Thursday, November 30, 2006

Our Valued Destiny Comes To Nothing

At the Asian market on Route 27, I like to stock up on staples. This is accomplished by the peculiar process of walking slowly up and down the aisles playing a rousing game of Guess The Contents Of This Interesting Can! I've had some spectacular successes and failures. I define successes as those cans the contents of which I praise for their utter deliciousness. I define failure as anything I eat and try to chase down with Chlorox. So. What's in this can, then?

I don't know. But it's tasty! It's braised gluten, flavored to taste like favorite foods. The texture reminds me of boiled chicken. The curry's okay but a little greasy and the sauce is curiously gritty. My assessment is much the same as this gentle reviewer's.

I prefer the mock duck, and I am not alone in my enthusiasm for this product. A vegan internet grocery store called Food Fight! says:
Dude, you TOTALLY need a can of fake duck.

Dude! I've totally got three, but what I can't find is nutrition facts for what's in them. Yes, this the second or third time since we all got hardwired to the net that I've gone looking for gluten data. I mean, toast naan or pita, slather it with tamarind chutney and tear up some romaine, then slice pieces of fake duck on top and devour this delicious sandwich! But, and I have asked myself this question many times in a startling variety of exciting circumstances, what am I eating?

Does this contain protein? Is it an aid to digestion? Should I be pairing it with anything in particular to make it more nutritious, or should I avoid pairing it with things like eggplant that, while yummy, provide a glamorous diner with little in the way of substance? A gal needs to know! I can't find anything, and too often, with vegetarians and vegetarian products, I have or hear this conversation:

Tata: Fantastic, what is it?
Vegan: It doesn't have any animal products at all.
Tata: That's great. They're all out. What's in?
Vegan: See right here, it's made by a collective of formerly starving women and canned by deserving endangered species.
Tata: Awesome. I clap my cloven hooves for them. How do I add this to a sensible diet?
Vegan: Fry it, saute it, boil it, serve it raw.
Tata: I don't mean to be testy but if I were trapped on a desert island with nothing but this product and an endless supply of zinfandel, what would kill me first?
Vegan: Well, obviously the sommelier. Geez! Zinfandel? vegetables, some other protein source like rice and beans, maybe some cheese. I'm not a vegetarian; I'd like to know if adding this to chicken stew, say, means I should eschew starches like dumplings. Is making a sandwich like breading my bread?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Face That Shows What She Knows

Miss Sasha has been calling me two and three times a day for over a week.

Miss Sasha: Mommy! My in-laws have been here twenty-four hours and I already have stories to tell you.
Tata: Sweetheart, you're not really good at this yet. The people you're talking about are standing right next to you, aren't they? Scream, "OH MY VAGINA!" and call me from your bathroom.
Miss Sasha: We just came back from New Orleans and all Mr. Sasha's father can say is, "...fucking unbelievable..."
Tata: Does he have any actual thoughts or - this is a stretch - feelings?
Miss Sasha: Not yet. Or anytime soon. He paces around grumbling, "...fucking unbelievable..."

She called to ask about my grandmother's holiday menus. She called to ask how my grandmother composed salads. She called half-way through Thanksgiving dinner to describe appetizers in minute detail. I could tell she was pleased and perplexed because she didn't realize she was shouting at the tops of her delightful lungs. As the days of the visit passed, the calls became more bizarre.

Miss Sasha: What are you doing?
Tata: Uh - nothing!
Miss Sasha: You're grounded, young lady. We're going out to a bar. I'll call you when we get thrown out. Love you!
Tata: Love you, sweetie! Say hi to the bouncers!

I like Mr. Sasha, and hope he continues to like my delicate daughter a whole bunch because the prospect of her divorcing him and moving back to New Jersey fills me with adorable terror. So in a way, it's her or me.

Tata: Darling, whatever you do, don't poison your terrible in-laws.
Miss Sasha: Why?
Tata: I must destroy my archenemy, the Mother of the Groom, myself. A gal can't outsource that!
Miss Sasha: Last night, we were in a bar and on the TV was that Michael Richards thing and my father-in-law was good and drunk and he shouted, "Whaddya want, you're Black!" and the whole bar went silent. That was when I noticed that bar was wall-to-wall white people.
Tata: Well, except for your husband, your mother-in-law and, technically, you.
Miss Sasha: I'm just sayin'.

It's ON.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It's Raining Chateaubriand

I. On Saturday afternoon, I walked home from the family store in twilight as golden as November twilight gets. The persistent honking of geese in formation caught my attention, and who knows why because after the age of six, we ignore such things. Honk! Honk! Honk! I looked up, and the flock was flying toward me from my left. I looked around for the sun and found it to my right. West was to my right, which meant the geese were flying north. A man I've never seen before was walking on the sidewalk across the street. "Look! The geese are flying the wrong way!"

Man: What? Are you crazy? Those geese are flying south.
Tata: That's west, so that way is north.

He couldn't really walk away from me fast enough.

II. The other day, I read a post on Sadly, No! that so filled me with Word Glee I promptly forgot where I'd seen it or what it was about even as I was skipping around my apartment, singing Gavin's words. Last night, I found it again.

Alas, once you let yourself get behind in your Powerline reading, the stupidity starts piling up like a big, stupid closet full of stupefacting stupidness — such that when you finally open the door, it all crashes out on top of you like a roaring stupelanche.

A roaring stupelanche! The rest of the post makes Gavin my newest Heart's Delight, and the footnote is keenly refrainy. When I get a minute, I will probably write him a breathless fan letter. I want to watch him use more words. Because I like those.

