Tag Archive | Bereavement

Writing for Wellness Workshop

TO MY LOCAL FRIENDS, PLEASE JOIN ME:

WRITING FOR WELLNESS
A Six Week Workshop for Healing and Self-Expression
Tuesday’s 7:30-9 PM
December 8, 15, 22 and January 5, 12, 19
Jewish Community Center
1450 Newfield Avenue

Stamford, Connecticut

Write about: grief, loss, relationships, trauma, illness, spirit, life.
Exercises, prompts, and focused writing tailored to participant needs and interests.
Based on Fran’s experience as a writer, bereaved mother, and therapist.

DO IT FOR YOURSELF!

ENHANCE physical and mental well being
GAIN mastery over difficult emotions
LEARN or enhance literary techniques/craft
DEEPEN and clarify self knowledge
CREATE meaningful personal narrative,
memoir, story, metaphor and/or image.
STIMULATE your imagination.
EXPRESS and/or SHARE YOUR TRUTH

DO IT FOR FUN!

COST: $100 Members; $125 Non-Members
EMAIL: Frandorf@aol.com for more info
REGISTER at the JCC
reception desk, by calling
322-7900, or online at
http://www.stamfordjcc.org

#10 Top Grief on Film: Six Feet Under

Last but by no means least on my top ten “Grief on Film”:

10) Six Feet Under

Even though this multi-award-winning drama about the Fishers, a Los Angeles family of funeral directors, was a television show and not a film, for me, it was, and remains, the most accurate, authentic, multifaceted and complete portrayal of grief ever filmed, particularly effective in its portrayal of death as part of life. Created by Alan Ball, who wrote American Beauty, Six Feet Under ran for five seasons, from 2001 to 2005, and can still sometimes be seen on HBO on demand, or rented. It’s well worth it. On one level, Six Feet Under is a family drama that deals intelligently with such issues as relationships, sex, religion, infidelity, sibling rivalry, and mental illness, but its brilliance stems from quite another level, namely its bold and daring focus on death and grief and its willingness to employ an inventive array of fictional techniques to illuminate the subject. Psychologically sophisticated, often surreal, with a strong measure of irony and dark humor, Six Feet Under regularly brings the world of the living in contact with the dead in ways that show how people actually deal with loss, as the dead taunt and/or comfort, explain and/or question, frighten and/or anger, and illustrates its complex, authentic characters’ interior monologues and psychological issues by exposing them as external dialogues. This technique has enormous emotional, philosophical, and metaphorical payoffs; I employed a similar approach with the ghost in my 2000 novel, Saving Elijah, which was inspired by my own experience of losing my son. Each Six Feet Under episode begins with a death –anything from a heart attack, to SIDS, to old age, to murder, to a pool accident—and that death sets the tone for the drama to come as each of the characters live and reflect on their own lives with the introductory death and preparations for the funeral service as a backdrop. Six Feet Under stars Peter Krause as Nate, the older prodigal son who returns after his father’s death to reluctantly become a partner in the family funeral business; Michael Hall as the gay, younger son David; Lauren Ambrose as the artist rebel daughter Claire; Frances Conroy as bewildered, stymied matriarch Ruth; and Richard Jenkins as Nathanial, the patriarch killed in the first episode who regularly returns as a ghost. Smaller but no less powerful roles are played by Mathew St. Patrick as David’s boyfriend Keith; Lilly Taylor as Nate’s first wife; the wonderful Rachel Griffiths as Nate’s second wife, Brenda Chenowith; Jeremy Sisto as Brenda’s bipolar brother, and many others. The last episode in which each character ultimately embraces life and finally death left me (and every Six Feet Under fan I’ve ever met) deeply moved and weeping. So many scenes remain with me, but I have to say that the entire show is worth watching just so one can feel the full measure of the last amazing sequence as daughter Claire rides away from Los Angeles to meet her life and her fate, and each character in turn does the same. The ending is the perfect coda to all that came before it. True genius.

