Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Is this the Sound of Settling?

I come to you from a plane headed to Minneapolis, the town that changed my life.

I suppose quite a few towns have changed my life: Los Angeles, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Copenhagen, and of course, San Francisco.  But Minneapolis is special, in a way that's both saddening and amazing.  I guess, in 60s counter-culture terms, I was radicalized by my experiences there: I went from lukewarm earth-loving ikea shopper to a person much more serious, more fierce, and less starry-eyed.  I suppose in some ways, I became hardened.  In other ways, I was cracked open, my more vulnerable parts exposed.  I don't know how I feel about it, necessarily: talking to my brother the other day, who identifies as Centralist-Democrat, I realized that even his analytical, pragmatic approach to current affairs is more optimistic than my own beliefs -- me, who was so often in the past called "unrealistic" and "idealistic."  Parts of my heart and psyche seem to wither when I think about the world, the people, the hope for the future.  The forces of death and exploitation feel too powerful and unyielding, and I can be sent into a whirlwind of apathetic despair from an experience as simple and unassuming as watching the woman two rows over from me board the plane carrying nothing to occupy her for four hours other than her handbag and an issue of Marie Claire.  

(Alright, now that I've gone into all of that, I will confess that in recent days, there has been some breast tenderness and other signs of cyclical hormonal fluctuations that may indicate that all of this delving into apathetic despair is not only about my feelings about current affairs.  'Nuff said).

Anyway, back to Minneapolis -- or really, St. Paul, where Jason and I were attacked and arrested nearly two years ago.  The lawyers have lawyered, the judge has done some preliminary judging, and it's time to make a choice: settle or go to trial.  To be clear, the criminal charges against the two of us were dropped or never filed, respectively, and this is our civil suit.  Police brutality has as of late oft been topic of conversation in my community: in Oakland, near where I live, an officer who shot a unarmed man in the back was recently convicted of a mere "involuntary manslaughter charge," and less than two weeks later, another man was shot and killed by police in the exact same neighborhood.   Tomorrow, at the settlement conference, I'll engage in my own little process of justice and injustice around police brutality, and it weighs heavily with me.

On the one hand, I do not want to go to trial.  Period.  I don't want to do it.  I don't want to be questioned, perhaps even blasted, by the defense's lawyers who (ironically enough) are being paid for by none other than AIG, the notorious powerhouse of money, corruption, and immorality.  I don't want to have my character attacked.  I don't want to listen to the cops lie about that day -- which they will.  I don't want to cry in front of them -- which I will.  I guess the truth is that I'm not as hardened as all that stuff at the beginning of this post suggests.  And, by goddess, I don't want to watch any more slow-motion footage of Jason being tazered.

On the other hand is the issue of justice.  One of my mentors wrote to me the other day and said, "It’s important not just for you and Jason, and for justice, but as a deterrent to keep them from doing that same thing to others."  There's a part of me that believes that, that feels like there's something about integrity and justice to go through the entire process and not let them have one iota of "settling" or "compromise."   Yet there are other parts of me that believe that it doesn't really matter, that in light of the fact that when they murdered Oscar Grant in the Oakland Bart Station and had nothing more than a slap on the wrist happen, some payout and a small article on page two of the paper isn't going to make much of a difference.  Focusing the lens even smaller, the issue becomes whether or not the trial might affect and raise the awareness of the officers involved in the actual incident (rather than the institution as a whole) -- but I've seen too many smug smiles on the faces of police officers, too many arrogant swaggers, heard too many condescending speeches, to have much hope of that.  Widening out, the fact that any payout that comes will be paid out of the coffers of a corporate supergiant (that was bailed out by a government invested in two wars around the world) that has a penchant for parties and spa-dates that cost more than my suit is likely to garner in even the most abundant of possible outcomes does not inspire me to believe that it means much in the larger fight against the powers-that-be.  

Which brings me down, I suppose, to the question of my own personal gains or losses.  This lawsuit has been long and arduous -- the endless discovery stage, the depositions, the faxing, the phone calls, everything.  I've already invested a lot of time and lifeforce energy into it, and I'm not simply going to roll over and accept whatever Arrogance, Ineptitude, & Greed decides to parcel out to me.  There is an opportunity here to divert some tiny amount of their power (aka resources) into something good -- an intentional communal living situation with Jason, perhaps, or a baby, or a my business as a budding herbalist.  But how much more energy do I want to pour into that possibility?  And how much more energy will be required before its all done, first with my suit, and then later, with Jason's?

Alright, that's enough from me for now.  Funny, now that I've gotten some of these thoughts out, none of which were really uplifting, I feel a bit better.  Perhaps somewhat more clear.  Well, wish me luck tomorrow, blogosphere!  I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


When I asked Carol where the plums had come from, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

They had appeared, like little purple balloons from bliss, on the dryer last week before I left for California Witchcamp.  Tiny, delicate, yellow-fleshed and slightly tart, they were clearly homegrown, not the totally regular, unblemished frankenplums you find at Andronicos.

"Oh, there's loads of 'em!" Carol replied in her thick Irish accent, which I still find completely charming and novel, even though she's lived with us for three months now.  "They're right by the Bart, all over the place."

I finally made my way over to the promised plum land this morning, after a hazy post-camp day of  internet surfing, brunch with a couple of friends, e-mail, and thoughts of jam.  I was playing with the idea of updating my blog with some of my witchcamp insights, the biggest one being that I could not fully let in the love of people until I came to truly take in and trust the love that nature has for me -- Gaia, God, the divine, whatever you'd like to call Her.  It was a theme I was working all last week in sundry ways, from ritual to journeying to simply holding it in my mind as I planned path and whatnot.

But when I came home, it erupted into plums.  The love of our mother, as shown in plums -- 24 lbs. of plums, to be exact, all gathered from the sidewalk and bushes on the sidewalk side of my neighbor's house.  There was a carpet of plums, left untouched, on the other side of the fence: I have dreams of going over there, with a jar of jam, and offering to clean up her yard for her.  But alas, there's no time for that right now.

Plum jam, plum butter, plum brandy.  Here they are, in all of their radiant glory:

(from left to right: Plum & Cherrry Jam, 3 1/2 pints; Plum Butter, 6 1/2 pints; Plum Brandy, 1 gallon; Plum Jam, 7 pints)

Now, off to make some banana bread before I leave for Free Activist Witchcamp.  

Quick Chunky Plum and Cherry Jam 

Serve this jam with scones and tea, spread over pancakes, alongside grilled pork, or swirled into yogurt.
Active Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours (includes chilling time)

1 1/2 pounds dark-skinned plums (about 6 large), quartered, pitted
1 cup sweet cherries, pitted
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Mix plums, cherries, sugar, and allspice in heavy large saucepan. Cover and cook over low heat until sugar dissolves and juices form, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Uncover and increase heat to medium. Cook until plums start to fall apart and preserves are thickened and reduced to 2 1/4 cups, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes longer. If desired, break up any large plum pieces. Transfer to bowl and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

Banana Bread in a Jar
Prep. Time: 1:15

2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup shortening
4 eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 cups mashed, ripe bananas
1 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup chopped nuts - optional

In a large bowl, cream sugar and shortening with an electric mixer.  Add eggs and mix well.  Add buttermilk and vanilla and mix well.  Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Slowly mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients.  Gently stir in mashed bananas and nuts.
Grease (7) 1 pint wide-mouth canning jars with non-stick cooking spray.  Pour 1 cup of batter into each jar.  Set jars on a cookie sheet, spacing evenly.  Bake in a 325 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Working quickly, wipe rim, place lid and ring on jar, and secure. Jars will seal quickly. Repeat with remaining jars.