On Love – Unrequited, Political and Otherwise … Encore: Leonard Cohen and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Dance to the Rhythm of Abolition Democracy
February 14, 2017
The GAU website and newsletter platform provide individuals the opportunity to engage in incisive argument, advocacy, deliberation and dialogue regarding a wide array of topics potentially of interest to readers. The views expressed in this essay do not necessarily reflect the views of Graduate Assistants United. Some of the perspectives and analyses featured in the following article almost certainly do not reflect all the diverse views of the many Graduate Assistants who are represented by the union at SIUC, nor do the opinions and anecdotes advanced below represent the positions of any other members of GAUnited.
By James Anderson
Since the last time I penned another piece in my ongoing series of Valentine’s Day confessionals, Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen died.
Cohen, posthumously deemed the “poet laureate of the lack,” was 82. An accomplished poet and novelist at an early age, he did not start seriously performing music until his early 30s. Entering the music scene with a maturity and lyrical sophistication few ever develop, he was renowned for seamlessly fusing allusions to the divine with innuendos apropos of sexual euphoria in his lyrics.
Perhaps his most famous song, “Hallelujah,” illustrates that theme. “I remember when I moved in you,” he sings in a version of the song performed live in London, “and the holy dove, she was moving too / And every single breath that we drew was Hallelujah.” The song moves rhythmically back and forth between spiritual intimations and insinuations of ecstatic intercourse. The song evokes the procession of prayer while simultaneously progressing toward climax and release, reflecting the sexual experience. However, “Hallelujah,” is also about the glory of romantic intimacy even when it exists only as memory, long after the rhythms of two bodies moving together has fallen off beat – or, as with some of us, when the ecstatic awkwardness has returned to a solo and (quite literally) single-handed affair aided only by the painful memory of previous bodily interactions.
It is that embodied, sensuous and super-sexual, yet simultaneously transcendent, power of love –unrequited, political and otherwise – Cohen’s lyrics alert us to.
“There’s a crack, a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in,” Cohen reminds us in the song, “Anthem,” which is quoted at the beginning of the PhD dissertation I defended last May, despite there being no love lost between me and most of the professorial class in the college at SIUC I then belonged to.
Before his death – on the eve of the 2016 US presidential election – Cohen was well aware that there’s no denying we live in dark times. Yet, in our darkest moments – these lonely and loveless times devoid of the companionship, connection and rapturous pleasures of the flesh we so desperately desire and require to survive and thrive – Cohen assured us we need not despair.
We also do not have to drink ourselves into oblivion, I’ve discovered. Drowning our sorrows in cheap blended scotch can only do so much. Granted, Cohen also appreciated scotch whisky, perhaps too much. But not just scotch. To deal with severe stage fright Cohen went through three bottles of wine a night while on tour when he first started performing, David Remnick reported.
Nevertheless, Cohen persevered. But this piece is not simply about Cohen. As with each sweet love song I serenade potential partners with – thus ensuring with all that off key discordant efforts at courting that said potential is never realized – an interlude is in order. Before returning to derive further inspiration from Cohen, we first must turn to the story of an incredible woman whose life struggle is pertinent to both the history and the future of the labor movement, not to mention its appeal to both historians and lovers of tales about stormy love.
Historical Interlude: The “Rebel Girl” and Her Labor of Love
In the early 20th century, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn emerged as a captivating speaker and organizer with the Industrial Workers of the World, a syndicalist-style labor union committed to displacing capitalist arrangements by promoting economic democracy.
Joe Hill, the famed IWW singer-songwriter, wrote the tune “Rebel Girl,” for and about Flynn. Funding from the Illinois Arts Council Agency made a recent rendition of the song possible. As Hill first put it in the lyrics evoking Flynn, “And the grafters in terror are trembling / When her spite and defiance she’ll hurl / For the only and thoroughbred lady / Is the Rebel Girl.”
Hill firmly believed the Wobblies – workers involved with the IWW – needed more women like Flynn at the helm.
Flynn not only engaged in struggles against the exploitation of workers endemic to capitalism. She also struggled with love in romantic partnerships.
