This Tuesday was, by no means, a good news day. The night before was the tragedy in Manchester, England, at which a suicide bomber killed children at a pop concert.
But, sad as it is, that is not the story that moved me, on this beautiful Tuesday, to tears. I care, but at this point I am emotionally numbed when it comes to terrorist attacks. Aren’t you? The story that moved me to tears this morning was this one, outing the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as a voracious slumlord. It got to me because this is not a story about public policy but personal evictions, practically one-on-one encounters. And the defense? One must recognize a fiduciary responsibility to one’s investors. And the moral responsibility to one’s tenants? Such a concept doesn’t exist in Trumplandia.
There have been many personal stories emerging form the morass of Trump’s despicable policies—the families torn apart by unjust, absurd, and sometimes blatantly illegal deportations, the sufferings of sick people who are losing their insurance, the intimidation and humiliation of reporters doing their job—but these stories of evictions hit me hard.
Perhaps because the image of the vicious landlord is such a comic book villain, and eviction seems as personal as a mugging. And, also, there is the shame I feel as a Jew, knowing the stereotypes, and seeing Kushner as the Trumpian representative of my tribe. It is just sickening.
I don’t know what to say about the politics of such matters, other than to express my gratitude to the intrepid reporters who do the muckraking necessary to out these bastards and to remember my commitment to do what I can to vote the bastards out when the time comes, resist cooperating with hateful policies whenever possible, and demonstrate fearlessly while we can.
But I am always concerned with how to keep my emotional and spiritual balance when the news becomes too much to bear and I cry.
Today, as I have so often throughout my life, I found my balance by walking. It wasn’t a long hike into the Berkeley hills (which would have been nice), but a simple stroll through my small town down to a beach on the Bay. I passed our local elementary school, where children were playing at recess, their joyful sounds unencumbered with the weight of the adult world. I ambled past the home of our fierce small-town lesbian neighbor with its garden and the sign post that reads:
In this house we believe:
Black Lives Matter.
Women’s Rights Are Human Rights.
No Human Is Illegal.
Science Is Real.
Love Is Love.
Kindness Is Everything.
Thank goodness for fierce small-town lesbians!
Onward I go past the more upscale homes on the ridge overlooking the Bay, through a park, and down the hill to the railroad tracks by the water, past the fishermen on the rocks, the sandy beach with its lone tree (called Lone Tree Point on the maps), back through downtown with its tiny library and up the hill home.
By this time, I haven’t forgotten the daily news, but I have begun to reflect upon the healing miracle of walking and the gratitude I feel that I remain able enough to walk as I will. My grandfather, in his later years, was dependent on crutches, refused a wheelchair, and could barely walk through the rooms of his apartment. It mattered little that it was a luxurious condo by the Bay in a wealthy enclave just north of Miami. For him, it was little more than a beautifully upholstered prison cell, made bearable only by the presence of my grandmother. But that is a digression: my point is that I know the value of walking and don’t take it for granted.
My earliest childhood memories are of the walk past the Little League Field to my elementary school, and the excitement I felt when I was old enough to learn there were different ways to reach my neighborhood destinations: through the park and past the ball field, or along Homer Street past Mrs. Fineberg’s rose garden, or two blocks out of the way to Water Street whose houses were made mysterious by the amazing fact that I didn’t know who lived there. Our childhood walks, from first steps to Grandma’s waiting arms, to forays across a field to a schoolhouse, form our consciousness and teach us to map the world, as Proust understood so well. Remember the Overture to À la recherche du temps perdu? It is unfashionable among my writer friends to admire Proust, but I urge you to take a walk along The Guermantes Way if only for a little distance. There is nothing like it in all of literature.
Like a good walk, this essay meanders, and as it does so, the emotional tightness brought on by the thought of Kushner’s perfidy loosens its hold a bit on my soul and the day grows brighter.
I remember a great old song by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee: “Walk On,” of course:
Walk on! Walk on!
Walk on! Walk on!
I’m gonna keep on walking
Till I find my way back home.
Simple wisdom for troubled times: walk on. Like Ishmael taking to the sea, I take to the walk around the block.
Are you a writer who walks? Like my friend Dhami Boo, one of the great wanderers of his generation? Or another casual acquaintance, the writer Kevin Sessums, who wrote the marvelous memoir I Left It on the Mountain about his experience walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostelo?
Think about it. It’s magical.
I feel better after my walk, and this meandering figurative walk of an essay, and Jared Kushner can go fuck himself.
Rumpus original logo and artwork by James Lorenzato, aka Argyle C. Klopnick (ACK!).
“The Storming Bohemian Punks the Muse” was originally developed as a column under the editorship of Evan Karp at Litseen. An earlier incarnation of this work can be found there, along with many other interesting things.