The Eastern Shuttle

Earlier this week the Washington Post printed an article about unrealistic expectations by airline travelers.

It starts off with a quote by a veteran flight attendant:

I’m weary of those entitled passengers who are continuously whining and complaining. . . I feel like telling them, “Take some responsibility for your choices.”

The columnist Christopher Elliott then goes on to discuss the airlines’ point of view, which in a nutshell is that you get what you pay for, and if you pick the lowest price, then expect very little in comfort and service, and the cost conscious travelers’ point of view, which is that fees are out of control.

The article continues:

“. . a retired civilian Army employee who lives in Troy, Mich., took his first commercial flight in the early 1950s, and recalls paying just $72 to fly from Washington to San Francisco in 1967. He still has the ticket. In economy class, the flight attendants served passengers steak on real plates, he says.

An  eight dollar plus change, one-way student Eastern Newark to Boston Shuttle ticket from 1967 may be in a box of my lifetime treasures stored under a bed in my house, but it is doubtful. Whenever possible I was on a flight to visit my college beau. Tickets could be purchased ahead of time or at the gate. One just had to show a student card. Simple. There was always a seat.

Checking on line to see what Eastern was now charging for a flight from Newark to Boston, I was surprised to read that Eastern no longer exists. Imagine my delight discovering that Trump actually bought the Eastern shuttle in 1988, that he installed marble-finish lavatory fixtures in them, and that On September 20, 1990, he missed a $1.1 million interest payment for the Shuttle operation.

Back in my 20s and 30s I traveled here and there and a telephone call to any airline would give me all the information needed: what flights were available, the price of a ticket, and the representative would book my reservation on any carrier.

Then for a while I didn’t travel much.  In the meantime, the world got internet, gas went up from 50 cents a gallon (I too do remember when it was twenty something cents), obscenely wealthy people, many of whom seem to be the only people who can get away with arrogant strutting displays of “entitlement” became the airlines preferred passengers, and the number of variables involved in making a reservation exploded.

I don’t feel entitled, but I am going to whine and complain. My complaint is that sorting through the many options when buying a plane ticket takes me hours and gives me angst. I don’t necessarily want to buy the cheapest seat available but I want to understand what I am paying for.

Back when life was simple I didn’t have to think about buying direct or through one of multiple third party sites. I didn’t need to study the nuances of budget, basic economy, economy, flexible economy, business class, first class, privileged class tickets on three or four different airlines. I wasn’t constrained by loyalty clubs.  I didn’t have to worry if my luggage would be accepted or not or where it would be stored and what I could put in the bags that would go in the cabin or in the baggage compartment and what would be confiscated and never returned. I knew that drinks and food would be served.   I could cancel or reschedule my flight without a hassle or a fee.

Not now. Now a ticket on United from Newark to Boston and return on the weekend of December eighth as listed on United’s website could cost me anywhere from $150 to $640. That includes taxes and fees but additional baggage charges could apply. That was yesterday’s price. Tomorrow’s most likely will be different. Do I dare check Delta? or American?

For a while my son who used to book travel for his boss would help me with my flight arrangements, but at this point in my life I have other things to pester him with. Now I go by train or drive, or tag along with friends who book my seats along with theirs, or if left to my own resources, become obsessed with the task — for weeks if time allows.  Perhaps if the airline industry acknowledged its “responsibility” to standardize terminology, to eliminate add-ons,  and to guarantee all of its customers a comfortable flight experience, flight attendants would not have so many complaints about “entitled” passengers, and perhaps I would travel more.

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Living with a foo-foo

Dread descended upon me as Lee and I were driving home from an evening out.

Brino on spiralThis was my fourth return to my house for the day. The earlier three times Brino, the current doggie love-of-my-life, bounced down from his lookout on the spiral stairs to meet me at the door and bark his greeting. He looks so cute sitting at the window where he can smell, hear, or see someone approaching..

As is his custom, Brino barked unrestrainedly, expressing his joy and love, until he had circled Lee once or twice and then run out the door to greet me, all the time circling in a frenzy, circling back to circle Lee, and then circling around me and in front of me and  wherever space allowed. I sat down on the bench and started to pet him and told him what a good dog he was. He quieted down, trying to be a good dog, trying so hard to please me by not barking because he has learned that it turns me into a crazy woman. His face and body showed that he was really sorry that he forgot. Strange strangled sounds 2014-01-29 10.46.06emerged from deep in his throat. He looked pleadingly up at me, gurgling and croaking, his eyes saying “Love me, don’t leave me, love me, stay with me, love me, don’t go away again.”  Even though it’s amusing, it’s hard to take.  It’s exhausting for me. It’s exhilarating for him. He’s so happy we are home.  He’s so cute.

 

A little history —

The foster mom who had “Spike” before he came home with me in January and turned into “Brino,” wrote in his online profile that he would sing and dance for you. That sounds cute, doesn’t it? She said he would pick up each foot and point it. He does do that and looks like a little ballerina. So cute. She also said he yipped with glee to see her. After having one disappointment after another trying to adopt a dog I was desperate, and a little yipping was not going to deter me.