The lovely Lara Vapnek, associate professor of history at St. John’s University, documented those epic union battles and the equally salty, undulating – if sometimes titillating – romantic liaisons of the famed female Wobbly in, “Elizabeth Gurley Flynn: Modern American Revolutionary.” In the early 1900s, Vapnek notes, Flynn “played the part of the ‘East Side Joan of Arc,’ a beautiful young revolutionary demanding ‘bread and roses’ for immigrant workers,” and later coming to the defense of “political prisoners during the Red Scare that began during World War I” – matters relevant today given our current political climate.
After speaking to crowds upon soapboxes a year prior, a blossoming Flynn joined the Wobblies at the age of 16.
“By 18 she was married and pregnant – not necessarily in that order,” Vapnek explained in a talk about Flynn, “and as her friend, Vincent St. John, remarked, ‘Elizabeth fell in love with the West and the miners, and she married the first one she met.’”
Flynn’s “romance with the West,” including her marriage with the miner Jack Jones, Vapnek observes, did not last long. And, this is understandably so for anyone like myself who’s had the misfortune of living for any extended period of time here on the West Coast.
A few years after her relationship with Jones ended, Vapnek wrote, Flynn became infatuated with the Italian anarchist Carlo Tresca, a fellow IWW rabble-rouser. The two worked together as organizers and agitators during the Great Textile Strike of 1912 in Lawrence, Mass. “Flynn and Tresca fell madly in love while working together in Lawrence and they were soon inseparable,” as Vapnek put it. “Tresca presented Flynn with a copy of his favorite novel, writing in the front of the book, ‘One heart has the same flame for you alone.’ Beneath it, Flynn later wrote, ‘I always remember. And you? Carlo? How soon you forgot.’”
Burn. But Flynn’s comments did not come out of the blue.
“Tresca’s appeal to women was legendary, and Flynn turned out to be just one of his many lovers,” Vapnek wrote. “She had her share of romantic liaisons, too, but she seems to have been faithful to Tresca while they were a couple. Tresca held a special place in Flynn’s heart even after they parted. In her small diary, Flynn scribbled, ‘I wonder if I can ever infuse another love with the same blind, passionate devotion. . . . I hope not.’”
For a time, Flynn had “found a partner in love and social struggle in Carlo Tresca,” Vapnek commented. “Since their fateful meeting in Lawrence in 1912, the dashing pair could be found on the forefront of labor struggles and battles for free speech around the country.”
Flynn wrote of the immense “pain and joy of those hot fleeting caresses” she exchanged in secret with her beloved anytime guards turned their backs when her Italian inamorato was jailed, Vapnek recorded.
Vapnek explained how Flynn fell for this older anarcho-syndicalist “known for his sharp political instincts, his dramatic public speaking style, and also his skill in seducing women, which apparently was legendary. Tresca moved in with Flynn and her family, and he was a very charming person. He was also a very good cook, so I think the fact that he cooked all this Italian food really helped win over her family.”
Also, unfortunately for Flynn, the free-loving Tresca, true to his libidinal urges, later got a little too close to another member of her family.
Dedicated to transforming the established order, Tresca nevertheless “clung to old-fashioned ideas about women while giving himself free rein to pursue numerous love affairs.”
One affair in particular underscored what Flynn termed the “tempestuous” relationship between the two.
Tresca became romantically involved with Elizabeth’s little sister, Bina, who “was by all accounts ‘a dreamy Irish beauty.’” Eight years younger than her older sister, “and nearly twenty years younger than Carlo, who continued to be considered handsome in his forties,” Bina would become very romantically involved with her sister’s sweetheart, but she would also go on to find “some success as an actress and aspired to be a poet” before suffering a heart attack and dying in 1942 at the early age of 44.
Tresca sired Bina’s son, Peter, in 1923. “Ironically,” Vapnek noted, “Tresca would be indicted the following year for advertising birth control in the pages of Il Martello,” the newspaper he edited. Also ironically, years later when Flynn was convicted under the Smith Act for her political affiliations, Peter visited her in prison, and they became close correspondents.
But the more famous Flynn did not find out about Tresca’s two-timing within her family until 1925. Not surprisingly, when she discovered the affair she stopped speaking to Bina for a long while, “and the formerly close-knit Flynn family fractured.”
The heart-wrenching betrayal prompted Flynn to sublimate her fury by throwing herself into her work with a passion, starting with an action in Passaic, N.J., where some 15,000 woolen workers went on strike in 1926. In between delivering speeches, distributing supplies and ensuring aid made it to the families of the strikers, “Flynn became romantically involved with the twenty-five-year-old leader of the Passaic strike, Albert Weisbord,” who was, as Vapnek describes, a “son of working-class Jewish immigrants from Russia” and the recipient of a prestigious scholarship to Harvard Law School. Flynn, who was about 13 years his senior, wrote in a letter that Weisbord was “the sweetest and most satisfying lover one could have.”
At the time, though, Flynn’s younger contemporaries were calling her “motherly,” and some claimed she had developed “the figure of an old-fashioned opera singer.” Stress from her fallout with Tresca no doubt contributed to the appearance of premature aging, Vapnek suggests.
Her once lithe Irish-American appearance gradually swelled, as “Flynn found Italian food hard to resist, and began to put on weight, a problem that would plague her for the rest of her life,” Vapnek revealed.
Wounds of the heart seldom fully heal, but Flynn recovered as best she could. She directed much of her energy against arguably the most love-destroying and loathsome institution still with us today: prison. According to Vapnek, Flynn claimed prisons were constructed “not to assert but to destroy human dignity.”
Flynn’s commitments should be studied by present-day “carceral feminists,” those attempting to address harm committed against women by embracing intervention from the state in the form of imprisonment. As Flynn would surely argue if she were around today, that mode of supposed justice actually reinforces a punishment paradigm and augments the mass incarceration responsible for the degradation of human beings and of communities – vicious cycles no doubt implicated in the reproduction of the gendered harm “carceral feminists” are purportedly against.
Returning to the narrative, IWW labor leader Big Bill Haywood had a falling out with Flynn when she helped negotiate a plea deal that freed Tresca and several other IWW organizers from prison but left three miners incarcerated for three years each. Vapnek wrote that even as tensions flared, Flynn stated she still “loved and respected” Haywood.
As the Red Scare intensified and IWW offices were raided and IWW agitators were arrested, Haywood directed those Wobblies who were indicted to voluntarily turn themselves in to the authorities; his idea was to highlight the gross abuses of federal power to generate sympathy and support for the persecuted and the militant labor movement more generally. Yet, Haywood would later jump bail and flee the country, Vapnek informed readers, to avoid a lengthy prison term himself.
As noted above, later in her life, Flynn would also serve time. She wrote a memoir, “The Alderson Story: My Life as a Political Prisoner,” about her time in a federal prison camp in West Virginia at the height of the resurgent Red Scare in the 1950s.
In the 1920s, though, she spent six years “working to free the imprisoned and to secure humane conditions for those who faced deportation.” She forged coalitions across the political spectrum to rally support for the many militant workers and immigrants who faced either long prison sentences or expulsion from the country as the Justice Department amped up its persecution of working class rebels in the wake of World War I and the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. Vapnek writes how, with the help of Roger Baldwin, the founder of the ACLU who followed in the American libertarian tradition developed by those like Henry David Thoreau, Flynn launched “the Workers’ Defense Union (WDU), an organization devoted to defending members of the labor movement who had been jailed or slated for deportation for political reasons.” The WDU, which thanks to Flynn’s dedication forged coalitions against repression across the political spectrum, would later merge with the Illinois-based International Labor Defense.
Around the age of 30 at this juncture and described by a journalist then still as “attractive,” Flynn immersed herself in WDU activities, Vapnek documented, and she ostensibly “imprisoned herself voluntarily to prove that she had not been selfish or cowardly in severing her case form the mass indictment of IWW leaders” while avoiding prison herself.
“Flynn developed a distinctive strategy to seek freedom for those who had been incarcerated due to their political beliefs,” Vapnek wrote. “She publicized the facts of each case, highlighting biographical details in order to humanize the prisoners and build public awareness of the scope of government prosecutions.”
She wrote letters to countless prisoners and visited those on the inside whenever she could. “She responded to requests for items such as clothes, shoes, soap, underwear, writing paper, and tobacco,” Vapnek added. “She sent each prisoner $5.00 in Christmas money, and she worked with female volunteers who made sure each prisoner received mail.”
