Alternate Histories: 5/29, 8/24


Where I’m going, what I’m doing next. I was happily married for 35 years, now I’m divorced. My life’s been turned upside down.

Are there people who you could sort of check with to figure out about what’s next for you?

Counselors can help you figure out what you’re doing. I’m not looking for work, I’m disabled. I need a safe place to stay. What I wanna do is spend the warm weather here, this is tolerable, and then go to Florida for the winter. I’m on a fixed income and the money goes farther down there.


What the roads need, F decides the next day, is someone who knows them. A way for people to move toward warmth away from bitter cold, toward coolness away from killing heat, like they would anyway if they could, but cheaply and safely. Plus he needs something to do. He needs someone to tell what to do.

So he becomes a guide. He’s old and his hands hurt, but his head is clear and his feet are okay, and as car traffic becomes sparser and power plant emissions go down, he finds that walking more actually helps him breathe better. He helps people find safe places to stay on the road, which means he has to talk to other people who live in the places they want to stay. They don’t always trust him at first; some never do. He learns to live with it, to recognize other people who have had to live with it, to recognize himself.

He’s a stickler for carrying their trash with them and not dropping it. When the tall woman with the headwrap and the strong jaw suggests that they also plant things along their way, and maybe uproot some of the things there’s too much of like bittersweet and knotweed, it takes him a while to come around to the idea, because it wasn’t his idea, but she says she’ll be in charge of it and soon there are scouts fanning out on each trip to ask questions about what they can eat, what they should plant, what kind of green wake to leave.

By the fifth southward flow, people who stay along the route are building wayside shelters and composting toilets to meet the walkers, fencing off delicate marshes and slopes, scratching or spraypainting signs of welcome, sickness, strained resources on the outsides of their houses or their mailboxes. F makes sure other walkers are listening when stayers tell them things, because although he feels fine most of the time, sometimes a tremor seizes his heart and he has to lie still and take whatever care’s on offer: a doctor who walks with her acupuncture needles, a witch with their herbs, a pastor with his prayers. When he sits by the firepit, someone helps him eat.

By the seventh northward flow, the walkers are leaving earlier and pausing often, so that the strong among them can help restore and adapt towns and neighborhoods damaged by fire or storm, flood or a history of neglect. Small groveyards spring up on sheltered hillsides that can stand the disturbance without landsliding. In one of them, near Baltimore, they bury F. They pray quietly; they plant dwarf blazing star and smooth aster to guide him up and down the road.

There are no humans in the air anymore, but a sharp-shinned hawk or a pipistrelle flying over the migration, or canvasbacks and Carolina saddlebags flying parallel to it, might see the hugely shifting flow, feel the mammalian warmth rising, swoop for the mosquitoes that follow in its train, as it trails the spring north and the fall south, treading lightly.

More About Love

Today is the birthday of James Kuo, cartoonist, kind man, motorcycle maniac, brave soul, musical autodidact, joke maven, dreamboat, rock clamberer, and husband to me. I’m so glad he was born; I’m so glad our paths crossed; I’m so glad we get to walk the rest of the way together. His love for me sustains me and my love for him shapes me.

Last year, the New Yorker published a story by Jess Row called “The Empties.” It irked me for a few reasons, some solid (oh, Bridgeport CT becomes a hell zone while rural Vermont is fine?) and some more idiosyncratic (I just hate gleeful disaster fiction). One of its more irksome qualities was its thesis, demonstrably untrue, that love is automatically a casualty of catastrophe: not the people or things one loves, but the ability to love, the delight in and gratitude for a particular life. “We are the last of the loved ones,” the protagonist intones to herself.

Suffering can scar love, can contort it, can warp it. We’ve seen this. What I’m fighting is the idea that love, tenderness, loyalty and care are vestigial, that we’re better off dropping them to lighten the load when we have to run or fight or endure.

I repudiate that. I don’t claim to know or understand all the ways that love can move us, but I know that it can move us toward wholeness, that it can show us our node in the net of life and death, that it can hold us up and help us hold ourselves out. Zoe Todd writes of this net spreading through time and generations in her notes on sorrow. The Climate Anxiety Counseling project has one of its many root-fibers in love, love as a way to connect and sustain, love as a force to recognize and draw upon and add to, love as a reason to change.