#5-9 top Grief on Film: Ordinary People, Door in the Floor, Sweet Hereafter, Big Chill

Here are numbers 5 through 9 of my top ten Grief on Film list, originally published at http://www.opentohope.com 

5.) Ordinary People

       Based on the moving novel by Judith Guest, Ordinary People tells the heartbreaking, intensely real story of a seemingly happy upper class couple who have lost the older of their two sons in a boating accident. Grief is subterranean here, as it often is, and is complicated by long-standing familial dysfunction; these people cannot speak openly of their pain. Timothy Hutton plays the surviving teenage son, Conrad, who blames himself for his brother’s death and has attempted suicide. Mary Tyler More is extraordinary as the repressed mother, Beth, who always preferred Conrad’s brother and can’t support Conrad. And Donald Sutherland is deeply believable as the father, Calvin, trying to hold the family together. Only when Conrad begins to see a psychiatrist, played by Judd Hirsch, does the family’s carefully cultivated veneer of coping begin to crack. Ordinary People is an admirable and honest examination of how pretense yields to grief, and the complex and difficult emotions experienced by grief’s survivors.

6) The Door in the Floor

      This 2004 film is another that honestly examines a marriage breaking apart after child loss. Adapted from the first (and best) part of John Irving’s best-selling novel “A Widow for One Year,” the film is set in the affluent beach community of East Hampton, New York and takes place during one critical summer in the lives of famous children’s book author and artist Ted Cole, played by one of my all time favorite actors, Jeff Bridges, and his beautiful wife Marion, played quite effectively by Kim Basinger. The Cole’s once-sweet marriage has curdled in the aftermath of the tragedy of losing their twin teenage sons in a car accident, and their attempt to fill the void with a new child, now six-year-old Ruth, has been disastrous. Marion remains despondent and unable to mother the new child, and Ted has become a philandering alcoholic. Eddie O’Hare, a young man Ted hires to work as his summer assistant, becomes the couple’s pawn in the destructive game that has developed between them. I found this film deeply moving and devastating as a kind of cautionary tale, for its portrayal of the destructiveness that can occur in two people with no resources to cope with a tragedy of unbearable proportions. It’s hard to sympathize with these two, but I recognize in them the narcissism and self-absorption of grief, and when Marion takes all the photographs and negatives of their dead sons, I wept like a baby.

7) The Sweet Hereafter

      This somber, difficult film directed by Atom Egoyan, based on the 1991 novel by Russell Banks, is set in a small town in the aftermath of a school bus accident that has killed most of the town’s children.  Into this devastating scene descends a slick, big city, ambulance-chasing lawyer, played by Ian Holmes. He is a man pursued by the demons of losing his own daughter to drugs, and he visits each of the victims’ parents to stir up their anger and coax them to participa te in a class action lawsuit to profit from the tragedy. The case depends on the few surviving witnesses to say the right things in court, particularly Nicole, played by Sarah Polley (whose recent film Away from Her nearly made this list), who was sitting at the front of the bus and is now paralyzed. She accuses the driver of causing the accident, and all hope of receiving money vanishes. Everyone knows she’s lying, but only her father knows she is exacting revenge on him for having molested her.  With great performances against a bleak, somber landscape, the film isn’t for the faint of heart, but does a great job of depicting how grief searches for restitution, but can never really find it.

8) Under the Sand

     Francois Ozon’s “haunting” film Under the Sand stars the courageous British actress Charlotte Rampling, playing Marie, a professor of English Literature in a Paris university, happily married to Jean for twenty-five years.  When Jean disappears one day while the couple is sunbathing during their south of France vacation, Marie doesn’t know what happened to him, whether he left her for another woman, committed suicide, or drowned.  Unable to accept that he is gone, she still talks and thinks of him in the present tense. This beautiful, sad, languid film, in French with subtitles, makes artistic use of film language, camera angles, mirror doubles, and unforgettable ocean images, to help us understand Marie’s inner thoughts and feelings and depict the psychologically traumatizing effect of grief.  In its brutally honest portrayal of a woman confronting her identity, age, body, sexuality, emotions, and even her intellect, Under the Sand shows how grief forces total reexamination of the soul and spreads its tentacles into every aspect of a person’s life.

