Pamela Harris

Hack December 19, 2014

(photo by AFP)

Last weekend's protest filled twenty blocks. That's a mile-deep group of people that marched up Fifth Avenue, over to Sixth Avenue, up to Thirty-Second Street, and then down Broadway for over thirty blocks. Yet the mainstream press barely covered it. When they did they wrote about a handful of arrests that occurred at the end of the day by a splinter group. That wasn't the real story. It was the gossipy part of the story.

Similar reportage has been playing out regarding the Sony hack. I can't stop reading about it, but not because of the personal details released - these fritter into the air and are done. (This said, I do find interesting the details of men's pay versus women's, and how certain projects come together and fall apart.) It's, an email threat to a movie studio demands the studio pull a movie because it makes fun of the North Korean president, and the movie studio pulls the movie right before its release. What does this mean for freedom of speech? (This story is starting to get traction. I read a great quote by George Clooney: "We cannot be told we can’t see something by Kim Jong-un, of all f*cking people.")

Most of the coverage concerning the hack has focused on how embarrassing the leaked emails have been for those who wrote them. Yet right now, in front of the whole world, a new kind of war is being waged: A cyber war. We have no context for this, since we've never been here before. It's taken almost a month for this aspect of the story to show up on some front pages of mainstream press.

The Sony hack has moved us into the future. We don't know how to fight this war, what the end of it might look like, who else might get yanked into it, or how it might resonate on a global scale. The world we know has changed.

One Year December 7, 2014

(top photo by Joe Villari)

A year ago today, we adopted Ginger. I remember holding her in my lap as we drove down the FDR, her little head pivoting to see all the buildings, the cars, us. She came into our apartment and jumped right on her bed, but it took her a few months before she knew for sure she was home.

She still follows Joe around the house, she often wakes us up in the dead of night to get a pet of reassurance, and she still likes to come down the stairs with her nose wedged against the back of my knee. She's a toucher, this one, which I love. Sometimes I look at her and can't imagine all those years I didn't have a dog.


Joe's niece was in town from LI today to visit Santa at Macy's. It was a two hour wait to get in his lap. I said, "Convert to Judaism and go sit on Hannukah Harry's lap. He's giving out Dreidels. There'll be no wait." She said, "I'm asking Santa for big stuff. Get me Jenga."

A few nights ago there was a staged 'Die-In' at Macy's to protest police brutality and I was relieved nothing happened while the little one was there. However, her older sister went to the Wax Museum with a friend and I thought it would be great if she saw some kind of action or protest. They're from a sheltered area and although the city is a quick train ride away it's a continent away. Chances are they don't know what a Dreidel is. I know the little one would've converted if she did.

Protest December 5, 2014

Last week I had dinner with friends over near the Bowery. While we ate we saw a crowd run by, then a few minutes later the same crowd ran the other way. They were carrying signs, and given the Ferguson verdict had just come out we figured they were heading to Union Square, where most protests begin.

An hour later we finished dinner and I headed west on Prince Street for home. As I neared Broadway I heard chanting. Something felt off and as I got closer I noticed there were no cars, no traffic whizzing by. I reached Broadway and saw a large, angry crowd twenty yards away, heading my way.

To call it a crowd underestimates its size: a mass of people covered all four lanes of Broadway and went north as far as I could see. People were pressed close to each other, stabbing the air with signs, fists screaming skyward, a mix of every ethnicity pounding forward. What struck me most was, without the headlights of cars, Broadway down here at night is dim, and the crowd blended in the grayness into a squat, ferocious war cry.

I quickly crossed Broadway and passed bystanders. Some were quietly passive, some were nervous, and some urged the crowd on with support. I was curious, yet on alert. People were streaming in from either side of Prince Street to join the protest, and as I headed west I could hear the howls and collective chanting for blocks. For some reason the grayness stayed with me, as if the crowd was an apparition appearing from the mist, then disappearing just as mysteriously. It was intense, different than the typical protests I see here. This one was angry.

Over the next few days I kept thinking about it. The Occupy movement washed through our neighborhood as other small protests have. Those groups tended to work their way to Wall Street or the Mayor's office or Foley Square and often came with a side show, i.e. people in costumes, fire eaters, hula hoopers. The Ferguson protest had a fury, but it also had a kind of anonymity that created a solidarity of purpose with the rest of the country, with all the other protests going on. The 20 to early 30-something generation who are often seen as aimless and spoiled - I heard someone refer to them as Generation W as in Wuss - they have found their aim. When it comes to getting their voice out as one, Generation W is not fucking around.

Yesterday, the Eric Garner verdict came down and helicopters started humming overhead at about 5:30. I went out shortly after, heading to a block south of Canal Street, the major thoroughfare in downtown Manhattan. I was with a group in a small room with a window that faced an alley, and despite the buffered walls we could still hear the helicopters, then occasional yells. When we came out around 7:30 Canal Street had what looked like thousands of protestors marching somberly across. Most were women and all were chanting "I can't breathe."

