Sunday, July 30, 2006

Secrets Out To Flunkeys And Castrato Walkers

Tata: Look, it's wrong to deputize waitresses and make them the cigarette police.
Daria: They're already deputized to cut off drunks.
Tata: By the time you cut off a drunk, he sees two of you and you're sober. Even with a gun, he's not much of a threat to you. A smoker with a gun gets pissed off and homicidal while he can still aim. That's how that bouncer in the city bought the farm.
Tom: I loved going to bars in California and not smelling like smoke.
Tata: Look, I have nothing against smoke-free restaurants. Bars are a different story. Absolutely nobody is going to a bar to improve their health.
Daria: They're the same story. What do you care, anyway? You quit smoking. It's not your problem.
Tata: I like my bar dark and smoky. Anybody who doesn't doesn't have to go.
Daria: What about the people who work there?
Tata: They're not serving drinks when they're outside smoking to protect them from their secondhand smoke.
Daria: Now I'm not uncomfortable in bars with my asthma.
Tata: Now you're never in bars, either, so what do you care?

Mom, Lois, Dara, Anya and Corinne sit still as church mice while Daria and I shout at each other. Everyone knows if Daria and I are rolling around on the floor punching one another that before anyone can say, "Nice uppercut, sweetie!" Daria and I will be off in a corner whispering, "You didn't hear this from me, but..." So nobody says, "Keep it down, willya?" as we're shouting the four feet across the dining room table and as suddenly as it started the squall blows over. It helps that Mom's holding a bottle of wine and asking who wants refills. Tyler and Dan have taken a powder for the evening. The only male personage left in the room is Tom. Everyone else, including the infants, is female. After Lois, Dara and I clear the table and load the dishwasher, Lois takes out a new knitting kit Mom's given her. Corinne has a book of incomprehensible puzzles and looks up from penciling in squares to explain how simple the puzzles are. Daria looks over Corinne's shoulder and frowns.

Daria: I don't have time for puzzles that don't involve my phone bill.
Tata: From here, it looks like needlepoint patterns. Lois, do you know how to ball yarn?
Lois: No.
Tata: Your great-grandmother taught me. Here, I have a skein, watch. Take the end from the inside.
Lois: Why that one?
Tata: The outside end has cooties.
Lois: Did she teach you that too?
Tata: No. Grammy didn't lie to children, even the naughty ones. You hold the very end between your fingertips and stretch your fingers far apart.
Lois: That looks awkward.
Tata: Yeah, pretend your in Mime School or something. Then wind the yarn around your outstretched fingers loose enough that it doesn't cut off circulation but tight enough that after about twenty or thirty spins you take your fingers out, wrap them around what you've spun and turn the loop 90 degrees in any direction. Then you do this over and over until you have a ball. When you run into tangles, your impulse will be to pull tightly. Don't - keep your hands loose and find the snarl gently. After the second or third skein of yarn you will find making a ball as natural as blinking an eye.

I do this all very fast and we move on to the skein for Lois' project. She tries it out, slowly and uncertainly. It's not complicated but it takes practice. In the meantime, around the table we talk about the year Mom lost the connection between eating and everything else and was too thin: 1967-1968. She'd been excited enough about Robert Kennedy to work in his campaign and then he was assassinated. Mom was devastated. The world seemed like it was on fire. In July, 1968 we moved to the house Mom lives in now. We are very much aware of teenage girls at the table as we talk about food issues.

Mom: You don't remember all that, do you?
Tata: Sure, I do. Let's go back in time, shall we? "Hey, Mom! Eat a sandwich!"
Daria: Shut up, Miss Anorexia.
Dara: What?
Tata: Oh, it was very glamorous when I was in high school to puke up your lunch. But then Mom caught me so I stopped eating. Our Grandma put a stop to that. She was a genius.
Dara: What did she do?
Tata: She sat across the table from me with a bowl of her amaretto mousse, eating small spoonfuls. "Domenica, this is so delicious - " Nibble, nibble. "It's too bad you're not having some - " Nibble. "This is so good I shouldn't be eating this all myself but - " Nibble. "I have really outdone myself this time, it's so delicious - " Finally, I caved and ate. Man, she was shrewd.

Dara was born the day before our Grandma died in 1991; to Dara, Edith is nothing but pictures and stories, as someday we will all be. Anya notices that it's after 1 and, startled, we jump up, run to our beds and sleep at high speed. I'm the only one at the table certain I won't be supervising small children in a few hours. My bedroom seems cavernous, my bed feels a mile wide; I am utterly certain I won't sleep and then it's morning.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Out Of the Window With Confetti In My Hair

Your family is your family, in whatever sense you live it or compose it. Some people are related to apparently nobody but this is only a problem of perception and logistics since at this moment in the history of mad scientists no human being can be a blood relation of nobody; all of us must be related to other people. Eventually, it will be discovered that all people are related to one another and when we take this recognition to heart, Thanksgiving dinner will be Hell on Earth, amen.

Daria: Don't just stand there. Hand me the asparagus and sit down.
Tata: I'm gonna wedge myself in there? I'm lefthanded.

Everyone who is not talking stares at Dara, sitting next to Mom at one end of the table. Nobody stares at Daria, at the other end of the table because Miss Fifi sits in baby furniture on the floor at Daria's feet. Dara, who lives in Virginia with Dad and may never have had dinner with this group, demonstrates that she is nonetheless a part of it.

Dara: Okay. I'll eat yours, then.
Tata: Lois, just so you know: when I stab you with cutlery it's because stabbing Dara would require an impolite boarding house reach.
Lois: Fine, but use your own knife. That one's mine.
Tata: A thousand pardons, darling. Please pass the salad.
Lois: We're out of salad.
Daria: What?
Anya: What?
Mom: (Running to the kitchen) Nooooooooo!
Anya: I see you eyeing the pesto.
Tata: You only think there's some for you.
Anya: That pesto spoon didn't touch the chicken, did it?
Dara: No, but -
Tata: If I lick the spoon the pesto's mine mine mine!
Anya: If you lick that spoon you will never sauce again!

For most of my teens and all of my twenties I was more or less estranged from my family but things have changed. I am pleased to be part of any group in which sauce is used simultaneously as a verb and a threat. In fact, if I lick that spoon, Daria's husband Tyler will clutch his chest and keel over. He is a little germphobic. How he survives in a household with three little germ factories and an actual, you know, woman is beyond me - moreover, he's sitting at my right hand. At some point I don't notice, he's not there anymore and the little boys all go to bed. What I do notice is everyone stops shouting, "Don't run in the house!" for the first time since I arrived at the inn. Anya's husband Dan also fades into the darkness of the evening and the house without my noticing. My stepfather Tom, one of the most patient human beings who has ever walked the earth, earlier proposed we smother the little boys and absolutely nobody said in a loud chorus, "OK!" because that would be so, so wrong. Mom runs back from the kitchen with a full bowl of salad while we are all still there and all is right with the world. A brief period of contented chewing occurs.

Friday, July 28, 2006

A Chance On A Brand New Dance

Week 4 Friday Morning Report

Goal 1
Since last week, I lost 2 lbs.

Goal 3
No time for yoga but this also meant I was inpspired to stretch a little more every day. So some good came of being pressed for time.

Last Monday, I had a talk with myself.

Tata: You have a goal you really want to achieve and yet you cling to behaviors and structures that do not serve your desires.
Tata: Lady, what the hell are you talking about?
Tata: Our fat ass.
Tata: Yep. Still there!
Tata: Exactly. You're eating a lot of fresh foods and minimizing white flours, which is great.
Tata: Pat me on the back. I can't...quite...reach -
Tata: It's not enough. Our weight's held steady for weeks, despite the fanatical and fun efforts to exercise, even in crushing heat.
Tata: Are we almost done? My epaulets are wilting.
Tata: For the time being, why not take one step further? You want to lose weight. Why not eliminate a source of calories you hadn't even considered?
Tata: Which one?
Tata: Wine.
Tata: I can't give up drinking wine! Might as well tell me to breathe every other hour!
Tata: Wine slows down your metabolism.
Tata: What metabolism?
Tata: Right.
Tata: No, really. What metabolism? If it can't get any slower why not pad the blow?
Tata: In other words, you don't actually care if we lose weight?
Tata: I do. As long as I don't have to actually work at it. Or give up anything. Or pay attention, really. And six weeks from now - POOF! We're a size 2.
Tata: We'll be a size 2 a year after we're pushing up daisies, sweetheart.
Tata: Can't we just skip to the "Tata - After" photo?
Tata: No. So whaddya say we quit sipping pino grigio after dinner on school nights?
Tata: Will I be rewarded with a sleek, athletic build?
Tata: How about healthy, and with all the curves of a mountain road under the wheels of a gassed-up Lotus?
Tata: What? No wonder nobody understands a word we say.

Common sense prevailed. I know! I can't believe it, either. I mentioned this to Siobhan.

Tata: I'm not having a sip of wine until I next weigh myself. Don't tell anyone. What would people say?
Siobhan: "She quit drinking BOOZE? It was as if a million vineyards cried out as one and then were silent."
Tata: I could cause panic by changing one aspect of my life?
Siobhan: Remember your red vinyl mini-skirt and that little people band?
Tata: And look who we've got our Hanes on now. Point taken.

Nobody panic! Each body is different and wants different things to achieve results. Mine wants a month-long vegetarian art and yoga boot camp where there are no electronic devices to cloud the mind. Barring that - as it remains undelivered by the Wild Fantasy Fairy and how would the ashram fit under my pillow? - this aspect of my July project is complete. I'll keep at it. Though the path is pretty clear, I can still find the poison ivy.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

To A World That Others Might Have Missed

Our little boy-pack digging holes in sand at the edge of Lake Arcadia.

Anya paddling the two three-year-old boys, Ezekiel and Sandro. What you can't see is Daria standing on the dock, freaking out. She is very protective, and they were too far out on the water to meet Daria's immediate protection needs.

Anya and Corinne taking the boys on a grand adventure. We should have dressed the boys up like pirates or Revolutionary War soldiers.

This only looks like a picture of scenery. Actually, Anya, Corinne and the boys have paddled around to the channel behind the island and this is a picture of them being invisible.

These are my freedom-loving toes, overjoyed to be free in the cool sand. My toes and I agree: shoes are not our friends!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Reap the Wild Wind

Standing in the kitchen, clutching a glass of wine for dear life, I'm watching a whole lot of things happen all at once. Daria runs through the kitchen, never missing a beat in the conversation she and I are having while keeping tabs on her son and humoring Miss Fifi, who I'm sure is grafted to Daria's hip. Mom is supervising as she and Dara boil water for angel hair pasta. Each family group bought out a Costco: on every surface in the giant kitchen someone has shoved things aside and made piles of cookies, breads, crackers, pasta. There is a whole counter covered with hot dog and hamburger rolls and Portuguese muffins. The four little boys run from room to room in spite of the chorus of voices shouting, "Don't run! Go outside!" Dan quietly feeds Miss Gigi in the dining room. Anya and Corinne pour wine and sort out disputes between the little boys and the teenage girls. Lois and Dara have a room at the end of the hall upstairs, next to mine. The little boys aren't used to being separated from Lois at least and don't understand why Corinne tells them to stay out of the girls' room. Tippecanoe in particular seems crestfallen that he can't play in his sister's room. I give my sisters credit. It's so loud I can't think, and I can't figure out why Dara is tossing butter with a giant mound of angel hair while Daria says, "Mantequilla aqui!" and I say, "Use the Italian cognate," and Mom puts the whole thing on a back burner. Later, it will require four people to portion out the room temperature pasta for Tippecanoe, Tyler Too, Sandro and Ezekiel.

I can't explain any of this. I look like the statue in the middle of a traffic circle while cars buzz by - a very glamorous statue with vibrant red hair. My discomfort with all the noise is not a secret.

Tata: Too many people talking -
Daria: Shut up! Are not! What a wuss!
Anya: Ezekiel, sit down at the table -
Corinne: Tippecanoe, did you wash your hands?
Mom: If I say beurre, is that more helpful?
Daria: It's a romance language! She should be able to pick it up.
Lois: What kind of vegetable are we having?
Mom: Domenica, we have broccoli and asparagus. Tyler will grill or we can microwave.
Tata: Let's microwave the asparagus, if no one minds.
Daria: Have you seen the chicken?
Tata: ...No...
Daria: Dara and I made it by accident and it was GREAT!
Tata: I'm sure it is...what is it?
Daria: Two nights ago, Dara and I sauteed some chicken breasts, then threw on some red peppers, tossed on some mozzarella and painted up the whole thing with pesto. We didn't even make it to the table. I was like, "Sorry I can't stop shoveling this delicious chicken in my mouth long enough to make conversation but -" and she was like, "That's okay, I can't stop shoveling either."
Tata: That sounds very delicious. Or like hypnosis -
Mom: I believed her. Note the large number of trays ready to go into the broiler.
Daria: And the pesto any one of us would drink through a straw.
Tata: Yep, and ever since I gave up Hollandaise a la mode -
Dara: What?
Tata: It went better over ice cream than in Italian dessert sodas.
Dara: What?
Tata: Mine is a different concept of dessert. Not for me the tooth-rotting sweetness, no! I want the salty and unbelievably fattening gravies and sauces. Preferably in a nice glass with a soup spoon.
Mom: I believe you, too.
Daria: Will you shut up, already?
Tata: What? Mom believes me!
Daria: She's lying, Mom!
Anya: Does everybody have a bowl of buttery pasta and a little boy to feed?
Tata: Mom, I am so glad I only had one child and she's old enough to cut her own angel hair -
Daria: Oh, good, Miss Mouth. You can cut Sandro's.

One of these days, I am going to learn when to express gratitude and when to shut my trap. I cut up buttery angel hair wondering if our plan to subdue the four little boys is to starve their brains of protein until they just think they're running around the house - and why am I cutting angel hair? Isn't it small enough that the whole noodle can easily fit through the tiny nose of the average laughing little boy?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I Don't Feel Tardy

Week 4 Tuesday Report

Goal 2
I have not been home enough to make any progress on the apartment this week. In fact, the vacuum is lying on the living room floor where I left it Sunday morning before I went to work at the family store.

To compensate (the point is to make progress, not punish myself) I'll report again next Tuesday on precisely how humiliating it can be when the vacuum is still there.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Track A Ghost Through A Fog

Johnny sent me a copy of one of our favorite old Fleetwood Mac CDs, which was exciting. I truly enjoy driving around with the windows open, singing the trumpet parts. DA! DA! DA! TUSK! This came in very handy when Friday, the family migrated north and west to a bed & breakfast on Lake Arcadia. Several people have asked me what town I drove to. I don't know. Mom sent me directions I didn't understand and I was loudly not understanding the directions as I walked across my office to John's desk. At work, John is one of my designated translators and as usual, when I am swearing, John grins ear-to-ear.

Tata: Mom sent me...!
John: Oooh, this is awful. "Go slow or you'll lose an oil pan. Hey, it happens"? This says there's another way. Where is it?
Tata: I don't know.
John: What's the name of the town?
Tata: I don't know.
John: The name of the inn?
Tata: I don't know that either.
John: Are you just going to get on 287 and keep going?
Tata: That's my plan, yep. Until I stop.
John: Down at the bottom, she hints at the name.
Tata: What?
John: Here, it's on Google. With directions!
Tata: What?
John: I'll format and print it for you.
Tata: Get out!
John: I'll do it in Wingdings so you can't read it. You'll feel right at home.
Tata: We are such dorks that font funnies may be the highlight of this vignette.

In a torrential downpour, I packed the car. Then the rain stopped. I took a nap. As soon as I got into the car, the clouds burst, and I drove the length of Easton Avenue in a blinding rainstorm at a crawl as other drivers with sonar passed me. Whatever. I've lived along the Raritan long enough to where speeding landed careless persons in the Canal, which is very, very stinky.

An hour later, I'm driving up and down and in and out on steep mountain roads in dewy twilight when I see the sign for the inn. I turn into the driveway and for the next two miles, roll the car slowly over gravel, large rocks and holes. When I finally get to the inn, one of my brothers-in-law helps with the luggage and the wine; I carry everything else. My stepfather Tom greets us at the door.

For five years, my mother has lived in my hometown and Tom has lived during the week at this bed & breakfast, returning to the hometown house on Fridays for the weekend. This has been better for him than driving over an hour, twice a day. We trundle indoors and drop my groceries in the giant kitchen. The voices of my four sisters, their children, two of their husbands, my mother and Tom echo through the cavernous rooms in a huge wooden house that was built on Lake Arcadia four generations ago and is still owned by the same family, which is not our family. Tom has acted as caretaker here during the long winters. Even the windows themselves are odd and oversized, which I notice after I see through them the huge lake in what might otherwise be a backyard the size of half a town. With canoes.

We drop my stuff in a room directly overlooking the lake, which Tom says is his when the inn is unoccupied. I can see why he likes it: the old wood walls, the deep closets, the view that spreads out for miles. Later, he tells me from these windows, he watched the cloud of destruction on September 11th. Tom shows me all the rooms and explains who is sleeping where. The rooms are so big I wish I remembered how to square dance.

Downstairs in the kitchen, everyone's talking at once. Let me introduce you.

Mom: Lucy is my mother, Daria's and my brother Todd's. Todd is not here.
Tom: Father of Anya and Corinne, Mom's second husband since sometime in the seventies but nobody really knows when because Mom and Tom are way cagey. Tom is a biologist, a Christian and a rational thinker. His dinnertable mantra when we were growing up was, "Cite your source!"

Daria: After me, the oldest of the kids. Followed by a drifting cloud of Jersey Chick hair. Funniest when deeply depressed. She is married to -
Tyler: Former Marine, financial planner, Ann Coulter fan surrounded by tree-huggers. Daria and Tyler have three children -
Tyler Too: Six, and just learning how to mouth off.
Sandro: Three. Smiles as he does exactly what you told him not to.
Fifi: Fifteen months and cute as a button. A happy baby.

Anya: She who has excellent taste in decorative stuff; fights a lot with Daria. Piercing blue eyes. Married to -
Dan: Landscape architect with a marked tendency to snore as soon as his butt his a chair, with good reason. Anya and Dan have two children -
Ezekiel: Three and talks constantly. Sweet like nobody's business.
Gigi: Eight months, an astute observer, a startlingly pretty thing.

Corinne: Corinne was two when we met her. She does not remember life before she had stepsisters brushing her hair. Often speaks in tongues. Very funny. Separated from the husband I used to call "Goober." Corinne has two children -
Lois: Resembles Scarlett Johanson. Smart, funny, smiles mysteriously through family dinners. I think she's collecting blackmail material. She is thirteen.
Tippecanoe: Just turned seven and walks backward toward aunties who wants to kiss him. Energetic. Sweet. Thrilled to see all his cousins.

Dara: Daria's and my half-sister from Dad's second marriage. Dara turns fifteen this week. When I saw her in a bikini I was glad my daughter's married. Dara looks like adorable trouble and she is. Daria, Todd, Anya, Corinne and I have been brother and sisters for over thirty years, so no one bothers with technicalities. Dara is just one of the kids; Dara and Lois are weirdly inseparable, despite living five states apart.

When I walk into the kitchen someone hands me a glass of wine, and it's a good thing. I spend the vast majority of my time alone. For all this togetherness, it turns out I am over-sober.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Spell On You

In a couple of weeks, I'll be working at the family store for a week while my sisters and their mom take a much-needed break. It's good news for me, too. The setting is peaceful, the fragrances tranquil, the music ambient; what's not to love? I have one complaint, though: I've listened to all the store CDs, and I haven't bought many new CDs recently. I'm bored. Help me out!

For the store, my favorite CDs are Cocteau Twins, Sarah MacLachlan, Seal, Dido, Miles Davis,Talk Talk and singers who aren't singing in English. At home, my tastes are different and they don't mix well. I found this out when I was gift-wrapping something sharp and Jeff Buckley was wailing about fucking someone and I stabbed myself with someone's birthday gift when I realized why the customer was staring at me with horror. So. I can pick up three or four CDs. I can pick a lipstick to complement ABBA Gold.

What CDs do you recommend?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Want This, I Want This

Week 3 Friday Morning Report

Goal One
I an down from my original heft in the neighborhood of 1.5-2 lbs. I can't tell. I am old, the scale is far away, and those little lines are teeny.

Goal Three
Nope. No time for yoga. I exchanged this for a massage. I was having real trouble with my right leg. My friend Beryl is a massage therapist. She and I haven't seen one another nearly enough so it was a fine chance to get naked in front of my friend and, you know, catch up. The good news is the pain in my right leg has almost completely disappeared.

I am wearing the small pants! This is good and bad news, bad news first: my rump, while smaller, is still more than 20 lbs. above a good weight for me, which has nothing to do with what insurance institutes say is a good weight for my frame. Even anorexic, I couldn't get within 15 lbs. of those weird estimates. Even an anorexic gets the point sometimes.

The good news is that I'd started noticing my arms floating around, away from my body like I was wearing swimmies all the time. For the first time in my weight yo-yo life, I'd developed chubby arms. Because I'm exercising every day, the fat-muscle conversion is happening - too slowly for my taste, but it's happening. Earlier this week, I noticed my elbows resting next to my waist. When I walk, my arms feel like their normal selves again. This morning, I changed the department's water bottle.

My mantra is "The answers are in the body and exercise is always the way there." I am a genius! I'd taken today off and forgot, so I'm sitting at my desk instead of arguing with Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul. So I'm not a genius. I'll settle for being a slightly smaller fool.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Neon, Modern Sound, Modern Miles Around

Just over a week ago, Daria described an impromptu plan.

Daria: I'm packing up my children and we're going to visit Daddy.
Tata: All three of your children?
Daria: Yup.
Tata: Our Dad?
Daria: He's the one.
Tata: And when are you leaving?
Daria: Squazzbats.
Tata: You'll be back by Friday, right?
Daria: Guuuuaaaaaazzzzzz. Eck eck eck.
Tata: Awesome. See you soon!

Okay, I'm lying. I seldom see Daria soon. Since she and Tyler moved the kids out to Flemington there are be long stretches between psychotic breaks where I agree to drive for an hour to chase children and feel sticky - I hate sticky. Also: Daria may have used real words but her cell service hates me in particular. Nobody else tells her she's speaking the gentle dialect of the air traffic controller, she says. I can't explain it. Anyway, I can't call her when she's not at home because it's just too hard to memorize a phone number per person anymore and I might need those brain cells for breathing, we don't know. A week passed. I kept looking around like I'd misplaced my wallet. The phone rang.

Tata: Fiercely. Where the hell are you?
Tata: Of course. Why are you shouting?
Tata: Ah! I should have known.
Daria: I'll call you back later so Dara can talk to you.
Tata: Ooooooooooh! Camping trip for her!
Daria: My kids say hello, except for the one that says, "Bah bah bah."
Tata: I'm hanging up now!

Daria, Todd and I, all forty-plus, have a half-sister who is about to turn 15. Dara just came back from a school trip to France with a hickey. I told Dad:

Tata: Listen, it's a different world. You ran wild in the streets. I ran wild in the streets. It's not the same anymore. Tell her, "I've been keeping this secret: you're Catholic. I'm locking you in this convent until crossing your knees feels natural."
Dad: She's not Catholic.
Tata: Shhhh! It's supposed to be a secret.
Dad: What about that fire-and-brimstone church she goes to with her mother?
Tata: Snakes got nothing on Dominicans. Shit, they were the Inquisition until the Pope told 'em to tone it down.

So Dad's miffed, Dara's staying with Daria for a few weeks and I'm measuring out a good blast buffer distance. This does nothing to prevent the mid-morning phone calls. Daria's thrilled to wake up in her own house.

Daria: So guess what!
Tata: What?
Daria: My beautiful little daughter - I was changing her diaper and I stepped around the corner for a clean diaper.
Daria: And Tyler Too said, "Mommy, she pooped." I said, "No way, buddy. Where could the poop have gone?" And he pointed to a container next to Fifi. So I opened it and -
Daria: I had to bleach everything.
Tata: Eck eck eck eck. I'm holding a gabage can. Oops, it's recycling -
Daria: I couldn't believe it. She picked up the poop and put it in a container.
Tata: The room is spinning - breakfast won't be delicious twice -
Daria: Anyway, so what're ya doing?
Tata: Passing out now -
Daria: Gotta go!

Things are back to wretched normal.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Everything Else But Us Is Falling Apart

Week 3 Tuesday Report

Forgive me for reporting in late. Busy afternoon! I was waiting for the cable guy. He did exactly what I knew he would: not at all see what I saw. I felt bad about making him crawl around under the building in 100 degree heat. I say we're even. He left me a piece of paper with a description of what might be wrong so the next guy might have a head start. This kind of thing happens all the time but expecially when my U.N. translator is off having her own life, and because Siobhan is a selfish bitch she was selfishly and bitchily at work, thinking only of herself and her career and paying her bills, as usual nobody else understood a word I said.

I'm used to this. It always makes Siobhan Yosemite-Sam-hoppin'-mad, with steam shooting from each ear - the works! So there is an upside.

This evening, the CD tower I avoided ordering arrived, which is why I didn't report in this morning. I had a hunch the tower would arrive today. So I assembled it, pulled most of my CDs out of the last cardboard moving box and put them in the tower. The box is empty. It's a little milestone.

Still lots of work to do. The curtain rods are still on the floor and there's still a pile of stuff on the credenza, three Rubbermaid containers and two boxes I've just remembered two milk crates wedged into small spaces behind things.

Obviously, I can never leave here.

I Know You Well - Much Better Than I Used To

I feel sick thinking about this.

