Wednesday, November 30, 2005

HR 550 - It Matters

Hi, there, Tami, the One True, here. I've been asked by Tata to put up a guest post for the increasingly popular blogswarm about HR550, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act. She has asked me to cross-post my take on it because she is - and ) quote - "small and covered with fur". So, without further ado, I submit my posting about Verified Voting and the Voter Confidence petition.

If we can't feel confident that our votes are counted, and counted correctly, can we really feel that we have a voice in our own government? If we aren't sure that our votes go to the people we intend them to go to, them who is our representative democracy really representing? The answer is "not the individual voters".

That's why HR 550 is important. There's a petition out there on Rush Holt's web site to support HR 550. What is the bill all about? Some highlights, from the site:
The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act (H.R. 550) will:

* Mandate a voter verified paper ballot for every vote cast in every federal election, nationwide; because the voter verified paper record is the only one verified by the voters themselves, rather than by the machines, it will serve as the vote of record in any case of inconsistency with electronic records;
* Protect the accessibility requirements of the Help America Vote Act for voters with disabilities;
* Require random, unannounced, hand-count audits of actual election results in every state, and in each county, for every Federal election;
* Prohibit the use of undisclosed software and wireless and concealed communications devices and internet connections in voting machines;
* Provide Federal funding to pay for implementation of voter verified paper balloting; and
* Require full implementation by 2006
Other bloggers are posting about this important issue today. I'll update the list as I find more. Feel free to read any one of them for more information and opinion.

Blanton's and Ashton's
The Center of NJ Life
Scrutiny Hooligans
Did I say that out loud?
The Opinion Mill
Xpatriated Texan
A Mockingbird's Medley
Skippy the Bush Kangaroo
Daily Kos (registered Daily Kos people, please recommend this diary)
Pam's House Blend
Shakespeare's Sister
Brilliant at Breakfast

Read up, and please, sign the petition.

Monday, November 28, 2005

If It's All I Ever Do This Is Your Song

Tom's and Mom's choir has two concerts this weekend. I transcribe the flyer. Getting out and taking in some fine seasonal music does a body good. Support the arts, mofos.

Philomusica and Dennis Boyle, Music Director, present

A Winter's Gift
Music from 2 Young Geniuses

Regina Coeli, K.276
Vesperae solennes de confessore, K.339

Mass in C major (Opus 48)

with chorus, orchestra and soloists

December 3, 8 p.m.
December 4, 4 p.m.

St. Bartholomew Church, East Brunswick, NJ
tickets and information: (888) 744-5668

Adults $18
Seniors and students $16
Children under 13 $9

Remember the horror that was Flashdance, and Jennifer Beale's little monologue about going to classical concerts? She says something like, "And then Daddy, who somehow never turns up in this story even though I'm supposed to be just old enough to get a second set of teeth, said, 'If you close your eyes you can see the music.'" Horribly, this is the elegant truth for a lot of people, including me. I close my eyes and see shapes and forms and dancers and think of Martha Graham in those odd jersey tubes that made it to off the rack in the eighties. Sometimes I knit, draw pictures or shoot spitballs at irate teens because I'm so mature. When my brother, sisters, respective spouses and kids pack a pew and lightning fails to strike we have an excellent time. Once all of us did the wave. For us, choir concerts are serious business and wild fun.

Join us and see the music yourself.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

I Got Six! That's All There Is!

Over a week ago, we talked about this over the phone.

Siobhan: For my birthday, I want to go to the movies, then have dinner out.
Tata: So exciting! What would you like to see?
Siobhan: Harry Potter, even though I'm planning to see it this weekend.
Tata: Okay, and where would you like to go to dinner?
Siobhan: A bar where they bring us snacks, we can talk and eventually have dinner.
Tata: Any place in particular?
Siobhan: Yes. One place means we can talk to each other. If we all go to separate places, we're merely harassing strangers until the cops come.
Tata: We should smuggle booze into the theater like we used to for school assemblies. I'll never forget those seventh grade health films I can't remember.

Siobhan picks me up early. We meet Dom in the theater parking lot and a herd of Siobhan's friends inside. It's a good thing we came early because the kid behind the counter takes no less than 16 minutes to assemble three popcorns and three sodas. Siobhan picks a row where we all sit together. I save a seat for Gary. It's been a long time since he and I were in the same room. Just before the lights dim a little for previews, Gary edges along the row and sits next to me. I'm next to Siobhan. We are more than a dozen people.

After the three-hour movie, we beat a hasty retreat to the ladies' room. Outside the restroom, a pack of men and listless children wait like Mom's flight's just arrived at JFK. Exiting the facility takes a concerted effort and near-military precision. When we arrive at the bar, our plan goes to hell. We can't sit together, we can't move around and we can't all talk to one another. We divide up into two parties. Siobhan's cousin Dominique's name is very similar to mine so we studiously avoid sitting next to one another to further avoid looking like a matched set. Dom's sitting at the next table. Anytime someone shouts, "Dom!" everyone looks around wildly. Miraculously, no one spits stuffed mushroom.

Siobhan: I turned Harry Potter into my own private drinking game.
Dominique: What? When?
Siobhan: That movie we just saw. Everytime someone mentioned poly potion I took a swig of rum.
Ginny: You did what?
Siobhan: Poly potion! Bottoms up! I called Gary and told him to bring a bunch of airplane bottles.
Tata: I didn't know we were going to do that! It was really fun!
Siobhan: You didn't know? It was your idea.
Tata: I have lots of ideas. Who can tell if they're good or bad?
Siobhan: That's what we have me for!
Ginny: You smuggled rum into the movies?
Tata: I poured mine into my diet soda.
Dominique: You were drinking in a kids' movie?
Tata: When the lights went up two hours into the movie I thought they were gonna throw us out!
Ginny: When the lights went up...
Siobhan: You were there! Remember when the lights came up and the movie was still playing? The lights are on a two-hour timer during the three-hour movie. We thought they were going to toss us out!
Tata: Or give us detention. I thought that, too!

We're too old to be bad girls. In fact, now that Miss Sasha's married, I should search catalogues for fishnet stockings in toddler sizes. Does Kenneth Cole make hip flasks and little old lady fedoras? I hope so.

I still wanna be anarchy.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Excuse Me But Can I Be You For A While?

For me, the year 2005 has been one of grinding fatigue and dogged steps toward a new home and a new life. You know what? I'm tired. I spent the today sleeping late, preparing food, eating food, sleeping some more, stuffing old papers into garbage bags, preparing food, eating food, sleeping some more, eating some more, and talking to Siobhan on the phone. Thousands of years ago, I went to poetry boot camp in Provincetown for a week. We ate light vegetarian, went to bed early, walked in the dunes, worked art with great discipline and concentrated on ignoring almost any other stimulus. I need that now, for about a month. So I took Monday off and plan to spend it in my #1 and #2 favorite Hells on Earth: the DMV and the university's parking department, after I miraculously get the attention of New Jersey Cure, the insurance company that is supposed to be my reward for an excellent driving record but has turned out to be what even atheists might term a punishment from God.

I should just kill myself now, but let's change the subject, shall we?

The family store is a big help on the hunt for December holiday gifts. My sisters' and their mom's fantastic taste and imagination merchandise-wise have been a big help with gifts. I hope to make a decent list and pick up a few interesting presies in the next few weeks. My budget is as tight as ever for Christmas, Hanukkah and Yule. Because I don't anticipate ever having more money than I do now, my New Year's resolution is to make more friends in religions without December gift-giving events.

I'm not complaining. I'm setting up a question: If you have ten friends, $100 and none of Georg's fabulous talents, how do you give them presents you didn't get from a gumball machine?

What's your bright idea, dahhhhhhhhhhhling? I want to hear any and all.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Sable On Blonde

Often we run around looking for validation in the form of other people who agree with us. Note the high school popularity contest aspects of the blogosphere.

Blogger 1: [Insert opinion here.]
Blogger 2: That's just fucked up.
Blogger 3: I couldn't agree more. With...whose blog gets more hits?
Blogger 4: I love that complete stranger and bask in his/her reflected glow.
Blogger 5: I couldn't agree less. I am contrary!
Blogger 6: Shut up, dork!
Blogger 7: Girl cooties!
Blogger 8: If I say "cocksucker" do I sound tough and not at all homophobic?