III. My co-worker Jennifer practices the fine art of good nutrition. This would not ordinarily require comment except half the office goes cross-eyed at 11:30 every morning when Jennifer digs her baby carrots out of the fridge for a snack. The crunching of every bite is mildly annoying. The loud, deliberate SNAP! of each bite is making the rest of us positively homicidal. Will my office see the world's first vegetable-based mob violence? And does one use a salad fork or tongs?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Now It's Turkish Delight On A Moonlit Night

Dear Morgan,

How are you? I hear that you're well. Last night, I saw your girlfriend at Siobhan's birthday dinner. I've known the lovely Kitty for years and positively adore her. I wish the two of you nothing but happiness, and mean that with my whole black heart.

This winter, I've taken up baking bread. When one is up to her elbows in whole wheat flour, a person gets to thinking, which as you may recall was always my strongest suit - unless the topic was you. On 28 September, it was 10 years ago that our huge art project and our daily involvement in each other's lives ended. Ten years. We used to have such exciting conversations.

Tata: I wish I were in love with the grownup you'll be in ten years.
Morgan: Fuck you! We don't love each other now.

Yes, our stormy one-year relationship was a tsunami descending on a tiny matchstick fishing village. I don't miss living with a man who slept with my friends and neighbors, and seldom miss being a raging, single-minded harpy with an ambition problem. I would have done anything to keep you, which led to hilarious antics, like fights in the middle of the night on busy streets. I'm sure we both remember fondly the day we moved house and on the way you decided not to move in, or how you left me three times. And who can forget the kneeslapper that was your moving in and refusing to sleep with me? Oh, how we laughed when I slept with my exes in self-defense!

A person can discover a great deal about herself in the process of learning to bake bread. Before a few weeks ago, I did not have the patience to try it. Baking - especially for the beginner - requires a certain attention, a presence with the tasks at hand I could not have imagined possessing when we were together. I was consumed with making good art, making a name for myself, and making you love me enough to stay. One of the most instructive lessons of breadmaking is that skipping steps in the process leads to unpleasant results. The artwork we made was fantastic and I certainly made a name for myself, but there was no holding your attention, so ultimately, when I think of you, I feel like the lover I worshipped walked straight up to me and shot me in the chest. I couldn't write anymore. I lost my home, my work, my memory, my health, my Self. From a distance, I'm sure this looked like just another BANG! and out popped a flag that said BANG! and so it's funny when the clown falls over. But all I felt and feel when I think of you is a pointless, profound sense of my own failure, and what could be more uproarious than that?

Dad - you remember Dad - found me a recipe in the NYTimes for no-knead bread. In an amusing turn of events, after I couldn't write anymore my hands quit working. I know! That's an absolute riot! Anyway, if you'll pardon the pun, kneading is fundamental but I can't do it yet, so this recipe is a good place for me to start. A batch of this dough is proofing in my kitchen as I write. In half an hour, I'll turn on the oven. Half an hour after that, I'll turn out the dough into my Le Creuset dutch oven and bake it. Last week's dough contained a tablespoon of garlic powder and a teaspoon of dry mustard. I felt it was too specific and lacked a metaphoric range. Today's contains parsley and some basil. I have a lot of hope for today's effort. A few weeks ago, Siobhan asked if you would mind not coming to the birthday dinner, and you said you didn't. That was damned decent of you. Much of that preparation happened without me.

Tata: If you want Morgan and Kitty at your party, I don't have to go. It's okay.
Siobhan: Oh, no. I'm wearing a silver dress and a faux fur shrug. You will be there.
Tata: Oh.

Frankly, I'm tired now, bored with these struggles, and I don't need to participate in them anymore. Most of my time is spent alone, and I prefer it that way. For years, I was out every night, on stage anywhere with a liquor license and dating everyone who could quote Trout Fishing In America. I don't have a stake in that life anymore, and in this life, I have no competitors, which brings me back to last night. The dinner was going well. Siobhan was surrounded by admirers, the food was tasty; everyone brought presents made of booze and trimmed with marabou, and Mila was sitting next to the unsuspecting man she'll sleep with for a weekend and he'll be crushed for the next three years, so all was right with the world. Then Spooky walked up the Old Bay's spiral staircase and across the dining room. After that terrible business you two got into years ago where everyone including me was wrong and no one was right, I felt a murderous rage every time I saw her, but that's cooled to contempt lately.

I looked at Siobhan.

Siobhan looked at me.

We looked at each other. A long moment passed.

Siobhan said, "Sorry. I forgot." This dinner was not about me, and everyone was all dressed up, so I said nothing. Spooky stayed on the far side of the room and mostly out of my line of sight. I didn't have to look at this parasite so most of the evening was fine. I took the first ride across the bridge home because I'd walked to the Old Bay from where I live on the other side of the river. This morning, I called Siobhan to find out if she'd deliberately created a situation where Spooky and I would be in the same room together and Siobhan said she had not, but she was proud of the way I seemed to be moving on. I informed her that she was, hilariously, mistaken. Looking at Spooky is looking at you, only with that added piquancy of lying, stealing and friendly, oblivious betrayal.

The oven is heating, and I've come to the part of the recipe where I must pay close attention to what I'm doing. This is good news because Siobhan won't have another conversation with you like the one where she asked you to do this nice thing for me and stay away. See, even when you try to treat me decently it gets fucked up somewhere along the line. I've told Siobhan it's over, and as funny as it's been to occasionally surprise the audience with yet another clowny public gunfight, I'm peeling off my clown nose and hitting the showers. The traveling circus is all yours, Morgan.

