Elizabeth Detention Center. Department of Homeland Security.

I dragged my family to Elizabeth, NJ yesterday to protest Trump’s Immigration ban outside the Elizabeth Detention Center. My dearest Elliot held this sign above his head while sitting atop his daddy’s shoulders until his hands felt numb. (Yeah, his dumbass parents forgot his gloves.)

My plan is to remain as active as possible. We need to keep up the momentum until this stops. This is NOT what America is about. Shame on us.

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I Take Great Comfort In Dystopian Literature

Last night, I started my sixth dystopian/post-apocalyptic novel. I used to read books like this as a kid, maybe not as gruesome and terrifying, but I was really into science fiction and the supernatural. I don’t know why I have a strange obsession for the post-apocalyptic world. I’m happier than I’ve been in decades. I was a pretty happy kid, too. And I’m relatively healthy if you overlook all the skin cancer spots on my face. (Stupid sun. Never much cared for the sun.)

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So, why am I obsessed with the end of the world? Why do books about nuclear warfare; viruses that take out entire continents; deranged killers left behind after most all of the good people perish; why am I interested in reading darkly comical tales about an infinite library, a book that is frankly so bizarre, captivating and weird, I can’t possibly sum it up for anyone—why does all of this appeal to me when we’re facing some pretty dystopian shit head-on?

What’s taking place around me on a political front is downright terrifying on its own. And this shit is REAL. Our current administration is waging war against women. I mean, I can’t even comment and/or write about that. And he actually IS going to build a wall separating the U.S. from Mexico. An expensive wall that will do JACK SHIT to curb illegal immigration. But he said he’d do it! And, by golly, his supporters are holding him to that promise! And as it turns out? We ARE actually going to be paying for it. A fucking wall, y’all. Quite possibly the most useless BUT expensive wall ever erected.

This isn’t make-believe. This is real life. And it’d actually be muy cómico if it weren’t so damn loco.

So, yeah. All of this information has been entering my brain and before I can make any sense of it, it’s forming one MASSIVE pileup, like one of those colossal car wrecks that take place along major highways during an ice storm. One car can’t stop, it starts sliding, then it hits another car and that car can’t stop and before you know it every single car, truck and van on that particular roadway turns into one magnificent ball of crunched up metal.

In just one week’s time, all the headlines, the Facebook posts, the Tweets, the NPR blips and bleeps, they’ve all piled up. Holy wreckage point. I can’t keep them all separate right now. It’s one of the worst car wrecks in the history of my brain.

So, I am running away from it. I can’t even rubberneck anymore.

One might assume I would want to read about flowers, or bread, maybe even something about birds, maybe pick up a couple of cute comic books, you know, something simple and concrete and not at all upsetting.

Nope. I am diving right into dystopian literature. Just like I used to do as a child. It’s good to be back here. I have missed this child.

Last night, after finishing On The Beach, I started The Wolf Road.

Prior to On the Beach. I read The Library at Mount Char; Alas, Babylon; The Man In The High Castle; and Normal.

I just placed an order for The Girl With All the Gifts and Station Eleven and I still have Dark Matter sitting on my bookshelf.

Why am I sharing this with you? I don’t know. I don’t know why. Maybe I want more literature suggestions? Maybe I want to start a post-apocalyptic bookclub?

Maybe I’m trying to escape the fire by running straight through it.

A Train Called Zero

I headed into the city with Corie on Saturday to take part in what was to become the largest protest in U.S. history. There simply aren’t words to describe what took place that day. Kind of like those thoughts you have right before you wake up, the ones that exist just outside of the part of your brain responsible for making sense of things by way of language—you know, all those things that help us to explain how and why. What happened on Saturday sits right outside that part of my brain.

These thoughts are like dandelion wisps, they move on their own, along undetectable currents. They are unpredictable in the most beautiful way. And the more you try and keep an eye on a single wisp, the more free-flowing it becomes before it disappears entirely. Try and capture a group of them, and more arrive.

Saturday felt like one of these moments. It was unpredictable, yet beautiful.

A dandelion wisp among millions.