A lot of blogs cite one another's posts and call it a day. This is kind of a big, dull circle-jerk but it has the obvious effect of circulating one story in a matter of days. It's a game of Telephone in writing, where sometimes a reporter's or columnist's words get to the end of the line intact. Hoorah! Our password or phrase? "White phosphorus used on Iraqi civilian populations in violation of international law." Bonus!

The left political blogs in particular are full of the bravura and outrage of a group out of power for five years and unable to effect change. On the one hand, this shelters the left from any responsibility for the pilfering of the Treasury. On the other, the Democrats - the de facto Vichy opposition that a la Biden couldn't sell out its electorate fast or often enough - have long since surrendered any pretense of courage or vision. This is a painful time to be a human being hopeful that justice will prevail on earth, that the worth of all human beings will become self-evident, that compassion and wisdom may be one and the same in our time. Our best defense is laughter at ourselves; our best weapon against rage and depression is a firm punchline. In my email today came:

Insanity - a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world. -RD Laing, psychiatrist and author (1927-1989)

This week, Jesus' General bowed to the blues. It's not easy to keep firing off letters of encouragement to our worst-behaved citizens while wishing someone would follow up with a swift indictment. The General rebounded almost right away, but the comments tell even a casual observer a few interesting things:

1. A lot of people are so demoralized the current political situation moves them to tears;
2. The General's Point&Laugh technique has been used by his readers to teach their acquaintances to connect the dots;
3. Nobody wants to be the weakest link or the one who first says, "I can't take it anymore."

Finding out that you're not the only person considering putting your head in the oven is reassuring. Validation is validation:

Blogger 1: War is stinky. Have you seen my new Ford Excoriator?
Blogger 2: I like trees, animals and the great outdoors but environmentalists are evil fashion victims!
Blogger 3: I'm middle class, no matter how stifling my credit card debt.
Blogger 4: Keep your laws off women's bodies! Notify me of my wife's abortion!
Blogger 5: Peace, love and understanding to all. Please search me and violate my rights!

We're conflicted. It's easy to see why. Even the dullest bulb in the package can see that a time is coming when our lives and America itself will change drastically. With oil running out, our lives will change. Change can be great when we are the authors of it, but change that happens to us is terrifying. In another few years, life as we know it will be substantially different. I could be up all night worrying about this if liquor stores weren't open holidays.

But listen: it's Thanksgiving. More than most holidays we celebrate, Thanksgiving is the holiday that celebrates a desperate, no-holds-barred fight to the death for religious freedom. Some people misinterpret this struggle as one for Jesus but they're - excuse me - dead wrong. Not a little bit wrong. Wrong. The people who persecuted the Pilgrims thought they had Jesus on their side, too. Believe it or not, this same story recurs over and over in history and nobody fucking learns from it. So you're full of green bean casserole, taking a momentary break from your search for validation. What is the meaning of this day? Your people have come to a country where, in theory, you get to worship any deity you want in nearly any way you want that doesn't hurt other people. Much. And if you choose not to worship a deity, good for you.

Besides a gut and a turkey coma, Thanksgiving should remind you that a whole lot of people thought religious freedom was worth starving, freezing, fighting off rightfully perturbed indigenous persons and burying each other for. Lately, a whole lot of people are saying to you it's their way or the highway. Isn't it time we grab hold of the cultural narrative and tell the Jerry Fallwells, the Pat Robertsons, the James Dodsons and the Fred Phelpses to go to Religious Persecutionland, back to the cold, dark little holes they came from? Back to Hell?

Happy Thanksgiving. Don't take any crap, my darling.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Like the Black of the Blackest Ocean

After a few months, I wondered why my hip flexors and hamstrings were stiffer than I expected. It didn't make sense. Every day, I stretched my legs out to the sides in smooth, well-earned splits and lay my chest and face down on the floor. Thirty years after I took the first steps in pristine ballet slippers, I knew to take long, deep breaths and relax into the stretch. Then I could sit up and resume conversation. When I lived with Ned, it took months to realize I was dreaming this every night. Every day, I thought I'd already done that stretch. It seemed so real. My dreams are often so vivid I have to check with Siobhan.

Tata: Did we eat sushi with a six-foot, dickey-wearing rabbit?
Siobhan: No, but we once went drinking with a poll-taker in a chicken suit.
Tata: Funny, I still feel full...
Siobhan: Oh! And there was that birthday party at Jose Tejas when we hired a seven-foot banana-gram for Uncle Crease and she ran across the dining room, shouting his name. People dropped their vibrating pagers when the two tallest people in the room were a dead-ringer for Rasputin and a former Rockette.
Tata: They were dancing like a cornfield in a tornado. I remember that! But no bunny?
Siobhan: Was I talking backwards, maybe? Drinking in reverse? Telling everyone to eat me?
Tata: ...Yeah...
Siobhan: You were dreaming Christmas with your family and if I were you, I'd count throw pillows.

Today is the 42nd anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, of which I am acutely conscious because it is also the 42nd birthday of Miss Sasha's father. When my dad thinks of him, Dad says, "Yeah...I know why sobriety is a virtue." To be honest, John Kennedy figures into my dreams - not the way Jon Stewart does, or for that matter John Cleese. Sometimes, John Kennedy sits down next to me on the edge of pier and tells me he thought about the shark-infested waters off the Cape after PT109 sank and he swam from island to island in the shark-infested South Pacific. He was terrified but there was no other way to save his men. I tell him Marilyn died before I was born, and yet I miss her like sweet air after a storm. He knows, he says, as the sun warms his tanned shoulders. He will never be much older than I am now.

Sometimes, he sets himself down next to me, all backache and nightsweat. Even so, he says pain is just another fact of life, like rough skin and loneliness. I tell him he's ten years too late with advice like that. He says he used to talk to Bobby in the kitchen when neither could sleep. The last thing anyone needs is my brother and four sisters and me hogging White House mint-chocolate chip at four any morning - not to mention no fresh fruit would be left behind.

So I know he's a dream. I mean, plainly: he's been dead since I was nine months old. When his son's plane went into the Long Island Sound, I gasped for breath for days while divers scoured the ocean floor an inch at a time. I think those nights, John Jr. sat with me, talking about being tall, paper quality and hair care products. He didn't know his father much better than I did until then. Their meeting at my place was hard on all three of us.

I'd comment further but some things should be private, even if they're made up by my subsconscious to shout at me about my own life.

In the crates on Sunday, I found photographs of the time Ned, Robert, Laurie and I found watermain construction on the Lower East Side. I suppose it was 1999. We climbed in and on giant concrete tubes. A policeman cheerily volunteered to pretend he was arresting Ned. Ned and I both had luxurious hairstyles. Robert, one of my oldest friends, looks every inch a study in teutonic black leather style. Monday morning, he called at what would have been an alarming hour in L.A. except that he was in New York, recruiting for a party this Saturday. He says he's been dreaming about me again. I didn't know, but I'm not surprised.

I wonder if he's met John-John.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Border Skirmishes of the Rich and Entitled

Dan McCauley is my hero.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Like the Deserts Miss the Rain

This morning, I awoke suddenly. The upstairs neighbors were having completely successful sex in the room directly above my bed and I opened my eyes during the energetic butt-slapping, heart-pounding, plaster-peeling, furniture-wrecking, neighbor-waking, pet-perturbing "Who's your daddy?" ten-minute portion of our program. I think.

I had to get up anyway.

Yesterday, Paulie Gonzalez started cleaning out the storage unit and last night, he brought a truckful of my things to the apartment. I had just winnowed the post-move still-boxed stuff heap down to about five boxes but now there's enough Rubbermaid Roughneck Storage Boxes piled in the living room to consider it a questionable remodeling job. There's a whole box of Johnny's letters to me, manuscripts, postcards and playbills. We were prodigious corespondents from the time he went off to college in 1980 until we both got email in the mid-1990s. Another box holds Christmas lights, my motorcycle helmet, my rollerblade pads, helmet and skates. If I ever want a concussion I'm fully equipped to get one. My grandmother's drapes fill two containers, old grant applications and supporting documentation fill two more containers. These things don't bother me; in fact, I missed some of them terribly. I'm not sure how much of this I need anymore but I suspect a ruthless cleaning will see most of the paperwork hurled into the dumpster outside - though not the letters, postcards and manuscripts. They stay.

