Monday, October 25, 2021

The Never-Ending Adventures of the WP

beach feet
Going home for Aunt Cynthia's funeral was the right thing to do. I got to stand in the sand with waves at my feet. I got to sit on the jetty for a while, then stand on the boardwalk talking to my maternal cousins the whole time. I got to eat real Chinese food, and watch the 11 o'clock, not the 10 o'clock news which even after decades in the midwest still feels weird. 

The funeral was incredible, if only because my paternal family was gathered in front of our family plot to see the last space in the front row receive its precious cargo. My cousin Howard summed it up tidily when he said, very simply, "We're next."  

The traditional post-funeral meal of consolation was at Ben's, this time the one in Bay Terrace. Yes, there were copious amounts of pastrami involved. And half-sour pickles. And coleslaw. Lots and lots of coleslaw, all of which reminded me that my palate has never changed and never will.

Going home for about 34 hours was good medicine. I returned to flyover land refreshed, my soul re-invigorated amidst the trials of getting a book out the door. Heading to the airport, I was wiped out. 

I got to JFK way too early for my flight. I stopped at the Delta Club to try to beg my way in without a platinum Amex. It wasn't looking too good when a soft, low, melodious voice came from behind partition beside the gatekeeper said, "It's all right, she's my companion." Turns out, the voice had a companion slot on his ticket and he gave it to me.

Walking around to thank him, he really stood way taller than me, and looked like he stepped off the cover of one of those romance novels. I told him he was my hero. He demurred. I said, "That's it; you're in the next novel." He smiled. OMG. And said, "I'm game."

I shoulda given him my card. But if the truth be known, he thought he was helping some little old crazy lady. Oh, to be 25 again! 

Misha gig
And speaking of being young again, the Senior Son came into town for Little Miss's 7th birthday. Having the Senior Son around even for a little while was good medicine after the stress of last week. Without a doubt, Little Miss and Young Sir were thrilled to have their uncle wrapped about their little fingers. Senior Son 
stayed long enough to play a jam gig tonight with the incomparable Moses Oakland at the Midway Saloon in St. Paul. 

I hadn't seen him play since before the pandemic, so I talked my cutie neighbor, Soccer Guy, into taking me to the bar to surprise my kid. Boy, was he surprised! And he wasn't the only one. Soccer Guy surprised me with a couple of roses from the rose peddler at the end of the evening. Truth be known, I'm old enough to be his grandmother....but I had a really good time and I appreciated his humoring me. For the record, Surly Furious is really delicious. 

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the book is launched. 

The new website is up and running:  S. J. Schwaidelson: The Author Is In

website banner

And a new Instagram page: sjschwaidelson

Please come visit the new pages. Follow. Like. Subscribe. These things are important to an author. Of course, buy the book. I'm told that you cannot put it down. 
Available in both Kindle and paperback:

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

IF you happen to be in theTwin Cities area, 
we're having a reading and book signing 
on November 9th,  7-8:30 p.m. 
at Beth Jacob Congregation, 
1179 Victoria Curve, Mendota Heights, MN. 

Monday, October 18, 2021

THE POMEGRANATE: Beginnings and Endings

This has been an uncommon week, full of beginnings  and endings, some  personal, some familial, and some public. The loss of Colin Powell is the public loss, and a great loss for all America. 

The true high point of this week is THE POMEGRANATE. I'm sure some of you are tired of me talking about the damn book, and I have to admit, I am, too. (Just kidding. I love talking  about this book.) But this week, I have to talk about it because it went live on Amazon, and IngramSpark...the distributor for bookstores and libraries. The paperback has already started to sell, which is encouraging. The ebook went up a bit later because of a tiny glitch in the cover, but it's fixed now and it's out there in all its glory. 

I was asked about launching a book, whether it was like giving birth, and  I had to say no. It's more like sending your kid to kindergarten. You worry about the kid, you worry about the other kids liking your kid, you worry about exposure, you worry about everything! After three novels, I can tell you with absolute certainty that authors don't sleep during launch week. We don't. Other  authors have told me the same thing. This is scary stuff. You are totally putting your heart and soul out there for others to examine up close and personal. Nerve-wracking is a mild word for the experience. 

