Archive | July 2015

No Leaving Sandra Bland Behind

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The morning of the race was the sticky hot that reminded me of Houston in August.  Think: running a half marathon in a steam room with 13,000 people.  I never thought of not running because of (1) the 150.00 fee for the privilege of running down the street so hell no I’m not going back to bed, and (2) a masochistic streak I’ve been cultivating over four decades.

I elbowed my way to my starting corral, fine-tuning my running mix and arranging my energy gels in my pocket.  I was focused on me, myself, and I.

The temperature soared over 80 degrees at 6:15 a.m..  Houston in late July.

I saw a downed runner at mile eight just past an aid station.  Someone in an official-looking red vest (Red Cross?—did I really pay to participate in an event where the Red Cross was called in?) was putting an ice pack on the woman’s neck.  I didn’t stop because … well, I didn’t have a red vest.  The overheated runner was in good hands.  I wondered where her people were.  Was she alone? That must be scary.

At miles ten and eleven, where the unshaded white concrete shimmered in the heat, I saw two more runners down.  One was being dragged over to a shady spot on King Drive; the other was sitting on a curb with cheeks the color of stop signs.  No red vests in sight.  Still I didn’t stop.  The litany in my head: I’m not a doctor; I don’t have any water; and I was voted the person most likely to hide in a closet and binge on Dorito’s during a crisis.

No, they were better off without me.

Half a mile from the end, after an uphill on a particularly punishing stretch, I saw another runner down.  This guy—a kid, actually—was out cold.  Right as I approached, someone hooked their hands under his arm pits and lifted him up.  If you would have told me he was dead, I would have believed it.  He was surrounded by four people. Maybe five.

You know I didn’t stop.  After I passed him, I saw his running mentor, someone I actually know well, racing against the tide of finishers lurching toward their post-race Gatorade.  The panic look on his face said it all.

It was an emergency.

I didn’t stop.

I keep replaying that morning and my inexcusable inaction.  “I’m a mother, for God’s sake. If I don’t stop, who will?  One of them was just a kid.”

I’ve blogged about so many things over the years, most of them trivial, vain, absurd, obscure, or flat-out ridiculous.  I’ve never once blogged about race. It’s the most glaring hallmark of my white privilege.  I’ve let other bloggers cover Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Jr., Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Rumain Brisbon, Tony Robinson, Jordan Davis. There are others.  Sadly, we know there will be more.

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Am I really about to pass Sandra (Sandy) Bland, like a downed runner who’s not my responsibility?

No, I’m not.  No more focusing on the finish line while other people around me are perishing.  No more hiding behind feeble, “I’ve got nothing to offer” excuses.  No more criticizing Lena Dunham for saying so little about race, while churning out another blog post about Willie Nelson.  No more forwarding other #BlackLivesMatter posts on Facebook without generating any of my own.

She was all alone in a jail cell in Texas, about to start a new job as a student ambassador at Prairie View A&M.  Something about the promise of her working with young students tears me up.  I can’t bear the thought of leaving her by the side of the road for someone else to pick on the pages of her blog.  Roxanne Gay wrote that “we all should [feel this tragedy in the marrow of our bones], regardless of the identities we inhabit.”

I’m scared to fuck up being an ally. But I’m in the comfort of my air-conditioned home; Ms. Bland was all by herself staring down a man acting under the color of (Texas) state law who was goading her.  Hers was real, life-and-death terror. I’ll never know what that feels like, which is exactly why I must give my own anxiety the finger and step up.

This is my start. This is my fumbling over to a critical situation saying, “I’m here.  I’m engaged. I’m educating myself.  I’m an ally.”

Because Sandra Bland’s life matters.  #BlackLivesMatter

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Something to Put a Pickle On

I want something to put a pickle on.

That’s my whine every night as I ride home on the crowded #3 bus.  At least it is ever since Jeff and I decided to eat vegan.  I’ve never said it out loud, this pickle prayer, but if I did, it would sound ridiculous.

Why are you eating vegan?  That’s the question everyone asks.  If I had a better answer to that, then this whole thing would be going better.

Animal rights? Um, nope. It’s shameful, but I don’t particularly care about animals. No, I don’t gun the gas when I see a broken-winged bird in the street.  But I can’t pretend that my vegan experiment stems from a crystallizing moment when I stared into the eyes of a gorilla at the zoo and just knew.  Actually, the fact that I willingly visit zoos probably points away from a deep communion with the animal kingdom, Amiright?

Health benefits? Another great answer, but also false. I’m fairly reckless with my health. Exhibit A: I run home in pitch dark during the winter.  Exhibit B: I don’t always wear sunscreen because GREASY.   I think the China Study is compelling and believe that animal products spell big problems for our hearts and the size of our asses, but none of that is as compelling as a tasty hunk of brie or milk chocolate.

So, basically, I agreed to go vegan for all the wrong reasons.

First, I wanted to beat Jeff.  I knew he’d be more moderate in his approach.  I, knowing nothing of moderation, planned to out-vegan my husband and raise my fists in victory.  On day four he caved at a business meeting while I was home eating quinoa and asparagus.  Victory was mine in less than 96 hours.

Second, I love talking about food.  And of all the conversations I’ve started about food– including ones with an opening salvo about my anorexic and bulimic past– nothing gets people more riled up than talking about plant-based eating.  Ooooh eeeeeh, I’ve heard some mouthfuls on this.  Vegan enthusiasts at work stopped by to give me tips on new ways to eat beans.  Ardent champions of meat stopped by with their sausage McMuffins to taunt me and describe their grandma’s thick-cut bacon.  Friends expressed their concern when I posted a picture of vegan cheese on Facebook:

Nachos.  "Nachos." Not chos.  Not chosen to be eaten because vegan cheese is puke.

Nachos. “Nachos.” Not chos. Not chosen to be eaten because vegan cheese is puke.

(I was trying to make nachos.)  I liked the attention.  I liked the discussion about the ethics of eating, mindfulness about food, and the health benefits of food choices.  It was enjoyable to watch other people froth at the mouth in defense of their own food choices.

(For the record, I’m not judging others.  I’m too busy grieving the loss of cheese in my life.)

Third, I’d been in a rut for a while with the chopped/cobb/Caesar salad routine, so it was a novelty to order the hummus with pita toast points and carrots.  I started eating an avocado every single day.  I replaced my afternoon yogurt with nuts and a mango.  I wept with joy when I found something called Soy Chorizo at Trader Joe’s.  Now of course I’m in a vegan rut.  I’ve eaten a criminal portion of beans over the past twenty eight days.  Lentils now remind me of the mushy hairballs I’ve pulled from the pipes in my sink. I had a crisis of faith when all the avocados at the store were rock hard.

I’ve put pickles on the black-bean-and-corn “burgers” that Jeff has perfected.  Folks, it’s not the same.  Think about putting a pickle on a loosely packed pile of beans and corn.  See? Not appetizing.

I’m willing to stick with vegan eating for all kinds of morally muddy reasons.  But please, someone, help me find something to put a pickle on.

Please.