Monday, September 11, 2017

Charlottesville Post August 12

Several times on this blog, I have voiced my frustration with the disparity between Charlottesville's much-touted public image as a charming, friendly college town and the ugly reality for its residents who aren't rich, white, and well connected. The terrorist attack here on August 12th shredded our glowing public profile and as Charlottesville City Council hires a PR firm to fix our image, city residents of all backgrounds grapple with the serious issues in our community and try to find a way to fix them. And as city residents have spoken out at city council and town hall meetings, the depths to which the local government betrayed us becomes more evident.

At the very first city council meeting, a few days after August 12, mayor Mike Signer started the meeting by threatening anyone who got out of order with arrest. (I wasn't there in person, but was watching the live feed.) Then the audience was forced to sit through an interminable period of business as usual, while council members read irrelevant proclamations and took plenty of time to voice their own thoughts. The audience was remarkably patient, I thought, because even at home, I was jumping in my seat, especially when a council member made a dig at the crowd, surmising that there wasn't room in the chamber for one of HER invited guests because of the large audience that evening.  In the face of this breathtaking insensitivity, a few audience members began to speak out of turn. Mayor Mike Signor ordered them dragged out of the room by police and arrested. This mayor is a liberal democrat who enjoys preening for the media and fatuously declared Charlottesville the "Capital of the Resistance" back in January.

It's going to take a lot more than platitudes to fix this town.

After the arrests, the meeting dissolved into chaos, the councilors fled the chambers, and a group of protestors rushed the desk with a huge banner inscribed with BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS. Eventually, Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy returned to the room and upended the usual meeting procedure and said that anyone who wanted to speak could do so, for one minute each, and the remaining four councilors trickled back into the room, although Signor fled again when one speaker seemed angrier than the others. And the people spoke. They spoke at this meeting, and at the town hall a week later, and at the next city council meeting. The outpouring of stories and experiences of betrayal is horrifying.  Here's some of what came out of these meetings:

  • White supremacist groups posted widely on social media about their plans for violence on August 12th. Citizens warned both UVA and local government but nothing effective was done. There was a very late attempt to have the rally moved to a different park, but it was defeated in federal court.
  • White supremacist groups posted about planned targeted violence in African-American housing projects in Charlottesville. Residents asked for help and were ignored.
  • An event was scheduled for the same day intended to give free school supplies to low income children. White supremacists posted on social media, their intent to raid this event and stab the children. Residents asked for help and were ignored.
  • A group of people were trapped in a church on the night of Friday, August 11, surrounded by torch-bearing terrorists.
  • Members of the Jewish synagogue had asked for protection, but were trapped inside on August 12, while nazis marched outside their door. They eventually fled from a side entrance, carrying the Torah with them.
  • UVA police did absolutely nothing when a small group of counter-protesters were completely surrounded by torch-bearing nazis who threw fuel on them and tried to light them on fire and burn them alive. (Pictured above.)
  • City of Charlottesville and state police witnessed beatings, pepper-sprayings, and even a man firing a gun into the crowd and did nothing. (In contrast, peaceful counter-protesters after the KKK rally were mercilessly teargassed simply for being in the street, which was closed to traffic.)
  • The white nationalist terrorists arrived three hours before the time of their permit and police did nothing to stop them.
  • A man who moved here from another state and thought it was great until it dawned on him that you never see people of color except in service roles.
  • Multiple accounts of harassment in neighborhoods by roving terrorists.
  • Multiple accounts of people describing how they were abused at the rally.
  • Multiple accounts of people begging the police to help them and being ignored.
  • Multiple accounts of street medics offering aid when police wouldn't.
  • After the terrorist attack in which a car was driven across a pedestrianized area, straight into the crowd, killing one woman and injuring many more, an armored vehicle drove to the crowd, blocking access for emergency vehicles and pointing guns at the victims of the attack.
  • A woman described chasing nazis out of her neighborhood in the days after the attack.
  • A woman tearfully described how her daughter's legs were crushed by the terrorist's car and how her daughter wasn't included in the final injury count because only people taken to UVA hospital were counted. Her multiple requests to include those taken to the community hospital in the total injured were ignored.
  • General racial and social inequity in Charlottesville, such as lack of affordable housing, targeted harassment of POC by police via "stop and frisk" practices, unfair racial bias in removing children from their homes and putting them into foster care, city recently imposing steep parking fees on hourly workers in the city, despite vociferous opposition from residents.
  • The terrorists have pledged to return and continue the violence.
  • August 12 was not a rally, it was an invasion by a hostile army, intent on doing harm. Please take a minute to imagine how you would feel if your town were to be overrun by a large group of armed, violent, hostile people, with a proclaimed intent of doing harm to local residents, who ran amuck for an evening and the entire next day while police stood by and did not try to stop them.
One of many public threats of violence prior to August 12th

