Monday, August 14, 2017

Terrorist Attack on Charlottesville Virginia

I'm sure you have heard that my city, Charlottesville, Virginia, was attacked by white nationalist terrorists on Saturday, August 12th.  I didn't attend the counter-protest. I'd been dithering about it, partly wanting to go, but also worried because the white supremacists coming to the rally had been bragging about violence. Friday when I got home from work, I impulsively climbed onto the porch roof and painted a resist sign. We live less than a mile from downtown and I wanted any nazis who might park their cars in my neighborhood to know that they were not welcome.

The evening before the rally, white supremacists gathered near the University of Virginia grounds for a torchlit march, which ended in violence when they encountered a group of anti-racist UVA students and attacked them, including throwing their lit torches at people. I even heard a claim on a news video that the nazis threw fuel on people and then threw their torches. I think I speak for many locals when I saw we feel protective of UVA students. It was monstrous that they should be attacked defending their college grounds.

Saturday, the rally was supposed to start at noon, but people started assembling around 9:00 am and quickly became violent. A friend of mine who was there says that the violence was in little, self-resolving bursts. Punches thrown, then a calm, then punches thrown somewhere else, followed by calm. The city declared a local state of emergency and unlawful assembly was declared before even the official start time of the rally. That clinched it for me and I didn't go. I thought it would be a bit of a jerk move to show up after unlawful assembly had been declared. So I stayed home, glued to my twitter feed, until the horrific terrorist attack.

To explain the scene for those of you who aren't local: downtown Charlottesville has a pedestrianized street with shops and restaurants. It's a popular destination for tourists and locals alike and is always crowded on summer weekends. Two streets are allowed to cross the pedestrian mall, although with speed bumps and multiple warnings to drive slowly and yield to pedestrians. After the rally dispersed, there were still many people downtown. A car, driving at full speed charged across the pedestrianized mall and crashed straight into the crowd. Witnesses say he then reversed and slammed into the crowd again. On the eyewitness video I saw, the car was driving so fast it was a blur. One local woman was killed, 32 year old Heather Heyer. Many others were injured, some critically. Jon had been leading a retreat for health care workers and many of the participants were paged to come into the hospital and help with the multi-casualty incident.

The driver of the vehicle was apprehended about a mile from the crash scene. It is confirmed that he was a white supremacist, Trump-supporter.  I had been horrified by similar vehicular terrorist attacks in Nice and London and the fact that it had happened here, in my own town, on a street I walk on frequently was too shocking to comprehend.  And then, perhaps an hour later, the state police helicopter that had been circling the event all day, crashed. Both officers on board were killed.  Never in my life have I been in a place that was actively under attack. Yes, I was safe in my house, and my neighborhood stayed peaceful, but it was horrifying. And an innocent woman was murdered by a terrorist. We won't forget that and we won't let it happen again.

Sunday afternoon, the rally organizer (a local blogger and embodiment of toxic white male culture) had the audacity to hold a press conference. I had this crazy idea that if I attended this conference I could maybe throw a tomato at him or something. Shocking, I know, but I was brimful with rage and I thought if I could just get an opportunity to get close and just maybe gently lob something on him because he needs to be marked with humiliation for what he invited to our town. But then I thought that a tomato would be too firm so I went to Wegmans and bought the biggest, messiest, chocolattiest cream doughtnut they had. I just thought, if the opportunity presented itself, I might clap it against his shirt or smoosh it into his face. I was totally serious about it, but I didn't get an opportunity because when I got to the press conference, there was a large crowd and I couldn't get anywhere near the man. I could barely see him. We all screamed SHAME at the top of our lungs and completely drowned him out. Then someone rushed the podium and punched him and he ran away and we all chased him. We literally chased him away and the riot police came rushing in and blocked the alley he'd run down. There was a standoff for a while but nothing much was happening, so I wandered away and left the bouquet I'd bought when I was buying my assault doughnut at the impromptu memorial for Heather Heyer.

A few pics from Sunday:

My own memorial for Heather
The memorial that sprung up on the spot where Heather Heyer was murdered.

That blue hat had a swastika on it, but every time I tried to take a picture he turned his head.

Riot police protect Jason Kessler's escape

These videos are straight from my instagram. It seems they don't show up if you are reading this in a feed. Sorry! The quality is so much better than if I put them on youtube, so that's why I do it this way.

A post shared by Aileen Bartels (@aileenbartels) on

It was incredibly cathartic to scream at this man. I think most people around me felt the same. We were so enraged and shocked at what happened in our community that we needed to scream. I screamed myself hoarse. People on social media called us thugs and said we were as bad as the nazis, but that is BS. Don't you DARE compare people venting their rage to terrorist murderers. I reject any claim that our behavior was bad in any way. Also, any argument about "both sides" or "violent leftists" is FALSE. This "But what about the leftists?" has become the new "But her emails." The white supremacists INVADED our town. In the weeks before the event, city council and local businesses worked together to find a way to legally prevent the rally without being guilty of a free speech violation. There was a lawsuit and a last-minute injunction by a judge saying that the rally had to be allowed to go on as planned, despite multiple claims of an expected crowd of thousands.

Sunday evening there was a vigil for Heather Heyer at the site of her death. Originally, it was to be held in a local church, but nazis threatened to attack it. Think about that. These hateful Trump supporters threatened to attack a peaceful vigil for the woman they murdered. But some republicans are trying to claim that the left is responsible for the violence. We gathered and lit candles and sang. State and local police were there to protect us from Trump's terrorists. It's always sad to hear about someone who was murdered, even if it's someone you don't know, but it's a different feeling when the murder was an intentional and vicious attack on your community. The community itself is an additional victim. This is something I hadn't realized. I would also like to thank all the people around the country who held their own vigils and rallies in support of Charlottesville.

