Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ride Me On Language

Five days with Dorothy Allison at the Tomales Bay Workshop has me feeling a desperate urgency to "get naked on the page." I also feel sad, like I just said good-bye to an old friend I might never see again. And I feel, of all things, southern-proud, half-wishing my tongue still held onto home as gracefully as Dorothy's does. At 62 years old, Dorothy has long silky gray hair that she's constantly brushing away from her face. Her glasses cannot conceal the fire that burns behind them. When she talks, people listen hard, laugh often, even cry. She loves profanity.

Over the course of thirteen hours of workshop, she told us that writing is hard, thankless work, that salvation sometimes comes in the form of poetry in the middle of the night, that she sold 30 years worth of her journals to Duke University to pay for her son's college education. About my writing, she said she didn't believe the narrator, that she's hiding herself, that she needs to get emotionally raw. She also said it was "a damn good story."

And my favorites:

"Writing is deliberate seduction:
Take risks, put embarrassing stuff on the page, be DARING."

"You have permission to take revenge.
But you better be honest about how you were a motherf*^#ker too."

"You are an anthropologist of your own culture--write from where you came from. Write from hurt. Hurt has power."

"After we had a baby, I lost a year just staring at his feet."

"I get up in the night, an’ I need a story. I need a book. I need somebody to invite me into a world they have imagined whole. Or stolen. I genuinely don’t care. Just take me there. Ride me on language. Charm me. Fascinate me. Scare me or excite me, but take me out of myself. We are lonely. We are scared. We need story. That does not change."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Beat the Bank!

On Sunday, after a journalism workshop with a bad-ass writer/mother/former editor of Mother Jones, I decided to take the Embarcadero to the Golden Gate Bridge. Big mistake. San Francisco was seething with people on that lovely sunshine day. I literally sat at a stop-light, not moving, and watched it go through SEVEN cycles of red to green. An old man thumped my bumper with his Mercedes. Someone's 50 Cent drowned out my Nick Drake. I blamed the whole thing on Fleet Week (sailors? ships? who cares?) until I realized, after finally reaching the bridge AN HOUR LATER, that it might also have to do with the Occupy SF movement.

Which made it all seem better somehow: a noble suffering. After all, what's the inconvenience of a traffic jam compared to having the bank foreclose on your home? I used to lead the bullhorn at protests, my righteous anger sweating out of my pores. Now my anger has given way to a muted disillusionment, a tragic cynicism that makes me seriously consider never voting in a Presidential election again.

But the beauty of this current movement is that we don't even need a bullhorn to be heard. All of us who have money in the big banks have power. Imagine what would happen if we all decided to put our money in credit unions, to infuse our LOCAL economies with the hard-won fruits of our labor?

M and I opened a shared account at Bank of America because it was easy, he already banked there, and they were willing to cash the savings bonds my dad gifted me for our wedding. Convenient? Yes. Ethical? I don't think so. We're pulling out of there ASAP, moving all of our banking to the Redwood Credit Union. Because there are some things that matter more than nation-wide access to ATMs and savings bonds, because somehow we've got to believe that people like us can still make a difference.