9.) The Big Chill

       Okay, so this 1983 film directed by Lawrence Kasdan is a quirky departure in the list of sober and difficult dramas I’ve compiled. Some may object to its inclusion over other more serious films, such as Polley’s Away from Her, Mark Foster’s Monster’s Ball, plus Reservation Road, Grace is Gone, Iris, Things We Lost in the Fire, One True Thing, Terms of Endearment, Iris, Night Mother and many more. I include it not only because it is one of my favorite films of all time, groundbreaking in its use of an ensemble cast, musical score, and many other ways, but mainly because it is that rare comedy that deals realistically with grief.  With a terrific cast including Glenn Close, Kevin Kline, William Hurt, Meg Tilly, and Jeff Goldblum, The Big Chill tells of a group of thirty-something former college friends who come together for a weekend of reconciliation and reflection after the shocking death of one of their own, Alex (Kevin Costner, in a role cut in the final take), who committed suicide in the home of physician Sarah and business executive Harold, where the weekend takes place. Alex had been living there with his young girlfriend, Chloë, while trying to figure out what to do with his life. Powerfully demonstrating the ripple effect of suicide on the survivors, the group turns to each other to try and figure out why Alex ended his life and explore what happened to the ideals of their youth.  Yes, the film doesn’t deal with “high grief” such as that with comes with the loss of a child, parent, or sibling, but The Big Chill beautifully demonstrates that friendship and humor can be healing, and the scene of Sarah crying alone in the shower, within the context of the rest of the film, is a potent reminder of the loneliness of grief.  

 

#3 & #4 Grief on Film: In the Bedroom and Sophie’s Choice

3) In the Bedroom

In the Bedroom is a terrific but brutally frank film about a marriage crumbling in the face of child loss, probably the most honest cinematic portrayal of the subject I have ever seen. This multi-award winning drama directed by Todd Field centers on an ordinary middle class couple in Maine called the Fowlers, Matt and Ruth, played with bravery by Tom Wilkenson and Sissy Spacek, whose son Frank is killed by the violent ex-husband of the older women he loves, played by Marissa Tomei.  The couple’s anger in this case is centered on the failure of the justice system to appropriately deal with the killer, but the film does a remarkable job of portraying how the self-absorption and anger of grief can erode the very foundations of a marriage, no matter what the circumstances.

4.) Sophie’s Choice

Based on William Styron’s magnificent novel of the same title, directed by Alan J. Paluka, Sophie’s Choice centers on a beautiful Polish immigrant and Auschwitz survivor named Sophie, played by Meryl Streep, and her mad, Auschwitz-obsessed lover Nathan, played by Kevin Kline.  They share a boarding house with Stingo, the film’s narrator, played by Peter MacNicol, a young writer from the south who travels to post-World War II Brooklyn and befriends the couple.  Through the course of the film, as Sophie reveals to Stingo pieces of her devastating history, Stingo falls in love with Sophie and in his earnest naïvety begins to believe he can save her. I include Sophie’s Choice in my list because while the film has a broad historical significance and is about much in addition to grief, Meryl Streep’s Oscar-winning performance as the inconsolable Sophie is so deep and accurate, nuanced and real, that the film’s power as an illuminator of grief cannot be denied.  So much of this film is indelibly embedded in my consciousness, but I particularly want to mention the final scene, during which Stingo reads from Nathan’s book of Emily Dickinson poems, “Ample Make this Bed.”   

Originally posted on http://www.opentohope.com

Novelist Bernice McFadden highlights Book and Author Luncheon

A few weeks ago my friend Gail Malloy invited me to be her guest at the Book and Author Luncheon sponsored annually here in Stamford by the Ferguson Library. I figured it would be a staid affair, as these things usually are, but the proceedings were surprisingly lively. The first unexpected liveliness came in the form of Mickey Sherman, the attorney famous for his television appearances, his controversial legal tactics, and mostly for his losing defense of bail-skipping, convicted Darien rapist Alex Kelly, and convicted Greenwich Kennedy-cousin murderer Michael Skakel. Plugging his book, “How Can You Defend These People,” Sherman, when his turn came to speak, insisted he isn’t really a writer and acted as if he’d both written the book and wandered into the place by accident, but he did prove to be quite a hilarious storyteller, so I may just pick up his book anyway at some point.
The second and more interesting liveliness, at least from a bibliophile’s standpoint, came in the form of the beautiful, talented novelist, Bernice McFadden, whose fourth novel, “Nowhere is a Place,” I bought on the spot. (Actually, Bernice also writes sexy “chick-lit novels” under the pseudonym Geneva Holliday, so her total “books-written” count is somewhere around ten, she informed the crowd that day.)
I finally got a chance to read “Nowhere is a Place” and it turns out to be an extraordinarily compelling tale about family, family secrets, journeys of self discovery, and the personal and ancestral history that make us who we are as people. Using a technique similar to the one I used in “Saving Elijah,” Bernice weaves back and forth between a contemporary story and a historical one and manages to compel us with both. In the contemporary story, an estranged mother and daughter, Dumpling and Sherry, embark on a road trip across the country to a family reunion in Georgia, and along the way we discover the tragic, brutal and sometimes joyful history of this compelling African-American family. With startlingly vivid, often sensuous language, Bernice not only compels us to turn the page but with great bravery shows us in stark reality the absolute violence and uncompromising brutality of the institution of slavery, the psychological and physical dehumanization, the utter disregard for the common humanity of its victims. And with great, subtle wisdom, Bernice also shows us how that legacy affected and still affects the children of slaves and their children’s children, even to this day.
As a person deeply interested in the psychological effects of grief, trauma, and loss, I found the novel utterly moving, though I admit I often found myself cringing when confronted with scene after scene showing the depraved cruelty perpetrated on blacks by whites. I see why Bernice has been compared to Toni Morrison, and I highly recommend the book.
I also love it that Bernice included a short section at the back of the book called “Are We Related?” Well, Bernice, I doubt that you and I are related, since my family history (about which I admittedly know very little) is one that seems to deny that possibility. Here’s what I know about my family and it isn’t much: Because of brutal persecution of Jews in Russia, my great-great grandmother and father (whose names I don’t know) sent two of her sons, ages 10 and 11, my grandfather Abraham Freedman and his brother (whose name I don’t know) to America. They came alone in ship steerage around 1900. I have seen an affidavit my grandfather signed when he arrived, in which he renounced the Tzar of Russia. I suspect, as you say, that it is a labor of love to research one’s family tree that is not always fruitful. Though I would seriously like to find out more about my own family, fruitfulness might be an issue for me too. The problem is that name Freedman was probably not even my grandfather’s real name, since it was common for immigration officials to simply make up names that would be more “American” when people came before them. My mother’s people also came from Russia around the same time, I think, and on that front I do at least know their name, which was Balabanovich. Any Balabanovich’s out there?
Bernice has agreed to answer some questions–on the writing and publishing process, on how grief figures in her fiction, on some of the startling scenes in her novel, and on the legacy of slavery today. I’ll post that in the next few days.

Walking with Andrea when grief shows up

Sometimes chance is weird but kind,

as when I am walking with Andrea by chance,

and grief escapes from the home,

and sneaks up behind

me, an old woman with milky eyes,

limbs stiff with years,

hobbles to my back door unannounced,

dragging her bag of gruesome memories

clamping her crooked fingers

round my neck

popping the cork of my unruly mouth:

MY GOD, THAT BOY LOOKS JUST LIKE–

Abort, abort.

After all these years I know just what not to do,

when grief shows up out of the blue

eyes of a little boy laughing,

doppelganger in a stroller,

not fall at his feet

not touch his face

not put my lips to his cheek

not whisper my son’s name and weep.

Better this hovering young mother think me rude

than to finish my unfinished sentence.

Better let her live innocent as snow

than tell her hair can turn to straw

a toddler’s eyes can go dark

death can come

even to a boy like that

and reincarnate fifteen years later in a boy like that,

and have to say I’m sorry to ruin your day

when I’m not,

not really.

Sometimes chance is weird but kind,

as when by chance I am walking with Andrea,

whose son happens to lie next to mine,

grave companions, you might say

clean picked bones shaped like two little boys,

tiny metacarpals touching,

tibias, fibulas,

sacral bones lying still

in their adjacent tombs, beneath their sacred marble stones.

Sometimes chance is weird but kind,

as when Andrea takes my hand,

leads me away, a bewildered child,

and grief hobbles along behind us, trying to keep up.

Larry would have been thirty-one, Andrea whispers,

Michael would have been eighteen, I say.

Toddlers into men,

even the gods of imagination cannot make that leap.

I do not tell Andrea that sometimes

the gods of imagination animate our boys,

and they rise from the dead and live

pink-cheeked to play

next to the tree in the sunlight,

no affront to the blue sky,

grass, insects

even the birds.

Sometimes I think I liked it better

when grief was young and potent,

weighed four thousand pounds,

screamed and screeched like a carnival troll,

slashed at my skin and cells with its long claws,

hissed like the villain in a silent movie.

At least I knew where grief was then,

It didn’t shuffle and creep up behind me

like an old woman with clouded eyes

begging for attention and pity

with her bag of hoary stuff–

her milky tubes,

pumping machines,

white coats

switching eyes

More guns, more death, more grief

Every day now, it seems, we have to eat more of the poisonous fruit that has grown out of the election and re-election of George Bush. Yesterday’s 5 to 4 decision by the Roberts Supreme Court endorsed a so-called “personal right to own guns,” and overturned precedent of seventy years. What happened to Roberts and Alito’s promises during their confirmation hearings that they would honor precedent whenever possible? We can’t have “activist” judges, conservatives scream.

The net effect will be more guns, more death, and more grief. More mothers and fathers will suffer unspeakably over the tragic and unnecessary deaths of their children. More sisters will grieve over brothers. More brothers will weep over sisters. More grandmothers and fathers will have to bear watching their children endure the worst possible thing that could happen to them. Perhaps the honorable Justices who think there should be MORE guns in this society and not fewer guns would like to provide funds for grief counseling for the victims of their decision, one which completely defies decency, reason, and common sense. Oh, I forgot, Congress provides funds.

According to Adam Liptak’s news analysis in today’s NY Times, the precedent in this case was a 1939 decision in which the Court, in United States v. Miller, upheld a federal prosecution for transporting a sawed-off shotgun. A Federal District Court had ruled that the provision of the National Firearms Act the Miller defendants were accused of violating was barred by the Second Amendment, but the Supreme court disagreed and reinstated the indictment. This was followed by decades and decades which a majority of “courts and commentators regarded the Miller decision as having rejected the individual-right interpretation of the Second Amendment.

The court’s slim decision is yet another in a long line of devastating and destructive decisions that have followed from the stacking of the Court with conservatives. Here’s NPR’s Nina Totenberg, writing a year ago, about this matter.

“For conservatives, this term was pretty close to the best of times, and for liberals, it was pretty close to the worst of times. Although Roberts and Alito both promised at their confirmation hearings to honor precedent whenever possible, in their first full term together, they effectively reversed a number of key precedents. In each case, it was by a 5-to-4 vote.”

And the trend has only escalated during this current term.

During the arguments the appallingly arrogant and seriously misguided Justice Antonin Scalia, the darling of the right, parsed the meaning of the words “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Justice Scalia argued that “the prefatory statement of purpose should not be interpreted to limit the meaning of what is called the operative clause.” His word-parsing, semantic argument is not unlike the argument over the placement of the comma in the clause that has been going on for some time now, and which, for all I know, may even be part of the decision. How do we argue semantics over common sense? That’s what I want to know. The “liberal” Justice Stevens argued more globally and sensibly that the majority’s understanding of the Miller decision was not only “simply wrong but reflected a lack of respect for the well-settled views of all our predecessors on the court, and for the rule of law itself,” and was “based on a strained and unpersuasive reading of the Second Amendment.”

As the kids say, “Whatever.”

The net effect will be more guns, more death, more grief.

I so well remember a conversation I had back in 2004 with a young woman who said she was going to vote for George Bush, because he would keep us safe. I decided not to address the “safety” argument, and pointed out that the reelection of George Bush would lead to the overturn of Roe v. Wade, which I knew she cared about, and many other laws that she counted on without even realizing it. She looked at me and shrugged, “Never happen.” Well, it IS happening, and it will continue to happen…

And it is yet another reason to support Barack Obama for President. John McCain comes right out and says he will continue to appoint conservative Justices like Scalia and Alito and Roberts to the Supreme Court. We cannot and SHOULD NOT just shrug that off, we should take John McCain at his word. Here’s yet another case of the unquestioning acceptance and operational reality of “doublethink” in this country. WHO are the “activist” judges?

Let’s do some real straight talking. If John McCain is elected, we can look forward to even more poisonous decisions by the Supreme Court, with majorities that will not be so slim.

Immersed in the language of our dissolving country

their cronies

and the poor

American landscape

disappearing in the rockets and red glare,

battle hymns of them and us.

Who are these people who

hang unbroken in creation

stimulate their Jesus action figures

steamrolled by flat-out hucksters

stupefied by the complex,

stream across the detritus of America

abrogate treaties, inform parades

circumnavigate the globe with their

misbegotten little wars,

sell any crapola like Good News,

stir any Orwellian double talk into their soup,

eat any fiction they find strewn across the open plains,

while little girls spread their legs

and people die without good reason

and we eat the poisonous fruit.

