NY Votes for Women

VotesforWomenI am so excited to be a contributing writer to NY Votes for Women: A Suffrage Centennial Anthology, out next month! We’re having a publishing launch party on Thursday, Oct. 26, at 6:00 p.m. at the History Center of Tompkins County.

Tell everyone you know!

Come to the party!

Advertisements

The Alternative Alternative

IMG_6315Let’s talk about music.

And the NPR borg takeover of a radio station that, in so many ways, helped shaped the person I am today.

Starting at noon today, June 26, WUSM, a radio station broadcasting out of what in urban legend is a college campus designed for the worship of satan, will cease to exist in its current form.

Six months ago, the NPR conglomerate purchased via what can best be described as fiat the rights to the signal from the University of Massachusetts. It’s a heap of bullshit, which is better desribed in detail here.

It’s a travesty on so many levels.

This post is a wake of sorts, a celebration of what once was. Because shit changes. And I believe in giving credit where credit is due.

Because frankly, without what was, pre-2006, WSMU, FM 91.1. North Dartmouth, I might not be writing to you today. I might be doing something completely different. I might be wearing pastels…

Okay, yeah, not a chance. But WSMU, and my involvement with it, was integral to the person I am today and the friends I still consider people I would fight a pack of wild badgers to save.

I started college in late 1989 at what was then Southeastern Massachusetts University, now University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, a space-age concrete compound jutting out of the land a smidge south of whaling-centric port town of New Bedford. Legend states the architect, Paul Rudolph, designed the campus around a central pentagram. But frankly, the real hellraising was happening on the second floor of the student center, which housed what was, at the time, the real hotbed of action and power: the college radio station.

I started my foray into broadcasting reading the news, which spewed reams of side-punched, perforated paper all day long out of an AP Wire machine located in the hallway. I’d dig through the miles of dead trees looking for interesting stories to read with a girl who was so friendly it scared me: Lori Ann Mullin. Her sunshine smile and happy demeanor terrified me, the black-clad art student. But I couldn’t resist her good nature, and found myself actually smiling once or twice. (It might’ve looked more like a grimace, or perhaps the face babies make when they pass gas. I can’t be sure so many years later…)

When my parents pulled me from UMass at the end of my first semester and forced me to attend UNC I rebelled, putting the U.S. mail through its paces. I’d hide under my blankets in my room with my round, pink 1980s tape recorder, telling her everything that was going on in my life, mailing the resulting cassette tape miles away to my beloved Massachusetts. She’d respond with a tape of her own, usually consisting of her radio show on WSMU.

The second I got the chance I moved back to North Dartmouth, living above the Mr. Tux store across from the North Dartmouth mall, in a room with no windows. In typical 19-year-old early ’90s fashion I decked it out in skulls, lace and a huge Joy Division poster, keeping the Cocteau Twins on constant replay on the turntable.

I met Mark DelLima my first semester as well, when we sat next to each other in figure drawing class. My first words to him? “You’re doing it wrong.” Mark and I have shared everything at some point or other in our lives: coffee, smokes, laughter, pain, DNA, not necessarily in that order. (His was the last face I saw when I flew away from San Francisco. I still wonder if I made a terrible mistake: I miss that “fucking stupe.”)

Anyone alive in the 1990s will remember the parties my roommate, Amy Dermont (perhaps the most tragic passing I’ve yet to experience in my life. Rest in peace Amy), would put on. She knew literally everyone, especially if those in one of the countless bands in and around the North Dartmouth/Providence/Boston triangle. Bands would converge on our barely habitable abode, and my friends and I would sit in my blackened cave, smoking Marlboro reds, drinking shit wine and talking music.

Always music.

I was the asshole deejay who bucked tradition in the early morning slot, bringing the signal up at 6 a.m. not with a smooth, mellow track to get the morning off to a slow start but the loudest wall of sound I could come up with at such an inhuman time.

I’m talking Chris Cornell humping the stage in nothing but jeans shorts and combat boots, hair and sweat flying, lungs expanding before releasing the feral, human equivalent of rough sex on a bed of nails.

The fact that I had a car and Amy made the deejay list meant I saw more bands than any single person should. Name a band touring in the early- to mid-’90s and I’ve probably seen them, or have forgotten I did.

I used to flip through the rolodex in the station office, calling Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening or, famously, Ian Mackaye, who immediately informed me I was saying his name wrong. (Touche.) In short, my early 20s were a time of complete assholery and debauchery combined with some of the most earth-shattering sounds coming out of the speakers at the time.

And it saddens me that the only way to listen now is online.

Bearing Witness, Even When it Hurts

creativenonfictionSometimes I wonder if I am nothing more than a big ol’ narcissist who loves shoving her existence down other peoples’ throats via the written word.

I’m not exactly the kind of person who attracts a large, rapt audience on many, hell, any occasions, so I’ve just gotten used to telling my tales whether people want them or not.

