Musings and Mirth
Gabriel Garcia Marquez has died at the age of 87. Here is one of my favorite pieces of writing by him:
A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings: A Tale For Children
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
On the third day of rain they had killed so many crabs inside the house that Pelayo had to cross his drenched courtyard and throw them into the sea, because the newborn child had a temperature all night and they thought it was due to the stench. The world had been sad since Tuesday. Sea and sky were a single ash-gray thing and the sands of the beach, which on March nights glimmered like powdered light, had become a stew of mud and rotten shellfish. The light was so weak at noon that when Pelayo was coming back to the house after throwing away the crabs, it was hard for him to see what it was that was moving and groaning in the rear of the courtyard. He had to go very close to see that it was an old man, a very old man, lying face down in the mud, who, in spite of his tremendous efforts, couldn’t get up, impeded by his enormous wings.
Frightened by that nightmare, Pelayo ran to get Elisenda, his wife, who was putting compresses on the sick child, and he took her to the rear of the courtyard. They both looked at the fallen body with a mute stupor. He was dressed like a ragpicker. There were only a few faded hairs left on his bald skull and very few teeth in his mouth, and his pitiful condition of a drenched great-grandfather took away and sense of grandeur he might have had. His huge buzzard wings, dirty and half-plucked were forever entangled in the mud. They looked at him so long and so closely that Pelayo and Elisenda very soon overcame their surprise and in the end found him familiar. Then they dared speak to him, and he answered in an incomprehensible dialect with a strong sailor’s voice. That was how they skipped over the inconvenience of the wings and quite intelligently concluded that he was a lonely castaway from some foreign ship wrecked by the storm. And yet, they called in a neighbor woman who knew everything about life and death to see him, and all she needed was one look to show them their mistake.
Ugh, this country. UGH. It’s enough to make you want to exile yourself from society. We are so blind, so foolish, so cruel, so disgusting. In many ways, we deserve the terrible fate that’s coming to us. Honestly. If the Noah movie does anything right, it’s pointing out how repugnant mankind has been to nature.
This story in the Washington Post points to a horrifying practice of dropping live chickens into “the scalder.” I can think of many politicians I’d like to do that to but innocent chickens? No.
Two animal welfare groups and dozens of lawmakers are urging the Obama administration to improve humane treatment of poultry at slaughterhouses, citing statistics that show hundreds of thousands of chickens being accidentally dropped alive into scalding tanks every year.
The Animal Welfare Institute and Farm Sanctuary have petitioned the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service to strengthen humane treatment regulations, by, among other things, banning live birds from the scalding tanks. When things go according to plan, birds are already dead by the time they’re dropped into the tank, but a small percentage miss the automatic knife that is supposed to slit their necks and wind up dying in the tank.
Birds that die by means other than slaughter are called “cadavers” and not allowed to enter the food supply. Last year, FSIS records show, there were roughly 680,000 cadavers, down from around 730,000 the year before. FSIS officials say the majority of cadavers are birds that have been dropped into scalding tanks alive.
“Dying other than by slaughter causes tremendous suffering to how ever many birds are subjected to this treatment,” said Dena M. Jones, the Animal Welfare Institute’s farm animal program manager.
Tom Super, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council, said there’s an economic — as well as ethical — incentive to reduce the number of cadavers. He said that when birds miss the automatic knife, an employee is used as backup to keep live birds out of the scalder.
Rep. James Moran, a Virginia Democrat who co-chairs the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, said he thought the number of chickens “boiled alive” in the U.S. was significant.
“You either feel for other living species, or you don’t,” said Moran, who signed the letter to Vilsack. “And a lot of people simply don’t.”
Virginia is 12th in the nation, according to the National Chicken Council.
The animal welfare groups’ petition also says that birds aren’t always properly stunned, which is supposed to make them insensible to pain before slaughter; and that many birds suffer broken or dislocated bones when they are shackled for slaughter.
Super said that his group issued new guidelines last month requiring stunning to be more effective, with a goal of at least 99 percent of birds effectively stunned and insensible to pain, and corrective action required when it falls below 98 percent. And he said companies must have a monitoring program for wing and leg injuries, and retraining of employees when standards are exceeded.
Derfler, of the FSIS, said the agency works under existing law to ensure humane treatment of chickens, relying on the Poultry Products Inspection Act, which condemns adulterated products, including birds that die by means other than slaughter.
“Under our regulations, right now, if live birds go into the scald tank, we do think that’s a prohibited act, under the Poultry Products Inspection Act,” Derfler said. “And we’d take action, because the animals would be dying other than by slaughter — they’d be drowning, and not slaughtered in a humane way.”
Temple Grandin, a noted professor with autism whose life’s work understanding livestock was the subject of an HBO movie, said birds entering the scalder alive used to be a bigger problem than it is today.
“You shouldn’t have live birds going in the scalder,” she said. “You’ve got really good system — you’re not going to have live birds going in the scalder.”