As if that was not enough, we also launched my new website this week: 

I am incredibly indebted to my friend Jen Tocker for hocking me into insensibility to get the website done. She had the patience of a saint while I hemmed, hawed, dragged feet, and whined a lot. Now that it's done, I love it. Sean Murphy, my favorite photog, made me look almost human. AND I got to use my photo of my beach for the cover. You can write to me there and I will answer. I'm good at that. Any distraction from writing is a good distraction. 

Coming soon to the website will be a news page. It won't take the place of this steamroller, but I will be writing a bit about the process and progress of new books, as well as posting assorted stuff of interest. And yes, novel #4 is about 3/4 done. (Ask me about smut sometime.)

Bridesmaid Cynthia,
not yet a bride
Tomorrow morning I am flying home to say goodbye to my Tante. 
The ending I knew would happen but didn't want to believe ever could, came late Saturday night, when my Tante left the building. I'm sure she's over at Aunt Ruthie's drinking martinis with her big sister...alongside her beloved Lenny, my Dad, Uncle Marc, Ziggy, and Grandpa Moishe...while Grandma Sarah pulls disapproving faces...and my Mom laughs. My dad's baby sister, she was the most feisty 97-year young person you could imagine. She had a laugh that invited others in. She was so beautiful. She had great pins and loved to dance. She taught me how to cook. My Tante was my touchstone. She was the safe haven when this teenager was rebelling against her mother. And my kids totally adored her.  

As soon as I had the proof copies of The Pomegranate in hand, I printed some pictures of the grandkiddos, tucked them into the book, and shipped it off priority mail. She got  it on Friday. Not the greatest picture of my beautiful Tante, but one I will treasure for obvious reasons. She was so excited to hold the book in her hands....especially since it was the second book in the family this week. (The first one is PENIS POLITICS, by Karen Hinton, her daughter-in-law, but more about that closer to her publication date.) I am so thankful she got to see it and the latest pictures of the kiddos. 
Going home to the beach on the south shore of Long Island (two very distinct words, thank you very much) always makes everything all better. It does. It's the essence of going home for me, and I don't get there often enough, especially since the pandemic. I will fly home home, cousins from my Mom's side (who still live in the same town as Tante did,) will pick me up at Kennedy. 

I won't be running to Elmont like I usually do to see the folks. Instead, we're going to the beach because the beach really does make everything all better.

We'll all go over to Beth David for the graveside service on Wednesday. Tante will join Uncle Lenny, my folks, my grandparents, my other aunt and uncle and lots of cousins in the family plot. And I will put little rocks on all the headstones. Tradition.

The Wifely Person's  Tip o'the Week
Yeah, I know; you can't go home again,
but every so often, it's good to stand in the sand.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Pillow Talk: The Ultimate Conversation

 If I had any brains at all, I would write: NO INTRO TODAY a la Ziggy, and take the day off. 

The past week has been stressful in the best possible sense, and Sunday, the proof copies of THE POMEGRANATE arrived. Holding the book in my hands is always a total turn on and thrill. There is something uniquely satisfying about holding that physical entity in your hands. Of course, I refuse to read it. Not that it's not good, but I immediately start editing in my head and that's not good. Nope. You just gotta stop when the words are printed on the page. 

The journey of this book from inception to completion has been a long and, for the most part, exceptionally thrilling one for me. It began with a tiny story about a 12th century Jewish girl. Almost nothing is known about the lady except she was snatched on the way to her wedding and ultimately returned to Al-Andalus as an old woman. No one knows what happened to her or how she got from one place to the next. But I was intrigued by the snippet. 

There were years of research involved. The Third Crusade was a strange event even in Christian history. Richard the Lionheart was there. Salah Al-Din was there, Maimonides was in Egypt, and despite all the movies and TV dramas, there were a whole lotta Jews in Palaestina during the period. Tiberias and Tzfat were alive with Jewish erudition. It wasn't a stagnant period at all. And Jews came to the aid of Salah Al-Din in an effort to rid the land of the European Crusaders. The more I learned, the more I appreciated the risks taken to retain control of what was then called Palaestina. 

I also came to a deeper understanding and profound respect for women of the period. Eleanor of Aquitaine was a huge presence in the period. She was a piece of work and I love her to bits. She married then annulled her marriage to France's Louis VII, married Henry Plantagenet, produced a passel of kids including Richard the Lionheart and King John (aka Prince John of Robin Hood infamy) amongst others. She outlived Henry II despite his repeated attempts to get rid of her. She was tough, she was direct. She was Queen, and then Regent. No one messed with Eleanor.