More instantly, you don’t need to accept the proposition that it’s a good thing that any one of us is alive to acknowledge that if we’re alive it’s probably at least a little bit good when we’re constantly learning, becoming kinder, braver, more responsive to the world. That’s how James Kuo is, and that’s how loving him makes me, and that’s one of many reasons (some of which have nothing to do with me) that it’s good that he was born and is in the world now.

Rally 8/27 Against Proposed RIPTA Fare Hike for Senior Riders/Riders With Disabilities

From the RIPTA Riders’ Alliance:

“Next Thursday at 5pm, RIPTA RIders’ Alliance is holding a rally against the proposal to hike fares on Rhode Island’s disabled people and seniors who are living on limited incomes.

When: 5pm, Thursday, August 27th

Where: Kennedy Plaza”

I’ll be present for at least part of this, because I think that wherever additional money to operate public transportation should come from (and I agree that we need some!), it shouldn’t come from people who are unlikely to be able to get much more money than they have right now. I’m sometimes able to go to things like this, so I will go in lieu of someone who might want to but can’t.

If you’re wondering what this has to do with the work of this blog, see the first paragraph of this post.

Alternate Histories: 7/15, 8/19


Do people have that, climate anxiety?

Yeah, some people do.

I don’t have that. I grew up in the Caribbean and we have hurricanes every year, natural disasters all the time, so I don’t have anxiety about that. One thing I do have anxiety about is we have had some tremors here, we have had severe tremors, so I worry about that. So you believe in global warming?

Well, it’s not really a “believe” thing–I know that it’s happening.

I didn’t know what to think about it, but my son, I have a younger son, and he said, “Mom, it is for real–if you look at the Arctic, all those animals, the ice they live on is melting.” Sometimes when you say what you worry about people will look at you like you’re dumb, but everybody has their anxiety.

[I give her a RI organisms card with a fish on it–she reads the words on it out loud.]

My ex-husband was Pisces, the fish.

Do you want a different one?

No, it doesn’t matter to me. There was abuse, but not physical abuse, but I had to go.



S had come through fear of many kinds, and through the things that brought the fear, many of which she’d never tell to this white stranger. Some still weighed on her life, and some did not. At home, she put on a pot of rice and peas and called her son, listened to his voicemail message before hanging up. She would have done this again, to hear him, but the last time she did that, she did it four times, and he called her back holding down panic an hour later.

There’s always something to fear. How could you possibly take it all away? Build all the houses on–S leveled her palm over the countertop, feeling the spilled grains roll –on dry rice? She smiled, but with one side of her mouth only. Put on music, started to hum and flick her hips.

S remained, not in place, but in balance on the axis of her spine in the troposphere of her apartment and the orbit of her day. Around her, people her son’s age and plants no more than a year old sucked the poison out of the ground so that she wouldn’t have to eat it, and the poison out of the air so that she wouldn’t have to breathe it. Further out from her, people a little older than herself carried their grandbabies into the offices of powerful men–carried them diaperless, gumming bagels or juicy mango pits, and put them down on the carpeted floors. Still further out, soldiers began to withdraw from their bases and administrators from their offices in countries where they were not born. Further yet, a satellite tossed back her son’s recorded voice, and sometimes his present voice, filtered through signals.

S stepped freely, doing and being, trading decorous nods or full warm smiles with people whose orbits crossed hers. She left a pattern on the air, and when she died, who can say that this pattern didn’t remain, a signal to follow, a reminder to keep recreating and revising an order that could sustain her? Who would dare to say such a thing where she might still be listening?

When I Think About It

Yesterday, when I read that the U.S. government granted Shell permission to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean, I felt sick and drained. My limbs grew heavy; my chest felt like a chunk of asphalt. I continued working on the syllabus for my academic essay course, the course that helps students practice making sense, base their ideas on evidence, identify and question the sources of their positions and options. I got a draft done before heading off to choir rehearsal, where one of my fellow altos asked me how my day had been. I said, “Not great.” I told her why.

“I think I just make myself numb to a lot of it,” she said. “There’s so much that’s terrible.”

