“Hot as Hell: Summer 2020” by Leanne Grabel

Dispatch from Portland

“A megalomaniacal lunatic traitor was able to capture the zeitgeist. Everything else is second tier because we are in mortal danger. We can’t look away.” -Jim Carrey

Jim Carrey, who always seems too Jerry-Lewis for me, nailed it the other night on Bill Maher’s show. We cannot look away from the lunatic in the White House because we and America are struggling to survive. This month, therefore, I’m not even going to try to write about anything other than our current struggle to live on with hope in 2020 America with a megalomaniacal lunatic traitor, whose most masterful skill is cheating and lying, in control. It is like William Shatner NOW . . . ALONE . . . piloting the rocket. Help.

A Few Things

1. This is month five of COVID, whatever that has come to mean to you. I have enlarged my social isolation bubble a bit to include the rest of the family, meaning my daughters, granddaughter, the husbands. Only one daughter and son-in-law wear masks at these small gatherings since they are around other humans during the week, albeit masked. I’ve socialized a couple times in the backyard. Masks on, masks off, nibble, nibble, sip, sip, masks on, masks off, sip, sip, nibble, nibble.

2. July started off with Independence Day. Remember that? No? Right? What’s to celebrate? Frankly, I’ve always hated Fourth of July, even as a child. IT’S WAY TOO LOUD.

3. And hugging a flag is not patriotism, dammit. Kneeling during the national anthem is as patriotic as it gets. It’s a non-violent statement against injustice, justice being an original American ideal. Knock. Knock. Remember?

4. And enough with the blind loyalty. I don’t think I can think of one instance where I would let loyalty drive my decisions instead of what I thought to be right.

5. Everyone seems to be as grouchy as hell this summer. For instance, I was powered off the Gluten-Free Portland Facebook page this week for saying my birthday cake was so sweet, it was instant diabetes. The cake was a gluten-free, four-layer, triple chocolate cake, layered with double chocolate fudge and dark chocolate ganache. It was also about as tall as my granddaughter.

Of course, I was being funny, hyperbolic, I thought, but within seconds after I made the diabetes crack, I was called a heartless, privileged bitch by a handful of diabetic celiacs. I said I was sorry, posted my clown drawing and dropped off the list.

6. We need humor to stay afloat, I say. A human turd is splatting all over all our favorite ideals–the ones we try to believe in, to live, to teach. Honesty. Justice. Generosity, that poor old grandmother in a ruffled blouse. Compassion. Integrity.

7. Okay. Okay. I know you want to know what’s going on in Portland, the current epicenter of political clash. Last night was day 75 of protests. I have not actively participated. But I’ve watched, I’ve read, I’ve asked. One friend’s 21-year-old son went downtown dozens of nights, was shot with rubber bullets in the head, the neck, watched his 19-year-old sister, 90 pounds, thrown to the ground, her well-strapped gas mask torn off. He said:

Why is this hard to understand? If you watch police kill and brutalize people over and over (he can rattle off 30 names) wouldn’t you want that to change? Wouldn’t you support people who want that to change? Why do we have to defend what we’re doing?

8. But what about the damage, the property damage, those mom-and-pop stores destroyed, lives destroyed, you ask? Well, the consensus is that the violence is being done by agitators, provocateurs–not BLM protesters, not the Wall of Moms, Dads, or Vets, and it’s certainly not frightened teachers. And it’s not young people marching for Justice, and it’s not anti-fascists. It’s boogaloo boys and such, those white guys who love violence, who hang around the nearby parks–oh, Portland has so many beautiful parks, I mean, even downtown–those guys who just wanna fight. And it’s the police, the feds, the mercenaries.

9. And this morning, I heard from Demetria Hester, a Black activist and leader of Portland’s Moms United for Black Lives, who was harassed by Jeremy Christian on a Tri-Met bus the day before he killed two Portland men who stepped in to help two other young women of color who were being harassed by Christian. She was arrested Sunday night in what appears to be a targeted and baseless bit of political theater, and released Monday, charges dismissed. When asked who starts the violence and what needs to change for the nightly protests to stop, Hester said:

The police start the violence and continue it too! They cut people’s tires! Trump and [Portland Mayor] Wheeler need to resign and [we need to] defund the police.

10. And then there’s this from Ellen Urbani, one of the Wall of Moms, in TIME:

For a second the gas lifts, and it seems there are only a few women left, standing arm in arm in the yellow shirts those agents know mark us as mothers, just empty asphalt between us and the men some other mothers raised.

And that is when they shoot us, point blank, with impact munitions. The woman on my right falls forward; the woman on my left is struck in the head; I feel my bone break. My right ankle is encased in a bulky cast after a fall the previous week, and those American sons shoot my other foot out from under me.

11. “Our side” is not exempt. If provoked, they engage in battle with fireworks, burning cardboard, cans of paint, cans of vegetables and frozen water bottles.

12. But I just don’t think brokenhearted people protesting injustice and inequality in America are starting the violence in Portland.

13. But they’re also not walking away from it.

14. And speaking of political theater:

A widely touted $23 million hit to downtown Portland businesses mostly attributed to nightly demonstrations was almost entirely tied to lost sale figures from Pioneer Place mall, survey data and independent analysis shows, due to coronavirus.” [Oregonian] An interesting and a typical and bogus skew.

15. And this from the Free Lunch Collective:

We literally could not make this shit up. Jordan Hollingsworth, the man who drove his truck through the crowd last night, is a part of a multi-generational Portland police dynasty. His father was a cop, his grandfather was a cop, his great-grandfather was a cop, and his mother was a clerk. When the police questioned him, they knew exactly who they were talking to. This is why, after plowing a truck through a crowd of people, he was allowed to sit on the curb smoking a cigarette and then released with no charges.

16. It’s Agent Orange’s fault. It just is. Yes, there have been generations and generations of racism in America, but the “megalomaniacal lunatic traitor” burst the bubble, condoning the overt expression of hate.

17. I watched that documentary about the Golden State Killer based on Michelle McNamara’s book. The monster, Joe DeAngelo, was an ex-cop, a twisted victim himself, of course: husband, father, uncle, cousin. His friends called him Junk Food Joe because he was always walking around with a bag of potato chips, a candy bar and a soda. Did you see him? A hideous and misshapen lump. Joe DeAngelo was once a handsome young man engaged to a homecoming princess. But his rotten soul turned him into a monster.

18. I bring this up because it reminds me of Junk Food Donald.  I see the same deterioration. The face, once handsome, gone to hideous. Cause? Depravity. No, he can’t escape his craven life.

19. And now America is in a position in which the extent of his cheating could determine the outcome of the next Presidential election.

20. That’s disgusting.

21. Why won’t it stop?

22. August 4 was my 69th birthday. It was also Barack Obama’s birthday. He turned 59. I always invite him to come over, but he never does. This year was the quietest birthday I’ve ever had. As a Leo, I always want more attention than I get. This year, I definitely didn’t get enough attention, except on evil Facebook, where many people wished me happy birthday and I didn’t even know who they were.

23. I did get to eat some tiramisu. It was not gluten-free, so I had to nibble around the rum-soaked lady fingers. I did not mention it on the Portland Gluten-Free Facebook Page.

24. IN CONCLUSION, I sure hope we get to rise, but I feel scared. I don’t have much faith in American humans anymore. I feel scared about after the election, no matter the outcome. If Agent Orange loses (!!!!), OMFG. And if he wins, double OMFG.

26. I just want to rest for a minute. Don’t you? It’s been almost four years of Hell. We’re exhausted.

The End

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Leanne in Lei

Leanne Grabel, MEd, is a writer, illustrator, performer & retired special education teacher. Grabel is the 2020 recipient of Soapstone’s Bread and Roses Award for contributions to women’s literature in the Pacific Northwest. Grabel teaches graphic flash memoir to adults in arts and senior centers throughout the Pacific Northwest. In love with mixing genres, she has written and produced numerous spoken-word multi-media shows, including The Lighter Side of Chronic Depression, and Anger: The Musical. Her poetry books include Lonesome & Very Quarrelsome Heroes; Short Poems by a Short Person; Badgirls (a collection of flash non-fiction & a theater piece); and Gold Shoes, a collection of graphic prose poems. Grabel has just completed Tainted Illustrated, an illustrated stretched memoir, which is being serialized in the OPIATE. She and her husband Steve Sander are the founders of Café Lena, Portland’s legendary poetry hub of the ’90s. ACM publishes Grabel’s work the second Thursday of the month.