More than twenty years ago, Scout and I were talking about childhood sexual abuse and Scout cited the statistic - relatively new and shocking - that about one in four girls had been sexually assaulted by the time they reached maturity. Scout and I were shocked not by the idea that one in four girls were assaulted but that the ratio was so low. Scout said, "I think it's the reverse."

I have always believed her. I know more women who have been sexually assaulted than women who have not. I spent 12 years in therapy dealing with this crap myself, and I am reluctant to talk about this now because it's not pressing. I don't think about it much anymore. Then there's this odious behavior at the G8 Summit, which I was ignoring. Bush is an ill-mannered buffoon - no news there. But putting his hands on German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a gesture that can either be affectionate or dominant but neither consentual nor presidential in a public setting - I can't express my disgust. This is the precise invasive maneuver that would make me freak, anywhere, anytime, any set of hands.

I'm sitting at my desk, shivering with anger. My back is against a wall, where I like it. In therapy, you learn that what happened wasn't your fault. You learn to stay present in the non-threatening here-and-now. Aren't I lucky I know exactly who to blame and how to sashay forward with all the style, grace and focused rage of a registered voter fully capable of locating and using a White House email address?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Days Falling Backward Into Velvet Night

Last night, just before 10, I was watching the last few riveting minutes of Miss Marple: the Moving Finger, and it was tense because my friend and I had a bet going. He said the doctor killed the gossipy wife and the domestic. I was distracted by the use of Bible pages in poison pen letters and said it might be the vicar's wife but that in all matters Agatha Christie-related I could never pick the killer and it started to look like he was going to win. This is terrible because if he wins, not only do I not know how the murder was committed - which would bug me - but it was really going to cost me. And winning wouldn't be much better because he wagered a pound of macaroni made by non-Italians, which would be okay if the non-Italians were Chinese or even French because Heaven knows throughout history European borders have been a little flexible, but then the phone rang! At first, I didn't recognize the voice.

Some Lady: I know it's late but I thought you might like to have a chance to...
Tata: I can barely hear you.
Some Lady: I know it's late. It's Tom's birthday and I thought you might want to call him on the other phone.
Tata: MOM?
Mom: Yes?
Tata: What are you saying?
Mom: It's Tom's birthday. He's talking to your sister Corinne right now on the other phone but if you wait a few minutes you can call before the end of the evening.
Tata: What's today's date? It was just Bastille Day. That should've been my first clue - pretty much every year for the last 30! I just never know what day it is.
Mom: I know. That's why I called.
Tata: You're not whispering. Where are you?
Mom: Cape Cod.
Tata: Is he in the same house you are?
Mom: Yes. This morning, we went quahogging and we're going to watch a movie.
Tata: My jealousy knows no bounds. I was watching Miss Marple and absolutely no one went clamming.

My friend and I both picked the wrong culprits, which may mean meeting in trenchcoats on a bridge between East and West Berlin. I haven't decided what to forfeit. It has to mean something, and it has to be funny. Is pesto hilarious?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Tearing Me Apart Like A New Emotion

Yesterday, I was walking in a section of the park under what can only be described as aggressive construction, where oversized Tonka trucks sit largely idle and seemingly random trenches have been dug through asphalt and lawn. No plan is evident. In the months I've been walking and running in the park, questionable improvements have progressed at a glacial pace. One trench near an old boat launch is filled with fetid water and because it cuts across that whole corner of the park, for me there is no avoiding the trench or the smell. I jump over it. On the other hand, this corner of the park is almost always deserted. Yesterday, as I was avoiding a relatively new obstacle in my path, I saw a kid on a bike skid right up to the trench, the front wheel jerk straight down and the kid fly over the handlebars. This kid either landed head-first and rolled or flipped in the air - I'm not sure what I saw. Anyway, this kid wasn't dead. You will be pleased to hear I did not even lie down to laugh hard enough.

I picked up the pace, asking, "Are you okay?" and "Are you hurt?" I couldn't tell if the kid on the ground was a boy or a girl but he or she was almost my size, big-boned, wearing a helmet and with shoulder-length blond hair. I guessed he or she was between 10 and 13, and in that square body stage, back facing me. The kid was gasping for breath and moaning a little, leaning on one hip. I went around to face this kid and still couldn't tell if it was a boy or girl so I didn't touch. I jumped over the trench. I grabbed the bicycle, which was new, very shiny and bigger than me, and pulled it out of the ditch. I stood it up and pushed down the kickstand with my hand. The bicycle was spattered with foul-smelling mud. Then I turned back to the kid, still on the ground, and jumped back over the trench. There was nothing to do but issue orders. "Try sitting back," then, "Looks like nothing's broken. Can you get up?" and "Walk!" From under his t-shirt, I saw the fringe of a prayer shawl. It was a boy, and I was glad I hadn't touched him. That could have consequences for him because I am a strange woman. Literally.

He got up and walked. "Brush the dirt off your knees so you can see if you have any cuts." He was very obedient and brushed, then pointed to a small spot where the skin was a little purple. "You need some peroxide. You're going right home, yes?" He nodded, sort of. He was okay enough to go wherever he was going next without a crutch or overreaction on my part, so I turned to go. I told him to be careful - that ditch was not what it looked like from a distance. I told him to take care and started off. From a distance, he called out, "Thank you!" I called out, "Sure." He didn't owe me anything.

I thought about this after I kept walking: where he was, if he'd been injured I would've had to leave him alone to get help. I worked out a plan that would've caused me to leave the boy alone the least amount of time. It didn't matter, for three reasons: 1. I was less than an eighth of a mile from my boss Gianna's house; 2. even if no one at the soccer field had a phone, I could get help in the parking lot; 3. most emergencies are no more than I can handle. This has been true all my life.

I should think about that more.

There's No Need To Escalate

Yesterday, Dad sent me the crankiest, most hilarious obituary I've read in ages. At first, I thought it was a joke. Nobody's this poised in death without a board up his shirt.
Frederic Arthur (Fred) Clark, who had tired of reading obituaries noting other's courageous battles with this or that disease, wanted it known that he lost his battle as a result of an automobile accident on June 18, 2006. True to Fred's personal style, his final hours were spent joking with medical personnel while he whimpered, cussed, begged for narcotics and bargained with God to look over his wife and kids.

Tata: Dad, is this real? His politics are all over the map!
Dad: He was a cantankerous far-righty. And yes, he's kicked the bucket.

So where's it land?
Always an interested observer of politics, particularly what the process does to its participants, he was amused by politician's outrage when we lie to them and amazed at what the voters would tolerate. His final wishes were "throw the bums out and don't elect lawyers" (though it seems to make little difference). During his life he excelled at mediocrity. He loved to hear and tell jokes, especially short ones due to his limited attention span. He had a life long love affair with bacon, butter, cigars and bourbon. You always knew what Fred was thinking much to the dismay of his friend and family. His sons said of Fred, "he was often wrong, but never in doubt".

I can't argue with butter-love and bourbon-amour, can you?
He died at MCV Hospital and sadly was deprived of his final wish which was to be run over by a beer truck on the way to the liquor store to buy booze for a double date to include his wife, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter to crash an ACLU cocktail party. In lieu of flowers, Fred asks that you make a sizable purchase at your local ABC store or Virginia winery (please, nothing French - the censored) and get rip roaring drunk at home with someone you love or hope to make love to. Word of caution though, don't go out in public to drink because of the alcohol related laws our elected officials have passed due to their inexplicable terror at the sight of a MADD lobbyist and overwhelming compulsion to meddle in our lives.

The old coot wanted Rush to date Ann? Yecch. I have to go bleach my brain after that mental picture but - strangely - I'm with him on those goddamn MADD mothers and their mortal meddling.
Fred's ashes will be fired from his favorite cannon at a private party on the Great Wicomico River where he had a home for 25 years. Additionally, all of Fred's friend (sic) will be asked to gather in a phone booth, to be designated in the future, to have a drink and wonder, "Fred who?"

Awesome. I didn't know you could go out like this.

And speaking of things I didn't know: things in war zones are worse than my safe-in-Jersey mind can make sense of in any way. What's happening in Afghanistan was inevitable. Events in Iraq are not just violent, brutal and immoral - no, they are disgusting. The things human beings will do to one another for - as far as I can tell - no reason whatever make me wish I could go live on another planet. Alone. For the rest of my life. And now we have this latest testosterone-driven foolishness between Israel and Hezbollah that results in bombs dropped on the heads of innocent people. It's disgusting, all this power and so little responsibility.

Look, I'm not an idiot - mostly. At any given moment, there are wars and conflicts going on all over the globe. Someone is always killing thousands of someone else, and the world goes round and round. But something important is different now, and that something is knowledge.

One hundred years ago, we had newspapers and magazines. When something happened, the public in places where there was a press - that's key - might read accounts and see occasional photographs. In a public information sense, the public might read what amounts to a troubling bedtime story, while in a certain personal sense, people knew what war was like because sometimes it came to the front door with a rifle. In the United States, that doesn't happen anymore unless you have a tiff with ATF, so we are very much isolated from the reality of war, when we talk about war. No army comes to our front doors to kill us and rape our children so we can talk and talk and talk about war in the most sanitary or savage terms we can find and it's all meaningless talk. The problem is our meaningless talk kills people, and we bear responsibility for it.

Later in the twentieth century, reporters followed troops through the jungles of Vietnam and for the first time, through the magic of television the American public saw what war looked like. I don't have to write a history of war journalism for you. If you've been paying attention all your life you've noticed the little shocks and tremors, you saw the first George Bush say, "Let 'er rip," then retire to a back room and watch CNN's coverage of bombs falling on Baghdad. You noticed that after the bombing of Oklahoma City the American public was considered too fragile to observe its own unsanitized history. Perhaps you even noticed that when the Towers came down the written accounts were so different from the images we were shown that it was as if reporters covered two different disasters. On the one hand, we have the capacity now to see events from around the world as they are transpiring. We cannot pretend we don't understand what horror we visit on other human beings when we - or anyone, not just us - act thoughtlessly, brutally and without moral courage.

In high school, I was a drama fag with Daniel Drennan, whose book New York Stories made me laugh until I cried. Daniel went to the prom with one of my sisters. I am fond of him. Daniel was born in Lebanon and adopted by an American couple who later raised other children too in the town I grew up in. Daniel lived in Paris for years but living in NYC for many more and during 9/11 was for him as for many people a turning point in his life. He's moved to Beirut to teach and learn about the people he was born to. His blog is one of great beauty, and raw anger.
I was dreaming this morning and in this dream a wrong number with a wrong name kept asking the wrong recipient who was me, "how do you feel?" and as much as I tried to explain that it was a wrong number the wrong voice kept going: "Yes but how do you feel?"

I woke and could hear the sound of the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer, a rhythmic, cadenced call that I find comforting in its daily reminder of one's humble status, of one's humanity, of one's community, to all points compass-wise called out.

And then another sound, of low-flying jets, a roar and a sonic boom that shook the building; and then another sound, an explosion, to the south; I ran to the balcony door, and the neighbors did the same, and lights came on and people stared out into the dark sky now reflecting light from a bomb blast just south in the dahiyeh.

And the noise of the jets forces you to duck your head as if they might graze the top of your very skull, and their sonic booms shock you into the very corners of your apartment though they cause no harm save some broken glass somewhere else, and the dull thud of bombs meeting their targets reveals itself in a viscerally felt pressure wave that is comparatively speaking easier on the ears as though to bely its deadliness.

God damn it.
"My electricity just went out along with the whole city it seems. It seems like they are bombing south of me which would be the southern suburbs, mostly Shi'a Muslim. I can't believe they can get away with this. This is the fucking capital of a country and they are striking civilian targets. I am sitting in the dark on the floor waiting for it to stop. I'm not freaked out just really fucking angry!"

And my sister called, which amazed me in terms of phone service here; and I kept her on the phone to keep her voice close, the sound of her voice comfort in the dark only I wish she hadn't heard the bombs drop; I wish she didn't have to hear the sonic booms ricocheting off the walls and through my head; the pause in our conversation endless as outside the noise screamed and pounded and boomed and silent pink lights rose to meet no target and yellow-orange flames reflected off of the smoke of their own creation.

And then silence. As after a nightmare, the rising sun serves to vanquish evil; a dark plume of smoke rose heavy in the southern sky, accompanied by not a sound, not a siren, not a cry, not a car, not a voice, nothing, no one. So silent, that one might try to sleep, exhausted, as if hearing and seeing were fatiguing activities.

And my parents called, and I prayed that my mother might be spared the sound of the night before, straining my ears for sounds of jets, ready to hang up if necessary to prevent such a transmission; sounds no mother should hear, especially when that noise is directly delivered to other mothers, that noise and the bomb it delivered that mowed down eight children of a mother's work yesterday in one fatal moment, that noise that haunts mothers' nightmares throughout this country, that piercing scream of death come quickly.