I don’t think I really feel it–the weight, the reality, the looming absence, the many stupid deaths, the blank ocean, the blank land. I tell myself that if I really felt it, I would do anything to make the feeling stop–which would not be the same as making the source of the feeling stop, which is what I want to do, and am trying to do, in my tiny way, and am trying to find bigger ways to do.

The song we’re singing in choir is a song of grief and love. It doesn’t have the power to bring the dead beloved back to life. If it did, I would sing it all day and all night. If it did, I would find people to sing it in shifts with me and the other people who are learning it with me, I would insist that we continue to bear this person up with our voices, I would beg if I had to. I still couldn’t make anyone sing, but I would try to make the case: “This is necessary and I need help to do it.” I would sing until the beloved person lived their years out.

Some deaths are stupider than others. Some deaths we can stave off by work, by love, by the will to both, by the willingness to risk our own lives, before they happen. Some deaths we can resist by courage, by faith, by recognition of and action toward what needs to change. But the ones who are lost are lost.

If you are feeling very badly today, if willful dismissal of evidence and greed and fear and failure of courage are weighing down your limbs, I hope it helps to know that today I am feeling that way too.

Alternate Histories: 8/5, 8/16


Keeping my business open. I run an art gallery in [NEIGHBORHOOD], so making my rent and overhead, making sure I can pay my artists–just fundamental life-money situations. I represent 12 or so artists and they rely on me to sell for them. I deal with collectors, museums, art fairs, and whenever people see me, they’re like, “Oh, what can you do for me?”…I come here to get away from that and just be normal. Nobody here knows me as that.

What else do you do to get connected and grounded?

Kayaking on Ninigret Pond. It’s a big slice of heaven, because if you know where to row, you can row all the way across the pond and go across to what I call the secret beach. We take the dog. We got caught a couple times by the rangers, but we just said, Oh, we’ll leave right away. You escape the crowds and it feels like you’re somewhere else. The great outdoors, and farming–my family farms in California, my uncle has an organic farming business. When I tell the people I work with about it, they’re like, I wanna do that.

What does your uncle’s farm grow?

Dragon fruit–you can do it in that weather, you can’t do it here. He grows other things too, but he just bought 20 acres, and I’m helping by looking some things up for him, working at the family business to pay for my own business … I sell more work at art fairs [than at the gallery]. One of my artists just had his laptop stolen, and he’s poor–I bought him a laptop off Craigslist, and there went the money I was gonna use for new lighting. Your artists are kinda like your kids–they come to you for advice on pricing. You’re very much visible. People have a lot of disappointing feelings–they weren’t picked, then they send you evil email and evil voicemail. I owe you two grand, but I have to pay the rent so I can keep the gallery open so I can sell more stuff and pay you.



T had not, himself, drawn in years, but the next day he brought up Adobe Illustrator and dusted off his old tablet. He brushed fine lines and hard dots over an image of the U.S. map, trying to show himself where things come from and where they go, how money flows, and work, and love. His partner came in and touched his shoulder sweetly. T craned his neck. “Did you take the dog out, babe?”


“Did he poop?”

“Yeah.” He moved his hand to the back of T’s neck; the caresses escalated. “You got a little time for me?

Sex, dinner, dishes, a near-argument, a little time apart, a tacit reconciliation, sleep. T woke around three in the morning and heard his neighbor’s bike wheels, as he often did about that time, on her way to the vigil. He thought about currents of money, trying to align art with them, to get caught up in it and be carried, and other currents–the desire to make it or to see it. Art is a matter of course, T thought, a matter of desire, a want, a flow toward lack, a gravity: it pools. I want to make slopes for it. I want it everywhere.

T thought about his uncle’s farms: the amount of money he had to make in order to afford to water the cacti–not nearly as much water as some fruits need. If you overwater dragon fruit, the flowers will droop and rot. He’d made his choice of crop in the hot, dry light of where it lived, where it liked to live, so he still had to divert the flow of water, but not as much.

Dragon fruit cacti seem to have been born in what’s now Mexico, but they made the journey over the ocean, the opposite journey from T’s family. In some Cambodian stories, naga rule a water empire: the mother of the Cambodian people was a nagini. Tiny dragons, T said in his mind, half-jokingly and half-embarrassed and half-serious, help me find the river that will hold my artists up; help me find the flow, the current; help me.

