Songs for the Struggling Artist


What I Was Supposed to Get Out of Jury Service and What I Got Instead

People like to tell you that being a part of a jury for a trial gave them a new sense of appreciation for the court system. The videos preparing you for jury service like to report that people say this as well. I might have thought this would happen to me, too, but in fact, it was something like the opposite. The whole experience made me incredibly sad. Now that it’s over, I can tell you why. Warning: there’s a lot about bowels in this case.

I was selected to serve in a civil suit brought by a patient who’d had to have bowel surgery on the heels of his colonoscopy. His lawyer claimed that the doctor had poked a hole in the man’s colon while performing the test. The man had had to use a colostomy bag for six months and had a miserable time. This man had been living with HIV since 1989 and at times lived in shelters. He is an incredibly vulnerable man, who also, it became clear through his testimony, just didn’t really understand what had happened to him. For him, events sort of blurred together so he felt that he went to sleep for a test and woke up the next day with a colostomy bag attached to him. He’s a man who has struggled enormously and the way our system works, rather than find a reasonable way to get this guy the care that he needs, he’s been seemingly pushed into bringing a malpractice suit against his doctor. He would not seem to have any real means of support and an absence of community to catch him when he falls. It sounds like, after his surgery, he just stayed in his apartment, unable to go anywhere for six months. And our government, rather than find a way to help this guy, somehow thinks it’s better to have him sue the doctor who gave him a test?

It was clear to me from the start that the doctor was actually exemplary in his care. The doctor’s office made sure the man was okay when he left their office and when the man went to the hospital the next day in pain, the doctor came to the hospital to see him again. Honestly, if I had a doctor who just gave me a test turn up to the hospital for me the next day, I’d be shocked but then, I’m used to pretty haphazard care. The doctor ordered a CAT scan to check for a bowel perforation and the radiologist reported “There is no evidence of a perforation.” Twelve hours later they did another CAT scan and he’d developed a perforation. Why? The gastroenterologists we heard from explained it was something called ileus, which is when your digestive system just quits moving. It’s pretty dangerous. I mean, I think of what Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais said, “Movement is Life,” and then he goes on to discuss that it is movement that is the way we know something is alive. So when things like the colon stop moving, there’s big trouble.

Anyway – I don’t need to tell you all the (incredibly tedious) details of this trial but what may already be obvious is that this poor guy, with all his troubles and cognitive issues to boot, was continually on display over the course of this trial. We saw CAT scans of his entire torso from lungs to rectum. We heard about his gas, his bowel movements, his fecal matter and more. For a man who could barely bring himself to say any bathroom words on the stand, it must have been brutal to be so exposed. I tried to make myself feel better by thinking, “Well, he brought the suit. I guess he asked for this.” But did he? A man this vulnerable?

The trial seemed to go on and on for no good reason. We’d hear an hour of testimony in the morning, after waiting an hour, and then be done for the day. It took a week and a half until we were finally put in a room to deliberate. The deliberation took us less than 45 minutes – mostly because the question we had to answer was so simple. It was something like, “Did the doctor deviate from standard medical practice and use too much force to push through the wall of the colon during the colonoscopy”? No. Obviously no. We were unanimous and we were not required to be.

Honestly, I resent that we had to be asked, that we had to sit in a courthouse for a week and a half to say so. A man had an unfortunate health event and rather than find a way to support him through it, to help him understand what happened and give him good resources to deal with it – our system thought it would be better to give him some false hope about getting a bunch of money from his doctor through the court system. The system is fine with putting out all these resources for this specious case instead of caring for a vulnerable man. Trials are expensive! If all the money spent on the trial had just been handed to this unfortunate guy that would have been money well spent. I would be happy with my tax dollars helping out a vulnerable person. They’re gonna pay me $240 for my week and a half of jury service. It’s not a lot but I bet this guy could use that even more than I could. How about DON’T call me in to listen to a lot of poop talk and just give the money to the man who needs it?

It’s just such an appalling mis-use of resources. And this how we do it. The doctor was compelled to hire a fancy malpractice defense lawyer. The jurors were compelled to disrupt their lives to come in and listen to this business. The plaintiff was compelled to listen to lawyers talk about his colon for a week and a half. What was the point of all of that? Is this justice? We rendered a just verdict, I think, but who benefitted from it? No one. It was just a colossal waste of time and resources. So, no, I have no new respect for our jury system. It was an impersonal, needlessly invasive sad state of affairs, that exposed not just the inner workings of the plaintiff’s guts but the ways our government fails the most vulnerable. Sorry, no. Especially with the Supreme Court becoming the travesty it is, I am not gaining new respect for our system. I have lost a lot of faith in a system I might have once had hope for.

We looked at an image like this for a week and a half.
I can tell you a few things about the Sigmoid Colon now and can’t believe they left out the Cecum on this diagram.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me talk about justice?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a “coffee” (or several!) on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



Have You Ever Used This Before?

There’s a great Thai restaurant in my neighborhood where we would always get the same thing – the Sukhothai soup with wide ribbon noodles. They used to, before they brought the soup, bring out a little caddie with various toppings, a bottle of fish sauce and a container of peanuts and every time, they’d say, with exactly the same tone and phrasing, “Have you ever used this before?” We’d say yes and proceeded to enjoy the soup with the confidence that we were approaching the condiments appropriately.

That restaurant was built for newcomers. While we found it amusing to be asked the same question every time we went, it was somehow a comforting tradition. Anyone new there would feel just as welcome as those of us who’d been going for years. The Have You Ever Used This Before framework ensures that everyone is welcome. I can’t remember the moment really, but I know the first time we went there, we HADN’T used it before and so got some useful instruction on what choices were before us. That restaurant made us feel welcome and cared for from the start.

I was thinking about this because I donated blood for the first time at a local blood drive recently. I knew absolutely nothing about what was going to happen, how it worked, what the place was, where I was supposed to go and it was clear that this team of people were not accustomed to welcoming newcomers. The experience seemed to run smoothly for those in the know but for me, despite reporting to absolutely everyone I saw that it was my first time, no one took the extra time to – well, explain the fish sauce, as it were. I could feel how unusual it was for a newcomer to find their way into this atmosphere – a fact I found strange, given that blood drives need an ever-renewing crop of donors to keep supplies up.