And for once I was discussing politics with my father and we were agreeing, and for once I realized how often I underestimate their wisdom, my parents; their lives of Depression and World War and living abroad; and we talked about racism and war and destruction; of actions beyond our control and reaction and frustration; of Gaza and Beirut and Iran and of America; and we agreed, and I regret only that we don't talk more, because talking more might mean agreeing more, and I hung up the phone and let myself cry for the first time since waking up hours before, if only for making them worry for me.

That was yesterday. Today isn't looking great, either.
...but I find this kind of funny, first of all because I just walked across half the city to get here and second of all because the American Embassy here is completely and totally useless (for the past few days the same email has been sent telling Americans to stay away from street demonstrations of which there are none); the U.S. State Dept. is completely and totally useless (their missive reminds us that evacuation is not free).

Furthermore, the other thing to know is that the dorms at AUB have potable tap water, generator-driven electricity, free Internet access, and a beautiful campus with some of the only greenery in Beirut plus a private beach. Meanwhile, my electricity up in Ras en-Nabaa is being rationed; when the electricity is out I have to walk up 5 flights of stairs and my water pump stops bringing my (for hygiene only) water up to my cistern. I have only a cell phone and no Internet or, needless to say, a private beach. So their whining is really annoying. I do live two blocks from the French Embassy should I need to I will go there instead.

I want to make something clear: I'm not planning on keeping a running journal here; I kind of needed to write out what I did yesterday to just process what is going on. Last night dusk was weird and this morning I awoke with no noise and the sensation that perhaps something had happened that ended it. Unfortunately, it was only a break for Beirut and not the south and not the Bekaa. Now it is 2:00 in the afternoon and they are shelling the suburbs of Beirut again.

Israeli newspapers are reporting that the aim is to "disarm Hezbollah". I would like someone to tell me now that this wasn't planned well in advance, and that tacit American approval was not behind it. I'd like to remind everyone that there are 25,000 Americans working in Beirut right now. Not that I think they deserve special privileges, exactly the opposite (although the dorm residents above might beg to differ). I guess I can see the U.S. government cynically hoping for hostage taking and the like in order to give them an excuse to "come clean up".

In the meantime, I have 100+ students to worry about. Colleagues, friends, and neighbors. I don't think I can set foot on a war ship if that is how they plan to evacuate people. And I don't know that I can leave since leaving would probably mean never coming back.

Oh, back to the running journal thing. I don't want this to any way be fodder for the schadenfreude entertainment mill that is foreign news in the States. I don't want to make a big drama about me because frankly that is the main sickness of the solipsistic Internet and also because I don't see myself any different from anyone else here.

The difference is not Daniel, per se. The difference is that because Daniel is real and human and articulate and flesh, Daniel must be seen and heard. This would or will make him very impatient with me some other time, but let's all suck it up and get to the point, here: dropping bombs is not an abstraction. Real human beings bleed real blood when they are crushed under concrete that used to be their homes, and real human beings melt and burn when bombs fall on them. Real human beings die in agony, and others live on in agony. You cannot pretend it is not happening. It is. And no one can any longer afford to be wrong, but never in doubt because being wrong is tearing the flesh of people whose survivors will have every reason to rise up and come for you.

If only in the interest of your own selfishness, get off your ass and tell your representatives in no uncertain terms this must stop. I'm sorry it's come to this. The one thing I can't stop thinking about is a snippet from the Times Magazine more than ten years ago in a story about the Bosnian conflict, after the US intervened. My recollection is hazy; my grasp of that conflict was poor and hindered by my safe-in-Jersey feeling that a thousand-year-old feud was a big waste of - well, everything. How could people be shooting each other in the streets of Sarajevo? They'd just had the Olympics, for Christ's sake. Yes, anyway: the article. After the US finally did something about the death, the mass raping, the war crimes, there was this one remarkable conversation the reporter had with an uncomfortable person. I don't know who it was or how it came to happen. The reporter asked if the person was pleased that the US troops had finally stomped out the fires. The person said, slowly, "We kind of hate you." These words ring in my ears now. I still don't understand what happened in the Balkans but I do understand that we have the capacity to stop what is happening in Beirut today, right now. And though we can't undo the tremendous damage we've done in Iraq and Afghanistan we have to find a way to stop doing any more.

We are responsible. Us.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Going Faster Miles An Hour

Week 2 Friday Morning Report

Goal 1
My weight is not at all budging.

Goal 3
I did Cindy Lee's basic Yoga In A Box.

This week was a tough one for the routine kinds of exercise I do. For one thing: it rained a lot, disrupting my walking schedule. That makes it annoying but temporary. I'm getting back up on that horsy.

On Tuesday, I think it was, I had one of those frightening mood plunges that make life with sharp cutlery so interesting. Fortunately, that too was temporary but there've been two in the past three weeks. That means fresh fruit and vegetables, leafy greens and light fish for a while. Something's out of whack - or I'm a middle-aged woman. I'll stick with the idea I have some control over.

On the other hand: this morning, I was on the stepper for 15 minutes - up from my recent 12 - and only got off the thing because I couldn't listen even one minute longer to that opportunistic bigot Steve Lonegan talk on the news about how we shouldn't blame bigots for failing to understand Advertising 101. So I stormed off, but 3 more minutes than usual was nothing to sneeze at, I thought.

So. I'm not losing weight, which could be discouraging. I am not discouraged. Last week, I wore a pair of pants I couldn't button a month ago. Today, I'm wearing the smallest pair of pants in my closet, which is an outright shock. This morning, I felt a little defeated when I read the scale so when I pulled the small pants out of the closet I was behaving badly. And trying them on was ridiculous. That they fit doesn't make much sense - but I'll take it.

It's not a win at all. Still, it's slow progress, and progress is what I want.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

White Dopes On Punk

White Punks On Dope

Through the looking glass, out of the memory hole and over the phone:

He: Talk talk talk talk talk. Talk talk. Talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk, talk talk, talk talk, talk talk talk. Talk talk talk talk talk talk talk. Talk? Talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk. Talk talk talk talk talk talk talk. I love you. Talk talk talk talk talk. Talk talk talk talk. Talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk. Talk talk talk. Did you hear what I said?
Tata: ...At least one of us should be naked, yes...?

Previously on Poor Impulse Control, John stood in my cubicle, smiling and holding a book.

John: I think this book is for you.
Tata: What is it? I must know!
John: How Shall We Train Our Wives And Children? by F. Hopkinson Smith.
Tata: Oh, Jesus Christ, what is that? It seems small. Is that a whole monograph?
John: I don't know. I think you should read it and give a report to the whole class.
Tata: Okay, but there better not be a quiz!

In today's episode:

Tata: Okay, but there better not be a quiz!
John: When my friend had a baby her neighbors gave her a book called To Train Up A Child and told her it helped them a lot. It's all about how to beat your kids without leaving marks.
Tata: Get out! This is a recent phenomenon? It wasn't published in 1650 or something?
John: No, no. And they were serious. Their children were, like, eerily well behaved.
Tata: Did your friend call the cops?
John: And say what? "My neighbors didn't tell me they beat their kids but the kids say 'please' and 'thank you.' Officer, it's serious!"
Tata: Damn it.
John: You can read some of it online and buy it on Amazon.
Tata: This is going to make me have that dream again where I'm locked under the stairs and fed nothing but HoHos.
John: The reason to look at Amazon is the reviews. Wait, this gets scarier. The reviews say things like, "These people are crazy" and "It's a child abuse manual and the authors should be in lockup" and yet the book still has 2 stars.
Tata: This time, I'll be locked in the attic and fed baseball cards, I just know it.

I wouldn't nominate myself for any parenting awards; moreover, I hate the use of the word parent as a verb. And I don't understand or like the way kids are being raised now like veal. Parents who wouldn't consider kicking the dog also wouldn't consider sending perfectly healthy kids out to play kickball in the street without an armed escort. What does that really tell the kids? The world is so dangerous a place you can't risk sunshine, fresh air, exercise and making friends. Let's drive to a mall and you can walk as far as the food court, always where I can see you. Yeah, those kids are going to be neurotic, weird and fat. It bodes well for our future as a nation that these kids are surveilled from birth so when they join the corporate world they won't even notice their bosses counting key strokes.

Michael and Debi Pearl, authors of To Train Up A Child, have a point about willful, angry, overindulged children. It makes me crazy to listen to parents whine at and negotiate with children. I read the online chapter. Folks, I don't know what to make of this.
As in the military, all maneuvers in the home begin with a call to attention. Three-fourths of all home discipline problems would be instantly solved if you could at any time gain your child's silent, unmoving attention. "TO THE REAR - MARCH" translated into family language would be: "Leave the room," or, "Go to bed." Without question they turn and go. This is normal in the well trained family.

I was logging with a fifteen-hundred-pound mule that sometimes wanted to run away with the log. In moments of stress (actually I was panic stricken), I found myself frantically YELLING the commands. The owner would patiently caution me, "Speak quietly and calmly, or he will pay no attention." I never did learn the art of calmly saying, "Whoa" to a runaway mule pulling a twenty-five-foot white oak log with my foot hung in the trace chain. The point to remember is that the animal learns to identify not only the sound but also the tone.

I don't know about him, but I learned to keep my distance from logging. To add to the confusion, sometimes the Pearls sound so rational.
If you raise your voice when giving a command to your child, he will learn to associate your tone and decibel level with your intention. If you have so trained him, don't blame him if he ignores your first thirteen "suggestions" waiting for the fevered pitch to reach the point where he must interpret it to be a real command.

...even concerned about what the reader might think.
"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Prov. 22:6)." Train up, not beat up. Train up, not discipline up. Train up, not educate up. Train up, not "positive affirmation" up. Training is the most obvious missing element in child rearing. Training is not discipline. A child will need more than "obedience training," but without it everything else will be insufficient.

Parents should not wait until the child's behavior becomes unacceptable before they commence training - that would be discipline. Discipline is a part of training but is insufficient in itself to effect proper behavior.

The Pearls seem to worry about the discipline thing. I can't quite put my finger on what's bothering them - I've read a whole chapter of their book, you'd think I'd grasp their entire thesis, and I hope you know sarcasm when you read it - but it might be important.
Remember, you are not disciplining, you are training.

This is not discipline. It is obedience training.

Again, keep in mind, the baby is not being punished, just conditioned.

And then:
Disciplinary actions can become excessive and oppressive when the tool of training is set aside and one depends on discipline alone to do the training.

Except where the very smallest children are concerned, training at home almost entirely eliminates the need for discipline - especially public discipline.

Then we come to this gem:
If you are consistent, this test of authority will come only one, two, or, at the most, three times in each child's life. If you endure, conquering the child's will, then in the long run the child wins. If you weaken and let it pass to the victory of the child's will, then by winning it is a character loss for the child. You must persevere for the both of you. The household cat who, regardless of protest, door barring and foot swinging, is occasionally allowed to stay in the house will take the occasional success as impetus to always try to get in. If he is consistently kept out (100% of the time), he will not come in, even when the door is left open. The cat, allowed to occasionally get its way, is trained, despite your protests, to come into the house. If you kick it hard enough and often enough, it will become sufficiently wary to obey while you remain on guard but will still bolt through the door when it sees the opportunity. On the other hand, dogs, thirty-five times smarter than cats, can be trained either to come in or stay out upon command. The key again is consistency. If the dog learns through conditioning (consistent behavior on the part of the trainer) that he will never be allowed to violate his master's command, he will always obey. If parents carefully and consistently train up a child, his or her performance will be as consistently satisfying as that rendered by a well trained seeing-eye dog.

The day I kick my cat is the day I don't deserve feline companionship but do deserve a visit from the Humane Society's S.W.A.T. team.

As a person who isn't going to raise more children, I'm not going to buy the Pearls' book and read the whole thing. I've read enough to guarantee bad dreams. Thanks, John, you bastard! Siobhan comes to the rescue with Pants Aflame's All True Bible Stories For Children.
Some say that, as a parent, Beth Christian was less than perfect.
Some say that as a moralist, she left something to be desired.
But everyone agrees that she knew how to take the Bible's advice - very, very literally.

Genesis 34 is my little corner of the sky. I know it inside and out, forward and backward, and All True Bible Stories For Children's rendition is an absolute panic.
Three days later, when all the men were still sore from having the ends of their penises cut off, Simeon and Levi - Dinah's brothers - came into the city with swords and killed all the boys. Then they killed Hamor and Shechem. Then Jacob's whole extended family looted the city. They took the sheep, the oxes, and the donkeys because their sister had been ruined. Then they took all the valuables in the city, and all the children, and all the women, and they ruined everything that they left behind.
After that, Jacob said "People are going to be mad at us for what you did."
"Well," said Simeon and Levi, "we couldn't let them treat our sister that way."

"Wow," said Beth, "I guess women are pretty valuable for all the men in Jacob's family to get so upset."
"Women are valuable, Dear One," said Beth's mother, "At least until someone has put a penis in them."
Beth thought about this for a moment. "Well, I'm sure glad that nobody's put a penis in me!" she said. Then she smiled and hugged her mother. All her questions had been answered.

