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Humming Whitney while I ramble about my sister.

I didn’t write a blog about it because I was in too much shock, but my older sister (and only sibling) passed away a little over a week ago.

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At some point over the past 2 or 3 years, people started reading my blog for news and views on current events, but some of y’all have been reading my ramblings on the Internet for over a decade, all the way back to FreeOpenDiary.  I’ve always kept a diary or journal of some kind on the Internet, but slowly I moved away from that and more toward ranting about politics and current events.  This is a post for journaling purposes and people who know me, so the rest of y’all can skip it.  I just want to throw some things out there about my sister so I’ll have them to read over in the future.

I didn’t write a blog about it because I was in too much shock, but my older sister (and only sibling) passed away a little over a week ago.

When my mom died, I was at a rooftop party in Queens and it didn't really register because I was drinking. It didn't hit…

Posted by So Let's Talk About on Thursday, 21 July 2016

I don't really remember writing this last night but I left out the part where she was the only person in my whole family…

Posted by Rafi D'Angelo on Friday, 22 July 2016

I don’t remember how old I was when I realized Leslie and I had different moms.  Her mom died when she was 2 or 3 and I didn’t come along for another decade and some change, so it was just her and my dad for a long time.  After I was born though, she took me everywhere, including trips to see her mom’s family about an hour away.  I grew up calling her mom’s mom Grandma Dukes.  I had my mom’s mom, my dad’s mom, and then an extra grandma and I didn’t really think anything of it.  I finally put it together at some point and asked her about it on the way home from visiting them.  She said Grandma Dukes was her mom’s mom.  I said since we didn’t have the same mom should I still call her grandma Grandma Dukes.  She said yes.

I hadn’t seen anyone from Leslie’s mom’s side of the family since my sister’s wedding about twenty years ago.  At the viewing, a group of people came in and I looked at one of the women and thought “that looks like Deaky.”  I couldn’t immediately remember who Deaky was or what made me think that was her name, but it was.  Deaky is one of my sister’s first cousins and she looked exactly the same as the last time I’d seen her.  Blood doesn’t make you family and it felt great to see them all again.


These are some of the songs she taught me on piano or that we used to sing together cleaning the house or riding in the car.

Whitney Houston “All The Man”

Whitney Houston “Look Into Your Heart”

Debbie Gibson “Electric Youth”

Wilson Phillips “Hold On”

The Entertainer

They Might Be Giants “Birdhouse In Your Soul”

Mariah Carey “Emotions”

Moonlight Sonata

Ini Kamoze “Here Comes The Hotstepper”

Madonna “Cherish”

Dona Nobis Pacem

Guns N Roses “November Rain”

Peabo Bryson & Regina Belle “A Whole New World”

Extreme “More Than Words”

Janet Jackson “Again”

Faith Hill “Piece Of My Heart”


I only got mad enough at my sister to completely stop speaking to her once.  I don’t even remember what the fight was about because I was too little, but whether I was being an obnoxious little brother or she was picking at me is irrelevant.  All that matters is, she was chasing me around the house and then I finally made it to my room and locked the door.  She banged on it for awhile like she was trynna beat the damn thing off the hinges, but then she stopped and went away.  So of course, I was patting myself on the back for winning whatever it was we were fighting about.  A few minutes later, she was back at the door but she wasn’t banging.  She had gotten a wire coathanger and stuck it in the hole in the doorknob.  She popped the lock and barged into my room and I started screaming bloody murder.  How dare she break into my room when I locked the door!  I was safe!  Y’all I don’t think I spoke to her for the rest of the summer.  I was hot about that for years.


This is more about my brother-in-law, but it bears mentioning here.  After I came out to Leslie I told her not to tell anyone, not even her husband Andre.  My 14-year-old brain wasn’t really hip to the fact that most husbands & wives share everything, so I thought it was a reasonable request.  I called her and asked for money for something – I have no idea what it was – but she said OK.  After we were done talking, she gave the phone to my brother-in-law so we could chat for a bit and I remember this conversation like it was yesterday.

BIL: Your sister says you need some money.

Me:  Yeah…

BIL: For what?  You need bail money?

Me:  Hahah no…

BIL: You got some lil girl in trouble and you need to take her to the clinic?

Me:  HAHAHAHA OF COURSE NOT OMG!!

BIL: Well she coulda had short hair and you coulda been confused in the moment!

I realized she had told him I was gay and I didn’t get upset at all.  That was the first time any male had reacted to me being gay with humor and nonchalance and I knew she really had picked a good one.


I used to eavesdrop on her phone conversations.  The first time I heard her cuss on the phone I wanted to run and tell mom & dad…but I didn’t do that…because I was eavesdropping and woulda got my ass beat.


Before my parents got married, they kept two households about 10 minutes away from each other.  I lived with my mom in one and my sister lived with our dad in the other.  At my mom’s house, the mailbox was right at the corner of the driveway, and usually my mom or dad would drive up to it and whoever was in the passenger seat would open the box and get the mail before going into the driveway.  Leslie decided she could do that too.  

I don’t remember if she was home from college for the summer or if she had graduated, but she had been tasked with picking me up from Karate that day because my dad was out of town and my mom was working late.  She decided she too could get the mail in the way in, so she drove up next to the box, I opened it, got the mail, and as she drove off, she must’ve turned the wheel because the mailbox went SKRRRRRRPPPP down the side of the station wagon.  So she panicked and started backing up.  SKRRRRRRRRPPPP some more.  I’m sitting in the passenger seat like

Finally she pulled forward and just let the box scrape alllll the way down the passenger side of the wagon.  And then she probably went inside to write her last will & testament because our father was going to kill her.

I don’t remember what her punishment was but it was probably nothing.  My sister totaled two cars (one with me in it) so hitting the mailbox was a very minor infraction by comparison.


My parents always pushed me to play with the kids from school in the summertime while I was thankful for summer because it meant I didn’t have to see the kids from school.  Sometimes they would send me over to a neighbor’s house so I could play outside.  I used to hide a book in my pocket and spend all day reading in the woods instead until my mom called the neighbor once to check up and make sure I got there.  I got the asswhoopin of my life when they found me sitting by a tree in the backyard.  

Anyway, I hated playing with them because they always called me names.  One particular afternoon everyone was picking teams for stickball and of course I was going to be picked last because I was chubby and gay.  Tasha Cloud (and yes I did just use her whole name, I don’t even care) said “I don’t want that faggot on my team” but she was stuck with me anyway.  When it was my turn to bat, she wrestled it away from me, hit me in the side, and kicked some dirt at me when I fell on the ground.  I cried, of course, got laughed it, ran into the neighbor’s house and wrote a poem in my Trapper Keeper called “Stupid Tasha” (I was only 7, so give me a break).  I told Miss Cotton I didn’t feel well and she let me watch movies all afternoon.  

That night I was crying about it to my sister who was home from college and she told me those ragamuffins don’t matter.  I don’t remember the conversation word for word (other than “ragamuffins”) but she said she got bullied and picked on by the same kind of ignorant kids and my bullies had older siblings and cousins who picked on her too.  Now she was in college and they were on their third child by two baby daddies, so who really won in the end?  I never cried again when one of those ingrates called me a faggot.


My sister hated flying.  It might have been extreme enough to classify as a phobia.  Whenever she visited the parents in SC, she’d drive 11 hours from southwest Florida for the trip instead of flying.  I wanted to surprise my dad for his birthday earlier this year and I thought it would be fun if my sister and I showed up at the same time.  She worked it out with his wife and we bought flights to arrive in Charlotte around the same time so she could pick us up from the airport.  She went back and forth on whether to actually get on the plane or not, but in the end she did it because she wanted to spend as much time as she could with me and dad, and an 11-hour ride both ways would cut into that vacation time.  

When my dad saw us standing curbside, shocked isn’t even the word.  I don’t think I’d ever seen him so happy and when we asked him why he was so surprised he was like, “well [pointing at her] you don’t fly and [pointing to me] you don’t visit!”  It ended up being the best trip home I’ve ever had.  His wife threw a huge bash for his birthday with a big turnout.  I got to see extended family I hadn’t seen in years.  My dad and I reconnected again.  My sister was her giggly self on cloud nine the whole trip.  We had a ball and if she had to go, I’m glad those are the last memories I have with her.


And now excuse me while I go listen to some more Whitney for awhile.

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Thank a librarian.

Libraries are community centers and librarians keep them going!

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I spent a lot of time at the library as a child because I didn’t have any friends.

Just kidding! I had lots of friends and was totes popular, but I was basically an only child since my older sister was off to college before I was even forming memories. She taught me how to read, my parents encouraged it, and since they both worked, books were an easy way for me to entertain myself.

Parenting Life Hack: If your kids have a quiet hobby, you spend less money on Excedrin for migraines.

My hometown had about 400 people and only 17 of them could read, so we didn’t have a library, but just across the river in the bustling metropolis next door where 9,000 people lived, there was a library staffed with nice ladies and one old gay man who basically raised me while my mom did errands. A librarian is not a babysitter and they don’t get paid to watch your kids, so please don’t just drop your kids off in front of the bookdrop and hightail it outta there. However, my parents were really relaxed about leaving me places, because they were very old and the Scary News Stories didn’t phase them. There was a higher chance of your child being abducted in the 1940s than the 1990s, yet our parents and grandparents were out all day by themselves from sunup to sundown while we were expected to be tied to our parents at all times. My folks pretty much functioned under the premise that nobody was going to take me out of a library — I would have to actually follow them, and I wasn’t stupid (and I didn’t/don’t like people).

So I spent many a Sunday afternoon in the library while my mom was running errands and my favorite librarian, Ms. Greer, would actually entertain me….by putting me to work. Had I known I was doing her job for her, I would’ve asked for a cut of her paycheck, but 3rd Grade Me was very excited to ink the inside back cover of all the new books with the fancy library stamp. I felt super important being trusted with the task of taking the returns and putting them in their proper spot on the shelf (thanks, Dewey Decimal training!). She had me take Lemon Pledge and wipe down the study corrals and I did it with gusto.

When my mom asked me to pick my socks up off the floor, it felt like the end of my life, so I guess she wasn’t asking me nicely the way Ms. Greer did.

I spent more time in the library growing up than any other building that wasn’t home or school, so when I saw this story about some Australian librarians checking on their senior citizens during COVID, I wanted to tell y’all about it because librarians are truly underappreciated.

When Melbourne’s Yarra Plenty regional libraries first went into lockdown in March, shut the doors and left the remaining unborrowed books on their shelves, staff were sent home with a phone.

“One of the hardest things about lockdown was people being separated from their community,” said Lisa Dempster, Yarra Plenty’s executive manager of public participation.

“The library is often a hub for the community, and we identified the most vulnerable cohort of our community would be the elderly.”

So the library staff pulled from their database the phone number of every library member over the age of 70 – a total of 8,000 records.

Then the librarians started calling those members. All of them.

(cont. The Guardian)

I lived next door to a little old lady 6 or 7 years ago and I would do errands for her and do her grocery shopping and sit with her a couple of times a week.  After I moved, I used to take her to church once a month up until last year. Her daughter moved in with her and thought it was “weird” that a former neighbor would still check up on her, but I like her. She’s like a Bonus Grandma and her kids weren’t checking on her. She spent most of her days alone in her apartment, and since she was right next door, I could go over there and sit on her couch and do what I would normally do on my own couch — watch TV and play on the internet or crochet. Her daughter is/was convinced I was just spending time with her because I wanted to get into her will. It just didn’t occur to her that I would want to look after my neighbor or look after a lonely old lady.

Not to generalize, but Western cultures don’t care for our elders the way other cultures do and we don’t look out for our neighbors the way other cultures do. We don’t build community the way other cultures do. Librarians do that! Libraries are community centers and librarians keep them going! Librarians get to know the people in their community, like the nerdy little kid who sits and reads quietly on Sundays while mom is at the beauty supply store. Librarians care about that community, like these senior citizens getting calls from their local library to make sure their faring well during a pandemic. Think about adding libraries to the list of causes you look for when choosing a politician to champion. They’re always under attack and they need our help to keep serving communities quietly and constantly without any gratitude.

I did thank Ms. Greer though. Before I went off to boarding school I bought her a nice card and sent it to the library.

 

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What would Dianne do?

Tomorrow, I’ll try to press Reset (for the millionth time this summer!) but today we finna eat good and pretend I don’t have any problems. If y’all got some good gossip, feel free to drop it in my inbox. Dianne would.

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Seven years ago today I was in my hometown for my mom’s funeral. It’s not really “a thing” for me anymore and I usually just commemorate the day by reading funny things I’ve written about her.

Everything just feels worse when you’re already down though. Like, I lost my phone Sunday. It felt like the end of the world. I’ve lost my phone in the past, and it just felt like an annoying inconvenience. Last year around this time, I breezed through just fine. This year, I wish she could help me laugh at some of my misfortunes and then cook for me.

My mom didn’t cook as often as some moms did because she worked and she ran a business and I had so many extra-curriculars to be shuttled to and from. Plus, my parents were both really social and cooking dinner wasn’t super high on the list of priorities. When she *did* cook though, we had a ball in the kitchen. Sometimes my dad would be sitting at the bar working on something of his or helping to shuck corn or shell peas. I would generally be in the way between picking the music. And my mom would be in charge of directing the topics of gossip, because both of them were messy and lived for drama.

So. Given my current emotional state, what would Dianne do for me?

