country of ours.”
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  • “Did you know that H.L. Mencken predicted this would happen almost 100 years ago?”
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    H.L. Mencken Trump cartoon
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  • “Feeling very much the same here in the western bastion of sanity. Finding some relief in commiserating with like minded folks. One thing I’ve found therapeutic is to create a list of three things that I can and will do to make the next 4+ years just a little less shitty. Give it a try.”
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  • “I believe my fear is rational. April and I were in Russia over the summer, and we witnessed first-hand a country where an authoritarian has taken power, then systematically weakened, dismantled, or taken control over all the institutions of democracy and media in order to cement his power. The same thing is happening in Turkey as we speak. There is a blueprint for it. Perhaps I am being alarmist (I hope), but as we learned in this election, underestimating Trump is a mistake. We can’t keep dismissing him as a buffoon. He has never played by the rules or respected the norms of civil society. We need to assume he is capable of anything, and that even his most outrageous threats are serious, possible, and anything but bluster. I think we need to ignore our democratic impulse to be gracious in defeat, or to give the new president the benefit of the doubt. He has said what he wants to do, and we need to believe him and challenge him from the start, before he gets entrenched.”
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  • “Remember Susan B’s words, ‘Failure is impossible.’ “

An Indian-American friend gave her account of getting “Shut up, you Arab bitch, you’re dead” shouted at her repeatedly on the subway. My husband’s septuagenarian aunt proposed several practical actions we could all take moving forward: hosting letter-writing potluck dinners, making phone calls to state and national level representatives, convening small groups and visiting congresspeople’s offices with a particular request or list of questions. We traded links to petitions, homemade satirical videos, comforting quotes and poetry, and possibilities for answering the question, “What do we do now?”

In one of my favorite replies, a lawyer friend wrote about his volunteer work with the Safe Passage Project and how in the past two years he’s helped three children apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and (fingers crossed) get green cards.

Outside of the births of my children, [helping one of these kids in particular] might be the proudest moment of my life and it is definitely my proudest moment as an attorney,” he wrote. “It is exactly why I became an attorney, to help people.”

He continued: “Please see the importance of connecting with others. We cannot allow kids like these to fall through the cracks. To become victims of Trump and those who support him. Elizabeth Warren said on Rachel Maddow yesterday that we need to organize and stay in touch with those around us. Do not be afraid to ask your friends, your coworkers, and even those you meet on the street what is wrong and be prepared to listen to their answers. Forge relationships with others and do not be afraid to ask for help. We are here for you and we will not let you fail. You are not alone.”

The group’s wonderful and poignant notes go on, too many to recount here. I’ll end with the one that’s probably gotten the most play in our house to date, from our computer-programmer-turned-full-time-drummer friend who encapsulates with equal parts intelligent critique and absurd humor the scary ride we’ve been on for the past week and change:

I guess we must revel in the friendships we make during the struggle and not take it for granted that we live with neighbors who understand science, diversity and the importance of inclusion for effective democracy.

From my perspective, the same people who weren’t concerned as we lost soldiers daily in Iraq, lost hundreds of contractors, killed hundreds of thousands of people defending against our illegal invasion of their nation, and destroyed thousands of emails that would have explained our intent for invading that country have spent the last several years seizing on one terrible moment where we tragically lost four contractors in Benghazi, wasting millions of dollars and all their energy attacking Hillary over less important emails and one tragic night, instead of governing.

Somehow this bad work ethic and focus on negative attacks was rewarded: and we have a president who, for example, has the endorsement of the fraternal order of police because he doesn’t hold them accountable, exemplified by his stupendous belief that the Central Park 5 should still be in prison or executed in spite of DNA evidence exonerating them and fingering the actual perpetrator who has a record of sexual assault (who also confessed and described his attack). And who similarly chooses ignorance on science of climate change, racism, freedom of religion, women’s rights, marriage equality, health care, etc…

Into the time machine we go: goodbye health care, goodbye freedom of choice, goodbye marriage equality, goodbye holding authorities accountable for false confessions and planted evidence, goodbye freedom from religion, goodbye leading the world on how democracy can work by being inclusive and positive. Hello darkness my old friend.

Just kidding: We need to stay positive, affect ignorance with love and positive guidance and finding common threads that bind us rather than alienation, as hard as that seems. And on the positive side: comedians will be in heaven with this guy in office.

This is all going to backfire as I have decided to run for city council, work my way up to senator as I get my law degree, all the while I will be groping white men like [friend’s name] full-on with no remorse and without permission. My ultimate plan is to be the first gay President. After the third debate, as me and my GOP opponent (picture a Mitt clone) reach to shake hands, I will grab that motherfucker by his balls and as he squirms I will look at the cameras, looking America right in the eye, and say “This is for Trump, you no good son of a bitch!”

Two upcoming writing events very worth your time

I think I could write a story every week about some awesome person I know who’s doing something fabulous that I want more people to know about. (And what’s stopping me, I suppose?!)

This week is even more fabulous-er than usual, because I have not one but two admirable friends’ events to shout out, AND they’re both really useful and enjoyable writing events!