In 1995 and 1996, I was involved in a huge collaborative art project that ate my life. Don't get me wrong: the work was good, and well worth any sacrifice, in my opinion. In the process though I lost almost everything, then fell into a deep, life-threatening depression, during which medication wiped my memory clean. It is a miracle I survived - or not. I was actively trying to kill myself so we know I'm crappy at it. Anyway, everything about my life came to a point at an arts festival in September, 1996. Five crates of props, scripts and crafts projects from that festival sit in my living room now. I should demand someone remove the cheese grater jabbed in my lungs. I would rather chew off my own feet than try staging that art project again but throwing away the props...I don't know if I could do it.

The crate that really hurts, in an "it hurts but throwing it away would kill me" way, is the one filled with my journals. This morning, I bit my lip and cracked the lid. A few composition notebooks from high school, journals from the years after I came back from Hartford with a baby I didn't know how to care for, from when I was married - all this covering 1977 to 1990 - these form less than half the notebooks. The majority are filled with the crazy years devoted to art and madness: 1991-1998, I think. I opened a few of them. I sound the same to me as I did at fourteen, nineteen and twenty-eight. God! I am one of those Slow Children. Where's my sign?

A lot of my life is missing from my memory. Like the Reynolds Wrap ladies say: this leads to easy clean up. What is this tacky thing? I don't know? Out it goes! But the journals are problematic. On some pages, I see a girl who needs a good spanking; on others, a woman who needs a good whack with a mallet. Oh look! I fall in hot, sweaty, stupefying love with a psychopath! Now, a fine-smelling man who can only have athletic sex with me in public parks! Oh snap, the brilliant, bipolar art student I love falls for a dance student and brings her to our house so I go to a Fourth of July party and meet a married mad scientist, who pursues, woos and wins me, and when his wife finds out -

That's enough of that. I clap the lid back on the crate. I miss being Me terribly, but there's only so much Me I can stand.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

You Used To Love to Dance

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
United States House of Representatives
2371 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-0508

My dearest Nancy,

I suppose it's my own fault for falling in love with you. You're everything to me, Nancy, everything! Your credentials are impeccable, your children are successful. People in your way have a habit of dying tragically and leaving you a voting bloc. You've bewitched me with your easy elegance and lovely smile. Your incidental resemblance to Jacklyn Zeman made me cross a room once to ask you about gay and lesbian affairs, and I've loved you from that moment to this.

After all these years, when you look deep into my eyes and talk about the Dalai Lama, torture and and wetlands restoration, my knees still go weak. When you whisper sweetly you've told Bill O'Reilly to go fuck himself, I wonder how I can ever leave you - but you didn't really tell him that, did you? With us it's all fire and sweat and chemistry, and in the heat of the moment, I lose myself in believing we're on the same side. We believe in the same things. When the heat cools, when I brush the hair from your eyes, sometimes I know you're not really with me. Maybe you've been faking it all along.

I don't know - have never known - why anyone would work so hard hiding what they are. I wrack my brain, in the darkest, loneliest nights, for an answer but I don't know why you can't be left-leaning self with me. I trace the delicate line of your shoulder as you sleep, knowing that in the pantheon of the nakedly ambitious you stand under the sign marked FIRE EXIT. Perhaps, then, it's a sign of your growth, when you couch your words so carefully I can see through them, see all the way through them, in a way you've never let me see before. Though it's heartbreaking to see the truth about us as well, I know you never meant to hurt me.

Goodbye, my darling. I'll miss you. I think.

Princess Tata

Friday, November 18, 2005


Johnny writes from the frontier:
This new movie with Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash has me concerned. I hope it's not going to be as unwatchable as the one with George Hamilton as Hank Williams. Or the one with Dennis Quaid as Jerry Lee Lewis. Or the one with the Bee Gees playing the Beatles. But more than that, I'm worried about my own acting career. It's not that I'm ambitious. I'll be happy if I go down in film history as a supporting actor in the George Thorogood story, playing one of the Destroyers. Recently, though, looking at my hairline in the mirror, I'm starting to think I should downsize my goals even further and go for the title role in the Phil Collins story. I know, it's against all odds, but it's a chance I've got to take.

Last week, his parents went out to visit Johnny and his hot veterinarian wife in the new-ish New Mexico desert digs, where Johnny's promised me a room of my own.

Johnny: I may die.
Tata: Are your parents having sex in my bed? Because that'd be ironic.

When I was 17, his parents rounded up all Johnny's younger brothers and stuffed them into a motor vehicle in a manner that would interest DYFS, leaving Johnny home alone. He and I and Dr. Nnud - our accomplice in many crimes with expired statutes of limitations - drank our way around a split-level suburban home. We did so many whippits that the night before his parents returned we swept the cannisters into a lawn trash bag and filled another with empty bottles. We had an excellent time watching Enter the Dragon by staring at the Bruce Lee in the middle. One night, we ate something that was a little off. The good doctor ralphed. Johnny ralphed. I couldn't ralph. Johnny fed me Ipecac, which makes everyone ralph. I still did not ralph. I went upstairs to Johnny's parents' room and fell asleep on their bed.

A week later, Johnny's mom handed me an earring. We'd cleaned the house pretty well, so I was surprised. "Where did you find this?" I asked. She smiled, "In my bed."

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You

I get the Cablevision internet phone service called Optimum Voice for a flat rate so I can call my brother, my sisters, Dad, Grandpa, Siobhan and Paulie. The service has its pros and cons. The fee is less than I paid for regular service and my two-tin-cans-and-string constant connections with Daria and Siobhan. On the other hand:

Siobhan: What the hell's wrong with your phone?
Tata: What? Nothing. Why?
Siobhan: Did you notice I didn't call you?
Tata: No. I called you, right? I didn't notice except I guess I did. Please tell me immediately what you are getting at.
Siobhan: You had no phone all afternoon.
Tata: Hmm. I guess it was just me, Larry and the voices in my head murmuring, "Kill! Kill!"
Siobhan: If only they'd whisper useful things like, "Check your dial tone! Re-grout the tub! Comb the soap!"

Every weekend for the last month, I've had no phone service for some period of time. Since I hate the phone, hate paying for the phone, hate talking on the phone, hate the ringtones, hate the interruption of whatever I'm scheming about, hate the whole thing, I haven't been too upset about it. Every weekend, I call Optimum Voice and tell another disinterested customer service representative it's happened again. In fact, since moving into this apartment on 19 August, I've called Cablevision twice a week most weeks to report some new problem. It's fatiguing. Setting up the voicemail took three calls to Optimum Voice for a service I should have been able to set up myself. I talked to no less than seven technicians and about half of them were outright rude. You should be shocked that I haven't said "pigfucker" even once in this context.

Daria: I've hit a parenting roadblock. Sandro has strep and wouldn't eat all day. When he wanted Wheaties, I gave him Wheaties. He wanted bananas. I gave him bananas. When he wanted chocolate milk, I said, "What the hell..." and poured that over the top. If he upchucks I'm calling right back.

I hold a black belt in Ten Words Or Less but the dojo belongs to Daria.

Daria: What up, Dog?

These may be the most densely packed three words you'll ever see. They unpack this way: "Hi, how are you? I'm calling to tell you two of my three children spent the night puking into every container in my house, including the bathtub and the laundry basket, and the six-year-old woke me up at 2:15, saying, 'Mama, my tummy hurts' just in time to throw up in my bunny slippers and since it was too late anyway I heard myself say, 'Tyler Two, go back to bed.' I dissed my kid! Can ya believe it? My husband is on a business trip to the golf course but it doesn't matter because he's coughing like an old-fashioned fire alarm and the baby's upset by all the noise. Remind me: why do I have three kids?" I leave a message on her machine.

Tata: I want my two dollars!

This does not unpack. It means "I want my two dollars." Sort of. It means: "Transmission received," or "Just checking in," or "I am eating delicious melted cheese." Daria, Todd and I quote early Saturday Night Live, Steve Martin, Better Off Dead, and a few Gene Wilder movies. For years, I called Daria's house and said the same thing:

Tata: Do you take pictures? Well, give them back!