Vapnek explained that after Congress passed the 1918 Immigration Act calling for the rounding up of all “alien anarchists,” Flynn “argued that the new policy violated the principles of individual liberty upon which the nation was founded,” pointing out that the draconian legislation made it possible for the government to deport immigrants on the basis of political beliefs. The following year, after “hundreds of foreign-born workers had been shipped to Ellis Island to await forced transport back to Europe,” confined as they were near the Statue of Liberty, in a painfully ironic twist of fate given what the sculpture represents, Flynn wrote to the detainees regularly and took the ferry to visit them every week. Held in abominable conditions with inadequate food and clothing, detainees relied on Flynn and the WDU to furnish them with what they needed to survive.
Also, in 1919, her IWW comrades held in Leavenworth federal prison “organized a strike of 3,700 inmates to protest the lack of decent food and to demand humane treatment,” Vapnek noted. “These prisoners joined an international strike wave in 1919 that drew in 4 million workers in the United States alone.”
Vapnek informed readers that around the same time Flynn reprised a tactic previously used during the Lawrence strike: She led a march of women and children through New York’s Grand Central Station and on to Washington, D.C., which “helped build pressure to free the remaining political prisoners.”
Fast forwarding to the present, there were six persons from Carbondale, Ill., arrested in D.C. during the presidential inauguration day mobilizations. They have been slapped with felony riot charges and must return to D.C. to face trial. An anti-repression fundraiser is underway to support the expenses of the Carbondale 6 – expenses which include travel and lodging, money to supplement missed work and future fines related to subsequent legal proceedings. Any unused funds will go toward a “general bail fund” to support ongoing anti-repression work very much in the spirit of the WDU with which Flynn was affiliated. In the spirit of Flynn, and in the spirit of both the love, as well as the fight, for freedom she embodied, I encourage folks to donate.
Making Love/Music: Getting Hard Enough to Penetrate and Persevere
I could be projecting my own romantic intimacy – or, more precisely, the depressing lack thereof – onto the collective, but it appears as though there is a profound absence of love these days.
That is, too many communities today seem to lack “the limitless capacity to love, serve, and create for and with each other,” in the words of the late American revolutionary Grace Lee Boggs, who lived half a century in Detroit, witnessing the city’s decimation from deindustrialization and also its growing grassroots revitalization of recent years. Boggs posed the question of how we transform from the “damaged human beings” we are into “the loving, caring people we need in the deepening crises.” (As an aside, am I the only one who wishes the hip-hop track by Eminem, Royce da 5’9”, Big Sean, Danny Brown, Dej Loaf and Trick Trick – “Detroit Vs. Everybody” – would’ve also featured Boggs spitting a few lines?)
Regardless, Cohen also forecast the crises of our communities and the crises of “The Future” in his song by the same name: “And now the wheels of heaven stop / You feel the devil’s riding crop / Get ready for the future / It is murder.”
Of course, Cohen could be a bit of a Debbie Downer.
However, graduate student workers, many of whom might be reading this, are well aware of our many intersecting crises.
I can personally recall being a graduate assistant at SIUC just a few years back when an administrator called the police, apparently asking that they come investigate me, when I refused to submit to the structural violence of the university – violence this administrator and others in similar positions of power were quite complicit in reproducing in my college and beyond.
Another accomplished lyricist, hip-hop artist Lil Wayne, explained my sentiments about that well enough in his verse: “So you can keep knocking but won’t knock me down / No love lost, no love found,” which was echoed by Eminem on the same track with the song’s hook: “It’s a little too late / To say that you’re sorry now / You kicked me when I was down / But what you say just don’t hurt me … no more.”
Hardships notwithstanding, we somehow so often seem to make like that final Bruce Springsteen song on “Nebraska,” his epic 1982 album. “Now Marry Lou loved Johnny,” Springsteen sings on that last track, “with a love mean and true / She said baby I’ll work for you every day / And bring my money home to you / One day he up and left her / And ever since that / She waits down at the end of that dirt road / For young Johnny to come back.” He follows with the relevant refrain: “Struck me kinda funny / Funny yeah indeed / How at the end of every hard-earned day / People find some reason to believe.”
Suffering and unsatisfied desires aside, we somehow still find ways to live and love. And we learn. I’m reminded of the education one receives when one responds to a simple “hello” from a woman with the reply “I want to merge with you,” which it turns out is not generally considered the appropriate amount of self-disclosure in that context. Man I loved her though.
Sure, it often seems – to me anyway – like some people do not even know what it means to love, nor what love even means. But that need not turn our hearts cold too.
On the album released just before he died, Cohen sang the following: “If the sun were to lose its light / And we lived an endless night / And there was nothing left that you could feel / If the sea were sand alone / And the flowers made of stone / And no one that you hurt could ever heal / Well that’s how broken I would be / What my life would seem to me / If I didn’t have your love to make it real.”
We need love. That is true of the deeply interpersonal kind no doubt.
Yet this love is not always rational. In fact, Flynn understood this as well as anyone. Vapnek quoted part of a poem Flynn wrote, in which the “Rebel Girl” acknowledged the difficulty in keeping “dual minds apart / The mind of reason and the mind of heart,” adding verse about attempting “not to possess and therefore not to lose / Not to be possessed and once again be lost.”
Vapnek adds that soon after that, though, Flynn fell madly in love with another man.
Love endures. It demands but transcends our bodies.
In poetic recitation Cohen confessed: “I loved you when you opened / Like a lily to the heat / You see I’m just another snowman / Standing in the rain and sleet / Who loved you with his frozen love / His second hand physique / With all he is / and all he was / A thousand kisses deep.”
As Cohen’s lyrics make clear, our embodiment is important. We have sensuous, bodily needs. They run deep. Arguably, those needs constitute crucial aspects of our species-being. As such, we require intimate connection with other human bodies. And, based in part on our unique individual desires, we find other bodies beautiful.
“Let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone,” Cohen once sang, articulating the above sentiments – not to mention my own urges down below – exactly. “Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon / Show me slowly what I only know the limits of / Dance me to the end of love.”
Granted, beauty is not always so interested in us.
However, again uniting romantic passions with references to the divine, Cohen reminds us how even that act of loving itself, unrequited as it so often is, can still offer momentary salvation.
“There’s blood on every bracelet,” Cohen crooned, adding: “You can see it; you can taste it / And it’s ‘Please, baby, please, baby, please’ / And she says, ‘Drink deeply, pilgrim / But don’t forget there’s still a woman / Beneath this resplendent chemise’ / So I knelt there at the delta / At the alpha and the omega / I knelt there like one who believes / And the blessings come from heaven / And for something like a second / I’m cured and my heart is at ease.”
Highlighting the everlasting facets of love, as well as the undying attraction to the beauty of the beloved in the song “Closing Time,” Cohen disclosed: “I loved you for your beauty / But that doesn’t make a fool of me / You were in it for your beauty too / And I loved you for your body / There’s a voice that sounds like God to me / Declaring, declaring, declaring that your body’s really you / And I loved you when our love was blessed / And I love you now there’s nothing left / But sorrow and a sense of overtime.”
Flynn loved in spite of it all too, as Vapnek’s historiography shows. After Flynn’s former partner in free love, Carlo Tresca, was shot dead on the corner of 15th Street and Fifth Avenue, likely by a fascist assassin, she reminisced on what she called their “young rebellious love,” and she wrote in a poem shortly after his death: “How strange it seems that you are dead / Who were so long the other half of me.”
For our purposes, a parallel can be drawn. For adjunct professors in particular, the love we might have once felt for learning and teaching too often gets suppressed as a result of the brutalizing toll trying to make ends meet can have on lecturers.
College department chairs, who often make more than $120,000 per year, continue to pit lecturers against each other, forcing us to scrape and crawl and fight each other like lobsters at the bottom of the proverbial barrel.
Experimenting with New Positions and Abolition Democracy
Meanwhile, mass incarceration continues to decimate families and eviscerate would-be beloved communities.
My sister served a year in the women’s correctional center in Decatur, Ill., for a felony drug charge pertaining to unauthorized possession of a few pills. She recounted her experience and explained the productive labor taking place on the inside in a piece authored behind bars last year.
Continuing in the anti-carceral tradition of those aforementioned 3,700 imprisoned IWW members who organized a strike in Leavenworth back in 1919, this past September inmates across the US, many affiliated with the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee of the IWW, initiated the most widespread prisoner strike of the new millennium. The union representing graduate student workers across the California State University system, UAW Local 4123, endorsed the nationwide work stoppage in a show of solidarity with the large section of the working class currently locked in cages.