I didn’t stay at the march for too long. I took in everything that I could. But at a certain point I felt a little stuck in space and so I detached myself from my group and moved against the crowd. I marched along 42nd Street, past Grand Central and under the bridge. I took some pictures. I chanted. I cheered. I yelled.

And I watched.

As the crowd turned and moved toward Trump Tower, I continued straight and entered the first subway station I came across. I wasn’t sure where I was going. But that seemed appropriate somehow. I hadn’t really known where I was going from the moment I got up that morning. And for a mother of three with a pretty typical schedule, this felt so right.

I moved down and around and somehow I ended up boarding the 42nd Street Shuttle, you know, that little gray line that connects Grand Central to Times Square. NYCT Rapid Transit Operations refers to it as Train Zero, which kind of makes me want to adopt it. But I’m told you can’t adopt train lines.

Yet.

Usually I walk everywhere when I’m in the city. But having run 2 miles earlier that morning and having walked another 5 for the march, I was pretty beat up. I’d also worn the worst possible pair of shoes and all but one of my fingertips had turned bone white.

So, I opted for a subway. I didn’t even care which one.

The 42nd Street Shuttle can seem a little silly as it only has two points. It goes back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. And I can’t fathom being a conductor for that line. It must be mindbogglingly boring. It’s the shortest line in the entire system. It runs 2,700 feet in under two minutes and then turns right back around again.

I have lived in or around NYC since 2000. I have been on The Shuttle probably three times in my life. One of those times was Saturday.

It is a bit odd to find me on The Shuttle.

It was full, so I couldn’t sit down. I walked to the end of the car, past an African American man playing a huge, old school keyboard, singing sad songs to no one and everyone who wanted to listen. It occurred to me that it’s probably a pretty great subway line to make money on. You sing a two minute song, people give you some change, they all leave and a whole new group of people board the shuttle for another 2 minute song.

As we sat in the station waiting to move, I listened to him play. His lyrics were haunting and his notes equally so. I closed my eyes and leaned against the subway doors.

As our train started to move, the singing man finished up one of his sad songs and started another. I opened my eyes just in time to make eye contact with an older woman sitting down across the way. She looked to be Middle Eastern or Eastern European. She had long, jet black hair, highlights of bright silver fell in all throughout it. She was beautiful. And the wrinkles on her face made her even more so. Her lips were a deep red. Her eyes dark as a moonless night. She was weeping.

And she didn’t look away from me. She was shameless in her emotions and I admired her so very much for that.

I took my arms and wrapped them around my shoulders. I took my right hand and pointed back at her.

“Do you need a hug?” I didn’t say.

She began to weep some more.

“No.” She didn’t say in return.

She gave me a sweet smile. The singing man and his notes had brought tears to her eyes. He didn’t know as much.

But I did.

She made a fist with her right hand and held it up to her chest, tapped her heart twice and held it out to me. A tear fell onto her lap. I put my hand to my lips, kissed my fingers and turned them toward her.

We didn’t speak a word to one another, but I heard her voice.

The singing man kept singing. Another dandelion wisp on a metal tube moving back and forth, setting into motion two more.

Two minutes were up. We had arrived at our station, directly beneath the busiest, most vacant place on Earth. Above us sat Jumbotrons the size of a large NYC apartments; billboards selling shit that no one needs; tourists handing over their hard earned dollars for snowglobes made in China. Above our heads, her tears and his sad songs stood dozens of grownups confined to a metal barrier, dressed up as Sesame Street characters and superheroes. And surrounding those characters are chain restaurants with hour long lines consisting of people waiting to be served mediocre food by woefully mistreated waiters.

We were beneath Times Square, the least humane place in all of NYC, and there I was experiencing one of the more meaningful moments I’ve ever had.

The doors opened. Everyone spilled out onto the platform. Our two minutes came to an end. The train would head back again, back to where it came from, with the singing man, his sad songs and chilling notes. He would have a whole new group of passengers.

She went her way. I went mine. Two dandelion wisps moving away from a train called Zero.

I Did NOT!

No, YOU stayed up late hand-feeding your son’s beta fish mashed peas in hopes of saving its life.

I will meet you out back, overtop frozen ground, surrounded by birdseed.

