Climate Anxiety Counseling TOMORROW, 6/5, 2-5pm, in Burnside Park!

The Climate Anxiety Counseling booth got a paint job today, because tomorrow is the first day of the new season!

booth repaint 3

Come and share your anxieties about climate change, or other things, between 2 and 5pm in Burnside Park tomorrow, 6/5. I’ll be on the side facing Kennedy Plaza, near the middle entrance to the park.

If you talk with me, I’ll listen to you and and ask you some questions, and give you a small piece of art (featuring one of our nonhuman Rhode Island neighbors) to keep. Depending on what we talk about, you might also walk away with a suggestion for what to do next.

 

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Climate Anxiety Counseling in Burnside Park/Kennedy Plaza!

I’ve finally figured out the schedule for my Climate Anxiety Counseling shifts in Burnside Park, opposite Kennedy Plaza in downtown Providence–the original site of the booth and one of my favorite places to do it.

Come talk to me 11am-2pm* on…

May 23-26

May 29-June 1

June 5-6

June 8-9

June 12-16

I’ll also be there on June 7, but the time may be different because of other things that are happening that day.

Thanks as always to Jen Smith and the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy for hosting me here. I walked into Jen’s office like, “So I have this idea,” four years ago and she’s been solidly supportive of it ever since.

*This is unusual and inconvenient, I know. It’s because I watch my friend’s kid on Tuesday/Thursday afternoons now. If you can never make it at that time of day, come see me on Wednesdays 2-6 at the Sankofa Market, starting on June 20th!

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 7/1/17

Weather: Hot and muggy turning cool and muggy

Number of people: 6 stoppers, 3 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

Pictures taken without permission: 1

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $3.11

 

Observations:

A thinner crowd today in Kennedy Plaza and the park overall, and fewer people talking with me.

Lots of people wanted to tell me their ideas about things today. A former printer and sign-letterer and self-declared Trump voter talked to me for around an hour today (mostly to, not with) and ended up by outlining his idea for taking money from wealthier towns and giving to poorer towns to pay for health care.

Much less overt police activity today. I noticed one car parked at the Dorrance Street end of Kennedy Plaza at 4:22, but it could have been there for much longer.

I ran into someone who talked with me earlier in the season and I was able to give him some information I forgot to give him the first time, but he also asked me, “How are your anxieties?” and I didn’t tell him how grateful I was that he asked me, so: C, I am so, so grateful. And the moral of this story is that even when you get a second chance, sometimes you need a third one; and the moral of this story is that so much more could happen if we all had and used the chance to know each other, slowly, over time.

 

Some conversations:

I have United Healthcare. It’s not easy with this Affordable Care Act—a lot of people can’t get health care at all. You shouldn’t force people to get health insurance. But this what they’re doing, it’s the baby with the bathwater. Adjust it, sure, it could use adjustments, but it seems like it’s gonna make it worse. Seems like every word out of Trump’s mouth is a lie.

What would you like to see in a president? What would make you want to vote for someone?

It seems like they all kinda lie a lot. They make promises and they know they can’t keep it, they have no intention of keeping it. Donald Trump lied about his belief system, and a lot of evangelical Christians bought into his lies. My old pastor is in Dallas, I still follow what he’s doing, and I’m shocked at how much he supports him. People hate Hillary so much that they become blinded. Hate blinds us, we become blinded. [Donald Trump] believes greed is good …

*

I think it’s terrible, I think the climate change is terrible. I don’t know much about it. I’m an ex-garbageman, and I saw how in New York what they do with all their rubbish—the just drop it in the ocean! That can’t be good for the climate change. [Holds up the cap to his water bottle.] Plastic. Plastic will be here for millions of years. It’s the only thing we’re gonna leave that will be here for millions of years. I ran a rubbish business for nearly 30 years, and I came up with the recycling program [for my company]. I started with cardboard, paper, newspaper, and I made them $1.2 million in the first year. I liked my work. I came up with the idea. They didn’t stick with it–$1.2 million was not enough for them to keep the recyclable part of it … I hate [climate change], I don’t like it, and I’d wanna fight it if I can.

*

[These two are friends with each other, and also friends with me. They came up together.]