A few of us slowly navigated our way through the march. I wasn't on alert at all; we were amazed and awed by how loud, yet peaceful, how focused, yet calm the crowd was. Traffic leading to Canal was shut down and frozen, resigned to idleness with no where to go. Joe and I had been texting and when I got home he was at the windows taking pictures. The Holland Tunnel was closed, cabs had been abandoned by fares, and, from the kitchen, he could see the protest on Canal. An hour later we heard the tail end of the march turn north, but the helicopters were still whirring when we went to sleep.

This protest didn't seem to have the rage that the Ferguson march had. What it did have that Ferguson didn't is a sense that this is just the beginning. This is a new kind of protest. I don't know when it will end.

WTC December 2, 2014

I was down by the Trade Center recently and saw this structure that, at this stage, feels like Brutalism. Which is conceptually wild given where it is. It's a new transit hub designed by Santiago Calatrava; the two bottom images are renderings by James Ewing of what it's going to look like outside and in. You can see the progress of it here.

This afternoon I watched 'The Usual Suspects' and there was a perfect shot of the Twin Towers. My heart pounded in my chest and I had such a pang of grief. I can see the new tower from my kitchen and notice that I look away when we make eye contact. I avoid the whole area whenever possible.

Here in the city, buildings go up fast. They're putting up a high-end condo at the end of our block and it looks like a new floor gets poured each day. The building site never stops moving; trucks haul debris out in the morning and load new materials in all day. The speed in which things get done here has always amazed me: a few weeks ago a water main broke one block over and in less than an hour traffic was rerouted, the street was dug up and a crew was underground. Blizzards that freeze the rest of the East coast paralyze things her for a day at most, usually only hours. Broken traffic lights get fixed immediately and car crashes get cleared pronto. Despite all its cement and steel, this city feels organic in the magical way it gets things done.

The transit hub is eight years behind schedule and $2 billion over budget. The World Trade Center site has had cranes on it for thirteen years and does not have the goods to show for it. The effect of the towers coming down goes so far beyond the obvious, the emotional, the psychological. It reminds me of when our sweet Opal passed and it took us a week to pick up her water dish. For a very long time we didn't touch her bed or her toys or her collar or her jacket and we still have one of her toys out. She was part of our family. I see her toy every day, but occasionally I'll see her toy and get filled with such a longing, such grief, that my eyes will fill. I think this is what's going on at the WTC. The mind may want progress, but the heart doesn't want that hole filled in or erased. Ever.

Mug Shot December 1, 2014

The weather has turned cold. Overnight. I like it - I'm a rugged New Englander - though Ginger likes it more.

Upstate November 10, 2014

We had been talking about moving.

We talked about moving almost three years ago and even went upstate to check out a few houses. We were looking for a little bit of land where we could listen to birds. Columbia County on the east side of the Hudson had peaked our interest since it was right on the water and looked like Vermont.

The first property we looked at we fell in love with. It was a ten-thousand square-foot barn on five acres. It was a spectacular wreck - you could see the sky through the roof, and an animal, maybe a badger, had cleared a path from a little copse of trees to a snuggly home under the cement floor. But it also had fifty-year old beams and cross beams and a silo and it was sturdy and solid. The circuit breaker box had an afro of wires coming out of it and supposedly a well and septic were already in, and we actually considered buying it for about five minutes. When we put numbers down and estimated what it would take to get in and finish it over time, the basic costs were astronomical.

We kept looking online, but nothing compared to that barn. I found a beauty of a farmhouse with a small barn and it got snatched up fast. Joe got a big freelance gig, I got busy, we kept looking online, and though we found things that were nice, nothing said home.

I'm not sure why or how or what was in the air, but about three months ago Joe and I looked at each other and we knew we were ready to move. I've written about this and that and both, really, are just another bead on the how-New-York-is-changing necklace. Something has shifted here, something has finally given me the push I need to fully commit to leaving. I have been here a very long time and New York City is home. But I am now ready to make home elsewhere.

We've opened our search to the west and east side of the Hudson, within roughly two hours from Manhattan. Last month we looked at houses on the west side of the river and confirmed that there can be a flooding problem in some of the Hudson River towns. (One of my favorite houses had a stone wall in the living room, and when I touched it the stones were wet. Ginger thought it tasted good.) We also saw what the bad economy and lack of employment has done to some of these beautiful towns and to say they're depressed doesn't describe the emptiness that permeates street after street. We'll gladly do up and coming that's rough on the edges, so hopefully by widening our search we'll discover a great little town. There's a lot of movement north right now, so I'm sure eventually we'll find a place that feels like home.

Some of these small towns have Second Empire homes like the one above. (It's not for sale and I believe it's been cut up into six apartments.) Call me crazy, but there's something about a Munster-y house that's perfect. I don't like small rooms or low ceilings and some of these oldsters have been trashed. But sometimes they're exquisite. Look at it! Come for noodle salad!

Halloween 2014 November 1, 2014

The Halloween Parade loads in on our block and those surrounding it and we wondered what Ginger would think of all the antics. On the way home from the dog park she dove into it. For five minutes. Then she saw a spider that smelled like a dog and decided she had enough.

One October 1, 2014

Today, Ginger is one. It's hard to believe the little boogie is a whole year old. No-one knows her exact birth date, but today feels right.

She got a new bed and a new ball, a Turnup that goes haywire when it bounces. (She can destroy a tennis ball in a nanosecond and this ball is sturdier. Plus its crazy bouncing exhausts her.) For lunch she had some homemade braciole and later we'll take her to the dog run to throw her ball some more.

The braciole is her favorite present. Joe's a vegetarian, but every once in a while he cooks what he grew up with for me and the dog. He makes the braciole with meatballs and a sauce and it takes most of the day. Ginger sits on her bed in the kitchen and after about two hours of smelling meat meat meat tries to catch his eye with "Now?" Not now. "Now?" Not now. I roam in and out of the kitchen looking for some dumb excuse to be there and finally Joe puts the water on for the spaghetti. That's when I know we're close. I dive into my seat and Ginger and I stare at each other, both shaking with wait. Joe will cut a small braciole into little pieces to put over her kibble, he'll slice up a fresh Italian bread, and then we all sit down to eat. (Joe makes himself spaghetti and sauce.) We barely speak it's so good.

Uncle Lorrie September 19, 2014

Last week I finally found my way into a project I've been writing. It feels good to be working steadily again. I've been doing this long enough to know that when I'm fumbling around it'll change and I'll break through, so I keep fumbling. Being in a groove feels easier than not being in a groove, yet then my brain buzzes with low level story distraction and I become bad company. I have to make sure I get out enough to keep air moving between my ears.

I've also been a bit of a weepy mess. Each morning as I go about my routine tears inevitably come. Granted - maybe I should have led with this - my uncle Lorrie died last week. The week before was the anniversary of my mother's death. And the week before that was the anniversary of losing our sweet Opal. Most of my family is dead and the only immediate family left is a sister I haven't spoken with since my mother's funeral four years ago. I feel too young to not have a family, so there's definitely grief in the tears. But in there somewhere is also a kind of intuitive knowledge that change is coming. I don't know what it is or what it looks like, but I can feel it.

The Singleton September 1, 2014

(top and middle photos by Joan Sowma, bottom by Joe Villari)

Ginger is what is known as a singleton. It means solo puppy, either from a litter of one or taken from the litter too young. She was found abandoned and alone at about five weeks old, so we don't know if she had siblings or what happened to her mother or where she got her start.

Most dogs don't leave their litter until eight to twelve weeks at the earliest. Those extra weeks give them a chance to learn when the nipping is too hard or not hard enough or inappropriate. They learn impulse control, since they can't eat if their mother won't roll over, and if they steal or guard toys their siblings won't play. They also get security from having a mother around to investigate the world with and have built-in playmates to shred that world to pieces with.

Singletons need a lot of socialization. Ginger (and Opal's) ASPCA foster mother had two grown dogs and a couple of cats, so Ginger got a solid start when she was rescued. When we got her our goal was to mix her with as many dogs as possible, so every day we took her somewhere to play, to meet people, to meet dogs, to get used to city sounds. Being around puppies was key and we'd take her to a weekly puppy play group at Biscuits and Bath where our battering rams would collide and work their crap out with each other.

A month or two ago she started to grab her leash as we neared the end of a walk. Or she'd butt us in the knee with her nose. Occasionally it would escalate into a full on pit fit where she'd start barking and leaping wildly, running in circles, getting down with her butt in the air like she wanted to play. Trying to get her to settle made it worse, so we'd bait her home with treats. Joe eventually called a behavioralist from the ASPCA who remembered Ginger well, and wasn't surprised when Joe described Ginger's actions. "That's common singleton behavior," she said.

It's called arousal. Some dogs get aroused when they're bored, but Ginger seems to when she's tired and overstimulated. At the end or beginning of a walk, if she can't have a chicken bone, can't drag a cardboard box home, can't lick the dead rat, can't get her way, thar she blows.

The solution was simple: get a chain leash that she won't want to bite. Now, every time she starts to grab the leash, we get her to sit and we give her a treat. Or we give her a floppy toy she likes. She shakes the shit out of it and she settles.

We're always training with her, i.e. she has to sit to get a treat, sit before we open the gate to the dog run, drop and leave things on the street, leave toys or things that aren't hers, and in general not behave like a banshee. She's really good most of the time and she's slowly getting better with this. Next up is trying to get her to sleep past 5:30 a.m. Oh, would that be nice.