My Checkered Past

I write novels, short stories, essays and notebook entries. I once wrote a screenplay. I write sketches that might one day fit together into a memoir. An editor once referred to my childhood as hardscrabble, but I must have exaggerated. I went to the Philippines during its revolution. I was arrested and deported from the country of Antigua, along with my boyfriend, now my husband, who was working for a local organization called The Antigua Caribbean Liberation Movement. I lived in the woods, off the grid, in Oregon’s Coast Range Forest.  We took a vial of liquid acid to Antigua. I lived the quiet and reasonable life of an elementary school librarian. I struggled with drugs. This is not chronological. I published some stories and novels. I went to Mexico. I fell in love with France. I went to Ireland and imagined myself full of  nostalgia for my lost homeland, but my family also came from Germany and France and England, Scotland and Holland, so it was a hollow kind of nostalgia. I want to learn French. I want to learn to swim. I imagine that the only thing standing in my way from learning to cook is a kitchen remodel. I have many fears, some irrational. Premature burial, but maybe it’s a metaphor. I ran away from home when I was a teenager.  I panhandled in the Tenderloin. I lived with a male prostitute in New York City. I picked peaches in California. I was a union rep. I worked in a rock and roll bar. I told Luther Allison if he married me I would be Alison Allison. Sometimes I think nothing can be the same after this last American election. I think all bets are off. Sometimes it seems like all we should be doing right now is anything – everything—we can do to say no to the loss of our democracy, no to hate, no to fascism. Fascism is the right word. But still we carry on. We love our families and go to work. We dream and imagine and plan, but also, we do what we can. Practicing kindness is not enough. Our phone calls and marches and meetings aren’t enough and neither are our words. But maybe when you put it all together, all of us and everything, it’s like a life, you put it together and out of all the disparate pieces, you get something that works.

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