Person 1: [Person 2] and I were just over there smoking a cigarette, and I was thinking about the policies of smoke and secondhand smoke, and the recent criminalization of smoking.* Whose interests is that in? Smoke is so complicated. The people who manufacture cigarettes are the worst people in the world. Cigarettes are targeted toward the most vulnerable people—I was reading how they’re targeted toward queer youth. They’re simultaneously really bad and really important to many people’s survival. [My partner] always carries a pack of cigarettes and they’re mostly to smoke, but they always give one to anyone who asks. It’s awful to be addicted—I’m not addicted, I don’t smoke that often—but it also feels like an act of resistance [to smoke and drop the butt], even though I’m complicit in the destruction of this greenery, against this demand that I take part in beautifying this space, this system of beauty that’s a way of reifying whiteness and [keeping] this park for the rich.

Person 2: And the law is directly aimed at people who are waiting for the bus.

Person 1: Which directly impacts poor people of color and people with disabilities. Whose environment is it? Why should I protect the environment for rich people? The law isn’t there to protect you, it’s there to target you.

Person 2: [I’m worried about] constant expansion. Specifically, “Oh, we’ll just add one more thing, that won’t detract from the wildlife.” Until you have a million new things and then you have a city. My older brother lives in [REDACTED] and there’s a little bit of swampland in our backyard, and the neighbors dumped construction refuse into the mineral spring that feeds into it. It’s turning into a meadow slowly. When I was up there, I went around collecting all the garbage, but I know other houses on my block have been actively littering. The biggest thing I found in there were these kids’ motorized fake plastic motorcycles. Bottles and cans, lawn stuff, like the tubing for gutters—just a ton of stuff …

Person 1: Who does that?

 

*Doctor’s note: There’s been a smoking ban in the park for a while, and there is now a ban on smoking outside it but near the fence.

Climate Anxiety Counseling in Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park this week!

I’ll be downtown with the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth, in Burnside Park across from Kennedy Plaza, today through Saturday, 2-6pm.

This week will be my final week of the summer in Kennedy Plaza. Starting on July 12th, I’ll be at the Sankofa World Market on Wednesdays, and I’ll show up a couple of other places that I’ll let you know about here. But if you’ve been waiting to see me in KP, this is a good week to come down. I’ll listen to your anxieties–climate-change-related or otherwise, and give you a little piece of art to keep, featuring a Rhode Island organism.

Today I drew a warbling vireo. Last week, I gave a flying squirrel drawing to a kid, about five or six years old. Another kid about the same age saw me do it, did some quick mental calculations, and came up to the booth with an expectant look on his face. If there were animal drawings being given out, he wanted in. I gave him a drawing of a chipping sparrow.

Come and visit me.

Climate Anxiety Counseling TODAY in Burnside Park

Come and visit the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth in Burnside Park today (or tomorrow, or Friday), 2-6pm. Tell me what’s pressing most on your mind, whether it’s to do with climate change or with some other aspect of your life and the world. With your permission, I’ll take notes on our conversation and post them here, and give you a little piece of art to keep.

 

Actual History: Refusal 10 (May Day)

May Day as International Workers’ Day has its origins in the Haymarket Affair of 1886, a double display of state violence: on May 3rd, the third day of a general strike for an eight-hour work day, police protecting strikebreakers fired into a crowd of striking workers. At a mass meeting the following day, someone threw a bomb into a group of arresting officers, and the ensuing police raids and arrests ended with eight men sentenced to death. The state hanged four and later pardoned two; one took his own life in prison. Meanwhile, labor organizers continued their work, and in 1889 the Second International declared May 1st International Workers’ Day.

I also want to talk about another day in May.

Starting–but more about that in a minute–on May 1st, 1867, striking workers in Chicago shut down the economy of the city for a week to close loopholes in a law calling, already for the eight-hour workday. Industries in and around Chicago at that time included meatpacking, garment manufacturing, shipping, lumber processing, iron molding–so we can guess that fewer components were poured and fewer cuffs and collars sewn, that cargo ships sat at their moorings and that meat rotted on the packing lines. A week of people earning no money, drawing from the strike fund if they could. A week in which a city that bragged about how much it could produce, how fast it grew, couldn’t hold onto that pride and had–if only for a week, after which the strike collapse–to admit who made that pride possible.

The strike itself started on May 1st, but the work of making it possible started long before: in conversations, in the nurturing of loyalties, in meetings, in the gathering of resources, in the asking of questions, in the distribution of knowledge, in arguments, in shared meals, in the washing of clothes and the tending of children, in corners, in quiet, under the cover of machine sounds.

The fight for the eight-hour workday is a fight to be owned less than entirely. It says: we won’t let you use us up. It says: we are more than fuel.

*

My attention keeps turning to the failures to refuse in the May Day origin story: the police who, on May 3rd, didn’t have to but chose to fire into a crowd of striking workers. The jury. The hangman. Someone would probably have punished them, or tried to, if they refused, but that’s not identical with not having a choice. Examine your promises: who do they require you to hurt?