T breathed slowly; he listened to the night sounds; he fell back into sleep.

Tiny dragons, what allows for art’s gravity, its cohesion and flow? If it’s not the way you make money, you don’t have to hoard it and dole it out stingily, but you can only do this if the things you need money for are taken care of, freeing art to be made, free from the sinkhole of debt, allowed to flow toward the needs and desires proper to it. It wouldn’t have to justify itself as necessary the way food is necessary, then, or shelter. It could matter less in those ways, more in others, the way flavor matters, or prayer if you pray, or crying if you cry. It could be less separate, more capillary.

T began looking for small openings into which art could seep–invitations, libations. Two years later, when the mortgage and rent strikes began, T and the artists he worked with recognized their season. (They also, like thousands of artists and gallery operators throughout the world, added their time and voices, and much of what remained of their money, to the hotel workers’ and street cleaners’ strikes at the Basel Art Fair and the Venice Biennale.) The gallery became a neural node of hauntings, digital voices and semiotic ghosts, benevolent small gods to help people stay in their houses, to startle intruders, to bring illuminating dreams.

Doctor’s note: This alternate history was partly activated by a conversation with Rejin Leys.

Climate Anxiety Counseling is In These Times

Martin de Bourmont spoke with me about the Climate Anxiety Counseling Booth for In These Times.

Sometimes it feels misplaced to mention these mentions, like I’m asking you to pay attention to me rather than to the things I’m paying attention to. On the other hand, one thing I wanted from the booth was to contribute to a shared language for talking about and responding to climate change and its effects, and maybe this is part of that.

Martin’s article, written with Dayton Martindale, focuses on people in their 20s and 30s in particular, living with the bad mix of knowledge and lack of knowledge that many of my interlocutors have spoken about, sharing their fear and helplessness. The “something” it opposes to “doing nothing” seems pretty constricted when contrasted with the terms in which I’ve been trying to think and help you think too. But talking about and talking with are both important. And I particularly appreciate the article’s acknowledgement of mental health as a casualty of ecological instability–another field in which we need to look out for each other and make room for each other.

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Sankofa World Market: Reflections

During my third stint at the Sankofa World Market, a woman around my age came up to the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth and spoke about the stresses of her present living situation: her sister with five children had moved into a house originally intended to hold the speaker, her mom and her brother; they were short on space and long on noise, and there were other circumstances within the family that made it harder for everyone to live together. As I listened and asked occasional questions, it seemed to me that I’d seen her before, but I wasn’t sure and I hate to be wrong about that. When we reached what seemed like the end of the conversation, she asked my name.

“Kate,” I said, and her face changed and I said the name I thought was hers, as a question. Then we shrieked, and I came around the booth to hug her.

She and I met when she was working in a social work or counseling capacity at a charter school, where a girl I was mentoring* was a first-year student; the three of us met together a few times, eleven years ago. This time it’s only two weeks before we see each other again. She tells me things are going better at the house, presses a variety of snacks upon me, gives me her card and flyers for the CSEA, where she works, and makes sad sounds when I say it’s my last day. We like each other.

The CSEA of Rhode Island holds literacy and citizenship and ESL classes, offers assistance to women and girls suffering from domestic violence, helps people with their taxes, provides interpreting services, works for voter registration. They do this for Laotian, Cambodian, Hmong and Vietnamese Rhode Islanders; that’s who they serve, though they do some of it with the help of organizations that also serve other people.

I was thinking about this and also about July 22nd, when I had three separate booth conversations about religious faith and practice. I have neither of those, but even I know that the fact that they provide a reason other than affection to look out for people is a fringe benefit, not their purpose. I’ve been thinking more and more about that benefit because, like the CSEA’s mission and practices, it leads me in the direction of relations within and between structures, as well as between people, that are or have the potential to be sustaining rather than exploitative. Love and liking are powerful, but they can’t be the only ways for a person to get what they need–what they actually need–any more than money can be. Cleaning a person’s house because they share your faith, or helping them successfully escape a violent situation because they share your history, is an alternative to doing so because they are paying you, and doesn’t depend on you liking them. And alternatives are what we are looking for.

These things are obvious, but I mention them because a good way to be sure something happens is to have a redundancy of systems set up to do it, and to achieve that redundancy, a lot of beings have to be part of making it happen–they have to agree or “agree.” That is, it must be built into their they, their we, whether or not that agreement is what humans call conscious. In the present, our human we is limited and impaired, perilously close to I, so it’s hard to get to the simplest answer of all: we’ll do this because you need it, or rather, some of us will do this because some of us need it. In the expanded, ecological sense of “we,” it’s even harder: proportionally few humans now know, or are even equipped to listen for, the alpine or arboreal complement or parallel to a “need” or a “decision,”** to recognize it, and to act in accordance with it. It’s become almost a truism, a sourly regurgitated tidbit, that as we live within extractive*** capitalism, we serve it by default; that our easiest actions are most destructive to ourselves and others. Yet surely this is true mainly of humans at the moment, more than it is of other living beings. By continuing to grow, to root, to bloom, to allow itself to be fed and to be digested, is the purslane resisting?

Another interlocutor at the market spoke bitterly about “actions” like changing light bulbs from incandescents to fluorescents–“distractions,” she said. We talked about arguments we’d heard for and against the fossil fuel divestment path boosted by and others. “If someone would say to me, ‘This is definitely what you and a lot of other people should do,'” I said, “I’d do it.” This puts me almost exactly where I was more than a year ago, and realizing that–that I still have no clear sense of a path to truly collective action and, more importantly, being–spurs my frustration and anger and sadness. One small side effect of that impaired “we” I mentioned above is that I turn those feelings back on myself. **** These reflections are fumbling, hampered, and slow. I’m sorry. Like you, I live in the world.

The second, related truism that sticks in my craw is exemplified by this quotation from Naomi Klein:

The hard truth is that the answer to the question “What can I, as an individual, do to stop climate change?” is: nothing. You can’t do anything. In fact, the very idea that we—as atomized individuals, even lots of atomized individuals—could play a significant part in stabilizing the planet’s climate system, or changing the global economy, is objectively nuts. We can only meet this tremendous challenge together. As part of a massive and organized global movement.

She at least makes the distinction of atomization–the “I”, the impaired “we.” But my point is that unless we follow this up with what each “I” must do in unison with a bunch of other “I”s, to make a less impaired “we”–what it is that “we” all must do together, or what some of us need to do while others of us do other things–that atomization will remain and we will be where we were before, which is where I am now. That’s why I’m looking at articles of faith, at organizations that turn externally imposed affiliations (“Southeast Asian”, for example) into sources of internal mutuality–the different “we”s that people are using, that might teach us how to say it better and for more reasons. I believe this will also be more helpful, not less, in making us responsive to the differences within the “we” (a carrot does not need what an oak tree needs, and it may be equally resistive for a person with one history to embrace what a person with another history eschews).

The Climate Anxiety Counseling booth is, in one sense, a one-woman show. (Someone recently rejected my suggestion that I “train” and send someone else to do it at an event I couldn’t attend myself.) There are reasons, detailed here, why it’s possible for me in a way that it might not be for other people. If it has the potential to be more than that, I haven’t yet successfully accessed that potential in what I’m doing or inviting others to do. This is a confession of frustration, but not of resignation. I will continue to try. I will continue to listen and ask questions.

* People who know me know about this person, who is a grownup now. I’m not going to say anything else about her here except that she is a terrific human being whom I love and admire.

**Robin Wall Kimmerer’s essay “Learning the Grammar of Animacy” describes learning to listen in this way. Expect me to refer to this work again: it’s important.

**Thanks to Gene Bernat of Living Systems Laboratory for this word, which possibly everyone else has already been using but which is the perfect name for what it is.

****For more about why this has a social or exterior valence as well as an interior or chemical one, Ann Cvetkovich’s Depression: A Public Feeling is a good resource.

Alternate Histories: 8/5, 8/7


I’m always anxious about the climate, always. I’m working on not getting anxious about it because it doesn’t do any good. My anxieties hit me typically if I wake up at three in the morning. If I catch a whiff of them, I just get going–not just climate, general ecological catastrophe. You forget about it enough and then it’s like, Oh damn it, I forgot about that.