...Until the time her mother-in-law answered the phone and indignantly asked, "Who is this? Who is this?"

Oops. Sometimes I am stupid. At least now I know what it'll cost me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A Picture of You, In Uniform

The phone rings. I let go of my end and click on the receiver. It's Paulie Gonzalez asking if I remember where his tax forms went.

Tata: Sharkey's here.
Paulie: Oh yeah? What's he doing?
Tata: Standing in my bedroom holding a tape measure.
Paulie: Stuffing your pinata?
Tata: Measuring my windows for new shoes.
Paulie: Do you remember where you saw my W2s?
Tata: In the living room, with that highly flammable pile of 2005 receipts.
Paulie: I should turn them in, huh?
Tata: Or take up decoupage, you betcha.

Paulie's dad's moved into the one bedroom apartment with him. Paulie's thinking about buying a house because if he doesn't he's going to the Big House for tossing his dad into the Raritan.

Now, that's a fridge you'd clean with a chisel.

Sometimes when I watch TV, I recognize the conversation has taken a turn to the code-wordy. There's a Stanley Steemer commercial where the white lady in the white sweater talks about her almost-white carpet. She's gabbing and gabbing and then she says this weird thing: "When I called [someone else], I didn't know who was coming over." If you don't have the secret decoder ring I didn't know I didn't have, this phrase might mean she exchanges Christmas cards with every professional carpet cleaner in a ten-mile radius but sometimes they bring dates. I don't know what she's insinuating, but what she's saying sounds more like every carpet cleaning brings her a factory-fresh bunch of potential emergency organ donors.

There's a new Bally's commercial for month-to-month membership that tosses around the word commitment like signing a contract gives you herpes. I don't know what that means, since Bally wants you to pay them and break your commitments. But still pay them. When you break your commitments.

There's a whole series of diet code words I don't understand. There's one commercial for cortisol fighting snake oil that turns my brain on its z-axis. The spokeswoman says, "When is a diet pill worth $150 a bottle? When you've tried everything else and failed." I suspect this pill solves your weight problem by making you lightheaded when you open your credit card bill. There's also a bunch of really hinky-sounding ads for some vague get-rich-working-from-home scheme where those testifying say things like, "Last month, I made 75,000!" They do not mention money. I wonder if they're making 75,000 phone calls to ask Dad for ten bucks.

We are definitely standing at the corner of What? and WhatEVER!

Recently, I received a very strange phone call at work.

Tata: Ta speaking!
Nurse Addie: This is Nurse Addie from KGB Dental. Are you Tata?
Tata: I am.
Nurse Addie: Are you a patient of KGB Dental?
Tata: I am.
Nurse Addie: Are you a patient of Dr. Newsome's?
Tata: I am. Listen, we've met. You know me, Nurse Addie.
Nurse Addie: I see. You have an appointment with Dr. Newsome today?
Tata: I do. At 3:30.
Nurse Addie: No.
Tata: No?
Nurse Addie: No. Dr. Newsome no longer works for KGB Dental.
Tata: Get out! What happened?
Nurse Addie: (Squealing) I so don't know!
Tata: (Yodelling) Omigod, you so have to find out and tell me!
Nurse Addie: (Back to droning) You'll have to see the new orthodontist on the 16th. After we hire him.
Tata: NO!
Nurse Addie: Oh yeah.

Today, I met my new orthodontist, and he, poor soul, met me. He is less than thirty, and still has that dewy complexion that is the red flare signalling youth. He restrings rubber bands around my mouth. Though he's dressed as if I'm radioactive, I feel a little bad that it's been more than five minutes since I brushed my teeth. He drops the spool of rubber ring ribbon down the side of my face and behind my neck.

Tata: Now I know what it feels like to be gift-wrapped.
Young Doctor: Gift-wrapped!
Tata: My days of answering the doorbell in a red ribbon are over.
Young Doctor: You did that?
Tata: Of course. Say, isn't that a ten-year-old in the next chair?

I considered adding, "...and aren't I nine hundred years old?" but saying that to the bespectacled doctor whose eyes are less than six inches from my crow's feet seems rude. After all, if he's looking down my sweater I'd hate to interrupt with You, my sweet, are too young to fit under my Age Limit Limbo Pole, too young to play original Trivial Pursuit with me, too young to discuss movies or music all night with over a bottle of buttery shiraz, and I won't be old enough to flirt shamelessly with medical professionals until I'm twenty years closer to actually being nine hundred. I laugh and skip the euphemism. He might not understand.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Tell Me All Your Thoughts On God

Ned knocks on my door at about 3:50. His hands are shaking. He paces around my living room, stuttering, until I'm dizzy.

Ned: I don't know I don't know I don't know if if if -
Tata: I've got my keys.
Ned: Are we are we doing -
Tata: Where are you parked?
Ned: I'm not sure I'm not -
Tata: What happened to your windows?
Ned: Long story. I was driving out in the fast lane in Pennsylvania and this utter dickhead was matching me mile for mile. I sped up, he sped up. I slowed down, he slowed down. Suddenly, in front of me there was a dead deer in my lane.
Tata: Omigod! Did you slam into the median?
Ned: I would've slammed it and flipped. No.
Tata: Did you - just tell me what happened!
Ned: I hit the deer like a ramp, went airborne and flew like drunked-up Knievel.
Tata: No! Yeah?
Ned: In retrospect, what seemed to be blood all down the side window was really shattered. The windshield's nothing.
Tata: Anya's expecting us. Park here.
Ned: I'm not sure I'm not sure are we are we is this the the the right thing?
Tata: We're here! What's up, babydoll?
Anya: On the next General Hospital, tunnels will cave in and your mom answers her own phone.
Tata: Nobody would believe that.
Ned: I brought you organic cookies. They're not made of hay.
Anya: Thank you so much! I'm going to eat them right now.
Ned: Thank you so much for...for...for...
Anya: Would you like to meet the new baby?
Us: Yeah...
Anya: There she is.

Ned and I look around the living room. We don't see anyone besides ourselves and Anya. We look at each other. We look back at Anya.

Anya: She's right there, on the couch.

Still staring at my sister, we walk over to the couch. What appears to be a small pile of washcloths now has a tiny round head sticking out. The head is sleeping. Anya rearranges the receiving blanket and a whole tiny person appears. This is my new niece. She is impossibly small. We stare. She opens her eyes and yawns. I always forget kids aren't born with bookbags and reading lists so newborns are always shocking. At eight days old, Sunny has already been the subject of controversy.

Tata: Darling, I'm so sorry. I really should have called you but Grandma's official line is, "I've called to tell you something" and mine is, "I've called to tell you something she forgot to call and tell you."
Miss Sasha: Mr. Sasha said I landed on you too hard about this.
Tata: No, no. You're right. I'm wrong. Poland's all yours...
Miss Sasha: No dice! I want the Sudetenland.

Ned and I push open the back door. The box of Fang's ashes fits in the palm of my hand. Ned can barely move and he can't make a sentence. For a minute, neither of us knows what to do. Anya's husband was supposed to mark out a burial spot but he worked late the night before at the family store. Also: the lawn pinwheel marking my sweet little Zorak's grave probably died a blizzardy death some time ago. Ned's brain has short-circuited with grief. I take a small spade from the potting shed and start digging near where I think we buried Zorak. After a minute or two I hand him the spade. He digs while I retrieve a shovel, which he uses to dig a broader, deeper hole. He places the box in the hole, a favorite toy and a picture. We cry our eyes out. Anya has one neighbor who only ever sees me sobbing, dirty and holding a shovel. That she hasn't called the cops and the Do Not Dig Hotline is a miracle.

We cover the grave, tamp down the dirt and discover the back door's locked. We paw it like bedraggled Great Danes because we can see Anya's got both hands on an entire human being, so we walk around to the front door, where we meet Anya's mother-in-law, who recognizes us at the couple who wore matching tuxes to her son's wedding and smoked cigars. Despite this, she is still nice to us. Ned and I stare open-mouthed as the baby mews and the toddler strips and the mother-in-law empties a bookbag full of wet clothing. I just about faint when the toddler reaches into the potty, so Ned and I hop in the car and zip three blocks to Charlie Brown's for burgers.