Tracy Sayre

A picture of Tracy that is unrelated to the conference, but that is super fun

Coming right up, next Saturday, April 9 in Manhattan, I can recommend Tracy Sayre‘s fifth Writers Work conference to writers of many stripes: novelists, short story peeps, anyone curious to learn more about the publishing world, and on from there.

I’ve been to at least two of Tracy’s epic conferences and spoken at one, and am happy to say with utmost surety that you will get your time and money’s worth. Tracy is uber-connected, super-serious, and hardcore-dedicated to her mission of helping writers develop their craft, career, and community.

The April 9 conference will include a pitching workshop, an online marketing tutorial, and talks by a former New York Times editor, a multi-bestselling author of thrillers, and publishing industry mavens galore. See lots more info and sign up here.

Danielle DeTiberus and Ryan Schenck

Danielle and her pardner Ryan outside my apartment before her reading at The New School with Sherman Alexie last fall!

Coming up a little later, June 18 to 25 (which is good, because you’ll need time to pack your bags and get a base tan!) is the Best American Poetry-anthologized, Charleston School of the Arts-teaching, Program Chair of The Poetry Society of South Carolina Danielle DeTiberus‘s first writing retreat! With yoga! In COSTA RICA! If I weren’t already getting married this year, taking a trip to Russia, and possibly trying to buy a house, I would be there in a heartbeat.

“Whether delighting in the view from the mountain top, coming to the mat, or giving your breath a voice on the page,” reads the event info, “we will find our strength, our creativity, and our intuition.” Plus the whole thing is called “Elevated Union: A Yoga and Writing Retreat. Shifting Perspectives on the Mat, on the Page, and on the Path.” Sounds dope, right?! You can see some mesmerizing photos of the tropical venue and surroundings, read more about the retreat, and get sign-up info here.

Lastly it wouldn’t be April Fool’s Day without a little fun for fun’s sake, right? Well, as usual, you’ve come to the right place for that! Anyone who’s still reading this far down is cordially invited to Neil Totton‘s and my joint birthday party in Hell’s Kitchen tomorrow night!! Here’s the flyer. Bring your A game! (Or your B game; we’re not picky.)

Neil Totton April Greene aries birthday party

I laughed, I cried: The Holidays 2015

Lots of laughs and a few tears—of happiness!—this holiday season.

We started off in the Pocono Mountains, on a tour of its famed, fading Honeymoon Hotels.

Initially, we’d picked this particular excursion for its renowned tackiness and kitsch—and there was plenty of that!—but we did also find ourselves drinking a bit of the kool-aid. These are “couples-only” resorts, so there are no kids around; it’s also not a desperation-dusted singles scene. We’d never participated in this exact type of scenario before, but by day two, we were feeling its effects, mostly characterized by an intoxicating influx of relaxation.

Evidently, the air was so thick with romance that we lost our senses and (ready?) got engaged! Mr. Sock Monkey is holding the place of honor until further notice.

Sock Monkey

Dramatic reenactment

Before departing, we were able to see some of Pennsylvania’s many other points of interest:

Then it was off to Charleston, where we met Arthur’s family and our friends Danielle and Ryan for a festive few days of swamp-traipsing, firework-exploding, and remembering to mash the garage door button.

Oh, to make this writing-related (and because it’s so cool), I’ll add here that the aforementioned Danielle is a fabulous writer and writing teacher; we met as fellow students in Emerson College’s creative writing program. Last year, Danielle was anthologized in The Best American Poetry 2015, edited by huge-wigs David Lehman and Sherman Alexie. Holla!! She was also just today published in the wonderful On Being blog. Love you, Dani!

I’m quite sure I’ll be writing about more of Danielle’s superhuman accomplishments in the year ahead, as well as about regional travel, cool families, notable signage, and mycelium. Looking forward to all.

Here’s looking at you, 2015! You will live long on my Flickr page and in my spiral-bound journal. And a big hello to 2016 and all the opportunities for obsessive documentation you are sure to bring.

Buy my poetry for $1!

Hello several friends who subscribe to this blog!

As you already know, because I cannot conceal my outsize pride about this little project, my tiny poetry books are here!

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One 8.5 x 11 sheet—skillfully folded and packed to the gills with strange journal clippings and b&w photos from a 28th birthday party in a hotel room in Queens and from Trees of Mystery in approximately the same year—can now be yours for the low, low price of $1 cash.

Did I mention they’re hand-numbered in gold-tone ink on the back??

Just drop me a line and I’ll give you my address. Send me a dollar in cash, and I’ll mail a book back to you. Easy peasy.

I may never rise to Node Pajomo-like levels of mail art greatness, but I am happy to be dipping this first toe in the water. Thanks for deigning to join me!

The Friday Sky: Lerici, Italy

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From the hotel parking lot

Overlooking Il Golfo dei Poeti, the Gulf of Poets, so called because so many poor poets were thrown in here as punishment for being nerds.

JK! I haven’t looked it up yet, but hopefully that is not the actual origin of the name.

Ciao!