Salutations, crowd of people that know me but do not know each other,
Today I’m thinking about how we know things. I might write something about that at some point. What occurred to me was that nearly every single thing that we think we know is second-hand information. Someone taught us or wrote about it or we looked it up. Very little of the information that we believe to be true are ideas that we dreamed up ourselves.
Whatever happened to the old-school philosophers who shut themselves into libraries for months on end, just to think?
I had a ridiculously busy week—I was writing a government grant for Arts funding for Pen Parentis.
For those of you who write grants, you can skip this next paragraph unless you like reliving horror.
The rest of you? Here’s what it entailed.
there was a ninety minute live webinar to help you navigate the guidelines. Thirty of those minutes were awkward accessibility self-descriptions of government people who I, frankly, did not want to picture.
The grant application form is 40 pages before you start to fill it out. There are 17 pages of instructions in addition to the guidelines. This does not count the links or the popups on each page. There is also a “strong urging” that applicants attend office hours in addition to the webinar and reading the guidelines. This is the revised and simplified grant application, people.
Each question in the application has an allowable character count. Not words: characters. Sometimes 1000, sometimes 2000. Frequently the questions are 1500 characters and then they expect a 1000 word response. (When you cut/paste from the character counter your carefully crafted block of text with 1992 characters in it, you are told that your character count exceeds 2000. It just does.)
Part one of the application is on a different website than Part 2 of the application. A different website!
No two windows can have the same application open. Not on the same computer, not on different laptops in the same room, not anywhere on the same planet. Not even tech support can open the window while you are on it. You go this alone!
Part 2 of the application must be completed in one sitting, just for fun. It can not be saved until it is 100% complete. It takes about 45 minutes if you pre-write everything and just paste it into the form.
A minimum of 4 documents must be uploaded to complete this part of the application. (all in the same sitting as the writing part). These files must be named in a very specific way - things like “FY23-OrganizationLegalName-TreasurersStatement” which is the correct-to-upload file name of your FY2020 financial records. A headache of numbers.
None of the Budget categories on the required online spreadsheets align with budget categories on a typical Quickbooks account. Not one has the same name. Not one.
The budget section stops saving after 7 minutes of typing. It just…stops. You must manually click the save button after every entry to ensure that every entry is saved. Reminder: there are about 300 entries to be made.
The final deadline for parts one and two and all the uploaded budget files was 5pm on Monday. I got a text that my aunt died at 9pm Sunday. I had a SWOT analysis whole-team meeting at 7pm on Monday. At 6pm on Monday I was booking flights on the Jet Blue app. They gave me tickets on American Airlines.
Anyway, I never made it to Chicago, but the grant is in. My family was sad but I was devastated. There was just too much hope amid all the bad news.
Ladyteen and I showed up on time for an “ontime” flight but because of the codeshare we weren’t informed when American canceled all its flights. All of them. But not all at once. They canceled them one at a time.
Weather, apparently. No one knew.
(One of my excellent brothers pointed me to this excellent website where there is a flight misery index for on time vs misery— at the time La Guardia was almost all red.)
I was advised by American to cancel the flight and rebook fresh, since the first flight that either Jet Blue or American could do to Chicago was Sunday night — so because it was a family funeral and because we were already at the airport, I went on Expedia to try other airlines or combos of airlines and booked the last 2 seats on a 11pm flight to Albany that would let us connect at 6am to a flight from Albany to Chicago. The flight to Albany was Delta (but codeshare so it was actually a United flight) and the flight to Chicago was Delta and the flight home was Delta but actually American — but before we even got to the gate, the flight to Albany had been rescheduled to midnight and then canceled.
How are you holding up?
So we went to Delta and they put us on a standby direct flight to Chicago codeshared on a United plane. I took my standby papers (papers!!) and went home (it’s only an hour each way….)
In the morning there was a thick fog.
You couldn’t see off the Brooklyn Bridge
We arrived back at the airport at 6:30am for the 8:45 am standby. The Delta app showed the flight on time and we were pretty high up on the standby line - all we had to do was get to the gate.
The guard at security asked for our boarding passes and when I showed the paper stand by things, she said no.
Now began a circus of calling Expedia, calling Delta, and being told that no one could access the flight to change it—delta couldn’t access United. United couldn’t access Expedia, and Expedia couldn’t access Delta. Meanwhile the app was happily sending me popups saying that just on the other side of security, the flight was boarding — fast forward three hours and the flight had left and I had spoken to three Delta agents, one Delta supervisor, two Expedia agents, two Expedia supervisors, many security guards and five or six of my family members who had creative workarounds like “fly to Detroit and we will come get you.”
Meanwhile my kid waited. We were outside the security door with no restaurants, not even a Dunkin for coffee, and no seats. They don’t want you here.
I even tried trains (sold out) and buses (21 hours!!) but no dice.
So we came home. And I had a good long cry and a good long time to compose this newsletter
My aunt was an impressive woman. Doctors told her, after a massive stroke at the age of 40, that she would never talk or walk again. She defied them all. When she died in her 90s, she was a solo traveler—taking late night Greyhound buses with her walker across the country to various places that were important to her. She spoke carefully and slowly in two languages, and she had taught herself to read and write at a sixth grade level. That woman would not be held down, may she get some rest now—hopefully somewhere peaceful and interesting. She donated her body to science, self-sacrificing and generous even after her long life of giving to others.
Well, I wrote a grant.
Also I wrote this quirky little piece of nonfiction about my day in NYC with lots and lots of photos. It’s far more entertaining than reading about grant applications. And it’s super short. Click through. And if it makes you chuckle, do share it.
I actually got good news.
The trippy new magazine After Dinner Conversations has asked to publish one of my favorite weird stories: “The Heaven — The Earth.” I love this story and I’m thrilled to be published by this cool philosophy-and-conversation driven journal. I don’t have a pub date yet but I will let you know.
See? Stick around long enough and the most awful things recede into history.
Your aunt sounds like a remarkable woman - like you!
and great about your story -