Go in peace, my old friend, but please keep going.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Tell Me, Tell Me One More Time

Our lives are so different, yours and mine. Sometimes I wonder if we can find the middle ground I am certain exists between us. Then I see this.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) - Enraged Shiites burned people to death, torched mosques and denounced Sunni leaders and the United States a day after a bloody assault on Sadr City, the Iraq capital's Shiite bastion. That coordinated strike, which killed more than 200 and wounded more 250 Thursday, is considered the worst of the Iraq war, and Sunni militants are widely assumed to have carried it out. Witnesses said Shiite gunmen on Friday attacked two mosques with rocket-propelled grenades and burned two other Sunni mosques in the largely Shiite area of Hurriya in northwestern Baghdad. (Watch as all-out civil war threatens to overtake Iraq ) They reported people attacking Sunni houses with hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenades. Shiite militiamen are also said to have doused Sunnis with kerosene and burned them, and shot at other people. One witness reported at least five people were killed. An official with the Association of Muslim Scholars, a Sunni group, said many more were killed and wounded but could not confirm numbers.

This is a gently sanitized version of the story I read a few hours ago. In that version, CNN reported that six men were corralled. Kerosene was poured on them and they were set on fire. No matter what happens to me in this lifetime, no matter what I witness or hardship I endure, I hope nothing can rob me of my humanity and permit what's left of me to do something this savage.

This is what we unleashed because our government was too stupid to realize that unlike in the US, where we can't remember back two or three months, in the Middle East, grudges go back centuries. You cannot change that with rhetoric. It is simply the character of things in real life, and we must accept this.

Somewhere, in the expanse between us, where I have been saying for five years that we're being stupid with millions of lives and where you've been saying we have to fight terrorism where we find it, lies the historical notion that nations choose their own governments. I don't get to pick what happens in any country in the world, but current events remind us that you don't, either.

Is it so hard to recognize that you are as powerless to influence world events as anyone else? Or as powerful?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I See the Doorways Of A Thousand Churches

Yesterday, we finished reading the Constitution and today I have off from both my jobs. When I used to work in food service, I worked every holiday. Once, I worked a full shift in a nursing home kitchen on Easter Sunday, went home to find my family, such as it was then, gathered around the table, then I washed the dishes. Food service, I found, was not for me, what with the stupid hours, endless personal demands, and the requisite superhuman stamina. I could use a nap, just thinking about it. Instead, I got up this morning with a short list of tasks I wanted to accomplish. This is not what you expected to read, huh?

I have made a career of delivering unexpected speeches.

Tata: Hey! Remember when I essentially ran away from home a year ago?
Mom: Vividly.
Tata: Wanna meet your granddaughter?

And -

Tata: My ex-husband is getting re-married and I'm so happy!
Mathilde: Did you hit your head? Let me take your temperature!
Tata: I'll be a "first wife"! It's not every day I get new adjectives!
Mathilde: You're supposed to be jealous. Why aren't you jealous?
Tata: Is that really a rule? What if I like them and want them to be happy?

And -

About 30 Different People: Got plans for Thanksgiving?
Tata: Oooh, I do! I'm going to order take-out Chinese duck, lock my door and refuse to answer the phone! I can't can't can't wait!
About 30 Different People: GASP! What happened? Did your family finally hear something you said and throw you out?
Tata: Not at all! Last year, my sister Daria lured me out of my house by giving me a new car. This year, she offered me the spare set of keys. I said thank you and asked her to mail me some mashed potatoes.
About 30 Different People: Are you...are you sure?
Tata: Sure? I'm ecstatic!

After a delightful breakfast that in another life constituted about one-third of a pupu platter and fresh coffee, I did two loads of laundry. This probably sounds like a tremendous April-fresh drag to anyone who does the household washing for a household larger than mine, but it wasn't. I took down the sheers in my living room and threw them in the washer. I put up my late grandmother's glamorous drapes. Nobody knows how long ago Edith bought the drapes but a sure sign that they've aged well is that the dry cleaner both didn't want to clean them and was thrilled with his results. Let's say they're about forty years old, and a gentle metallic green found exclusively in the living rooms of Italians. The drapes block drafts and light. My living room is now a warm cave. The sheers are hanging in my bedroom. My bedroom floor was vacuumed with extreme prejudice.

I could make a list of things for which I am thankful but if you read PIC on any kind of regular basis you already know or can guess. Let me not detain you. Over the past week, several of my little projects came to fruition and passed into history along with summer, prompting the need for drapes, and making room for new projects and possibly hibernation. A good think on what's next is required. I am open to ideas. What will you be doing this winter?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Waiting For the Men In Black

Tonight, Sharkey and I are going to see Jack Klugman and we're bringing a phone book, in case he would like to sit in a chair and read it to us. A few years ago, we saw John Astin do a one-man Edgar Allen Poe showcase and we mewed like contented kittens. Good thing we're both secure in our manhood.

Section 3. New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.

The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular state.

Section 4. The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened) against domestic violence.

Last week, I heard three stories that took my breath away. I'm still looking for a way to describe these utterly outlandish occurrences without, you know, inspiring people who know where I live to show up wielding lead pipes, but at least one I might get away with since Daria gets lost easily, especially when she's pissed. I never underestimate her propensity for hilarious violence. I once saw her throw her crutches down a long flight of stairs and hobble after a smartass girl to kick that poor girl's ass. And though I did have lie down to laugh hard enough, that girl never said Boo! to Daria again.

Article V
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

I dunno. That article is kind of like telling your children to redecorate the guest bathroom and any old colors will be okay. You're in for trouble, my friend!

Article VI
All debts contracted and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

Yeah yeah, we'll have the United States home by 11:30 and no, we will not at all have played Strip Twister with a gallon jug of Crisco on the beach. What's that last thing, though? No religious test? I'm glad to hear that. And how long was the United States supposed to stay in that prom dress anyhow?

Article VII
The ratification of the conventions of nine states, shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the states so ratifying the same.

I hate to say it, but if you've been hanging out here since 30 September, you've read the Constitution.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Well, I Am Just A Modern Guy

Before I say anything else, let me just say I was not at all injured in any of the following antics, so please do not call the ASPCA. I am not an animal! I mean - of course, I'm an animal in a biological sense but that doesn't mean I'm foregoing soup spoons and the cheese course to keep my paws off the table!