The next night, W woke at 3:17, right on schedule. She got up quietly, shifting her weight away from the center of the mattress first so as not to wake her husband when she stood.

She wheeled out her bike and thought, as always, about leaving her blinker and helmet and reflective vest at home, leaving it up to fate or chance. As in the past, it wasn’t the thought of her daughter or her husband or her dogs or her garden that drew her hands to the buckles and straps. She just didn’t want to hurry up the process. The East Bay Bike Path curled out in front of her and even over the wind from her motion, she could hear the sound of the night woods.

A few people were already there when she got to the gravel beach in Barrington, and more arrived as she helped them light the fire. Its smoke wove into the smells of rotting algae and cooling bike sweat. Each of them said the name of something they were preparing to grieve for, something vulnerable to saline intrusion or shrinking ranges or the loss of its food plant, and the others around the fire repeated it after them, their voices swelling. W’s list was so long, and so many things on it were more essential to living, but, “The cool morning,” W said. “Every cool morning I wonder if it’s the last cool morning.” Her phrase echoed in several timbres: the cool morning, the cool morning. Anything can sound mournful if many voices say it in unison enough times.

As their vigil ended and their face of the earth turned out of its own shadow, others began in the country and the world: vigils for women with environmental cancers in Gary and Lima, for the corpses of salmon in the Nooksack River and the conifers their eventual absence would starve of fertilizer and the Nooksack people whose pride and history and survival were bound up with the salmon run, for children downwind of Fukushima whose spirits were cramped and contorted because they could not go outside. W thought of them while she was biking home, rinsing off, easing back into bed so that her daughter would find her when she came in for a morning curl-up.

People who went to vigils in the night brought their memories with them into the mornings. They behaved differently at work and with their relatives. They eased off on certain demands and made others more vehemently. Some of them were caught whispering ‘devotchka moya’ to the bees in the flowerpots on Nevksy Prospekt. Some of them were caught disabling coal-mining equipment in New South Wales. And in states and countries with many vigils, policies and practices began to change. It happened slowly–not fast enough to save some tracts of old-growth forest before they tipped into stumps and drought, not fast enough to allow the babies born that year or the following year to live asthma-free. There was always more to mourn for, more to rage about, more to resist. There was always more to praise, more to tend carefully, more to embrace.

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Sankofa world Market: 8/5/15

Weather: hot and bright, very pleasant when a cloud crossed the sun, and with a nice lifting breeze.

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 6

Alternate Histories: 0

Pictures taken with permission: 2, both by the same person

Flyers for other concerns proffered and accepted: 2

Dogs seen: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $2.10


I was feeling a little sick and bodily preoccupied, and I’d be curious to know if that affected what it was like to talk to me (I couldn’t tell, being sick and also me).

I’ve made the decision not to state the apparent race, age, gender markers of the people who talk to me, though a reader could sometimes infer them from what the person says. It’s been occurring to me lately that I have certain reactions to certain statements because of who they come from; I wonder what guesses other readers make about who’s speaking, and if their level of sympathy or annoyance would change if they had the information I have.

The warmest of thanks to J, whose full name I will not use here because she’s a kid, who visited me periodically throughout the day, talked with me about anime, brought me a mallorca sweet bun, and organized the hula hoop contest (I came in 2nd).

Apparently it was Feed Kate Day at the market; my recently-renewed friend Somphone (there’s a story about this renewal that I may tell later) from the Center for Southeast Asians shared three separate snacks with me.

It was also my last day at the Sankofa Market. The deepest of thanks to Addie and Rolando, who helped me to be there and were generous in 20 ways.

Some conversations:

For if I’m going to find a job. I was looking for in the school, typing something, like helping kids, or monitor on the bus. Now my daughter go to vacation, I have the same vacation with her, or she’s gonna be with the babysitting all day doing nothing–or fighting, ’cause another kid wanna be boss, they both wanna be boss. I think I didn’t do a good job with my resume. I go in and I fill out application and, “You have to wait, you have to wait.”… When I speak a lot and the other person don’t speak a lot–we feel like we can be annoying person.

NOTE TO THIS PERSON: I’m looking for a list of libraries that offer help with resumes and I’m going to put it up here as soon as I have it.