That right there must be some newfangled definition of love.

I must be hopelessly old-fashioned.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

White Punks On Dope

Sign on a phone pole near my house:
garage / moving sale
Saturday, July 1
10:00 - 2: 00
everything must go
garden tools
we want to take nothing with us

If there were a phone number I'd call. I want to know where they were going and what they expected to find. Clothes? What are they wearing now? The answers are probably more interesting than the questions. John turns the cubicle corner with smile on his face and a very old book in his hand. He is King of Preservation. If he's holding it it's turning to dust.

John: I think this book is for you.
Tata: What is it? I must know!
John: How Shall We Train Our Wives And Children? by F. Hopkinson Smith.
Tata: Oh, Jesus Christ, what is that? It seems small. Is that a whole monograph?
John: I don't know. I think you should read it and give a report to the whole class.
Tata: Okay, but there better not be a quiz!

Mr. Smith gave a speech at "the 13th subscription dinner of the Hamilton Club, February 8, 1890" - so says one of the sub- sub- subtitles. I expected this to be daft exposition of antiquated morality and in a way I was not disappointed. Mr. Smith:
Two tests present themselves to my mind as I begin to digest the meaning of this theme. One is the ancient admonition, "Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall," and the other more modern caution, "Don't monkey with a buzz saw."

The mad charmer! He brought up power tools in a discussion of domestic bliss! He makes a list of different kinds of wives his audience members might have, like the thrifty wife.
You have a thoroughly practical, economical, thrifty, divinity. She is out of bed every morning at daylight, summer and winter, and insists on the same luxury for you. Her keys and her pass-books are her constant companions. She weighs every pound of meat and re-measures every peck of vegetables that crosses your door-sill. She knows to a nicety just how many days the ton of furnace coal should last, and makes the cook's life a misery if she overruns a bucket. In her anxiety to keep them from lying around and making a muss, she burns every scrap of paper as soon as it is opened, including often your most valuable documents. She is the cleanest, most untiring, and most uncomfortable person in the world. When you mildly and kindly suggest there is something else in life besides running a house, on time, like a watch factory, with every scrap of waste paper carefully swept up and locked in the safe over night, she opens up with a cyclone on saving your money, and slaving for you and your children, that reminds you of a Dakota blizzard, so cold and cutting is it, and you crawl down to your office in a limp and dazed condition, wondering what struck you, and whether it wouldn't be a good idea to build a bomb-proof vault in the cellar.

Hilarious! I bet he left 'em crying in their gratins. Or maybe -
She is philanthropic and charitable - overcome with the sufferings of the poor, overwhelmed with the millions crying for bread - so she supports a line of tramps all day from your back yard to your front gate and weeds out your stock of clothes until in the spring, you have hardly a pair of light trousers, thin shoes or straw hat left. When the snow melts you find the hat in the vacant lot below your house, and later on recognize your rum-exchanged breeches dangling from a Johnny-hand-me-down's door near the ferry. You mildly upbraid her, setting forth in your kindest and most winning way the great wrong done to the deserving poor, touching lightly on your own mistfortunes and losses. She replies by comparing your sypathetic heart to a Belgian paving block, and winds up by hoping that you will never, never have to beg your bread from door to door.

These wives of one hundred sixteen years ago don't sound wussy to me.
Or she is aesthetic, with a taste for green grays, dull reds and crushed strawberry pinks. She wears long flowing dresses - a cross between a night-gown and a bath-robe - and has a mania for butterfly-bows. Every individual article in the parlor, the backs of all the chairs, all the rockers, easels, lamps, candlesticks and sofas are tied up with ribbons. She is tied up herself, a broad silk band grabbing her tight around the waist just below her armpits, and a lot of narrow ones dangling from her elbows and throat. All the jars are filled with cat-tails, all the plaques decorated with golden rod and sunflowers.

Under your desk in the library there has stood for years a large, comfortable wicker basket, holding the scraps and waste of your correspondence. Once a week this is emptied. In its place is now a cracker-box set up on end, cretonned inside and out, having an eruption of field daisies on one side and a swelling of velvet cherries with plush leaves on the other. An unpleasantness ensues when you throw anything into this.

Some wives are more inconvenient than others.
Or she is what is known in common parlance as a "joiner." She is one of those women who joins everything, The Central Sewing Society, the Middle Branch of the Orphan Relief Fund, the Western Chapter of Confirmed Lunatics, the Society of Dress Reform, the South Brooklyn and Gowanus Browning Club, the Society for the Prevention of Microbes, for the Spread of the Gospel and the Abatement of Street Nuisances. Your mail is crowded every morning with circulars, notices of meetings, calls for dues, subscription cards headed by a Scriptural quotation, and tailed by "send money to Mrs. So and So, Treas." The Sewing Society meets in the upstairs back from, the Browning Club in the parlor and the Microbes and Lunatics in the library. Every other day in the week there is a committee stowed away somewhere in your house, all talking at once.

Um. Okay. What about them kids, eh?
You have two children, a girl and a boy. They are fat, chubby little tots, and you rejoice in their plump legs and arms. The little one wears a cambric dress with a while apron, and has her hair parted back from a forehead white as snow. The big one - Ned, the boy - wears a jacket and short breeches, punctured with pockets, which are crammed daily with a miscellaneous assortment of hardware.

One night there is a dress parade in the parlor for your benefit. Two Kate Greenaway manikins sidle in. Nellie's hair is banged over her eyes like a Skye terrier's; her dimpled arms lost in balloon sleeves; her plump little legs smothered in a Mother-Hubbard gown some fifteen sizes too large for her. She looks like a Christmas doll at a fair.

Ned breaks your heart. His jacket is so tight he can hardly breathe - his trousers are worse. Both are made of black velvet. Around his waist is an enormous red silk sash; on his poor little feet paper shole shoes with silver buckles. The entire combination affords but one pocket. This is over his left breast, and holds a six-inch-square handkerchief spotted with cologne. He has positive orders not to fool with this lest he muss it. He looks appealingly at you as he tries to wriggle his nervous little hands under his waistband, as if in search of his marbles, and you solemnly vow to roll him the mud and give him one more day of freedom the first chance you get.

"Aren't they just too artistic for anything, my dear?" she says.

You assent, and suggest that they ought to be kept in a glass case, like stuffed birds, with something in a bottle in one corner to keep them from spoiling.

Then you go upstairs and knock the stuffing out of that waste basket with your foot.

I feel sorry for the club members who tried to eat blueberry grunt while Mr. Smith was speaking. I transcribed this at work and cackled like I was brewing potions without a permit.
So it goes. The training so far is a failure. The knowing how, the absorbing question of the day. If you can solve it to-night, they will name gates after you in Prospect Park, and later on conceal your statues in the shrubbery.

But, seriously, where should this training begin? With these wives?

At this point in the speech, I was looking for a vicious punchline, a knife in the back, a kick for the dog. Mr. Smith has pulled a fast one on us all.
To train your children - that is easy. Open your hear and your arms wide for your daughters, and keep them wide open; don't leave that all to their mothers. An intimacy will grow with the years which will fit them for another man's arms and heart when they exchange yours for his. Make a chum of your boy - hail-fellow-well-met, a comrade, a pal. Get down to the level of his boyhood, and bring him gradually up to the level of your manhood. Don't look at him from the second-story window of your fatherly superiority and example. Hang your example. Ten chances to one it is bad. Go to the front yard and play ball with him. When he gets into scrapes, don't thrash him as your father did you. Put your arm around his neck, and say you know it is pretty bad, but that he can count on you to help him out, and that will, every single time, and that if he had let you know earlier it would have been all the easier; and you can bet your bottom dollar that that is the last scrape he will ever get into without you.

The children part of this contract, the Queen Anne trimmings so to speak of this structure, is easy. The foundation and sub-structure is what bothers us. How to train our wives.

Bless their hearts, how shall we train them? Are not all the ills of life largely our own doing? If she considers cleanliness next to Godliness and in the excess of her zeal, cleans the very handle off the front door, should we growl? The restless activity of the worldly woman, the economies of the thrifty wife, the abundant, perhaps ill-advised generosity of the charitable woman, the absorption of the musical and literary, the tears and timidity of the clinging are but the natural outless of characters that need training as do growing vines.

Your part is to lead the delicate tendrils along the supporting trellis of your sympathy, nurturing and fostering each bud until it breaks into flower. Always upward into the sunlight of your appreciation, and never stunted or scarred by the keen pruning knife of your irony or ridicule.

The trouble with half the unhappy homes in the world lies in the pulling apart in such slight matters as likes and dislikes. You have by the very nature of your sex an unlimited freedom. You have your rod and gun, the fields, the water and hills as well as the exchange, the club, the library, laboratory or studio. That little woman up-stairs has spent one-third of her life in the nursery, one-third on her bed recovering from its effects, and but a fragment of the balance away from the cares of your house and its contents. She has busied herself with the maintenance of the social etiquette of your position, the constant watch over the child with her toys, the girl with her books, the maiden with her lovers.

When from out of this dull routine of duty, patience and love - stealing half hours or even whole days - the strong spirit of this once weak child-wife of yours blooms into art, music, literature, charity or science - hold each blossom sacred. It may not be the blossom that you like, but it is a blossom all the same, redolent with perfume, delicate in color, exquisite in form.

Begin the training by strengthening the trellis and adapting it to the peculiarities and necessities of the plant. Then shall your life be crowned with roses and a sweet-smelling savor follow you all your days.

How remarkably reasonable. For his time and place, this speech is curiously modern and empathic. Of course, after the inventions of birth control and doors that work two ways for women too, wives are different and domestic life is different and husbands are different. What remains the same is that finding the funny is still the path to domestic peace.

White Dopes On Punk

Too Nutty To Be Naughty

Dad's wife Darla is a progressive Canadian and living in the wilds of Virginia; thus Darla smacks her forehead a dozen times a day. When the topic of politics comes up in the grocery store, for instance. In self-defense, Darla feeds me the dooziest of the online doozies. This one takes the cake and goes back for another.
Here are some quotes from a pro-abortion person, Miss Caroline Weber, who wrote an article at The Onion online magazine.

The Onion Article

When referring to the killing of her child she said:

"I am totally psyched for this abortion!"

"Those pro-life activists made it pretty clear that, unlike me, they actually think abortion is bad and to be avoided. Are they nuts? Abortion is the best!"

"It wasn't until now that I was lucky enough to be pregnant with a child I had no means to support."

"I just know it's going to be the best non-anesthetized invasive uterine surgery ever!"

I can't breathe! The Onion rocks my world!
Who does Miss Weber blame her abortion on? The pro-life movement.

"The funny thing is, I actually have the pro-life movement to thank for this opportunity."

It's our fault? She says:

"If my HMO wouldn't have bowed to their pressure not to cover oral contraceptives, I never would've gotten pregnant in the first place."

Sorry ma'am, if you hadn't had sex you wouldn't have gotten pregnant, it's not the HMO's fault for not supporting your promiscuity while not married.

To sum it up, Miss Weber said:

"I realize there are people who will criticize me, calling me selfish and immature because I took "the easy way out." I realize there are those who will condemn me to hell for what I'm about to do. Well, I don't care what they say: It's worth it for all the fun and laughs I'm going to have at the clinic. So listen up, world: I'm pro-abortion... and I love it! See you at my post-abortion party, everybody!"

Miss Weber, you have killed your child, which you admit is a baby/human being, intentionally. That does make you an admitted murderer. I'm not going to "condemn you to hell", I'm going to pray for your forgiveness and for the suffering which you will endure when you realize what you have done. Every baby you see from that moment on is going to wake you up to the realization that you killed your child.

Oh. My. God. So scorny and magically uninformed. In 2006, how can anyone not know the Onion is satire?

Poor Pete! He wants Miss Caroline Weber to suffer but I think she'd have to exist first, which might complicate his scorny scorn scorn. That's okay, I'm sure eventually someone will break it to this guy that the writer of this article is not the cute little lady but a satirist working for pizza and bragging rights. Women don't send out invitations to post-abortion parties. Women deal in their own ways. The other day, some friends and I were talking about that time one of them needed an abortion and we drove to the ends of the earth for it. Or somewhere in North Jersey because we couldn't risk her seeing a doctor where she might be seen because of scorny douchebags like Pete, but that's beside the point. So we're getting ready to leave and she hands me the keys and the car's a stick, which I can drive the same way someone who is really not good at something does that something. Then we hit terrible traffic and the car kept stalling and it was really bad until I broke down and said, "Can you drive?" and she did. Oh how we laugh about it now!

Women have stories like this because of scorny busybody douchebags like Pete who make life harder for people already in a tough situation, possibly the worst of their lives. And now we find Pete doesn't have a sense of humor, either, which isn't much of a surprise. Fortunately for us, he's a fucking scream.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Nowhere Is Far Enough Away

Week 2 Tuesday Report

The bedroom air conditioner is installed.