I was in Buffalo for the town hall meeting, but I emailed all the council members about the three men who tried to kill me on Monday, August 14th. I suggested that 911 dispatchers be trained to recognize terrorism when calls like mine come in. The only councilor who responded was Wes Bellamy, who asked if I was OK.

  1. Charlottesville City Council rolled over onto their backs for the white supremacist terrorists in precisely the same way they have always rolled over onto their backs for developers who won't build affordable housing and who trample on residents' rights on a daily basis.
  2. Living in a white supremacist town like Charlottesville is degrading for EVERYONE, not just the oppressed. 
  3. In the current climate, if you are an active opponent of white supremacy you're treated as an enemy of the state - as has now been demonstrated multiple times here in Charlottesville.
  4. There is no going "back to normal" for Charlottesville. We must exorcise the deep-seated racism and classism in this community.
  5. Up until recently, Charlottesville was very much a "that would never happen here" kind of place. Well, it happened here. And it could happen again anywhere. DON'T let white supremacy get a toehold in your community.
Jon and I are starting to get involved in Nikuyah Walker's campaign for city council. She's an independent candidate, who announced she was running long before the A12 events, but she has really emerged as a leader since. I'm tired of city councilors who run on a liberal platform and then screw residents the minute they're elected. The first city council meeting can be viewed here, at the Charlottesville Daily Progress' facebook page. The town hall can be viewed here. I can't find a link to the third meeting, but it was recorded live. (I realize no one is going to spend nine hours watching these, but I'm linking as validation for what I've described.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Adjusting to the Empty Nest

The empty nest is WEIRD you guys. Take grocery shopping. Now, for our weekly shopping, I use one of those stunted half-carts, like I'm geriatric or something. And yet, just weeks ago, I was embarrassed about being such an obvious mom, staggering up to the checkout with my cart piled high with Wegmans "family packs." And there's hardly any laundry and few dishes to do.

I come home from work and there's literally nothing to do, except take the dogs out. Once that's done, I'm wandering around the house like a ghost. Jon gets home much later than I do. I COULD be cleaning and organizing, but I don't feel like it. As I said before, it's like there's a hole in your life, and it takes a while for it to fill in. Mostly, I'm just playing with instagram face filters. :/

And yet, barely two weeks into our empty nestdom, Ian had an issue with his apartment and moved in with us for a few days, and Seamus came home for Labor Day weekend. He likes school and says he's learning a lot. But now Ian is back in his own place and Seamus is on his way back to school.

I did think that once all the kids were out, I'd do a major overhaul and redecorating of the house. I guess all the money that we spent on tuition has put a damper on that, but we are currently getting our roof painted. It was way overdue for a paint job and we're changing the color from red to green!

The sun is so bright, you can't see the green primer on the upper roof.

I do have my knitting. I've been working on a large new yarn bomb for weeks. Remember when I said that I had to be photographed for a feature in the local weekly paper? That's been published. As I expected, the picture turned out to be horribly unflattering. I look all scowly, jowly, and hippy. As you may recall, it had been a terrible day overall and I wasn't at my best when the picture was taken. Link here - you need to scroll almost to the bottom. I'm under the best "silent protest" header.

Current yarnbombing project. It's meant to circle a 90" tree.

