Gate A-4 by Naomi Shihab Nye

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning
my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement:
"If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please
come to the gate immediately."

Well—one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just
like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. "Help,"
said the flight agent. "Talk to her. What is her problem? We
told her the flight was going to be late and she did this."

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly.
"Shu-dow-a, Shu-bid-uck Habibti? Stani schway, Min fadlick, Shu-bit-
se-wee?" The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly
used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled
entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the
next day. I said, "No, we're fine, you'll get there, just later, who is
picking you up? Let's call him."

We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would
stay with his mother till we got on the plane and ride next to
her. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just
for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while
in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I
thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know
and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling of her life, patting my knee,
answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool
cookies—little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and
nuts—from her bag—and was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the
lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same powdered
sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.

And then the airline broke out free apple juice from huge coolers and two
little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they
were covered with powdered sugar, too. And I noticed my new best friend—
by now we were holding hands—had a potted plant poking out of her bag,
some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country tradi-
tion. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This
is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that
gate—once the crying of confusion stopped—seemed apprehensive about
any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women, too.

This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

Here's a story about information exchange 

Last night's bedtime conversation included the mention of German as a lingua franca. D said he just likes any time a "lingua franca" is something other than French.

"Well it wasn't French anyway," I said even though I know he knows this. "It was Frankish."

D mused, "I wonder if that Frank is related to 'let me be frank'."

"I do not know." I was still holding my phone (which had showed us an old IPA chart that had started this part of the conversation), even while I was now the little spoon.

"it's only my sleepy wonderings," D said. "You don't have to look it up."

"Too late," I said.

Short silence as I skimmed a paragraph. Then I said "Sort of."

"Okay, that's good enough!" D said and turned the light off. I put my phone down and laughed.

It's something I appreciate so much when he does it: when I ask him some no-doubt horrifyingly dim question about computers or something and I can see him thinking okay how many big steps back do I need to take to simplify this sufficiently? And he's very good at getting that about right, which is nice because I get overloaded and frustrated very easily by information I don't know what to do with. The least I can do is offer him the same in return.

After all, it's a Gricean he knows well because that is a linguistic thing I've rattled on about at him in some detail.

musings on queer language use and a call to action 

I value the specificity of labels -- I never would've called myself trans if I couldn't have called myself agender first. But I also value the expansive affinity I feel with labels like bi (which includes for example all the pan people, all the "anyone but cis men" people, biromantic people, the people who like certain presentations no matter the gender, or certain genders no matter the presentation, and countless more).

I can appreciate the coziness of precision and unity in queer labels, and I seek the widest possible coalition. Clearly both have value to queer people's live. But one of the failure modes of that specificity is that it can exclude people it shouldn't.

If we talk like "the straights" are the enemy, we're lumping together those who have institutional power over us (the real enemy!) with straight trans people, with bi people in mixed-gender relationships, with people who aren't out yet maybe even to themselves. And so many more. Blaming "straight people" is not always punching up.

It's fine to be straight, just like it's fine to be cis. Just as it's fine that some people introspect about their gender and come out of the process certain that they are in fact happy with the one assigned them at birth, it's fine that some people have considered their orientation and not taken it for granted and are still straight.

I know it's easy to equate "gay" with good and "straight" with bad. And I know we're all tired and thinking about this is tiring. I know some of this happens in jokes and shitposts that I'll no doubt be told to take less seriously (even though this isn't about me). But I also know we're also doing harm to queer community by talking like this. I've seen it happen today. And I know we can do better.

Just before the bedtime conversation got to that silly pun, I'd mentioned a story I'd written a long time ago, where I deconstructed words like "meteor" and translated the parts into another language, to make something sound odd and yet understandable.

Tonight I went looking for that little story and re-read it. (And gave myself the pleasure of looking at lots of other writing this old, things I don't remember writing and don't think I could do today!) Here it is.

Why Are Your Poems so Dark? By Linda Pastan

Isn't the moon dark too,
most of the time?

And doesn't the white page
seem unfinished

without the dark stain
of alphabets?

When God demanded light,
he didn't banish darkness.

Instead he invented
ebony and crows

and that small mole
on your left cheekbone.

Or did you mean to ask
"Why are you sad so often?"

Ask the moon.
Ask what it has witnessed.

Erik boosted

> From "Fairies and How to Avoid Them" by Miss Perspicacia Tick:

> The origin of the Nac Mac Feegle is lost in the famous Mists of Time. They say that they were thrown out of Fairyland by the Queen of the Fairies because they objected to her spiteful and tyrannical rule. Others say they were just thrown out for being drunk.

> Little is known about their religion, if any, save for one fact: They think they are dead. They like our world, with its sunshine and mountains and blue skies and things to fight. An amazing world like this couldn’t be open to just anybody, they say. It must be some kind of a heaven or Valhalla, where brave warriors go when they are dead. So, they reason, they have already been alive somewhere else, and then died and were allowed to come here because they have been so *good*.

> This is a quite incorrect and fanciful notion because, as we know, the truth is exactly the other way around.

GNU Terry Pratchett

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Here's something about a writer, rather than writing, but...

Today is apparently seven years since Terry Pratchett died. To call him a favorite writer of mine seems to speak too mildly. He not only came up with so many memorable quotes and ideas but something about them made them easy to internalize.

One is "A man is not dead while his name is still spoken." It's certainly true of him, but a lot more than Terry Pratchett's name is still spoken.

The last time I mentioned "the Trousers of Time" was mere hours ago (I feel like it's rarely more than days).

Just this morning a friend recommended his books as an alternative to people fed up with J.K. Rowling's transphobia ("come to the flat side," she said of the Discworld books, heh).

And a month or two ago, what some of us have known for years as the Vimes Boots theory of economic unfairness has been enshrined as the name of a new price index in the UK (

He still feels so present in our lives and culture. I am very glad of that.

Anyone with a Dreamwidth account can join, feel free!

And of course since it's me it has to have a punny name. Although this one is more obscure, I don't know if it'll make anyone else think of "herd immunity" but that's what I was thinking. :)

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I started a new blogging project.

After some friends mentioned how worried they are now that mask mandates and/or other covid precautions are being abandoned by our various governments, I thought we might benefit from an online group.

We may all be "the only weirdo still wearing a mask or not eating/drinking indoors" IRL, but online there are lots of us, and we can share resources and support -- both specific to the pandemic, and generally for being weird in public!

"Writing isn’t lonely. Writing enables a kind of meaningful, productive solitude, something that has always felt essential to my sanity. The lonely part is trying to Be a Writer, trying to convince yourself and everyone else that you are Someone with Important Things to Say."

I do really like this distinction between Writing and Being A Writer. I can write okay occasionally, but I am not a Writer.

As a Not-Writer, I enjoyed this even though like everything in McSweeney's it is just slightly too repetitious of slightly-too-few jokes. But I'm glad I read it because I love the line "And writing is like carrying around a giant mirror that hates you, promises it loves you, but mostly wants to kill you."

Write Out

A small instance for writers.

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