Friday, November 03, 2017

Wall of Truth.

This year is the year I have dubbed Mortality Lessons. I've joked that I think I'm ready to take the quiz now, I'm ready to stop immersive study practices and show I've learned the material, maybe even mastered it, I think I will ace it, enough already.


I'm not sure that's how Mortality Lessons actually works.

My sister E had not one, but two strokes this summer. She has been recovering ever since, doing all sorts of therapy, and making impressive strides. Her friends and family are ardent supporters. My sisters--there are three of us--were and are the squad (SQUAD!) for my dad as he has recovered from his own brain events.

At the moment, though, E has to make getting better, recovering, her main focus. This is one of the statements on her Wall of Truth. The Wall of Truth is my younger sister's invention, and it is genius. These statements are written on pieces of white paper in Sharpie, and taped to the wall opposite the bed and chair. Other statements include the dates of her brain events; the location of her two daughters, and the fact that they are all right; and other pertinent facts about E's here and now, which can feel a little elusive sometimes. The Wall of Truth is supposed to help in making the here and now a little bit more stable. More confirmable. Look up, and there are the bare facts of the case, the incontrovertible, the inarguable.
Truth: the inarguable here and now are sometimes unbearable. 
Truth: the people who love us are infinitely precious. 
Truth: the burdens we bear cannot, for the most part, be made easier to bear through better thinking or better organizing. We just have to bear them. 
Truth: still, sometimes we can use a little help.
Some of the sweetest conversations of my life I've had this year, with my mother, my father, my sisters, my brother. My therapist pointed out that one of the reasons the sweetness, and the grief, both feel so sharp is that these conversations--these circumstances--are sacred. That rang true to me. The sacredness--the way this year has felt set apart, a steep swerve into another realm--intensifies both the grief and the grace.

Today I came home from a long but good day, feeling like I had done a pretty good job at all the job things that were on my agenda. I told the historian so, and he offered a kind word, affirming what I felt. It's my habit to simultaneously hold this kind of praise, and to demur.

"Thanks for saying that," I said to him.

"Well, it's true," he said. "Maybe you need a Wall of Truth."
Truth: the end of the day Friday is the sweetest moment of the week. 
Truth: I really, really love my family, all of them, in an infinity of times and places. There will never be enough words for this. 
Truth: there is also never enough time. 
Truth: I need to arrange to get a CT Angio, stat.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Dear Robert Mueller,

Dear Robert Mueller,

I figure that, between your crack legal mind, your impeccable sense of timing and narrative drama, and your unimpeachable moral character, you might need to hear a story or two, so, because I have secretly or maybe not so secretly put you on a pedestal, nay, in a shrine, even though I know how problematic this all is, of COURSE I DO, I offer the following:


On Indictment Monday, I woke up, finally, from a not so great night of sleep, to my alarm going off at an indecent hour. Barely cracking open an eye, I reached for my phone to turn off the alarm, flicked to see my notifications, to find the one from the NYTimes:

"Manafort," I said to my husband, his sweet head still on the sweet, sweet pillow of early morning.


Last night, I had the strangest dream.
Last night, a night when the cable box inexplicably shone its blue light forEVer, even though I knew I  had turned it off, and my mouth felt icky and also my shoulders hurt but I hoped maybe I would be able to go back to sleep and give it a rest already, but no: last night, after I woke up to stomp over to the freaking cable box and turn it off, and stomped out to the hall to see if we had turned down the heat, and we had, but why was it going, then? and why did my mouth feel so gross? and maybe I should just take some ibuprofen already: last night, after I finally fell asleep again after all the previous drama--are you with me, Robert? I know, that was some serious narrative circuitousness--I had this dream: 
I was traveling, and it was complicated. (Maybe I couldn't choose between my three U.S. passports with different numbers--I think maybe that was it.) Anyway, while I was traveling, things turned into a plan to help America heal its political divides. The historian was with me, I think. Also some of my kids, and maybe a few other people. And also John Boehner, with whom I was prosecuting a very intense argument. 
"You liberals don't have any respect for any conservatives," scoffed John Boehner. 
This is patent nonsense. I derive from a family tree of conservatives, and I have maintained, lo unto this very dark hour, that there are still (a few) conservative public servants who are honorable people, or at least who strive to be honorable. (The evidence for this position being slimmer and less and less tenable as the years go by, I acknowledge, and with some sorrow.) 
"That's patent nonsense," I rejoined. "I drive from a family tree of conservatives. I respect John McCain, for instance, even though I disagree with him on most policy matters." 
"McCain!" scoffed John Boehner, implying in his scoffery that this is a too-easy answer, that everyone likes to say they respect John McCain.  
"Well, what about you, John Boehner?" I said. "Who on the left do you admire or respect?" 
This brought him up short. If he'd been on his game (although, to be fair, it was MY dream), he might have said Joe Biden, since it's clear that almost everyone likes Joe Biden, perhaps in excess of his pre-Obama record, but still. But he didn't. Instead, he reached into the pre-modern era.  
This is where my dream-memory gets sketchy. 
He named a founders-era person, and I said, no, come on, John Boehner, it has to be someone closer to the present. 
He paused again. "Grover Cleveland," he proffered.*

Robert Mueller, when I told this story to the historian this morning, he snort-laughed. I hope that you will be amused, although to be honest, I don't expect you to actually laugh. You're too serious for that kind of nonsense. And sir, I thank you for it. I thank you for your seriousness, and for all those indictments.

Please carry on,


*Grover Cleveland, you may or may not remember, was a Democrat, but obviously before the shift of the Democrats away from its southern constituency. So, John Boehner, Grover Cleveland is not an acceptable answer whatsoever.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Away, and yet I am still my very own self, Episode Infinity.

