Showing posts with label women. Show all posts
Showing posts with label women. Show all posts

11.7.21

Journey to Willow Lake in Queens (And There and Back Again, Out of the Bog)

In this post, I take a walk to a hiking trail next to Willow Lake in Queens. It's a marshland in the middle of a metropolis.

The author looks out over Willow Lake in Queens
View of Willow Lake in Queens (Looking Northwest)

Would you believe me if I told you I'm still in New York City but surrounded by marshland, wet bugs, bees, and butterflies born from under the weeds of the milkweed plant? I am. 

The Pat Dolan Willow Lake Preserve Trail in Flushing, NY 11367:
Pat Dolan Trail
If you wend your way down a nature trail (near 72nd Avenue in Queens and Regent’s Park), you'll find a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Van Wyck Expressway. I expected to see a bloated corpse — left by a serial killer — the area does have a veil of secrecy and hiddenness. But maybe it's because I trekked the trail near evening fall — just a hint of daylight in the sky. Now — I need to find a way out of this bog

The Author, in situ and in sweat


Another view from Willow Lake

How To Get to the Pat Dolan Willow Lake Preserve Trail:
By Subway: Take the E, F, M, or R trains to Forest Hills / 74th Avenue. Alternatively, take the F train to 75th Ave. Walk to the trailhead at 72nd Road and Jewel Avenue. 
By Bus: The Q64 bus will take you to Jewel Avenue and 136th Street. Walk the rest of the way.
By Car: Take the Grand Central Parkway and Get off at Jewel Avenue (Exit 11).  You can also take the Van Wyck Expressway. Turn on Park Drive E., going south. The entrance to the trail is between 72nd Avenue and 72nd Terrace. Alternatively, access the trail on the Forest Hills side of the trail — next to the Willow Park playground.
Note: I don't claim to know every route to get to this trail. Trains, buses, and routes are apt to change due to scheduling delays, and other delays. When in doubt, use a map!

6.5.20

Quotation: On Considering Heteronormativity in Society (Thank you, Jane Austen)

It's a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. 
Mrs. Bennet — from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Nineteenth-Century British Novelist
A lion roars.
Photo by Adam King on Unsplash
Source: Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. United Kingdom, RD Bentley, 1853.

9.10.10

Book Review: Virginia Woolf as Philosopher for the People

Three Guineas Journal
In this post, I offer a review of Virginia Woolf’s searing report on the devastating effects of war. It's her most articulate contribution to the history of ideas because it articulates quite well, and cogently – in the manner of classical rhetoric  ideas about pacifism, women, and war. Having lived through the First World War, Woolf dreads the possibility of another one to come . . .
     
Three Guineas is a bitter discourse on the prevention of war, and defense of philanthropy, and women; it is also an attack on the growing hegemonic power afloat in Europe before the Second World War; it is an older and hardened view, distinct from the more playful A Room of One’s Own she had written earlier, which is more about the sexuality of women, the spirit of women. However, it touches on some of the issues she expounds upon in Three Guineas. In a way, it is like a sequel; actually, I think this is how Woolf intended it. Three Guineas comes out of the work she did on The Years, her most famous novel, about the Pargiter family, their history from the 19th century to Woolf’s present day.
      Woolf published the book Three Guineas out of her own Hogarth press. I wonder how many people actually “got it” or even took the time to read the book? I wonder how many people actually read A Room of One’s Own and “got it”? The slim volume deserves a second look. I think Woolf is important to intellectual thought. Woolf is part of what I call intellectual talk within intellectual circles and also, by her own admission, critical to the public sphere of intellectualism. Woolf attempts to speak to everyman. She is a philosopher for the people. Three Guineas is filled with harsh condemnations. She accuses society of having an infantile fixation (134-135); of the widening gap between the public and private sectors and the use of clothing to deceive young men into joining the war effort (14). I find Woolf to be candid in this book. I think she states some hard arguments. The difficulty of the book is following Woolf’s train of thought; Woolf reads like an autodidact, which she was, and her arguments sometimes feel more passionate than systematically thought out; but, I reason, she has spent so much time, energy and words on these issues; I feel ill at ease following her passion because I sense she doesn’t have to convince me; I know she must be right!
     One significant contribution she gives in this work is that she nuances the stance of feminism. Feminist thought is not dead even though women can now vote and work, Woolf argues. We can’t stop now as if everything is equal and normal for women. As if women and men are the same. There will still be Creons abusing Antigones. But, Woolf is not fatalistic. She does see that something must be done. There is a web site I found about an organization founded in 1993 called the Three Guineas Organization. It helps women and girls through education, similar to the groups that were writing to Woolf asking for aid.
     I say Three Guineas is a bitter discourse because it is written not as a romp through Oxford and the British Library, but an attempt to ask the hard questions and a realization of forces greater than our control. Woolf intuits the horror of the World War and the seeming repetition of war, the misuse of women throughout history; “Things repeat themselves it seems. Pictures and voices are the same today as they were 2,000 years ago” (141). I think she sees Hitler and Fascism for what it really was: not for true freedom and liberty but rather threatening to Western Civilization. Of course, war is threatening. But she asks: how does war deplete society? Why are women asking for money? How does war take away resources, thus eroding the cornerstone of liberal arts education, the workforce, and liberty in general? Why are these three different organizations, even asking for money in the first place? Will a guinea also help them? Shouldn’t society be asking why they must plead for money in the first place? Why are the administrators of a woman’s college living under deplorable conditions, begging? In a letter to Woolf, an accountant for the college asks, “Will you send a subscription to [our society] in order to help us to earn our living? Failing money … any gift will be acceptable – books, fruit, or cast-off clothing that can be sold in a bazaar (41)”.
     Woolf wants to know why is this school asking for money? Haven’t women been liberated for the past twenty years? She includes a response to such a request for a subscription, asking, “How can it be, we repeat? Surely there must be some very grave defect, of common humanity, of common justice, or of common sense” (41-42).
     I noticed in this book that Woolf is aware of the influence of photography (at least 11 and 142). She writes about the horrors of war recorded by the camera. This book is timely today because we can trace how the influence of the camera has made an arc to the television set, to the Internet. We are inundated with images that dictate how we are supposed to look at the world. I love how she is so contemporary with this issue.
What is the meaning of these words that we are willing to die to defend? Freedom? Liberty? Rights of Man?
      She lambasts an army general’s debonair suit by pointing out that in battle, soldiers do not wear finery. Woolf concludes that the regalia of uniforms is a lure to get young men to join the military. The suit does not tell the truth; uniforms are deceptive instruments to get people in the ranks, to fight the countries wars.
      Also, isn’t it interesting that Woolf questions giving the money to these different organizations? She challenges us to look at things from all the different points of view, preferably three. She has three newspapers on her desk. “Therefore if you want to know any facts about politics you must read at least three different papers, compare at least three different versions of the same fact, and come in the end to your own conclusion” (95). Woolf challenges the reader to think critically. Not to look merely at one source and form our opinion. We should have at least three sources about the same topic in front of us. Librarians probably agree; parts of this book could serve as an introduction to Library Science. How many times do I get letters in the mail asking for money? Do I ask myself the reasons behind their requests for money? Do I wonder why they really need the money in the first place? Woolf, I bet, surprises the honorary treasures by questioning their requests. Partly to get them to think about their situations and partly, for Woolf’s part, to answer the real questions.
Why does she attack H.G. Wells? I was surprised to see Wells included in this book; I didn’t think Woolf would go after a particular person in this polemic. But she does. She seems to see him as superficial. Wells obviously does not fight for the same principles as Woolf.
      We are not fighting for the rights of man or for woman. We should be rallying the cause of humanity; because, isn’t it, like Georges Sands says – “all beings are interdependent of one another”? Who of us can present ourselves as insulated, cut off from one another? Because we are a man? Because we are a woman? Most of our problems stem from the insistence on creating sharp distinctions between man/woman; free/slave; public/private. Maybe Woolf is calling for, in this book, is a common interest; “it is one world; one life” (142).
source: Woolf, Virginia,  Three Guineas.  Harcourt Brace. 1938, 1966. 

16.9.10

Photograph + Caption: "Mr. Savory and Ms. Sweet"

If a guy says, "Life's too short. Keep your drama at the door," what he really means is, "I don't want to marry you, and I could care less about your problems."

22.8.10

Is It a Good Idea to Do the Traditional Date?

Rule #1: don't read weird shit on a first date.
Wow. Times have changed.
A recent New York Times article quoted an 1860 personals ad, of a man in want of a wife:
“The advertiser, a successful young business man of good education, polite manners and agreeable address, having recently amassed a fortune and safely invested the same, wishes to meet with a young lady or widow."
A woman in want of a husband read:
“A young lady, rather good looking, and of good address, desires the acquaintance of a gentleman of wealth (none other need apply), with a view to matrimony.”
Wow. Very direct. No co-habitation. No confusion about which gender holds the bank account and which gender wants the bank account. And no confusion about gender either.

And that was for straight people.

In 1860 gay men were not posting personals in the New York Times. Maybe they were getting hot and heavy on the battlefield, but I am sure the documentation for that is somewhere buried deep in the Civil War record books. I'm not sure what they were doing, but read this article from BNAP and email me.

Anyway. I digress.
Today things are not so simple. We live in tough economic times but people want their contacts to be sexy, not frugal. Whether you are gay, straight, queer, bi, transgendered, or curious, dating is a messy game. At least in 1860 you knew what you were getting into: eventual matrimony. In 2010, it's anyone's guess what our motives really are. First of all, you have to stop to think, who really dates anymore anyway? When you just want a date, the whole scene can be a bit tricky. Who pays what? Do you hold the door open? What is the modicum of respect required? Do you kiss on a first date? Do you make out? Do you go all the way? How specific are you supposed to be? How vague?

Is it all about getting into each other's pants?
While men may think only with their nether regions, women think with their nether regions too. Getting into each other's pants is somewhere on the horizon, but the rules of engagement are not always so clear. If you're a single parent, you tend to be blackballed more than if you were married. Plenty of guys go on dating sites and eliminate 99 percent of the dating pool. I knew a guy who was in his 50s and he would only date blond-hair blue-eyed intelligent women in the 18-30 range. Guys tend to look down on girls "who put out" but do not expect girls to judge their promiscuous desires. Gay guys are branded as promiscuous (or are they?), skipping the dating scene altogether, and heading for the bedroom. Or the broom closet. But this is all changing, it seems. More guys are getting into the dating scene. I'm not sure if it is a victory of the far right, but sexual liberation and "free love" seem to be losing out, and monogamy and paying for the meal seem to be cashing in.

While Justin Templet over at the Maroon wrote an amusing piece on the possible benefits of shacking up on the first date, most people, gay and straight, tend to consider sex on a first date as a good ride, but a death knell to a future relationship.

Fuck revolution. And getting stoned. It seems we may be going back to the 1860s after all.

What's a guy to do? I was born in the wrong century, I guess. Or decade.

So, I decided to post a personal ad the other day and try this whole dating thing to see what it was really all about. I didn't even know gay men COULD date. I thought all we did was sit around and watch True Blood. Or the Big C. Or watch that damn Liza Minelli concert re-run on Showtime.

I geared up my writing chops and fired out a résumé of sorts:
A gentleman with aspirations for collegiate studies (but no employment) seeks like-minded chap to eat an ice cream in Times Square and check out that new Angelina Jolie flick.

14.11.09

A Journal & Rant: "On the Uses and Misuses of Age"

"Age doesn't matter, but dammit I look old" is what my friend Suzy Q. said to me last night.
Evelyn Couch : I can't even look at my own vagina!
Evelyn Couch said it best: "I can't even look at my own vagina!" 

My grandmother looked in the mirror one morning on her 92nd birthday and shrieked, "Who is that woman? It's not me."

On the playground of life it is like Freaky Friday: Young kids want to be adults; adults prefer to act like kids. The age divide splits us from baby, to toddler, child, school kid, pre-adolescent, tween, teen, young adult, young person, 20-something, 30-something, "Over the Hill," old, octogenarian, centenarian, dead. In the middle ages you were rudely a child, a man or geriatric. 3 stages of life. Now, the stages grew to 9 thanks to Erikson, now up to 30 thanks to Super Mario Brothers.

By increasing the stages of age, the strictures are enforced. The subtlety in development is painstakingly tracked. By 30 you must have acquired maturity. If not, you lie.

Middle age women are smart: they don't reveal their age.

Gay men lie.

Straight men don't care. Unless were talking about controlled substances.

Kids lie to get alcohol or cigs. But they expect adults to uphold integrity.

An online buddy asked me if it was ethical to lie about age on a personal ad.

It is apparently a controversial topic.

If you're 25 on a personal ad, in real life your true age is probably anywhere in the range from 21 - 29.

But if you are 30 on an ad you are actually more likely to be 40. If you're really 17 you are most likely going to say you're 18. If you are telling the truth, you're either desperate, or taking what you can get.

A bouncer asked for my ID and after looking at it said, "Hey, you look 23 and still in college, but when you opened your mouth and started talking, I knew you were 30 and working"

The face (or body) says one thing while our words says another. Our age belies our wisdom while our wisdom never depends on age.

The youth Benjamin Button dies forgetting what he learned as an old man. Rip Van Winkle wakes up and literally times has flown by. If it is true that "every day a little death" then all of us should feel a lot more humble.
image credit: Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) © Universal Pictures