Burying one's beloved pet is serious business. Charlie Brown's is full of beer. Ned drinks coffee. I drink Guinness. For three hours, I drink Guinness. Ned drops me off at home. Though I assured Katy at thestain that apres-burial I'd embark on a drunken interstate crime spree, I settle on the couch and wait for Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, to sit on my lap and try conning me out of mine.

Man. Woman. Birth. Death. Infinity. Cats.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Talking Through Time

Few things remind me of my limitations like an afternoon spent minding the family store. Anya, Corinne, their mother and their kids have gone to an upstate auntie's house for the afternoon. The CD player perfumes the store with Waterlily Flower Music. That is the name of the CD that would have driven me out of my mind until fairly recently but now amuses me. While I was listening to a couple of CDs just like it awhile ago, it took me almost an hour to notice the store didn't actually smell like tropical flowers.

I can't remember where I read this. When accused witches said they flew on broomsticks, their accusers wrote that they were impelled to accept this as fact. I must paraphrase but essentially the magistrate said: Not to believe is to deny the testimony of the senses. It may have been ergot poisoning working its hallucinogenic magic on whole villages at a time that led the Inquisition to burn millions of witches at the stake but just as often it was spite and greed. Many facets of those prosecutions perplex me.

1. As a fairly secure, twentieth century American woman, it is hard for me to understand how an idea could be important enough to destroy lives over.
2. How could anyone find in him- or herself the hard-hearted malice necessary to burn a human being or an animal alive, indifferent to its unimaginable suffering?
3. How is it that for centuries - centuries - nobody said, "Wait..."?

I have been a notoriously dreadful judge of character most of my life. I freely admit that as princesses go, this one has kissed princes and toads in nearly equal numbers. Good judgment. Bad judgment. I can't claim any special insight into the soul. Millions of people wake up every morning and fire up brains with greater horsepower than mine, so I get really confused when I see a parade of naked emperors.

Over at Tami, the One True, a commenter (in the interest of full disclosure: a person I know well) asserts that the reason we're at war now is:
I think it's a reaction to Vietnam. For years we've heard that the reason that it was a clusterfuck was that public protest undermined the effort and made pariahs our of patriotic boys. The pendulum swung and instead of the soldiers feeling shame, the public that had been critical felt shame.

Eager to avoid and make amends, a penitent John Q hesitated before unleashing the awesome force of critical thought.
I know him to be smarter than I am, industrious and accomplished; when he expresses an opinion, I consider it carefully before donning stilettos and foxtrotting holes through it. I gave his idea some thought. Perhaps he's right about the public's attitude. I know that in the days and weeks after the Towers came down and the Pentagon went up in flames, I distinctly remember watching the news and listening to the drumbeat growing louder in the distance. When the flag-waving started, I knew brown people somewhere were in for a heap of shit.

In my lifetime, flag-waving has foreshadowed military might unleashed in an uneven power struggle with non-white people. When I was born in February 1963, we were already involved in Vietnam for about four years, depending on whom you believe. In any case, for people born after - say - 1957 until about 1970, our childhood version of normal reality including war rumbling on and on in the background. This abstraction came with one concrete fact: young men became rare birds in the local flock. Older brothers disappeared. Politics divided us. More than anything, it was a desperate time that stretched on and on, and the desperation became normal. When the war ended, a lot of Americans wandered around in circles for a very long time, still having the same arguments and holding the same pointless grudges. You know what? It was a really shitty time. Don't remember it that way? You were probably young, attractive and smoking a lot of dope. Have a seat. We'll come back to you.

In the autumn of 2001, a politically varied group of my closest friends on a list discussed military action in general and against Afghanistan in particular. At the time, I said I hadn't heard any convincing argument for war at all. A manhunt's a manhunt and not a war. Congress panicked, and the nation panicked - and I understood that being attacked by foreign actors on our native soil shook America so deeply that we as a military power were about to run around like Richard Simmons at a Hostess Twinkie factory. In the days before we attacked, I felt feverish. It was during these conversations, during which one of my friends totally lost it and has never spoken to the rest of us again, that my feelings about Vietnam as a formative experience crystallized: there is seldom, almost never, a reason to invade a soverign nation. In most cases, war is a failure of diplomacy. I am opposed to war, not just this one. I am especially opposed to wars in which combatants cannot be distinguished from civilians, and that this would occur was clear to me from the beginning. Those jokes about Middle East politics aren't just jokes.

It was clear to me from the beginning that the rhetoric didn't make sense, that we were doing something just to do something, that the plan had no end stages because it hadn't taken the Afghani people into consideration. It was clear that the American people were scared shitless, and who could blame them? It was also clear that I couldn't articulate much of this because all I could think of was the useless, pointless losses of mothers and children and limbs and dumb, rumbling normal. Because now people my age, who were too young to fight in Vietnam, are mostly too old now to fight in Iraq, but our missing older brothers have undertaken warmaking again, this time from the driver's seat, and this time with our children in the crosshairs.

We have, in the wake of our worst moments as Americans, returned to our childhood normal, and to our denial, and our feeling that it belongs in the background. The administration didn't stumble on that idea all by itself. It had a lot of help from people who went to school and birthday parties and celebrated Christmas and spared a thought for missing older brothers only when reminded. Self-absorption is characteristic of children. What is our excuse now? How is it we go on listening to fantastic stories and waiting for our children to be burned in the public square?

As I was writing this, chickens came home to roost. A clean, attractive woman, probably about my age, walked into the store and asked if I knew where she could find a soup kitchen. This kind of conversation has never happened in my presence in this town - in New Brunswick, yes, and I'd know what to do - but not here. I looked up the address for Elijah's Promise and wrote down directions. Half an hour later, the woman was back. It was plain from the way she was talking that she was not well and the story she was telling was not quite right but I had no way to determine what might be true. She certainly needed professional help. I tried to find her a spot in the women's shelter, making phone call after phone call. Finally, a woman picked up on a homelessness hotline. We went around and around in progressively more horrifying circles: where could this woman spend the night? How about a hot meal at least? No matter how I phrased it or changed the question the answer was the same: Middlesex County had nothing to offer this woman. No food. No shelter. Nothing. I asked about soup kitchens, emergency services, anything. She asked if I wanted her supervisor to call me back and explain it. I asked, "Is that going to find this woman a bed or a meal?"


"Then what's the point if I understand why?"

I gave the woman the two cups of fruit and gelatin I had. I gave her a spoon. I apologized to her for being unable to help her but the truth was that I was shocked beyond my ability to think things through and find solutions. I had nothing more to offer her than two lunchbox snacks that wouldn't fill up a five-year-old, and the hope that she'd make her way to Elijah's Promise the next day at lunchtime, when they would feed her. My face hot with shame, I sent her out of the store into the street on this November night. But let's not make me more important in this situation than I truly am.

Why are the shelters full and the budgets cut? War. Hurricanes. Bankruptcy. Our utter failure to recognize ourselves as part of the fabric of problems and solutions. Middlesex County had exhausted its monthly budget before the second Saturday. This woman is plainly in need of mental health assistance. I gave her Jell-O and a spoon.


Friday, November 11, 2005

Everybody's Got A Little Light Under the Sun

On a shelf above my desk at work various toys keep watch. A stuffed Boris Badenov leers. A gold lame and porcelain doll averts her eyes from the splendor and terrible fury of the Magic 8 Ball. A small replica of Hans Christian Andersen's mermaid surveys the pennies sliced and folded by friends and Exes trying out new Leatherman Tools, a joke there being too obvious to make. My little Andorian ambassador has apparently cut off diplomatic relations because today he's turned his back on me and the starfish a co-worker brought back from Florida; to wit, "I enjoyed my vacation! Please have this lovely dead thing!"

And who could blame her? When I bought the microwave, I also bought a small rug to stand on while I wash dishes. It is green and made of fleece, which makes the thing soft and inviting to the pussycat waiting for me to fix him a snack. In this purchase, I am well pleased, since it makes me feel as if I stand triumphant on the cushiony pelts of my enemy Kermit the Frog and all the males of his tribe. Hear the lamentations of their women! I am mighty! So all my might is standing in the shower this morning, soaping up with the shower poof, when the power cuts out. Because I am deeply enculturated, I immediately listen for the killer's theme music.