Surely Lee and I could break him of this unappealing small dog behavior that he had most likely picked up from those mini poodles and things he somehow got mixed up with and was fostering with. K, his foster mom, had twenty-one dogs at her home. Spike, a twenty-five pound Pomeranian mix or whatever he is, was the big guy at this mostly mini dog rescue (hereafter called TMMDR). The last time I checked, the largest dog available at TMMDR was a 19-pound Pekingese, Miss Becky, unless you count the bonded pair Kaylee and Mikki, two shih tzus who together weigh 26 pounds.

pepper-silo-small

Pepper — one of the 100 pound labs

Most of the dogs at K’s slept on the lower bunk of a trundle, but a favorite few got to sleep up on her bed. Spike wasn’t one of the favored. My grand delusion was that K, with twenty foo-foo dogs — as my family disparagingly labeled any dog that was too cute for words, yippy and spoiled to boot, that resembled a chew toy for one of our 100 pound labs — just didn’t have the time to retrain Spike herself.

Spike had been on my short list for a few months, but never at the top. My heart ached over a few dogs already during the search, and my life was stuck in a deep loneliness without a furry companion. My days were spent scanning adoptable dogs on petfinder.com, scouting local kennels, completing applications, studying breed characteristics and temperaments, and feeling sorry for myself.

2014-01-27 01.53.25 The ChipmunkSpike filled most of my requirements. He was older, small enough to fit on my lap, large enough to walk with the big dogs, and not a constant shedder. He was house trained, neutered, and had no allergies or health issues. He got along with the twenty little dogs at K’s, K’s grandchildren, and cats, and he didn’t cause mayhem when left alone in the house.

Spike got low grades on my barking and yipping requirements, his adoption fee was pretty high, and his foster home was too far for me to visit him ahead of time.  But he was cute. I decided to apply for him.

TMMDR seemed keen on having found someone to take him.

Petfinder is the most popular site for finding your pet soulmate, It is similar to dating sites, and just as humbling and depressing. Each pet has a profile. People read profiles and pick a pet. One difference is that prospective adopters or rescuers don’t have profiles.

Each rescue organization requires a separate application, and some won’t even answer a “Is Buddy-boy” still available?” inquiry until they have received and reviewed your application. That could take a week or more.

Uncle Jack

Uncle Jack

So I filled out yet another application form, answering questions such as: size of yard, height of fence, dog experience, disciplinary strategies, training plans, hours away from home, name of groomer, other people and pets in the home. Did I ever return a dog or put one down? and why? Who would take care of the dog if I went on vacation or died? How often do people, children, dogs visit? Most wanted to call the vet, some wanted to call neighbors, a lot wanted to make a home visit. I felt terribly guilty inflicting unnecessary intrusions into my vet’s day at her clinic.

The application process is a bit overkill. These are dogs looking for new homes. We treat abused children coming across the border and our mentally ill and homeless with less concern.

Petfinder claims to list over 340,000 adoptable pets in over 13,000 adoption centers and shelters. Surely the web designer could streamline the adoption process by setting up a questionnaire for each prospective pet owner to compose a profile. That’s what dating sites do. If the system works for finding a husband or wife it should be good enough for finding a pet.

IMG_0279The adopter profiles could be secure so that only rescue organizations approached by the prospective adopter could see them. Individual rescue organizations could have the option to add a question or two if they deem it necessary. A single secured recommendation from the veterinarian could also be posted online. Harvard and Yale do it. More than 500 colleges choose freshman with a Common Application. Why can’t doggie angels have faith that a common application will work for them also?

Some rescue agencies just don’t respond. They put up barriers. Do they like to play god, are they scams, or they are just incompetent? Many are staffed by unpaid volunteers, but I’m an unpaid volunteer and consider myself competent.

Finally the application was in and accepted, the home inspection went fine, and all we had to do was sign the contract. There were off-putting clauses in the contract, such as —

“The adopter hereby declares that no representations about the nature of the adopted dog . . . have induced the adopter to sign this contract.”

What else would have induced me to choose this dog and sign the contract? All I had were his cute pictures, the profile, a few conversations and emails. We hadn’t even met yet, and they were also asking for pre-payment.

Obviously I had more trust in TMMDR than they had in me.

The contract goes on to dictate what kind of collar he should wear and couldn’t wear, where he should be allowed in my home and outside my home. It threatens to take action to retrieve the dog should I give him to my children or my best friend.

Tuck – my doggie-love before Brino – would have been a very miserable dog if he had to abide by certain rules. How about this one?

This dog will not be kept outdoors during the adopter’s working hours, or at any other time left alone outdoors while the adopter is not at home.

Tuck was happiest in the fenced-in area behind the house where he could look out over the river. He showed his displeasure by being extremely destructive if left inside alone. Tuck’s foster mom warned me, but I had to find out for myself.

closeup of Tuck

Tuck

Another rule in the contract stated that the dog had to be protected from the elements. Tuck loved the snow, the cold, sleet, rain, the wind, the outdoors. He slept on the deck at night. He never went into the shelter we built for him  He was constantly on alert, listening, watching. Even the owner of the kennel where Lee’s dog, Uncle Jack, and Tuck stayed finally gave in. At first he thought it imperative that Tuck stay indoors with the pack, but finally he let him sleep outdoors.

Tuck, by the way, rarely barked, and if he did, whoa — it was scary. He looked like a wolf. Nobody ever called Tuck “cute.”

Perhaps rescue agencies don’t know what is best for all their dogs and their new owners. Perhaps they should have a little humility and allow adopted dogs and their owners to find their own way. The contract includes threats of recall, attorney fees, and fines. It is as if TMMDR doesn’t want to relinquish ownership of their dogs. In paragraph one it states that the “donation” is not a fee or sale price.

It’s a very invasive contract. TMMDR can visit my home anytime, call my vet for information anytime, demands that I notify them if I move and if Spike/Brino dies.

But I signed the contract, just like I sign my life away over and over – when I open a bank account, or get insurance, or go to the doctor, or buy a cell phone, or download software, or now, adopt a dog.

2014-01-27 01.37.25 Going for a rideI do love my Brino. Except for the fact that I later learned that TMMDR kept the entire fee, including the extra $50 I paid to “help defray the cost” of getting my dog to me, and did not give any of it to K, I do appreciate their efficiency and the work that the organization does. K feeds 21 dogs and gets them their shots and meds. She brought Spike to a groomer so that he’d be cute as could be when I picked him up, drove to meet me half way for the pick-up, and definitely deserved a big chunk of that fee. K and other foster moms and the transport volunteers who ferry the dogs around have very big hearts.

It’s been a few days since the dread and it has slowly dissipated. Brino was able to come along with me on most of my errands since that night so he hasn’t been overwhelming at the door. Everyone he meets on my travels thinks he is so cute.

IMG_0282He is lying by my desk on the tower deck as I write. He’s been a good little boy today, not barking too much, settling down quickly. He trotted gaily by my side on our walk with Lee and Uncle Jack – on the leash and off, he took a dunk in the stream and shook himself off before he came near. He sticks close, doesn’t bolt as all my other dogs did whenever they had the chance. It feels good.

Who knows what goes on in Brino’s cute little head? When I wrote to K to report on how he was doing, she twice asked me, “Is he still behaving like a gentleman?”

“Ooohhh,” I thought.  “He’s got an ungentlemanly side???”

He has antagonized some, but not all, of the neighbor dogs, mostly the pit bull next door, and the Caine Corso who usually is very sweet but always very large. Wikipedia, although not necessarily the preferred source for information on such a grand beast, says it best: “Ideally the Cane Corso should be indifferent when approached and should only react in a protective manner when a real threat is present.” That’s what I keep telling Mina, since Brino is certainly not anything resembling a real threat. After getting bit on the bum by the pit bull (totally not the neighbor’s fault and no hard feelings) Brino has been much less feisty.

IMG_0274Depending upon the length of his hair, Brino is my Baby B., my fox, my bottlebrush, my scraggly little guy, my flutterby, my chipmunk, my lion, my mop. Lee affectionately calls him a pain in the a–.

He’s lucky he’s cute.

____________________________________________________________________

I cover the waterfront #2

mcvx79116The New York Times reported today on crude oil flowing down the Hudson – not flowing in it, at least not yet, but flowing on it and along side it. I am so happy that Jad Mouawad is following this story.

A Times article in January annoyed me. It reported that this oil was traveling across our country, but there was no mention that it was happening right here in New York. The  article on February 25th annoyed me – it didn’t make clear enough that the Department of Transportation was playing games with its mind-boggling order promoting the shipping of crude oil in DOT-111 tank cars, the ones that have been involved in explosions, fires, destruction, and death because they were not built to do the task at hand.

But I applaud all the coverage.  It appears that the articles are being read and that there is a flurry of scurrying by rail, regulators, politicians and citizenry to at last act. Please continue.

The Times Union in Albany has been feeding us the scary news for a while (see the previous Waterfront post).  In fact there was a derailment of a thankfully empty oil train near Kingston just this Tuesday. A locomotive and a sand-filled car in the 97-car oil train derailed near the Hudson Valley Mall in Ulster County. A southbound train carrying crude was waiting nearby for this train to pass before it continued on its way. This was the third oil train accident in the state in the past three months.  Senator Chuck Schumer is calling for the DOT-111s to be phased out by July, and for the lowered speed limits put into place for tank cars in New York City and Buffalo to be extended to all upstate communities.

If the DOT-111s are phased out, new tankers must take their place.  If we need this oil so badly, there should be a law that they be built at home.  Come on job creators.  Just think of all the men and women you could put to work.  I bet the rails could be brought up to higher standards also.  There’s got to be some positive side to destroying the climate.

