All the thoughts on a Friday, which has now turned into Saturday

My youngest darling was the burp contest champion at camp this week. He can do, what he calls, "constant burp," and it's pretty impressive if you appreciate that sort of thing. 

I came across and bought this manly tomato today, just after having a really wonderful, fulfilling lunch with a relatively new but total gem of a friend. 

Those two things are not remotely related except that she responded to this picture in this way: "Yes! I love it when I find lewd veggies! This is a fine specimen!" She's a keeper.

I really do feel so terribly rich with friends. Last weekend I was lucky to get to host my online writing group for our first in-person retreat. We've been writing together for a few months now, though several of us have done so before. Ah, the interwebs. But, not all of us had met each other in real life prior to everyone's arrival on Saturday. 

We needn't have worried. It was one of the easiest 48 hours ever and included spending enormous amounts of time in pajamas eating, watching Roger win Wimbledon, leaving the house after more than a day to eat a delicious meal at Ghibellina, and enjoying a last morning together at Politics and Prose (although the customer service in the cafe was staggeringly terrible. Ex: "I'd like that chocolate croissant." With a sneer she replied, "That's not chocolate." My friend: "May I ask what it is?" Reply: "Yes." WTF?!?!) It did not include any writing. Hah!

Champion of champions!

Champion of champions!

The boys returned to Calleva on Monday, and despite the horrific heat wave DC has been steaming in for the past week, they had, as always, a fabulous time. It's such a great camp. They are so filthy at pickup every single day that I send them directly to showers when we get home, no delays. You should see the seats of my car; they've been tinted by their bums this week, the aftermath of literally lolling about in nature, on shore and in the river.

We resumed our 2Amys Monday for pizza and meatballs and sitting in the front window tradition. We've been going there regularly, sometimes weekly, for eleven years, but 2Amys Monday is a Calleva-specific ritual. That's a long time to have a place in your life, and I love that. One of the managers, Darlene, has been there the whole time. She has seen the kids grow up, and we have watched with delight as her commitment to pink winds through hair, nails, outfits, and so on. 

The heat and humidity this week have been tough, even for me and my Louisiana blood. Temps have topped 100 most every day with not a cloud or drop of rain in sight. We have had thunder though; one clap broke a neighbor's glass patio table. And today, Saturday, I'm watching as dark gray clouds roll in like a storm surge from nowhere. The trees keep blowing to near horizontal positions before returning to an eerie stillness. 

Because of the oppressive sultriness, it has felt near impossible to cook. Everyone is basking in cold, raw opportunity: salad, chilled soup, crostini with lots of cheese. I managed to grill pizza one night, and inexplicably (beyond my desperate need to use up a ton of rhubarb) I made some jam. Today, because our tomatoes are going nuts, I passed the black krims through my food mill to make the base for gazpacho and then had the opportunity to use up all my bell peppers, green onion bulbs, and cucumbers.

pain de campagne, burrata, tomatoes, basil, and great olive oil

pain de campagne, burrata, tomatoes, basil, and great olive oil

Not pretty but very delicious gazpacho

Not pretty but very delicious gazpacho

A few days ago I went to Politics and Prose (again) to hear Angela J. Davis in conversation with three of the contributors, Roger Fairfax, Kristin Henning, and Renee McDonald Hutchins, to her new book of essays, Policing the Black Man. Each essay constitutes a different perspective on the racism pervading America's criminal justice system: how black boys and young men are stereotyped and treated by police; implicit bias; various legal viewpoints; the history, present, and possible future of our justice system; and so forth. It was a terrific event, and I look forward to reading the book.

Angela J. Davis and her newest book

Angela J. Davis and her newest book

In other book news, I'm about 2/3 of the way done with Quiet Until the Thaw, and I must say that while there are some beautiful phrases and passages full of wisdom, I am disappointed. I have zero idea why Fuller decided to fictionalize this story. It puts her, as a non-Native American, in the voice of one. I'm not surprised by the flak she's taking from native writers, not least because the style in which she's chosen to write often feels glib. It too frequently feels like a poorly rendered stereotypical description of Indians and reservations- names, headdresses, alcohol abuse... There is a better way to respectfully treat Native American traditions and people in literature although I sincerely believe she has a profound respect for them. Which is why this is disappointing. I wish she'd just written of the months she spent on the Lakota reservation, from her perspective. 

Ok, the rain has passed. God did we need it. Perhaps we'll actually be able to cook something for dinner. Dessert at least. 

Gun violence prevention event and #NRA2DOJ march

As y'all probably know guns are not my favorite invention. They wreak havoc on too many communities in this country, splintering families via death and incarceration, increasing rates of suicide and domestic violence, and holding the NOT illustrious award as second leading cause of death and injury for American children. 