So I listen for the TV but Katie has quit yelping where in the world Matt Lauer is. Meantime, I am covered with apricot exfoliating suds. I try keeping one eye on the hallway to determine if I see subtle shifts in light or hear stealthy padding across the floor while I'm rinsing hokey-pokey-style: right foot in, right foot out...

I notice two important things:
1. The emergency light that is supposed to turn on when power cuts out does not turn on.
2. If I had just showered in natural light I would be as sanguine about an outage as Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, who remains perched on a carpeted thing I seeded with catnip but cannot train him to scratch. Until recently, I didn't bother turning on the bathroom light when I showered because what's the point? I know where everything is and what I should smell like if I apply the correct goo to the correct surfaces. Then I decided that was silly. Maybe I had it right the first time. Either that, or I'm still silly and haven't sunk deep enough to strike logic.

In any case, though I would prefer to be snoring adorably in my bed, I am in fact sitting upright at my desk. Earlier this week, one of my co-workers crumpled up the sticky note on my monitor: REMEMBER TO ACT NORMAL. I now lack guidance. Fortunately, there's good news from the homemade art front:
We're thrilled to announce that Girl Play will have its network television premiere this Sunday, November 13th on Logo network @ 10 p.m. So, those of you get Logo please tune in and tell your friends!

Also, don't forget you can purchase your very own copy of Girl Play on DVD, unedited and with special features at

Thanks for your continued love and support,
The Girl Play Gang

Sharkey is one of the most politically conservative people I know yet he is full of surprises like that he tolerates me. This is the conversation we do not have:

Sharkey: George Bush is a decent, honest man of character and faith and I admire him.
Tata: Someone should give George Bush a blowjob so we can impeach him already.*

We don't have that conversation. We know where we stand. He is open to all sorts of things you might not expect, like when Sharkey turned up with news that a friend from grammar school co-wrote a movie and we were embarking on a class trip to a gay movie theater in Manhattan, and our friends might be the only ones with Y chromasomes in the whole joint. Our excursion was a blast. The movie was and is really funny and worth your time. And I already love LOGO for broadcasting the decidedly cancelled Wonderfalls. Ladies and gentlemen: start your TiVOs!

The distances between people hold firm like anger but are really carved by fear of the unfamiliar, and I wish everyone had a gay son or daughter, sibling or parent. Most of us would find out there's nothing to be afraid of, nothing to bring shame or to hide. Some will never get it, and I feel sorry for them, really. There's enough paralyzing loneliness in the world that arbitrarily cutting oneself off from the possibility of friendship, companionship and love on the basis of sexual orientation seems like sad comment on the smallness of a life.

Hey, friends! In the words of Beetlejuice, "Let's turn up the juice and see what shakes loose."

*Not actually my line. Can't remember where I saw it. Senility's a 9-volt bitch.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A Cul-De-Sac in Any Career Path

So you need a new job and you go fill out applications. Things seem like they're going well until you get to the line asking the musical question: Why did you leave your last place of employment?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Best Things In Life Are Free -

Except me. I'm moderately priced. If you're a billionaire.

The election's over. The atmosphere was starting to reek like Staten Island, so I'm relieved it's behind us. We can all get back to paying attention to the important things in life - like Me. You've been so busy thinking about politics most of you have neglected to bring me tribute. I don't know how you live with yourselves.

Now, a few details aside -
The Department of Sexual Assault Services and Crime Victim Assistance (SAS/CVA) is holding a cell phone drive. If you have cell phones that you would like to donate to SAS/CVA, please send them to Laura Luciano, 3 Bartlett Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901. Include your name and address, if you would like a letter for tax purposes. Donations will assist the Department in providing programming for survivors of all forms of interpersonal violence and for members of the University Community. For more information, email Laura Luciano at
- and if you are in no way Georg, it's time to brace yourselves for the holidays and the joy of giving things - to Me.

UNICEF offers lovely, arresting cards and handmade gift items You're going to buy cards and lovely baubles - for Me. Why not buy them where they do some good?

The Hunger Site offers interesting gifts from around the world, including many items you may never have seen before. If you look at the tab bar, you'll find other merchandise catalogs for the cancer-drubbing, future-dwelling, literacy-loving, tree-hugging, animal lover on your holiday list. Which is to say: Me.

The Fair Trade Store offers a variety of artisanal gift items sure to please - I'm starting to blush - Me. I'm not a college student, but you could shop for - it sounds crazy - someone besides Me by choosing to shop for Him, Her or College Students. I may go out and pretend I know one just to buy a recycled can wallet.

But don't let these suggestions in any way curtail your natural curiosity about new and interesting gifts - for Me. A net search can easily help you locate talented, relentless do-gooders who will help you meet your tribute needs, and I suppose you could buy presents for other people as well. Though I have no idea why when you could spend all your money on Me!

Though someday you'll break down and buy me the Vespa my heart desires, in the meantime you might consider bicycles - for Me - possibly for yourself, too. Over the past week, I have found myself enraptured by the changing foliage. It's been breathtaking, hasn't it? Almost as beautiful as Me, even. And that's saying a lot. In any case, a lovely walk under the trees or a bicycle ride in the crisp autumn air to the family store would be delightful, wouldn't it?

Now that the election's finally over, you'll have plenty of time, and the world is full of gift wrap and dotted Swiss ribbon. Don't worry. I'll act surprised.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

But the stars we could reach were just starfish on the beach

Kansas Board of Education
1 785 296-3201
FAX: 1 785 296-7933
120 SE 10th Avenue
Topeka KS 66612-1182

My dearest Kansas Board of Education,

Oh sweetheart, we've known one another too long for deceipt. We've grown apart. It's sad, and I hoped it wouldn't come to this, but it has and must. While we are both to blame in part, I feel you've changed. At first, I remember thinking you were constant - a little flat, but constant, and I liked that about you. You were always there when I needed you. I thought that would always be true.

Now you've decided to dabble in superstition and hokus pokus. Oh my old friend, how I hoped you would come back to me and our sensible life! You've broken my heart! I can never trust you again. I can't trust the children you pretend to educate. For their sakes, I hope they're not interested in science because they'll be laughed out of any serious polytechnic institute in the world for reciting that drivel - not even the Vatican believes it should be taught in science class. You think this doesn't matter, but it does. America is falling behind industrialized nations in educating its workforce. Don't you remember reading about that car company that resorted to drawing pictures for its employees and still couldn't train them to assemble automobiles? That company built its new factory in Canada, where people can read. Jobs were lost, local economies were further weakened in an already weak area. How can I love you when I can't respect you? Plainly you love you more than you care about the children in your charge because you'll be fine, but those kids will graduate fit to pick up trash for a living. Well, except for that pesky gravity thing you attribute to "evil spirits."

I don't like children all that much, dear Kansas Board of Education, but what you're doing sounds like child abuse. And while many children could use an abrupt spanking, you're undermining their whole lives and the future of the State of Kansas. That's not even the worst thing you've done.

No, what I can't abide is your insufferable arrogance. CNN caught you playing fast and loose with the English language, and the very idea of proof: "In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena." You know words are the jewels of my heart. If I had caught you in a busy three-way Dirty Sanchez with Kevin and Britney I couldn't despise you more. I mean, unless I later found that icky tableau captioned on Fark.

Do you know Fark? You're very popular with the satirists.

I'll never forget you - or to avoid your kids practicing that dumb voodoo. Whatever: I live in New Jersey.

Princess Tata

The Discordian Meme

Oh Kali, we're two-stepping again.

Miss Jill at B@B, swatted the back of my head and barked, "Fuggeddabowdit." Not wanting to get meat sauce on my silk bowling shirt, I comply.

1. Go into your archives.
2. Find your 23rd post.
3. Post the fifth sentence (or closest to it).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
5. Tag five other people to do the same thing.

This is my pearl of meteorological wisdom. Don't choke on its uncanny prescience:

Right now, the sky could open again at any moment, so he's outside bolting his carburator to the engine.

...unless you want to.

I've been thinking about this line dance, and I'll check back about in a bit later. Seems to me compiling random bits of time and space are an interesting project, like spending an afternoon reading the bathroom doors in a punk club. To me, what people say with a pen and a moment alone distills an evening, a season, a relationship, a dry-hump into one often startling revelation. Sometimes it's funny.

