To The North

There is this scene in David Peace’s Red Riding Trilogy that I can’t quit thinking about.

The police are celebrating a horrendous victory. Of Corruption. Of Capitalism. Of capitalistic corruption. Patriarchy. Privilege. It’s a horrifying scene that popped into my head when I heard that Clinton had called to concede to The Monster who will be our president for the next four years. In that scene of The Red Riding Trilogy, the cops raise their crystal glasses filled with expensive brown liquor. Defiant. Confident. Cocksure.

They say with great jubilance: “To The North. Where we do what we want.”

To the north.

In four days, two hours, and twelve minutes, I am moving back to Bellingham, Washington. To the north. Where I went to college. I’ve negotiated to work remotely for the same company, and the mister will be an online teacher. This is it; we’re heading back to The Ham.

Prior to this horrifying election, I was going to write about my joy and elation during this monumental time in our lives. We blue collar kids are going to purchase a little place of our own. Off the bike trail. Near the bay. Close to the best mountain biking in the lower 48. Killer hiking. Wonderful snow. Safer road cycling. Our friends. Our bike family. Our community. Our old life we have missed so deeply over the last year. Again. To the north. Sweet, sweet Bellingham. The only place I have ever felt at home.

Prior to the horrifying election day, I started packing up my books and I felt very happy. Optimistic. Some of the books in my library I’ve moved from Georgia to Wyoming, to Montana, to Colorado, to California, to Washington, and to Oregon. Red state. Red state. Red state. Recently blue state. Traditionally blue state. Solid blue states. Blue States. Just because of the cities. Mind you.

On the eve of the election, I walked around northeast Portland with my dog, and I deposited some of those books in the little free library boxes. I’m tired of moving them. I won’t reread any of them. Why carry them again? On the eve of the election, it felt like a nice thing to do. Generous. I laughed at my joke of putting my most radical books in the boxes where I found Scientology books. Bibles. Wedding planning books. I was the little Jill Apple Seed of Banned Books, I thought. Screw you, Xenu, I’ll poison the minds of children with literature, I thought. Oh look, a book on how to bring Jesus into your marriage! Here’s The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin to balance the bullshit, I thought. It seemed like a nice thing to do. Lighten the load as we pack up the moving van to head to the north. Again.

Prior to this horrifying election, I was going to write so much about open education, pedagogy, teaching, learning, bikes, joy, life. I have written so many posts waiting for clarity. Waiting for connection. Research. Substantiation. Writing to do. But no. I admire those of you who have continued with your work.

I can’t.

Not yet.

Here’s the thing.

Two weeks ago, I was sitting at a bar and some stranger-man started talking to me. Here we go, I thought. I just wanted to get out my hotel room and type someplace else. Fuck.

He works “In Tech” too, he was so eager to tell me. He asked me questions. I was a bit drunk. Bored. Sarcastic. He was blunt. Direct. Dull. Told me he was lonely. Oh dear. I was not.

But I was curious about this Silicon Valley spawned wunderkind. A perspective from a man from “my field.” So very opposite of the men I usually talk to. In tech. These days. A supporter of The Monster that nobody thought could get elected just one week ago, I’m sure. I like to debate. It’s good to know the perspective of others. I thought.

He then offered me some career advice. Here we go, I thought.

“You know, a woman like you shouldn’t ask so many questions so quickly. You seem sharp. Bright. Men like that in their partners. Like your husband, I’m sure. But when you work in technology, it’s best if you don’t come across so smart. It intimidates men in tech. You could go really far while you still have your looks. Trust me. You should pretend you’re not so smart.” He ordered another bourbon. Asked if he could buy me one.

No.

WTF. Prior to this horrifying election, this would have been just another story from this sometimes horrifying “field.” Business as usual. Business. As usual. Strangers I’ve met in hotel bars rarely become friends. How do I “hold on to my looks?” Will they fly away in the middle of the night? How does one “seem sharp?” You either are or you aren’t, right? What does it even mean to “go far” in this field? Why do stranger danger men always want to give me career advice? How do I pretend I’m not smart to dumb-asses? In tech.

Really, I just want to be left the fuck alone so I can work with teachers. A Memoir.

