Is it Worth Reading?

Here it is, September 11, again. People are posting here and everywhere (I imagine) about remembering the events of this date in 2001.

Why? It certainly did not wake us up and make us better people or more aware of our place as a nation in the WORLD. Following on the fall of the twin towers, we had a president who committed war crimes and can barely even leave the US, he’s so wanted by other nations for the evil he sanctioned during what I can only call his “reign.”

I still don’t think anyone really knows HOW it happened or really WHO did it.

Ultimately, it all seemed to have been pre-visioned by Douglas Adams in his Hitchhiker’s Guide Trilogy (of four books…). It all seems to me like the Krikkit Wars and the US is Krikkit.

Krikkit is am immensely xenophobic planet. The people of Krikkit are just a bunch of really sweet guys who just happen to want to kill everybody.

The first Krikkit attack on the Galaxy had been stunning. Thousands and thousands of huge Krikkit warships had leaped suddenly out of hyperspace and simultaneously attacked thousands and thousands of major worlds, first seizing vital material supplies or building the next wave, and then calmly zapping those worlds out of existence.

The planet of Krikkit was sentenced by the Galactic Court to be encased for perpetuity in an envelope of Slo-Time, inside which life would continue almost infinitely slowly. All light would be deflected around the envelope so that it would remain invisible and impenetrable. Escape from the envelope would be utterly impossible unless it was unlocked from the outside.

That morning I was driving to school and listening to the classical music station that broadcast out of Tijuana. I didn’t even know about the events until I arrived and everyone was going around “Did you hear? My God! Isn’t it horrible?”

Yes, it was.

Class was held as usual but students were so distracted it was difficult to teach. Smart phones didn’t exist, so that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the US had been attacked.

After class, I went to my job at the school’s writing tutorial center. Everyone was talking about the attack (of course) and debating whether to turn on the TV. We were also waiting for the President of the college to announce that school was closed. Meanwhile, I worked thinking about how all my life the US has prepared for war. I grew up 2 miles from a large bevy of B-52s. “Peace is Our Profession” said the Strategic Air Command signs at every entrance to the base where my dad worked. I mostly just wanted everyone to shut up. The damage was done. Life goes on. I held my peace about that, though. I could already tell that Xenophobia would become the order of the day (week, year, culture). I’d lived in the People’s Republic of China soon after the Great Proletariat Culture Revolution, and I KNEW what could happen if “most” people got the “wrong” idea about a single dissenting individual.

I knew that real freedom was on the way out.

Just at the darkest moment of this dark day, one of my former students came in. He’d been 17 years old when he was in my first class, an intro to literature class. He’d never read poetry or studied literature before. His dad was from Germany. His mom was Mexican. He loved the class and it inspired him to read literature and write poetry. He also learned to love Goethe because of the class and to be interested in learning German and maybe going to visit his grandfather in Germany. So, in he walks, “Hey Martha! Is this any good?” He holds up Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther.

And I thought at that moment, “Yeah, the twin towers have been attacked, and the Pentagon, but the world holds to its eternal thread of beauty and here’s Schorsch to remind me of that which really matters.”

Meanwhile almost everyone else was watching the Twin Towers fall again and again and again and again; hypnotic, rage inducing.

The following days I was stunned by the kindness and gentleness of strangers in the grocery store, on the street, everywhere. I loved the silent hills over which the planes had stopped flying. Messages of condolence came in from all over the world expressing sorrow over the act of terrorism and (worse) the loss of innocent lives. The pace of life slowed and then, just as suddenly, there was Christmas music in the stores causing people to salivate heavily and buy things, the planes were back, people were taping a newspaper insert American flag to their front windows and wearing American flag lapel pins and (horribly) “REAL” Americans started attacking our local Chaldean businessmen in fits of stupid, fucking, ignorant fear and rage. A government agency was set up — a new cabinet position — “Homeland Security” and the “Patriot” act was passed making many of our Cold War nightmares come true. White powder in envelopes was feared to be anthrax and on and on and on… A new normal for us Krikkits.