No one’s writing crazy long sonnets, penning tales of adoration or toiling as the Dread Pirate Roberts on my behalf. Everything has always been up to me. So I write my own epics. Read More

It’s Been So Long

Dear Friends,

It’s been ages. Ages…

In celebration of the release of Duran Duran’s newest album, Paper Gods, and publication later this year of an essay that ties into and completes the following story, I’m reprinting my 2000 essay.

It originally appeared in Syracuse University’s Intertext, and can be found here — but be warned, it’s maddeningly formatted!

The D.I.Y. Aesthetic at Work in American Education

by E. S. Brath

The American middle-school system has imbedded in my brain that writing sucks. From an early age I was bombarded with assignments, and texts, and papers, and — the worst — term papers. There is nothing more ominous than the threat of a looming term paper just when the hell of another half-year is almost over. It’s cruelty at its finest. Read More

Not in Your Backyard?

To all the middle-class Americans trying to get away from it all this weekend:

Guess what: you’ve just set your siesta up in what is essentially my yard. I live here. So when a sunburn’s the only memory you have of your drunken flame-broiled adventure, I’ll still be here, dealing with the aftereffects of your douchebaggery.

You may think your precious Pekinese only poops petunias, exempting you from carrying those annoying little plastic bags, but I’m here to tell you that even the tiniest dog turd stinks up the place when attached to my shoe. Plus, my own dogs think it’s a tasty treat from heaven, making the whole experience that much more gross.

And it’s great that your kids can take a few days to ride their bikes and run around like nature intended, but just because my home’s a camper doesn’t mean I don’t have standards too. Would you allow the same insanity at home?

Wait, don’t answer that: I’m fearful of what the truth might be. Because my brother and I never ran amok in other peoples’ campsites. And we never, ever ran up and tried to pet strange dogs. Just because they’re cute doesn’t mean they don’t have teeth. From now on I’m gonna’ start carrying waivers for you to sign as your tiny hands reach — in my dogs’ minds — menacingly toward the top of their heads.

And then I’ll sit tight, hiding until you finally pack your obscene amounts of foods and — really? — golf carts — so you don’t have to actually ambulate of your own accord — into your financed to the nines RV and go back to your own home.

At which point I’ll breathe a sigh of relief, sit outside in peace with my coffee, surrounded by nothing but nature, and prepare for next weekend’s assault.

NOW Whadya’ Say About Global Warming?

Not only is it boiling outside, we have to contend with this view! (Yes ... that is indeed a confederate flag...)

4:16 Friday afternoon. I don’t dare move, because the slightest shift in even a limb seems to increase the temperature inside my tin can.

I felt incredibly lucky this winter, no snow tires on my car, watching as the white stuff caused all sorts of bullshit for friends and family up north whilst I sat out the artic drift between a bunch o’ mountains.

But alas, I am now on the receiving end of what I knew in my forcibly-Catholic-school-girl heart was coming sooner or later: punishment.

Read More

FICA U!

Okay, so I’ve been thinking. Actually, that’s pretty much all I do, but for the moment I’m going to attempt to put some cohesive thought into words.

There are wicked budgetary showdowns going on in D.C., with the Republicans – mostly – serving as the dudes in the black hats. One of their targets is Medicare, the health insurance program that people over 65 and those who are disabled are eligible for.

The bad guys – namely House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), who wrote the new proposal – want to dismantle it, replacing it with a voucher system that, once enacted, will pretty much pay for a band aid and maybe some Tylenol before sputtering out of funds.

The idea is that once you turn 67 – the new age of eligibility – you’ll get a check from the government, which you can use to purchase private health insurance. Ha! Anyone tried to buy that lately? How many Rolls Royces could you finance on the monthly premiums alone? That is, if you can even find an affordable plan willing to cover you, because by the time you’re in your 60s you’re probably not the healthiest person on your block.

The plan’s bullshit, and everyone knows it…

So my question, and maybe someone knows a lawyer who can help figure this out for me:

Every single person working on the books in theU.S.has a FICA deduction taken out of his or her paycheck. There’s no getting around it – you work, you pay.

FICA – the Federal Insurance Contributions Act – is Social Security’s tax collection machine. However, it’s not just Social Security that’s taken out via FICA (at 6.2 percent), it’s also Medicare (at 1.45 percent).

Uncle Sam takes money toward the Social Security and Medicare coffers from every single worker with the understanding that, when you reach 65 or are disabled, you’ll receive benefits, with each generation contributing as they enter the workforce.

This is a social contract, enacted originally by Lyndon Johnson in 1965 as part of his Great Society programs. As a nation, we have – and continue to – agree to said contract.

Sooo….if the Republicans dismantle the current program, replacing guaranteed coverage with vouchers that, analysts have already proven, won’t cover jack shit, isn’t that a breach of contract?

And, if this voucher system is passed, thus voiding the contract, can we, as a nation, file a class action lawsuit?

Because you know what? If they’re not giving me what they promised when I started working, and I’ve been paying into a bullshit program that’s just going to leave me suffering in the street, I want every single FICA penny back, plus damages.