How to Interview for Mine Work (Underground)

When I started in the employment office, after I’d been in there for, I don’t know, maybe six months, they wanted me to start interviewing applicants. I said, “I can interview applicants for the smelter, for all the plant, but I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about when it comes to underground.” I said, “You want us to interview applicants to see if they’re able? We should go underground.” So we did. We went through every part of underground. We climbed ladders. We went on trams. We crossed grizzlies, which is pretty scary. After that, I could paint a picture to an applicant, what they were getting into. These kids, they’re high school graduates, they’re college suits, summer hires, whatever. They have no clue. They’re from Tucson. They’re from Green Valley. Most kids that age — they think they know everything. I thought I knew everything at that age. So you paint a picture for them, tell them what the job entails. Some of them, I could just tell, they weren’t going to make it. I’d tell them exactly how narrow those ladders were, how big the cages were, how they shook on the way down, how dark it was, how crossing the grizzly — which was like railroad ties about a foot apart, where all the ore drops through, tons and tons of rocks and boulders and dirt — you can go down one of those grizzlies, you can land in the car that’s collecting it, end up in the smelter before anyone knows you’re gone. You paint that picture. What it means to go down there and sweat buckets. You just tell them what it entails.

— interview with Evelyn Gorham, Oak Flat: A Fight for Sacred Land in the American West

Magma’s No. 9 Shaft

Self is learning a lot about what it’s like to work in a mine.

Cheryl became a timekeeper at Magma’s No. 9 shaft. Each miner was assigned a number, which was engraved on a small brass plate. When a man began a shift, he would “brass in,” collecting his time card in exchange for handing over his brass ID. At the end of the shift, he would ascend to the surface, return his time card, and retrieve his brass.

“At the end of the day, they’re running through, you see their face, know their name, and give them their brass back. But if the brass was still there, Where’s that man?

— Chapter 6, Oak Flat: A Fight for Sacred Land in the American West

My Love to Director Luke Holland

It is a beautiful Sunday afternoon. There were signs all over downtown reminding everyone to wear a mask, the marquee on Fox Theater announced that Malala Yousef was coming to speak in October.

I did not have high expectations for Final Account. I’ve seen every Holocaust movie of the last three decades, including Quentin Tarantino’s. I didn’t read any reviews; I only wanted to get some respite from the glare.

Two things: there were other people in the audience. Perhaps eight other people? I assumed they were seniors. They usually are, at the movies I see. Towards the end, someone to my right clapped. It was after the interview with the man who had been one of 23 SS at the Wannsee Conference (1942) when The Final Solution was decided on. I looked to the right, saw bare feet up on the seat in front (which is a very American thing to do, it’s almost summer hey) and assumed the feet belonged to a young person. Much to my surprise, when the lights went up, it was a tall woman whose grey hair was cut very short, like a boy’s. She was wearing khaki shorts, a T-shirt, and flip-flops. She walked quickly out of the theater after the movie ended, faster than I’ve seen any person, young or old, move.

The film was a series of interviews with the last surviving members of the SS (identifiable by a small mark, a tattoo), and with others who worked for the Nazis, male and female. It started with those who were inducted into Hitler Youth in the early 1930s, moved all the way up through Kristallnacht (1938) and into the Allied Victory.

The day before the Americans arrived at one of the camps, the guards started stuffing people into the crematoriums, as many as they could. And then they slunk away. One woman told how she successfully hid her fiancee, a prison guard, for nine months. Her companions were surprised. I guess they’d never heard her tell this story? They also sounded a bit incredulous.

(I started the movie eating popcorn, out of habit. Can you imagine?)

The interview with Hans Werk, a member of the Waffen S.S., one of those who sat around a table in Wannsee and discussed The Final Solution, was a true punch to the gut. He was engaging in some sort of open discussion with students seated around a table. Get this: the student’s faces were blurred out, to conceal their identities, when you would think it would be the other way around. After all, what would students have to hide?

One wore a T-shirt that said “La Familia”??? They were all male, and all white. But it was Werk who stared directly into the camera and said, “I belonged to a murderous organization.” At which the students sitting around objected and said, “Must we live with this shame all our lives?” And then I understood why the students’ faces were blurred. They criticized Werk for his “lack of honour.” (!!!???)

Two of the interviews were with ex-SS who were still proud of their membership in this “elite” organization (and why was I not surprised that those two men seemed to have the nicest living rooms). The last interview, however, was in a very humble room, and I thought: “This was why this was selected to be the last interview. He’s going to go all-out about his shame.”

But no! He was with Hitler to the end! He was PROUD of Hitler! I was soooo surprised.

Oh bravo, Luke Holland.

One interviewee said they were “partially complicit.” But at what point does complicity start shading into guilt?

Most were ashamed and most said they “knew nothing.” That was their way of covering up their shame, but it leaked out in their eyes.