 I am in a hotel in another city. Okay, D.C. It’s early, because even in another time zone in my own country, I’m a little bit thrown off. I heard what seemed like a knock at my door and I thought, ack I’ve overslept, which is a new “thing I’m doing,” I guess, part of the “everything has changed and probably for the worse” tour of my own life. But no, I had not overslept, there was no knock, it was still early. But, you know, the windows are light, or lightening, and so now I’m up in the gray quiet, alone.

What is there to do in a hotel room but take gratuitous selfies? Or blog, which maybe amounts to the same thing?

I told my friend that I would have a hotel room to myself:

I realized when I woke up that I had just spent the last 12 hours, almost, in the total quiet, my time belonging only to myself. And what did I do with this precious commodity, quiet and time alone? Well, I slept, of course. But also, I did much of what I always do—finding stuff on the internet. Answering email. Because I tried to leave town with lots of work already done, though, I didn’t find myself feeling torn by how much there was to do. When you’re in another city, a lot of what you usually have to do, you can’t do. My colleague and I ate a wonderful dinner before I encelled myself in my narrow chamber. Actually, it’s pretty swank. So, you know, monastic, but with really nice towels and a king size bed.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Dear guy in the white Ford ahead of me at the Del Taco drive thru,

Dear guy in the white Ford ahead of me at the Del Taco drive thru,

I've lately been having a talk with myself about anger. About rage, really. About grief and rage, which are twins, obverse and reverse of the same coin, aren't they? I could say that my grief/rage is national, but really, it's international and national and local and personal. Things are messed up. They are awry, askew, they are going sour and turning violent, and the losses--psychic, human, animal, civic--are at this point past counting.

Yes, I thought about all these things as I watched your broad backside, white Ford ahead of me in the Del Taco drive thru, brake lights aflare, as the driver--that's you, guy in the white Ford--leaned on an elbow out the window, apparently having a tete a tete with the person whose voice I could faintly hear through my own window, as I waited to order my two fish tacos and a Diet Coke.

Of course I was in a time crunch. Don't be ridiculous, of course I was.

What could you have been discussing? On NPR, they were discussing whether the Las Vegas shooter was somehow affiliated with the Islamic State, which the Islamic State claimed he was. Could he have acted on his own, and Islamic State still somehow claim it, in some legitimate sense? What is a legitimate claim from Islamic State, vis a vis this particular crime? &c &c &c, and the brake lights were still lit up and you, guy in the white Ford, still leaned out your window, and you were still, apparently, talking about something taco or burrito related? What could this be?

I admit I felt a tiny ignition of anger. I was under a time crunch, you see, a meeting that was to begin in fifteen minutes, and those fish tacos weren't going to eat themselves.

Finally, finally, you inched ahead in tiny, infinitesimal inches. And, following you, I crept forward to the drive thru kiosk to say, Two fish tacos and a diet Coke, and Del Scorcho. Because they always want to know if you want sauce, and Del Scorcho is what my son once ordered, ergo: Del Scorcho is my sauce.

I raced into my building, sack of tacos in one hand and the Diet Coke in the other. I managed one bite of one taco before I dashed to my meeting.

And now, having wolfed my tacos like a wolf, I'm thinking to myself: what could you have been discussing at the drive thru ordering kiosk, facing that tinny little speaker as if it were the person speaking through it? Was yours a terribly complicated order? Did you find yourself in need of a rundown of all the possible sauces? Were you ordering for a starving militia? Who are you, guy in the white Ford ahead of me in the Del Taco drive thru? And what hunger brought you to this drive thru, where you tarried, and, let's face it, kind of messed with my crack timing?

But that's okay, because I don't have a rage/grief problem, so we're cool,


Monday, October 02, 2017

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?

Remember when we used to have Walkmans and listen to Prince while we took a giant walk around the perimeter of the neighborhood? Remember when, in childhood, we briefly had a cat? Remember when we had a tetherball court in our backyard, and we practiced and practiced so that we could beat Diane S., who was the best tetherball champion in the sixth grade? Remember when we had a yellow ten-speed, and rode it to the beach before the fog had burned off? Remember when we had delphinium, cosmos, asters, roses, baby's breath all blooming in our garden? Remember when we had a Great Dane that ate the tomatoes off the vine, and the peaches off the tree?

Remember when everyone had a blog?

Well, I remember all of this. Mostly because all of it happened to me, but you can substitute your own events, and you'll, all of a sudden, remember when you were younger, too. And when you blogged, maybe. Well, maybe you never blogged, but I did. I blogged a lot. There were a couple of years when I blogged almost every day.

A post shared by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on

I'm in my office, and I should do a little grading before 11 a.m., when I have a commitment. So I will, but before I do so, I want you to know that I have the following before me:
  • a stack of bookmaking books.
  • a copy of Anne Carson's NOX.
  • a copy of Ander Monson's Letters to a Future Lover.
  • a certificate of tax exemption for the next time I buy a passel of fancy paper for the Publication Center.
  • My lunch. 
  • a postcard of Hovenweep. 
  • broadsides galore.
  • a copy of the Eduardo Corral itinerary.
  • a kaleidoscope.
  • an opalescent glass globe.
  • Dayanita Singh's Museum Bhavan.
  • India ink.
  • a David Hockney print of his acrylic painting of Mulholland Drive.
  • a photo of the crowded Beijing Metro.
With everything happening in the world, I want to try--try--to keep choosing love, beauty, and joy, while also still flooding my congresspeople's offices with strongly worded faxes. I want to try.

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To Autumn, worth reading every autumn.


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