I would not discourage anyone from volunteering to page through their archive and find the fifth line of the twenty-third entry. Volunteer away! But if I must tag, I must think.

Political bloggers could measure their own reasoning.

Mommy bloggers might remember some lost moment.

Art bloggers may turn over a shimmering phrase or forgotten photo.

Suzette would find my house and snatch me baldheaded. Sometimes that's funny.

I'll get back to you about it. Too many treats!

We Are the Enemy

It's official. We have become the inhuman bastards we always opposed. From Jill at Brilliant@Breakfast: if you support the war you support the massacre of innocent, unarmed civilians, because that is the war our military is waging.

The whole world knows it. Why don't you?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Duty Now For the Future

Yes, I said "duty." Stop laughing!

Last night, Sister #2 - Anya - had a baby girl. Today, I picked a green energy provider and sent off my request. You see the connection, 'cause you're brainy. That's why we love each other. Now give back my Chapstick, you scene-stealer!

The other day, I saw a thing - yeah, I see a lot of things; some of them can be seen by other primates, too - predicting that in fifty years, the Arctic ice cap might completely thaw in summers. My first thought was everybody's first thought, "Shoot, I'll be pushing up daisies." Then: "Fifty + forty-two = less than Grandpa's age! Will I be able to backstroke?"

Well, then. That adds a little urgency to the situation, doesn't it? It's not just my kid, grandkids, nieces and nephews living in Waterworld; it's everybody. I might as well label myself "granny shark bait." And you, too.

How's that NJ Clean Energy look now, kids?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Busy! Busy! Busy!

Larry snores amusingly as I write. A breeze rustles through trees overhead and across the street, over the river. My windows are all thrown open on a warm November evening. I am so happy with life! We can divide my weekend into two categories: movies and stuff!

On Friday, Lupe picked me up and we drove down to Montgomery to see Capote. I like the place in Montgomery. Parking is miserable but the theaters are very small, the films are of a higher quality than in general release, and nobody will play Spot the Plot with a laser pointer. If you could smoke and drink gin I'd be there every night. I'm sure my next two husbands are lurking on the premises.

The little theater was full. Lupe and I walked toward the front. Behind us, other moviegoers climbed over one another to get to two-togethers or even threes. In recent years, previews have often been better films than the movies they summarized so I look forward to them. My favorite preview in current rotation depicts Jake Gyllenhall and Keith Ledger as cowboys in love. Can I buy tickets to that in advance? Better yet: can the film's stars come to my house for a private screening?

I am a fan of movies full of explosions and films suffused with human drama. Capote is based on events between November 1959 and April 1963, but you don't have to know what they were. If you relax and go along for the ride, Capote is a monster roller coaster. If Philip Seymour Hoffman isn't nominated for an Oscar there is no God. Lupe doesn't remember if she read any of the books Capote mentions; I read those books and remember owning or having owned them. The set dressers made an important point about living at that time in that everyone high and low had piles, shelves and rooms full of beloved books.

Saturday night, Siobhan and I squeezed ourselves into a theater with a shoehorn to see ShopGirl. The place was packed. The average age of audience members was well into the seventies. Behind us about five feet, three old, old women talked through the movie.

Siobhan: Did they annoy you?
Tata: I assumed they turned down their hearing aids and forgot.
Siobhan: I would've killed them but they were already so close to death.

If you've seen a Steve Martin movie, you know his scripts are funny, smart and poignant. There are some minor missteps, but they hardly matter. Bring tissues. Don't wear mascara. We left feeling elated and chattered at length about curious details.

It's been years and years since more than one movie in theaters interested me. It is so exciting to see a bunch out at the same time. It's like the Hollywood crap factory broke and some great ideas leaked.


Putting together an apartment is work! I've got art on every surface. I'm an artist. People have been giving me art since I started playing with PlayDoh. Last weekend, Paulie and I brought over my bookcase. I pulled my books out of boxes and had Book Placement Joy! Joy! Still, my living room looks like a crossword puzzle and my bedroom would be fertile turf for a scavenger hunt. The kitchen has become so wonderfully mine that last week, my co-workers found cookies in the breakroom.

Laughing Boss: Why did you bake?
Tata: Because I could!
Laughing Boss: What? Did you bump your head?
Tata: I wanted a cookie! Everyone must have one!

If you think because I have a fabulous kitchen I'm taking one for the team and putting on fifteen pounds you are sorely mistaken! No, the team's taking one for me! I baked. Dunk this, squids! Still, some things have been missing - a microwave, for instance. Over the past month, I've had these conversations.

Tata: Tonight, I'm going to a major retailer to buy a microwave. I saved up! I'm rrrrrrrrready!
Daria: I'll lend you mine! We have an extra one downstairs. Sometimes we use it for popcorn.
Tata: Ah...
Daria: While you save up, you can use mine and by Christmas - maybe - you can get one.
Tata: Uh...sure...
Daria: Don't worry! I'll convince Tyler! Everything'll be GREAT!
Tata: Oh. Thank you.


Tata: So about the microwave...
Daria: I'm lending you mine! It's downstairs!

Yesterday, I got really confused and decided that around noon today I'd go to a major retailer. I never spend wads of cash on myself so I had to work my way up to the microwave by tooling around the laundry aisle and letting myself be confused. Then I took forty minutes picking make up and lurid nail polish colors. Then I walked around and around and around curtains and area rugs. I picked up a power strip in Electronics but couldn't bring myself to spend $100 for a little TV for my bedroom. Disney's Cinderella was on the screens. I still know all the words and sang with Gus Gus. Please resist the urge to think of me and pumpkins.

Mmm. Seedy.

Finally, I stared at my microwave oven options for more than fifteen minutes, then picked one. The box was nearly as big as me and difficult to lift. It filled my cart's basket. After that, I had to be really, really careful what I found two-for-one and hope they were flat things I desperately needed.

So. I plugged the microwave into the power strip and polished my nails a metallic blue and applied lipstick and put away all the problem-solving items I'd stuffed into that cart somehow, then into my trunk somehow, then into my apartment somehow.

Then I scampered around my apartment singing, "Who do I want to be when I grow up? Me! Me! Me!"

Friday, November 04, 2005

Friday Bunny Blogging

This is my fifteen-month-old niece making a break for it! She is clever! She is wily! She wears the Bunnysuit of Supreme Adorability! I don't even like children all that much (except in a white wine/butter sauce, but that's not important right now). Yet I couldn't quit squealing with glee and resume my surly ways for half an hour after I saw the photo. No one's sure but I might've even briefly quit complaining. It's all a blur!

Flee! Flee!

Miss Sasha is in her charming twenties so I have no school-age children to fuss over, except secondhand. And I'm selfish enough to want decent care when I get to the Old Punks Home, where we'll all wear torn-up black nightgowns, compare tats and shout, "ANARCHY!" until suppertime and Matlock. A few years ago, when friends who taught grade school mentioned it in passing, I stumbled on two programs. Box Tops for Education lets you choose a participating school anywhere and support it financially. Labels for Education has a similar program, more focused on supplies and equipment. The thing is: you can participate in both programs for the same school or different schools. All you have to do is give the sites a look-see, decide what you'd like to do and what level of involvement you'd like. I collect labels for a teacher I adore in a not-wealthy school system. The box tops are a different story. I collect them for a public school in New Brunswick you just know is underfunded.

Collecting these labels and box tops is an absolute cinch, since you buy some of these products anyway. Just put a shiny little gift bag in one corner of your kitchen counter and toss them in. When you have a bunch, put them in an envelope. Hand them to your favorite teacher! Mail them to your school's coordinator. This might cost you $.37, but if we all do it, it could make a big difference to the kids who will someday wipe our butts.

Plus, I now realize that I want a bunnysuit. With a fiery passion, I want that.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Watching You Without Me

As I asserted yesterday on Running Scared, though my parents (Abner and Louella) were roughly Miss Sasha's current age when I was born, they adapted a feminist approach and raised me to believe I was the smartest person on earth, my talents were endless and my future as big as I wished it to be. My babydoll was brown, not petal-pink. There was no discussion of my wedding, my husband, my babies; we talked about graduate school. The school system bought into this fantasy despite abundant evidence that I was not, in fact, the smartest person on earth. I was one of those self-conscious show-pony kids: trotted out by the school when it called the local papers for some odious display. To this day, I can't think of Joyce Kilmer and that fucking poem without thinking of fourth grade and the Somerset Spectator. I was the gifted and talented program in my school until I refused to talk about my family while my parents (Jean-Claude and Amelie) were breaking up. For a long time, I bought the bullshit and was sincerely confused when I encountered someone obviously smarter than I was.

Just a note to parents (hypothetical Billy Joes and Bobby Sues): don't foist this smartest-person-ever crap on your kids. Statistically speaking, it's staggeringly unlikely, and your precious will devote pointless hours and hours to figuring out if they're deranged or you are.

Tata: At least once a day I slap my forehead and wonder why I did something that stupid.
Corinne: Does that leave handprints? 'Cause I'd like to see that!

Two nights ago, I fell asleep after 11:15 and slept until a piercing, omnipresent whining noise woke me. I looked at the clock but don't remember what it said. I jumped out of bed and stumbled around the apartment trying to locate the source of the sound. After a minute or two, the sound stopped. I climbed back into bed. I looked at the clock but don't remember what it said, and fell back to sleep.

A short time later, a piercing, omnipresent whining noise woke me again. I looked at the clock but don't remember what it said. I jumped out of bed and stumbled around the apartment trying to locate the source of the sound. I realized the sound was coming from outside my apartment and threw open the door. One of the something-detectors was squealing, then stopped. I climbed back into bed. I looked at the clock but don't remember what it said, and fell back to sleep.

Soon, a piercing, omnipresent whining noise woke me a third time. I looked at the clock but don't remember what it said. I jumped out of bed and stumbled to the front door to find the sound. I threw open the door, and stared at the squealing detector. Where were my neighbors? Why didn't they come outside to find out if they were in danger? I went back inside and grabbed my ladder. Standing atop the ladder, trying to pry the detector open, I realized this noise has awakened me for some period of time around 2 a.m. every night for days, possibly weeks, and when I went back to bed, I simply forgot.

Wide awake and freaked out, I couldn't go back to bed. I spread out on the couch and flipped channels. I settled on something but couldn't really pay attention. Half an hour later, I curled up inside a frou-frou quilt so only my nose stuck out. When the alarm rang before 6, I called out and climbed back into my bed, certain that noise would not roust me out of bed again. I was right about that much. When I woke up, it was after 11 a.m. I called the landlord and pleaded for someone to put that device out of my misery.

This morning, I go back to work. My co-workers ask, "Do you feel better? Are you okay?"

I tell them: noise, device, every night, forgot. Uniformly, they hoot: this never happens to them! They remember everything! Am I sleepwalking? Have I gone 'round the twist?

In the back of my brain, I believe I should have the answers. In the front of my brain, I think sock puppets are fun! If I'd gone to Harvard like I was supposed to, I might be an undersecretary at the United Nations now. I might be an executive at a major international aid agency. And if I were, and found myself on a ladder at 2 a.m., hammering at a device that inexplicably wasn't annoying my neighbors, my high-priced hospitalization would make Page Six.

Instead, I do half an hour of stand-up every morning about stupid last night.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

It's Not Easy Going Green

Last week, Leonardo di Caprio was on Oprah, talking about global warming. Oprah speaks for millions of purse-string-holding women around the world. So it was astounding to hear Oprah - hopefully playing Devil's Advocate but it was painfully difficult to tell - ask, "I don't know much about global warming. I hear these words and my eyes glaze over. What does global warming have to do with me?" The idea that women haven't connected the dots between those children they fetishize and obsess over and planetary changes is so big and so astonishing I had to stop hating her guts to find room to hate her show's viewers with the kind of scorching, corrosive hatred one devotes to people who insist everything's fine as they stubbornly sail the boat you're standing on into the iceberg.

God damn it, global warming has everything to do with you. And me. And you have to do something constructive about it. And so do I. A few weeks ago, a co-worker approached me for the third day in a row to ask my thoughts on Hurricane Katrina. I expressed horror and dismay in terms that peeled the outer layer of skin off her face. Then this:

Emily: They're going to have to build new refineries to compensate for all the lost oil.
Tata: The oil companies know that building a refinery has like a thirty-year window of return. Anything built now will cost more to build than it will return in its lifetime.
Emily: You mean because nobody wants a refinery in their neighborhood? Of course, you're right but someone will have to live with it.
Tata: No, because of peak oil. Have you heard of this?
Emily: No.
Tata: As I understand it, the earth contains a certain amount of oil. We have extracted the majority of it and from now on, oil will become more difficult to extract and we will extract less and less of it until we run out.
Emily: What about the Arctic? There's oil in South America!
Tata: Yes, and those supplies would have been exhausted long ago if they were easy to tap and not fundamentally dangerous in some way.
Emily: What are we supposed to do? We have to have oil.
Tata: If I owned a house I'd have installed solar panels last year.
Emily: If only they'd build more refineries...

On Sunday afternoon, I read the NJ Clean Energy brochure that arrived with my October PSE&G bill. It wasn't easy. For three hours, some sort of domestic situation transpired loudly right outside my bedroom windows, abating when the cops arrived and starting up again when they left; lather, rinse, repeat. Though what I could see was two people shouting - which is annoying but not threatening - I called the police to restore peace and quiet. The damn brochure didn't offer much information. I fired up the computer and took wild guesses about the providers' URLs. It's long past time to go as green as possible. I'm poor, and putting what little money I have where my mouth is.

Rules. It's the OCD. I can't help it:

1. I prefer not to patronize businesses that lobby against my interests or are located in states that consistently legislate against my interests, just as I'd prefer in theory to buy a hybrid American car built in a factory on Route 1 over any other car built anywhere else.
2. It's impossible to be righteous 100% of the time. Okay? Okay!

The brochure uses a teeny font little old persons like myself can barely see. It offers four options. You're supposed to choose a vendor, which lists a product, the resources that product represents, cost per Kilowatt hour and the average additional monthly cost (average home = 580 kWh/mo.) Apparently, it's cheaper to stay dirty. Let's move on.

Community Energy, Inc.
Product: NewWind Energy
50% wind, 1% solar, 49 % low-impact hydro
1.3 cents

At this point, I realized I knew bupkis, possibly less than bupkis. This is NewWind Energy's site. They have a map of where their wind farms are located in NJ, NY, IL, PA and WV. The site sells fetching posters of windmills. Crap, they're located in Pennsylvania, home of that fuckpig Rick Santorum. Now I have to look up Wayne, PA and find out if it voted for him. Next!

Green Mountain Energy Company
Green Mountain Energy
50% wind, 50% small hydro
.9 cents

Hey, I'm poor. If this checks out, I'm golden. Google "green mountain energy" and you get their site and a boycott site, right off the bat. I realize the limits of my intelligence and research abilities when the site's dated 2000, and I can't find anything more recent refuting the boycott site's allegation that BP bought GMEC and moved to Texas. I...don't know enough to give these people money with a clear conscience. Next!

Jersey-Atlantic Wind, LLC
NJ Wind
50% NJ Wind, 50% low-impact hydro
2.9 cents

Holy crow! That's three times more than the Texans would kick my ass! Since this company is in New Jersey, I'd like to do business with them - I think! I can't tell because they just started selling their product last month. My last month's electric bill was during October, when there was no air conditioning and modest activity in my apartment: roughly 93 kWh = $14.08. With NJ Wind, I would expect to pay about $20. I think I can live with that. What's my last choice?

Sterling Planet, Inc.
Sterling Select
33% wind, 34% landfill gas, 33% small hydro
1.2 cents

They're in Georgia. Fuck that, no matter how righteous they might be.

As a bear of very little brain, I would be perfectly willing to accept that I don't understand anything I've read. If you do understand this and I'm completely wrong about how this stacks up, please correct me.

Is this the best we can do?

Note: if you're about to quibble with the solar panels assertion, forget it. Favor nuclear? Don't bother unless you have a magic wand that makes nuclear waste not-radioactive. As for peak oil: I can never be an expert, but I listen when the grownups are talking.