What. A. Movie. Five stars.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Quote of the Day: “just so bleeding tired”

Lamorna Ash’s first stop in Newlyn is, naturally, a pub:

“When you first come in,” . . . Nathan later tells me . . . “you literally do not know what to do with yourself. And you’re tired; you are just so bleeding tired that the easiest way out is to go to the pub and turn your brain right off.”

Seeking sanctuary in the pub becomes a way of numbing yourself within an environment that itself does not feel quite of the land, more an extension of your time at sea — filled with gumbooted men straight off their boats who retain the strong aroma of fish.

Dark, Salt, Clear, p. 18

Caroline Kim, Very Much on Self’s Mind

Dear blog readers, are you in for a treat.

Caroline Kim, winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, and currently on the Long List for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection, has agreed to share with self her process for writing a short story.

The story we’ll be parsing is Mr. Oh, the first story in the collection. Among other things, self will be asking her why this story came first. Or, put another way, how does she decide the order in which to put her stories?

Caroline’s answers to self’s questions will be posted next week. But read her story first. Read her collection, the entire collection. If you think of any questions, you can leave comments here, and self will pass on to Caroline.

So excited! SQUEEEE!!!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

A Corona Journal: October 2020

1 October 2020

  • The tweet informing America that the President has covid went out at 1 a.m., Eastern Time. He went on the debate with Biden and might have had it then. I imagine he doesn’t look very good. His droplets flew back and forth, across the stage, for 90 minutes. His boorish children sat at the first row and removed their masks (against the rules of the organizers). I did not know whether to be happy, sad, or angry, On the one hand it was nice to imagine all the Trumps turned into zombies, But the rest of us –?

8 October 2020

  • Trying to create a sense of disgust towards food so that I will stop eating for comfort and lose weight. Hopeful that I can again make public appearances — how awful if no one recognized me because I turned into Jabba the Hut! I try the most disgusting recipes: how to cook Ball Park Franks in your crockpot. No water required! Just drop in the dogs! Set on high! The franks will cook in their own juices! In one hour, the dogs will begin to brown wherever they touch the sides of the pot! Holy cow, I think. Holy cow!

22 October 2020

  • A beautiful day. Beautiful. I am taking the opportunity to write before the debate begins. I did not watch the first because I do not need to hear or see a second more of the Malignancy. Today, in preparation, I’m on CNN. Mark Meadows, WH Chief of Staff, is talking to Wolf Blitzer: “When you test more, you’re going to get more cases. I do believe we’re rounding the corner.” That again? Wasn’t that the line three months ago? Is he running out of talking points? The Malignancy has never, not once, urged the American public to wear a mask.

On the Ground in North Carolina: NPR News Report, 11 Sept 2020

  • “Saying he did more for blacks than any President since Abraham Lincoln is the biggest lie he ever told . . . Mark my words, we’re gonna turn the mother out in North Carolina.” — Rep. Alma Adams, representing the 12th District of North Carolina
  • “People here just love the way he (Trump) is able to speak directly about the issues . . . without anger,” — young man near Raleigh, North Carolina. “He really cares. He’s been here three times in the past few weeks. We haven’t seen Biden in at least six months.”

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Gizmodo: Shoreh Aghdashloo

The real reason self started watching The Expanse was Shoreh Aghdashloo. Her deep (world weary) voice imprinted itself on my brain, ever since I saw her in The Lake House. She is perfect in the role of Chrisjen Avasarala.

An excerpt from her interview with Gizmodo:

  • “With entertainment, we bring people together. And bringing people together is half a step to unite them. When we get united, we’re sort of healed, because we know the person next to us doesn’t hate us—doesn’t love us, love is a strong word and I’m not asking for it—but is living peacefully next to me.”

She is so smart! And articulate! Read the entire piece here.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

RISING, DISPATCHES FROM THE NEW AMERICAN SHORE, p. 45

Lately my feeling is that I need time to just be here before I can decide whether to stay or not. My guess is that I will tap into so much gratitude for my life alongside this marsh that I may just become an old lady who drowns right here.

— Laura Sewell, resident of Small Point, Maine

BARRACOON: The Door of No Return

It took self a few days to get through the Foreword by Alice Walker and the Introduction by Deborah G. Plant. Now, she’s about to begin the book proper.

Just before the Preface is a photograph:

dscn0041

That little gap of ocean was all the slaves saw as they crowded together in the Slave House, the last stop before they were loaded onto ships that took them to lands of untold misery.

Zora Neale Hurston in the Preface, dated 17 April 1931:

I was sent by a woman of tremendous understanding of primitive peoples to get this story.

It is so uncommonly sad to read the Preface. The slaves entered the barracoon as human beings; little did they know it would be the last time they would feel themselves as such. From that point onward, they were mere cattle.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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