Category Archives: Personal stories

pandemic

No one puts a pandemic in a corner

Why have we let the pandemic pit states against each other?

A long time ago, long before the pandemic hit we were governed by the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. Basically, the federal government had very little power and the country was individual states doing their own thing. This was a train-wreck. The whole reason the Constitutional Convention in 1787 convened was to create a better way to manage the country. As it was, Congress feared the new nation was not going to be able to ward off efforts from the British to take back what had been theirs. The result was the Constitution.

Covid-19 has sent us back in time

Today, it feels like we are living in the U.S. circa 1777. By not taking a strong stand on the Covid-19 pandemic, the federal government abdicated its responsibility and left decisions to the states. Red states support President Donald Trump and took longer to issue stay at home orders, promote mask-wearing and social distancing and started opening up earlier. By contrast blue states did the opposite. During the early months, the lack of federal control of collecting and distributing needed medical equipment meant that it all became state vs. state. Governors across the nation complained about having to bid against each other — and sometimes against the federal government — to buy supplies they needed. Some resorted to buying and hiding what they had so the feds wouldn’t step in and take it all.

Now that we are five months in, this state v. state looks a little different. Early in the pandemic, Florida said New Yorkers entering Florida would have to self-quarantine for 14 days. The consequences for violating this are a fine of $500, up to 60 days in jail (the best place to get Covid-19). As the cases in Florida has skyrocketed and the cases in New York have plummeted, New York issued a new decree; no one from the states that have rising cases can come to the Empire State unless they will spend 14 days in quarantine. People who refuse will face a fine.

My state is better than your state

This is purely anecdotal but people I know in New York, where I live, do not seem all that concerned about what Floridians think of our state or how Governor Andrew Cuomo has handled Covid-19 but Floridians I know seem obsessed. Maybe they are bitter about #FloridaMan. We never should be in a place where we delight or rejoice at seeing other Americans die. I have family and friends in the Sunshine State and the last thing I want to see them suffer or die from this (or anything).

This data are backed up here.

Having lived through the worst (I hope) of the pandemic in New York, my first thought is, “Good for Florida, they dodged a bullet.” The problem is that the numbers do not always tell a complete story. In the last few weeks, Covid-19 has mounted a comeback and cases are surging all over the country. But consider the following:

  • The death rate so far has remained lower than in the spring. There are a few reasons for this. The death rate is a lagging indicator. People get sick, go to the hospital (or not) and die sometime later. Just because cases are rising does not mean they start dying at the same time. We don’t know what the real death count will be from this recent surge.
  • We have better treatments now than we had when this started. That is a good thing. As the novel coronavirus has been studied, doctors have been given more tools to fight it.
  • The death rate doesn’t tell the whole story about how bad a disease this is. One of the scariest things about Covid-19 is how long-lasting the impact can be. MRIs of the brains of people who spent time in the ICU show damage consistent with a traumatic brain injury. Many of these people require time in a rehab facility before going home.

It’s NEVER a bad thing when the mortality rate for a disease goes down. But to look at this data in a vacuum and extrapolate from it that Florida has done a better job than New York, for example, is shortsighted at best and harmful at worst.

We have let ourselves fall into this space. Rather than pit New York against Florida, a better way to handle this is to ask, “What can Florida learn from New York?” or “What can the world learn from the Floridian response?” We have taken the scientific/ medical and superimposed politics. How’s the working out? Not well.

I was raised to believe that we are all Americans. Floridians, New Yorkers, even people from New Jersey. Until we get back to that (and to the belief in empirical facts, we are doomed.

Letting the perfect be the enemy of the good and other random pandemic thoughts…

The state is closed because of the pandemic and I am sitting in my living room listening to Pandora and I am thinking about writing a brilliant post about this or that. I don’t because I am tired or I write something and it doesn’t seem very good. From now on, I want to update this more often.

How’s the pandemic treating you?

For me, the pandemic has been exhausting. My writing work has dried up. My house needs more than feels remotely possible to do. The cat litter needs to be changed and the cat is not happy about it.

I am so lucky to have a roof over my head, a kitchen full of food, I have power and an internet connection. I cannot even begin to imagine how painful it must have been to get through the 1918 flu and stay home without Netflix TV. I am tempted to look into whether violent crime rates soared as people had to interact with each other.

