Joe wrote this to his various email correspondents:
Friends, comrades, fellow workers,
I am writing this note to all those I have been working with on my various projects up to the present. There are too many just now and I am feeling overwhelmed, probably exacerbated by the COVID restrictions, the wildfire smoke, the continuing crisis in my union, a lack of proper exercise, and the general instability of our world just now (not to mention incipient fascism, impending economic depression, continuing “law enforcement” murders, etc.).
Therefore, I have decided to take at least a month to radically cut back to these few tasks:
1. Finishing the book with Helena Worthen, (working title: The Fifth Transition: A Strategy for the Contingent Faculty Movement)
2. Keeping up with COCAL UPDATES, the news aggregator I have done for 20 years. (This means reading my email, but deleting lots.)
3. Maintaining the Labor For Bernie Bay Area list and periodic news messages, with my valued partner Larry Hendel.
4. Planning and executing the long-delayed ride around the Bay following the nearly-completed Bay Trail on my bike. This last, of course, depends on both the climate/weather/wildfires cooperating and the reopening post COVID of hotels, campgrounds and eateries. I will be sending out an itinerary to my friends who bicycle with an invitation to join me on all or part of the ride. If you want to get it, just reply to this email.
5. More regular exercise and recreation (yoga, biking, walking, personal bodily and psychological maintenance) and some socializing with old and new friends and family.
I apologize in advance for the inevitable inconvenience this will cause my many “partners in crime”. What follows is a hopefully-complete list of the projects I will be absent from for this duration. I thank in advance all those who will inevitably have to perform the tasks that I will not for this period.
AFT 2121 Exec Bd rep for retirees Affirmative /Action Task Force and “white guys” affinity group AFT 2121R secretary Informal working group on taxes work on Prop 15, 16 and 22 and candidate campaigns
other ad hoc subgroups in and around Local 2121 and Local 2121 R
Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor (COCAL) International Advisory Committee
New Faculty Majority Board and various subgroups thereof
East Bay Democratic Socialists of America Labor Committee (and the education subcommittee thereof) Emergency Worker Organizing Committee Higher Educators United coalition
Various writing, editing and reviewing projects
Thanks to you all in advance. I am trying today and tomorrow to wrap up the essential loose ends before my partial “exit”. I realize this a largely a problem of my own creation and I am finally deciding to attempt to take some action to correct it. I expect that, when I return, it will be in a better state of mind than when you last encountered me. I certainly hope so. Feel free to share this with relevant folks I may have missed.
I go missing
It was definitely related to the COVID-19 thingie which has been going on for seven months now, but then the wildfires and the black sky and the evil air were really too much. Of course that’s nothing compared to places where people are actually getting burned up. And it’s nothing compared to Chernobyl (a name that kept coming into my mind as I started to lose it this week) or Sudan, or Katrina (would I have broken through the roof of my house in the 9th ward and waved for someone in a boat or a helicopter to come pick me up?), nothing! Or all those migrants on boats trying to get from Libya to Malta.
Do most kids who try to imagine who they would be in a different time Egypt, the Pharoahs, for example) imagine they were princesses? Or do they picture themselves on an overloaded boat in the Mediterranean?
So I was trying to sew a pair of black linen pants. I ordered the linen from StoneMountain Daughter, 2 yards at $23 per yard, Venice Black. It said “wash cold hang dry,” but nothing I wear doesn’t go through the hot and the dryer at some point, so I always wash cloth before I sew it. It turned out that it sure did have a lot of filler and clogged up the drain, but that was OK.
I cut the pattern and made adjustments. I filled a new bobbin. My sewing machine is my grandmother’s, 1926 or earlier; a Singer, totally good machine but it doesn’t sew backwards. No problem.
The washed and dried linen, it turned out, was very hairy. It stuck in the bobbin. Also, I had the wrong thread. But nevertheless. I sewed. Tuesday, Wednesday. The problem with black is that with a hazy sky, there’s not enough light to really see what you’re doing. Also, I’m 76 years old and my eyesight is not magnificent. Also, I’m sewing with black thread on black linen. Furthermore, one thing I like to do with pants and many other items is French seams — you first sew it one way, then you reverse it and sew the seam the other way so that the raw edge is inside. That helps if you intend to put it all in the wash some day. But which is the right side and which is the wrong side? And I also like inseam pockets, which requires a certain amount of thinking ahead.
So a pair of pants that should have taken an hour to cut and an hour to sew were well into 6 hours this afternoon of the second day. And I began to have thoughts like this:
If I were the Queen of England, I wouldn’t be doing this. I would have someone else do it for me.
If I were the Queen of England, or maybe what if I am actually the Queen of England, and they haven’t notified me?
Or maybe I’m just Meghan married to Henry, right, and they haven’t notified me?
That’s Trump, who is messing with the Post Office, and he’s doing it again, that’s why I haven’t gotten my notification.
At this point I began to have a little critical distance on my thought process.
But still, given the pandemic and the wildfires, it didn’t seem altogether like such a terrible idea. So I went with it. What’s the problem, here? Mistaken identity!! They think I’m Helena Worthen trying to sew a pair of linen pants, and having to take out a whole goddamn seam that I sewed back to front or back to back, but actually I’m British royalty.
Who can I tell about this? Who can I confide in? Who can I trust? Not Joe. He wouldn’t want to be married to British Royalty. He didn’t even want to be married to someone who owns a house!! (He has calmed down about that.) So who can I tell about who I truly am, but just haven’t been notified? Can I tell the kids? The son in LA wouldn’t care; sounds like more responsibility, actually. Daughter might want more details if it involves dragons. Grandkids might enjoy it — but practically speaking, what does it involve? Any nice property? How far away? Does it have internet?
So actually, if I’m here in Berkeley on day two of trying to sew a pair of black linen pants while I’m actually British Royalty gone missing, it’s just one step from mistaken identity to joining the Witness Protection Service and really go missing. In fact, if I remember correctly, WPS comes with a ticket out of California to some Dream Vacation Location like Chicago where there are no wildfires, yet. The house two down from us in Chicago, on Flournoy, for example, was definitely a Witness Protection housing joint. I explored it one late afternoon while it was still under construction — five stories, huge master bedroom and big bathroom, deep garage for multiple vehicles. When they finished the construction it got locked up tight, no more exploring, you couldn’t see in anywhere, tight as a drum. No windows into the garage. A camera looking at me.
Then two giant tractor trailer trucks arrived with furniture from Marshall Fields and it all got loaded in in one day, everything from sofas to drapes to light fixtures. Then it shut back down again for a couple of months until Columbus Day when there was an Italian-American festival on the street and a big family came out and sat on the steps and everyone waved. They didn’t mingle, though. Then they went back in and locked the doors.
That’s the life for me.