And I’m lucky, I know. Privileged. Lucky. The men I trust in this field would dislike that guy too. Find him repugnant in the business as usual. In Tech. This is I know. Prior to this horrifying election, I would have filed that conversation as another sociological experiment while I’m traveling. Fodder for the stories I tell. Fodder for the memoir of sexist interactions that have punctuated my life. My career. My business as usual. Try as I might, I can’t write anything of worth lately. I think of this man feeling victorious right now. I think of those cops in Red Riding Trilogy: “To the north, where we do what we want.”

I think of your daughters. I think. I think. I think. Until I can’t.

But then somebody very close to me shared that he can’t give another four years of his life to depression and rage like he did during the Bush The Second years. During the Years of The Gipper. He can’t let the things he can’t control paralyze him. Again. He’ll do what he can where he can. He’ll keep doing. What he can. Where he can. Yes.

This horrifying election. I know people who wrote in candidates. Voted third-party. Didn’t vote at all. I love these people. They have their reasons even if I don’t agree. Even if I’m horrified by their choices. I’m easily exhausted when I try to wrap my mind around the results. I can’t find the optimism that I had when I blackened the arrow on my ballot, but I will. I can’t find a way to understand this election. I can’t find a way to understand a lot these days. That asshole at the bar that I described above?

Him I understand. Crystal clear. And I hate that he and his keep winning.

I have to live and work to see them lose. Someday.

Until then, I’m going to pack. Think. Work. Write. Reflect. Rewrite. Redirect. Reroute to the north. Back to my beloved Washington State. Home. Bellingham. Bellinghome. Yes.

To the north.

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About Alyson Indrunas

Always learning about instructional design, educational technology, #OER, professional development, adult education, and the federated wiki. A Memoir.
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5 Responses to To The North

  1. francesbell says:

    Thanks Alyson for writing another lovely post. I am your fan.
    I can’t say anything about the horrifying election – I’m still too horrified and I don’t even live there. I just wanted to share a few random thoughts.
    I am glad you are moving back to the North – lots of lovely things happen in my North as I sure they will in your North.
    I am glad that you are getting your own place, and putting down some roots when your head is swirling. And I hope that you might have a garden or some pots or a window box -that would be good. Putting in roots where you are putting down roots.
    I love the feminist thread to this post. I have been engaged in a little feminist collaborative enterprise in the last few days – it was a very therapeutic sowing of a seed that I hope germinates and flowers next year.
    When I checked the film, I realised that it was about my North in my youth in the 1970s….
    And I hadn’t seen the film….
    And I have been feeling parachuted back to the worst of the 1970s in recent months.
    It’s so hard to keep cheerful in all this shit.
    But it’s important to hang on so you can fight back in due course.
    Thanks for helping.

    Like

    • Thanks so much, Frances. Putting down roots does sound like a good idea right now, and I can’t tell you how it means to me that you are a fan! I’ll have a little patio where I can have a garden in pots. It’s not ideal, but it’s a start. My house plants will thrive with this sky light, so that’s good too. I’ll have the forest really close to my front door too.

      I highly recommend reading Peace’s books before you see the movies. Either way, it’s a good story that parallels a lot of the current horror. It is really hard to be cheerful, indeed. A lot of really good writers and readers have been really helping me out. Glad to hear of your feminist collaboration and I can’t wait to see what you produce. I’ll hang on and fight where I can. I owe it to feminists like you ❤

      Like

      • francesbell says:

        Thanks for that advice. Watched some of first ep today but will go and search out books. I am a book first girl anyway. Sometime when we meet, I’ll tell you more about the resonances the horror has for me.
        Hope the move goes well 🙂

        Like

  2. Allyson, We have yet to meet f2f, but I’m really sorry you had this experience. Thanks, though, for bringing it into the light.

    Like

    • Aww Steve! Don’t apologize for the horrible acts of dudes. I actually experienced a lot worse as a waitress. I was trying to weave several threads together, and I’m most proud of my free little library anecdote:) You’ve been a great OL peep, and we’ll meet IRL someday. And I bet we won’t have a scarcity of topics to talk about (econ joke, alert). Have a lovely Thanksgiving.

      Like

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