I keep writing. But I’m not sure why. And this isn’t one of those, “Is there anybody out there?” posts, although that question directly coincides with another part of my life right now. So maybe that’s why I’m writing this today? You see, I’ve embraced a new hobby. Well, actually, it’s a new OLD hobby, one I used to have as a child. I’ve turned it into a new project, but I can’t quite share it with anyone just yet because I’m not quite sure where it’s headed.

Don’t you hate that shit? Don’t you hate it when people say, “I can’t wait to share this with you! But I can’t right now.” No one did that before social media, did they? I mean, maybe in grade school. I seem to remember that now. And those people were highly irritating. I seem to remember a few girlfriends saying, “I HAVE NEWS! But I can’t tell you what it is yet. Not yet. You’ll have to wait. IT’S HUGE!”

Hey, asshole. How about you hold it together next time and NOT tell me that you have HUGE news until you’re actually ready to share it with me?

Or maybe the news is actually like a sourdough starter? At first it’s just flour and water and maybe a little salt and therefore boring as shit because it just sits in a bag, lifeless, looking like paste. And so you have to make it sound a lot more exciting than it is at the moment because who gives a shit about paste? So then maybe after a while, after you feed it a bit more, scrutinize over it, tend to it, obsess over it for a couple of days or weeks, maybe even months, it’ll grow into something amazing, perfectly stinky and alive and therefore finally worth sharing with people.

But until that story has some actual bacteria and culture, shut the hell up about it, you know?

I’m not sure where I was going with that one.

Sorry about that.

I’m also sorry for sharing my starter with you before I actually know if it’s going to work. My starter is a bag of paste right now. It’s basically worthless until I feed it some more and even then I’m not sure it’ll be worth anything, or help with growth.

(Keep writing…)

Yesterday I spent 9 dollars on big bag of birdseed. It turned out to be the best 9 dollars I’ve spent in ages. When I got home, I dumped a ton of it outside and waited. But only one little fatty showed up. I was ok with that. He ate like a king. And then he moved along. So, early this morning, as I made my way downstairs preparing myself to get three very needy children ready for their day, I stood in our kitchen, sipping the most amazing cup of coffee watching a whole, new beautiful world unfold outside my window. A world I hadn’t even imagined prior yesterday. Birds! So many birds! Birds I know NOTHING about. Birds of all different colors and shapes and sizes. Birds I could not name if my life depended on it, but boy were they ever beautiful. And boy did they ever have a feast.

I am so grateful to finally be able to mentally absorb and enjoy all these tiny details I’ve been overlooking all these years. Nature has been tossing this stuff my way for 42 years. And for the first time since I was a kid, I am able to appreciate these minute details again. I’m no longer obsessing over the bigger picture. Because, the bigger picture? Let’s be honest. Most of the time? The bigger picture is complicated, scary and just plain sucks.

Depression is a bitch, guys.

(Keep writing…)

There seem to be many people in my life right now—both online and off—who are suffering. I know this because they reach out in tiny ways; little blips of Morse code all over social media and elsewhere. And I’m often not sure which blips are the REALLY serious ones and which ones are just your average venting blips, but they all matter.

I loathe the idea of people hurting.

Yesterday I was running along one of my routes that happens to pass a veterinary clinic and while I was waiting to cross the busy street I saw an older man standing outside the clinic, talking to someone on his cellphone. He was crying. I mashed the walk button hoping to change the light because something came over me and I simply had to give that man a hug. I had to. It was a compulsion. But by the time the light turned, he had reentered the clinic and I didn’t feel right chasing him inside and potentially embarrassing him—I was a stranger wearing tights and pair of Yaktrax, after all.

I’m certain that man needed to cry. But I sure wish I could have given him a hug.

(Keep writing…)

So, if you’re reading this, and you’re hurting, please write. Reach out in some way. Send out a blip or a bleep or a code of some kind; send me a message. I will call you. I will email you. I will meet you out back, overtop frozen ground, surrounded by birdseed and we can take in all the tiny details together; the ones we’ve been overlooking; the ones that make life so much more tolerable and enjoyable.

And if you need to cry, I will hug you and not let go until you do.