And the thing is, they’re NOT keeping supplies up. The reason I decided to donate was that I heard a podcast about how dangerously low NYC’s blood supplies were and how that danger was magnified by how low supplies were nationwide. There is an urgent need for donors. But of course, if it’s not easy to find a place to donate in a convenient spot (it took me a month) and then when you arrive, you’re made to feel awkward and burdensome because you’re new, then, yeah, it’s going to be hard to get new donors. Also, the only thank you for donating that I received was on the placemat in the snack area and an automated email the next day. I certainly didn’t do this for the thank yous but I’m sure a direct thank you from a fellow human being would go a long way toward making someone feel good about making the effort to donate again. When it comes to emotional stuff, humans are just better at that sort of thing than pieces of paper or robo-emails. Places like Blood Centers need to actively make room for newcomers and make them feel amazing when they show. Increasing the blood supply depends on it.

Obviously, extracting blood is a job for these folks and no one who’s just busy trying to get home to their kids or whatever has the emotional energy to also make a newcomer feel welcome. There has to be some thought about it, I think. Someone whose job it is, perhaps, to just guide newcomers or some system that helps make a positive event of it for the staff. Maybe it’s as simple as asking a new donor if they’ve ever donated before. I don’t know the answer but I do know that they ought to be thinking about it because the crisis suggests that what they’re doing isn’t working well enough.

It makes me think of my friend’s teacher’s union which does nothing to welcome its new members. When you get a job there, your union dues automatically come out of your paycheck but no one sends you a letter or a postcard or even an email to welcome you to your union. No one tells you what the union is working on or what you can do to be a part of it. I know this, not just because of my friend’s stories but because, on the occasions when I’ve been briefly contracted to teach a class in this system, I’ve paid those union dues, too but never had a stitch of contact with the union itself.  

A union is also an organization that would benefit from making newcomers feel welcome. The more people are invested in a union, the more powerful that union becomes. Leaving it up to folks to find out on their own when the meetings are and motivate themselves to attend or be a part of union actions means the union never achieves its full power. There is no one to ask them if they’ve ever used this before and as result, they don’t use any of the tools/flavors available to them.

This is important for the arts, as well. There are theatres or concert halls or museums that you can go to that welcome newcomers and ones that make you feel like an outsider until you’ve gone there enough to feel like an insider. There are places that may not explicitly ask you if you’ve ever been there before but the process of going inside is such that you know everyone is welcome. Those are the places with staff to greet you or signs to guide you or even architecture to help direct you to the right place. Some arts institutions work to welcome new visitors and some institutions design their venues (and experiences) to feel exclusive. Most do the latter. But even though I’ve been going to cultural events all of my life, I am always grateful to be welcomed as if I’d never gone inside such a building before. In feeling cared for myself, I know others are being cared for and welcomed and that makes me feel more welcome as well.

Having facilitated the process of a lot of young people’s first trip to a theatre, I have seen what an impact those opening moments can have. And kids will report back, not so much about the show they saw, but how they were treated when they arrived. Many have told me that they felt like everyone was worried they were going to rob the place when they came inside. It is a far cry from feeling cared for and welcomed.

I would love for arts organizations to learn to be as good as my local Thai restaurant at making everyone feel welcome. It can be as simple as asking, “Have you ever been here before? Have you ever used this before?”

That’s the caddie, though not the Sukhothai. (I lifted this photo from the Wall Street Journal. Normally I’d feel bad about it. But I figure I’m linking back to their weirdo paper and Cassandra Giraldo took this photo for them and I hope she got paid handsomely for it already. And I figured you needed to see this caddie.)

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me help those who never used this before?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a “coffee” (or several!) on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



The One Who Called 911
November 30, 2021, 9:36 pm
Filed under: American, community, Healthcare | Tags: , , , , ,

The one I can’t stop thinking about is the person who called 911, the person who witnessed the accident that killed my youngest brother. I feel enormous tenderness for that person, even though I know nothing about them. The only thing I know is that they saw the accident and called 911.

They will likely have the image of it in their brain forever. I have an imaginary version of it in my brain that will likely be with me for as long but the caller has the actual event there in their brain. I’m sure it is not a nice thing to have there and yet I am grateful that that person was present, that they called the emergency line and did something. It was too late for my brother, but they tried and I think of them, this person I know nothing of, with so much warmth. They were there for the last moments of Will’s life. They were witness to his exit. I’m not sure why it moves me but it does.

Maybe because of this grateful 911 “song” that keeps playing in my head, I also haven’t been able to stop thinking of a 911 call I had to make for a stranger a few weeks before Will’s accident. It was a much different situation but the events are somehow linked in my mind. I’ll tell you about it.

About halfway up my block as I walked from my apartment, I noticed a young man, who I thought was sitting on a stoop but turned out to be crouching. As I approached, he fell to the ground in front of me. Not quite at my feet but awfully close. I asked if he was okay and though he did not answer, it was clear he was not okay. I asked him a couple of questions and he seemed not to be able to speak. I asked him if I could call him an ambulance and while he couldn’t really say anything, the look in his eyes and the slight nod gave me the permission I felt I needed. (Note to my readers from other countries: Because of our outrageous health care system, people will often object to having emergency services called for them as ambulances are incredibly expensive and are not always covered by folks’ insurance. Many people will not thank you for calling an ambulance.)

When I called 911, they seemed unconcerned really – more interested in the scrape he’d gotten on his fall to the ground than anything else – but they asked me if he was male or female and I found myself unsure of how to proceed. He looked male but I did not want to presume when he couldn’t speak for himself. So I said “male?” while looking at him inquiringly and he nodded so we were clear there. (Side note: Is gender identity really necessary for this sort of thing? Like how important is it to know what gender someone in trouble is?) Then they asked me how old he was so I tried asking him and I THINK he said 22 and he did not object when I repeated it back. And then they were on their way.

The elderly woman who’d been standing nearby all this time asked me something and I told her the ambulance was on the way. I’d thought she was standing there because she was concerned for this fallen man’s welfare – but no, it turns out, she was asking for my assistance in walking her around him. She was very unsteady on her feet and was making her way down the block by holding on to fences and the 22 year old was on the ground in front of the fence she needed to get by.