As in Flynn’s day, prison walls put up barriers to love. Not only are families separated from each other, sometimes without hope of coming together again when life sentences are involved.
Inmates’ needs for intimacy are also not met. For those behind bars, romantic relationships with those on the outside prove almost impossible to maintain. Partners not ensnared by the system part ways with their one-time lovers who get locked up for long periods of time. Letters stop coming. Those on the outside find someone else – someone they can touch and who can keep them warm at night – to replace their incarcerated lovers who are left inside to suffer, sans the physical intimacy needed to stay sane.
The working class can be quite resilient, though.
The Carbondale 6 fundraiser and the IWOC organizing suggests something akin to what Angela Davis calls “abolition democracy” is afoot. Drawing on the work of W.E.B. Du Bois, Davis argues the prison industrial-complex cannot be truly abolished in a negative sense alone. Abolition requires construction of real democratic counter-institutions capable of giving people meaningful say over their lives and significant input into to the civic, economic and political decisions impacting them. The movement for abolition democracy has its “contemporary presence,” Davis contends, in movements to help us transcend the punishment paradigm and to get beyond the present-day prison system.
In some ways slavery persisted, she claims, even after formal abolition. The 13th Amendment proclaimed neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist in the US, “except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,” thereby making an important exception, effectively permitting slavery in the case of prisoners. Prison, Davis suggests, harbors vestiges of that centuries-old institution.
While there were abolitionists in the 19th century who assumed freedom would simply mean the negation of slavery, Davis explains, others presciently recognized there could not be authentic freedom without economic democracy and transformative education. Indeed, drawing on the one-time slave and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, Davis contends prison abolition must now imply “an emphasis on education,” in contrast to incarceration, since there can be “no liberation without education.” Thus, “the prison abolitionist movement is a movement for a better world,” she said, “for a different society, for a world that doesn’t need to depend on prisons because the kinds of institutions that serve people’s needs will be available.”
Before her, Flynn came to similar conclusions. “She viewed capitalism, an economic system characterized by private ownership of property and profitability gained by minimizing labor costs, as incompatible with democracy,” Vapnek explained. Flynn wrote that “the right of all adults to work [and] to participate equally in public affairs,” was integral to “basic democracy.” Unions, because they can give working people a voice and greater say over how they spend much of their waking lives – namely, laboring – were then, in Flynn’s words, “part of democracy.”
Flynn wrote a poem in which she expressed her longing “to make a world where all may live and love and rest, may sing and dance, and laugh,” as Vapnek recounts in her book.
Although dominant currents in society appear highly authoritarian, anti-democratic and the antithesis of the love-filled world Flynn envisioned, the spirit she embodied lives on, as lyrics from the late Leonard Cohen attest to, highlighting the beauty in an inevitably contradictory and yet often still ecstatic struggle: “It’s coming to America first / The cradle of the best and of the worst / It’s here they got the range / And the machinery for change / And it’s here they got the spiritual thirst / And it’s here the family’s broken / And it’s here the lonely say / That the heart has got to open / In a fundamental way / Democracy is coming to the U.S.A. / It’s coming from the women and the men / Oh baby, we’ll be making love again / We’ll be going down so deep / The river’s going to weep / And the mountain’s going to shout ‘Amen!’ / It’s coming like the tidal flood / Beneath the lunar sway / Imperial, mysterious / In amorous array / Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.”
James K. Anderson is a déclassé writer, journalist, scholar and social theorist. He received a PhD in Mass Communication and Media Arts from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in May 2016. He has been a member of several unions, including Graduate Assistants United, the California Faculty Association, UFCW Local 135, UPTE-CWA Local 9119, and the Industrial Workers of the World. While a Graduate Assistant at SIUC, he served as steward for his college and as co-chair for the Legislative and Political Action Committee. He was a long-time member of the GAU Communications Committee. He regularly contributed to the GAU website and newsletter. He now teaches classes, when he can get them, at Mt. San Jacinto College and at California State University San Marcos. He was born and raised in the Midwest but now struggles to live in Southern California.