Filling In The Blanks and Gaps.

I grew up a few miles from Three Mile Island. I was five when it leaked. My mom was pregnant with my younger brother, Ryan so we were told we had to evacuate. Rob and I were in school at the time. I was in Kindergarten. He would have been in the 2nd grade. My mother showed up unannounced and signed us out for the day. It was confusing and different, and for a five-year-old, a little exciting.

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Image from EPA.GOV

“Where are we going?” Rob asked.

“To grandma’s house.” My mom answered.

“Cool! For how long?”

“I don’t know.”

We piled into our wood-paneled station wagon and set off with the bare necessities, the ones my mother had chosen for us. We weren’t even able to go home first.

My dad was still at work. He couldn’t yet leave but planned on meeting us in New Jersey if he was told to do so.

Told by whom? I didn’t know. I didn’t ask.

I was five, so I know I can’t recall EXACTLY what went on that day. And my mother will have a different memory. My older brother will as well. They may have a more precise one than I do, and by precise I mean, had that day been recorded, their memory might coincide with video evidence. But that’s not really what matters when it comes to memory, especially for children. For a child, it doesn’t matter what actually happened, because when a kid experiences something, what they process and how they feel becomes their reality.

What I guess I’m trying to say is that the details don’t really matter here, not for this story. For example, maybe we did stop at the house first, but that doesn’t matter. That won’t change anything. Because the memory that grew that day seeded itself and grew into something strong and everlasting. I believe it had a profound impact on my childhood, not good or bad impact, just a weighty one.

What I remember seeing that day was silence. That day held the absence of normal; it was the absence of everyday life that stood out to me. The lack of normalcy and the mundanity of everyday life. The only other time I have witnessed anything like this in my life was right after September 11th, 2001. I lived in New York City at the time and the absence of the usual movement was surreal. Subways stopped running. No planes flew overhead. The sky was empty of contrails. Stores were shuttered. Life stood still, at least for a while. No one knew what was going to happen next.

Back in March of 1979, I remember driving downtown, which was an absolute ghost town. But it shouldn’t have been at that hour. It should have been filled with people running errands (mostly women; it was the late 70s, after all). Businesses should have been bustling with people. But no one was outside on the streets. Behind every windshield, was a serious face seated with serious looking passengers. The cars moved along with us, leaving town. Going anywhere else.

My mom did her best during the three hour drive to explain what was happening and why we were leaving. There had been a leak at the power plant. Dangerous chemicals could be floating through the air and those chemicals could be bad for young children, babies, and babies that were still in the bellies of their mommas.

“Can you see the chemicals?”

“No.”

“What do the chemicals do to someone?”

“It could give them cancer. It could burn them. It makes people very sick.”

“Oh.”

Five-year-old brains tend to fill in the blanks and gaps that parents leave empty. And what children come up with is often a great deal more interesting than reality. In my case, those blanks and gaps would be filled with information taken from my dreams and nightmares as well as what I pieced together from radio broadcasts and adult conversations I wasn’t meant to hear. It haunted me that the air around us, something so innocuous yet necessary, could be carrying something invisible and dangerous.

Crossing the street required looking for moving vehicles so you don’t get squished. That made sense. Swimming means making sure you could touch the bottom or that a grownup or a lifeguard is there to protect you. If you see fire or smoke? You were to call 911 and then stop, drop and roll. Don’t take any medicine that isn’t handed to you by a grownup or a doctor. Make sure you’re not outside if you see lightning. (I ignored this warning as a kid because thunderstorms are awesome.)

But this was different. This danger was moving within something invisible, something necessary for our basic survival: air. And the air we had been breathing all along might now hold a chemical which could burn a person from the inside out. That day, I learned that the place a few miles from my home, the place that had been supplying us with electricity, also had the capability of killing a vast number of people. This became perfect fodder for creating some pretty terrifying, post-apocalyptic nightmares, not that I really knew what that meant at age five. But boy did I have some pretty kick ass dystopian dreams! Most of them reoccurring. They happened so frequently, I started to take comfort in them because I knew what to expect and I knew they were just dreams. Perhaps it was my brain’s way of saying, “Don’t worry so much about this, Michele.” Or it was my unconscious self saying, “HOLY SHIT, YOU NAIVE FIVE-YEAR-OLD. THIS IS TERRIFYING STUFF. BY THE WAY, THERE ARE ALSO BOMBS HOLDING THIS POWERFUL INVISIBLE SHIT.”