So I gave her my arm and walked her as far as she would let me then came back to the young man on the sidewalk who was now passed out and entirely unresponsive to my voice. As we waited, a woman passed by and said dismissively, “Drunk.” I said, “I don’t think so.” And as we chatted, she revealed that her husband had had Parkinsons and people were always assuming he was drunk when he categorically was not. I was fascinated that someone who’d had such a painful experience of someone dear to her being misjudged in this way would do the same to a helpless stranger on the street. A group of young men passed by on the other side of the street and laughed and shouted about drugs. Several people passed by, ready to dismiss this guy because “drugs.” Was it drugs? Maybe. But people on drugs need help, too. Also, I’ve seen “drugs.” This did not look like drugs. I was stunned by how little compassion folks had.

This stranger on the sidewalk had just started to turn blue and I was just starting to panic when the ambulance arrived. The arrival of the paramedics brought him back around a bit and the paramedics seemed just as unconcerned as everyone else until they took an oxygen reading and then they swung into swift action, getting out the stretcher, putting him on oxygen and getting him into the ambulance. Meanwhile, cars behind the ambulance started honking. It was entirely obvious there was an emergency here and these assholes were honking. Come on, guys. Come on. The honking was clearly an annoyance to the paramedics but they also seemed entirely used to it. I could not believe how jerky these people in their cars were.

The stranger on the stretcher was sort of awake now but very disoriented and kept trying to pull the oxygen out of his nose. They told him they were going to the hospital and off they went. And I don’t know what happened to him from there. I don’t know anything. I haven’t seen him on my street again, but then, I’d never seen him on my street before. I hope he’s okay. I feel strangely tied to him, like, having been with him at this terrible moment, he’s now sewn into the fabric of my life and yet I’ll never know how the story will turn out. Nor do I know if that elderly lady tottering on her red pumps, holding onto fences, ever made it to her destination.

I sort of understand why people don’t stop to help, don’t stop to call 911 – because you do become tied together somehow, in tragedy or fate or something. When you start to care, you can’t unstitch yourself from that caring. Every time I pass the spot this guy fell, I think of him. This 22 year old, who could have been my brother, only seven years younger than my brother, really, ended up on the sidewalk in big trouble and very few people stopped to help. Not only that, a lot of them were real jerks about it.

But someone did stop to help my actual brother when he was struck by that motorcycle. Someone was there. Someone made the call and they were a witness. Even though it ended in tragedy – my family’s tragedy – it was a good deed that person did and I am so grateful to them for it. It can’t have been easy and probably continues to not be. But I am grateful. Also, I realize I’m not 100% certain this person exists. I got a lot of information in a highly concentrated and emotional moment. I’m not entirely certain I didn’t make up this person who called 911 at my brother’s accident. But I think I’ve got this right. Someone must have called emergency services because they came.

If the circumstance arises, make the call. Someone will be grateful, even if you never meet them. And please don’t honk at ambulances taking care of someone in an emergency. At the very least.

Poster by Alfredo Ponce

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



They Locked Up the Toothpaste

While she attempted to scrape the anti-theft sticker off my shampoo, the cashier at my pharmacy told me that there’d been a big shampoo heist. She figured they were selling the expensive stuff for double the price out on the street. Got to watch out for that hot shampoo! But I get it – the expensive stuff is very expensive and worth it, unfortunately. I asked her if they’d also had a toothpaste heist because I’d noticed that they’d locked up all the toothpastes. “Oh yeah,” she said, “They hit it hard.”

I can’t stop thinking about this. Because toothpaste is expensive, sure – at least more expensive than it should be – but it’s not so expensive as to have a black-market value. Toothpaste is the kind of expensive you don’t notice at all if you have money; You just throw it in your basket and forget about it. But if you’re struggling, toothpaste is the kind of expensive where you kind of can’t believe it. You think about all the other things you could get for that $6 – like, lunch, for example. If people are stealing toothpaste, the most likely explanation is that they’re poor and they want to keep their teeth clean. It is a sign of people trying to retain some dignity in a difficult situation. A toothpaste heist strikes me as being a sign of a deteriorating economic state.

I’d be curious to know if toothpaste was a kind of economic indicator, like they talk about on the Planet Money podcast – a small thing that reveals a truth about the bigger picture. It feels like an indicator to me. Because I’ve worked with a fair number of economically disadvantaged people and there are some things folks end up scrimping on that you wouldn’t think of if it weren’t your struggle. I had a student who got teased all the time by his fellow middle school students about smelling bad. When his classroom teacher investigated, she discovered that his folks were trying to save money on laundry detergent. Laundry detergent might also be an indicator, come to think of it. But that kid’s teeth were brushed!

Having the toothpaste locked up feels almost apocalyptic, especially now, here at the other side of the first (metaphorical) pandemic earthquake. Like, we got through the last year and now we’re getting vaxxed and things are opening back up – but it’s still so bad for folks that they have to steal toothpaste. They’ve stolen so much toothpaste that the pharmacy has started treating it like expensive shampoo, but even worse than the shampoo because it’s behind glass, not just slapped with an alarm triggering sticker.

I don’t run a retail business, so clearly I don’t know but it seems like – if I ran a place and the people were stealing toothpaste, I might just accept that as the kind of loss that benefits the people of the neighborhood I have my store in and not worry too much about it. But, these folks decided to lock it up. Which strikes me as kind of dumb. I have bought toothpaste at this pharmacy before but now that it’s locked up: rather than go through the trouble of finding someone to get a key and open it for me, I’ll just grab some from one of the many other places nearby that don’t put their toothpaste behind glass. It’s just easier. AND, maybe even more importantly, I feel better about those places and their attitude toward the poor of our neighborhood. I feel the same about the stores that have racist practices like this. There are businesses that lock up their hair products for Black people and not their equally expensive products for white people. I don’t go to those businesses – because they make their racism plain, on their shelves. And this feels like a similar kind of vibe. We don’t really have a word for prejudice or discriminating against poor people – but it might be useful if we did. Maybe it’s just raging capitalist? Corporate tool? Cruel economic essentialist? I don’t know – but whatever the word is, my pharmacy has just revealed itself to be that by locking up the toothpaste. Hey capitalists! Don’t lock up the toothpaste! Honestly, I’d rather pay more for toothpaste to help get some for those who are struggling. It’s for the common good.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to keep me from having to steal toothpaste?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



I Am a (Partially) Vaccinated Puppy
April 6, 2021, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Healthcare, pandemic | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I AM DOSED UP! I got a shot in the arm and I am feeling good. Feels good! Feels good! Just like Lionel Richie exclaimed on the radio in the waiting area as I waited for the man with the megaphone to call my number so I could book the appointment for the next dose.