I pulled a crooked shelf off the wall in the bathroom and spackled the holes. That shelf was really bothering me so I felt a wave of relief when it was gone.

It's just before 4 a.m. and I can't sleep. Bad dreams, when I slept a little.The point of this project is to move into my apartment and live in it without reservation. Sharkey and I have no secrets from one another.

Tata: So I'm afraid if I get rid of all the boxes I'll be alone for the rest of my life.
Sharkey: Well, I did notice a box of CDs...
Tata: I mean, what is that? In ten months, I couldn't buy a CD tower?
Sharkey: I've been cleaning out my apartment, too. I got rid of a whole shelf of computer books.
Tata: Why are you cleaning? You never clean without a reason.
Sharkey: I've been afraid of the same thing. And I had to make room for my new TV.

He gestures. The hypothetical appliance is bigger than I am.

Tata: Mazel tov on your new bundle of joy!

Even so, maybe it's the hour or a mood but my enthusiasm for this process is flagging. Fortunately, my subconscious heckles me like a game show host. A couple hours ago, when I was staring at the ceiling, wondering if meow meow meow and why meow meow meow, my subconscious burst into song:

Carry on,
Love is coming,
Love is coming to us all

Ugh. I said, "What is 'finish what I started,' Alex?"

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Spellbound, Falling In Trances

Last week, Garrison Keillor published in the Chicago Tribune a column that is remarkable for a number of reasons. For one thing, I read all the way to the end. I have a microscopic attention span and Mr. Keillor's writing requires the reader to demonstrate a patience I mostly do not possess. I try, I do. I've started this post five times since Thursday or Friday and have learned I sometimes lack the patience to even make a point worth making. I mean, I had to quit wearing shoes with laces. Here, read Mr. Keillor for yourself.

I'll wait.

Feelings...nothing more than feelings...trying to forget my...

Oh, you're back? Good. The context strikes me as significant. I have nothing against Mr. Keillor but I don't understand the draw. I don't usually read his columns, listen to the radio show and I haven't seen the movie. Even so, Mr. Keillor is kind of ambient in mainstream culture, where he seems like a nice man who is gentle and patient with folks of all kinds. And yet, somehow, of all things and all people, Ralph Reed upsets Mr. Keillor so much that Mr. Keillor breaks character to talk politics. That's interesting because Ralph Reed upsets me, too. I just break things.
The sexual trespass of a president is a story any mortal can understand, and the use of your father's influence to sneak you into a military unit where you're less likely to face combat is an act of cowardice all of us cowards can appreciate. But the chutzpah of Mr. Reed in wheedling money from Abramoff to snooker Christians against gambling is cold-hearted greed. And his work on behalf of the sweatshops and sex factories of the Marianas, arguing that the Chinese women imported there were being given the chance to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, takes us to yet an entirely new level.

Mr. Reed is a Presbyterian, and the Westminster Confession says, "He that scandalizeth his brother, or the Church of Christ, ought to be willing, by a private or public confession and sorrow for his sin, to declare his repentance to those that are offended; who are thereupon to be reconciled to him, and in love to receive him."

But Mr. Reed is running for office, and that's no time for repentance. Time to hunker down and hope that the prosecutors are occupied with other matters. Smile and shake hands and keep changing the subject. If a reporter mentions Abramoff, smile and say, "I've said as much as I'm going to about that, and now I want to talk about my plan to strengthen families in Georgia."

Gambling? "I've always been opposed to gambling."

Deceit? Greed? "No charges have been filed. I have been exonerated of wrongdoing."

Will it work? We shall soon see.

Shoot, if I could think of a way to indict Reed myself I'd do it. Are they taking reservations on The People's Court? I may not be Reed's brother but he scandalizeth me plenty. Where's my public apology?

I hate shoes, and Mr. Reed's whitewashed bad behavior, splashing all over mainstream culture and never rinsing clean. Thanks to Mr. Keillor for saying so.

Crossposted at Running Scared.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

No One Notices The Contrast of White On White

More and more lately, the difference between what I can and can't do lies in what I let myself consider. I can't run much farther than I have been for over a month. I'm not making a lot of progress on that front and it's a little frustrating - but thinking 'I should be able to connect this stretch I run with this other stretch I also run and I can't. Harrumph!' overlooks a few important facts. One is that arthritic stiffness in my hips has to be dealt with, which takes time, and I'm doing it. Another is I'm walking a lot faster than I was even a month ago. The third is a really steep hill on South Fifth Avenue.

At the bottom of the hill, there's a crosswalk painted onto the asphalt. Adela and I walked all over the park where she usually runs and then she showed me South Fifth Avenue. We walked up the hill with some effort and at the top there's a street sign: SLOW - where you, walking or running up the hill read it and say, "Yes! Yes, I am." And we, walking up that hill, said, "That sign seems rather taunty." Weeks ago, after I ran and walked in the park, I'd walk over to this hill and start to run up it, knowing I probably shouldn't be able to run it at all but here I was, trying. I couldn't get to the top. I'd come within two or three driveways of the top. Yesterday, after a rather disappointing walk and run in the park I went to the hill with modest expectations. I started at the crosswalk, kept my knees high and stayed on my toes. It took forever to reach the street I pass on the left but then suddenly I was at the top of the hill and two driveways from the sign. I thought, 'That's nothing! I can do that.' Then I touched my hand to the sign and I had done it. I'd told Adela I'd never be able to run up that hill. A few months later, I have. It is a modest accomplishment but if I had not said, 'Well, why not try?' I would still think I'd never run another yard. This sense of possibility has not at all helped with the air conditioner situation.

Sharkey arrived at my house just after 1:30 this afternoon because of this email exchange:

Sharkey: Yes. Soemtmes. Y?
Tata: Come to my house and read the installation manual for my air conditioner!
Sharkey: Why? What's the problem?

It's true: though I watched and helped Mr. DBK install the exact same model of air conditioner in my living room while he and I both muttered about how bad the instructions were, enough time had passed while waiting for parts to arrive that I couldn't remember how the pictures were supposed to explain anything. The other day, a package arrived containing the last of the parts the factory failed to include the first time. I started piecing together what I could and I thought I could just install it myself. I'd seen it done, right? But no. There were two diagrams in the middle of the instructions I just couldn't make head nor tail of, and thus I whined at Sharkey, and offered to take him to lunch if he'd read me this fairy tale.

Sharkey, like me, has little short-term memory. He, like me, looks at every situation and has to figure everything out from scratch. He has confidence in his ability to survey the facts, pick through for the important ones and arrive at a course of action.

Sharkey: What the hell is this?
Tata: See? It's like the instructions need some!

Holding the manual, Sharkey walked from the pile of parts in my bedroom to the installed unit in the living room, then back, then back again. He put down the manual and looked at the window frame.

Sharkey: Does the screen just open or...?
Tata: Yes. Also: if you see a squirrel making eyes at you, he means it.
Sharkey: What are you talking about?
Tata: One of the previous tenants may have fed the squirrels so when you open that screen you may have a new best friend. Which will upset the cat. And the Health Department.

Fortunately, the squirrels are fickle or they don't visit on Shabbos. Sharkey opens the window and nothing happens. He measures this thing against this other thing and marks the sill. It is at this point that we discover my electric screwdriver has not taken a charge and won't be drilling into anything. I immediately choose a bold course of action.

Tata: Let's go have lunch.
Sharkey: How long does it take to charge?
Tata: Shouldn't be more than half an hour.
Sharkey: I'm feeling a little peckish...

We go to out for burgers because I had my braces massively adjusted yesterday and I can't wait to chew a hunk of salted animal flesh. The waitress brings me the rarest burger they can make, which I eat with a fork and a grimace while Sharkey tells me about his dramatic romance. I pay the check and we race back to my place, where the screwdriver has not taken a charge at all. We stare at the small power tool and wonder why it does not love us.

Sharkey: I'll go home and get mine.
Tata: I hate to ask you to go all the way to the other side of Piscataway and come back.
Sharkey: I could come back tomorrow? Whaddya think?
Tata: I think you're being awfully nice about this. Should I check your skull for lumps?

In the wide world of almost unimaginable possibilities, I may have an air conditioner installed in my bedroom tomorrow. But I won't blame you if you don't believe it. I would've said the same thing yesterday. In fact, "I may have an air conditioner in my bedroom tomorrow" has been my mantra for the past few weeks. One of these days, these nonsense words will probably be true.

Friday, July 07, 2006

I Don't Know Where We're Going To

Week 1 Friday Morning Report

Goal 1
My weight hasn't budged.

Goal 3
Yep. Took a basic yoga stretch class.

I am wearing a pair of pants I couldn't button three weeks ago. This pair of pants doesn't pinch or bind anywhere. Later this morning, when I crawl across the office floor to beg Lupe, "Please, please, hire me an assistant!" the pants won't cut off circulation anyplace. This represents startling and unexpected progress.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Nothing To Do And Nothing To Lose

"Times change. People change. Interest rates fluctuate..."
Top Secret

In recent months, righty writers, commentators and apologist have turned on one another like a hungry wolfpack. If a pundit said, "You know, that Emperor's buck-nekkid" fifty others bit holes in his cheap suit. I don't know about you, but I watched this spectacle with rapt attention. Something really significant is happening here, something historic and not at all what it seems. I am not certain what it is, but let's count our fingers and try not to smell like raw meat.

Doug McIntyre is the latest media "conservative" to stand up and say our current administration is a failure. Doug is a personality on KABC radio in Los Angeles, hosting McIntyre In the Morning. I am nowhere near Los Angeles and in no position to judge whether or not Doug dabbed himself with steak sauce first but after he issued a public apology for voting Bush/Cheney, I bet he's covered with bite marks. And not the good kind.
So, I'm saying today, I was wrong to have voted for George W. Bush. In historic terms, I believe George W. Bush is the worst two-term President in the history of the country. Worse than Grant. I also believe a case can be made that he's the worst President, period.

That's...astounding. Thanks for joining us in reality-based Reality. There's more and it is breathtaking!
Most historians believe it takes 30-50 years before we get a reasonably accurate take on a President's place in history. So, maybe 50 years from now Iraq will be a peaceful member of the brotherhood of nations and George W. Bush will be celebrated as a visionary genius.

But we don't live fifty years in the future. We live now. We have to make public policy decisions now. We have to live with the consequences of the votes we cast and the leaders we chose now.

After five years of carefully watching George W. Bush I've reached the conclusion he's either grossly incompetent, or a hand puppet for a gaggle of detached theorists with their own private view of how the world works. Or both.

Presidential failures. James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, Jimmy Carter, Warren Harding - the competition is fierce for the worst of the worst. Still, the damage this President has done is enormous. It will take decades to undo, and that's assuming we do everything right from now on. His mistakes have global implications, while the other failed Presidents mostly authored domestic embarrassments.

And speaking of domestic embarrassments, let's talk for a minute about President Bush's domestic record. Yes, he cut taxes. But tax cuts combined with reckless spending and borrowing is criminal mismanagement of the public's money. We're drunk at the mall with our great grandchildren's credit cards. Whatever happened to the party of fiscal responsibility?

We? Dahhhhhhhhhhlink, let's be careful of those plural pronouns. They'll only start a land war in Asia - or put you up against a Sicilian where Death is on the line.
Bush created a giant new entitlement, the prescription drug plan. He lied to his own party to get it passed. He lied to the country about its true cost. It was written by and for the pharmaceutical industry. It helps nobody except the multinationals that lobbied for it. So much for smaller government. In fact, virtually every tentacle of government has grown exponentially under Bush. Unless, of course, it was an agency to look after the public interest, or environmental protection, and/or workers' rights.

I've talked so often about the border issue, I won't bore you with a rehash. It's enough to say this President has been a catastrophe for the wages of working people; he's debased the work ethic itself. "Jobs Americans won't do!" He doesn't believe in the sovereign borders of the country he's sworn to protect and defend. And his devotion to cheap labor for his corporate benefactors, along with his worship of multinational trade deals, makes an utter mockery of homeland security in a post 9-11 world. The President's January 7th, 2004 speech on immigration, his first trial balloon on his guest worker scheme, was a deal breaker for me. I couldn't and didn't vote for him in 2004. And I'm glad I didn't.

Katrina, Harriet Myers, The Dubai Port Deal, skyrocketing gas prices, shrinking wages for working people, staggering debt, astronomical foreign debt, outsourcing, open borders, contempt for the opinion of the American people, the war on science, media manipulation, faith based initives, a cavalier attitude toward fundamental freedoms - this President has run the most arrogant and out-of-touch administration in my lifetime, perhaps, in any American's lifetime.

You can make a case that Abraham Lincoln did what he had to do, the public be damned. If you roll the dice on your gut and you're right, history remembers you well. But, when your gut led you from one business failure to another, when your gut told you to trade Sammy Sosa to the White Sox, and you use the same gut to send our sons and daughters to fight and die in a distraction from the real war on terror, then history will and should be unapologetic in its condemnation.