Thankfully, at five, I couldn’t fill in all those gaps. Those gaps got filled in a few years later.

The last thing I remember about the drive to grandma’s house, is how I consciously tried very hard not to breath. Obviously, this wasn’t possible, but I did cut back a lot. And I was pretty proud of myself, at age five, I felt my survival instincts were on point. The breaths I did take, were small and quick—just enough to fill my lungs so I wouldn’t die from asphyxiation. When we stopped for gas and my mother opened the car door, I held my breath the entire time the door was open. I did everything possible to not inhale the air around me. And I remember that as we moved further and further away from home, East and into New Jersey, I let myself breath a little more with every passing mile. I began to take deeper breaths. Poisoned air didn’t care much for New Jersey.

Recently someone (who isn’t a fan) asked me, “Why do you like The Walking Dead so much?” And I thought about this later because I didn’t really have an answer. But this is why. This story is why. At the age of five I developed a strange obsession and fondness for the post apocalyptic world. Only I had no clue what that even meant at the time. I just knew I found excitement and intrigue in all things that came after the silence, after people begin to let themselves breath again, after you realized death wasn’t imminent.

A funny thing that took place as I was writing this. I started writing this post yesterday, Monday, January 2nd at about 3:30 PM. Right when I got to the paragraph directly above this one, the power went out. My computer still worked, but when I tried to save the post, it just spun and spun. Worried I might lose everything, I shut it down for the day. It was a rainy afternoon, so it was rather dark already and the sun sets early these days. So I gathered up and lit all my candles, started a fire in the fireplace, and grabbed the latest book I’ve been reading—a book in a series of books I’ve purchased recently about a post-apocalyptic world: Alas, Babylon.

The book was written in 1959 and it’s about a post-nuclear war between the USSR and the United States. I opened the book up to the last page I’d read and continued just as the main character begins preparing for what’s to come. He goes out to buy food. He visits the bank to cash in checks for cash. He goes home and gathers up as many candles as he can, knowing that in all likelihood the grid was about to go down and the power would go out.

And by the flickering of candlelight, this made me laugh out loud.

 

You Are The Everything.

Mike was popular. Girls giggled whenever he was around. And the boys did everything they could to try and impress him. He was that guy in the fourth grade. I am absolutely certain everyone knows a that guy.

I was 10. I was so not that guy. I was awkward looking—gangly. Pale as hell. I had impossibly frizzy hair. (I’m the one on the far right, dressed in blue. This shot was taken a year or so after fourth grade, but you get the picture.)

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My family and I had just moved to North Carolina from Pennsylvania. Not only did I feel awkward and uncomfortable in my own preteen skin, but I was also an outsider. I had a strange accent (i.e. not a southern one). I knew not one person at my new school—not one.

In fact, since we’d moved to North Carolina that summer, only one kid had spoken a word to me. His name was Aaron. He lived on my block. He eventually became one of my closest friends. He made me feel OK. He had a way of making most people feel OK.

Other than Aaron, who did not ride my bus, I had no one to talk to. I did have a Walkman and a pair of headphones and they kept me company. Every day, to and from school, I would put on my headphones and disappear. I was really good at it. Escaping everything and everyone around me came easy, easier than actually talking to people. I would turn myself into a ghost by entering a fantasy world that ran adjacent to the one I was supposed to exist in. In my imaginary world, sometimes I was popular. Boys liked me and girls invited me to their slumber parties. Sometimes I was cool. I usually had straight hair. I wasn’t pale. My freckles were gone. Sometimes I could do flips off a diving board or tap dance. My fantasies changed daily, but my worlds always had a soundtrack. Sometimes soundtracks would change along with my internal discourse. It was George Michael sometimes. Then it would be Michael Jackson for a bit. Cyndi Lauper made several appearances. There was a ton of Prince. Sometimes Blondie. When I was really young, like 5 and 6, it was George Burns, Olivia Newton John, Sylvia, and Kenny Rogers.