Today I received an email message from the Environmental Advocates of New York, asking for money, of course, but also telling me about the “ 1.6 million gallons of oil moving through our state each year by train.” The email goes on to say that EANY is working with “community activists and organizational partners to stop Big Oil in its tracks. . .” Isn’t that clever?

Why do I keep wondering if all this concern about the trains is a ploy by the pipeline proponents to get their project approved? There is no safe way to move this oil around.

Personally I would like to see all this oil stay in the ground. It is not helping us in this country to save on energy costs or to make us self-sufficient in our energy needs. The extraction of the oil is destroying our landscape, disrupting geological formations, and poisoning our water and air. We need meaningful regulations and constraints on the corporations involved to build an infrastructure to support such huge operations and to force them to clean up after themselves. The workers need to be adequately trained to do their jobs safely to lower the rates of deaths and accidents on fracking sites.

There are issues at every stage of the process. It is a dirty fuel that only the profit makers and the suckered are promoting. The profit makers don’t want it in their back yard and the suckered will live to regret.

I cover the waterfront

This morning’s New York Times article, “Accidents Surge as Oil Industry Takes the Train,” by Clifford Krauss and Jad Mouawad, is a tardy but welcome look at one more dangerous and irresponsible aspect of the shale oil industry and the need for common sense and regulation to prevent further destruction of our environment, cities, and homes, and avoidable loss of lives.

Last night I watched the first half of Harlan County, USA, an Oscar-winning documentary about the 1973 coal miners’ strike.  Working and living conditions were deplorable.  The action of the police and the lack of concern by the government was expected but nonetheless depressing.  The courage and unity of the coalminers, both as workers and as strikers, and their wives were perhaps naive but definitely inspiring.  The double-speak of the mine-owners was nauseating.

Granted working conditions have improved since then, but definitely not enough to convince me that we are living in a land of opportunity and equality and respect for the working man.  The American ideals taught in grammar school (or which at least used to be taught in grammar school) and which are touted as making our country exceptional, are lost somewhere in the daily voracious onslaught of stupid and ugly politicking, the distracting hype and expensive investigation of non-existent conspiracies, the hate mongering media establishment, and the distortion that evil money brings to the interpretation and presentation of reality and to our government.  I still believe that good money, decent bosses, and politicians and government officials with integrity and honor exist, so don’t get on me that I am anti-money or anti-capitalism or anti-government.  These honest hard-working capitalists and politicians are just not having their day right now.

Some big industries still look upon workers as replaceable parts to be thrown away when they are too damaged to keep functioning.  Innocent bystanders are also just part of the cost of doing business.  Somewhere priorities are lost.  What is more important:  industry? or the people that industry is to serve?

2012-11-29 11.06.11This December I gathered together information from my personal research on what I see from my window overlooking the Hudson to share with the people of my town.  Included were pesticide spraying by the railroads and electric companies, new electric lines from Canada to Manhattan, effects of the rising sea level, and the transport of crude oil from the Bakken fields through Albany to east coast refineries.  With just a few updates, the section on the transport of oil along the river follows.

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Global Partners and Buckeye terminals in Albany are hubs for the passage of shale oil from the Bakken, North Dakota fields to refineries north and south along the east coast.  The oil comes in by train and goes out by barge or rail.

Surete du Quebec photo of the Lac Megantic derailment

Surete du Quebec photo of the Lac Megantic derailment

Roger Downs, conservation director of the Sierra Club’s Atlantic chapter in Albany is quoted in a July 2013 article in the Albany Times Union:  “People in the Capital District are horrified by the catastrophic train derailment and the subsequent loss of life in Quebec – but have no idea that the same Bakken crude oil shipments rumble through the heart of the city of Albany every day – presenting even greater risks to the lives of our own citizens. .  . If we are truly serious about facilitating a renewable energy future and protecting public health from these man-made disasters, Albany lawmakers can and should act to ban crude oil shipments through all our urban corridors.”

Downs was referring to the tanker train collision, fire, and death of 47 people in Lac-Megantic in Canada, just 10 miles out from Maine, a few days earlier.

Area agencies and residents are also concerned about the possibility of other accidents, such as the one in December of 2012, when a double-hulled tanker, the Stena Primorsk carrying crude ran aground 10 miles south of Albany.  No oil spilled from the tanker although the outer hull was breached.

Training of first responders as well as purchasing of emergency equipment in the Port of Albany and surrounding areas has been ongoing.  In November, officials from Orange, Dutchess and Ulster counties, the U.S. Coast Guard and New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation enacted a simulation of an oil spill from a Global Partners subsidiary’s terminal in New Windsor. Over 100 people, including representatives from NOAA, observed.  The results showed that if floating booms were not used, the oil could spread as far north as Wappingers Creek and south to Storm King Park, a total of 15 miles.

Financial reporters are emphasizing that the less expensive shale oil will boost the east coast refineries that have been suffering from the high costs of imported oil.  Shipping crude oil by rail to and through Albany is only going to grow.

Schumer in Kingston, photo by Paul Kirby, Daily Freeman

Schumer in Kingston, photo by Paul Kirby, Daily Freeman

Railroad companies are asking for more regulation on the construction of railroad cars so that new cars, which are in demand, will be safer than the currently used DOT-111.  The DOT-111s are the tankers that derailed and burnt in Lac-Magantic and again in Alberta this October.  New York’s Senator Schumer called on the Federal Department of Transportation to phase out the DOT-111 in July, and this January he reiterated his appeal after the North Dakota derailment.

Sen. Schumer reported that between 100 and 200 DOT-111s pass through Kingston daily.  Most freight trains travel the western bank of the Hudson.  The tracks on the eastern shore are being restructured to make commuter travel more efficient.  However, the difference in how a railroad disaster would affect us if it is on our side or the other side of the river is only a matter of degree.

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Nothing in today’s New York Times article today mentions that oil trains are running across and down New York state, nor am I able to find any mention of Schumer’s concerns on the issue in the Times.  I’d like to think that our Senator’s second round of concern was sparked in part by the letter I wrote to his office – but that is a bit presumptuous.  Why don’t you write him one?

I’m not a rabble-rouser..  I don’t want to start a revolution.  I’m not a Joe Hill.  I just want to be safe and healthy and leave a good place for my children and their children.

It’s 1:30 and there are only 15 comments on the article.  There are however 400 on Ross Douthat’s contribution on marriage, sexuality, morality and poverty.  There are 212 comments on Maureen Dowd’s coverage of the emerging marijuana tourist business in Colorado.

Come on, people.  Come out of the clouds and think a little.

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Call to action issued after North Dakota oil train wreck, 01/07/2014  http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2014/01/07/Call-to-action-issued-after-North-Dakota-oil-train-wreck/UPI-75251389095711/

CP Rail oil shipment deal signals rail transport no longer stopgap measure, by Jeff Lewis, 09/01/2013  http://business.financialpost.com/2013/01/09/cp-rail-oil-shipment-deal-signals-rail-transport-no-longer-stopgap-measure/?__lsa=c6f7-eda2

Global Partners boosts Bakken shipments to eastern refiners, by Aaron Clark  Bradley Olson, 04/18/2012  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-18/global-partners-boosts-bakken-shipments-to-eastern-refiners-1-.html

How an oil spill could spread in the Hudson River, by Brian Nearing, 11/13/2013  http://blog.timesunion.com/green/how-an-oil-spill-could-spread-in-the-hudson-river/4485/

Hudson spill drill will test skill:  many agencies plan for first river exercises since tanker accident, by Brian Nearing, 11/08/2013   http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/Hudson-spill-drill-will-test-skill-4968951.php

New York turns into hub for shale boom, by Gregory Meyer, 02/14/2014  http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5afe2abe-7564-11e2-b8ad-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2mMKhLZNS

Oil by rail:  are we safe?  Quebec disaster puts focus on busy Albany oil corridor, by Eric Anderson, 07/10/2013  http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/Oil-by-rail-Are-we-safe-4656040.php

Schumer calls on FEDS to require phase-out plan of DOT-111 cars carrying oil through Western New York. . ., press release, 08/13/2013  http://www.schumer.senate.gov/Newsroom/record.cfm?id=345541&&year=2013&

Tanker carrying Bakken crude to Canadian refinery runs aground, by Eliot Caroom & Dan Murtaugh, 12/20/2012  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-20/tanker-carrying-bakken-crude-to-canadian-refinery-runs-aground.html

Unsettling echoes of Canada rail disaster, by Chris Churchill, The Advocate, 08/03/2013  http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/Unsettling-echoes-of-Canada-rail-disaster-4705390.php

Fouls on the Field vs Feces on our Fowl

Federal regulations are specific details, directives or requirements with the force of law enacted by the federal agencies necessary to enforce the legislative acts passed by Congress.                                                                                              About.com US Government Info

During the 2012 major football referee lockout, brought on by a dispute between the National Football League and the NFL Referees Association over pay and benefits, games did not proceed without referees.  According to a 2012 Los Angeles Times article, there was the issue of “player health and safety  — the hottest topic in today’s NFL. The NFL Players Assn., fresh off its labor battle with the league, has backed that stance by referring to officials as “first responders.”   Even though there was much controversy over the fact that “the quality of games could suffer with replacement officials,” the NFL scurried to hire substitute referees so that the season could start.

Players of a game got more respect and protection than we, the people, and the world as a whole, are getting now.

The absurdity of demands, the stupidity, stubbornness, and shortsightedness of the self-absorbed Republican members of the House, have closed our government.   Their unwillingness to face reality and to govern, have suspended the nation’s system of inspections, monitoring and special procedures written to enforce and carry out our laws in a manner that safeguards our health and safety, and prevents corruption and environmental disasters.

If we followed the lead of the NFL, all business and enterprise, food production and banking, manufacturing, trade and transportation, politicking and on and on and on would be prohibited until our “responders” were back to work.  

That might make a few Republicans blink and a few voters wise up.

Friendship on Campus

Just read today’s NYTimes article on college sex by Kate Taylor.  Sex is nothing new.  Sex when drunk is nothing new.  Sex without love is nothing new.  It has been going on forever. The article is new and begging for comments.  I’ll fall into line and make mine. 

What’s missing from this article is that women and men on both high school and college campuses, unlike when I was a student in the sixties, can be friends — not just loving couples or hookups, drunk or sober.  Or at least the boys and girls/men and women of my son’s school years –the nineties and two thousand naughts — were friends.  To me that possibility is the most important change in male/female relationships in the past fifty or so years since the women’s sexual revolution.

The sixties opened the door wide for pre-marital lovemaking without guilt or shame.  This eventually became acceptable in the minds of all.  Well not all.  Not those who truly believe in and practice abstinence until marriage, and we should all respect their choice.

Free sex (again what the feminist movement brought about) was certainly not acceptable in the minds of those who had a problem with equality of the sexes.  They took it as a perk.   A dirty perk.  They still do.  Lately with the nonsense coming out of the mouths of our politicians, and the medieval stances being made by legislatures across our land, one might think they are the majority.  Can’t be.  They are just the loudmouth bullies who were loudmouth bullies when they were younger.

Good and bad came with women’s sexual liberation.  On the bad side were the abuses of all those young women and men who wanted to express their trust and love, but who were too immature and innocent to understand that not all the people with flowers in their hair were as pure in heart and mind as they were.  There were bouts of loss of self-esteem, “degrading encounters,” and the hurt and depression that come with miscommunication or lack of communication about expectations or outright lies, conflicts with family and perhaps future partners.  Same as now.  Were there increases in venereal disease or unwanted pregnancies or extra-marital affairs?  There could very well have been.

A lot of college men in the sixties were heavy, heavy drinkers.  What has caused this increase in the female student population?  Is there an increase?  I don’t recall any of my classmates ever saying “If I’m sober, I’m working,” as one college woman is quoted in the article.  Does that reverse into “If I’m not working, I’m drinking and having sex?”  Doubtful. An increase in drinking among today’s female students might stem from a sense of futility, financial pressures, lack of opportunity and lack of encouragement from the leadership and powerful that have emerged from their parents’ and grandparents’ generations.  Being young doesn’t mean you are stupid.  There are just not many places for them to go.

On the good side, the women’s sexual revolution of the sixties enabled students and young adults in their twenties and thirties to delay marriage and experience the freedom of being single and independent before marriage.  The youth of my day were free from internal and external pressures to do things the way our parents did.  A person learns a lot about him/herself and the partner he/she wants and needs by experiencing relationships with different people.  This goes both for personality and lovemaking.

We had time on our side.  We could grow into ourselves before our marriages, not after a divorce as so many of our parents. 

Perhaps the above thought is out of date. Today’s college students can’t do things the way their parents did.  There is little on their side.  Where are the jobs?  What do they do when they graduate?   What fields are open?   They can sell their souls and work for Monsanto or Exxon or Bank of America.  They can teach but only if they agree to deny science and teach lies.  They can go into the arts but only if they have a corporate sponsor which means they are censored.  They can try to change the system but only if they are strong (or crazy) enough to be publicly persecuted and harassed.

Opportunities for high school graduates are even bleaker.  They pay little, offer little chance of advancement, and provide no security or benefits.

Perhaps experiencing life so that you can be a better person and make a better partner choice no longer matters.

Girls and boys were not friends in my school days.  Girls wanted boyfriends, steadies, a class ring, an athletic letter, dates on Saturday night, a club jacket, husbands along with diplomas.  That’s what girls learned from their parents, the TV, the love songs on the radio. Boys wanted someone who would put out or they were too shy to want anything at all.

Somewhere between the sixties and the nineties something changed. 

Both my boys have had girl “friends.”   They’ve been to my house and have spent the night and I know they have not shared a bed, but often a bedroom.  It took me quite a while when they were in high school to believe that all was innocent.   

It was such a great change, a very needed change.  I wish I had had boy “friends” when young.  My first male “friend” was gay and I was in my late twenties!  Even now I’d feel a bit of a flirt and a bit deceitful meeting a man “friend” for coffee or for a walk along the river while my constant companion was at home.

Am I that different from my son’s girl friends?  I wonder. It has come to seem perfectly natural that my sons can have females as friends.  I wonder it if is perfectly natural that other women’s daughters can have males as friends.

Are today’s students so different from those of just ten years ago?  Please don’t tell me so.  Please young women and men of today.  Hang on.  There is no one way.  There are many ways.  Some just wander around a little more than others.

Classmates of the opposite sex are not just marriage partners or hook-ups.  They can be friends – friends for a year, friends for life.    You don’t have to swear to love each other until death do you part.  You don’t have to be committed.  There are chapters in your lives.  Live each one to its fullest.  Friends are fun in good times, they are there in the bad. They are very nice.  It may take a little more effort than getting drunk and doing it standing up in the bathroom.  You may still argue and go different ways, but after making the first friend, you will find it gets easier.  And you won’t have a hangover in the morning.

If you don’t have sex with each other, that’s wonderful.  If you do, that’s wonderful too.  

Sisterhood is Powerful

Kathie Sarachild -- credited with the the words Sisterhood is Powerful

Kathie Sarachild — the woman behind the title — google her name

My after college friends, the two women I hung out with in Boston from 1969 until 1975 when I finally moved out, having had it with doggie poo on the streets, a discouraging proportion of gay to straight men on Beacon Hill, and a neighbor across the alley who hosted orgies with the windows wide open, were okay attractive, intelligent, liberal thinking, book-reading, professionals with masters degrees making decent salaries.

MARRIAGE AND WORK

We weren’t girls who went to college only looking for a husband, but I am sure none of us would have turned the right one away had he come along.  I, for one, was engaged to a college sweetheart before coming to my senses.  Actually I was out of my senses when I dramatically, hysterical and in tears, in the presence of quite a few people, most of whom I didn’t know, at some gathering in a now-forgotten city in New Jersey, declared that our engagement was a huge mistake.  I had been building up to it.  Once said, I wondered why it took me so long to admit.

Marriage was important to us, and so were children.  And certainly, what was wrong with having someone it would be so nice to come home to.  

We were living the life of independent women, meeting for lunch at Grendel’s Den, and later for drinks and steamers at the bar in The Half Shell.  We devoured Anais Nin, Doris Lessing, and Simone de Beauvoir, but we weren’t exactly all on the same page.  They were getting fired up and fortifying their stance with Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer while I was fueling my angst and imagination with Violet Leduc and Caitlin Thomas.  

L. gave herself a birthday party with girlfriends every year.  We were all at her mother’s house celebrating.  I must have stepped out of the room, probably to attend to an uncomfortable contact lens, which was a constant source of squinchiness during my twenties.  I vividly remember returning to the kitchen where the talk was about discrimination against women in the work force:  less salary, no respect, limited prospects.  Women could be librarians, sales clerks, secretaries, and beauticians:  cooks but not chefs, teachers but not principals, nurses but not doctors.

They talked of how women need financial independence to be in control of their own destinies.  Not all women chose to marry, or were chosen to be married, and many who married found themselves trapped in uncomfortable if not intolerable situations.  If they married, they wanted the right to work even though they knew it still meant that hubby expected his working wife to be at home, relaxed and lovely, with drink in hand and dinner on the table, and children clean and done with homework every night when he returned from the job.  And so forth. 

Everyone stared at me when I walked into the room and said something like:  “It’s ugly in the work environment.  It’s stifling, stressful, competitive, demeaning, nasty.  How many men enjoy their work, or get to choose?  No man should have to wake each morning, rush off to the office or factory, squelching his spirit to make the boss happy.  Men are suffocating in mines and in bureaucracies acting out scenarios that make them cringe.  Women don’t have many choices, but if my only choices were entering the so-called man’s duplicitous work world or staying at home in the woman’s realm, well I’d rather be barefoot and pregnant.”  Or something like that. 

From then on I was Aunt Tom.

ABORTION AND BIRTH CONTROL    

In my senior year at high school I dated an older boy who adored me because of my innocence, and would have been very happy to take it away.  He thought fear of pregnancy kept me a virgin.  But my fears went deeper than that.  He gave me a book to read about abortion, illegal at the time.  It spoke to the different options available to women of different economic and social classes, and of the many reasons women chose to terminate a pregnancy, and of the disastrous outcomes of back alley botches.  It all made sense to me, but it did not have the desired effect – or perhaps he was just interested in my education?

A few years later, in a conversation about the pill and abortion, a college roommate told me her mother had had an abortion.  My ambivalence showed, and so did my roommate’s annoyance.  By the end of the conversation, however, I knew if an untimely or inappropriate pregnancy should occur, I would opt for abortion – even an illegal one.  I was still lily white at this time.

I did go on the pill almost immediately when I met that college sweetheart.  The local doctor in my college town refused to give me a prescription and shooed me out with a moral berating.  My beau’s sister lent me her wedding band and sent me to her own ob-gyn and all was well – for me, and for her family who really didn’t care very much for me. 

No one in my circle of friends, acquaintances, family, favorite authors, or historical heroes truly believed that the decision of whether a woman got pregnant or ended one had anything to do with the law.  The law was just something to work around – an outdated nuisance.  And this law was based on religion beliefs.  Everyone knew from seventh grade American history class that there was a separation between church and state.  We read The Scarlet Letter, a tale of adultery taking place in a Puritan colony in 1642, before our enlightened founding fathers wrote the Constitution setting the separation of church and state in stone!  

Curious about when the pill was first available to women in the United States I asked the computer.  The FDA approved it for contraceptive use in 1960.   I also learned that Eisenhower thought that birth control was not in the government’s purview.  At least that’s how I interpreted his words the first time I saw them out of context on The Pill.  He was quoted:

I cannot imagine anything more emphatically a subject that is not a
proper political or governmental activity or function or responsibility.

Miraculously discovered  in Mom & Dad's matchbook collection two days ago.

A timely discovery in Mom & Dad’s matchbook collection

Wow!  Eisenhower was once more on my side.  Birth control was not a government issue. 

When I went back online to do some research, I found more.  The sound bite was taken from Eisenhower’s response to a question at a press conference in 1959.  He was asked for his reaction to the recommendation that the United States provide information on birth control to countries asking for help to alleviate crippling overpopulation.  The rest of his answer:

This thing has for very great denominations a religious meaning, definite religious tenet in their own doctrine. I have no quarrel with them; as a matter of fact this being largely the Catholic Church, they are one of the groups that I admire and respect. But this has nothing to do with governmental contact  with other governments.  We do not intend to interfere with the internal affairs of any other government, and if they want to do something about what is admittedly a very difficult question, almost an explosive question that is their business.  If they want to go to someone for help, they will go unquestionably to professional groups not to governments. This Government has no, and will not  as long as I am here have a positive political doctrine in its program that has to do with this problem of birth control. That’s not our business.

Margaret Sanger, at the age of 80, challenged Eisenhower to a debate “to put him straight on the question of planned parenthood.” 

Googling on, I found that Eisenhower’s words have been used to back up both pro and anti-birth control constituencies throughout the years.   

What did he actually believe?  More than that, what did he actually say?  I see the words, but what is a “positive political doctrine?”  What about a “negative political doctrine?” Did he choose his words carefully or was this an Obama “You didn’t build that” moment. 

As a former archivist and one who loves finding the answer, I know this topic requires more in-depth original document research.  What I’m finding online are various bits and pieces of history strung together to promote opposing agendas.  It is hard enough to approximate the truth in news and history when it is written by journalists and scholars with high standards for their work.  It’s impossible when writers and news commentators and our politicians lie outright, and twist and contort words and make up facts to promote themselves or promote fear.  Eisenhower is merely an interesting aside here.  This is not a dissertation, just my silly blog post, and I can’t devote weeks to find the answers. I’m clearly pointing out that I know not of what I write.  And neither do a lot of  “experts.” 

Eisenhower Birth-CurbWhatever his personal opinion on birth control – his official answer to the US getting involved in population control overseas was “no.” 

A few years later however, Former President Eisenhower, along with Harry S. Truman, “agreed to serve as co-chairman of the honorary sponsors council of Planned Parenthood-World Population,”  co-chair of Planned Parenthood, or co-chair of a financial campaign for Planned Parenthood – take your pick.  It depends upon where you look.

He did say, however, in a message to Planned Parenthood in 1968:

“Millions of parents in our country — hundreds of millions abroad — are still denied the clear human right of choosing the number of children they will have. Government must act, and private citizens must cooperate urgently through voluntary means to secure this right for all peoples. Failure would limit the expectations of future generations to abject poverty and suffering, and bring down upon us history’s condemnation.”

Planned Parenthood’s Fact Sheet on Republicans on Choice, Family Planning, and Privacy, a teacher’s aid, interprets Eisenhower’s words as his seeing “reproductive rights for what they are — basic human rights.”

Yes!

But according to Donald T. Critchlow in The Politics of Abortion and Birth Control in Historical Perspective (1996) Eisenhower agreed “after some hesitation” which is interpreted in wiki.answers that he agreed “albeit reluctantly.”

It is outrageous that abortion and birth control are still controversial political issues.   The people who vote for political leaders who hold women in such contempt that they deny them safe and simple health care and control of their own bodies are living in a fantasy.  It may be a religious fantasy.  It may be some sick sexual fantasy.  Or it may be something as simple as the fact that their parents voted Republican, and so then do they.

However, the stupidity and the level of hate and fear shown by today’s outspoken anti-women’s leaders in the Republican Party and the church do not reflect the opinions of the majority of voting Republicans or churchgoers, and certainly not the opinions of most Americans.  The leaders of Republican Party in past decades were more realistic and compassionate (before George the 2nd changed the meaning of the word) in their approach to women’s health, family planning, unwanted pregnancy, and unwanted children.   Check Planned Parenthood’s Fact Sheet again.   Of course, PP also knows how to cut and paste to their benefit.

AND SO?

I was about thirty years old and sitting at my aunt and uncle’s kitchen table.  Two of their sons were my age and married.  They were curious why I wasn’t.  I said because I have everything I need – money, a job, a home, friends.  I’ll marry if and when I find the right someone or the right man with whom to have a child.  I wasn’t big on single motherhood. I’m not sure what they thought of my answer or of me.  It was spontaneous but it still seems right.

Who knows why I married?

Reading about the life of the late Shulamith Firestone I was struck by all that the feminists of my day accomplished and how doggedly our government is nibbling away at women’s rights — basic human rights.   I was also struck by how so many of those activist women’s lives turned tragic.

No, I was not a feminist.  But because of the feminists I am the woman I am now, and I am fed up.