After hearing the podcast where Sherry Turkle described her feeling of overwhelm in being with so many people at her vaccination center after all the months of isolation, I was worried I’d be a nervous wreck. But I was more like an excited puppy, truth be told.

I was excited like I was going to Disney World. And truthfully, I’ve been to Disney World and I was much more excited to get my vaccine than I was to see Mickey and Minnie.

I feel like, historically, I’ve thought of myself as an introvert but the way I perked up with all those people is making me reconsider. I was like a thirsty person who just came in to a bar from the desert. Yes I will drink that pitcher of water, thank you very much. And the pitcher of water is this group of people making it possible to get so many New Yorkers vaccinated. I will drink them ALL up.

I mean. To GET OUT OF OUR APARTMENT and go to a shitty high school and talk to MULTIPLE PEOPLE and get to say thank you to each and every one of them. I was giddy as hell to be there and when it was over, I couldn’t put my jacket back on because I was burning with relief. Was it relief? Or just a kind of joy at being with other people even in the most bureaucratic insane situation. Like, they’re all doing this incredibly tedious job of shuttling people from one place to another – and it’s for me, it’s like – I GET TO COME HERE AND GET A SHOT IN MY ARM THAT EVENTUALLY WILL ALLOW ME TO SEE PEOPLE I LOVE, TO DO STUFF AGAIN. HOW CAN I NOT JUST EFFUSE ALL OVER THE DAMN PLACE? I TOOK THE SUBWAY FOR THE FIRST TIME IN OVER A YEAR AND IT WAS SCARY BUT ALSO MAYBE A LITTLE BIT EXCITING! HI EVERYONE! HELLO! I’m just…HELLO!

Yes – we are in a shitty high school with a shitty cafeteria and a shitty gym and a dirty restroom but I have spent many many hours teaching in such places (not the restroom!) so this was like a trip to the old shitty high school homestead. (But this one has planes parked in their yard?! Man, this school is weird.) I have walked in sunny to such rainy day places before and never have I ever valued that experience more. I know the vibes of school secretaries who are tired of everyone’s bullshit – but in this case – they’re not school secretaries, they’re people trying to move large numbers of humans through a complex maze of patient numbers, lines, second appointments and safety precautions. But it’s like – I walked into that school the way I’ve walked into many a school before it – ready to charm the school secretaries into giving me the key to the rest room. But this time – it worked. First, I didn’t need a key to get into the restroom and second no one working the vaccination site is as hardened as a school secretary. So I felt like a hot knife through butter.

But saying I went in there with my school energy makes it sound like I was doing an act at the vaccine center – and it was nothing of the sort. It was all a surprise to me. I came in fully prepared to freak out about all the people after so long in isolation. I thought I’d be shaking and huddled up in a corner and instead found myself radiating sunshine like a damn solar lantern. Did I fall in love with the nurse who gave me the vaccine? A little bit, yes. I was just so happy to be there and she got such a kick out of me being happy to be there, it was a really nice time. Sure, she stuck a needle in my arm – but she did it with love, man.

I keep hearing people being worried about what it will be like to see people in person again and I honestly have not for a moment worried about that, though I understand the feeling. (“Will I know how to small talk anymore? How do we hang out?”) I’ve been pretty sure I’ll be mostly just delighted to see all the humans I know and from what I’ve seen today, it seems likely that I’ll be an enthusiastic puppy. I mean, I know not to jump on people and I will do my best not to lick any faces but I will be ready to play.

Actual footage of me at my vaccination

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to make me as happy as this puppy?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



A View from a Small Apartment in NYC

It was when I noticed I was pushing our building door open with my hip that I started dedicating clothes for inside or outside. With the pandemic raging outside, no extra precaution seemed too crazy at a certain point. So I take my clothes off at the door and go wash my hands before putting on the inside clothes. When Scott started wearing outside pants, I thought it was overkill but then I noticed all the times I made contact with the world when I went out in it – like that door and my hip.

I’ve started to realize that things are a little different for folks in other parts of the country and world, and so, in the interest of preventing other places becoming an epicenter like this, it seemed like maybe a little recounting of what has become normal for us might be useful.

It’s different in NYC, in part, because we are all so pressed together here. If you go out into the world at all, there is no escaping other humans. Take a walk around the block, you will likely pass at least twenty people. New York grocery stores are tiny and the shelves are pressed together to save space. One other person in an aisle is a crowd. You cannot pass someone without getting very close to them. Other humans pass through our apartment buildings every day – even if it’s only for each family to get a daily walk in. And we need to get a daily walk in because many of our apartments are small. The longest walk I can take indoors is seventeen paces and that’s if I walk from the bathroom, through the kitchen, living room and into the bedroom. Getting 10,000 steps by just walking around one’s home is not going to happen for many of us.

Outside, I walk more or less the same route now. It’s the one that seems least populated. It does have its pitfalls. The souvlaki truck on the corner is always surrounded by guys who seem to have very little concern for masks or social distance. They will happily eat the souvlaki right next to one another. Same with the bagel shop. There’s a fruit and veggie stand that juts into the sidewalk and is always surrounded. But about halfway through this route, there is a bleeding heart bush in front of someone’s house. I have developed a relationship with this bush. I visit it. Say hello. I notice when its blossoms fade and when it puts out new ones. Towards the end of this walk, if I need to, I go to the grocery store. It is not the best grocery store in our area but it is the least crowded and unlike all the other ones, there is never a line to get in. The produce section is a little too tightly packed, though, so I have often waited a lonnnng time to be able to dart in to collect some spinach or berries.

Before this hit, NYC implemented a plastic bag ban but nearly everywhere has given up on it and will give you plastic, just automatically. I mean, those reusable bags are a little dangerous now suddenly – especially if you reuse them. I have two and as soon as I’ve used them, they go in the laundry.

Once a week, we do our laundry at the laundromat down the street. They were closed for a month or two and we had to go to the smaller and more treacherous one around the corner. We try and only touch surfaces there with rags but it’s not easy. I use a new rag every day to go in and out of our building. Watching our neighbors open the doors with their bare hands reminds me to toss the rags in the laundry as soon as I’ve used them.

There were weeks wherein every trip outside felt like stepping out into speeding traffic without a crosswalk. We did our best to be careful but were highly aware that we could be hit at any moment. We developed some dark jokes about being careful not to step in any coronavirus out there – as if it were just sitting in easy-to-avoid puddles instead of lying in wait for us on any possible surface or in the air.

Our friends from afar want to know if we know anyone who has it or if we’ve lost people. I have a fair number of acquaintances who probably had it but cannot be sure – but, as far as I know, no close friends have been struck too low.

But we are all deeply impacted – if only by the refrigerated trucks that are parked outside our local hospital to store the dead. If only by the sheer risk in taking a trip outside. If only by being confined to our neighborhoods because of the treacherous quality of public transportation right now. And for most of us, public transportation is really our only transportation, so here we are. But where would we go? It’s actually hard to imagine going anywhere right now. Especially somewhere far from here. I feel like a walking virus. I would not want to bring what’s here anywhere else.

I see photos of friends and family sitting on their porches, out in their gardens or on walks through the woods that they were able to go to via their perfectly safe cars and I realize how wildly different our experiences of this are. I can see how abstract this virus might seem to someone who lives in a house that is not pressed up against another house and can get in their private automobile and go many places where there aren’t many other people. I can imagine that it’s harder to understand why you can’t get your haircut or go out to dinner when so much else is the same as it’s ever been. I don’t think it’s an accident that these bizarre protests of the lockdowns are coming from folks who live in less densely populated areas. They’re not used to worrying about what the people around them are doing. If you drive from your bubble of a house in your bubble of a car, it probably seems like everywhere you might go is still in your safe bubble. Why would you wear a mask if you cannot conceive of the danger?

But here, we are (most of us) acutely aware of what the people around us are doing. I give the souvlaki guys a wide berth and cross the street to avoid the overly busy fruit stand. But I still go out every day because I need to get more than seventeen paces of walking in. I’m sure there are people who are truly quarantining that look at my daily walks as a luxury or a crazy risk, in much the same way that I look at someone going to (even a socially distanced) party right now in North Carolina. I keep thinking about this piece that Dahlia Lithwick wrote about how the country’s responded to NYC now and how it responded after 9-11. The difference in response is extreme. I was here for both and this time we’re on our own.

And I’m not at all interested in sympathy for our situation. We are the lucky ones here and we know it. We live here because, usually, when we’re not in a pandemic, this city has an abundance of things to offer that we cannot get anywhere else. It may be tight quarters but it’s not as tight as a refrigerated truck and I know how lucky I am not to be in one.

Did you see that post that went around Facebook by Carlos Avila, when folks first started to protest lockdowns? Well, it is a work of sweary glory about what it’s like for us here and what opening things up prematurely seems like to New Yorkers. All we want here is for other places to take this seriously as we know it is. Just because most other places are naturally more socially distant than us here in NYC doesn’t mean you won’t get clobbered. Just because it’s easier for people in other places to hang out in your gardens, doesn’t mean you should leave them. Probably, nowhere is likely to get hit with the relentlessness our city got hit with just because of our density of population – but that doesn’t mean other places won’t get hit. I keep thinking of that choir in Washington State that had one fateful practice and lost at least two of its members to the virus, with 45 members contracting it. Please please don’t get complacent. And don’t let itchy thoughtless governments pull you out of safety if it’s not time. This virus has had plenty of time to spread out and make itself comfortable in communities far beyond New York. If the scientists want you to stay home for a while longer and you can, please do.

Drive your car bubble out to the woods and shout at the trees about how much you hate wearing a mask (I hate it, too) but then put it back on around other humans. For now. We all want this nightmare to end. And the longer we resist the things that will help, the longer it will be. Check your state’s numbers on the Johns Hopkins coronavirus map and if your little tracking chart isn’t going down, maybe stick around your house for a while if you can.

For us sheltering here in NYC in our tiny apartments with little respite or escape, all those protests seem especially absurd. Oh, are you tired of roaming around your yard? That must be tough. Are you tired of driving out to look at the lake already? Yes, of course, send hairdressers back to work then! Makes perfect sense. Welp – there are plenty of refrigerator trucks here. We’ll send them to you when we’re done with them. And no, we’re not done with them yet.

 

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help my apartment seem bigger?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat.

https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis

 



Performing Arts Going Dark

Have you all read Station Eleven? I mean, don’t, if you haven’t. Even the author recommends waiting a few months to read it. It’s a little too relevant right now. It hits a little too close to home. It begins with a pandemic that leads to the radical upending of civilization. You can see why you might want to wait a minute to get into it. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot this week – not just because of the pandemic – but because of what happens after the pandemic. The heart of the story is a traveling Shakespeare company that tours the devastated country. When nothing is left, we have the arts.

At the moment, with all the performing arts cancelled, it can feel like our work is unimportant or inessential. Suddenly, it is, technically, palpably dangerous to do what we do. Suddenly, it has become reckless to gather people in a room and share things with them. Suddenly, the very thing that makes the performing arts so magical is the thing that makes them dangerous. Almost everyone I know in New York works in the performing arts in some capacity and almost everyone I know is in a state of absolute disarray. As show people, we are built with an intense drive for the show going on. We are used to pushing through any numbers of difficulties in order to make it to the stage. To have the stage pulled out from under us is counter to everything we feel in the very fiber of our beings. The show must go on! It can’t be cancelled! It goes on! Isn’t it better to do a show? Isn’t it always better to do a show than not do a show? Won’t the arts save us all? Not in this case, no. Not in the way we’re used to.