Batsheva's (the protagonist) ability to speak her mind is central to THE POMEGRANATE. She had no trouble telling people where to get off the cart. I am equally certain that conversations similar to the ones she has in the book happened between husbands and wives just as they do today. Pillow talk is as ancient as marriage itself. There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to loving partners. That Batsheva can make her opinions crystal clear is not an unheard of skill in any generation; there have always been women like her. G-d willing, there always will be. 

Recently, I was in a conversation about the appearance of the women's rights movement. I maintain that while women's rights have been an issue from day one, it's only in the last 100 or so years, with the advent of mass  media, that our voices have been amplified enough to be heard. This is a no brainer. Granted, the printing press is a big deal if not the actual foundation for mass media, but a bigger deal is having your voice go out over the airwaves to millions of listeners. 

Thinking back to my misspent youth, I can recall with alacrity the first time I heard Bella Abzug giving a speech. Or, rather, a snip of a speech. It was on the evening news. Right around the time she announced she was running for Congress. I don't remember what she said, but I remember how she sounded: like  one of us... a card carrying  member with all the women around me who were beginning to emerge from centuries of gender repression. She said a lot of things during that run, but a couple have remained with me:

People need change. No congressional seat belongs to anyone. It belongs only to the people.


A woman belongs in the house...the House of Representatives 

Battling Bella was my kind of politician: frank, blunt, and open. I even liked her hats...especially her explanation:

I began wearing hats as a young lawyer because it helped me to establish my professional identity. Before that, whenever I was at a meeting, someone would ask me to get coffee.

At one of my first jobs, even though I was a buyer, I was asked to get the coffee at every meeting. I resented it like hell.

The real trick was, Bella didn't say anything new; she said what women were thinking and actually saying for a very long time. Sure, there were glimpses of women who made the system work for them, women like Eleanor of Aquitaine, Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great.....but until mass media happened, no woman ran for and won elected office.

Let me define mass media: anything that can be seen, heard, or read with days of publication or elocution. Books are the beginning, but until women were quoted (and usually vilified) in the press, heard on radio, and ultimately seen on television, gender roles were pretty much immutable. But that did not mean women were silent. 

The story of Batsheva Hagiz may be fiction, but what she demands of herself and of the people around her is neither new nor anachronistic. The bedtime conversations she has are ones that any woman could've had with an intimate partner at any time during history. Just look at Lysistrata. Sure, it may be an ancient Greek comedy, but it didn't spring from the brow of Aristophanes without some basis in reality.

Here's a fun-filled factoid you probably didn't know. The same year, 411 B.C.E.,  that Lysistrata was produced, another one of Aristophanes plays also made it to the stage: Women at the Thesmophoria. This one is a parody of Athenian society, focusing on the subservient role of women in Athens. Euripides is totally targeted by Aristophanes because of the way women are portrayed in his works. That the second play exists oughta be proof enough that women have been on the edge of revolt for a long time, and the men knew it. 

Even though the plays were produced and audiences attended, we don't know much about public reception because no one printed up the reviews and posted them on FaceBook or Twitter. We may have the scripts, which is a good thing, because that's shining a light onto the sneaky notion that none of this is really new. What is new is the aspect of broadcasting gender inequality. That really only goes back to 1869 when John Stuart Mill, a member of the British Parliament, published his essay on THE SUBJECTION OF WOMEN. The key word here is PUBLISHED. In print. On paper. Available to read. This is a huge step. But he does something else revolutionary as well: he credits his wife and daughter:
As ultimately published it was enriched with some important ideas of my daughter’s and some passages of her writing. But all that is most striking and profound in what was written by me belongs to my wife, coming from the fund of thought that had been made common to us both by our innumerable conversations and discussions on a topic that filled so large a place in our minds.

If you think they didn't lie in bed discussing this stuff, you've never been married/partnered. 