While I was pumping away on the treadmill the other day it occurred to me that I treat my body, or have treated it for the past 49 years, like each part was imprisoned for having committing various crimes throughout my life. Why did I do this to myself for so long? I do not know. Why did I ever spend a single minute hating or punishing any part of my magnificent, working, youthful body? I have no idea now as I ponder these nearly five decades I’ve been alive. I vowed then and there to treat kindly these bones, limbs and skin for the rest of what’s left. I felt sad that I had bought into the brainwashing by corporations meant to make us buy things. I felt equally sad that I had to echo womany mantras in order to reshape my own thoughts. I am a self help book now.
My body works. It gets me from one place to another. It puts me to sleep and wakes me up each night. It dutifully digests my food, works through my circulatory system. My poor heart pumps away minute by minute to keep me alive. My lungs help me breathe. My mouth tastes and swallows food. I have hair! I feel lucky to have such a faithful body that works. I know this will not always be the case. To that, here is a love letter.
To my feet: my toes seemed to separate when I was an adolescent from wearing flip-flops, which was all we wore. My feet, so capable now in yoga, taking a beating each time I go jogging. Being stuffed into high heels and various other inappropriate footwear. So ticklish. I love you, feet. You are rad and you work. I apologize for the high heels situation. No excuse for that.
To my legs/thighs: longish, with hyperextended knees – and three vertical scars from when I was riding horseback as a small child. My leg scraped against a chain-linked fence. 48 stitches. My legs pumping away on the treadmill have been through it exercising – jogging, dancing, yoga, ballet, barre workouts, the horrid aerobics, jumping, stretching, lifting, strengthening. For years. And of course, wrapped around various splendid men. What fun we’ve had, eh? I love you, legs. Thanks for everything all of these years. I’m sorry I ever wished you were thinner, longer, not scarred. I’m sorry I ever thought you looked bad in the mirror or hated you for not squeezing into tight jeans.
To my ass: I’ve covered you up for so long that I almost forget you are there sometimes. I sit on you too much, lay on you too much and on the occasion when someone forgets to put down the toilet seat I splash you into questionable water. I wear thongs, which can’t be all that fun. I’ve always wished you were much smaller and more shapely. I remember being a young woman of 22 and advertising a friend’s video store in a bikini (because he asked, and I’d have done anything for him – sadly, he died of AIDS not long after). These two young men drove by checking me out, and drove by again. One leaned to the other one and said “forget it, she has a fat ass.” And we both know that was hardly the truth THEN. 22 years old? I don’t think so. Now that argument could be made quite easily — but i would never, could never wear a bikini at all, much less stand on the sidewalk in one. I wish I had a photo then of my fat ass. I’ve had you spanked on occasion (kind of fun, right?) and in all ways have not appreciated you the way I should. I promise to appreciate your abundance from here on out, and I’ll never tie a sweater around my waste to hide your prominence.
To my stomach: it has been the worst thing in middle age accepting how you’ve changed. I was always proud of having such a thin waist for most of my life. After having a baby that changed. Since then, I’ve had to work at keeping you looking semi-reasonable. But each day I’ve woken up wishing you would be gone. I have always been depressed by too much fat collecting there as I age. But I can punish you no longer, I can punish myself no longer. I am vowing here and now to enjoy you even if you aren’t perfect.
To my breasts: You are the only body part I have loved faithfully these many years. You’ve never let me down and remain astonishingly youthful appearing, even now. Men have always stared, always prejudged. I remember working as a hostess at a restaurant in Marina Del Rey and one customer would come in and comment on the size of my breasts every day because he’d convinced himself that if I drank coffee they would get bigger. “Looks like you’ve been drinking coffee today.” I guess I have to apologize for the uncomfortable bras we’ve been wearing. The Victoria’s Secret bras are particularly uncomfortable but flattering. Perhaps I will gift you with a comfortable bra. Why not.
To my vagina: Oh, my friend, the things we’ve seen. The torture we’ve endured. The pleasure. The pain. I had a baby out of you. Was torn and then sewn back up. We have the period every month, even still. I’m really happy that we still work so well in unison. But to that, the libido has been quite the instigator. That libido has gotten us into more trouble than we can count, right? Starting at about 30, when the bio clock clicked into high gear, it’s been a sometimes satisfying but all too often frustrating roller coaster ride. Apologies for the many times we had to fake it. Apologies for the sometimes painful attempts of various acts. I guess all I can say as we hit 49, I’m glad I have you. It’s been lots and lots and lots and LOTS and LOTS of fun.
To my mouth: I promise to indulge you things that will tantalize and delight the tongue.
To my nose: I am so sorry I ever hated having you on my face. I always wished my nose was much smaller and not crooked and not so ethnic looking. I have toyed with getting a nose job for my entire life and if there’s been one body part I’ve been the hardest on it’s been you. I am so happy to have you, even broken down and crooked that you are. I can breath through you. I can smell. I can taste things. This makes me happy. So what if I’m not as pretty as most. There are worse things. I’m just happy everything works.