What’s happening for us is not just a crisis of economics (though it is that and quite a serious one at that) but also a crisis of faith. If the shows don’t go on, who are we? What is all this for? How can it not be good to gather a group of people together and share art with them? To laugh? To cry? To tap our toes to the beat together? To have our heartbeats sync up as we watch? How? How? How?

But, of course, in a pandemic, it is very bad for us all to be in a room together. I am interested in the connections we share with other things that have had to shut down recently. Sports and religious gatherings are experiencing the same unilateral canceling. We are all shut down together – all the things that bring people together, that unite us, are dangerous.

But this does not mean they are inessential. Things that bring people together, like the performing arts, like sports, like religion, are key to our survival, to our thriving as a species. It feels to me that in losing that ability of being all together in a unified state, I’ve come to appreciate it anew.

Sometimes, you may have noticed, I get a little cranky about theatre. I see shows and they make me angry and sometimes I tell you about it. I get mad – partly because I want shows to be better and partly because my ability to make shows has been hampered over the years so I get mad about shows that have a lot of resources and squander them.

But here we are in the middle of a pandemic and almost all theatres have been shut down. And it becomes instantly clear that I would rather watch the worst show there is (It’s Bike. You know it’s Bike.) over and over and over again than have no theatre at all.

For all my ranting, I do love the stuff and I’m sad for even the worst show that has closed. It suddenly feels very important to me to know that shows are running, even ones I’ll never see, even ones I hate.

I hope that when this is all over, there will be a renewed appreciation for the performing arts and their important place in our culture. We were all shaken by how quickly the entire theatre business was shut down here in New York. It was as if someone flicked a switch and thousands of people lost their jobs and thousands more lost their dreams. Like that. In an instant. But this doesn’t mean the arts are a frill that get dropped in a time of crisis. It’s just that being with people is what the performing arts are all about and suddenly being with people is dangerous and so the performing arts become the most dangerous. And not because theatre people are some of the most touchy feely people out here, either. It’s because a bunch of people breathing the same air is the heart and soul of the work – and right now that air is treacherous. So we have to stop.

But maybe, once this has passed, we can come to appreciate what we lost when the theatres went dark.

Maybe it doesn’t need to be as extreme as Station Eleven – where survivors form a community building Shakespeare company. Maybe we don’t have to wait for the destruction of civilization as we know it to support the performing arts. Maybe we can support them right now so that theatre spaces will be able to open again, that shows can continue their runs, that freelancers can survive this terrifying downturn. As this article in Vulture says, “As concert halls, theaters, and museums around the world go dark, we all need to move quickly to ensure that when it’s finally safe to emerge from our lairs, we still have a cultural life left to go back to.”

Personally, I’ve come up with a project to keep some theatre folk creatively engaged with a project that we can do from our homes. I was working on it prior to this disaster in another form and it just happens to be possible this way. So I’m just rolling forward on that and it’s already delighting me.

The skills that help us bring people together in real life are stepping up to help keep us together while we are separated. Here are two that I know about – The Social Distancing Festival and Musicals from Home. Many many theatre folk are going to find this social distance thing very very difficult (as I’m sure most people will – but I think it hits our community driven community especially hard.) I feel quite certain this will drive a lot of them to become very inventive to create distance community and whatever those inventions are will benefit us all in the long run.

There will be theatre when this is all over. And concerts. And dances. And hopefully we will all appreciate them and being with each other all the more.

Look at all these theatre kids touching each other. We can’t do this right now. And it sort of made me tear up just looking at them. Photo by Mauricio Kell via Pixabay

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me get through this no theatre time?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



The Change, the Phone Booth and a Sense of Doom

On my 40th birthday, I was struck with a sudden and horrifying sense of fatalism. I figured I’d over-absorbed the cultural preference for young women, that I’d over-attached my sense of self-worth to my youth, even though I thought I knew better. I figured that the reason I felt like I was turning 80 instead of 40 was because I’d skipped the mandated mother stage and just went straight from maiden to crone.

Then, recently, on a podcast, the guest mentioned that “a sense of impending doom” was a very common experience for women going through what used to be euphemistically called The Change.

Now – a lot of us have a sense of impending doom these days, what with the political landscape looking like it’s auditioning for a post-apocalyptic B movie, but my sense of impending doom hit even before the actual impending doom. So I suspect it’s partly the hormones shifting in a changing body.

About two years ago, out of the blue, I began to get headaches. Weird ones. According to the docs – it’s migraines. And they have been debilitating, disabling and pretty much took over the last two years of my life. I saw four different neurologists and headache specialists. Not one of them suggested that this sudden late onset of chronic migraine might be a result of perimenopause. Not one. It took the mother of a friend telling me about her migraines ending after menopause and suggesting mine could be the start of that for me to put the possible pieces together. Do I know for sure that this migraine situation is perimenopause? Nope. That’s not really a thing that’s knowable.

You know why? Because despite the fact that every (cis) woman who lives long enough will go through it, there’s no real medical conversation about it. Despite the fact that there are very real, very serious, very debilitating experiences for many women in the middle of that transformation, no one seems to be addressing it. So many women my age and older have been struggling all on their own with this or that symptom, while there may be a common explanation for our pain or our sense of doom or discomfort.

Perimenopause is the process that leads to menopause – menopause being the definitive end of the menstrual cycle. And of course, this kind of reverse puberty, is a perfectly natural organic process. But just because it’s natural and organic, doesn’t mean there won’t be trouble and that we shouldn’t understand what’s happening. Childbirth is also perfectly natural and organic but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t understand all of its phases and aspects. Just because something is natural, doesn’t mean there won’t be trouble.

And I have run into trouble. Many of my friends have also run into trouble. And I find myself pretty furious about how little the medical establishment has to say about it.

In this same time period, my doctor insisted on my getting a mammogram. Just because I am 44 and now’s the time when they give them. There’s quite a bit of controversy about the efficacy of all this breast screening – quite a few people have suggested that it may do more harm than good. There’s no history of breast cancer in my family and there was no reason to suspect anything wrong but my gynecologist said she couldn’t give me the medication that might help with the hormone migraine situation without one.

So, there I was in a women’s imaging center, getting my boobs squished in a machine and then called back the next day to have them squished another way because of “asymmetries” and then be sonogrammed and pushed around with a sonogram wand and after all that stress, it turned out my breasts were fine. As we thought.