That’s not a problem Chez Chadwick (aka Chateau Squirrel). I live here with my cat, yes the aforementioned Squirrel. She bites me sometimes but it all works out.

Meanwhile, I am tired all of the time and am getting nothing done. I got up today at nearly NOON. Noon! I was up late and finally took a pill to sleep at about 3:00 am. Was I up doing something creative? Working on comedy or that memoir I keep yapping about? No, I was watching Criminal Minds.

Now things have to change.

Well, it looks like Long Island is about to start opening up. I will still wear a mask when I go out but there are other things I am going to do. There will be at least three posts per week. I am also doing some online comedy. You will be able to catch most of it on my YouTube channel.

For now, I know of one show I am doing this week. The Tabernacle of Hedonism. It generally starts on Wednesdays around 10:30 EDT (note, I said EDT. We are living in daylight savings time people, get your shit together.) I am submitting a video tomorrow. Note: on June 10th, the show will be a marathon of the 10 pandemic shows. The new season is set to start on June 10.

You can read more about Tom Miller here.

Just to stay current… I am now …

On Instagram and Tik Tok. I wonder if younger people think, wow we have these cool social media sites and now all these older people are crashing our party! Probably. I will try to post some of that here.

Thank you and let me know if you have any questions.

pandemic cat eats cheese
I will rip off your face if I want. Lucky for you, I am busy right now.

Me and the #MeToo movement

I would like to think that my opinion about the #MeToo movement is barely solely on the fact that I don’t think anyone should be assaulted or abused. I would like to think that my experience with the matter has nothing to do with how I feel. That would be dishonest.

This is a post that I have been trying to write for the longest time. I have had the hardest time organizing my thoughts. This may not be the most succinct way to do this but I am going to give my experiences and then what I think. This is not to engender sympathy. The time is long past for that.

I am one of the four and more

My mother and I took a trip through Mexico by train after I graduated high school. I was sleeping and woke up because I felt something hot on the inside of my thigh. High up. The man next to me had his hand under my skirt and almost to my panties. I whipped my leg away and gave him a look that said, “Back the fuck off.” This was the first time that the real estate that is my body needed to be guarded.

When I was in college, the stat was that one in four female undergrads would be raped at some point. It happened to me when I was 18. It was a friend of a friend. When I cried, the guys (there were two) said they were “sorry.” “We didn’t mean to make you cry.” When I talked to the police, they told me not to report this because “it will only ruin your life.”

When I entered the workforce, I asked a man I worked with (well, he was a staffer and I was an intern but in a different department) for advice about finding a job. We met after work. He was married, I assumed this was just to talk about job stuff. I was wrong. He hit on me and I rebuffed him. We never talked again. Yeah, I was young and naive.

At one job, I looked over at my boss in the cube next to mine and he was looking at porn. Not only that but he had downloaded a trove of it to the network. He and his boss would walk through with their male friends and point out which women they wanted to screw. I complained. Later that year, I left the company for totally other reasons.

These are a few of my experiences. Not all, by any means. Not all the times I have been looked over, talked to as if my being female made me less likely to understand things (at a meeting about increased security at my college campus, one university staffer asked how a woman could be helpful with such matters), or just subjected to unwanted touching. Whether or not it came from a sexual place, unwanted is unwanted.

The right to be believed is not absolute

This is obvious and everywhere. In my life, I have been raped, mugged, beaten, and almost killed. In each instance, I was told either to keep it to myself. I reported the last time I was beaten by my dad and the cops had the same attitude as when I was raped. When I was mugged, I had to practically beg the cop to take my report. This experience has led to me to believe people when they say they have been assaulted.

This could be the most random analogy I have ever made. In Heller vs DC, Justice Antonin Scalia found that while he supported Mr. Heller’s right to bears arms per the second amendment but, “The right protected by the Second Amendment is not absolute.”

People lie. People make mistakes. I have read that eyewitness testimony is often incredibly unreliable because memory is subjective and not set in stone. People deserve to be heard but when making allegations against someone about serious things like crimes committed, they need more than their word. There are few acts that I detest more than lying about being a victim of any crime. It makes it that much harder for real victims to be heard.

Last year, two acquaintances of mine had consensual sex. The problem was that she had a boyfriend who found out. To not ruin that relationship, she claimed she had been raped. It all worked out and she recanted but the damage to the man could have been substantial. I am grateful that the #MeToo movement happened but that does not give women carte balance to say whatever they want.

Nuance has left the building

This is all too true today. We have no taste for subtlety. That is unfortunate because when we treat all crimes as the same, we lose the ability to provide justice to anyone. When it comes to sexual assault, there seems to be no difference between a bad joke (Al Franken) and rape (Justice Brett Kavanaugh, I know it was an alleged rape, I will get to that). We also seem to have no appetite for forgiveness.

After I was raped, I helped start a women’s center on campus and we had support groups for survivors. One guy friend I had told me that rape was worse than murder. No, it’s not, I am not dead and that is a good thing. Each experience I had was very different and deserved a different response. I don’t think the guys who raped me deserved the same punishment as the guy who put his hand up my skirt. Looking at porn is not the same as expecting sex for help with a job search.

Moreover, if we are to really make progress with the #MeToo movement, we need to have some forgiveness. If the only response to an admission of wrongdoing is expulsion from society, no one is going to come forward. Redemption has to be on the table.

What about…?

If it hasn’t been clear, the #MeToo movement needs more nuance, open minds (on all sides) and a healthy dose of forgiveness.

Senator Al Franken (D-MN) should have had the ethics inquiry he wanted and not been forced to resign. That bad joke photo was not proof of a predator, just a bad impulse by a comedian.

Brett Kavanaugh should not have been put on the Supreme Court because he lacks the right temperament. I don’t know what happened way back in the day but I also believe that acts done at that age should not preclude adult advancement at work. There is a reason rental car companies have different prices for people under 25. I don’t think the guys who raped me so long ago are the same men today. I hope not.

Tara Reade deserves to be heard. I think whatever documents are out there should be thoroughly searched. Mr. Biden should comply with any inquiries. I think he is doing that. Everything I have read about this case and everything I know of the former VP makes me believe him. When I cast my vote for him, it will not be just a vote against President Trump but a vote FOR Joe Biden.

Hate and anger can’t defeat hate and anger

For too long, women have been treated as property. We have been abused and when we talked about it, we were called liars. Rape was a “he said, she said” kind of thing. We were told to watch what we wore and that “boys will be boys.”

As pendulums are apt to do, the #MeToo pendulum has swung a bit too far. When I see the president, who has bragged about committing sexual assault, watching underage girls get dressed and treat women like objects with no consequences, I am angry and sad. Then I see men who do really bad things, ask for forgiveness and not get it, I think we are sending the wrong message here. Repent and be cast out. Double down on your actions and be rewarded. What is wrong with that picture?

I worry about the president’s words because people take them seriously and they act on them. Mark Halperin is a journalist who admitted to sexual wrongdoing when he was at ABC News. This was a long time ago but he was cast off of TV because of it. He has since apologized and done all the things we hope someone in his position would do. It’s time to bring him back. If he is an example, it needs to be of what not to do when someone admits to wrongdoing.

At the end of the day, every time anyone says they have been assaulted or harassed, they deserve to have their allegations looked into and proven or disproven. We need to stop equating small crimes with larger ones. We need to remember, while there are similarities, all cases are unique and should be treated that way. I know this isn’t a popular position now but we need more nuance.

PS. This was a bit rambly and less sourced than other things I have written. No, I do not speak for all women or all anything. These are only my thoughts on the matter.

Diary of a random white woman

I am probably one of the whitest people on earth. I did the Ancestory.com thing and learned I am 90 percent English/Irish/Scottish/Welsh and 20 percent French and Norweigan.

When people see me, they see a well educated, very articulate woman who grew up in an upper-middle-class area on Long Island. All of that is true. None of that tells the whole story. It is true that I had a lot of advantages from all of that. Advantages that have not always been afforded to people who are black or brown. These advantages have opened doors for me that might not have been opened for other people of other races.

Having said that, my life is not what people may think.

Here’s what that view of me misses:

Neither of my parents was really ready to have kids. My dad was a violent sociopath and my mother is a raging narcissist. After he cheated on her and was physically abusive, she left him. I cannot blame her for that but she left me, too.