I loved music.

I still love music. Music has been my confidant, my most trustworthy friend since as early as I have memory. It sticks by me no matter how awkward I am. It stood by me no matter how many times I thought I’d never survive a broken heart. It was there to see me through the deaths of several friends. Music has walked alongside me throughout my entire life. When I’m hurting, I listen to music. When I’m happy, I turn to music. Without music, I don’t think I would have survived, quite frankly. I know that sounds dramatic; and there’s no way to know if it’s indeed true. But I feel pretty comfortable saying that music has been the brightness during my darkest hours, the darkness when I needed more. Music allowed me to escape one minute and arrive the next. Music made me realize that pain was usually temporary, but also very real. When I felt lonely, which was all of the time back then, I knew that as long as music existed, I would never ever truly be alone.

So, back to the bus, Mike and George Michael.

At that time—the beginning of fourth grade—many of my fantasies were born from the song “Careless Whisper”. I loved that damn song. I listened to that song over and over and over again. I would finish it, rewind it, play it again. I did this so many times, I knew exactly how long to hold down the rewind button on my Walkman before hitting the end of the previous song. I was good.

In truth, I really wanted a boy to notice me. I thought that if a boy took notice of me, maybe girls would like me too. I wanted a boy to fall in love with me and write songs about me, maybe even play the guitar. And “Careless Whisper” helped me come up with some pretty remarkable, totally unbelievable fantasies. Sometimes, depending on my mood, my fantasy would become a comically dark one. One that would end with my dying in an enormous, very dramatic, fiery car crash and my imaginary boyfriend would be devastated upon hearing the news. “Careless Whisper” became the song that would remind him of me. And he would cry. And, somehow (I think because I liked the idea of ghosts) I was able to watch him mourn from another mysterious plane of existence. It felt good watching someone miss me that much.

In my fantasy world, nothing was off limits. Even unicorns.

Sometimes, my imaginary boyfriend would leave me for another girl only to realize that the new girl wasn’t nearly as cool and beautiful as me and so he’d leave her, try and come back to me, but I was long gone and in love another amazing boy. I made up fantasy after fantasy to the song “Careless Whisper”. I was really, really good at shapeshifting reality.

I feel so unsure
As I take your hand and lead you to the dance floor

One afternoon, returning home from school on the bus with my headphones on, I was listening to “Careless Whisper” fantasizing about my imaginary life with my super cute boyfriend, when Mike the popular guy walked up to me.

As the music dies, something in your eyes
Calls to mind the silver screen

He hands me a folded, red heart made out of construction paper. He blushes and returns to his seat.

And all its sad good-byes

I open the paper heart.

“You’re cute.”

You know how when you’re in a moving car with the window down and something like a receipt, or a dollar bill gets swept up into a swirling stream of air, and the pressure from the air outside the window sucks that thing right out into the universe before you can even figure out what the hell it it? That was my fantasy that day. Full swirl, then sucked right up and out the window, out to mingle with the humid North Carolina air.

Mike thinks I’m cute?

“Careless Whisper” became even more meaningful after that. I didn’t need to fantasize anymore about the popular boy because a popular boy in my REAL life thought I was cute. I could just listen to that song and relive that entire moment, over and over and over again. I did embellish it a bunch though. He would sometimes sit next to me. Sometimes, he’d hold my hand. My creativity went to shit whenever something remotely real made an appearance.

Anyway, I carried that construction paper heart everywhere I went. It was like a hot secret, burning holes through my paperbacks, my pockets, the bottom of my pillow at night. And for a week I waited for him to write more, say something—anything. I would have settled for a glance. Nothing.

So one day, a popular girl started talking to me. I have no idea why. This wasn’t normal. I’m guessing it was all part of the plan. But she started talking to me about boys and school and I figured maybe I could confide in her about the heart-shaped note. So I told her. I told her Mike had given me a note on the bus saying he thought I was cute.

She laughed. “Yeah. I know. We dared him to do that. I can’t believe he actually did!”