I have a very big worry. [Pause.] Does it have to be important? [Pause.] What was my worry again? Oh yeah. Why did 12 and 9 in Zankyou No Terror die? Why did he die for someone he loved? Why did he fall and die on his face, instead of on his back so he can at least be peaceful and look up at the sky?

I feel like those are two kinds of questions. One is about the character in the story, like what the character decides. And one is about what the makers of–is it a manga or a show?  

A show.

What the writers and makers of the show decide. Like, why would they make a character die in this way that is more sad?

‘Cause they want you to be sad.

This is a weird question, but–

No question is weird to me.

Okay. Do you like to be sad when you watch things?

Yeah, because it gives me a test of sadness. If I’m watching, I have like an inner yelling at them, like, “No! Why did you do that?”

Do you ever write or draw your own?

I have dreams. I get names from shows and then I dream an entirely different story about it. [Tells me one.]


I’m always anxious about the climate, always. I’m working on not getting anxious about it because it doesn’t do any good. My anxieties hit me typically if I wake up at three in the morning. If I catch a whiff of them, I just get going–not just climate, general ecological catastrophe. You forget about it enough and then it’s like, Oh damn it, I forgot about that.

Somebody asked me if I had a specific nightmare and I thought that was a good question, so I’m sometimes asking people that.

That is a good question. I think–a cross between that movie Tank Girl and the Terminator series.


I have a cold outdoor shower, and I look forward at the end of the day–I’m a sculptor, and I look forward at the end of every day to when I can luxuriate in this cold shower. I feel so lucky–the reservoir is there, I can ride my bike to it. I guess my anxiety is for people who don’t have that–anxiety as a form of gratitude … Water being the basis of all our existence–what would the cost be of returning it to a clean state?

NOTE TO THIS PERSON: Here’s a partial answer to your question.


Keeping my business open. I run an art gallery in Olneyville, so making my rent and overhead, making sure I can pay my artists–just fundamental life-money situations. I represent 12 or so artists and they rely on me to sell for them. I deal with collectors, museums, art fairs, and whenever people see me, they’re like, “Oh, what can you do for me?”…I come here to get away from that and just be normal. Nobody here knows me as that.

What else do you do to get connected and grounded?

Kayaking on Ninigret Pond. It’s a big slice of heaven, because if you know where to row, you can row all the way across the pond and go across to what I call the secret beach. … You escape the crowds and it feels like you’re somewhere else. The great outdoors, and farming–my family farms in California, my uncle has an organic farming business. When I tell the people I work with about it, they’re like, I wanna do that.

What does your uncle’s farm grow?

Dragon fruit–you can do it in that weather, you can’t do it here. He grows other things too, but he just bought 20 acres, and I’m helping by looking some things up for him, working at the family business to pay for my own business.


[This person spoke to me on 7/15, and gave me an update today.]

I’m doing better. I’m talking to my brother again, and my mom’s living upstairs with us. I’m actually planning to move out, but first my boyfriend’s gonna move in with me–we wanna save money so we can afford our own place. So that’s gonna be–I haven’t told anyone yet.

You might wanna write down what you plan to say, so you have it ready and you can do it in a calm way.

I wanna say, I do what I want! But I don’t talk to my family like that. But I’m just–


Getting my hair done.

When do you want to get it done?

Tomorrow–I have a conference this week.

Are you worried about the conference too?

Oh! Yeah. It’s for healthy families and sustainable communities [hands me flyer]. I’m a speaker–I’m talking about traditional Laotian dance, I teach a class, and helping children identify with culture. I’m afraid people are gonna ask me questions I don’t know how to answer.

Today’s poem:

Big cool cloud covers the sun

of all the hot days and the soft days

tied together receptor by receptor

if you find one of them in a stream

it’s a sign that the water is clean

not extremely tired or physically sick

as we turn the shade changes

and that’s like being local

to a cool breeze filled with light

at the same time as stinking rivers

as though no holes in houses

anything big could fall

like a big cloud like a bad gift

raging with sweetness or foul water

it’s bad luck to talk to me

I could never listen enough

I buy a raffle ticket I think

if nothing else if everything else

if natural beauty of serious eyes

trampled plantain and hot sun