To my eyes: aging has been tough in this area. The bags underneath my eyes are kind of hard to confront and I know it’s only going to get worse from here. Every other wrinkle I can stand – but the bags…does this mean I will have to do plastic surgery at some point and look like Kenny Rogers? I don’t know. I hope not. I love you, eyes. I love having eyes that work. Thanks for helping me to see all of these years – and to have such great peripheral vision.
To my neck: Yeah, I know. It’s an aging thing. It shows there. I have always loved the shape of my neck, though. I will learn to love how you change and age, I promise.
To my heart: I have been the hardest and roughest on you. All of those painful breakups. All of that heartache. Oh, heart. You suffer the consequences of me and the breasts and vagina combo have wrought. Look at the trouble we get in and you, heart, you have to pay the price. I am exercising to help ease the pain. I am napping. I am doing yoga and breathing. I am seeking out joy. And yes, I am going to be CAREFUL where I next invest your time. I will try not to entrust your well being with someone who is destined to fuck it all up. Easier said than done, but you know. I love having you. I love that we feel so deeply, so passionately, that we love things — art, movies, nature, people with such intensity. You are my favorite organ because of that. You make me moody, sensitive, sensuous. I love how free you are with love. I am sorry that we’ve been through TOO MUCH PAIN together.
We are here together, body. Thank you for getting me this far. Thank you. Thank you.
Susan Cahill’s clinic in Montana has been helping families since the 1970s. Some crazy dude with the unfortunate last name of Klundt hammered every inch of her clinic, destroying the ultrasound machine, etc. Behind this movement, btw, is white supremacy. These people do not care about the amount of “brown” babies being born into this country every year but rather the white babies who aren’t.
From Democracy Now:
Montana Abortion Provider Whose Clinic Was Destroyed by Vandal: “We’re Disappearing”
A healthcare office that provided abortions in Kalispell, Montana, has been forced to close after it was effectively destroyed by a vandal. All Families Healthcare is one of just four facilities that provided abortion in the state. Its closure means area residents must now travel more than two hours to Missoula for an abortion. Owner Susan Cahill said the vandal stabbed holes in the walls, smashed medical equipment and computers, broke every glass object, destroyed the plumbing and heating systems, ripped plants up from their roots, and smashed framed photos of her family members before stabbing holes in their faces. Cahill wrote in a letter to the local paper, “This person took meticulous time destroying EVERYTHING that was important to me.” She spoke to Democracy Now! by phone on Thursday.
Susan Cahill: “People really need to understand how very important this issue is, because it strikes at the core of human rights, in general. And I think maybe part of the problem is that most of the people who still are providing abortion services are people who grew up when it was illegal and understand, and there’s almost like, ‘Oh, well, it’s legal,’ and so they almost accept it as a given. It’s not a given, and it’s going to be taken away if we don’t do something. And those of us who provide can’t keep doing it on our own, by ourselves. We can’t. We’re disappearing.”
Susan Cahill said abortions make up only about 10 percent of the services she provided at her family practice. A suspect has been arrested and charged with felony burglary in the attack. He is a 24-year-old man whose mother serves on the board of an anti-choice crisis pregnancy center. More than 6,000 acts of violence against U.S. abortion providers have been reported in recent decades, including the firebombing of a clinic where Susan Cahill previously worked in the 1990s.
You can contribute to the fund to help Cahill rebuild here on Indiegogo.
I really hate Esquire’s Women we Love feature. I also hate their Sexiest Woman Alive feature. Yes it’s probably true that they (them) speak for the larger swath of male human but it’s just so … small. But okay fine. Indeed, from my perspective one of the greatest women ever has to be Gloria Steinem, not just for who she was but for who she IS and what she’ll leave behind. Sure, it seems like a no-brainer that a feminist would choose a feminist to admire – okay, one of THE feminists — but to call Steinem merely a feminist is to miss so much about her.
Recently she turned 80. She had a few ruminations worth noting on her 80th year and one was that she felt finally free of the libido. Because of that she was able to really get some things done. Who can’t relate to that? The desperate reach is so annoying, isn’t it? Love and lust, those two awful things. What else could take their place? Imagine it. This, of course, probably only applies to women like Steinem (and me) who are unsettled in the matters of the heart and body. It feels like a quest of sorts. What is the end goal to that? Both of us, and many like us, prefer our freedom over all other things. I know I need a lot of time alone to just think about things. As I almost turn 50 I know this about myself. That makes me mostly unsocial a lot of the time. On the other hand, we need other people or we’ll go insane. I mean, even more than usual.
Steinem has given so much back to the world. She has taken very little. That is, to me, the ideal life.
Here are my top ten most admired – you have to imagine it in 12 year-old girl scrawl, optimistically written in my journal at one point. It never was. I never did. I was too busy admiring Olivia Newton John back then to notice.
That many of these women are tortured in love makes me feel a little better about the sorry state of events in my personal life. There are probably many more women to admire who ARE in stable marriages. They didn’t immediately leap to mind but I’m sure they’re there.
What a shame that the music industry does not find and promote awesome humans like this one: