World status update from Fallbrook

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Thanksgiving day was warm in Fallbrook. We turned on the fountain, set the patio table and dined in the midafternoon sun, sipping a nice California pinot noir brought by a guest. Birds arced gracefully from palm to live oak, a red-tailed hawk homed in on its prey, and I alternated between struggling to hear over the running water and resisting the urge to pee. To quote my mother of pearl, aging sucks. And she ought to know—it finally got her.

FallbrookSunsetPerhaps it’s better to be gone, though, than to query the state of the world today. The question arose in the rumbling stupor that follows gluttony. The erudite guest who posed it didn’t deserve the crude answer I considered slinging his way: To quote Mother again, it sucks, the world sucks. Instead, I opined that we are in decline, decline of integrity, freedom, responsibility, faith, respect, health, love—and my list was a conversation bomb. But by some social miracle, the talk moved on—to terrorism, Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, OPEC’s oil prices that punish Russia and, if we’re lucky, undermine the economics of U.S. fracking. While we reviewed the world’s status, the sun set in a moment of radiance, we basked in the pleasures of privilege, and then we said our goodnights.

I awoke the next morning relieved of the lower back pain of cooking for six hours and the decrepit attitude that goes with it. Feeling a bit more hopeful about the world’s vicissitudes, I skipped my way through my morning ablutions while listening to public radio’s Here & Now. Boston Globe film critic Ty Burr was touting four films one might see over the Thanksgiving weekend, including The Theory of Everything, the story of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane Wilde, based on her memoir. Although Burr clearly liked the film, he concluded with this:

It really is the story of a marriage, told from the woman’s point of view. It really is, in a weird way, it’s more of a women’s picture in the classic sense, than it is— It’s certainly not a science film. Don’t go to this movie if you want to learn about string theory or black holes. It is about the romantic and personal relationship and as such, very affecting.

In twenty seconds, Burr managed to denigrate women—of course the romantic and personal relationship of a brilliant theoretical physicist and his extraordinary wife, as such, is mere chick-flick fodder, less than those films not relegated to the status of women’s picture in the classic sense—and Stephen Hawking—men aren’t interested in the personal life of a brilliant theoretical physicist with a severely disabling disease. Oh no, don’t go see The Theory of Everything if you want to know about smart stuff, like string theory or black holes. Better you should go see Dumb and Dumber To. That’s a men’s picture in the classic sense, so it must have smart stuff, you know, in it.

And this was KPBS, public radio, one of the purportedly liberal media. Is there a point on the space-time continuum at which one can be simultaneously liberal and sexist?

Now, you might be thinking that this is such a minor thing in the grand scheme of social decline, insidious but, in the moment, an insignificant annoyance—when so much worse things are happening.

Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old boy, was killed by police who were too afraid of an African-American child to take a second to actually look at him, to see who he was.

An epidemic of rape infects our culture, and students brutalized on college campuses are asked, are you sure it was rape?

Author Jacqueline Woodson, winner of the Young People’s Literature National Book Award for her poetic memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, was splatted by a watermelon joke, lobbed at her by the master of ceremonies at the awards event.

And on and on and on. …

But it’s another warm day in Fallbrook. We’ll turn on the fountain again and eat turkey sandwiches in the midafternoon sun. Birds will arc gracefully from palm to Live Oak, and I’ll bask in gratitude that I peed before lunch and there’s something I can do about that insignificant annoyance. I’m sending this to KPBS, thankful to be the woman Mother made me.

Love, K-B

Photo credit: K-B Gressitt