chimerically: (Default)
During my recent trip to Utah, my high-school friends and I were lamenting that we don't interact as much as we would like. In high school we used to engage in all manner of craziness, from philosophy clubs and Beatnik poetry readings to bizarre wacky pre-dance parties and elaborate craft projects. (God, I've been meaning to post more about all of that forever ... before I forget.) Somehow, though, it's been difficult to find the time and motivation to keep contact since high school, especially as some of us (*ahem*) are out of state. Then [ profile] gooeyduck made the excellent suggestion of starting a book club to help us keep in touch. We all love to read, we all love to discuss things, and we're all fantastically brilliant people of course, so we all thought this was a marvelous idea. [ profile] bain_easag set up an online forum to facilitate remote discussion. Current participants include me, [ profile] gooeyduck, [ profile] bain_easag, [ profile] darthabsinthe, [ profile] bootsuu, [ profile] dag29580863, [ profile] caefus, [ profile] fungal_rose, [ profile] temperategoddss, [ profile] brandnewunit, and D and R (who shockingly don't have Livejournals!).

I'd also like to invite all of YOU to participate! The plan is to cover one book a month, selected in consensus. (We can all make suggestions on books we'd like to read and discuss, and choose one as a group.) We're starting with Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Fiction or nonfiction is fair game. We all have pretty different fields ([ profile] gooeyduck is an architect, [ profile] bain_easag is a physicist researching sustainable power sources, [ profile] darthabsinthe is an anthropologist, [ profile] bootsuu is a programmer, etc.), so we've agreed to resist the temptation to suggest esoteric books in our field that we find really enlightening but others may struggle with.

If you're interested, leave a comment and I can send you the URL of the online forum. I'd love to recruit enough local people to actually have in-person book club meetings - it would really help me with motivation and make it that much more fun. :~) Yeah, I know, I have a lot of other stuff to read too, but it's important to do a little recreational reading now and then! (I'm still working my way through Overthrow, which incidentally I'd love to be able to discuss in a book-club-like forum. :~))
chimerically: (Default)
Danah has written a fantastic call to arms over the systematic suppression of youth culture (also reminding me of another essay that resonated with my experience). I was a senior in high school when the Columbine shootings happened, and remember the district-wide announcements of locker searchings, suspensions, and cultivation of a culture of aggression and "zero tolerance" by district officials and the media. I remember when local malls started hassling groups of teens, and when cruising was banned, and when the local Dee's (a regular teen hangout) was closed. I remember being hassled by police on several occasions for breaking curfew. I watched as the physical venues for youth expression (and especially non-Mormon youth expression) in Salt Lake City were suppressed, one by one. Fortunately, I was blessed with a host of fabulous teachers, an understanding dad, and a strong community of fellow intellectuals, loners, and outcasts, including the most wonderful friends I'll probably ever have in all my life. Though I was a miserable pariah in junior high, I was able to ignore much of the high school popularity contest and could dress as I wanted and speak my mind freely. We protested Channel 1, The Gap, and in-school advertising; we attended high-school dances en masse, pairing off randomly at the door, and did the hokey-pokey during the slow songs; my school's English teachers handed out our liberal, queer-friendly 'zine for us; and we were vocal about our liberal views in classes and often had teachers agreeing with us (though few other students did in conservative eastern Salt Lake City). I don't remember instances of friends getting hassled for their gaming or dress in my school, even the most extreme goths. But these articles remind me that many aren't so lucky. I shudder to think what would have become of me if my high school experience had been like my junior high experience. By the end of junior high, I was a mess: I was depressed and a recovering anorexic, and had attempted suicide at least once. And I knew countless others - smart but often shy teens - who were in similarly dire straits. If I hadn't met like-minded others and if we hadn't collectively named and repudiated the insidious side of high school culture, I don't know where I'd be now. Of course, I still had to struggle with low self-esteem, which kept me in an abusive relationship and spun me back into depression before high school was out. But it could have been so much worse, and for many, it is.
chimerically: (Default)
I didn't realize it at the time, but I was incredibly fortunate to grow up on home-grown fruit and vegetables, and to have a whole half-acre yard (plus the half-acre yards of our two next-door neighbors) for my own uses. Sometimes late at night when I can't sleep, I begin to wax nostalgic about the dry canyon breezes and Utah crickets chirping in unison coming through my window on hot summer nights, the rooster at the house behind us crowing at all hours, eating the "bowl" of the watermelon on the stone bench by the wood-fired hot tub one dew-soaked summer morning, or the long days I spent reading outside and eating fresh-picked peas, beans, and apricots.

My parents made the garden a family affair. The took care of tilling the soil before planting and added manure every few years, but we all planted, weeded, watered, and harvested together. The layout generally changed from year to year, but somehow many of my memories refer to a particular layout. Walking down the flagstones that bisect the garden length-wise, you first see kale and swiss chard in the first row on your right, parsley on your left. I don't remember ever planting these - they might have come up by themselves, year after year. Beyond them are several rows of potatoes and tomatoes. Almost a whole quadrant of corn, though corn was discontinued later because it took up so much space and didn't yield much. Over in the back right were the vines and other things I didn't pay much attention to: summer and winter squashes, some melons (though they never did well either), peppers, etc. To the lower right were the green and wax beans, and in the upper left were the shell and sugar snap peas.

The crops I liked the best were the peas (I defined my summer by their picking times), beans, corn (especially picked fresh and grilled immediately), and zucchini. (My sister and I would hurl the ones that escaped our timely picking and became giant into the fence or feed them to the horses that kept the weeds down next door. My favorite way of eating them was sliced lengthwise and steamed with cheese.) We also grew red potatoes and carrots that came up looking like bulbous gnarled hands but tasted super-sweet, but we didn't eat these until the next winter when my parents would go out back and dig through the snow and the leaves they piled on for insulation (and next year's mulch) to the veggies below. We also grew a couple of rows of tomatoes, but I never liked them much as a kid (and now I may be allergic, in fact).

Flanking the garden on either side was a green strip of grass, then grapes on the right (which I didn't like at all: they had small seeds, were pretty runny inside, and had thicker skins and less sweetness than store-bought grapes, a combination of factors that made them unpalatable to me) and asparagus and sometimes strawberries on the left. I also had my own garden for a couple of years near the asparagus, below the snowball tree. Our next door neighbor had raspberries that we'd snack on all summer, and now my mom and stepdad have raspberries too. Our yard used to be an orchard, so we also had six full-grown apple trees (though they didn't produce much of anything), two apricot trees, a pear tree, a plum tree, and an English prune tree scattered throughout the yard.

Our neighborhood has a communal irrigation ditch, an important part of our garden's success. We usually bought rights to divert the water into the carefully-cleared rows of our garden once or twice a week. It would often pool in the grass at the base of the garden, where my sister and I would cavort and splash. We also played in the irrigation ditch itself, a small muddy stream that went through the back corner of our yard. The Holladay township has talked several times about killing the irrigation water supply to quench the rising demand for drinking water, but so far it's still flowing.

Every summer and fall we'd all pick the fruit and vegetables together, and then my mom would puree and dry fruit leather and freeze and can much of the rest. We also used to pick cherries at an orchard up north of Salt Lake, and these canned cherries were one of my favorite childhood foods. (I used to call them "bobbies" and remember fishing out new cans from the cellar all the time. They were canned with the pits intact, and had the most wonderful sweet juice around them.)

My parents kept goats in a red shed and a fenced-off enclosure when I was very small (before I was born they tended a farm with goats and chickens in Draper), but as long back as I can remember, the enclosure was used for grandpa's fancy irises. (Now the fence is gone and fruit trees are growing instead of irises.) My sister and I knew every inch of our yard: the sandbox, the mysterious and exciting woodpile around the hot tub, the huge fir trees in our yard and the neighbor's, the boulders we'd climb up and slide down. One summer when I was in junior high, I built a treehouse in the apple tree at the top of the garden that's still there, though now it's becoming overrun with grape vines.

I'm just now realizing how unique my experience was, and that even in my neighborhood, it's going extinct. Developers have been buying up blocs of the mostly 40's-era homes and replacing them with twice as many blunderbus houses on tiny lots - no space for a garden, no more irrigation ditch, no orchard trees. (I predict that when energy prices start rising, the owners won't be able to give away these these ugly, homogeneous houses.) Meanwhile, I long for that garden that I don't have space to grow, for the pets I'm now allergic to, for a childhood that's becoming impossible to have.

MSN maps has decent aerial photos of my mom's neighborhood.
chimerically: (Default)
Last Monday I heeded the Mayor's call to action and attended the protest against Bush during his visit in Salt Lake City. The experience pales in comparison to the massive anti-war demonstrations in the winter and spring of 2003 in San Francisco, but I was still impressed that 2,000 people made it out during their lunch breaks to wave signs, chant, and listen to speakers in Pioneer Park, four blocks from the Salt Palace where Bush spoke at a veteran's convention.

I even made a sign:

(It turns out that Karl Rove attended the same high school my dad and I both attended, and was a sophomore when my dad was a senior. Mr. Tolman taught government and Model UN, and my dad remembers him fondly as a good teacher and a "democratically-minded individual." A dozen or so of my dad's ex-classmates who were at the protest corroborated his opinion of both Mr. Tolman and Mr. Rove.)

Shortly after I arrived and found [ profile] gooeyduck, police closed off the southbound lanes of third west in front of Pioneer Park, for no apparent reason. (If protesters had been going into the street I would have understood, but they seemed to be staying within the park boundaries or crossing intersections on green lights.) Some protesters hurled challenges to them to open it up again. One police officer, scowling fiercely, stalked up and down the street aiming a small video camera on a tripod at the crowd. An intimidation tactic? I sure wasn't ashamed to be there.

After some time, they opened up traffic again, and I briefly joined the crowd that circled the intersection of third west and fourth south with their signs. Some drivers honked and cheered, some scowled and gave us the thumbs-down, some hollered praise or hurled insults from their open windows.

At 1:30 or so, the mayor himself arrived and talked about some of the bad decisions of the Bush administration and the bravery and sacrifices of the troops. When he finished, many protesters left, but a couple hundred marched down to the Salt Palace.

There, we chanted "this is what democracy looks like" and "for the troops, against the war," to the beat of a couple of drums some hippie kids brought. We were heckled by veterans going from the Marriott across the street to the convention: many glared and pursed their lips, some muttered insults, a couple of groups defiantly sung "God Bless America" (but their singing petered out in confusion after I joined in :~)). One woman body-slammed me, but I stood my ground and let my elbow drop hard on her flabby shoulder, and she passed. You would think that with all of the recent cuts to veterans' benefits, we would have gotten more sympathy, but protests like this sadly tend to make people see in black and white.

After a while, I wanted a new sign:

I don't smoke pot.
I have a job.
I'm educated.
I'm a responsible, informed citizen.
And I vote.


(And my dad's proud that I'm here!)

I ran into my aunt and cousin, who I was surprised and pleased to see. Finally, at 3:30 or so the demonstration petered out and Dad picked me up. My upper arms were sunburnt and I felt physically and emotionally exhausted, but I'm still glad that I went.


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January 2011

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