I Promise This Isn’t a Food Blog

No stories. No musings. Just delicious food and how to make it.

Braised Chard and Orecchiette Served with Cod

Serves 4, 70 minutes

Ingredients

5 slices prosciutto
1 Tbs olive oil
1 lb cod, quartered
1 Tbs butter
1 bunch red chard
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 garlic glove, minced
3 sage leaves, minced
3 Tbs sun dried tomatoes, diced
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup peas
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
1 cup grated parmigiana reggiano
1 cup microgreens
squeeze of lemon
salt and pepper to taste

1 lb orecchiette pasta

  1. Separate from leaves and thinly slice chard stems. Coarsely chop leaves and keep separate. Set aside.
  2. In Dutch oven, on high heat, fry prosciutto until crispy. Set aside.
  3. While prosciutto is frying, pat cod dry and salt. Add olive oil to empty Dutch oven, followed by cod pieces. Reduce to medium high heat. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from pot and set aside.
  4. Melt butter in Dutch oven. Add chard stems, leek, & garlic. Salt. Cook for 10-15 minutes
  5. Increase heat to high and add wine, stirring constantly and adjusting heat as liquid evaporates. Add vegetable broth once alcohol has cooked off. Bring to a boil
  6. Meanwhile, in a large pot, boil water and cook orecchiette for 6-7 minutes.
  7. Reduce heat on Dutch Oven and bring to a simmer. Add peas, parsley, and chard leaves. Salt and pepper. Then place cooked cod quarters on top of the mix. Cover and turn off burner. Let rest for 8-10 minutes, until chard is full cooked and cod is falling apart.
  8. Remove cod and aside again.
  9. Strain orecchiette and mix in with vegetables and broth. Add parmesan and microgreens. Crumble in 2/3 of prosciutto. Reserve the rest for garnish.
  10. Serve with cod pieces on top and finish with a squeeze of lemon and remaining prosciutto.

Cook’s note: Cod is not a necessary part of this dish; I just love fish. It also isn’t a very pretty fish when cooked, unlike salmon. So if you want to speed things up, just steam it at the end and don’t worry about searing it at the top. It’ll still taste and look about the same. You can also stir it in with the pasta, as it really falls apart when cooked, and you will have a hard time serving it as a tidy or attractive fillet. There’s a reason why you’ve usually eaten cod battered.

Exhortation for Regrettable Sex

It’s ok to regret sex.
It’s ok, if, in the morning, a week from now, in 3 years,
you look back cringing and say, that was bad
I wish I hadn’t
I wish we hadn’t
ew.

It’s ok if you let a boy
with a jutting jaw
kiss you so hard,
he leaves bruises
that you hope heal before your mom visits
and then talk about Disney characters
before you slip back into your room
and leave him on the couch
and never talk to him again
because of how god-awful he was at kissing.

Have the sex you want,
change your mind
in the middle
after

Try something new with your trusted partner
then vow to never do it again
because you both hated it.

It’s ok to try and fail
at the kind of intimacy you want.
You won’t be too broken when you do find it.
You wont have more to offer by avoiding
less than perfect sex.
You aren’t a martyr for waiting.

Nazi Nightmares

One of the first big bads I ever experienced was Nazis. We weren’t allowed to watch sex in tv and movies, but violence was allowed, and I saw plenty of WWII content. Then, in 4th grade, I overheard my mom tell my older sister about the antichrist before bed one night1. Suddenly, I was regularly having vivid dreams of antichrist Nazis storming our house where we hid in vain. This continued for years. In adolescence, these dreams morphed into kidnappers and sexual predators. Either way, I often had dreams where I knew I was in danger, attempted to hide somewhere that I normally found safe, and was inevitably found by the person causing that danger.

Yesterday on Instagram Live, Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez described the events of the January 6th insurrection as she experienced them. She was made aware of the danger to herself. She made decisions to help keep herself safe. She had a moment where she needed to hide and feared that Nazis had come to hurt/kill her.

It was literally the stuff of nightmares. My nightmares.

I feel really unsettled. There are a lot of general reasons, like the fact that our nation’s capitol seems extremely vulnerable to white supremacists, and that the breech to the building seems to have been allowed to happen. There’s the fact that Republicans have stayed their course of denying the legitimacy of the election and downplaying the seriousness of the danger to their colleagues.

I also feel personally agitated. This didn’t even happen to me, but hearing my childhood nightmare played out to a real person makes me queasy.

A lot of people are opposed to calling these predominantly white, male protestors Nazis. I won’t reshare any of the images, but there is ample documentation of the hoard wearing pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic paraphernalia. In addition to that, they are trading in fear. They are afraid of losing power to women, queer people, and racial minorities. They are afraid that what they and their ancestors have done for centuries will be done to them when they are out of power. And they want anyone who opposes their dogmatic, narrow understanding of who should be self-determining to be afraid also. The Nazis of WWII traded in fear, so much so that they haunted my childhood nightmares, 50 years after their reign ended.

The Neo Nazis of today are trading in fear.

And I am afraid.

I am afraid for the future of democracy here. I am afraid that more people will get hurt or lose their lives2. I am afraid that the slow corrosive chipping away at historical progress will lead us into the dark ages, while people fighting for new progress will fail, even amid occasional wins. I am afraid that Democrats won’t pass strong legislation, then lose control of Congress in 2022 and our chances of transformation will become nil. I am afraid, because I am a woman and there’s a long history of violence against women being ignored. I am afraid for my Black and brown friends and neighbors, because there is a long history of violence and systemic oppression against them being downplayed and ignored. I am afraid that our democracy works better for Nazis and crooks than it does for working people.

I want to say I am hopeful. There are things to be hopeful about. We have 2 years to reverse course, do some healing, and create meaningful limits on cravenness and corruption in our federal government. More people who think like me are running for office at every level and winning. Those are facts, but not how I feel.

We will not heal and move forward through executive order or through papering over the pain and fear. That’s not how it works. The people who tried to overthrow our democracy, including elected Members of Congress need consequences. They are a cancer, and we don’t negotiate with cancer. We cannot be a healthy democracy as long as they and their ilk hold office and are willing to deploy violence and the fear of violence to get their way.

I was helpless in my dreams, paralyzed with fear, fear that stayed with me even in waking hours. But that’s a lie. Awake, I can take action. Awake, I am in charge, not just a witness to my own fate. The demise of our democracy is not inevitable. We can be democracy together. We must be democracy together.

1 Note to parents: whatever scary things you believe in, whether antichrists or climate change, don’t tell your kids about them right before bed.

2 This fear is really just the reality since we are going on one year of a pandemic that was largely preventable. See also medical apartheid and environmental racism.

What’s Wrong with AOC’s Vanity Fair Cover? It’s Not What You Think

US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is on the cover of Vanity Fair. She’s become a progressive and fashion icon, and VF’s choice to feature her is in keeping with other politically bent covers (see Breonna Taylor) this year.

As a rule, she puts a lot of care into her appearance, and it shows. Something that has struck me about The Squad in general is that they all dress well, especially Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and AOC. As a feminist who loves clothes, it’s exciting to me to see legislators looking so good. I have often dreamed of running for office and bringing my sense of style with me–something these women are doing and doing well. Women in politics often read as frumpy, even when polished, communicating that clothing is secondary to their jobs as civil servants. The Squad takes the angle that their clothes are integral to their roles as legislators.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been the subject of scrutiny because of her clothes. Her Republican colleagues have been quick to comment on her clothing, calling into question her position as a member of the working class or conversely her role as a congresswoman. Before AOC became a legislator, she was a bartender and probably only dreamed of wearing the kind of designer clothes she sports in the Vanity Fair spread. Once again, though, conservative pundits have been quick to call into question her socialist bona fides after an accounting of the retail price of her outfits came out.

Here’s the list of what she wore and its retail price according to the Daily Mail:
$2,850 Loewe suit
$1,000 Aliette suit (approx)
$3,000 Carolina Herrera suit
$2,500 Christopher John Rogers suit
$815 Wales Bonner dress
$695 Christian Louboutin slingbacks
$1,450 Diamond, gold and floating pearl Mateo earrings
$2,000 Bulgari earrings (approx) 
TOTAL:  $14,310

Right-wingers are excited to condemn the AOC spread as anti-socialist because they police women’s bodies with enthusiasm, and they want to run a negative press campaign to discredit her. They are themselves hypocrites and need to accuse others of hypocrisy to distract from their own. But what if you’re a leftist (and you are committed to not policing women’s bodies or discrediting left-leaning politicians) and working person to whom $14,000 on a handful of clothes sounds utterly outrageous? Should you too be angry with AOC? Is this a slap in the face of socialism?