What is human without a microphone?

To which country did my grandfather Abraham come,

carrying his clothes on his back?

Movie Review: Grief is the backdrop for the wonderful film, “The Visitor”

Grief is both the thematic underpinning and the overarching aura in an absorbing, powerful film called “The Visitor.” While this low-key, underplayed film is humanistic and realistic in the extreme, memories of the dead loom over the characters like silent, watchful ghosts. The Visitor was written and directed by Tom McCarthy, who several years back gave us another extraordinary film, “The Station Agent.” Like that earlier film, The Visitor explores issues of identity and place, belonging and connection, but this film also looks at immigration and other post-9/11 issues, and indicts the US government for its arbitrary, callous policies. It is a mark of McCarthy’s mature sensibility that the film makes this indictment quietly and subtly, by engaging us with a charismatic and likable young man living an attractive, authentic life, and then arbitrarily taking that life away from him. This stands in contrast to more traditional “Hollywood” fare, a movie like “Rendition”, which makes its indictment with a bludgeon. And the immigration issues, while crucial to the plot and deeply disturbing, are clearly secondary to the psychological and interpersonal matters this gifted director wants to explore. His vision is psychologically sound, particularly evident in the way he deals with grief.

“The Visitor” revolves around a depressed, middle aged economics professor named Walter Vale, played by the subtle actor who so memorably played the ghostly Fisher patriarch in my favorite television series of all time, “Six Feet Under.” With his hunched shoulders, immobile expression, furrowed brow and everyman face, Richard Jenkins literally inhabits this character. It’s a restrained performance, yet highly effective. While neither the circumstances of Vale’s wife’s death nor when she died are ever specified, it is clear that Vale continues to carry the weight of his grief, and that grief has transformed him into a silent, somber, disaffected man, lonely and isolated, floating through life, or rather going through the motions of his life, teaching his class, attending faculty meetings, pretending to work on a fourth book, and returning every night to his neatly kept suburban home.

It’s not that he isn’t trying to find some avenue back into the world, and some enjoyment or at least engagement in life. He’s been taking piano lessons, but while it is clear here that both he and his wife loved music, she was the pianist, and as the movie opens we find him dismissing his fourth piano teacher, played to spinsterish perfection by veteran actress Marian Seldes. I can’t help mentioning here that Seldes eerily reminded me in this role of my own elderly spinsterish piano teacher of long ago. Her name was Alma Drum, and she used to place a pencil under my hands just the way this one does with Vale. Miss Drum was as petite as she was stern and humorless, with her helmet of gray hair. Miss Drum would by now be about a hundred and thirty years old. (Hmmm, maybe I should meditate on her for a while, and do a post on her.)

We get some sense that Vale must have been something in his heyday, and we find some hope that he can actually make a spiritual comeback when circumstance forces him goes to present a paper at New York University, and he arrives at a Village apartment he and his late wife owned, but he hasn’t been to in years. There he finds a pair of young, undocumented squatters in residence, Tarek, a Syrian musician played with winning charm and charisma by Haaz Slieiman, and his girlfriend Zainab, who is originally from Senegal and makes jewelry which she sells from a table on the street, the character played with with wary fierceness by exotic beauty Danai Guiria. These two freak out when he arrives; they think they were living in the apartment legally, and they offer to leave immediately. Walter agrees, but then realizes the couple has nowhere else to go, and changes his mind, for reasons even he doesn’t quite grasp. They stay, and Walter befriends them, first Tarek, who embodies youth in all its impetuous enthusiasm, and eventually Zainab, who is aloof and wary at first, but who gradually comes around. Now we begin to see some sparks of life in this graying, somber character, as Tarek introduces him to the lively New York City jazz scene, the filmaker here celebrating New York City in all its diversity. Finally, Walter Vale begins to take the first steps out of his isolation, most particularly in a scene of extraordinary power in which the reluctant Vail joins in an African drumming circle in Washington Square Park, a balding white man in a suit amidst the primarily black, hip drummers, dancers, and percussionists.

But then Tarek is arrested for no wrongdoing while with Walter in the subway, imprisoned in the kind of unnamed, unidentified detention center we’ve been hearing a lot about lately, this one somewhere in Queens. The arrest and the imprisonment are both arbitrary and capricious, a disturbing reminder that human rights are being violated every day in this country. Continue reading