And while the NRA used to be a reasonable organization in support of gun safety, education, and responsibility, it has, since the late 70s, hitched its wagon firmly to the Right-leaning political sphere. While it has continued to budget for education and safety training, the NRA now has an annual budge of "some quarter of a billion dollars, and between 2000 and 2010 it spent fifteen times as much on campaign contributions as gun-control advocates did," according to this October, 2015, New Yorker article. NRA money spent on lobbying peaked in 2015, at nearly $3.7 million, and last year, the organization spent nearly ten times that, $36.3 million, on efforts to help elect Donald Trump. As evidenced by many such behaviors, not least the grotesque video, The Violence of Lies, the NRA recently released, it is an organization that spreads fear and promotes discord, and it makes me exceedingly uncomfortable.

I have, since we moved into Maryland, been increasingly glad to have done so. We have excellent senators, Van Hollen and Cardin, my representative, Jamie Raskin, is terrific, and as I learned last night at a fundraiser for Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, our Attorney General, Brian Frosh, is too. He has worked to make Maryland a progressive, safer, environmentally sound state and a national leader in addressing and attempting to remedy the public health crisis of gun violence. 

MD AG Brian Frosh speaks at a MDPGV fundraiser

MD AG Brian Frosh speaks at a MDPGV fundraiser

AG Frosh spoke about his (largely successful) efforts in leading the fight for the Firearm Safety Act, increasing protections for victims of domestic violence (nationally, many of these assaults involve firearms); and getting assault weapons and other dangerous firearms off of our streets. He is a vocal opponent of the NRA's attempts to weaken or eradicate reasonable gun safety measures like background checks, and I appreciated so much his educated, thoughtful positions and dedication to Maryland and, by extension, the US.

It was a perfect segue to the #NRA2DOJ protest and march I participated in this morning.

Organized by the Women's March leaders, today's event was a direct response to both the horrific lack of justice meted out in the Philando Castile trial (the officer who murdered Castile was acquitted; the NRA took nearly a year to make any public mention of Castile's shooting and death) and also the NRA video I mentioned earlier. Additionally, the Newtown and Pulse nightclub massacres, the deaths of so many black Americans at the hands of police, the gun violence crushing many American cities, and the role of firearms in domestic violence and child death and injury moved many to get out and make our voices heard.

We arrived at the NRA's Virginia headquarters just before 9am. The DC area has been enflamed in a record heat wave this week, and by 10am, temperatures were near 100 with off-the-charts humidity to boot. After a vigorous rally, we all planned to march the 18 miles to the Department of Justice downtown.

There was a moving tribute to the children killed at Sandy Hook and a number of inspiring speakers, well-known and not, rallied us. You should all listen to and follow Tamika Mallory, by the way. She is amazing!

Periodically, some NRA supporters strode around, guns and ammo strapped to their thighs and chests, their signs held high. They were all male and all white. Their signs read:
Free Speech BY ANY MEANS Necessary
and
The Second Amendment Protects the First
and
Free Speech Is Under Attack
and
Patriot Lives Matter

It seems to me that if you're walking around carrying such signs and wearing guns and ammo, you're free speech isn't being thwarted or denied in any way. What does having or not having a gun have to do with patriotism? Not a thing.

I didn't meet one person today who wanted to take all guns away. Not one. Everyone respected the Second Amendment although there was definite discussion on what the Amendment really says and supports (um, not assault weapons).

What we want is regulation. Background checks. Insurance. Education. Training. Safety.

We want perpetrators of domestic violence to NOT be allowed guns. We want mentally ill citizens to be vetted thoroughly before being given firearms. We see no need for enormous magazines and widespread ownership of assault weapons. We want NRA board members to stop saying things like, "If a man can't rape his wife, then who can he rape?"

We do not want guns in our kindergartens or on our college campuses, in our churches or in bars. We do not want our communities militarized. And we are tired of seeing hate militarized in the ways it too often is (see Dylann Roof's massacre of blacks at the Emanual AME Church in Charleston, see Omar Mateen's massacre of LGBTQ folks at Pulse Nightclub, etc)

This isn't a zero sum game. And a huge majority of Americans do want stricter gun regulation. Some can have guns and others can feel safe; both can exist simultaneously. But not in the current situation. 

The march began around 11:45. The heat index had pushed the temp above 100, and the migraine I've had since Tuesday remained lodged in my skull. My friend and I started off but ultimately decided to head home. 18 miles is a long trek, and I have five guests arriving tomorrow morning. I wish I'd been able to march the whole way. Footage from the arrival at the DOJ is very moving. Here's a summary article with some videos and stills. 

But I feel like I'm doing my part in the ways I can: financially, with my voice, with my time, with my feet. Hopefully you are doing your parts too, about the issues you care and are concerned about.