First, she’d tell me to pray, and I’d let that go in one ear and right out the other. Then she’d ask me what I wanted to eat. I can’t fry chicken like she could and my salmon croquettes never come out right, but there’s a crock pot in the kitchen, so I just made some BBQ sauce and threw some chicken in it. Also, the grocery store by me has Lipton, so I bought some bags and some sugar, and we finna have sweet tea. I haven’t made cornbread from scratch in years, but I went over the recipe in my head and I think I still got it. I bought me some early peas and some sweet potatoes, and I’m bout to cook like my mama.

Tomorrow, I’ll try to press Reset (for the millionth time this summer!) but today we finna eat good and pretend I don’t have any problems. If y’all got some good gossip, feel free to drop it in my inbox. Dianne would.

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Working for Anti-Vaxxers: Week One

How did I get here?

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How did I get here?

Short re-cap in case you missed my summer blog…

The publishing company I worked for laid off a whole bunch of people in May because print media is dying and y’all hoes don’t read shit. I didn’t qualify for unemployment because I got a crappy lil retail job last fall for the holidays and kept it to work a couple of days a month because of the discount and the extra drinking money. NY State said since I have a job, I’m not unemployed.

Add that to moving expenses and the cost of just existing in New York City, and I was so excited about the prospect of a paycheck after living on fumes all summer, I didn’t really do any research about the non-profit foundation that hired me.

I’d signed on to work for an autism foundation run by anti-vaxxers.

The goal was to keep applying for jobs and to keep interviewing until I found a better position and hopeful I’d get another job offer before my start date, which was last Monday. But alas. That’s not how my life works, and I reported to work last week full of shame and angst and apprehension, but with the very real need to buy groceries and pay my phone bill looming overhead.

Whatever you’re thinking about a foundation full of anti-vaxxers is probably correct. There is a lot of nervous white woman energy all over the office. I only saw two non-white people all last week, and one was mixed. It’s like working with a parody of Jenny McCarthy, and luckily for y’all, Emma Stone did that for me so I don’t have to explain any further.

They’d just had a huge fundraiser, and since I was hired by the fundraising and events team, most of my time was spent crunching numbers and learning how to allocate money. The rest of my time was a lot of training about the company…and signing a lot of NDAs. Apparently they’ve had problems with people being hired under false pretenses, “spies” from other organizations infiltrating their barn of crazy to then go back to the real world with dirt. So there is a lot of paperwork about what you can and cannot say about your job.

One day last week, I’d just finished up some training exercises with two other new people, and I saw my trainer browsing through Instagram.

Emma: Oh it’s okay. Using your phone and stuff during down time is no big deal. There are ebbs and flows throughout the day, especially on this team.

Me: Oh that’s cool.

Emma: As long as your work is done or whatever, nobody really cares what you do. What’s your Instagram? I’ll follow you.

Me: I don’t have IG.

Emma: Really? Why not?

Me: **shrug** I just don’t use social media. I’m more of a private person I guess.

CLEARLY that is a lie, but my Instagram is “rafidangelo.” If you Google “rafidangelo” you can find anything I’ve ever written. I’ve always used the same handle on every social media platform because I used to make a lot of money doing this and you want to be easily searchable when your income depends on traffic to your site or sites. It’s impossible to erase a social media history like mine, so my employment strategy is to make sure I’m not searchable. The name I use on my resume is a name that does not appear anywhere on the Internet. So, on my application, the spots designated for social media are blank.

Anyway, it’s hard working for an organization that is directly and unquestionably making the world worse, but I have to set it aside in a corner of my mind because the most immediate pressing issue is keeping a roof over my head and food in my stomach. I can’t save the world if I’m hungry in a gutter somewhere, so I figured I could just keep my head down, keep booking interviews, and sooner rather than later, something will break and I’ll land a job elsewhere.

Friday I went to work for a halfday because the office empties out around 1 for Summer Fridays, and on the way out, the HR lady called me into her office.

Y’all. She had two blogs I’d written about vaccines.

When you’re the kind of organization worried about “spies” making their way in, having no social media imprint of any kind is a red flag. When I told Emma I don’t use it, they went back to my file and decided to start digging, which they should have done in the first place. When Susan from HR put my words in my face, I came clean and told her I wasn’t a spy, I just needed a job. I didn’t do my research on them the same way they didn’t do their research on me because we were both excited about the way the interviews went and what I could bring to fundraising and events planning. They needed new energy, I needed a paycheck, and we were both sloppy about doing our homework.

I couldn’t convince her I wasn’t a spy, but she said even if I wasn’t covertly working for another organization, my feelings about the topic were obviously at odds with the beliefs of the foundation, so I couldn’t work there.

So that’s how I got fired from a job I didn’t want a week after I started.

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