Women have been subjected to subjugation since the beginning of time. There may have been a reason back when the goal was to be reproducing at a rapid rate because children died. Sure, pregnant women probably needed some measure of protection, although in some cultures, you deliver and go back to work the same day. (At least I had a week off when Senior Son was born.) And I get why men felt compelled to protect their families. This is a survival thing. But once clans, towns, villages, and cities are in place, the need diminishes while the subjugation continued unabated. After all, what guy doesn't wanna be an alpha male? Right?

Yet, by the middle of the 19th century, it was pretty routine for women to work. Men died; women had to support families. Necessity demanded women take on other roles. By the middle of the 20th century, the June Cleaver model was already wearing thin. Father did not always know best. And men still died...or just plain left...and women were de facto head of household. And as late as 1977, I could not get a car loan in my own name. Don't get me started about that.

Them days are gone. But not completely. There is a whole class of deviant men who are working very hard to turn our clocks back to 1902. They call themselves Republican Congressmen. If only their paramours would use pillow talk constructively. 

Read THE POMEGRANATE when it comes out later this week. Next week, there will links to the book and the new website. You'll be richer for the experience. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Learn to spell SCHWAIDELSON.
Before  you know it, that will be a very useful skill.

Monday, October 4, 2021

A Week of Years

I was thinking about a bunch of  random things when I realized Little Miss will turn seven at the end of this month, which means FIL is gone, on the secular calendar, 7 years today. He missed meeting his great-granddaughter by 17 days. That always bothered me, and sometimes, when I write about "Little Miss," the phrase has a slightly sad twist to it: he missed meeting her by just a little miss.

Seven is a week's worth of years. So much has happened in that span of time, yet FIL's departure seemed to have happened only yesterday. There's a whole bunch of stuff I am relieved that he missed, and he's probably relieved that he missed it...if he's still thinking about this place. I'm certain he would be thrilled with how the boys are now. And that weird laugh he had would be heard often in response to Little Miss and Young Sir. That Little Miss is a budding scientist/engineer would launch him over the moon. 

John and Rudy. Great couple.
What would launch him over a different moon is the investigation into Feckless Former's attempted coup. Yes, it was an attempted coup. As the investigation digs into the events leading up to January 6, 2021, a name emerged most people hadn't haven't before: John Eastman. This is a guy we need to know more about, but Americans of all parties need to know about the memo he wrote and provided to the Feckless White House. According to multiple sources, including CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, the memo was obtained by Bob Woodard and Robert Costa. I am reprinting it in its entirety because it is not to be believed that a lawyer provided this to the White House and Department of Justice as a roadmap for overturning the presidential election:


January 6 scenario 

7 states have transmitted dual slates of electors to the President of the Senate.

The 12th Amendment merely provides that “the President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted.” There is very solid legal authority, and historical precedent, for the view that the President of the Senate does the counting, including the resolution of disputed electoral votes (as Adams and Jefferson did while Vice President, regarding their own election as President), and all the Members of Congress can do is watch. 

The Electoral Count Act, which is likely unconstitutional, provides: 

If more than one return or paper purporting to be a return from a State shall have been received by the President of the Senate, those votes, and those only, shall be counted which shall have been regularly given by the electors who are shown by the determination mentioned in section 5 of this title to have been appointed, if the determination in said section provided for shall have been made, or by such successors or substitutes, in case of a vacancy in the board of electors so ascertained, as have been appointed to fill such vacancy in the mode provided by the laws of the State; but in case there shall arise the question which of two or more of such State authorities determining what electors have been appointed, as mentioned in section 5 of this title, is the lawful tribunal of such State, the votes regularly given of those electors, and those only, of such State shall be counted whose title as electors the two Houses, acting separately, shall concurrently decide is supported by the decision of such State so authorized by its law; and in such case of more than one return or paper purporting to be a return from a State, if there shall have been no such determination of the question in the State aforesaid, then those votes, and those only, shall be counted which the two Houses shall concurrently decide were cast by lawful electors appointed in accordance with the laws of the State, unless the two Houses, acting separately, shall concurrently decide such votes not to be the lawful votes of the legally appointed electors of such State. But if the two Houses shall disagree in respect of the counting of such votes, then, and in that case, the votes of the electors whose appointment shall have been certified by the executive of the State, under the seal thereof, shall be counted.