The May Day march in Providence starts at 3pm today, in Burnside Park. I’ll be walking with the Climate Justice and Just Transition bloc. Come too.

Climate Anxiety Counseling in Burnside Park this week!

I’ll be staffing the booth again, in Burnside Park opposite Kennedy Plaza, on these days, 3-6pm:

Tuesday, 6/21

Wednesday, 6/22

Thursday, 6/23

Friday, 6/24

Saturday, 6/25

Sunday, 6/26

Monday, 6/28

Come and see me. Share your climate-change-related or other anxieties, learn about Interdependence Days (more about that soon) and get this picture of an ant-mimic spider or another one of your Rhode Island neighbors.

ant mimic spider

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/15/16

Weather: Cool and gray with spots of sun, but unusually not windy downtown even though the rest of town was windy (usually it’s the reverse). I forgot my hat.

Number of people: 6 stoppers, 6 walkbys.

Number of hecklers: 2, together

Pages of notes: 7

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 4

Number of dogs seen: 1

Number of dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.58

 

Observations:

It’s much quieter/less active in Kennedy Plaza on Sunday, in terms of both car traffic and foot traffic. No one came up to me for almost a half hour.

A youngish guy who spoke to me briefly last time asked if I wanted him to get me something to eat from the food pantry that was set up in the park.

A cop SUV drove through the park at 4:50 pm.

I foolishly allowed myself to get caught up in a (mild) power struggle with the hecklers, who were also, themselves, in a very bad way. Their anxieties are the first ones below; I’ll address the heckling, the power struggle, and meeting the needs of jerks in my next reflection post.

Relatedly: it’s stupid to say “have a good day” to people who have just told you about their schizoaffective disorder and their prison time, yet that is what came out of my mouth.

 

Some conversations:

[These two came up together.]

Person 1: I’m fresh out of prison , no idea what I’m gonna do. I’ve been busted by the DEA so many times, I’m sick of selling drugs.

Person 2: Do you know what to do about thought broadcasting? Voices telling me I should commit suicide?

Is there stuff that makes it worse, that sets it off?

Being around people.

Can you find ways to be by yourself?

No, ’cause I’m homeless.

*

Finding happiness. I’ve never experienced it that I can remember. It definitely isn’t happening right now–I know it could be better…. I’m not aware of how to do it by myself … I imagine my greatest level of happiness would be affection and acceptance, among family, or peers–people aren’t showing the level of affection and acceptance that I would like. I don’t have a social environment for meeting new people–I moved here fairly recently and at first it was okay, but after a certain time I was like, I should start meeting new people. I’d like support–not only financial but also emotional support. I’m trying to find new ways to cope and perhaps solve the issue. I’d like to build better relationships with my family, they’re not great right now. … Besides linguistics, the other subject I’m interested in is perception and how it can be used to benefit people. I’ve been conducting experiments on how people’s outward perception of me can affect my experience. I was walking through campus, the Brown area, and I noticed some common traits: designer clothes, very good hygiene–everybody’s well groomed–and not may people wear socks. For colors [of clothing], it’s bright for women, and for men it’s not dark but more mellow. I was thinking, these students, this is the image of potential success. How can I change [how I’m perceived] so I can appear similar to what they do? I did go to college, I’m trying to get back in, but you have to pay to do everything.

*

I just wish the weather stays 70 degrees every day for eternity. The world would be a better place. People would have energy, to work out, to do whatever they needed to do in that type of temperature.

Do you know if anyplace has that?

Maybe Missouri?

You ever been to Missouri?

No, I been to Florida, Atlanta, North Carolina, Brooklyn, New York New York of course. Oh, I been to Puerto Rico. I was there for a concert.

How was that? Was that 70 degrees?

The energy made it feel like it was 70 degrees.

*

I was born in Puerto Rico, I grew up in the Bronx, and I came here [to Providence] in the 1970s. I was the first Puerto Rican working in the Federal Building, and all the white guys hated me. I found out about the elevator that goes underground that’s where they take the prisoners. You see that statue over there, they’ve moved that statue five times. The cops used to dress in brown–Emilio, Pokey–we called him Pokey–and Al, but he died. That was the train station over there too. You see that boat over there in the park? A boat came years ago from Massachusetts or somewhere to Rhode Island, and it sank down. I love this city, I do.

What do you love about it?