I’m never gonna dance again
Guilty feet have got no rhythm
Though it’s easy to pretend
I know you’re not a fool

While the song still held meaning and I continued to listen to it, I no longer fantasized about Mike and his careless paper heart. I no longer fantasized about anyone to that song. That song was put on a shelf and whenever I did listen to it, I did so simply to enjoy it. Which was perfectly acceptable if not normal for most people.

There are days where I’m amazed that I survived my youth. There are days where I worry about what my kids are going to experience. There are days where I wish I could tell everyone it’s gonna be OK and mean it. I want to say that you should find your friend, even if it’s music, and let that hold you. Because it will mostly be OK.

Mostly.

Time can never mend
The careless whispers of a good friend
To the heart and mind
Ignorance is kind
There’s no comfort in the truth
Pain is all you’ll find

Over the last 24 hours, I have watched messages scroll across my computer screen. Tweets, Facebook posts, articles—thousands of people mourning the loss of George Michael. Some people might call us silly because we didn’t know him. He didn’t know us. But I think many of us needed him. He, like countless other musicians, made us feel OK; they made us feel safe. They were our friends.

Please don’t judge a person for how they mourn or who they mourn for. Compassion grows out of real emotion, and if 2016 has taught me anything, it’s that we need more compassion.

I owe a great deal of thanks to so many musicians. George Michael. Olivia Newton John. Ted Leo. John Darnielle (of the Mountain Goats). Michael Stipe. Jason Molina (Songs: Ohia). Greenday. Quicksand. The Rolling Stones. Lou Reed. Kenny Rogers. Frightened Rabbit. Old 97s. George Burns. Sonic Youth. Built to Spill. Blondie. This list goes on and on, but these few stand out.

Thank you, musicians of the world. You are the everything. You save us all one beautiful note, one relatable lyric at a time.

You are the everything.

Slapped By A Ghost.

Toby Joe has been automating our home lately. There’s probably a better term for this, but I don’t really know what I’m talking about. I just live with a guy who does weird shit all of the time. Most of the time it makes me giggle. Sometimes, I am so confused by it I simply shrug my shoulders and nod. But I always play along because usually he’s working on something much bigger than what he’s showing me. These little things he does are often dress rehearsals for a more lucrative production down the line.

I think all this house automation stuff began when I jokingly asked for a “Kill Switch”. You see, with three boys and a big basement full of beanbags, we have to ask them 57 times to turn off Minecraft or MarioKart and come up for dinner, or whatever basic human necessity we need them to tend to. So Toby got to work and gave me a Kill Switch. We are now able to turn the TV off from anywhere in the house. We can also lock the doors using our phone; tell Alexa to lock our doors. We can ask Alexa to change the colors and luminosity of our hallway lights. Our bedside lights turn on when they detect motion during the day (which is nice when you don’t have overhead lighting in a 100 year old house). Yes, sometimes it’s a little Black Mirror-ish, but it’s also quite useful.

And then sometimes it’s just hilariously weird.

Yesterday morning, as we sat around sipping our coffee, Toby nonchalantly says to me, “Oh, by the way, I programmed our bedside reading lamps to flicker every time Donald Trump tweets in the middle of the night.”

“Oh? Well, that’s weird.” I tell him. “Wait, did you really do that? Or are you joking about doing that? Is this just an idea you had?”

“No. Not just an idea. It’s already done.”

“Cool. That could be quite funny, actually. It’s also pretty fucked up that we’re going to have president who does such a thing.”

At about 10 PM last night, I start drifting off to sleep. It’s dark in our room. The motion sensor has long shut down for the night, so I’m understandably confused when my light flickers. And for a split second, I wonder if maybe I’m having one of those weird brain zaps; you know the ones that jolt the shit out of you, wake you up, leave your heart racing. When I was a kid I used to think those brain zaps were ghosts slapping the living daylights out of me. (Or into me. I never got to ask them which.)

But then the light flickered again. Not a brain zap. Or a pissed off ghost.

I grab my phone from the bedside table and search for Trump’s twitter account. Sure enough, two tweets back-to-back about how awesome it is that he has officially become our next president.

How did we get here again?

I’ll be honest, I think I would have rather been slapped by a ghost.