This is the piece that we believe is unconstitutional. It allows the two houses, “acting separately,” to decide the question, whereas the 12th Amendment provides only for a joint session. And if there is disagreement, under the Act the slate certified by the “executive” of the state is to be counted, regardless of the evidence that exists regarding the election, and regardless of whether there was ever fair review of what happened in the election, by judges and/or state legislatures. 

So here’s the scenario we propose:

1.  VP Pence, presiding over the joint session (or Senate Pro Tempore Grassley, if Pence recuses himself), begins to open and count the ballots, starting with Alabama (without conceding that the procedure, specified by the Electoral Count Act, of going through the States alphabetically is required).

2.  When he gets to Arizona, he announces that he has multiple slates of electors, and so is going to defer decision on that until finishing the other States. This would be the first break with the procedure set out in the Act. 

3.  At the end, he announces that because of the ongoing disputes in the 7 States, there are no electors that can be deemed validly appointed in those States. That means the total number of “electors appointed” – the language of the 12th Amendment -- is 454. This reading of the 12th Amendment has also been advanced by Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe (here). A “majority of the electors appointed” would therefore be 228. There are at this point 232 votes for Trump, 222 votes for Biden. Pence then gavels President Trump as re-elected

4.   Howls, of course, from the Democrats, who now claim, contrary to Tribe’s prior position, that 270 is required. So Pence says, fine. Pursuant to the 12th Amendment, no candidate has achieved the necessary majority. That sends the matter to the House, where the “the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote . . . .” Republicans currently control 26 of the state delegations, the bare majority needed to win that vote. President Trump is re-elected there as well.

5.  One last piece. Assuming the Electoral Count Act process is followed and, upon getting the objections to the Arizona slates, the two houses break into their separate chambers, we should not allow the Electoral Count Act constraint on debate to control. That would mean that a prior legislature was determining the rules of the present one — a constitutional no-no (as Tribe has forcefully argued). So someone – Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, etc. – should demand normal rules (which includes the filibuster). That creates a stalemate that would give the state legislatures more time to weigh in to formally support the alternate slate of electors, if they had not already done so.

6. The main thing here is that Pence should do this without asking for permission – either from a vote of the joint session or from the Court. Let the other side challenge his actions in court, where Tribe (who in 2001 conceded the President of the Senate might be in charge of counting the votes) and others who would press a lawsuit would have their past position -- that these are non-justiciable political questions – thrown back at them, to get the lawsuit dismissed. The fact is that the Constitution assigns this power to the Vice President as the ultimate arbiter. We should take all of our actions with that in mind. 

But wait, there's more. According to the Woodward/Costa book, PERIL  Eastman met with VP Pence and his chief counsel, Gregory Jacob
Mr. Eastman recalled getting in touch with Mr. Pence’s legal counsel Mr. Jacob the next day about whether Mr. Pence could delay the certification.
“I think Jacob was looking for a way for he and Pence to be convinced to take the action that we were requesting, and so I think he continued to meet with me and push back on the arguments and hear my counters, what have you, to try and see whether they could reconcile themselves to what the president had asked,” Mr. Eastman said.
When do we get to use the word, TREASON?

One would think I have had enough of the bull-oney.

Yes. More than enough. 

However, we came very close to a coup. Waaaaaay too close. 

Now, I know a lot of you called me alarmist and other fun, yet similar, names back when I was hocking about this two years ago, but the bottom line is that I was spot on in calling the lead up to the election and the actions subsequent to November 3rd, 2020 groundwork for a coup d'etat. 

Doesn't really much matter to me what one's politics are so long as they are pro-democracy. Hell, my dad was a Republican. The party ain't the point. My biggest worry right now is that come the next election, a large swath of the US population won't remember what democracy is about and will attempt to put the Orange Tide back in the White House.  

As I write, I know there is a damn good chance Feckless Former is going to try to block the memo and other documents from being entered in evidence in the investigation. I can only trust the Federal Court system to do its job and allow the investigation to proceed. This may be optimistic thinking, but I really want to be right on this one. 

Meanwhile, we remain standing at the very edge of a precipice and as such, we have choices: we can be lemmings and hurl ourselves over the ledge, or we  can stand up, turn around, and take this country back in another, more voter-oriented direction that would require the rollback of voter suppression laws. 

And that's a whole 'nother issue by itself. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Like maps? 
Have I got  a map for you!
Welcome to the world of The Pomegranate
Thank you, Martin Jan Månsson!