Americans need to get out more both to SEE the world and BE SEEN.

On the big stage, Tony Blair and Dubbya and Chainy cooked up a fake case against Saddam (based largely on a dodgy doctoral dissertation Tony Blair had plagiarized). I stopped class the following March so we could watch, on TV, the first attack on Iraq.

So…I don’t know how to view 9/11. I’m very sorry for all the people who lost loved ones. I also think of all the people all over the world losing loved ones to terrorism here and there. Having lived in a neighborhood which was a haven for refugees (lots of Section 8 housing) I saw waves of disturbed, distressed and disheartened people from all over the world who were not in the US because it was their dream, but because it was their only hope of safety.

In 2004 I went to Italy where, after a young Swiss woman berated me angrily for the war in Iraq, I learned it would be wise of me to let people think I was German. It was an effective disguise, except, of course, in Germany itself.

Reposted from September 11, 2015

Tea and Me

Whole wars have been fought over tea. The Brits thought opium was a good thing to trade for Chinese tea. The incipient ‘muricans thought they’d teach the Brits a lesson (somewhat passive/aggressively IMO) by throwing tea into Boston harbor rather than paying the tax necessary to bring the tea off the ship onto the dock (I think that’s how it went). The first ship belonging to the new nation of the United States of Murica went to China carrying furs to trade for tea.

I always found tea to be an insipid, pale watery beverage especially compared to coffee. But in my current life, tea has an important place. Tea is social. My neighbors and I have tea parties — sometimes planned far in advance, sometimes occurring at the spur of the moment, just, “Come over for a cuppa’.”  I love this. It’s absolutely sweet and important and a custom to be cherished and nurtured. Where once I didn’t even have any tea in my house — well, maybe a faded package of Celestial Seasonings Assorted Herbal Teas — I now have a pretty fancy selection. All tea bags, except for a fresh can of Chinese Jasmine Tea with its evocative and nostalgic fragrance. I’m never going to be an artist of tea, and I like people to choose what they like.

I can’t make tea without thinking of Arthur P. Dent (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxie, etc.). His determination to get a machine — the Nutri-Matic — to make a REAL cup of English tea, causes the system of the Heart of Gold, the most advanced spaceship in the universe, to crash.

He had found a Nutri-Matic machine which had provided him with a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. The way it functioned was very interesting. When the Drink button was pressed it made an instant but highly detailed examination of the subject’s taste buds, a spectroscopic examination of the subject’s metabolism and then sent tiny experimental signals down the neural pathways to the taste centers of the subject’s brain to see what was likely to go down well. However, no one knew quite why it did this because it invariably delivered a cupful of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

As a kid, I remember my mom and friends organizing “coffees” and they were along the same lines, I think, but there was a lot more fussing involved than goes into our tea parties. There was a light, friendly competition over who could make the fanciest dessert AND the women really dressed up for these events. Of course, it was the early 60s so, in general, women dressed up.

In China — well, it’s impossible for me to even describe the importance of tea. It was everywhere. I’ve written about “all the tea in China” before on this blog in a post called, “Hot Drinks in China.” I had coffee while I was there — I made sure of it — but tea was much more common and easier to get. The most common tea in the United States is called “Hong Cha” in China, or red tea. It’s black tea, but a pretty red in the cup. It’s still the tea I like the best. The variety I acquired in my new tea-drinking life is Constant Comment. I like the oranges mixed in.

In the early 80s in China having coffee involved good luck at the export store, a gift from someone who happened to have coffee from Hainan Island, or a trip to Hong Kong. I had no coffee pot. I used a kind of tea pot that had a basket in the top. I lined the basket with toilet paper and poured boiling water through slowly. It was a very successful method even if it looked a little odd (and probably sounds a little odd). No milk, either, except powdered. I got used to that, and I developed a taste for soy milk in my coffee. And in my tea.