While shocking, this litany of disappointments is - I'm sorry - silly. Trading Sammy Sosa is a klunker of a business decision without life and death consequences. No, really. Leaving the Gulf Coast to its own devices after the hurricanes is the work of a cabal of self-absorbed oligarchic gargoyles, with no insult intended to real gargoyles. Doug is having a little trouble differentiating between them.

And that's not all. He's sorry he voted for Bush in 2000 but washes his hands of the man in 2004. See, he's making amends like any addict but like every neoconman, he's skipped an important step in his recovery.
There's nothing harder in public life than admitting you're wrong. By the way, admitting you're wrong can be even tougher in private life. If you don't believe me, just ask Bill Clinton or Charlie Sheen.

I was sick of all the Clinton shenanigans and the thought of President Gore was...unthinkable. So, GWB became my guy.

"Unthinkable." Remember that word. And...
None of this, by the way, should be interpreted as an endorsement of the opposition party. The Democrats are equally bankrupt. This is the second crime of our age. Again, historically speaking, its times like these when America needs a vibrant opposition to check the power of a run-amuck majority party. It requires it. It doesn't work without one. Like the high and low tides keep the oceans alive, a healthy, positive opposition offers a path back to the center where all healthy societies live.

Tragically, the Democrats have allowed crackpots, leftists and demagogic cowards to snipe from the sidelines while taking no responsibility for anything. In fairness, I don't believe a Democrat president would have gone into Iraq. Unfortunately, I don't know if President Gore would have gone into Afghanistan. And that's one of the many problems with the Democrats.

Aside from the fact that he has no idea what a leftist is and he's still arguing that he can control his ravenous powergrab habit, Doug's biggest problem is that he has learned absolutely nothing from what he's admitting. In his estimation, voting Bush/Cheney in 2000 was a mistake. The unspoken insult is "and I'd have to do it again because you guys may be right but you still suck." He has not reconsidered the motivations of the people who have taken the actions he so laments. He has not examined the utter selfishness, the persistent lack of human empathy or the criminal inability to see consequences coming as they ride up the front lawn on a FEMA trailer hooked to a Hummer H3.
With a belated tip of the cap to Ralph Nader, the system is broken, so broken, it's almost inevitable it pukes up the Al Gores and George W. Bushes. Where are the Trumans and the Eisenhowers? Where are the men and women of vision and accomplishment? Why do we have to settle for recycled hacks and malleable ciphers? Greatness is always rare, but is basic competence and simple honesty too much to ask?

It may be decades before we have the full picture of how paranoid and contemptuous this administration has been. And I am open to the possibility that I'm all wet about everything I've just said. But I'm putting it out there, because I have to call it as I see it, and this is how I see it today. I don't say any of this lightly. I've thought about this for months and months. But eventually, the weight of evidence takes on a gravitational force of its own.

I believe that George W. Bush has taken us down a terrible road. I don't believe the Democrats are offering an alternative. That means we're on our own to save this magnificent country. The United States of America is a gift to the world, but it has been badly abused and its rightful owners, We the People, had better step up to the plate and reclaim it before the damage becomes irreparable.

So, accept my apology for allowing partisanship to blind me to an obvious truth; our President is incapable of the tasks he is charged with. I almost feel sorry for him. He is clearly in over his head. Yet, he doesn't generate the sympathy Warren Harding earned. Harding, a spectacular mediocrity, had the self-knowledge to tell any and all he shouldn't be President. George W. Bush continues to act the part, but at this point who's buying the act?

Does this make me a waffler? A flip-flopper? Maybe, although I prefer to call it realism. And, for those of you who never supported Bush, its also fair to accuse me of kicking Bush while he's down. After all, you were kicking him while he was up.

You were right, I was wrong.

I fixed his wacky apostrophe placement because it met my OCD needs. I'm sure that admission was hard for him to spit out, so he wouldn't take this well: Hey, Doug McIntyre! Shove your apology up your ass!

You know what, Mr. A Day Late And A Few Trillion Short? It's douchebags like you that put him in power with your refusal to consider that Al Gore, an intelligent, well-educated, successful, experienced human being might - just might - be a better candidate to lead the fucking free world than a witless fake cowboy, and once you put him in power, you guaranteed he stayed in power with your McCarthyesque tactics of impugning the integrity and patriotism of anyone who said, "I'm sorry but that Emperor's buck nekkid." I'm glad you came to your senses but you've got miles to go before you approach reason and reasonableness.

Your apology is worthless. You know how I know? Because you'd sell your grandmother to be able to say "I told you so."

Let's hope the wolfpack makes short work of you.

Worth A Million In Prizes

The past few days have been something of an ordeal - if in the times of war, torture and swimsuit season one can describe several days of intense effort and suspense as an ordeal. Even so, I spend half my time laughing at my own idiocy. To continue from yesterday's idiocy:

Dad: I like the board and the card is funny. But they were addressed to John Heatwole's house. He's a famous Civil War writer, sculptor, painter and cetera.
Tata: My stars, a girl could start a revolution, sending Father's Day gifts to the wrong man. In fact next year, I think I'll send Candygrams to the Republican National Committee.
Dad: They would tout it as a return to traditional family values. And take credit for it. And say that everybody who doesn't think it's a good idea is part of the terrorist organization called "Down-With-Fathers" who want to bomb maternity shops. The bastids. By the way, I'm at 4290 [Dad's street.]
Tata: Did I transpose digits? Make up my own address? I copied off the funny screen-thing but I'm good for seeing things that are - IS THAT A SHINY OBJECT?
Dad: SHINY OBJECT...? Darla says I don't have ADD, I have Attention Surplus Disorder. SHINY? Too many things occupy 100% of my capacity to concentrate... IT *IS* A SHINY THING... but I think... AND LOOK - OVER THERE. ANOTHER ONE...! 52 [Dad's street], the package said. Yeah, transposed. In the Bantu numbering system.

There it is. He's invoked a seldom-used plot device: Steve Biko. And Peter Gabriel's singing in my head. So we talk about food, because other than our mutual fondness for Hugh Laurie, what is there in life but calling each other up and shouting recipes? In this case, email was a lot quieter and didn't tip off my co-workers, which is good because contemplating moisture at work is at least...unsanitary...

Dad: Beer bread recipe:

3 cups self-rising flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 can beer (12 ounces)

To make your own self-rising flour,

For 1-cup substitution
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Tata: I'm big on whole wheat flour, which I probably mentioned. How can I make self-rising whole wheat flour? The moisture levels differ, I know.

I probably should have seen this coming. But I didn't. My cover was blown when my co-workers demanded to know why I'd turned blue. Wind up and...

Dad: According to Linda McCartney, one of the culinary wizards of our time and a vegan (inherent hyper-oxymoron, although not as good as the three-pronged "constructive government program" wherein everything contradicts everything), the recipe is...
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
She goes on to say, in that crisp British way... oh, wait she was from Schenectady or someplace like that... "When measuring flour, lift and stir it lightly with a fork or spoon to aerate it before measuring." And, no, I don't think she said "aereate." Apparently the word "sift" was too rarefied.

Whole wheat flour will give a more dense finished result than the already rather dense white flour product, to compensate for which I have no suggestions. A pinch of extra gluten might help, but I haven't tried it. Hyper-oxymoronic means it's more than just a contradiction, in the same way as "more than perpendicular" means, um, that it's, er, you know, more than merely perpendicular. Or perhaps more unique than perpendicular.

She was a true and genuine moronic ignoramus fuckwit, but I mean that in a good way. "This cake contains no sugar, relying instead on the natural sweetness of dried fruits and fruit juice. Wrapped tightly and stored in an air-tight tin, the cake will keep very well. 2 cups golden raisins 1 1/2 cups currants 2 1/3 cups halved candied cherries 1 cup chopped raisins 2 Tbs. chopped candied ginger 1/4 cup light corn syrup 7 Tbs. margarine 2 cups unsweetened fruit juice 1 cup soymilk 2 cups whole wheat flour 2 cups whole wheat self-rising flour." Unfortunately, she wasn't "Wrapped tightly."

See, no sugar. It's "natural sweetness" from fruit and corn syrup. And "candied cherries" or perhaps "candied ginger." No sugar. Whew. I was worried about sugar. Don't want to be in the SAME ROOM as sugar. GodDAM sugar. FUCK SUGAR!

Fortunately, I'm listening to Jim Croce on my iPod, so I'm impervious to veganism. SHINY OBJECTS for the ears. How I keep grounded or centered or whatever they're saying nowadays - Croce. And Willie Nelson. Nine-inch Nails as interpreted/improved by Johnny Cash. Nana Mouskouri.

Soy milk has a profound effect on my digestive tract that doesn't feel altogether spiritual. And I do so worry about how they kill the adorable little soys.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Wear A Uniform, A Lotta Government Loan

What an exciting week it must be for young legislators. Imagine the drama, the pomp, the being called to work on the Fourth of July when you could be out prowling barbecues for deep pockets and hot dogs. John Adams wanted the Fourth to be a solemn occasion, celebrated with songs and ceremonies. In a way, Americans have not disappointed. He wanted the President to be addressed in the most florid language, which would be funny now if we hadn't elected a Connecticut good old boy to the newly created position of Imperial Potentate.

Also, I simply enjoy saying "potentate." Some words are more fun than others.

Yesterday, my phone rang. Siobhan and I were sitting in my living room, fanning ourselves in the sweltering afternoon like extras in To Kill A Mockingbird because it didn't occur to me until after Siobhan showed up that the air conditioner's ON button works during the day, too.

Voice: Laur! Hello!
Tata: Hello, this is Tata.
Voice: Tata? I...hello!
Tata: Hello, Auntie InExcelsisDeo.
Auntie I.: Hi! Happy Fourth of July to you!
Tata: And to you, as well!
Auntie I.: I called your number by accident so I have a phone call to make now.
Tata: Do me a favor and have Sandy call me?
Auntie I.: Love you, sweetheart!
Tata: Love you, too. I'm hanging up now.

Most members of my family hear things I've said when they come out of other people's mouths. For instance, last week I called asked Sandy to call me back at her earliest convenience, which after a few days was impressively late. It's okay, though, because we are family and holding grudges is bloodsport. Christmas is always coming. In any case, a few hours later, Sandy called back.

Sandy: Whaddya want?
Tata: You wanted the URL where you could read about yourself. I wanted your email address. We all got wants.
Sandy: Am I going to read all about nuzzling up to your bosom?
Tata: I'd totally forgotten that! Also: I don't have that picture. Wasn't it on one of the table cameras?
Sandy: I think Tony has it.
Tata: Wow, it is somehow endearing and disgusting to think your brother has that picture of us. Well, a wedding's full of surprising moments, isn't it? Monday's wedding story is substantially less full of swearing than Miss Sasha's.
Sandy: Can I read that too?
Tata: You bet. It's all linked up.
Sandy: I have tomorrow off. I'll spend my day reading.
Tata: Good. Then you can spend your night stalking me with something sharp.

Now that she mentions it, Sandy's right. The trip to Maryland was full of little moments I totally forgot last week when I was writing it up for horrified Posterity. A fine example:

Dad: What color is your hair?
Tata: Ya want me to read you the box?
Dad: No, I mean naturally. What color is your hair?
Tata: Oh geez, I don't know. I don't believe in repudiating the work of a lifetime.
Dad: How about you? What color is your hair?
Daria: Daddy! My hair is exactly as you see it and if my children weren't here I'd call you some very naughty words.

Perhaps you had to be there. Dad was. He was laughing so hard I thought he was having an asthma attack. The morning after the wedding, Paulie and I walked out of the hotel at 7:30, stared at a nearly flat tire on the truck and found a Sears before 8 on a Saturday morning that was just opening. Believe it or not, there was a wait. Paulie lay on the ground, removing his specialized hub cap with his a paper clip and tenacity; I stood nearby, heckling and knitting. Yes, if Catskills comedians could use round needles, what sticky afghans our grandparents would have brought back from Grossinger's. Wish I had a picture of that.

In other news, the Father's Day gift I mailed to Dad went someplace else.

Dad: I like the board and the card is funny. But they were addressed to John Heatwole's house. He's a famous Civil War writer, sculptor, painter and cetera.
Tata: My stars, a girl could start a revolution, sending Father's Day gifts to the wrong man. In fact next year, I think I'll send Candygrams to the Republican National Committee.

Imagine that pomp and drama - all the way to divorce court. And I'm just the relentless, bitchy do-gooder to fight corruption with tissue and love letters.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Things We Want And the Things We Have To Do

Week 1 Tuesday Report

I fixed a spot where my giant rusty ice tongs whacked my bedroom wall and chipped the paint. Don't. Ask.

The air conditioner on my bedroom floor came without little hardware pieces. I went to Home Depot for wood screws but since I could only guess what size fourteen of the damn things were supposed to be the odds weren't my favor. I picked wrong. I have to go back and get No.6 wood screws. Damn it.

