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The security of a backseat

When we were kids, there was no money for fancy summer camps so my parents would pack us up into the back seat of the grey dodge or the blue chevy in late July and head for the States. As children we thrilled at a new adventure, believing, I suppose it was somewhat exotic.

My mother lugged the heavy suitcases while my sister and I danced around her, excited to be going on a trip. We could hardly wait to get in the car; however, by hour one, I was proclaiming, ” I’m bored, “and their response would be , faintly annoyed, “ Pat, just look out the window”. My sister would cuddle bowwowwoof woof, her ratty dog, occasionally puking on him if the ride got rocky.

I recall those days – in spite of this intro – as very special, time together when we chanced on or visited new places such as the immense Paul Bunyon statue, the Hayden Planetarium, Fort Lauderdale , Boca Raton or especially, Batavia, New York near Buffalo : the home of the special toy store my parents had located. We often stayed at Howard Johnson’s and ate our meals out: all very exciting for a pair of city kids. In the confines of the car, we played games, napped, or cuddled with our mother. Perhaps it was the embryonic start of my desire to leave home and discover new locations, experience freshly in spite of my grumpiness of always being bored.

I recall vividly one of my choices at the toy store and the feel of the make -it -yourself leather kit that contained a small change purse, key ring and fold over wallet ; and the Calling All Girls magazine in a motel smoke shop that my father let me select. These times have burned into my memory and of all the days of my growing up shine out through other darker events.

These days when we visit our daughter on the long drive to Philadelphia, it’s a bit similar as often I climb into the back seat, and often I will bring an unread copy of Vogue to pass the 8-10 hours,  depending on whether Howard gets lost or not.

Last weekend en route to visit our new granddaughter with the wondrous name Remy, we listened to Marc Maron interview Norman Lear. At 92, his mind is crystal clear and still producing new revelations on his life. He described how his father was jailed and his mother abandoned him at a young age , but with no trace of malice,laughingly referring to his father as a ” scoundrel” as if he had hidden the cookies in the jam jar. He continues on about the impact of missing parents , but not with discontent or anger, having arrived at a place of solace and understanding. For some, this process of finding serenity never occurs. His life’s work in television that tackled the biases in society such as Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, All in the Family, etc. are legend. He has presented the importance of the individual with all its warts and imperfections, comprehending the good and the bad in each one of us, simple yet so complicated human beings: tossed cupcakes of a variety of coloured sprinkles and nuts.

Later as we tuned into This American Life, we also heard Lindy West, journalist, outspoken feminist and film critic discuss the Trolls who via the internet attack her, harassing her for not only her stand on rape but also her weight and appearance. She wonders why these techno- followers choose to painfully lampoon people whom they have never met and who have done them absolutely no harm, just taking exception to posted piece with which they disagree. She revealed she has been continually attacked for her views,but one speared barb actually pierced her otherwise made-tough skin, most hurtfully because it entwined her dead father, a musician she adored.
She Expressed her feelings in The Guardian as well,

“My dad was special. The only thing he valued more than wit was kindness. He was a writer and an ad man and a magnificent baritone (he could write you a jingle and record it on the same day) – a lost breed of lounge pianist who skipped dizzyingly from jazz standards to Flanders and Swann to Lord Buckley and back again – and I can genuinely say that I’ve never met anyone else so universally beloved, nor do I expect to again. I loved him so, so much.,”

Instead of just ignoring  her troll as the biz tells writers not to feed them by answering them, West responded.She communicated her pain and he actually apologized, merely explaining that he was at a bad point in his own life and he needed someone to attack. She weeps quietly on air, the grief seeping through her mumbled words that suggest something pure, private and personal has been ripped from her and been sullied by a Troll with an axe to grind. The cruelty levelled at her, pointless, rueful, sharp , and stinging has found its target: for no real reason. She has been a handy place to shoot the dart.

In her telephone call to her attacker on This American Life, she finds he is not a bad sort and although he mildly apologize, she writes reflectively again,

“We talked for two-and-a-half hours. He was shockingly self-aware. He told me that …he hated me because, to put it simply, I don’t hate myself. Hearing him explain his choices in his own words, on his own voice, was heartbreaking and fascinating. He said that, at the time, he felt fat, unloved,  and purposeless. For some reason, he found it easyto take that out on women on line… I asked why. What made women easy targets?…But he did explain how he changed. He started taking care of his health, he found a new girlfriend and, most importantly, he went back to school to become a teacher.

I didn’ mean to forgive him, but I did.”

We wonder at the cruelty of being an anonymous attacker, the cowardice of these betrayals that can even fell the hard veneer of those in the public eye. Lindy’s troll seemed a bit amazed, promising these Internet attacks will,stop, that he is not a woman hater,and that he even likes female co-workers with whom he works. Thoughtless actions by a person only interested in their own needs, blissfully uncaring that there is a real person receiving his barbs,a mouthful of thick spit that lands in the face of someone who displays an opinion.

These podcasts bring so much to the listener, whether sitting on the bus, riding a bike or in the backseat of the car careening towards Philadelphia. The world as global village is a truism. What impresses is the multifaceted approaches taken by interviewers and the range of topics. We also heard 30 minutes on earwax!😎

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