Oh, and it was my birthday last week. I'm 49! Forty-fucking nine. I planned my mini-vacation very poorly in not also taking this day off. As it was, I returned to work on my birthday. I spent the evening in the laundromat with Ian, but then Jon took us out to dinner at Mas, one of my favorite restaurants.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

In which I have a disastrous vacation

As a treat, to celebrate the end of what I knew would be a difficult summer, I booked a mini vacation in Buffalo so that I could attend a family reunion of my mother's side of my family. I was looking forward to getting together with cousins I haven't seen in years. I also bought a ticket to the Silo City Vertical tour, in which you get to climb to the top of some of the abandoned grain elevators on the Buffalo River. The tour warns that you can't be afraid of heights, and must be able to climb 100 feet and ascend a ladder, but I thought I could handle it.

When I planned this trip, I didn't realize that Charlottesville would be invaded by terrorists and that I would be somewhat of a wreck over it. I'll fill you in in a later post about what has been happening in Charlottesville lately, but we are a seriously traumatized community. And I don't know if this contributed to what happened to me this weekend, but I do have a history of experiencing complete physical collapse in the face of great stress. Not that these are imaginary illnesses - they're real - but stress does compromise the immune system.

Landing over beautiful Lake Erie

I arrived in Buffalo Friday afternoon and had dinner with my mother-in-law. I stayed in an airbnb apartment in downtown Buffalo - a very nice urban apartment on a street that one wouldn't have dreamed of living on back when I was still living in Buffalo.

Saturday, I had big plans to eat an indulgent breakfast at my favorite cafe and then do the Silo City Vertical tour. Later, I was supposed to have dinner with my father and his wife and my brother and sister. I woke up with a terrible headache, which I believed was the result of drinking a glass of wine with my mother-in-law, while also being dehydrated from flight. Drinking water didn't help, so I napped instead of going to breakfast and managed to get myself up and out for the tour, but I had a bad feeling about it.

Ominously we were all given flashlights and warned about a 100-foot spiral staircase. "Anyone have vertigo? Anyone?" I didn't speak up and stayed for the first bit of the tour, where we stayed on the ground and heard the history of how Buffalo became a great shipping center, but I was feeling steadily worse and had begun yawning excessively, which is something I do before I throw up. (Curious - does anyone else yawn a lot before vomiting?) As we were about to begin the ascent, I spoke up and said I couldn't continue on the tour. The guides were so kind and said I could return the next day if I was feeling better. So I left, and I know I made the right decision because I threw up in the car as I was driving home. (Add the intersection of Michigan Ave & Swan St to the list of public places I've thrown up in.) Despite being ill, I did manage to take a few pictures.

Seen at the entrance to "silo city" Classic Buffalo.

It's amazing how an abandoned industrial site can be so beautiful

Buffalo River - we used to row past these silos when I was a rower
I was astonished that this huge vertical structure was on rails and could move.
In the distance are the General Mills elevators - still active and where Cheerios are baked to this day.
The wind off Lake Erie sends the smell of baking Cheerios miles inland through the city.

I spent the rest of the day in bed with cold sweats and vomiting and an excruciating headache. I was too sick to read. I looked at my phone a bit but the news about Houston and the pardon of Joe Arpaio made me feel even worse and I felt guilty about feeling so bad when others were much worse off. To be alone and sick is very frightening, and to be alone and sick in a strange apartment away from home is even more frightening. My sister offered to bring ginger ale and other aid, but I declined. I didn't even think I could get down the stairs to let her into my building. Of course I had many sympathetic texts from Jon, but there really wasn't anything he could do to help. I began to be afraid for my safety. My neck was killing me. What if I had meningitis? What if I became so dehydrated I developed an altered mental status? I'd drunk half a glass of water over the course of the day and thrown most of it back up. I realized I'd forgotten to bring my insurance card. I was too weak to even turn over in bed. It was horrible.

Sunday morning, I felt marginally less awful but was still throwing up. This time, I accepted my sister's offer of help. She didn't even have a car and took an Uber to my apartment and brought ginger ale, saltines, Advil and stayed with me for a bit, until it was time for her to go to the reunion picnic. I was able to keep down sips of ginger ale and later attempted a saltine and the Advil. By evening, I was well enough to take a shower and take the rental car out to top off the gas tank. I made it on time to my 6:30 am flight out of Buffalo and got home to Charlottesville without incident, although I still felt a bit woozy. I had a planned vacation day for today (Tuesday) and I still don't feel great - my face hurts - but I'm definitely on the mend. Ugh, what a waste.