She went to Iceland and I was left in an untenable situation. Not only was god old dad physically and emotionally abusive, no one wanted to take actual responsibility for me. We only had food in the fridge because I demanded it. I never had more than two pairs of pants because no one wanted to pay for clothes for me. I love my grandmother, Judy, but she always kept me in the newest tennis attire but refused to buy me clothes for school because “that’s your father’s responsibility.” You can guess what his response was.

Having only one or two pairs of pants is something they notice in the upper-middle-class area I grew up in. I was always the outcast. The teasing was unrelenting and horrible. By day I was teased non-stop (and it did not help that my parents were divorcing — Why are your parents getting a divorce? Is it because they hate you?) and by night I was abused by daddy dearest.

When I was 17, I moved out of my father’s house and in with my grandmother. He had tried to kill me (twice) and I didn’t feel safe. Years later I would wonder why that didn’t happen sooner. The real reason is that Judy didn’t want it to. I wasn’t her daughter or her responsibility. These are issues that haunt me today.

I am writing this from a beautiful house in Stony Brook, NY. My view is incredible. I have this house now because after I moved away from my father, he bought the house I was living in. To put a finer point on this, my grandmother sold her house to the man who had tried to kill me leaving me SOL. At the time, I saw the silver lining. Eventually, I would get the house.

Last year, my dad choked on a piece of meat and I got the house (along with a large mortgage). I feel like, in addition to the second mortgage I am paying, I paid for this place with blood, sweat and tears. I am grateful to be able to live here but this was not an easy row to hoe.

I am hurt when people say things like “white women are the worst” or when they look at me only through the prism of white privilege. I grew up isolated, alone and horribly sad. I am lucky in a lot of ways but my life is not what people think it has been.

Meet Tom Miller

One of the first people I met in Florida was Tom Miller. When I first moved to Gainesville several years ago, I wanted to get involved in my new community. As a comedian, I also wanted to perform comedy but wasn’t optimistic about my prospects. One person I met my first week in the city told me about an open mic/variety show Tom Miiller did. Here is one of my first performances at the Tabernacle and another one.

Enter the Tabernacle of Hedonsim hosted by Tom Miller

The Tabernacle of Hedonism hosted by Tom Miller just celebrated its 35 birthday recently. Some have called it the “longest-running variety show in America.” It has a very dedicated audience who have followed it from venue to venue around the city, which he likes to call “the center of the known universe.”

What is a typical show like? There is no typical show. Every week offers a different experience. No matter what happens at the weekly show, it is always entertaining. But all of this sounds like a very clinical report of something that is not. Miller is a great promoter of the freedom of expression. There is NO censorship. At one show, they had the stage in the windowfront of the venue and the “Naked Poet” took it all off. Passersby on the street had no idea what to think. Neither did I.

Artists need a space to feel safe to create

For me, the best part of the show is the feeling of safety in what I did. I am a comedian. I want to make people laugh. I also am a satirist and sometimes good satire is not always funny. Add to that the fact that sometimes I just want to rail against a society that has turned its back on truth and facts and you get me searching for a place to express that. I found opportunities to do all of that at the Tabernacle. Whatever I did, I always found support for it here. Even when I wasn’t happy with what I was doing, people supported me.

But wait, there’s more

So, Tom Miller is a performance artist. Yes and no. Miller has done some amazing performance art — installations? Exhibits? I am not sure what they are called officially but from his tribute to Truman Capote to staring at Ted Cruz‘s mouth for hours on end, his pieces work on every level.

Lest you think that is all he does, Miller has more for you. He writes stage and screenplays. The Accrosstown Theatre ran his play, UMMU last year. I have been lucky enough to have read several of his screenplays, including Elmer’s Saucer. If that does not get made into a movie, it will be proof to me that everything good in the world has died.

Recently, I started to seriously listen to his music. I am currently obsessed with Little Green Girl, which reminds me of David Bowie and David Byrne but like everything he does, his music is just fantastic. And I have not even gotten to his paintings.

I could go on for days about how impressed and inspired I am by Miller. While I was in Gainesville, he made me want to be more creative. Now that I am in New York, his influence is still there. I am pursuing my creative dreams more than ever before. I also want more of the world to experience the genius of Tom Miller. We all need a little more of his brand of art in our lives.

Here is my most recent video that I have from there. Learn more about him here.