This is a lot of money–95% of the annual income of anyone working full time and making minimum wage. It would even be a big chunk of AOC’s annual salary at 8%. It is also money AOC didn’t spend. It’s not even clear whether Vanity Fair paid anything for these items. I am not sure what their procurement process was, but it’s more than likely that they didn’t pay for it either.

First, let’s understand a couple things about fashion. To start, pricing, especially designer pricing, is arbitrary to the nth degree. Yes, there are some basic material and labor costs, but individual fashion houses set their profit margin, which varies and is in no way reflective of the value of the materials or working conditions. Further, market price for comparable clothing is all over the map.

Second, when we are talking about designer clothing, $2-3k for a suit is normal. Gal Gadot wore a Givenchy suit in Vantiy Fair this month, and those easily retail at $3.5K. In March, Ana De Armas was photographed in Valentino for Vanity Fair. Their dresses range from $2300 to $7900.

There’s a lot to say about high-end fashion being ridiculously priced these days. There have been some excellent critiques on pricing scales, noting that as wages have stagnated, designer clothing has increased in price, becoming less and less accessible, all while designers are also putting out ready-to-wear lines at lower price points to compensate for their flagging runway sales. Meanwhile, the rise of fast fashion is breaking down class barriers, which is a poor payoff for the environmental devastation it’s causing.

What does this mean for Representative AOC’s socialist status? First, she is a democratic socialist. This means she wants to limit capitalism, not necessarily destroy it (which isn’t pure socialism). She wants to limit it a lot, though, and she’s further left than just about anyone else in congress. That’s good! If you’re a leftist, that means she wants to pass legislation that will move your leftist agenda forward. A $2.8k suit gifted by a fashion magazine isn’t going to prevent her from doing that. Her goal isn’t to make congress poorer (at least not in their base salary), but to elevate everyone else. She hasn’t achieved that goal yet.

Another angle to this is fashion as art. I don’t think it’s difficult to argue that the folks at Vanity Fair are creating art or, at least, curating it. Clothing is at the intersection of time, geography, class, culture, gender, and personal psychology. It is layered with artistic talent and in conversation with other works and society. AOC as art makes $14K seem more reasonable. We know what socialism has to say about fashion as function here. It’s easy to recognize the classism fundamental to the fashion industry’s framework. What does socialism have to say about fashion as art? In one sense, a $15 magazine filled with high fashion is highly accessible art, democratized. You don’t even need to buy the magazine to see the images shot by Tyler Mitchell. We might not be wearing the clothes, but maybe they are meant to be seen and not worn. What does public art mean for clothing? I don’t know entirely. I don’t want to get rid of high-end fashion, even as a leftist, because I think it is art. I don’t think equality means very much if we don’t also make the world beautiful.

All of that said, I think this may have been a misstep. This spread doesn’t give rise to a stirring rendition of “Solidarity Forever,” despite the white suit AOC wears on the cover, referencing Suffragette fashion of yesteryear. Unfortunately, the price point is inconsistent with her image of connecting to the people. Most of us will never even touch clothes this expensive. It’s what we hate about Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer: being out of touch.

AOC is not wealthy compared to her fellow congresspeople. She is wealthy compared to the American people, and that scale matters. Trump cheated on his taxes. Pelosi orders expensive ice cream by the freezer-full. AOC now has been gifted a designer suit.

In contrast, this last week, Ilhan Omar was featured on the cover of Teen Vogue with her daughter Isri. Both of them opted to wear items from their own wardrobe. Omar looked regal without labels. I think this is a move AOC could have made as well.

Another option would have been to select from designers working on transparency in supply chain, paying a living wage at every stage of the garment production process, ensuring safe working environments, and moving toward carbon neutral production. A $2800 suit seems less alarming with that kind of dedication to improving some of fashion’s worst features, even if the price point is still unattainable for most of us. She also could have exclusively worn American or Latinx designers. This indulgence ultimately feels like a lost opportunity.