The vigil for Heather Heyer on Sunday evening

And finally, this morning, as Phoebe and I took our pre-dawn walk, we saw a memorial of white paper luminaries that had appeared overnight in our park. The park itself, with its hilltop location, groves of ancient oaks, and the worn-down stones of a mountain range older than human memory, has always felt like a sacred space and the memorial was like a tiny paper Stonehenge, there in the dark (and literally at the intersections of Druid and Stonehenge Avenues).

Monday, August 07, 2017

Window Washing Weekend

I spent the weekend washing windows, which is way more fun that it sounds. Nothing makes you feel quite so accomplished as surveying your sparkling windows.

The window-washing cloths from Williams-Sonoma are the best. All you need is water.

Sunroom windows cleaned.
This window still had glazier's fingerprints from decades ago.

Even after cleaning, the front door and windows look rough.
It will be a future project to restore our porch.
I'm dying to get rid of that basket chair, but Jon will object.

Otherwise I'm really dissatisfied with the state of our house right now. In addition to washing windows, I scrubbed the toilets, washed the kitchen floor, vacuumed, and cleaned the microwave and yet still the house feels grimy and unpleasant. The living room is still partially dismantled so that Sancho can sleep closer to the floor. Cobwebs are taking over. No sooner do I vacuum them up than more appear. One morning we're going to wake up and find ourselves cocooned in them.

Cobweb level: Satis House

I made poke bowls for dinner for the first time. I'll eat sushi in restaurants without a qualm, so it's odd that I felt squeamish about preparing raw fish to eat at home. It was yummy and easy to prepare but I have too much poke angst to make this again.

I also spent the weekend reading Olivia in India by O. Douglas, a very charming epistolary novel about a young woman's trip to India just prior to World War I. Every book I read by O. Douglas is even better than the last. Also reading The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope, which I have been reading forever, it seems.

This summer is rushing to its conclusion. Only thirteen days until we move Seamus to his dorm at VCU. I think we have managed to get most things done. He's registered for classes, we finally submitted the dreaded immunization form. I bought twin, XL sheets, a laundry bag, and a laptop. He can take a few bath towels from home, and whatever else we need, we'll just get at Diversity Thrift on move-in day. I'm extra happy to shop there in particular because their profits benefit the LGBQT community and I learned that Vice President Mike Pence will be speaking in Richmond on move-in day. Couldn't this asshole pick a day when the city isn't already overburdened with tens of thousands of students moving in? Seriously. Isn't his team supposed to research things like this? Can't he see that not disrupting an entire city and creating a hell day for thousands of people is more important than getting his ego stroked by a group of sycophants? (Although that's probably the only thing of his that gets stroked.) It occurred to me that we could carve out some time to go and protest him, but I doubt it will be possible.

Meanwhile, Seamus and Ian left on a trip to New Orleans to visit Brigid. A brothers' trip! To visit their sister! Isn't that cute? They're going on the train, which didn't depart Cville until 10:30 pm yesterday so they both spent the day moping and I was happy to see them go. Based on what we're hearing from Brigid, the rain down there is intense, and I'm hearing worrisome tales about flooding and riding a bicycle through waist-deep water. Brigid herself got a job teaching art in a public elementary school in her neighborhood. She's also volunteering in a community garden and at a studio that teaches costume making to kids.

With everything that's been going on this summer, we have't had a proper vacation but once Seamus is settled at school, I'm going to Buffalo for a family reunion. Jon's going to the upper peninsula of Michigan for a conference in October, the two of us are going to Boston in November for a professional event for Jon, and we're going to try to squeeze in a trip to New Orleans as well.

I'll leave you with an awesome bit of craftivism that appeared overnight in our park. The letters are cut off a bit, but it says DISARM HATE. I haven't hung any yarnbombs lately because I've been working on one that's larger than anything else I've attempted so far and it's going to take a while.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Pomfret Towers

I am pleased to announce that I found an Angela Thirkell novel that I actually liked. I've been slowly reading my way through her collected works, and finding each book to be worse than the last. Trooper to the Southern Cross, Demon in the House, O These Men, These Men!, The Fortunes of Harriette, and Summer Half were all pretty bad, so Pomfret Towers (1938) was a pleasant surprise.

I got my copy at the public library

First of all, most of the action happens at a weekend party at a country house, and you couldn't ask for a more perfect venue for comforting British chick lit. Secondly, there are no children in this book, and children, as portrayed by Angela Thirkell, are particularly horrible. Thirdly Thirkell doesn't mock the servants or demean the lower classes. Instead, she aims her mockery at pretentious poseur artists and self-important authors, which is much more satisfying.

Here's a quick plot sketch. Alice Barton is the painfully shy daughter of a respectable architect. She and her brother Guy are invited to a weekend house party at Pomfret Towers, occupied by the local lord. Of course Alice doesn't want to go, but her mother makes her. And so we meet the usual weekend house party people: assorted sporty hunting people, a publisher, a professor, the lord's heir, and girl with a hyphenated last name who screams a lot. There's also a snobbish and officious "authoress" who's main object is to get her daughter married to the heir, and her son, Julian, a pretentious artist of dubious talent with whom Alice falls in love. These two get snubbed and humiliated in a variety of amusing ways.

Pomfret Towers isn't a perfect book by any means. If I had a ranking system, I'd give it 6.5 stars out of 10. Thirkell tends to pad her writing with unnecessary plot action: "She crossed the room and greeted her aunt and then sat down." Still, I enjoyed it enough to recommend that you check it out of your library, if it's in their collection, but don't go crazy tracking down a copy to buy, unless you can get it for less than $5.