That building right there [points]. That’s the Superman building, ’cause that building–this old man, before, he died, he told me the story, how they didn’t build it by machine but by hand. They wanted to tear it down, but what’s the first thing you see when you come here from New York, from Massachusetts? I said no, I will sign for it, like, no, this isn’t coming down …

*

The winters are not winters anymore, and the summers are too short. We expect certain things out of life, summer’s gonna be summer … I think it’s changing the world. What’s it gonna be like in 20 years? Is the East Coast gonna be cold or warm, and is the West Coast gonna be cold? It’s kinda scary because you don’t know what’s gonna happen. I’m not gonna be around–well in 30, 40 years I might be, but let’s say in 50 years–but my kids are gonna be here, and what are they gonna have down the line?

*

I’m anxious about who we’re gonna have for president. I think Donald Trump thinks everything’s a joke. He’s in it for the spotlight. What’s real, what’s real? There’s a lot of people who see it. He’s too concerned with knocking people down.

Do you talk about this with people?

No, ’cause I feel like just like with voting, everybody has to make their own decision. I feel that the American people–there’s things that happen that the American people have to deal with, no matter what.

*

[Reads the map of places that people want to protect] India Point Park, yes. I grew up near there, Fox Point, that area. You gotta protect something!

*

 

Climate change definitely. Yesterday to today there’s a 20-degree difference, there’s 30-mile-an-hour winds. I’m just anxious ’cause I haven’t slept. I could go to a shelter, but there’s only 112 beds. I have insomnia, and it’s harder to sleep when there are people around. If I can’t get a rack I’ll sleep in the street. I got two blankets and a sheet, but it gets cold, you wake up at 3am… [Looks at the map, marks it.] Mackerel Cove. The big fish chase ’em in and you can snag ’em with a hook.

 

*

 

 

I had a little anxiety today from potentially losing my family. My girl doesn’t want me to smoke weed anymore, so I’m gonna take the steps to do that. I started buggin’ out when I was in my old apartment–I was jittery, I couldn’t calm down, I had trouble breathing, like I was having an anxiety attack. I had to get out of the house, so I came down here to try to kill some of that energy. I’m staying in Olneyville so I came all the way down here, and I’m gonna go back and just go to sleep.

 

You don’t have to answer this because it’s none of my business, but why do you smoke weed?

 

To try not to think about bad situations. When I was younger it was more of a social thing, but now it’s more of a dependency. I’ll wake up and I’m like, I’m not gonna smoke, but then something will happen and I have to. I’m thinking about a residential treatment program. I didn’t wanna do it because I didn’t want to be labeled as crazy, but I wanna get sober and I don’t believe I can do it out here. I was in Butler once before and it was good, because nobody knew where I was. They asked me, “Do you feel safe here?” and I was like, “Yeah.” … I used to work for [a waste management company], then they got bought by [another waste management company], and it took me an hour and a half, two hours to walk in to work, and I was late five or six times and they laid me off. I was doing good, I was working, I was thinking about school, and then I lost it. I just feel like giving up. Before that, before I had my car accident, I had a house, I was married, and then I woke up and it was all gone.

 

 

 

 

Today’s poem:

 

 

So you fix simple problems or

you let complicated problems pin you

every time pointed away

ashen at every gate

marking your own face with fake ink lashes

wiring your own arm to receive

the melting rate of glaciers trickling up

from far far away in new new time

worry about the here and now

the next bad bed in the next night

when being around people makes it worse

but you have to be around people

when you’re unpleasant and no one can help you

we are unpleasant and no one can help us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling Returns to Burnside Park!

Do you worry about climate change and its effects? Or is something else pressing on your mind?

Do you feel alone with your thoughts, or helpless, or disconnected?

Do you imagine the future? What do you imagine?

Come and talk about any or all of those things with me. I will be staffing the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth in Burnside Park (Washington St., downtown Providence, opposite Kennedy Plaza) on the following days:

May 11th-12th
May 15th-16th
May 24th-30th
June 8th-12th
June 20th-24th
These are a little patchy, because I’m traveling a bit (I have a new book out). Following me on Twitter or using the Facebook event page is probably the easiest way to see if I’ll be there on a given day, or you can check back here.
If you come see me and give me five cents for the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island, I’ll listen to your anxieties, climate-change-related or otherwise–I might ask you some questions to find out more about them–and with your permission, write them down and post them here. (New readers: check out the booth sessions category for what that will look like.) I’ll give you a small piece of art to keep, a drawing of a creature that shares our land and water with us:
red-breasted merganser
And I’ll tell you about something new that’s happening this summer. Please come see me: as of Wednesday, the doctor is in.