Fashion has long been used to delineate class. From sumptuary laws to conspicuous consumption, there is a lot of status baked into clothing. Ocasio-Cortez has taken a huge leap up into the governing class, and this spread shows that. She’s unquestionably a sitting U.S. Congressperson and no longer a bartender.

Ultimately, if you are a leftist, I think thoughtful critique of the spread in Vanity Fair is warranted, which is different from shaming her for wearing nice clothes or accepting an expensive gift. AOC is as far left as congress gets. To maintain her image as a congressperson of the people, she needs to make choices in her dress, even editorialized items she doesn’t own, that reflect that.

This Morning, I Saw a Man Get Tased

(CW: police violence)

This morning, I saw a man get tased.

I saw a Black man get tased.

I saw a Black man wearing red get tased.

I saw a Black man wearing red get tased by the Minneapolis Police Department.

I saw a Black man wearing red get tased by the Minneapolis Police department for shoplifting groceries.

I saw a Black man wearing red get tased by the Minneapolis Police Department for shoplifting groceries during a global pandemic.

I saw a Black man wearing red get tased by the Minneapolis Police Department for shoplifting groceries during a global pandemic, during which the government has only provided $1,200 in 6 months.

I saw a Black man wearing red get tased by the Minneapolis Police Department for shoplifting groceries during a global pandemic, during which the government has only provided $1,200 in 6 months, which amounts to less than $7 per day.

This happened next door to my 3-month-old son’s daycare.
______________________________________________________________________________

I am one block away, I see a Black man get up from sitting on the curb, surrounded by police. He pulls away. I hear a pop. He crumples. Then 5 or 6 officers are on him, cuffing him. Kneeling and pressing on limbs, putting him on a gurney, strapping him down, pressing his head down. I don’t hear him make a sound. I see the wires from the taser. I know the pop was too quiet to be a gunshot, but the visual is jarringly similar.

I only film a minute of it, after the tasing, after he is already on the gurney. Because I don’t press record correctly in my hurry to get my phone out.

I hold my son in my arms while I film. I say we live in a police state to him. I say we need other people, not police to respond when someone is having a mental health crisis. When someone is unarmed and has committed a nonviolent crime. When someone is trying to feed themselves.

I count the squad cars. It takes me too long, because I am shaking. I stop at 5. Pause. There are 6.

They put him in an ambulance. I stop filming. I put my son in his stroller. He cries. I say, now we will pray.  I wish I knew the man’s name. I walk to the grocery store.

The employees are talking about the man. He pretends to be crazy they say, to get away with it. He got tased they say in grimly satisfied tones. The white store managers had been standing at the end of the block where he got tased. When I leave the store, they are standing by the entrance, talking to another white store manager.

No one making decisions about any of this is Black. This man probably had white teachers in school. And now, when he’s trying to figure out how to feed himself, it’s white store managers and white cops. And his community can’t build social, political, or economic power, such that, when he’s out of food, someone sees him and sees his humanity, and says, what do you need to be able to eat with dignity?

I find somewhere to sit and nurse my son before daycare, across from an apartment building. Several tenants go in and out while he eats. They are all Black. Why aren’t the store managers Black? Do they live within a block of the store? A mile? Two miles? I don’t think so.

My son is done eating. I walk us back to the daycare. All the squad cars are gone. On the stoop, there are two packages of fish from the grocery store. They tased a man and didn’t return the stolen goods to the store. They left them to spoil in the sun.

In this police state, nobody wins.

I drop my son off at daycare. I walk home. I see the man wearing red seize and crumple over and over in my mind. I cry. Seize. Crumple. Cry. Seize. Crumple. Cry.

My rage starts to boil. We’re lucky it’s only protests and looting.
______________________________________________________________________________

A few weeks ago, my city council member, Lisa Goodman, sent out a newsletter saying that people feel unsafe downtown, condemning the looting that occurred after a man’s public suicide was mistaken for another police killing, and not condemning the MPD for eroding trust to the point that it was reasonable to believe they had shot and killed another Black man.

The only violence I saw today was perpetrated by the police. One of the only times I feel unsafe downtown is when I see the police interacting with citizens. I don’t like all my neighbors. Some of them are rude and stinky and sexist. Some of them walk three-wide on the sidewalk and don’t make room for anyone else. It’s annoying, but not unsafe.

Cars that don’t yield for pedestrians are unsafe. Cyclists and scooterists who use the sidewalk are unsafe. Police are unsafe.
______________________________________________________________________________

A friend encouraged me to write down how I imagine this should have gone differently. So here are my what ifs:

What if the store manager had a conversation with the man and said, ”I know it’s tough. I know you need food. How can I help you get the food you need and not steal it?”

What if the city had unarmed civil servants and social workers who could be called, instead of armed police, who would connect this man with services to get his needs met?

What if the store managers were Black and lived in the community, so that they recognized that they were investing in the whole community, not just paying customers?

What if food was a public good and decommodified?

What if this was a production of Les Miserables? What if this man was Jean Valjean?

What if society took its metaphorical and physical boot off of the necks of Black people?

For the One Who is Brave

This is a poem I wrote for my wedding, and hid in plain sight. When an unsuspecting guest picked it up, she was instructed to stop everything to read it, which she did. My husband had not read the poem yet, and it was a joy to watch his face as he took it in for the first time.

I wrote this for my wedding, but it applies to this moment of turmoil and uncertainty, and I hope you enjoy it and take courage.

For the One Who is Brave
(a comprehensive exposition of what bravery is)

The first time you are brave,
you probably won’t know it
until it is too late
and your only choice is to keep being brave
or lose—maybe everything.
Later you will learn to know in advance,
so you can opt out early
and not be confronted with the concept of brave to begin with,
Because you will also learn in exactly which ways it is hard
to be brave.
You will know it is lonely, solitary, and scary,
It is lights and eyes pointed at you,
It is interrupting a wedding.
You will know the difference between brave
and the comfort of your bed, a dark room,
and an “I’ll do it tomorrow.”
But what’s important, once you have learned the difference—
when being brave is love taking a risk,
not lightning taking the shortest route to the ground—
is to do it anyway,
to say yes to living,
yes to trusting your gut,
yes to distrusting your depression,
yes to going on a first date,
when you thought first dates were done.
It is naked, standing three feet apart,
and holding off on the impulse to dim the lights,
or move together to touch, instead of
look—holding each other’s gaze,
for seconds then minutes.
It is sharing the parts of you that you’d rather
weren’t there, that you wished were better,
but aren’t yet.
It is “I was wrong” and “I’m sorry.”
Sometimes, even, it’s fighting monsters,
casual and grandiose.
But it is mostly glamorless,
mostly the hard stuff,
mostly the what’s next stuff,
but we still write songs about it,
and read poems under the glare of stage lights,
and perform plays,
and go to movies about all of this
ordinary bravery.
And this is no different,
Except that this is for us,
for future yeses,
for we do,
we will,
we can,
we must,
yes,
yes.

Bougie Career Advice

I just spent 6 months job hunting. A lot of that time was spent on the popular job networking site, LinkedIn. It’s basically Facebook for working professionals. It is somehow not less political. It is full of career advice. Most of this advice isn’t from people I actually know, but I see it because people in my network like or comment.

I’ve compiled all the advice I’ve read over the last 6 months, and I’ve come up with the perfect formula for success: be as privileged as the person giving the advice, and do what you love; lean in; lean out; find a balance; work smarter; work harder; say no; say yes; network; build a brand; be authentic.

If this sounds hollow, it’s because it is, and that is most of the advice LinkedIn has to offer people who are job hunting or seeking career development.

Here is my real advice: form a union in your field to demand better wages and benefits. Advocate for universal healthcare, a wage ratio, high taxes on the rich, a 32-hour work week, and adequate paid family leave for all genders.

Barring that, you will probably spend your life doing jobs that allow you to select only a couple of the above items and making trade-offs on everything else that will be somewhat unsatisfying in a variety of ways. Even if you find a way to do a job you love, you will probably struggle with medical debt, saving for retirement, and having enough money to grow your family. If you are a woman, gender-non-conforming, disabled, or a person of color, you will deal with the added tribulations of workplace and lifeplace discrimination at just about every point, so you might not even have time to think about retirement or a promotion. Instead, you’ll repeatedly prove yourself while someone else takes credit or your contribution goes totally unnoticed. Or you will spend most of your life with no idea how to get past service industry jobs because of sub-par or incomplete education, red-lining, and diminished opportunity for everyone in your professional and social sphere.

These things aren’t about being more hard-working or cracking a secret code; they are about human dignity and social good. When we live in a society where wealth isn’t consolidated into a few billionaires and millionaires, when race, sex, and gender presentation isn’t a deciding factor to career success (let alone life expectancy), then you can talk to me about how I need to work harder or smarter or be more balanced or lean in or out.

Until then, the only code I’m interested in cracking is how to actually level the playing field so everyone has a chance to think about what brings them joy and then go do it.

Housing Court, Yes I Went There

I was hoping this post would be about my unopposed triumph at housing court last week, but court isn’t about winning. As one friend put it, court reliably makes everyone a little happy and a little disappointed.

Why did I got to court?

I was trying to get out of my lease, because my next door neighbor is an AirBnB with a revolving door of late-night parties on the weekends. My building management virtually refused to get involved. I contested that this is a breech of my lease, which has an implied covenant of habitability and quiet enjoyment. In other words, loud parties have kept me from using my apartment as intended (for sleep), so I told my landlords (via the court) they were in breech of the terms of my lease.

After 6 months of this absolute circus, relief is on its way. I will be living elsewhere by March 14th.

Basically, this involved sending a letter citing the specific law I thought they were breaking at least 14 days before rent was due. Then, when property management failed to respond in any way to the letter, I filed an affidavit and paid my rent to the court instead of to my building. It cost $70 to file. My court date was set when I filed for just 2 weeks later.

I represented myself. Lawyers are expensive, and most people file pro se (without a lawyer) for this type of case. I gathered every piece of documentation I could think of from floor plans to emails to phone records. I even included an ultrasound of my unborn child and doctor’s notes from Kevin’s sleep doctor. It was a lot of work, but I knew I needed all of it to make my case.

I wore my most fitted dress, to show off my six-month pregnant belly. I didn’t have to fake my waddle, and I brought a pillow to sit on.

I got nervous. I reviewed my material and talked over every possible angle we’d need to anticipate from the apartment’s lawyers.

Then, it turned out that before appearing before the judge, I’d have to sit down and negotiate with the apartment’s lawyer. If we couldn’t reach a settlement after that, I would present all my documentation and the court referee would decide if it merited a trial. This being my first time in court, I didn’t know that at all and had come prepared to present an argument to a judge.

The negotiation took place in a little room with me, the lawyer, the property manager, and Kevin. The lawyer and I did 99% of the talking. Kevin graciously carried my things. The lawyer started by saying there’s no way a noise complaint case would win in a trial and that the tenant legal hotline (Home Line) we used should stop telling tenants to file Rent Escrow over noise problems. This was gratuitous, and he shouldn’t have said that, knowing I didn’t have counsel. Further, he was lying, but I’ll get to that later. Next, he hammered at my request of 2 months rent abatement. According him, there was no way the property company would agree to return 2 months worth of rent to us. When I held my ground and asked why the property manager’s written promises for fines and eviction had gone nowhere, we moved on to the actual offer.

The offer: Get out of of the lease at no cost. Pay rent for the remaining time we live there with a move out date of March 31.

Everything prior to this offer was intended to make me feel uncertain about my course of action and grateful for the offer once it came. Moving out was always going to be more important than getting money. The lawyer knew that. Also, moving out was the most likely outcome if we had gone to trial. The money was always a long shot. I knew that.

At this point, Kevin and I spoke privately, decided to take the rent abatement off the table for a move out date of March 1.  I knew they’d say no, so I was prepared to accept March 14, the date I requested in the affidavit.

After this, the lawyer and property manger spoke privately. When they came back, they agreed to a March 14 move out date. We filled out some paperwork, submitted it to the court clerk, and waited for our case to be called again.

When it was called, the lawyer and I stood before the judge, who read our settlement agreement, made sure those terms were what both parties agreed to, and dismissed us. I waited in the lobby until the court order was printed. The lawyer went to deal with his other cases that day.

Back to the lawyer lies: Minnesota courts have ruled in favor of tenants regarding noise disturbances. Those cases had documented complaints with failed intervention on the part of the landlord, usually over a the course of many months. While our case didn’t meet every detail of the cases I read about, it fit a lot of them. The main difference was the amount of time a tenant went before filing rent escrow. I couldn’t afford to wait longer as a pregnant person, and I couldn’t deal directly with the problem tenant. Plus courts generally don’t really like AirBnB. All this is to say that trial would have been a bit of a gamble, but probably not to the degree that the lawyer wanted me to think it was.

Additionally, Home Line’s advice to file Rent Escrow was extremely effective insofar as, prior to filing, my landlords were offering terrible solutions that would have required us to downsize while expecting a baby or pay them more money to fix a problem they created. Once I filed, we got what we wanted. They had to pay an expensive lawyer. We had to pay $70. At the end of the day, we are only paying for half a month more in rent than we had originally planned when we started negotiating in January. But the property company paid a lawyer more than we pay in half a month’s rent. They also have to list the apartment, show it, and they still have a disruptive AirBnB to deal with, regardless of who is in our unit.

Maybe there aren’t winners in court, but this time there was definitely a loser, and it wasn’t me.

If you care about tenants rights and access to safe, habitable housing for all, please consider donating to Home Line. Most of the tenants taking on their landlords were dealing with unattended repairs. Home Line operates in Minnesota to help these folks who have fewer resources and worse living conditions.

If you are a tenant with a problem landlord, call Home Line. It is free.

Kevin Forbid!

This is a list of Kevin/Heaven puns. This list is neither exhaustive, nor does it reflect the personality, desires, or sensibilities of all Kevins, namely, my Kevin. It has been a delight to other Kevins and friends to Kevins, so much so, that I hope to one day develop a line of men’s dress shirts with these phrases embroidered on their pockets. In the meantime, enjoy.

  1. Seven Minutes in Kevin
  2. Kevin must be missing an angel
  3. Kevin and Hell
  4. Kevin is for real
  5. All dogs go to Kevin
  6. Just like Kevin
  7. Between Kevin and Earth
  8. Good Kevins!
  9. Kevin on Earth
  10. Thank Kevins!
  11. Kevins to Betsy
  12. Knocking on Kevin’s door
  13. Match made in Kevin
  14. Died and gone to Kevin
  15. Oh, for Kevin’s sake!
  16. Kevin can wait
  17. Kevin-sent
  18. Kevin Help Us
  19. Kevin Forbid
  20. Stairway to Kevin
  21. Pennies from Kevin

Employment Gaps

Employers are not allowed to ask prospective employees an entire myriad of questions in interviews. This includes asking you for your race, religion, genetic information, pregnancy status, marital status or whether you have children. In at will states, employers also cannot ask candidates for a term of commitment (aka–“Are you willing to be in this role for at least two years?”–an absurd question, because, even if you answer in the affirmative, they are under no obligation to employ you for at least two years).

If you get asked these questions in a interview, politely inform the interviewer that such a question is illegal. I am not speaking out of experience, because the only time this has happened to me, I didn’t know I was being asked an illegal question. Ideally, employers don’t ask these questions, but being prepared for if they do is a good idea, especially if you are not white, straight, cis, male, and able bodied. If you have experience calling out illegal questions in an interview, I want to hear about it!

Employers can ask you to explain employment gaps. That means if you were out of work for 6 months or more to care for a child or due to a chronic health issue or other disability, you are asked to disclose that either in an interview or on an application–before you even get in the room.

Should employers be allowed to require you to explain employment gaps? Is it any of their business?

I think the answer is no. Just like the sound of high-heels on the wood floor when orchestras started doing blind auditions, questions about employment gaps surreptitiously disadvantage groups that are already disadvantaged. Mothers (who take a disproportionate amount of time off to raise children) the disabled, and people who have been in prison suffer the most from these questions. So, people who already have a harder time finding and keeping work are being asked in a round-about fashion whether they are par. This does not lead to a fair hiring process, but a deeply biased one.

I know that whether someone has been in prison sounds like it may be of some interest to an employer, and in many states employers can ask about it as early as a job application. This is its own issue, and I know that I cannot fully do it justice here. The long and short of it is that, with rare exception, someone’s completed sentence ought not determine whether they are fit for a job.

Requiring applicants to explain gaps in employment on a job application immediately signals to me that your company is not aware of how various groups are discriminated against in the workplace or are not willing to be part of making a difference.

This practice has proven to be prevalent in my current job search, making me nervous for my future, should I ever develop a disability or take time off to be a parent (I don’t currently think prison is on the table).