So. Minimal progress on the physical plant. I hope to do better this week.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Crumbling Difference Between Wrong And Right

On no morning since the hysterectomy did I wake up thinking, 'Man...I really miss my uterus.'

In the universe, we are small and know so little. Even our largest problems can be seen from all sides, and from distances where they vanish into microscopic oblivion. In his book Local Knowledge, anthropologist Clifford Geertz cited an account by an earlier specialist of a man's funeral and the journeys of his three wives to the funeral pyre. The early author's opinion of what he had seen lacked ambivalence: three women had made themselves beautiful, walked to the ends of diving boards, leaped and burned to death. Geertz was not so sure: in their culture, this critical turning point in their eternities would make the journey into the afterlife easier and Geertz couldn't say this belief was any more or less valid than any other.

As a modern American woman raised by hippies, hairdressers and opera singers, all of which fear flammable conditions, I can throw up my hands and say I don't know what really happened there. Maybe those women died agonizing deaths for no reason. Maybe that was their ticket to a Heaven in which their hairstyles never budged. I don't know but since I am mostly on the earthly side of Here And Now/Fluffy Cloud Afterlife line, I am inclined to say that anything increasing the amount of pain in which the living find themselves is utterly out of the question. The point is: my opinion on the matter doesn't matter a whit, not one, because an objective reality is unavailable to me. Some people believe that after death, we understand everything. That's just more speculation. Geertz was wise to say he didn't know even if he were pretty creeped out by the horror of suttee. We, in our mortal forms, can only guess at what is really what. People who espouse certainty are simply not seeing how uncertain they should be.

Last week, money made an end-run around certainty.
Buffett told Fortune that he decided to start giving his money away now because he has been impressed with Bill and Melinda Gates and the work they've done through their foundation. And he decided it would be easier to give to a large foundation instead of trying to expand his own foundation.

"What can be more logical, in whatever you want done, than finding someone better equipped than you are to do it?" Buffett told the magazine. "Who wouldn't select Tiger Woods to take his place in a high-stakes golf game? That's how I feel about this decision about my money."

That's amazing. One of the richest men in the world said, "I don't know, but I trust you. Here's the biggest wad of cash in the history of charitable giving. Like, ever." No, really:
The 75-year-old Berkshire chairman and CEO had been expected to leave his vast holdings of Berkshire stock largely to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, begun by Buffett and his late wife. That foundation has given millions of dollars to hospitals, universities and teachers, as well as to Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups.

Buffett said he plans to give away 12,050,000 Class B shares of Berkshire Hathaway stock to the foundations, but he will have to convert some of his 474,998 Class A shares to complete the gifts. One Class A share, which sold for $92,100 on Friday, can be converted into 30 Class B shares, which sold for $3,071 Friday.

The gifts would be worth nearly $37 billion based on Friday's closing share price.

Hot damn, I love it when rich people give it away, give it away, give it away now - not the evening-gowned charity event horseshit. I coudn't find that more repulsive. I like when people consider themselves part of the fabric of problems and solutions and act without fanfare. Ironically, this gift would have been much more exciting if I'd never heard of it, but I have and the villagers rejoice - wheeeeeeeeeeee! - right? Not universally, no.
Gates and wife have been at the forefront of murdering children in females' wombs. Now the Buffet donation will enhance all the more the abortuaries. In other words, more humans without self-defense will be discarded, their souls making their ways into the loving arms of Jesus.

The Gates Foundation has given the Planned Parenthood Federation of America almost $12.5 million since 1998, including funds to persuade teens to support abortion and to lobby the United Nations to advance pro-abortion proposals, reported

The foundation also has given nearly $21 million to International Planned Parenthood over the last seven years, where funds have been used to promote abortions in third-world nations and to set up pro-abortion family planning centers in South America, Africa and Eastern Europe.

Buffet[sic], whose wealth is second only to Gates', has announced he will leave about 80 percent of his estate to the Gates Foundation.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life women's network Susan B. Anthony List lamented Buffett's decision.

"It's tragic that much of Warren Buffett's billion-dollar attempt to improve the lives of people around the world is actually going to fund organizations that take the lives of unborn children and encourage others to do the same," said Dannenfelser.

This particular online "news" source is about as reputable as a whorehouse blackmailer, but people read and believe it. So we have to regard it and see clearly what it's saying.
"The tragedy of Bill Gates' support of abortion and population control is that technology leads to development," said Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, according to

"Unfortunately, the developing world will grow old before it develops because of population control. Gates, in supporting population control, is out of step with other great minds who have viewed people as humanity's greatest resource," Mosher said.

At Microsoft's 2003 annual shareholders meeting, Mosher's group failed to win approval for a motion to stop Microsoft from directly contributing to charities, citing its support for Planned Parenthood.

I don't like to think of myself as naive, but that takes my breath away. Steven Mosher sought to block Microsoft from donating to charities because he and his group don't like what Planned Parenthood does. He is unable to see good works through his repressive ideology. Ladies and gentleman, I hope he doesn't own a dog - and I hope he gets a better idea of what is worth doing in this life because unchecked his actions will cause nothing but suffering, principally to women.

So far, I have seen no response to these protests from the Gateses or Buffett. The blogosphere buzzed with snark and indignation. In general I think it's well beyond time we started seeing short, sweet press releases like this.

Attention: Anti-Abortion Activists:
For decades, you have bullied, blasted and murdered decent medical professionals and frightened women with whom you have a difference of opinion, no matter what else you'd like to call it. I'm supporting reproductive freedom, and you can feel free to boycott me however you wish or protest my actions within the limits of the law. I don't care. It's my money, and I will spend it as I wish. If you're offended that's your problem. Go home and feed those homeless people you're afraid ruin your property values.

In closing, I'd like to say it's downright peachy that
Buffett rhymes with Stuff it!

I could write these all day - and someone should because this past week, after decades as a politically active person, I became truly frightened by the escalation of rancor in our political lives. There is no excuse - no excuse whatever - for the Rovian decimation tactics pundits are applying to one another. There is no excuse for such barbarism as printing the personal information of activists because you dislike their politics. There is no reason whatsoever to shout "FIRE!" when the theater isn't burning, and I'm truly sick of unbridled cruelty and whimpering cowardice passing for political discourse.

Because it isn't.

Politics has never been a mannerly business, no matter what anyone who wants you to sit down and shut up says. To antagonize opponents, the Right is fond of the words "the angry Left." After a lifetime of being patted on the head by old white men who still insist I can't make my own decisions about my "female's womb" you're goddam right I'm angry, and if I weren't angry, I'd be unconscious. In some cases, anger is a healthy response. In this case it means I'm not internalizing that paternalistic bullshit. And good for me!

Even so, anger will not advance conversation. In fact, I've come to the conclusion that shouting back is a big waste of time. Nobody's listening. Nobody cares. Nobody cares about anything other than winning debates, even if it means losing one's soul. As much as I would like to break every bone in Bill O'Reilly's face because I knew Jeremy Glick when he lived in New Brunswick, that anger and that impulse helps no one. I propose the Good Granny Method of Diplomacy.

Has anyone tried sitting knee to knee with Ann Coulter when she's screeching that hateful invective, looking her dead in the eye, holding her hand and saying very firmly, slowly and with compassion, "Sweetheart: no"?

Blabbity blab blabbity neener neener neener what about my money -

"Ann, no. You are hurting people. No."

This method is not for the weak because it means actually touching terrible and nearly psychopathic people and sometimes that is quite icky. Listen, Grannies everywhere touch sticky children. It can be done! Someone somewhere has the magical power to look in Sean Hannity's eyes and see a little boy who needs a time-out in the worst way. And about John Bolton - well, that's a non-violent foxtrot for Gandhi-level dancers.

Maybe this is not for you. Maybe you aren't ready to see past your own feelings to the Greater Good. I am uncertain I could do it. I am ready to try - maybe not near Bill O'Reilly. But maybe someday, when I see a more objective reality.

There's more to it than my idle fantasies about how to treat bullies and relentless attention seekers. Anti-choice activists and neocons have forgotten something very significant about the United States of America - in fact, the thing that makes it unique in all the world. Our Founding Fathers - the very ones people who skipped history class refer to as Christians - knew the early settlers fled religious persecution in Europe then turned around and persecuted each other. A few generations later, before and during the Revolutionary War, colonists with differences of opinion did shit to each other that made the Manson Family rampages look like a PTA bake sale. The writers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were very much aware of a human desire for authoritarian control over each other. Our Founding Fathers intended to protect minority opinions, religions and lifestyles from the tyranny of the majority. What anti-choice activists choose not to observe is that most Americans want to be left alone to make these decisions for themselves - in fact, most people want to make decisions about their own lives without interference. The bullies outside clinics are a distinct minority. As much as I must tolerate their opinions and lifestyles they must tolerate mine, which in this case is Uterus-Free And Loving It! Mutual toleration is not just decent and mannerly. It's the American Way.

Crossposted at Running Scared.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Asleep In Perfect Blue Buildings

I have the almost unimaginably good fortune to live alone in a nice apartment in a sunny, tree-lined complex atop a cliff overlooking a slow-moving river. This afternoon, gentle breezes rustle the leaves, birds sing, traffic hums on the distant highways. Much of the Northeast is cleaning up after a lengthy series of paralyzing storms and floods but I am fine. My neighborhood is quiet. I can hear church bells ringing. The temperature in my living room with windows thrown open and curtains tied back feels perfectly lovely to my skin. It is the kind of afternoon one idly imagines when winter winds bite. I'll be blunt: weeks ago, through the accident of meeting someone who mysteriously didn't seem like a stranger, it dawned on me that while I was as happy in the here-and-now as I'd ever been all that happiness obscured the fact that I was damn lonely.

It was a shock. I mean, who knew that being so self-absorbed left time to think about anyone else? Obviously, I'd discovered a chink in my armor of selfishness. I've thought it over and I've decided to patch that hole with more Me. Yes: Me, Me and more Me. That'll fix my wagon. So I'm proposing a new venture that's much like my every other venture, only this time with your eyes on my progress and a finish line. I'm going to devote my July to solving a few problems, and you're going to heckle Project Me. Don't throw fruit because I won't be replacing your monitors. Got it? Now then: today is 1 July. In four weeks, I'd like to see what I can accomplish through focused effort and accountability. I won't lie about what I'm doing or fudge my results. And if I'm full of shit, you'll let me know.

Goal 1
Through reasonably healthy eating practices and daily exercise, I would like to lose 1-2 pounds per week. I weighed myself yesterday. I will weigh myself every Friday morning - and only Friday mornings - and report back what I have gained or lost in Week 1, Week 2, etc. - because if you think I'm going to tell you what I weigh while I feel fat you are seriously smoking the good stuff. In any case, I will report the truth because lying about weight loss is like faking orgasms: what on earth could be the fucking point?

Goal 2
I've been in this apartment since 19 August and boxes still sit in my bedroom, curtain rods lie on the floor and I'd like to finish the unfinished project of moving in. My bedroom air conditioner is on the floor as I await Sears' ongoing efforts to mail me parts they can't identify. I've received two packages of parts so far. The last one contained a piece I can't identify and it plays no role in the installation of my air conditioner. I'm waiting for an envelope containing 24 screws. By the end of July, I want that air conditioner be up off the floor and installed, and I can do it. I'd like to put up the curtain rods and get curtains. I'd like to unpack the boxes. Sometimes we catch ourselves acting on our real motives, and I've caught myself redhanded: symbolically, if I unpack and live here, if I stay and make this place my own, I'm afraid it means I've decided I'll be alone for the rest of my life.

Well, Sparky, that's crap reasoning, and I want my subconscious to quit hedging bets. I'd like to live here because I live here, and fear be damned! I'm talking tough with Me! And I'm pretty sure in two out of three falls I can take Me.

Goal 3
Related to Goal 1, I'd like to take at least one yoga class a week. I have to be just this specific with it because otherwise I will do what I've been doing: excercising without stretching properly. I know better. I've been an athlete and a dancer since 1968. I don't know what the hell is wrong with me but I'm not stretching and an overweight middle-aged broad with arthritis has to do better. Taking a class means committing time, money and attention to the body and peace of mind. If I procrastinate, razz me with extreme prejudice. You know you want to...

There are other things I'd like try but they can be incorporated into life as I go along. For instance: tomorrow morning, I'm going to bake banana bread. It's a modest endeavor but I feel strongly that where I can I should make my own basic foods. I make yogurt every week. I make refreshing pickled cucumbers for those times when my brain is playing the I Don't Feel Like Eating Healthy game. Anyway, I'm very excited about a Sunday morning that includes walking and running, and baking banana bread. I have cream cheese. Don't call me, I'm busy!

I'm proposing Friday reports for Goals 1 & 3 and Tuesday reports for Goal 2. Those would be logical times in the cycle of my work and exercise schedules. And before we get all bitchy with each other, I'm only asking you to help me keep Me honest. You don't have to do anything - unless you want to. Are you of a mind to make a change, for a month, and give yourself some progress toward something you want?

What do you want?