So here I am, having a completely unnecessary set of procedures that are uncomfortable, stressful, anxiety producing and time consuming – while the thing that is actually wrong, that is actually causing chaos in my body, goes completely unaddressed.

And sisters, I got really fucking pissed about it. I suddenly felt like – oh, this goddamn medicalized world is like a Hollywood adolescent boy – obsessed with boobs and vaginas (-we’ve been pried open by speculums from an early age-) but not particularly concerned with what is actually going on inside the person. The fact that we have this insane assemblyline for mammography and no understanding or plan for perimenopause is ridiculous. Yes – breast cancer screening is important. I get it. But not every woman gets breast cancer (gratefully!) And almost EVERY SINGLE (cis) woman will go through perimenopause. That’s half the adult population.

And before it (maybe) kicked in for me, I knew next to nothing about it. And I’m a pretty reasonably informed woman.

I knew about hot flashes. That was about the extent of it. Which you know – it’s okay. I’m allowed to not know things – but I get the sense that that’s all a lot of doctors know about menopause as well.

Here’s the thing – aside from compulsory mammogram and pelvic exams – women’s health is dramatically under examined. For the majority of modern medicine’s history, men have been seen as the norm and women as the deviation. In clinical trials of many things, only men were studied and the results were applied to women. And one of the extraordinarily infuriating facts about this is that women were excluded from such things because we have a menstrual cycle. So rather than study the hormones or the varieties of the menstrual cycle – science and medicine have mostly just told women to go ask our mothers. (An actual thing a doctor said to a woman asking about menopause.)

In treating my (possible) perimenopause symptoms, I’ve seen four neurologists, several physical therapists, two opthamologists, two behavioral optometrists, tried antidepressants, anti-convulsants and endless triptans. The first thing in two years to make a real dramatic difference is a low dose of estrogen. I mean…here is modern medicine looking at everything but the source, everything but perimenopause.

No one wants to talk about perimenopause or menopause. It is incredibly taboo. Initially, I suspect the more medically accurate language was supposed to help us make it less so. Like the movement to use anatomically correct language for our genitals, calling menopause menopause was once thought to be a way to liberate us from the stigma. But I don’t think it has.

So, I’m liking “The Change” – even if it sounds a little old fashioned. It is a good descriptor for what I’m experiencing. It makes me feel like a superhero in mid-transformation. I’m Peter Parker in the process of getting bitten by that radioactive spider. It doesn’t necessarily feel good during the transformation itself but once I come through it, I fully expect to be a more powerful superhero on the other side of it.

And since no one can tell me whether or not the change I’m in the middle of is actually perimenopause – since there is no medically precise definition of this moment for me – The Change is actually a more accurate description of what is happening to me. It’s certainly A Change if not The Change. And a lot of my friends are also going through A Change. A transformation. We’re going into a phone booth – like the one Clark Kent changes into Superman into. Maybe since we don’t really use phone booths anymore, we could co-opt the word. Like, when I explain what’s been going on with me these last few years, I could just say, “Well, I’ve been in the phone booth.”

Because, while these headaches suck, a lot, while it has been no fun in this phone booth, I will say that the benefits of this transformation are not bad. Pretty much everything that drove me crazy about myself in my 20s has faded. In my youth, I was constantly beating myself up for being too nice, for putting up with things that I didn’t like, for not saying what I thought. And I have, as I have entered the phone booth, grown much bolder, much less concerned about others, less fearful and much more direct and clear. It’s everything I wished I could be twenty years ago. The phone booth has these terrible health side effects but it has given me the super power of transforming myself into the person I wanted to be and never thought possible.

This blog is also a podcast. You can find it on iTunes.

If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Anchor, click here.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs, an album of Gen X Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me make it through my time in the Phone Booth?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

 



Migraine Pose

A fashion magazine reported on a trend in modeling which they called the migraine pose. Instagrammers pose with fingers pressed into temples and tag them #migrainepose. The migraine community was not amused. For many, this fashion trend belittles a very serious and painful condition. It feels insensitive – like starting a trend of shaved heads and calling it #cancerchic.

But as a migraineur myself, I just find it kind of hilarious. And I just want it to go farther. Like – let’s make ice hats and headbands fashionable! Let’s get some shots of us out at fancy restaurants with our thera-band medical ice headbands washing down triptans with iced coffee. (Or in my case, mixing up a delicious dried up old toothpaste flavored packet of Cambia.) Dress me in an evening gown, give me a make over and then let the make up run down my face from the ice melting. Or running from the tears. I want glamour shots with bags of frozen peas. I want gauzy filters over migraineurs tucked into their beds in the dark with only an arty lamp to see them by.

There’s something about making an invisible illness visible that is extremely powerful. I started to think about this when I was struck by a migraine out in public and I tried this portable gel “ice” pack that I found in a Japanese market. It’s this weird sticky cooling thing and I stuck it to the left side of my forehead in the middle of the Starbucks at Barnes and Noble. And suddenly, I was aware that my usually very private experience of suffering had become public. Anyone looking at me could register this odd bandage on my head and know that something was amiss. They probably didn’t know what but it was suddenly clear that something was.

One of the reasons migraineurs have to fight so hard about things like the #migrainepose is that strange contradictory stigma of not looking sick, of being seen as having “just a headache” when, in fact, migraine is a much more comprehensive neurological disorder. (Major media campaign is “It’s not just a headache!”) So I’m thinking it might be time to start walking out in public with my ice hats. Of course, if it’s a really bad migraine, there’s not even a chance of my going anywhere. Those #migraineposes will be in bed, with a puke bucket nearby. (Luckily, this is rare for me if I have access to good medication.)

I felt a bit embarrassed walking around with my weird gel pack stuck to my forehead and yet also suddenly accurate. My outside was accurately reflecting what was happening inside.

