Coverage of me and other train wrecks: my mama, subway nut jobs, sex and the environment.


Santa Madre

In the dream I was speaking to Margaret Atwood about mama, specifically about mama’s love.

Mama met my father in this country and the two married after only a month of dating. He immediately asked her to quit her job so she could stay in the comfort of home and cook, clean, and eventually help raise a family. Mama did not hesitate to oblige—she wasn’t raised to have a job outside the home. From the age of fourteen she cooked and cleaned for a household of fifteen people in Jovellanos, Cuba. This monumental chore was hers until she came to the US at the age of thirty-one, when she became responsible for the full-time care of her ailing mother.

It is surprising how in spite of all the years of training, there are many traditional Cuban dishes mama does not know how to prepare. She’s terrible at seafood, for instance, and her dessert repertoire is quite limited. No puffy, fried buñuelos; and she cooks flan in old bean cans, which make the dessert curdled and rustic-looking, and don’t give it the smooth silkiness a proper bain-marie container would.

From the time I was born until...well...until today, mama speaks of the love she has for me in terms of sacrifice: “I sacrificed anything for you while you were growing up.” And “all the sacrifices I made” and there’s the universal generalization “all mother’s, like myself, sacrifice a great deal for their sons.”

Not to challenge the fact that mama loves me—that much is clear—I asked Margaret Atwood what mama could mean by her idea of love as sacrifice, “What has mama sacrificed, exactly?”

“Well what do you mean by sacrifice? What IS sacrifice?” And Margaret continued,
Sacrifice involves giving up a way of being in exchange for a different way of being. Or it involves giving up a material possession for something we perceive as being a greater good, which is to say, something greater than our Selves, with a capital ‘s.’”

What about Jesus? I wondered.

“Exactly,” and her agreement comforted me. “ There is great grief involved in sacrifice, especially in the Christian world where a person sees this kind of sacrificial grief as comparable to that of the savior’s sacrifice for mankind. There is a sense that one must grieve deeply and one does.”

But do we grieve because that’s what we expect to do?

“Who knows? Anytime there is change there is loss, and since sacrifice entails change, then it must involve grief—to what extent, I don’t know, but it’s present.”

Having to adjust herself to my presence in her life, mama grieved the loss of the motherlessness that had accompanied her all those years.

“Precisely,” Margaret affirmed.

But what exactly WAS that life, besides being child-free? There was work, sure—there’s always work. Was there dancing and partying? Never. She was never the type to go out. She didn’t really have friends outside her sisters. She didn’t have a dream the way people do about their lives and careers. She just wanted to be a mothe, or so she says. So what sacrifice did she make bringing me into the world. What sacrifices did she make throughout my life? She never had to get a job, she never had to give up—

“you’re thinking in totalities,” Margaret offered. If she had more and then had less because of you, of course it’s sacrifice. But if she had less and now has more, you think there’s no sacrifice. Change is change. And grief is grief...even if what your grieving was a life you didn’t enjoy.

But just because there’s change in someone’s life, that doesn’t mean that person sacrificed anything.

“Right. There must be willingness. Facing the fear of change. It’s easy for some and difficult for others. But there must be will. She CHOSE to let the change happen and she chose not to begrudge matter what. That’s the sacrifice. And in that way it’s a lot like the death of Jesus.”

I don’t think Margaret Atwood would ever really claim such ideas as her own
, I thought, still dreaming, and my lucid realization ended the dream.


The Wayward Wife

Why is it so fucking hard to get off of a subway train in New York City without running into a Fuckwad?

Case study: The Wayward Wife

I was standing in front of the doors as the train pulled into the station. Passengers to the right of me, passengers behind me. The doors open and I take two steps toward the egress when the Fuckwad steps onto the train car and stands directly in front of me. I look down at her stringy brown hair, catching a glimpse of her overly exposed cleavage as it pressed through her sticky purple tanktop towards me. She didn’t look at me so as to , oh I dunno, see where she was going, so I said to her as she stood there confused by her inability to get past my trapped body: Lady. Where are you gonna go. I need to get off first can you move? Where you gonna—

With that she shoveled towards me as though she was gonna dig a hole in my side. I did what any self-respecting passenger would. I elbowed her breasts (aiming for her ribs, but she was a short woman and I undershot the blow). This forced her to stand sideways and gave me enough room to squeeze past her and off the train. That’s when I noticed that her husband/lover/zookeeper had been on the platform the whole time, clearly embarassed by his Fuckwad Wife as he waited patiently for people like me to get off before boarding. When I finally got to the platform he smiled at me in that apologetic way while she called me “Estúpido!”

Stupidity is easy to recognize because it never recognizes itself; she was such a mean idiot. And really I wondered: is she suffering from gentlemanlinitis?—you know, that’s the affliction that makes some women and men believe that the world should always make way for them, that others should open doors and pick up their litter and give up their seat. Clearly her keeper knew that he should wait for the passengers to get off before boarding the train. Clearly she’s hanging out with a polite person. So why doesn’t it rub off? Why? Probably because she expects everybody around her needs to be a gentleman.


On the Hot Track

Dripping on the way to the train and on the train and out the train. Dripping all morning from the moment I got out of bed, which means I had to get out of the way of the wind from the fan pointed at the mattress and into the heat of the rest of the room. New York City is baking. Today it feels like 110F (the 'F' is for 'FUCK!') and the deeper underground you go for your commute, the closer to hell you get. My home station is 3 flights down. Along the way you could see the sweat trails of commuters. There were drops on the stairways, by the platform, liquid streaming down faces and soaking shirts and pants. Even on the train itself there were drips of sweat along the floor.

Al Gore says the earth has a fever? Well here it is, sucking the water out of our skins. Who knew the path towards the obliteration of the species would be so wet?