Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Powerless in Baltimore


His sign said: HOMELESS. I pulled the Lesbaru to the curb.  When I handed him two dollars, he said, “Remember, no textin’ and drivin’.”

I said, “Oh, I’ll never drive in Texas.” He laughed.

Should’ve given him another dollar for not saying, “God bless you.”

Cellphone in my lap and his words in my head, I smiled—at the timing. I’ve been confronted recently, almost like an intervention, about my addiction.

I wonder how I’d have survived almost five years of widow world without the link to authentic news, e-pals, and the search engine. I enter my apartment and open the laptop just as I used to power on the TV. Immediately.

In other words, it’s an obsession.

“Mom, get off the computer. Come in here and talk with us.”

And Laura, on the phone with one of our brothers: “She’s on the computer. What else? When we’re out, she’s checking her phone.”

Dr. Mercola recommends tapping my way to equanimity.

The genius children say, “Move to Chapel Hill.”

A reader and e-friend sent this gift. From another: the laugh of the day.

Everybody has a suggestion.

Sunday, I held the New York Times in my hands. It had been a long time.

When we lived in Manhattan, I’d separate the sections, handing Charles the Book Review. I’d squirrel away the Magazine, for its crossword.

We cancelled delivery after moving to Baltimore.

Last Saturday during the daily phone call with Laura, she said, “Watch a movie tonight, a comedy. And, Sunday, the ballgame.”

“What ballgame?”

“Louisville and Duke.”

The TV hadn’t been tested since the children were here last. (I watch movies via Netflix on my… yes, computer.)

Considering Laura’s advice, I searched my queue for a comedy. And when I found nothing appealing, I checked Facebook, the thread, and saw a link to a BBC video, about WikiLeaks and all that damage to the Empire, including Hillary Clinton’s apology performance and John Bolton’s demand that if found guilty, Bradley Manning be……. “KILLED.”

Sunday’s call with Laura: “Did you watch a movie?”


“A comedy?”


I knew she was shaking her head. Because sometimes—okay—almost always, when we’re talking, I take the topic too seriously. Like the narrative about her tree removal. The climber with the saw. Waayy up there in the treetop, sawing, moving, sawing. He unexpectedly walked off the job (after 15 years as a tree climber), saying he’d never climb another tree.

I started in on low wages and insurance.

“Shut up.”

So, after I told Laura I’d seen the BBC film, she secured a promise. That I’d watch Louisville beat the University of Kentucky’s nemesis, Duke. Yes, many Wildcats fans cheer the Cardinals, if the Cats have been eliminated.

Needing ballgame food, I headed to the grocery. That’s when I decided to buy the NYT. And make a rule: On Sundays, no computer-ing.

Leaving, I encountered the homeless man.

Drove home. Okay, just one little email check before (?) the decree’s in place.

After that, I placed the paper on the coffee table. Began to separate the sections. Put the Magazine aside and read op-eds. And tuned to the game. Went in the kitchen and when I returned to the family room, I saw Rick Pitino, wiping his eyes. Kevin Ware. I called Laura. She said CBS probably would replay it. I didn’t say what I was thinking:  “The mainstream media should show war images.”

Instead I put down the phone and parallel processed, turning the pages of the newspaper, thinking about Ware, war, looking through Arts & Leisure, then Sunday Styles with that photo-rama titled “On the Streets.” This week—all men, head turners, many in fabuloso hats, NYC fashion, that NYC WOW, the center of the universe. Maybe I should move back.

But there was no real estate section. Because this paper is the “Washington Edition.”

Not a problem. I could access listings online, the next day, Monday, because of the edict. And the crossword was nearby—a replacement for the obsession, so I wouldn’t read anything political, watch anything political, on the computer. Or check email.

But my friends, my e-pals? A little flip of the lid and I could spend a few minutes with one of them. One who probably had sent (while I was watching that ballgame) a couple of articles.

One more email check. It wouldn’t be a huge infraction, unless, like a drink in the hands of an alcoholic, one led to another and another and another.

“Hello, my name’s Missy and I am powerless over my computer habit. My life has become unmanageable.”

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore. Email:   


Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 27, 2016
Paul Street
An Identity-Politicized Election and World Series Lakefront Liberals Can Love
Matthew Stevenson
Sex and the Presidential City
Jim Kavanagh
Tom Hayden’s Haunting
CJ Hopkins
The Pathologization of Dissent
Mike Merryman-Lotze
The Inherent Violence of Israel’s Gaza Blockade
Robert Fisk
Is Yemen Too Much for the World to Take?
Shamus Cooke
Stopping Hillary’s Coming War on Syria
Jan Oberg
Security Politics and the Closing of the Open Society
Ramzy Baroud
The War on UNESCO: Al-Aqsa Mosque is Palestinian and East Jerusalem is Illegally Occupied
Colin Todhunter
Lower Yields and Agropoisons: What is the Point of GM Mustard in India?
Norman Pollack
The Election: Does It Matter Who Wins?
Nyla Ali Khan
The Political and Cultural Richness of Kashmiriyat
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“It’s Only a Car!”
October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases