Saturday, September 30, 2006

What He Goes There For Is To Unlock the Door

My decades-old stovetop is wide enough to place baking pans on either side of the burners. The lure is irresistable. I must place things I need to place somewhere in this space between the burners and the wall. I cannot help myself! So the block containing knives and a cannister filled with teas and instant cider packets sit next to two ceramic insulators an old friend found in a junkyard. In my apartment, one may discover several large, heavy rusty objects - especially if you break in and I hit you with them. But that's not important right now! Sitting next to the stove, things get sticky, then furry, then you wish you could stick noses on them and call them "Mr. Potato Head."

Recently, lots of ostensibly intelligent people have been shouting things that don't make any sense to me, especially when they contradict one another. You may or may not remember this, but I used to be a Biblical Revisionary performance poet, and my theory was that you should never take anyone's word - including mine - for what was in the Bible, and believer or not, you should read it yourself. On Friday, I read an article in which Senator Harry Reid called this week's big-name bill "unconstitutional on its face" and a paragraph later, Senator John McCain said no, he thought it was constitutional. I thought, hell, I've been declared a genius on both sides of the Atlantic. I'm not using my prodigious IQ for anything special. Maybe I should clean the fuzz off my kitchen and read the Constitution while I'm making yogurt this week. I've got yogurt ingredients and cleaning fluid. And I can read.

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

I'm an Eat Dessert First kind of gal, so let's start with the amendments, and hey, that one's not so tough. I can spell each and every one of those words. This came in handy when I brought whole milk and light cream to a milk boil. Since I was standing there at the stove, I took apart the block of knives and removed teas and ciders from the cannister. I washed the knives, the block, the insulators and the cannister with CitraSolv, an orange oil cleaner. My kitchen smelled great. It is important to remember that I am allergic to only two things: oxygen and nitrogen. Cleaning is a joyous adventure. My sinuses opened up as they hadn't since I was a blotchy, sneezing, crushingly attractive teen.

Amendment II
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Those words pack a punch, much like the pots and pans I got two Christmases ago. When Paulie Gonzalez and I broke up, the pots and pans were his, so I did what any independent, self-sufficient middle-aged woman would under the circumstances: I called Daddy and said, "Please buy me pots!" The grid behind the stove Dad put up when I said, "Daddy, help me move!" It's a miracle he takes my calls. On the topical other hand, today he sent me four pictures of himself with his Winchester, his whisk and a bandolero full of bullets. As you can see from the photograph above, the yogurt maker he gave me gets weekly usage. Let's not underestimate Mom while we're at it: that's a lefthanded spoon-whatsis, made by an artisan Mom found in her travels through New England.

Amendment III
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Speaking of whisks, my rubberized plastic whisk is the tool in my kitchen that makes me happiest, though it's the one I may use less than thirty seconds weekly. I can combine my base yogurt sample with the boiled and cooled milk and cream without damaging my non-stick stock pot.

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The fourth is one of my favorites. It's got a great beat and you can really dance to it. Check out this Electric Slide.

Tata: You've got to be kidding. I'm not getting up in church and renouncing evil in front of witnesses! Can't one of your friends be this kid's godmother?
Daria: We don't believe in it.
Tata: What? What does that mean? Can I tell a jackknifed tractor trailor I don't believe in car crashes?

But as much as I mocked my sister, I swear this was my mouth doing the talking when I went to interview for a part-time job at a discount department store.

Interviewer: We require a drug test.
Tata: I don't believe in it.
Interviewer: Okay.
Tata: Did I say something stupid? And you said "okay"?
Interviewer: Do you want to start Tuesday?
Tata: I believe in starting Tuesday.

I scrubbed the wall next to the stove, too, and the decorative tile you can't see in the pictures. It takes quite a while after the milk boil for the milk-cream mixture to cool to between 115-120 degrees, so while I was there stirring intermittently I wiped down other surfaces in the kitchen. This is great for me because I can't stand sticky.

Amendment V
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Yep, I can spell each of those words but I'm not sure I understand them as a piquant melange. I set up the yogurt in cups, put away dry dishes and washed up the stock pot. My stove's clean. Sticky furry things are now unsticky and unfurry. I read a few paragraphs of the Constitution and I don't even have a headache. Yes, those are my nails. I grew them myself, possibly as a side effect of the high calcium-low expectation lifestyle. And Poor Impulsives like yourself have taken up a new hobby. Don't worry, though: you can already sing our theme song. Remember?

Update: YouTube removed Schoolhouse Rock's preamble to the Constitution. Promise you'll sing it in the shower, because that will terrify your teens and cause your spouse to giggle. Yes, it will.

Technorati tags: , ,
, , , , .

Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging: Take Us Forever Edition

Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, has presided for months over my knitting efforts. One day, before I mailed off a bunch of them, I amused myself by laying the blankets for shelter cats out on the floor. As you can see, green-eyed Don Gato here went all You are getting very will fix me boiled will feed them to me a tasty bite in the culinary march toward global domination at a time... Then it was September and I smelled like lemon and a cover up.

This morning, I woke up and the clock said 7:14, which I didn't believe. It was dark. I was cozy, and that clock couldn't be right. Every work day, my alarm rings at 6:05, at which time the cat addresses me by name, "Brrrrrrr?" every morning. There immediately follows a tremendous feline celebration that includes purring and scratching and leaping and stepping all over me and I expect confetti in my eyes. By the time I stumble to the bathroom, preferably without accidently kicking the enthusiastic pussycat, I am usually the subject of memos and reminders.

Larry: You there! Let's get a move on! Chop chop!
Tata: Um...must scrape teeth...minty fresh...
Larry: Hey! Hey! We've got a timetable here.
Tata: I come...

I stumble around three corners in my spacious rabbit warren, where from a distance, we both see our destination: the cat bowl. A choir sings!

Choir: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

The cat, meanwhile, loses his cool and riverdances around my feet in an effort to scoot me along faster. I refill his water dish. Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, has feline leukemia so his water consumption is an important indicator of when things are right or wrong. I don't exactly know how it works or what it means but the vet always asks. On the other hand, the cat and I like to have some secrets between us. You know how it is.

Then he faces the dish and eyes me over a shoulder. He is waiting patiently but as a great actor he knows patience is dull. It's a tense moment. I shake the Rubbermaid cannister. I refill the ten or fifteen pellets of missing kitten chow. I shake the cannister again and put it away. Then I pat his haunches, which he takes as an invitation to breakfast. Then I stumble into the living room to exercise every morning. Today, my clock read 7:14 but we lie to one another. You know how it is. It was really 6:44. When I stumbled to the living room because the cable modem would never deceive me it said 6:44. Then I ran around my apartment laughing because I'd slept from midnight to 6:44 without waking up and it was impossible to hold a grudge against me. Still, we had a quick talk.

Tata: You mad charmer, did you shut off the alarm without telling me?
Tata: I can't take credit for that!
Tata: You can't? Oh, come now. You did, didn't you?
Tata: No, really. I simply couldn't!
Tata: We're all talking about it! Tell us!
Tata: Okay! I did! We were sleeping and I was utterly inspired!

And then we came to work gleeful.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Isn't It Romantic?

Authorities in the capital Reykjavik will turn off street lights on Thursday evening and people are also being encouraged to sit in their houses in the dark, writer Andri Snaer Magnason said on Wednesday.

While the lights are out, an astronomer will describe the night sky over national radio.

"We have a very beautiful sky as soon as we turn off the lights," Magnason, who came up with the idea, told Reuters.

Every so often, one hears an idea of heartbreaking beauty. Today, we hear this timeless, lovely notion.

Crossposted at Blanton's & Ashton's.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

No Time For the Killing Floor

Johnny's on a mission. Perhaps you can help.
Hey, I'm hitting a wall here, and maybe you and your coterie of cultists of the fabulous might have some ideas. Remember in Diva where what's his name, Gorodish, I think, lives in the huge loft with his teenage Viet Minh girlfriend roller skating around the wooden floors? He has one of those big 70s wave machines, where the tank gently sways from side to side and bluey green gelatinous goop inside makes an endlessly rocking slow motion wave. I want one of those for my desk. It doesn't have to be the size of a car like the one in the movie. A little one would be good. But everywhere I search, I come up blank. You must understand that I need without fail to have this thing. Then my life will be complete and I'll never ask for anything ever again. I know I said that about the greyhound cufflinks. But this time I really mean it.

Yeah yeah, I looked up wave machines, lava lamps and combed the Sharper Image for something approximating this object - no dice. Fan and review sites for the movie offered no pictures. Even YouTube somehow didn't have video of the buttered-baguette scene with the wave machine in the background that is so crazy-hot I'm sweating just thinking about it, but I just walked to work again. Man, am I fit!

Siobhan found this one.
I'm not sure it has the hypnotic kitsch or retro cool factors for which our Armani-clad zoot suiter searches, but it's certainly miles closer than I got. Another source offers this mysterious item.

Funny, all I can think of is fragrant, golden toast...and car hops. I can't explain that. But now I've pictured myself standing in the middle of a TV disco dream sequence in which French-speaking nymphets on skates emerge from dry ice clouds to offer me snacks and home appliances. And I'm singing Dancing Queen.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Speeding Into A New Sunrise

This morning, I walked to work simply because I wanted to walk to work. It took about half an hour to travel more than a mile in the cool morning air and harsh, angular light. To my surprise, I did not feel threatened by traffic, not even at the dangerous intersections near the Albany Street Bridge. I've been trying to figure out a way to add exercise into my afternoons as the days shorten, the temperature cools and my natural desire is to hibernate in my cozy lair. If I can be sure the weather won't turn during the day, I might be walk to and from the library a couple times a week. This morning, the cosmos rewarded me for trying out what had only been a farfetched idea before today: as I turned the corner onto Raritan Avenue, I heard a commotion about thirty yards off, up the hill. A tall man passed me, arching his eyebrows in a quizzical way. Behind him, a young woman sat at the bus stop, singing The Star Spangled Banner at the tops of her lungs.

Since I had no reason to expect a concert al fresco, I really enjoyed that as I turned and walked toward the river.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Just Watching You Without Me

A thousand years ago, Siobhan and I met up with Jill of Brilliant@Breakfast, from whom I learn something every day and you should too. I'm a big fan. Jill was acquainted with Siobhan but didn't know me. So we walked around bra shopping and had a marvelous time and I was chatting quite naturally until I suddenly knew why Jill was watching my hands and speaking slowly. For all she knew, I was some nutcase stalker in chic suede boots and not an accomplished person in my own right. I stood where I was and laughed so hard I unnerved nearby corsetiers.

It had never occurred to me to list credentials. Moreover, doing so wouldn't render my life experience transparently obvious to the listener. To her credit, Jill realized that I am a funny enough person and that I get her jokes is credential enough - though that is not the case for everyone. Days ago, I was talking over recipes with another blogger and mentioned I'd been on a college radio comedy show. He said something like, "I did that once. We thought we were very funny." I didn't bother mentioning we were on over 100 radio stations in three countries. He just assumed I'd never done anything, which took my breath away.

You know, as mysterious assumptions go that's one dumb, hurtful assumption - as one ought to assume.

Over the weekend, a commenter on a blog I read obsessively responded to a question I asked by inferring that I was either dumb or playing dumb. I have no need to trouble him further; it matters not a whit that he was probably falling-over drunk. In vino veritas, baby, it's no mystery what he thinks of me, much as this joke circulating among my brother's Star Trek-loving friends demystifies a certain chickenhawk mentality:
The Iranian Ambassador whispered to President Bush, "My son watches this show 'Star Trek' and in it there is Chekhov who is Russian, Scotty who is Scottish, Uhura who is Black and Sulu who is Chinese, but no Arabs. My son is very upset and doesn't understand why there aren't any Iranians, Syrians or Iraqis on StarTrek." President Bush laughed, leaned toward the Iranian Ambassador, and whispered back, "It's because it takes place in the future."

If you listen, you hear the hilarious assertion that in the genocidal future, we Russian Scottish Black Chinese people blow Arabs off the face of the planet. Star Trek would never have inferred this, as its creator was a wise and peaceful man, far ahead of his time; plus, Iranians are not Arab but Persian. Technically, they're Aryans, which means you should try not to snicker when armed bigots talk about blowing up armed brown people. And if you listen to experts estimate what attacking Iran would do to our military in our future, you'll repeat after me: I'm sorry, Captain, but we haven't got the power.

It's just not that mysterious. Some things just aren't. I don't need a list of initials after my name and a Rosetta Stone to back up my opinion that inciting racial and ethnic riots won't make anyone safer or happier - not that many people are listening. Since May, just about every day, I've had conversations with family members, friends, lovers and co-workers where I might as well have poured out my heart to my cat for all the human contact I made.

Some conversations were just peculiar.
Tata: It's really important that we do a-b-c to solve our problems.
Not Listening: Right. We'll do d-e-f.
Tata: Doing d-e-f will prevent us from solving our problems.
Not Listening: Right! So that's what we'll do.
Tata: From now on, I talk to you in only hand signals.

Some were worse than talking to myself, including words my closest friends hope against hope not to hear.
Tata: I'm a little depressed.
He Who Should Fucking Know Better: You're never depressed!
Tata: Does your insurance cover hearing aids?

...Or my personal favorite.
Tata: Hi, my name is Tata.
Idiot: Tata? What's that short for?
Tata: Domenica. Please call me "Tata."
Idiot: Okay, Domenica.
Tata: ...And you won't even notice me calling you "Douchebag."

I'm just not going to print my resume to persuade anyone I'm worth my weight in fortune cookies. Miss Manners would not approve! What gives me the authority to say what I say, the way I say it? The truth is you don't really care - not while you're laughing.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Prayer From Your Secret God

After the moment of my birth during a blizzard, I was treated as if my arrival was heralded by the trumpets of angels and flashing lights the length of the New Jersey Turnpike. I was special. I was unique in all history. The way my every word was cause for celebration you'd think I was the reincarnation of Thomas Jefferson, several saints and half the martyred French Resistance. I can't explain that. Anyway, it's utterly crucial to remember that when I was born both my parents were younger than my daughter Miss Sasha is now, and I was their futuristic prototype; under no circumstances should this conjure up images of blondes in swimsuits exclaiming, "Genuine naugahyde seats!" And I'm not exaggerating my presumed importance in the universe. From Dad's book from before you were born, with all copyrights in place and stealing is bad for your karma:

I'm contemplating jealousy
and what it really means
mostly to me.

I asked my daughter
what jealousy means.
Offhandedly she informed me
that people are jealous
when they don't get enough.

She then asked for an apple
and went outside to play
having exhausted the topic.

Even at three, I was a foul-mouthed temptress with no use for jealousy. What the hell, the parents had me when a dictionary and a Magic 8 Ball would've been easier to potty train. I don't recollect hearing babytalk except when spoken to other children. Then, though I've always tested well, my sixth grade teacher destroyed my reasonably snotty worldview with one simple sentence.

Pre-Teen Tata: What are you talking about? My parents don't talk to me any differently than they do to anyone else. You don't talk to us differently than to other people...
Mrs. Smart Lady: I don't talk to you or your classmates the same way I talk to adults.

I've been in a snit about this for 32 years.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Building the Mystery

Last night, Dom called and insisted I go out with him, Theresa, Natalie and Sharkey to see Little Miss Sunshine. I hemmed. I hawed.

Dom: Call Sharkey. He'll pick you up on the way to Loew's.
Tata: I'll call him.

I was still hedging.

Tata: Should I go?
Sharkey: Sometimes going out is the right thing when you feel that way.
Tata: I should go.
Sharkey: Are you going?
Tata: Pick me up in an hour?
Sharkey: One hour!

So we went. I started laughing before the credits, and throughout most of the movie, the only people laughing were my friends and me. We are, however, used to it and don't care. So today, despite the rain and the politics, I'm in a good mood. My papers are all over the floor. Before I go to work at the family shiny objects emporium, I'll organize and file them. This will make me as happy as I get without shedding foundation garments.

In the spirit of international cooperation then, I'll disclose two details about Poor Impulse Control.

1. The search criteria that bring people here more than all others combined are various forms of ANARCHY. This thrills me, and refers to a posting from December, 2005, in which I declared in passing that if and when I have grandchildren they won't be wearing fucking pastels. No, they'll have little black onesies with red Anarchy logos on them. This post still makes me howl, and if you haven't, you should read it and shower me with tribute. I will accept money, power and offers of cheap, tawdry sex in which you play the East German spy and I play General DeGaulle, marching orders optional.

2. The other search is pieces of lyrics (run away turn away run away) to one particular song: Bronski Beat's Small Town Boy. Apparently other people are also haunted by Jimmy Somerville's singular voice and the mournful lyrics. The post itself is about finding oneself suddenly responsible and alienated; thus, not tied closely to the song, which I love with my whole black heart and always have. I understand having to leave a familiar place right now, in desperation.

YouTube is evidently my new best friend, and in the spirit of, you know, international cooperation, I hope you get the phone call you need from out of the vast and loving blue.

Updated 7.30.09: Edited to pull the rug out from under a motherfucker stealing bandwith by incorrectly linking to this post.

Friday, September 22, 2006

An Iron Fist In A Glove Full of Vaseline

This morning, I am so horrified and anguished and frightened and enraged I can't articulate thoughts about the administration's abandonment of civilized behavior. It is simply more than I can handle in a certain spiritual, not to mention logical, sense.

Though I am not usually given to surrendering an opportunity to shoot my mouth off, this time, someone else's experiential wisdom speaks to this disgusting matter far better than I ever could. If you have not, please meet Minstrel Boy.

Damn it, I am utterly weary of watching United States politics descend to new depths of brutish, thoughtless, selfish jealousy. And now we add unspeakable cruelty to the list, when it was possible at any turn to tone down the rhetoric and take the high moral ground.

We cannot pretend this is not a mark on each of us, individually. I can't think so I have to dance or I would despair.

"Today is the birthplace of forever."
- Marvin Gaye

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Welcome With Well-Oiled Precision

The Hunger Site offers us a brief, familiar dose of common sense wisdom.

"We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children."
- Native American Proverb

I've heard that in other forms, in other places and I'll bet you have, too. It sure can be easy to forget that what we do now manifests in the future as rewards and consequences for ourselves and others, and I want us to think seriously about this for a minute. Do you have a savings account? Are you saving for your retirement? No one wants to see you starve. Try bringing your lunch to work and put the money you would have spent away, where it accrues interest and where you can't touch it. And do yourself the biggest favor you can: pay down your credit cards. Please! A future is coming where debt we accumulate now will deprive us of a great deal. We can't avoid that. For your peace of mind, for national security and for your safety: please, skip shopping for things no one really needs and put the money toward whatever you owe.

That being said, Gary knows I am all about the silly.

Daaahhhlink! I saw items 1 and 2 instantly thought of you!

So chic, so tidy!

Last Friday, Siobhan, Lisa and I went out to the most peculiar place we could think of: the Red Lobster on Route 1 in Woodbridge. If you're not from here, Woodbridge is the center of New Jersey's interstate highway universe, which is really saying something. It's kind of invisible on paper, but Woodbridge is connected to All Things Jersey, which is why we elected its former mayor to be our gay governor with a blonde beard and gave an Oscar-worthy performance of being shocked! Shocked, I tell you! So there we were, at the crossroads of the Jersey Universe on a Friday night. I'm sweet enough, fuck you very much; I don't eat a lot of sugar. To crank up my mojo, I ordered a stupid-sweet girlie beverage that came in a glass as tall as my forearm is long. The joint was packed with young families and old people dragging oxygen tanks. Kids squealed and darted under the feet of underweight and over-polished waiters. Other chain restaurants may have their own cookie-cutter ambience, but this place positively reeked of desperation. Plus: we had a coupon.

For at least a year, years ago, Lisa, Siobhan and a bunch of our friends came here on Monday nights for karaoke. I don't do karaoke, but Siobhan used to live off karaoke contest prize money and the admiration of footloose businessmen. I can't explain that. Anyway, Monday after Monday, we brought toys to amuse ourselves and I showed up in my Sears Mens Store prison-striped pajamas. At the time, Ned and I both worked in and spent all our time at the bar in New Brunswick, when Ned wasn't touring with the Parasites. Going out to the wickedly corporate, faux Americana Red Lobster was getting out to stretch the legs a bit. Yes, that was the very depth of my most suicidal depression - however did you guess? So going back with Lisa, who has a life-threatening allergy to shrimp was flirting with disaster. We ordered mozzarella sticks.

If you are from an island, an isthmus or a peninsula, or if you have visited an island, an isthmus or a peninsula, you may have noticed that things like space, garbage and fresh water are treated differently than in, say, landlocked zip codes. My mother's family is from Cape Cod. What you do and don't do matters. Wasting fresh water is a big no-no when you are surrounded by salty, and creating unnecessary garbage is frowned upon: where ya gonna put that? When your main food and economic source is the ocean, the impetus to consider the future and take care of the ocean is stronger than, say, any desire to dump stuff into it. When you take a living thing out of the ocean to eat it, you cut off the possibility of its further reproducing and replenishing your food supply, so you take only what you need and nothing more. Thus, the surreally large meals were unnervingly short-sighted, and perhaps hinting we've passed the point of no return to reason, Siobhan's plate contained three halves of lobster tail, and I don't mean thirds. Everything I didn't eat Friday night went home with me. I ate nothing but leftovers all day Saturday, and resisted thinking about that time Siobhan, Gary and I spent three drunken days in Circus Circus, trying not to puke into the maelstrom of strobe-lit overindulgence.

This pointless excess is intended to conceal emotional emptiness with gastric fullness, and to hang shabbiness in the rags of false prosperity. This is not an illusion I chase, but I sat and watched. I was there, which implies that I condone this nonsense. A thousand years ago, I danced in a high school production of Cabaret, where I learned a lot about corruption and complicity; even dancing requires research. Anyway, the temptation as disaster looms is to close one's eyes and open oneself up to oblivion and sensual ephemerae, and if that comes with decadent butter sauce, so much the better. But morning will still come. Hunger will come. Wastefulness assures our destruction, and the loss of what might have saved us: one another. Maybe.

Lisa: The interviewer said, "Your end date is pretty far off," so maybe they have an opening coming up they want me for.

Six hands splay and wiggle.

Siobhan: - In the meantime, you're in no hurry so you can interview as much as you want.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Give Me the Music

Yeah yeah, I just about swallowed my tongue.

You Are a Rainbow

Breathtaking and rare

You are totally enchanting and intriguing

But you usually don't stick around long!

You are best known for: your beauty

Your dominant state: seducing

Shut up!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

But You're Still Spitting Fire

"What does that mean, 'outrages upon human dignity'? That's a statement that is wide open to interpretation.'
- George W. Bush

"I'm saying that nobody knows what 'humiliating treatment' is. What does it mean?"
- National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley

"I know an insult to my intelligence when I hear it."
- Tata, Reluctant Voice of Reason

Monday, September 18, 2006

Ta Republique, Europa

This morning, I stood up in my office and made an important announcement.

Tata: Tomorrow is my favorite holiday: International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Avast, ye have been warned!

The over-sixty set in my office, the Nice Ladies, are used to me. They cackle. They do not believe I will turn up tomorrow with a hat or a parrot. They know it is entirely possible I'll spend tomorrow in a cheap rolling chair, pretending to row to and from the printer, blathering about keelhauling and sharks. Like last year.

Also this morning, ABC News published a story that made my adorably red head spin. The reporter's language is not even close to neutral. In fact, it's as if Bill Redeker tagged Rosie O'Donnell for a turn shouting, "GET A LOAD OF THIS!"
In the picturesque northwest corner of Montana only 30 miles from Glacier National Park, signs have begun to appear on windows in the city of Kalispell that proclaim "No Hate Here."

What's the fuss all about?

At first, it seems difficult to believe that the focus of the campaign is two 14-year-old twin girls.

Then it becomes clear.

The two teens are those spokeskids for white separatists, Lamb and Lynx Gaede, who vaulted to international attention after they appeared on ABC's "Primetime" last year.

The girls, their mother, April, and stepfather Mark Harrington recently moved to Montana from Bakersfield, Calif., after April told "Primetime" that Bakersfield was "not white enough." Now Kalispell has put the family on notice, "Not in my backyard."

I know! I had to lie down to laugh hard enough. Wait, it gets funnier.
Last week a group of neighbors printed information sheets about the family and distributed them door to door.

"This letter is not written as a means to harass the family or to begin a witch hunt," the flier said. "We wish the family no harm. Our goal is to peacefully communicate that this kind of hate and ignorance will not be accepted here in our neighborhood where we live and raise our families."

Lamb and Lynx created the band Prussian Blue to communicate their white separatist views musically. The song "Sacrifice" praises Nazi leader Rudolph Hess, Adolph Hitler's deputy. The two have modeled T-shirts featuring Hitler smiley faces.

Omigod, I - like - totally can't wait until the other 14-year-olds model their Anne Frank GrrrAnimals Separates at the Kalispell Fall Semi-Demi-Formal - like - and dis the sockpuppet White Power Jonbenets! That's so hot! The parents also gave them the Registered Sex Offender Treatment(tm).
Rebecca Kushner-Metteer, one of the people who handed out the fliers, says the teens and their parents moved into her south Kalispell neighborhood a couple of weeks ago. At first, no one paid much attention until another neighbor showed a rerun of the "Primetime" broadcast. They then recognized their new neighbors.

See, the whole town's singing freaking Kumbaya now, no matter what it was like before. And you know what nobody saw coming? The normals are pissed! But don't worry about the little white power twins! Jackbooted heroes are hurrying to the rescue.
Now Kushner-Metteer and other families say they have received threats.

"We're very concerned about our safety," says Kushner-Metteer.

Postings by members of and, which are community sites linked to the Prussian Blue site, have included addresses and phone numbers of those involved in passing out the fliers. A photograph of a mother and her daughter that was published by the Daily Inter Lake as they distributed the fliers can also be found on the sites.

Shit! - I mean, this could get serious! But not quite yet.
However, the Kalispell Police Department has heard from the [Gaede] family. The police say they received a complaint that the family was being "harassed" by the neighbors posting the fliers.

In an irony not lost on many in the community, the officers had to explain that the neighbors' free speech rights made the fliers perfectly legal.

Here it comes, here it comes...ready? I'm choking on my popcorn!
Just as legal as the free speech rights afforded Lynx and Lamb Gaede.

Although a date has yet to be set, the 1,400-member Montana Human Rights Network is planning a rally in Kalispell. Seems all area residents are now exercising their free speech rights in northwest Montana.

It's like the villagers stormed the castle wielding pitchforks and a Montessori manual!

And for that, we should celebrate!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Out, Like A Telegraph To Your Soul

Sometimes I wish things were different. I wish when my key turned in the lock I'd find my companion simmering something fragrant and pouring me a glass of pinot grigio. It would be sweet to fall asleep together and wake up together and tell each other everything all day. In the interest of full disclosure: I believe in full disclosure. Also: despite my unbelievable hotness, which is causing you to tan as you read this, I suspect most people who worship my aforementioned unbelievable hotness can't imagine growing old warming their hands by it. So it goes.

I recognize my shortcomings as a witness in theory, which is why I call Anya to check. I tell her I either did or did not witness a merchant in town practicing racial discrimination with his customers, all the while talking and laughing with me in a way that was so distracting I don't know what was actually happening. Anya says, "So they made you part of the club and used the work they were doing for you to insult an Asian family and get rid of Black customers?" I...don't know. I am still adding up what I saw and heard. I think I might have seen that. This introduces a new concept, since I am beige but not white. This means I am passing. This means the merchant thought I approved. If I were wrong and I said this about that merchant, I would be saying something unforgivable. This means I have to find a way to test out what I think. If I were right, I was blind to events as they were unfolding, and that scares me.

His voice stops me the third time I hear it. "Excuse me! Excuse me!" He is a man sitting in a high-end SUV with his son. "Do you know where there's a Rite Aid?" Drug stores, like grocery stores, change corporate hands so often a person can't assume anything is where he last saw it. For a second, I'm confused and look up. Then I point directly across the street, "Like that one?"

My bicycle is on the road. Riding it, I am overjoyed. As a teenager, I rode up and down the hill roads of the home town at breakneck speeds and mostly without hands. On a bicycle, I was free and I am free. I am free.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The End Of Me Become the Start Of You

Google has an intriguing feature: How to of the Day. I confess: I'm fascinated. One of today's featured instructions - How to Remove a Hickey - arrives a bit late in my illustrious career, but it is intriguing to observe that in 2006, humans are still possessive and stupid enough to mark territory with bruises. These directions are loose, full of folk cures and mildly humorous, which they would not be if I were writing them. No, my instructions would be brief and to the point:
How to Remove a Hickey
1. Instruct all love monkeys: no marks!
2. Don't fuck people who fuck with you!

Simple! Yesterday's feature was the tres amusement How to Dissuade Yourself From Becoming a Blogger, which is filled with cheesy goodness. Enjoy:
Rest easy in the knowledge that it's perfectly okay and respectable to not have a blog at all.

The information you post on the Internet is likely to linger for years and years to come, as web pages are archived by "snapshot" services like the Wayback Machine. Once it's out there, you can't take it back. An employer running a Google search on your name years down the line might be turned off by your now documented obsession with your cat.

Help me, Mama!
Keep in mind that, unless you expressly make it otherwise, blogs are extremely public. This is not your secret diary that you write your innermost thoughts in because only you have the key and you wear it around your neck 24/7.If you have stuff that you don't want your mom, your best friend, your significant other, your secret crush, or your cat to know, don't go blabbing it to complete strangers on the internet.

I can't breathe! It's Friday and I was going to post a photo of my cat, but he may read my blog and find out - not to mention his secret crush on that boy in third period Civics!

Oh, that explains so much, really.

Yesterday was a bad day to be me, or anyone within 50 feet of me. Lupe and I had a fight that uprooted the mulberry bush we've danced circles around all summer. Let's examine this as choreographers might:

Tata: A
Lupe: B
Tata: A
Gianna: (Intervening) C
Tata: A!
Lupe: B!

Oh God. Now you know! And while this argument must have been a joy to witness or overhear, the silence that followed my walking away was thunderous. I was furious. I obsessed on why I was so angry. An hour passed. And another. People typed very quietly. I was never going to speak to Lupe again. I was consumed by a fiery rage.

Lupe: If I left a yogurt out all morning is it still good?
Tata: Yogurt changes consistency as it comes to room temperature but it's okay to eat.

DAMN IT! I couldn't help myself! This was no way to hold a grudge! She guessed that I wouldn't be able to refrain from answering a question. It was a brilliant stratagem, I had to admit. The spell was broken. After a few minutes, I noticed I could hear typing again, and occasionally people speaking. Still, it was very quiet for an office full of people who weren't cowering under their desks. Some of them went to lunch. Later, I went to the ladies room and when I came back, I found a note and a bag of toy dinosaurs.


I picked them up and twirled the bag. The top of my head no longer felt like it would blow off. I realized I was smiling, which for a moment made me mad all over again. Then I just wasn't angry anymore and started laughing. To the air in the office and no one in particular, I spoke over the cubicle walls.

Tata: I had no idea I could be bribed with a blue plastic triceratops.

There was a short hush, during which everyone sat still.

Lupe: That's a pretty cheap bribe.

In my most six of six-year-old voices:

Tata:'s blue...!
Lupe: Did you watch Dateline last night?
Tata: What was on? I didn't see...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Pretty As A Car Crash

Self-Portrait in the Camp Felix Nussbaum

Two weeks ago, Siobhan and I stuffed ourselves into her Ford Extinguisher and drove into NYC to see the Klimts at Neue Gallery. You remember: we didn't assault anyone, no matter how he or she stepped into our carefully chosen views of early twentieth century German artworks, and we discovered the gold painting of Adele was as big as me, perhaps even bigger, and that art under glass is a nightmare for glare. Perhaps I left that out, in my original epic. Being a person of unusual size and shape, I often found myself doing the watusi to move the glare from the ceiling lights around the glass surface so I could see more of the painting. This made me say "Damn it!" a lot in a relatively quiet gallery.

Weeks later, what we saw is still interesting and opening up in unexpected ways. My co-worker and I are plotting a class trip from my office to see Kwang-Young Chun's installation pieces at Kim Foster or Michelle Rosenberg Gallery because it is sometimes absolutely crucial to see in person what we see in art journals we handle at the library. Chun's work on paper or on the screen looks like a terrifying closeup of wreckage on the ocean floor or the lunar surface, but I'm not sure if that's my eye or an intended impression. From the Foster Gallery page:
Chun's artwork reflects his intense involvement with both Western art and the rich heritage of his homeland. Begun in the mid-1990s, the series titled Aggregation breaks away from the conventional use of brush, paint and canvas. His compositions are constructed of hundreds of triangles wrapped in century-old handmade mulberry paper. In his latest series of constructions, the work depends on a variation of trompe l'oeil. Using a range of gray to black tones, Chun creates what looks like deep depressions or craters. It is only after closer examination that we realize these are not actual indentations. The triangles coalesce into a composition creating a startling illusion of depth, dense with association to natural phenomena.

For those familiar with Korean culture, the mulberry paper used in Chun's compositions offers an additional layer of meaning. Inspired by childhood memories, the wrapped triangles in Chun's constructions are evocative of herbal medicine bundles wrapped in paper and hung in clusters from the ceilings of the family run pharmacy. Though herbal medicine is a dying art in his native country, Chun is keenly aware of the historical and personal resonance of his chosen medium.

Craters. I don't know and I'm excited to see it myself.

In the Neue Gallery, almost as an afterthought, five pieces - I believe it was five - hung in a third-floor hallway. I say they were possibly an afterthought because this hallway was important for patron traffic flow, the implication being: this isn't important, don't bother with these. And because the place was crowded, traffic moved down the hallway. One. Two. Three. Four. Five - Holy crap! The fifth piece was Self-Portrait in the Camp by Felix Nussbaum. Unlike any other piece in the hallway, the small or large rooms, this painting had an immediate emotional impact on me, at least, but also on the people who arrived there before me and couldn't move. If I had to guess dimensions, I'd say this painting was between a foot and 18" wide and maybe 2' tall. It's small-ish. It felt to me as if I'd seen something so deeply personal I had no right to see it. I was shocked by its power, shocked that this painting had survived. This painting alone in the whole of the gallery reminded me that we who love art are lucky that anything from early twentieth century Germany survived at all.

Here is a profound and perplexing online gallery of Felix Nussbaum's paintings. I didn't know anything about him before I saw his face. Apparently, this may not be much of a surprise.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

You've Changed Your Place In This World

Last spring, we - meaning those of us who write Poor Impulse Control and those of us patient enough to actually read it - reviewed our many and hilarious paper product options. I promised to switch to recycled paper products and let you know how it went. So to speak. Which I did, by which I mean: I switched to recycled paper products but I got sidetracked. There was a shiny object, and I chased it! It was terrible! I was going about my business and the next thing, I woke up three months later in an eviction hearing, which I brought to a momentary halt with my irreducible ego. Watch this health film, it's funny.
The courthouse in New Brunswick is filled with people like me, only even less polite and not at all helpful. I know. It strains the imagination. Anyway, my method of sneaking up behind men in suits and asking questions works here - sort of - because every last man in a suit over $200 has spent his life testing well. Damn it: he's going to have an answer to any question hanging in the air if it kills him. At one point, I am lost inside the courthouse and ask out loud, "Does anyone know where we are?" A pack of men in dark suits pivot on one heel apiece and as one answers confidently, "Yes." Okay, so talking to men is a complete waste of time. I find a woman, show her a piece of paper and she smiles. She points off to her left and tells me to go that way until I can't, then go straight to the end of the hall. I should mention at this point my outfit: tan slacks, a vibrant pink sweater and my floral raincoat with giant pink, orange and yellow flowers. My hair is a red visible from space. Yes, I look like a department store Mrs. Roper, holding a blue, orange and fluorescent green lunchbox with a picture of planet Earth and a caption: You are here.

After about half an hour of trying to guess what's happening, what will happen and what should happen, I find myself sitting in the back row in the courtroom with dozens of people I could mistake for neighbors and some of them might be. Nothing happens for a very long time. I can feel the clock tick. We watch a video. Nothing happens. A clerk explains something, asks if anyone has questions, then becomes very impatient when someone has one. Then this thing happens very, very fast: one clerk calls a case, someone answers or doesn't, she says "Default" or "Dismissed." If the landlord stands up and the tenant doesn't, she says, "default!" If the tenant stands up, the clerk says, "Tenant or landlord?" When both stand up, the clerk tells them to go out in the hallway and make some kind of deal. Rapidly, rapidly, over and over. This set up works to the advantage of people who've been here before or come here often, because I use every bit of available brain space to figure out when they're going to call my name, since the docket numbers seem coded in some way. Before my case comes up, one clerk says across the desk to the other, "Every case from [my landlord] is dismissed today." Finally, the clerk, who may have a career ahead of her as an auctioneer, calls something like my docket number and name. I stand up.

Tata: I am Domenica LongItalianName.
Clerk: What? Are you the landlord?
Tata: I am Domenica LongItalianName.

The clerk looks across the courtroom at me, then looks at the list, then looks at me. I'm sure she wonders where I've stashed Norman Fell, but I'm not telling. She says, "Dismissed."

I switched to recycled toilet paper and while I didn't love it, the idea of loving toilet paper is too much for my tiny mind. In an upscale grocery store near Mr. DBK's house, I discovered more brands of recycled paper products than I knew existed, which seems promising. The switch to recycled paper towels went fabulously, which might sound like exaggeration except it also provided me with occasions to drag grocery store managers through anemic paper product aisles and demand better selections, which havoc you can wreak also wherever you shop. It's a blast, and until everyone has a decent selection of recycled paper products in their grocery store, convenience store, drug store or bodega, you can pretty much bet on world-changing havoc and hilarity wherever you go. It's a renewable resource, like solar energy and celebrity hijinx - though, since I don't pay attention, about once a week I wonder when Britney Spears' husband took up championship tennis.

I was just about to declare my happiness with recycled paper towels when Karama Neal of So What Can I Do? suggested ditching paper towels entirely and going with cloth napkins. I don't want to advocate anything without giving it a go myself, so after 10 August, I haven't bought any paper towels of any kind. Let's talk specifics.

1. What cloth napkins? Years ago, Auntie InExcelsisDeo gave me a hamper full of the ugliest ancestral cloth nakpins you've ever seen in your life and some that were just silly-looking, with the admonition that my beloved grandmother Edith would spin in her grave if I set fire to them. So I started out with a bale of cloth napkins I'd pretend I don't know in public, which I tossed into the washer in my kitchen Sharkey describes as "the world's largest bread machine." I didn't have to buy or make them. I had them - and they had me.

2. What do I use paper towels for? Other than emergency spills - for which paper towels are ill-suited - I use paper towels because I am allergic to only two things: oxygen and nitrogen, and I sneeze a lot. Tissues are flimsy, wasteful and useless. Handkerchiefs have always seemed disgusting. Are you kidding me? I blow my nose, fold my hanky and stuff it in my pocket - where I'm certain to stuff my hand eventually? That can't be sanitary. On the other hand, my grandfather, whom I adore, has always carried a hanky. The old Cape Codders have always been very careful about their resources and creating garbage. I couldn't deny it would be a sensible course of action, and I could diminish the Ick Factor by dropping used cloth napkins directly into the washer.

3. What do paper towels mean? We didn't have paper towels when I was growing up. Rich people had paper towels and air conditioning. We didn't have those. When I started thinking about the meaning of disposable stuff, the expense, the trees, the toxins, I couldn't even argue with Me. Thus, clean cloth napkins sit in colorful piles all over my house.

My transition to recycled paper products was successful, I felt, and I was pleased there was a little further I could go. These are gentle changes, which experts tell us are more likely to stick and become habits. I'm still working out how to use greener cat litter without annoying Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul. The options I've tried so far leave much to be desired.

And speaking of desire, I have a bicycle now, courtesy of the way-ahead-of-me-on-the-Go-Green! curve Scout. Scout had an extra bicycle in her garage, which I offered to buy and she instead gave me. Yay, Scout! It needs a bit of attention but we are fortunate in town to have an excellent bike shop. I'm sure the purists will be thrilled to see me walk a giant, antique woman's bike across town with two flat tires. As the weather cools, I'm hoping to use the bicycle for exercise, and if all goes well, perhaps as transportation, at least to and from the family store. The path to the library from my apartment is fraught with peril for cyclists, but it would be really good for me to give it a try. Maybe. In the spring.

Okay, the score.
Recycled toilet paper: check!
Recycled paper towels: check!
Cloth napkins: more check-er-er!

Keep in mind I am a little old lady whose stuff stays pretty much where she left it unless the cat objects. If I had little children under foot, my conclusions might differ. Your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Watch Out For Signs That Say "Hidden Driveway"

Miss Sasha called me at work yesterday.

Miss Sasha: I'm calling everyone I love. I love you, Mommy!
Tata: I love you, too, sweetheart. Whatcha doing?
Miss Sasha: My half-brother wants me to teach him how to make creme brulee.
Tata: As that would require you two to be in the same state and a blow torch, I hope you wait until he's old enough to vote himself Prom Queen. I'm glad we had this little chat! Must get back to destroying the dreams of publishers everywhere, darling!
Miss Sasha: I love you!
Tata: I love you, too!

Having a daughter in her mid-twenties can be a revelation a minute. In the days before I stood in my gynecologist's office and demanded at the tops of my lungs he excise my internal organs, birth control pills and contraptions were the bane of my existence. When they weren't saving my life they were trying to kill me. Or undoing years of electrolysis. Thus, I pay attention when I see commercials for new pills and contraptions. The new Nuva Ring ads are all floaty and rhymy. Good for them! I'd love to celebrate plastic hula hoops around millions of cervixes with iambic pentameter. Even better: we've gone Eighties Retro Trendy with new pill formulation Yaz, and that is, like, awesome! I can't wait for the next advance in pregnancy prevention: the Flock Of Seagulls Method, where lissome young women are encouraged to try coupling with Ex-Gay Success Stories. Listen, ladies: his sad tale of loneliness and rejection and love of hair care products may say Yes but his secret desire for your brother says No! No! No!

Mary is planning a birthday party for her soon-to-be six-year-old, whom she calls the Divine One. I often see photos of the Divine One in imaginative color- and texture combos, my favorite of which included an indoor motorcycle helmet and a feather boa. Plainly, she has a tremendous future in women's couture. Or NASCAR. There's no stopping a modern gal like the Divine One! Mary emailed me when she remembered I knew a costume-loving, ballet-dancing, bodybuilding yoga teacher who moonlights with kids. I made them talk to one another.

Mary: Thanks for connecting me with the fairy.
Tata: Absolutely! I can't wait to see photographs of this event. You realize you're describing a kiddie rave, which is like bolting on training wheels until you spike the punch.
Mary: I'll have to get those neon necklaces and bracelets! She designed her cake too. "It will have a sea horse, whale and dolphin and some other fishes too." Last year we had an old man in the fishing boat - it's what guys get on the cake when they retire. The lady at the bakery kept trying to talk me out of it and push Nemo. I kept telling her that wasn't what we wanted. When we went to pick the cake up all the ladies at the bakery couldn't wait to meet the kid who wanted the fisherman cake. It really does pay to keep them away from tv - I love the stuff she comes up with!
Tata: Maybe your kid just does things in a different order. First, she retires. Second, she has a mid-life crisis. Third, she marries a trophy wife... Watch out, if you see Miata brochures.

Someone's going to get an education.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

As A Bird Is Free

This is Timothy J. Finnerty

On September 11, 2001, Timothy Finnerty was 33 years old, a time when the real possibilities of life are just opening up. His New York Times obituary reads like the kind of resume you just know must be padded:
He was employed as a broker for Cantor Fitzgerald, WTC, NY, NY. A member of the Glen Rock Jaycees, he graduated from the University of Scranton in 1990 where he was a member of the Mens Varsity Basketball Team. Mr. Finnerty earned an MBA degree from Wagner College in 1994 and was an assistant coach of the Mens Varsity Basketball Team from 1991-1994. He also coached the St. Catharine RC Church 7th & 8th Grade Boys CYO Basketball, Glen Rock, NJ where he was a parishioner.

As real people go, he sounds like a dream. He left behind a wife Theresa, his father Peter, his grandmother Alice Bannon and a brother Kevin. As I read about Timothy, I found myself wishing I knew if he would want to be called Tim or if he had favorite jokes. Did he like movies? What kind of future did he imagine? His face bespeaks commitment and humor, and it looks so, so young.

Because I didn't know him and don't wish to offend anyone, I offer this tribute. The song makes me weep. And yet, the video made me laugh just a little. It is the very best I can do.

This post is a humble part of the 2,996 Project.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , .

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Turn You On, Sonny, To Something Strong

Anya reminds me of what my family was doing on September 11th: taking a terrified roll call. I had forgotten that after the first plane hit the Trade Center, nobody knew anything, and until the second plane hit, it all seemed like a crazy accident. It had happened years ago with a small plane and the Empire State Building. And when the second plane hit, my extended family panicked. Miss Sasha called me at work and asked if I'd heard from her father about his brother and sister-in-law, and where was Anya's husband? I didn't know. Nobody knew. Hours passed before it turned out the Fabulous Ex-Husband's brother Jacob had dismissed his department in the unaffected tower after the first plane and despite advice that they should remain in place, and this probably saved their lives; his wife had stayed home from work that day. Even with this unbelievable good fortune, Jacob was so traumatized he didn't speak for a month. Anya is a little philosophical.

Anya: I lost my husband for one day. We had a fight that morning and he was late, but I didn't know that then. He went every day to the World Trade Center station, that much I knew. His was the first train they didn't let in. If he'd been on the train before, he'd be dead now. As it was, he saw the people jumping.
Tata: Jumping?
Anya: The people jumped.

Anya could have been there, too, but she wasn't. In the days that followed, I heard that same story over and over again, theme and variation: I was supposed to be there but I wasn't. A guy I bartended with slept late and missed an appointment. Trout's cousin took the day off from Windows On the World to celebrate his wedding anniversary. My former sister-in-law stayed home. My friend Audrey was in Brooklyn, monitoring the election; her best friend was there but unharmed. My former partner in ten years of art crimes was there, but unharmed. People I knew and knew of died, yes, but if it'd happened twenty-four hours later - even an hour later - the death toll would have been far, far worse. Paulie Gonzalez lost a bunch of friends that day. I don't think he'd be ashamed if I mentioned one night months later I found him standing over his bathroom sink, counting them off on his fingers, tears running down his face.

My family did not lose anyone. We were very fortunate.

I have no rights, no ownership, no leverage; in fact, I refused to set foot in the Trade Center. I was always frightened, just looking at the towers, however irrational that admission might seem. I've mentioned this before: my friends and I drove by one Sunday morning to pick up something one of us had left in her office. They went in. I stayed in the car and stared upward, paralyzed by the words of Genesis 11:
5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."

8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel - because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

As I said, my feelings weren't rational. I still have dreams about this moment of flat refusal. What I am saying is that I have no authority to ask this but I'm asking anyway. In fact, I'm begging:

Please, please, stop using those photographs of the towers burning and falling. What you are posting, when you post those phtographs, are burning buildings, as we all know. What other people see are their friends and loved ones being burned alive, over and over, endlessly. Fathers, mothers, lovers, husbands, wives, children, buddies, girlfriends, boyfriends, that kid I sat with in third grade, my friend's friend, your friends' cousins: crushed, burned, torn to pieces. Stop posting these pictures and concentrating on the horror.

Please, I'm begging you: move past morbid fascination and concentrate on life. If you believe in spirit, then those spirits will do what spirits do. Release them. Do not keep them here. If you do not believe in spirit, then quit torturing survivors. I was walking down a street in New Brunswick and saw photo essay of burning buildings and was grateful I wasn't walking with a friend whose girlfriend died in Tower 2. If you read the transcripts of phone calls from the top floors, you know those people were still hoping in vain to be rescued when in fact there was never a plan in place for what to do if fire ever cut them off from escape. If your husband, wife or child was up there, do you want that terrible knowledge to overwhelm you annually, and cut you off from the joy you take in your loved one's life?

Please. Stop posting those pictures. Go tell someone you love him or her. Life is fucking short.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Wear Your Love Like Heaven

It seems like years ago, but only Monday I got off a train in New York Penn Station to help a friend. I'd warned him I can get lost on the way to the kitchen. Directions to his place went to a part of town I haven't spent much time in, so I asked him to meet me at Penn Station. He said sure, then said to make certain I got on the Downtown A train. You know, you can't convince people you tell the truth the first time, so I asked six people in Penn Station where the Downtown A was, and only one of them was right. I almost got on an Uptown A, but was saved from taking that train by the absolute certainty that if I thought I was right I must be headed in the wrong direction. Eventually, I found two tiny women who said, "Downtown. Brooklyn. Aqui." At this point, I thought my friend would meet me at the Canal Street subway stop. Why? Because I am sometimes pretty stupid, that's why.

I got off the subway at Canal Street and didn't see my friend. My friend was not on the stairs to the street, and not on the street. I looked around for a person to recognize, a face. When I didn't see one, I felt a blind and choking terror. I walked to a spot where I could put my back against a plywood wall and stood there a long time, unable to see where I was and unable to think. As anyone who has ever been in a car with me can attest, I grow distinctly more hysterical with every minute I am lost. Time passed. If I were you, dear reader, I'd get some popcorn and wait for the chase.

Slowly, the panic cleared, and I do mean slowly. When I could read the street signs, I could see Canal, Varick, a couple more, and West Broadway. My friend's place, I was reasonably sure, was on Broadway - or Fifth. Suddenly, I was less sure. The thing to do - because I don't carry a cell - was to find a working pay phone. Two booths down on West Broadway, I found one, called my friend and ot voicemail. Sighing, I described my location and said, "I don't know what to do." I hung up and walked back to the corner, feeling desperate and a little frightened. Now that I'd said, "I'm at the corner of Canal and West Broadway" I was stuck there. And I stood there for some time, telling European tourists I was lost, too.

Logical thinking returned slowly, and I mean slowly. I was standing on West Broadway, right? If you don't know any better, you think, 'If I can figure out which way is east, I'll know which direction to walk in and I'll just start off.' I looked up and it was of course just about noon, so that was no help. I went back to the payphone and dialed my friend's cell again, and got voicemail again. I said I was going to start walking, and I told him what my intended destination was. Then I asked a shopkeeper which way was Broadway, thinking he'd point either right or left. He pointed over my shoulder and straight behind me, so I thought he was crazy. I thanked him and went left outside his store.

Blocks later, when West Broadway was suddenly LaGuardia, I turned and walked in the direction the shopkeeper had pointed. Two lights later, I came to a corner on Broadway, looked at the numbers and turned right. Broadway and West Broadway run parallel to one another, they're not the same road. Finally, I came to the correct address and asked the guy in the foyer where I'd find my friend. Twice, the gentleman told me no. I went to read the names on the directory. Still somewhat panicked and now tired, I didn't immediately see his name. Then, there it was, with a number. I told the man at the desk, "Here, this person." He pointed me toward the elevator. When the elevator door opened, there stood my friend. Still shaking and upset, I didn't respond well to, "How was your trip, dear?"

Tata: Go Cheney yourself, you bastard! Next time I tell you something, believe me the first time. Try this out. What is your response if I say, "It's raining outside"?
Friend: "I'll get an umbrella."
Tata: And if I say, "I've never faked an orgasm" and responding with laughter will cost you your life, what is it?!
Friend: "Intriguing. I believe you."
Tata: You are making excellent goddamn improvement. And if I say, "Please meet me at Penn Station because I could get lost on the way to my kitchen," what is your response?!
Friend: "Your wish is my command, princess."
Tata: Thank you! Fucker! Let's get to work and don't speak to me until I return to my human form. Damn it!

On the one hand, it was an ordeal I would not care to repeat. I considered turning around and taking the train back to New Brunswick but I didn't, and I was really pissed when it turned out he was waiting for me at Penn Station after all. Where? I have no idea. I never saw him. He never saw me. Penn Station is like that: there are few landmarks like the clock at Grand Central Station where two people could meet. So the plan was doomed from the beginning.

On the other, the ordeal offered a hard lesson I needed to learn, during a hard week in which I felt small and covered with fur. To wit: once panic subsides, I can think my way out of a tough situation. That is important knowledge to have about oneself.

Also: we had really delicious sandwiches for lunch. That might've been totally worth the trip.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I Walk the Earth, My Darling, This Is My Home

I return from court unevicted, though the only proof of this is that I am not curled up under my desk and sobbing. Fortunately, Ted the lawyer was there and witnessed the whole thing, including the part where I didn't understand what was happening and thought I was supposed to leave. Ted came running down a crowded hallway, shouting my name, telling me to go back and sit down. Poor people are being evicted like crazy - like you wouldn't believe if you didn't see it yourself. After I realized that nothing really would happen to me I was horrified by the number of people around me who couldn't say the same. I've been upset and fearful for weeks. How must they feel?

Thank you to everyone who wished me well and assured me I would be fine. I appreciate your confidence. It's time to get back to the business of peace, love, understanding, melted cheese and kitten heels, in a Jersey Chick accent. I am wearing lipstick.

Kiss me, you fool.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Wind And the Rain On A Sad And Lonely Face

As a last resort, I call Daria.

Tata: Come with me to the hearing tomorrow. You look like a normal person!
Daria: What? Is that thing tomorrow?
Tata: As you know, I need a translator between me and the rest of the world.
Daria: ...And I look respectable?
Tata: Even with all that hair, yup. Are you free at 11?
Daria: Wednesday...11? I can't, orientation at Sandro's preschool at 10:30.
Tata: Drat.
Daria: What about Sharkey? He looks respectable!
Tata: Everyone works. He might be in North Carolina, I'm not sure. Paulie's out saving the world. Siobhan's in Mahwah. Scout's teaching. I could make you a list.
Daria: What did Ted say?
Tata: He said he'd see me there. He's got cases tomorrow.
Daria: Okay, so stand next to him and tell him to hold a briefcase. He barely knows you and still thinks you're nice.
Tata: That's always a shocker, huh?

Ted is a family friend and a tenant's rights lawyer. Whenever he sees me, he says nothing is going to happen to me, then tells me a horror story about one of his clients. The crap that people do to one another is absolutely unbelievable to me. Sunday, he told me about a landlord that took the rent from two federal agencies and locked out a tenant while she was in the hospital. You can practically smell the sulphur. I mention this to Siobhan.

Tata: I'm going to that hearing alone. I'm very nervous!
Siobhan: Sorry to hear it. Let us remember that you totally kick ass.
Tata: ...I totally...kick ass...
Siobhan: Remember?
Tata: ...I do remember. Huh! Thank you for that timely reminder.

As Daria, tireless mixer of pop culture metaphors would say: Holy Ruby Slippers, Batman! I haven't slept in weeks and my face looks awful. This morning, I had dreams about children breaking into my house and stealing my things. I've postponed errands and conversations until after this hearing because I have felt helpless and out of my element. Well, that's enough of that. No matter what happens tomorrow, it is not the worst thing I've ever faced alone. I am not weak. This morning, when I felt timid, I compared this unnerving experience to court hearings throughout history, wherein millions of people faced terrifying judgment with a great deal more to lose, and I was embarrassed to be so upset by my landlord's manipulation. No one is going to chain me up and burn me slowly if I answer questions the wrong way. And I am a Force of Nature. I forgot that for a few weeks, but I remember that now. When I am nearby, everyone knows it's Windy.

With perspective once again restored, let us consider how a normal life can go from zero to horrific in one little paragraph:
"We must exterminate these people (homosexuals) root and branch...We can't permit such danger to the country; the homosexual must be entirely eliminated."

With these chilling words, the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, set out the Nazi master plan for the sexual cleansing of the Aryan race.

Heinz F, now 96, was a care-free young gay man living in Munich in the early 1930s. He had no idea of what was about to happen. "I didn't fully understand the situation," he admits with pained regret. One morning, out of the blue, the police knocked on his door. "You are suspected of being a homosexual," they told him. "You are hereby under arrest." "What could I do?" he asks, struggling to hold back the tears. "Off I went to Dachau, without a trial."

I knew all this had happened, and because all my life we have talked about the Third Reich in honest terms I believed I'd read or heard everything I needed to read or hear to remain appropriately horrified and respectful until the end of my days. Apparently, there's plenty more horror where all the previous horror came from.
Before the nightmare years of Nazism, Berlin was the queer capital of the world. Jewish lesbian, Annette Eick, who escaped to Britain shortly before the outbreak of war, recalls with fond nostalgia: "In Berlin, you were free. You could do what you wanted."

The city boasted dozens of gay organisations and magazines; plus over 80 gay bars, restaurants and night clubs. In his narration, Rupert Everett describes it as "a homosexual eden."

Although homosexuality was illegal under paragraph 175 of the criminal code, prior to the Third Reich it was rarely enforced. In the Reichstag, MPs were on the verge of securing its repeal. A new era of freedom seemed to be dawning. Then came Nazism.

Within a month of assuming power in 1933, Hitler outlawed homosexual organisations and publications. Gay bars and clubs were closed down soon afterwards. Storm troopers ransacked the headquarters of the gay rights movement, the Institute of Sexual Science, and publicly burned its vast library of "degenerate" books. Before the end of the year, the first homosexuals were deported to concentration camps.

Reminds me of the reason I have no interest in visiting Kansas.
At the age of 17, Frenchman Pierre Seel was detained by the invading Germans, who rifled local police files on homosexuals. "They saw our names of these lists," he says. "I ended up at the camp in Schirmeck."

"There was a hierarchy from weakest to strongest. The weakest in the camps were the homosexuals. All the way at the bottom."

"I was tortured, beaten...sodomised and raped!" Seel screams in anguish. "The Nazis stuck 25cm of wood up my arse...(it) still bleeds, even today."

His lover Jo suffered a worse fate. "He was condemned to die, eaten by dogs. German dogs! German Shepherds!" Seel shouts with rage. "That I can never forget."

The Nazis again intensified the war against "abnormal existence" in 1935, broadening the definition of homosexual behaviour and the grounds for arrest. Gossip and innuendo became evidence. A man could be incarcerated on the basis of a mere touch, gesture or look.

I don't know that I have the courage to sit through a documentary of these men's real lives, and that frightens me. It gets worse.
But [seventy-eight year old Gad] Beck survived, although nearly everyone around him perished. Two of his lovers were seized by the Nazis. "I met this beautiful blonde Jew. He invited me to spend the night. In the morning the Gestapo came...I showed my ID - not on the list. They took him to Auschwitz. It had a different value then, a night of love."

Later, Beck tried to free another lover, Manfred, from a Gestapo transfer camp by posing as a Hitler Youth member. This incredibly dangerous deception was successful, but as they walked to freedom, Manfred told Gad he could not abandon his family in the camp. Beck watched helplessly as his lover returned to be with them. He never saw Manfred again.

Never in my life have I had to demonstrate a degree of bravery putting on a rescue effort like that would require. And I don't know what to make of this.
Heinz Dormer, now a very frail 89 year-old, spent nearly ten years in prisons and concentration camps. In a quivering, barely audible voice he remembers the haunting, agonised cries from "the singing forest," a row of tall poles on which condemned men were hung: "Everyone who was sentenced to death would be lifted up onto the hook. The howling and screaming were inhuman...Beyond human comprehension."

This "homocaust" was an integral part of the holocaust. Contrary to false histories that claim the persecution of Jewish people was distinct and separate from the victimisation of other minorities, the genocide against Jews and queers was part of the same grand design for the racial purification of the German volk. The Nazis set out to eradicate all racial and genetic "inferiors" - not just Jews, but also gay, disabled, black, Slav, Roma and Sinti people.

Even after the Nazi defeat in 1945, gay survivors continued to be persecuted. Men liberated from the concentration camps who had not completed their sentences were re-imprisoned by the victorious Allies. Since they were regarded as criminals, all were denied compensation for their suffering. The German government still refuses to pay reparations. As a further insult, the former SS guards are awarded better pensions. Their work in the concentration camps counts toward their pension entitlement, whereas the time spent in the camps by gay inmates doesn't.

I don't know what that means - or worse, I'm afraid I might.

In all humility, I'm sure I'll be fine.

All the Boys And Girls Now

Beautiful stuff.

Feel the love!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

She Could Steal But She Could Not Rob

At the store today, sultry Latin lounge music plays as a sweet breeze drifts through and tickles the wind chimes. I am wearing a pair of pants I couldn't zip last week and a very flattering sweater. For the last twenty minutes or so, I've finished a few more blankets for shelter cats. In contrast to yesterday's depressing and isolating torrential rain, today's sunshine makes me feel blissfully buzzed. On a day like this, a free-thinking person could fall in love.

I can't say why, because everything about today has been disruptive and peculiar, but I feel joyful. The store is having a good day. I am having a good day.

I hope you get outside and fall in love, yourself, whoever you are, and wherever.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

To Build A Wall Between Us

Outside, wind drives the rain sideways in dramatic sheets and tugs open the family store's front door. Miles Davis' trumpet, the very sound of ache and longing, offers the room a glittering wishfulness, as if each glass ornament, each hanging paper star, each smooth bamboo plate hopes to be loved. My sister Corinne womans the till in the toy store next door, where I found two new lunchboxes to adore. I seldom carry purses. I carry lunchboxes. One lists the planets. Corinne warned me about Pluto. I scoffed.

Tata: Semantics, darling. My solar system didn't lose a planet - it gained three dwarf planets. Everyone knows that means more moons for me!
Corinne: You make it sound like a reason to go shopping.
Tata: Yes, and wherever will we seat them at Thanksgiving dinner? Are high chairs an insult? Hospitality is no laughing matter!

When I first typed that, I transposed letters, but I'm wearing new reading glasses picked out for me by that fashion maven, my pharmacist. That sounds dreadful, but a gal on her own has to use her resources wisely. During one of my weekly excursions to the drugstore to pick up medicine for Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, I found that cardboard rack of reading glasses one finds everywhere, and this was fortune worth celebrating. My other reading glasses lost that little pad-thingy that keeps the frame from digging into the bridge of my nose like a backyard fence post, so I asked the pharmacist, an older man and the father of a high school acquaintance, if there were other styles besides the Lisa Lubner models on display. He promised to order some. Yesterday, I found a rack full of new reading glasses he'd plainly chosen to coordinate with my hair color, which is red and visible from space. Yes, it is. I tried them on but with no mirror handy I resorted to the only quality control available to me.

Tata: Do these look terrible?
Pharmacist: They work with your hair and the shape contrasts with the arch of your eyebrows.
Tata: Sold!

Naturally, the first thing I did was try them out on 50% of my sisters.

Tata: New glasses: opinion!
Anya: Ooh, cool!
Corinne: I can't.
Tata: Why?
Corinne: I need new glasses.

Yeah, whatever. Sometimes life throws you groaners. Sometimes you get headliner material. Yesterday, a student worker I rather like, who usually dresses like a schlub, walked past me wearing an ensemble and heels. On her way back, I barked at her.

Tata: Why are you dressed like that?
Her: Lost a bet.

No kidding! I couldn't have asked for anything so great. I now love her.

Tata: Really? Who hates you this much?
Her: My best friend.

Oh. My. God. I am so happy.