It reminded me of what happens when I walk around with my guitar strapped to my back. People look at me with more interest. I become more visible and I always feel funny about it, like, I want to dismiss their interest, say to them, “If you’re thinking I’m cool because I’m carrying this guitar, that’s very silly” but I also understand that people’s perceptions of me are more accurate in those moments. I am always a person who plays guitar, even when I’m not carrying it around. Sometimes that outward expression matches my inward self. (Whether or not that makes me cool is a whole other question. I mean, I am. My dentist thinks so anyway. But.) Likewise, when I walked around with a gel pack stuck to my head, suddenly my outward expression reflected an actual real lived experience.

Culturally, we want everyone to be okay all the time. We ask people how they are, expecting them to say fine. The cultural norm is to be disturbed by anyone with a diverging experience – an injury, a disability, an illness. I feel my own pressure to be appear to be fine even when I’m in pain. But no one is okay all of the time. And finding ways to include the range of people’s experiences – particularly those who are suffering or have disabilities – will create a more compassionate society. Disability activists are leading the way here. (Read this amazing article about wild disability justice dreams.)

It begins with making the invisible visible. For those with invisible illnesses or disabilities, that means finding ways to make them visible. For people with disabilities or illnesses that are harder to ignore, we need to start seeing the things that surround those experiences. We need to see the extra time it takes to get somewhere without appropriate accessible transportation. We need to see what happens when someone who needs access to plastic straws loses that access. And we need to seek this knowledge out, instead of expecting to be educated or convinced of that need by those who are already overextended.

For example, I knew that the NYC subways are a disaster in terms of their accessibility. It is a great blight on our city. The newly remodeled train station near me now features many flashing screens but still has no elevator. It’s happening all over New York – brand new flashy subway stations that are still not accessible. Anyway – that’s a side note. What I’m saying is, I knew the subways were bad in this area but even so, Zach Anner’s video about trying to get a rainbow bagel made me understand much more fully what that lack of access really means to someone in a wheelchair. And it’s so much worse than I thought. Visibility is key, I think.

But also invisibility. Like, if you’re not seeing folks with wheelchairs or other mobility aids at your job, it’s probably likely that there are accessibility issues in your workplace. Looking at who is missing is as important (if not more so) than looking at who is there and we all need to get better at inviting the people who are missing.

And if I’m wearing an ice pack, I showed up with a migraine – maybe give me a (gentle) high five because I showed up and it wasn’t easy. But odds are pretty good that I could have a mild migraine and never mention it. So…you know…sometimes I’ll show off my migraine pose and sometimes I won’t. Also, if someone could invent a more portable ice hat situation, one that could get multiple uses without me having to lug around a melted ice hat, I’d be super excited about that. Then, I’d be migraine posing all over the place.

Mmm. Won’t this delicious looking water be even tastier once I’ve mixed in that chalky minty powder?!

*

This blog is also a podcast. You can find it on iTunes.

If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Anchor, click here.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs, an album of Gen X Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Like the blog?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

 

 

 



“He just came with the building”

An artist has died. He got cancer and some other things and he died in the prime of his artistic life. I did not know him well but I knew of some of his struggle and I knew his artistic skill and promise. He was a composer (an art which is incredibly demanding and does not pay well – except for a very privileged few) and worked as a pianist for many years at a well-known arts institution.

After the artist had worked there for some time, that arts institution finally managed to provide some of its long-term artistic staff some health insurance. This was an important gesture and I can attest to the fact that it doesn’t happen everywhere. I think I know around about when this gesture happened. I was still working as a Teaching Artist when arts organizations all over the city suddenly started making its long term artistic staff actual employees. Apparently, they’d come under some scrutiny for getting away with paying all of us as freelancers for so many years. But even in that flush of sudden employment and a sheaf of W-2s where I once had 1099s, no one ever offered me health insurance I could afford. So this arts institution, where the artist worked, did something really good. And for a brief while, the artist experienced some actual security. He had health insurance and a bit of regular work.

Then, after they’d gotten used to it, the arts institution decided to withdraw the health insurance from those they’d previously provided it for. They didn’t fire those folks. They just took away their health insurance in order to save a little money. It was probably just a line item on a budget to them. The arts institution took away the artist’s health insurance and very soon thereafter, the artist got sick. He’d had health insurance and then it was gone and then he got ill. His friends set up a Go Fund Me – but healthcare is expensive and they did not reach the goal.

Maybe even if the artist’s Go Fund Me campaign had been fully funded or he’d still had health insurance, he would have died anyway. But also maybe not. I can’t help feeling like the arts institution has his blood on their hands. I feel like they killed him.

A few months later, the arts institution provided a free space for the artist’s memorial performance. The titular head of the arts institution took to the stage to welcome everyone to his building. He made a speech about the dearly departed artist and said he didn’t know dates or anything but he’d known the artist for ages. He said “He just came with the building. He’d just always been there.”

And I’d already been wishing I had a pile of rotten tomatoes to throw at this guy who was getting all kinds of praise for “generously donating the space” when his organization so egregiously contributed to his healthcare situation. But when he said this thing about the artist just coming with the building, I wanted a whole truck of rotten fruits and vegetable to throw at him. An arts institution decides to take away an artist’s health insurance, as a result he dies and then the arts institution gets to look like a hero for giving up their space for a day? And THEN “he just came with the building”?!?!?!? I mean. You couldn’t ask one of your assistants to tell you how long he’d worked there?

And of course you took his health insurance away. He’s just part of the building. Building fixtures don’t need health insurance.

Of course he’s just part of the building. That explains why, despite many years of knowing him, you never once listened to one of his compositions. Parts of buildings don’t have their own artistic work, they are just part of the landscape. And this is how artists are often regarded – not as human beings making art that have needs just like any other human being – but as part of the atmosphere. We’re like the furniture. You use it for a while and then when you get a new interior designer, you throw it out for the next set.

This Arts Institution Head managed to express, in one dumb joke that was clearly meant to be charming, the way so many artists are viewed in institutions. Not as the very reason for the institution. Not as vibrant participants in the artistic life of the place. Not as contributors. Not even as artists. Just – part of the building.

The building just comes with artists – whose lives are as inconsequential as the dust that gets swept up on Sunday nights.

And so the artist’s work will likely be lost to the ages. And the building will stand. And another artist will come to be seen as part of the building eventually.

 

This blog is also a podcast. You can find it on iTunes.

If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Anchor, click here.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

You can help be more than part of a building

by becoming my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

 




%d bloggers like this: