Hard Times in Babylon

2024-04-03T15:45:39-07:00Categories: creative aging, family, featured posts, journalism, memoir, Seattle, writing|Tags: , , , , , |

Bangladesh, 1987. A few months after the Haiti trip. Photo by Hilda Bryant. Thirty-seven years ago, I said yes to this guy. It was April Fool’s Day, but he wasn’t kidding, and neither was I. We were in Haiti at the time, on assignment for the TV station where we both worked, full of hope for our shared future and for Haiti’s too: Haitians had just held their first free elections in the republic’s history. Such hope seems quaint in 2024. Haiti is at the mercy of violent gangs; dreams of any future that resembles democracy are currently barely plausible. And democracy is being tested and threatened and tested again here too. Right here in these United States, in ways we could not have imagined. Just as we could not have imagined, 30-plus years ago, that we would someday be engulfed by a worldwide pandemic. That more than seven million people would die (1.2 million in the U.S.), and countless others be permanently affected by their run-in with the microscopic virus. Who wants to dwell on any of this? Or read about it? Let alone write about it? Turns out that guy I said yes to wanted to dwell on it, to observe it, and to write about it. Turns out writing a novel, starring real people not unlike ourselves, made the most sense to him. There would be plenty of scholars and epidemiologists who could weigh in on the pandemic from their positions of expertise. There would be plenty of famous and glamorous [...]

American Infection

2019-11-07T14:50:44-08:00Categories: economics, health & medicine, human rights, immigration, politics, Seattle, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Sometimes we writers search too hard for the perfect metaphor. Sometimes, it’s right under our nose—or, in my case, right under my blue, Velcro-strapped boot. Infection: that’s what Trump is, I thought this morning, as I took my nineteenth of the twenty Amoxicillin tablets we brought home from the pharmacy ten days ago. Trump has infected our vigorous, 241-year-old democracy. And like so many infections, this one is fire-engine red and spreading, unchecked and unmedicated. Meanwhile, the patient is hot with fever one day and shaking with chills the next. Nothing tastes right. Muscles ache. Vaguely flu-like feelings abound. Waves of determination to soldier through—we’ll get over this!—are followed by languorous apathy: let’s just give up. Speaking as one who tried to ignore an infection for several days, I can tell you it is not a strategy that works. After foot surgery on November 6, I assumed the three incisions on my right foot were healing up nicely under all those bandages, just the way they had on my left foot, last May. And they probably were, for the first several days. But then something somehow went wrong along one of those neat lines of stitches. At that point my foot was in a plastic cast, so I couldn’t see it. And for reasons I cannot explain, I chose to believe that feeling like my foot was on fire was probably “normal,” that fever and chills were a “part" of healing, and that I would magically “get over it.” Wrong, wrong, wrong. Thank God for antibiotics. [...]

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