So I consulted anyone who would answer my email about what a 20-year-old Marine would want in a care package from a complete stranger. I assembled a shopping list and picked up bags of stuff. Siobhan and I sat in my living room Saturday night and talked about each little item - twice, in most cases because almost anything I picked up, I bought two. It was very exciting. I dumped shopping bags, divided things into His and Hers piles and sat between the piles. I looked back and forth between the piles. Siobhan got bored with my contemplation almost immediately and ordered sashimi to be delivered, which arrived really soon and was very delicious. No one was hurt in the shopping, surveying or the eating, as if these things were meant to be.

Section 2. The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.

A person charged in any state with treason, felony, or other crime, who shall flee from justice, and be found in another state, shall on demand of the executive authority of the state from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the state having jurisdiction of the crime.

No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.

This morning, I dragged shopping bags full of stuff to work. Actually, getting to the car was awfully exciting when I also had to put out trash and recycling and bring lunch. I always bring lunch. So it was not at all surprising that I forgot something. What was surprising was that what I forgot was to shut the passenger-side door, and that when I parked the car, the door was just resting gently against the car. Nothing had fallen out, nothing was missing, I still had all my fingers and toes. Look! A fucking miracle! Gleeful, I packed these following things into padded boxes addressed to My Marines.

Ricola cough drops
moist towelettes
Deck of cards
Foot cream
Sour nerds
Instant macaroni & cheese
Body powder
Giant rubber bands
Tea bags, instant apple cider, cocoa
Nail clippers
Lip balm
Eye drops
hand sanitizer
beef jerky
Mrs. Dash lemon pepper
OB Tampons

Just for Her:
antiperspirant (I'd bought a six-pack at Costco for myself, so it was in the house.)
box of tampons

I learned a lot compiling these objects. For instance, I had no idea the technology of store brand macaroni and cheese had surpassed all common sense and gone instant. This suggests, from a cultural perspective, that people who do not know how to cook can ingest 350 empty calories almost before their brains have time to suggest a nutritious salad as a better meal option. Well, at least these kids are marching and suggestions about vegetables are made in the imperative.

Also, no matter what I saw in the stores, I had to think very hard about my own motives in choosing items to send. As I walked through the aisles, I asked myself why I was looking for certain items and why others didn't interest me. Was I assuming my interest was the same as what theirs would be? No, I knew. Because of the age and generational differences between us, I forced myself to assume that what I would pick they would not, and vice versa. This was very exciting work for my brain. Further, my name appears nowhere on the packages and not on the notes I wrote them. My signature looks like a broken EKG. I wanted that package to be as close as it could be to coming from anyone in New Brunswick, and to that end I had to guard against Ego Creep. Every item in the shopping cart and eventually in the boxes took on enormous meaning when I started to think about it as the only package I might send. All things - my ego included - assumed ordinary proportions when taken as one package among others, and My Marines would get packages from their families that would be infinitely more important. Everything from me was simply extra. Of course, then I wished I'd boxed up a crate of snow globes and sock puppets because, you know, that would be funny. On the other hand, abdicating my position at the Center of the Universe however temporarily gave me a slight headache. Finally, I mailed the packages, which was gallingly expensive.

Poor Impulsives: our friends at Coalition of the Swilling inform us that more Marines need correspondents to selfishly apply possessive pronouns, i.e.: my and our. If I managed it, you can do it, and I recommend this exercise to anyone who's feeling a little blue or isolated. You don't have to spend a lot of money. You don't have to wonder if you're helping someone, because you are. It's a quick project - zip, zip, zip! and you're done. I hope some of you will make contact and send packages, and this brings me back to Me:

I am so sick to my stomach every time I see one of those God-forsaken yellow ribbon magnets I curse Tony Orlando, who - really - never did anything to Me. The same people who shout down dissenters with, "Support the troops, lowlife scum!" wouldn't dream of lifting a hand as the Veterans' Administration budget is cut, as the federal deficit - with which our future workforce must contend - mushrooms, and as the middle class is shredded. Time is not on our side. As a nation, we are repeating mistakes right and left that we will pay for for decades, but there's one mistake we must not repeat. Soldiers returning from Vietnam were greeted with silence and shame, called terrible names and denied honor. Regardless of the mistakes our governing fathers make, let us not shame our children and in the process ourselves. Let us at least know we learned this desperately important something.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

You Rock Me Like A Pharoah

Pondering meaning and effect and so forth is not easy when you are small and covered with fur, but even an aggressive Nairing won't necessarily clarify things. I worry that my life's acquired knowledge may sum up to "Don't scratch that." It won't look great embroidered onto pillows my great-grandchildren will cherish, which causes me to wonder if my grandparents considered such things - for instance when Grandpa took Daria and me to Unberto's, pointed to a magical spot and said, "That's where Joey Gallo was murdered, girls. Let's sit at the bar and get calamari." If Grandpa hadn't joined the Choir Invisible 28 years ago, we might've learned a great deal from him, like why this particular murder rated a lunchdate with his tiny granddaughters, and whether there were other New York City crime scenes where we might get a decent sandwich.

This morning, Dad emailed the family at large this holiday decorating idea. I personally can't see myself making up one of the wire molds for only one use. These things take up so much room in the closets! But they're reusable, too, and I grudgingly agreed these cornucopia molds will come in handy as hat forms in the time to come when we skip due process altogether and return to burning unpopular persons in the public square. Even I can't argue with that kind of versatility!

Section 1. Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.

Section 2. The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.

A person charged in any state with treason, felony, or other crime, who shall flee from justice, and be found in another state, shall on demand of the executive authority of the state from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the state having jurisdiction of the crime.

No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.

This morning, Chuan appeared as if by magic in my cubicle doorway. Poof!

Chuan: Have ever sued anybody in small claims court?

I love this question! This is such a good question I've never asked anyone before but now must ask everyone. It is yet another thing I do not know, and I must!

Tata: Oooh, we're asking personal questions! Okay, um, I feel a little unprepared. How about: On your last tax return, did you check the box that donates your refund to wildlife? Because they don't have pockets -
Chuan: My former landlord isn't exactly refusing to return my security deposit but they won't give it to me, either.
Tata: While it was much more fun for me to ask pointless personal questions, I think you should phone the Housing Coalition in New Brunswick to get answers to real ones.

Oh snap! It's like I learned something at last, though it surely wasn't enough, because again today I visited New Jersey's shining bureaucratic achievement Motor Vehicle Services for - what? - the third time this year, and for the third time I was told I was not adequately identifying myself. And now I want a cheeseburger. I can't explain that. This time, I know something for absolutely certain: the individual screeners at the different offices are making up ID rules as it suits them, and I'm contemplating a complaint.

This is a very serious thing. It is a fact of life in New Jersey: Motor Vehicles will fuck with you. If you fuck with Motor Vehicles, you'd better be prepared to move out of state. I have to think this over a bit because - seriously - other than Manhattan or Provincetown, where am I going to move that pitchfork-wielding mobs won't smell me from miles away?

Yesterday, Miss Sasha informed me of another serious thing I hadn't heard before. Maybe it's true, I don't know. Mr. Sasha's in the Air Force, so she'd certainly have better information than I do about All Things Care-Packagey, right? One thing they really need is OB Tampons, she said.

Tata: Even the boys?
Miss Sasha: Especially the boys. Tampons get stuffed into bullet wounds.
Tata: What? What are you talking about? Is that really a good idea?
Miss Sasha: Mommy -

All married and everything, she still calls me "Mommy."

Miss Sasha: - it's like in high school when wrestlers break their noses someone stuffs a tampon up there to stop the bleeding.
Tata: I will never look at The Rock and not wonder if he likes the plugs with plastic applicators.
Miss Sasha: And it's even more important with bullet wounds to stop the bleeding really fast.
Tata: Okay, then. My Marines get the last tampons left over from before my hysterectomy because I'll never need another one myself! Ha ha ha ha ha!
Miss Sasha: Bitch!

She calls me that, too.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Have Love, Will Travel

Section 3. Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.

It's amazes me that reading the Constitution has been for the most part a straight-forward exercise, and we've finished three of four sections. I'm thinking Mr. Scalia should drop and give us 20. I think we've earned those.

Meanwhile, back at Rancho Rococco, which is to say my happy one-bedroom apartment, I, which is to say I, am making up the shopping list for the mysterious figures I - again: I - think of as My Marines, one male and one female. Were it truly up to me, I'd mail them tickets home on Air Jamaica, but one doesn't always get to choose the best gift options, and nowhere in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog does one find a six-pack of Skillful MidEast Diplomats, which is what these kids truly need. Yesterday, I sent out an email to a handful of my favorite people, asking the musical question, "What should I send them? How shall I send them?" I got a few responses but for the most part, even my very favorite people do not at all want to talk about this, which is interesting but not surprising. Here's what I've got so far.

beef jerky
eye drops
nail clippers
lip balm
writing paper/envelopes
instant coffee
instant foods
bungee cords/giant twist ties
magnets/wall hooks
foot care stuff
herbed salt
scotch/duct tape
unscented moisturizer
puzzle magazine
Rolling Stone/People/Ya got me, what?

I'd assume my male Marine doesn't require tampons but one hates to assume anything. Perhaps he could trade them for something he wants, like nail polish.

So, what do you think? Are items obviously missing from this list?

Update: My friend Theresa added:
deck of cards

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Friday, November 17, 2006

To Hold You, I'd Just As Soon Let You Go

Two days ago, I found myself in a ladies' room in the library, staring at the door handle and willing someone walking by to push the door open. It was entirely reminiscent of the harrowing scene in The Aviator in which Leonardo DiCaprio's Howard Hughes can't figure out how to leave a men's room without contaminating himself. Unlike Hughes, I eventually opt to pull open the door and leave. Since I realize what I'm doing borders on The Crazy, I march straight to Emily's desk. Emily is in charge of reporting things that need attention to people who will report these attention-needing things to other people who can pay them attention. Thus, I report to Emily that the door handle on the inside of the ladies' room must be cleaned or I will lose my tiny little mind. Emily reports this to Imelda, who cleans the ladies' room. The two of them scope the facility and to Imelda's credit don't find anything to clean inside the stalls; Imelda does a bang-up job. Emily asks me to show her what I'm twitching about so we walk over to the ladies' room, where I kick open the door, duck behind it and point. Dutifully, Emily dashes off to find Imelda. Grownups have been informed and I stop thinking about it until the next time I drink 24 ounces of water. That's good for me, you know.

Section 2. The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority; - to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls; - to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; - to controversies to which the United States shall be a party; - to controversies between two or more states; - between a state and citizens of another state; - between citizens of different states; - between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.

In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.

The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the state where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any state, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed.

Yesterday, Imelda appeared in my cubicle doorway.

Imelda: I know just what you were talking about. That door looks disgusting, doesn't it? It sweats oil.
Tata: The door...sweats? Oil?
Imelda: I know what you thought it was. It looked disgusting.
Tata: Well, okay but that's not why I freaked out.
Imelda: I know what you thought it was.
Tata: I'm so sorry - I know this sounds crazy. Ever find yourself in the ladies' room when it was crowded? Sometimes you see someone walk out of a stall and head straight for the door without washing her hands?
Imelda: People are pigs. You'd be surprised what I find in those stalls.
Tata: So the other day, a whole bunch of girls didn't wash their hands and each one of them grabbed that handle and left the bathroom and I couldn't leave without touching that handle.
Imelda: Pigs! Anyway, it's clean now.
Tata: Can't say as much for the yucky people.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Of A Friend, Of A Friend, Of A Friend, Of A Friend

This happens a lot:

Person 1: Blah blah blah pomplemeuse blah blah electrical outlet blah blah exploding Black Watch plaid.
Tata: I...what?
Person 1: Naturally, blah blah blah homogenization blah blah shopping cart blah blah the heartbreak of psoriasis.
Tata: Not for nothing, but I couldn't connect these dots with a line painter and a road crew.

As I walk around in the world, trying to understand how important philosophical questions relate to everyday life, how my little actions reverberate through the world, how Taste Great and Less Filling ever coexisted, I learn things by what happens when I meet people with different priorities.

Tata: Thank you for taking it upon yourself to buy paper towels for our department, though that seems a little Snow Crash to me.
Jennifer: Oh, you're welcome. What's the matter?
Tata: Can I make a request, please? Can we use recycled paper towels from now on?
Emily: You don't like the flowered border?
Jennifer: I had a coupon. This was on sale.
Tata: While the border is super-girlie for me, personally, I'd really like to talk about the recycled paper towels. They come in a variety of brands -
Jennifer: They're in the grocery store?
Tata: Yes.
Emily: What about the flowered border?
Tata: Does anyone really need patterned paper towels?
Jennifer: How do I tell which brands are recycled?
Tata: It'll say right on the label. They might cost a dollar or two more but I think it's worth it to put fewer toxins into the environment.
Jennifer: Well, if that's your priority, good for you.

Breathless and shocked, I walked away from this conversation before I shot my mouth off about selfishness, short-sightedness and an unbelievable disconnect from nature in a person who hikes the Adironidacks every weekend. Plus, I stomped back to my desk thinking, 'How, in fucking 2006, does anyone not know recycled paper products are in the grocery store, and how can anyone with both oars in the water think she should overlook clearcutting for the sake of fucking flowered paper towels?'

It was at that moment that I said to huffy Me, "Pet, you only switched to recycled last summer. You've made a reasonable request. Let's let our co-workers find the path themselves and we'll look for coupons."

I know. I couldn't believe it either. When I didn't even consider punching anybody, I checked the name written in my underwear.

Section 1. The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

Last year, I participated in a project at Coalition of the Swilling intended to send packages to a unit of Marines deployed in Iraq. There were rules and deadlines. It was extremely constructive for me to consider the human person in the human situation, to put aside my own feelings and consider the young man I would never meet. The Marine I sent a package to last year is not in Iraq anymore, which one hopes is good news, but the same unit is still there.

Perhaps this post sounds to you, Poor Impulsives, as if I accept this task with resignation and not joy, but that is merely my own failure with word-thingies. These feelings may appear mutually exclusive but that appearance is deceiving. I choose to consider that I am old enough to be the parents of these Marines, that what I want for the two given to me for this year's project is a future in which they have the strength to choose constructive paths. I will set myself aside and think of them as whole human beings. This is a good stretch for anyone. Since I am exceptionally selfish, this is hard work I welcome. Then I'll mail them Chapstick.

It's hot there and lips do not exfoliate, you know. You have to help. Ow.

As you know, I have been against the wars from the beginning. I opposed every shot fired, every bomb dropped, every life lost. You can agree with me or disagree, it doesn't matter. There is nothing to be said that will sway me even a little from my feeling that every instant of the current wars have been economically, environmentally, socially, politically, diplomatically, and spiritually catastrophic, and we will suffer the fallout for decades. There's not a lot I can do, personally, to mitigate Iraqi and Afghani civilian suffering besides writing my congresscritters twice a day and three times on Sunday.

It would seem the one thing we can all agree on is that the troops are kids halfway around the world for months on end and in dangerous situations. I understand the position of people who feel those kids enlisted and whatever happens, well, whatever. I can't be swayed to that position, either. There are many inhumane paths we could walk from here. Or we can choose empathy.

The good news is that Coalition for the Swilling has more Marines, and you can join this project. It's not difficult and it is a great opportunity to reflect on the state of your own soul, if you believe in souls. If you don't, you can still benefit from imagining what you'd want, sending it off and knowing you've paid it forward. No matter who you are and what you believe, your simple act can do some good in the world.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

This Blank Stare And That Don't Carry

My brother Todd forwards a NJ news article his friends sent him because if Todd should get a hankering to move back he'd better be well-informed on the state of partying in the Garden State, and don't worry. I am already deeply horrified that I've used the word party as a verb before the cocktail hour.
Nearly 50 teenagers, many of them believed to be students at Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, are facing charges of underage drinking following a Saturday night party in Mountainside busted by local police. Charges were also lodged against the 51-year-old father of the teen throwing the party. Police found Stefan Puzyk upstairs in his bedroom while the beer was flowing from a keg in the garage and the teens were doing shots of Jagermeister, said Capt. Richard Osieja.

"I guess he didn't care what was going on downstairs," Osieja said, adding that the garage was stocked with assorted hard liquor.

School officials declined to comment on the incident, which involved boys and girls. Christy Guerra, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Newark, said officials were aware of the incident, but "because it happened off campus and on non-school hours, we can't make a comment at this time."

Oooooooh! Everybody's in troub-le!
According to neighbors, Puzyk's wife died several months ago. He lives at the Wood Valley Road home with his five sons; the teen attending Union Catholic may be the youngest, neighbors said. Puzyk, who was charged with allowing the serving of alcoholic beverages to minors, faces upward of a $500 fine and a maximum 30 days in jail, Osieja said.

Well, not so much, then. It gets better.
Police were summoned to the home after complaints from neighbors about the growing number of kids congregating at the house. When officers arrived shortly be fore 10 p.m., some of the teens were able to flee. But because many of them were congregating around the garage, police corralled them, holding them at the house until each one was identified and re leased to the custody of their parents, Osieja said. With home addresses in Union, Scotch Plains, Hillside, Edison, Woodbridge and Plainfield, police believe many of the teens were classmates at Union Catholic, Osieja said. While no charges were filed that night, borough police intend to pursue charges against those attending, Osieja said, noting that the teens face fines and a possible loss of driving privileges.

Todd can't decide whether to pass out pony bottles or order these kids off his lawn.

Todd: It's a different world and I, for one, am glad I came up during another era!
Tata: Except for their lack of a flight instinct, those kids would make excellent Jesuits.
Todd: No kidding, "COPS! RUN!"
Tata: It was a different world. And we were motivated not to explain anything to Mom...
Todd: Come on, now. I think she could appreciate the intricacies of fleeing from the law. Maybe not the reasons for fleeing from the law.
Tata: Right. She was happier when we successfully eluded capture. That's a survival skill, you know.
Todd: She was happier when she didn't know we were eluding capture. She was supposed to be here today, except she forgot to call me and let me know what she was doing. Have you talked to her lately?
Tata: Wait - what? You misplaced Mom?
Todd: I have not misplaced Mom per se. O.K., I...misplaced Mom. I talked to her on Saturday night as she was sitting down to dinner with Aunt Bea and Uncle Peter. I asked her if she was coming and she said that there was stuff to talk about. It's Wednesday now.

Most people would panic. I dial Daria's number because I sense an antic in the offing and leave this message: "Call me back IMMEDIATELY.'

Section 3. He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper; he shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers; he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and shall commission all the officers of the United States.

Section 4. The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

Before you ask: no, I do not at all care about underage drinking. Ninety minutes later, Daria calls back. I am already laughing.

Daria: What's your emergency, damn it!
Tata: I called Mom because this morning Todd was like, "So, um, where's Mom?" and I'm all like, "You misplaced Mom?" and he's all, "No. Yup."
Daria: Today's the fifteenth and she was supposed to land.
Tata: Even though he lives at the end of the runway, LAX is still a two-hour drive. So I told her, "Say, Mom, Todd's all like, 'Mummy! Oh, Mummy! Will you complete strangers hold my ethereally beautiful infants while I attempt to determine if their Grandma's trying on the wind sock?'"
Daria: What did she say?
Tata: "When did Todd become Hugh Grant?" and "Thank you for making that funny," and "What was your name again?" That's three of her usual Top Forty Hits. I feel bad for Todd.
Daria: See, your big mistake is thinking that if Mom said she was going to Los Angeles that she was actually going.
Tata: This is like when Dad used to say he was coming to visit from three states away and an hour after he was supposed to show up he'd call and say he was both jumping out of airplanes and up to his elbows in puff pastry.
Daria: Neither one of them is destination-oriented.
Tata: Our parents are crackpots, aren't they?

Maybe they'll buy us beer.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Somebody Told Me Something About You

Old time soap operas featured organ music to add the slow-moving KA-POW! to otherwise punchy moments. If Nurse Jessie tells married Dr. Steve again This Week In 1962 that she'd love to meet him in the closet for a torrid - um - inventory, you can bet your homemaking butt there's organ music playing in the background to signify her unrequited passion, just as in Slapshot, organ music plays under all kinds of significant moments until Paul Newman swats the organist and shouts, "DON'T EVER PLAY LADY OF SPAIN AGAIN!" I'm thinking of this because as I write Jaws is on AMC, and Quint is so musical. That's how trains of thought travel. Then sometimes, they jump the tracks and crush the little mountain village. Woo! Woo! Splat! My tribe of artists, writers and dipsomaniacs is having trouble coping with Widows Gone Wild.

Tata: Paulie's all upset because Madame Y is knocking fuschia cowboy boots with Mickey. I actually heard myself use the words "the Widow McCheese."
Sharkey: A lot of people are upset!
Tata: Listen, after a two-year ordeal, maybe she's hanging out with him precisely because no one takes him seriously.
Sharkey: It's disgusting!
Tata: It's human contact.
Sharkey: She was asking about me.
Tata: Looking for references, was she? It's the perfect hair. You should carry around business cards listing your favorite products.
Sharkey: I can't do that.
Tata: You mean Madame Y. I agree. On the other hand, people do strange things to cope with grief. Imagine who I'd sleep with if you dropped dead.
Tata: Right. And you and I aren't even dating.

Section 2. The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.

He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.

The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.

Far be it from me to deliver etiquette instructions to women who've lost husbands after terrible, prolonged and agonizing illnesses. I can't even imagine their pain, their loneliness, their wardrobe demands. If they choose to play Lady of Spain with the entire chorus, I think we can expect to sometimes find ourselves loitering in the path of that drunken kickline. That's been the case with the grief-stricken since time immemorial, and it'll be true after my friends hang up their fishnets and quit getting tattoos. Walk a mile in her glitter hightops, that's what I say, and puh-leeze, let me quit being the Voice of %&#@#! Reason.

All of this is a mere tempest in a teapot compared to real drama, like Tonya And Nancy: the Opera.
Composer Abigail Al-Doory says Tonya and Nancy: the Opera isn't meant as parody. Bill tried to keep that in mind while watching Soprano Kristen Sargeant, clad in a bright red and sequined figure skating costume and matching boxing gloves and listening to an operatic chorus of reporters sing catchy phrases like, "Gillooly colluded."

Never before have I wished an entire opera could be fed to sharks. Cue the organist!

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Flamethrower Lover Burning Mind

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful, beautiful princess who lived in a kingdom with all the modern conveniences like iPods and antibiotics, and everyone who saw her loved her, which meant her schedule was a little tight. Frankly, this princess could've used a nap and a cucumber masque. Wait, not this princess -

This princess. Doesn't she look sleepy? Yes, she does. Well, you try holding down a job and wearing a hat measured in acreage, let alone keeping that gown out of the trash compactor. Our princess, however fatigued, tries to stay well-up on her civic responsibilities and over-the-counter cures, but we're up to Article II of the Constitution, and our darling may feel a trifle anemic.

Section 1. The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same term, be elected, as follows:

Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector.

Despite advances in nutrition and agronomy, women like our beautiful, beautiful princess still face the mindless violence of "she's a loose cannon" and "I hate her and won't examine my motives." Now that we have Nancy Pelosi ready to take over as Speaker of the House and Hilary poised to - I don't know, do something, perfectly rational men have gone all Courtney killed Kurt on the public discourse, and it's just so Bobby Riggs our princess may have a hard time restraining her urge to Billie Jean King. Honestly, boys! This fugue state is so 1970!

The electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves. And they shall make a list of all the persons voted for, and of the number of votes for each; which list they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates, and the votes shall then be counted. The person having the greatest number of votes shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such majority, and have an equal number of votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose by ballot one of them for President; and if no person have a majority, then from the five highest on the list the said House shall in like manner choose the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by States, the representation from each state having one vote; A quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. In every case, after the choice of the President, the person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal votes, the Senate shall choose from them by ballot the Vice President.

On an ordinary day, our princess cares for children and aging relatives, takes care of a household, works outside the home and hopes the aging Crock Pot cord hasn't become Fido's new chew toy. We could cite economic data but our princess doesn't have time to read it and consider its import - no, she'll be lucky if she still has hair by dinnertime.

The Congress may determine the time of choosing the electors, and the day on which they shall give their votes; which day shall be the same throughout the United States.

No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States.

In case of the removal of the President from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by law provide for the case of removal, death, resignation or inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what officer shall then act as President, and such officer shall act accordingly, until the disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.

The President shall, at stated times, receive for his services, a compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that period any other emolument from the United States, or any of them.

Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation: - "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Living happily ever after is no picnic, as nostalgic people everywhere will attest. "Those were the happiest days of my life," they'll say wistfully, when regarding a period of their lives that may look to the casual observer like a lovely year of mucking out stables. "But," they'll tell you, "it was the least shitty shit I ever mucked out." Well, then. Cue the orchestra. Some people will look back on the last six years and say these were their best.

Our princess, on the other hand, knows that time and effort are an investment leading to a better future. Sure, those handprint paintings on the fridge are a bitch to store. Sure, being sticky and exhausted all the time and wishing people of all sorts would come to their senses already seems like the dullest struggle of your illustrious career. Our princess, like most human beings, adapts to whatever she has to. In this case, depending on her office, and while wishing for blissful repose, our princess may restore order in the Middle East or find joy in a peanut butter sandwich. The End is only the beginning.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Help Me Know My Name

As I mentioned yesterday, today is Nadia Comaneci's birthday. This one minute, twenty-nine seconds had a greater impact on my life than any other.

I had forgotten how beautiful she was in motion. Later, though I always loved Comaneci's crisp and airy precision, I pined for the elegance and heartache of Natalia Shaposhnikova, whose routines were so difficult she seldom completed them without mistakes.

Shaposhnikova now lives twenty miles from me. One day I will work up the nerve to worship at her feet. A framed poster of the one-hand handstand is the first thing a person sees on entering my home. The second thing one sees is that a very silly person lives here, which is why I know tomorrow is Felix Unger Day. Do you doubt me?

Handsprings and comedy. November. Me.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

These Are the Days To Remember

Life used to be so much simpler. If someone puked, I joined them, but otherwise I wasn't much of a joiner. Now, when I see people crying, I burst into tears. I first noticed this when televised victims of Hurricane Katrina wept on every channel and I couldn't stop myself from responding in kind. This morning, in the church for Lance Carter's funeral, I'm sitting in the back with artists, musicians and writers I've known through the bar since 1990, the hardest of hard cases. I'm sitting next to a friend who was a little nervous locked into an interview room with John Wayne Gacy, and this guy is wobbling. Everyone looks ashen. At other funerals I've been to recently, everyone looked everyone else in the eye and said, "It's terrible, but wasn't he a great fucking guy?" This is somehow different. When the family walks to the altar behind the casket and the widow, a woman my age, sobs uncontrollably, I burst into tears and I am not alone. It seems polite and nobody feels left out.

This is a significant change for me. As a kid merely dabbling in The Crazy, I took my cue from Nadia Comaneci, whose birthday is tomorrow and who stood stone-faced at the Olympics while girls around her dissolved into damp failures. Hers impressed me as a kind of strength I too could develop and I did. Restraining one's emotions this way comes with a couple of very serious drawbacks, like that the tension between one's passionate temperament and the pressure to maintain a cool exterior create an adult psyche resembling an Easter basket full of sorrow grenades that go off randomly throughout life. Like mine. Another is that when you calmly tell your closest friends you're falling apart they stare at you the way dogs stare at ceiling fans.

Trust me: this is hilarious.

Further, when you've worked to suppress your emotions this way expressing them comes with a complicating shame. I don't watch chick flicks and anything that sets me up for a gratuitous emotional cloudburst earns my undying resentment. Real life offers us plenty of crappy sorrows, fuck you very much; I don't need to watch the pretty, pretty Titanic sink because entertaining myself with tragedy falls really low on my list of Fun Things To Do. Misery makes me more miserable. So sue me, but here I am in middle age, a time when hormone shifts bring the body and mind a veritable cornucopia of wacky side effects. A woman standing next to me in the produce aisle sighs and I feel disappointment reverberate through my body. The air handling system at the library rumbles distantly and I glance around at my co-workers and for the exit. When I was on stage or doing readings every night empathy served me well. This morning, I hear muffled cries during the homily at the funeral of a man I know only somewhat and it doesn't matter who I am and who he was. I feel ashamed as I frantically dab my eyes with paper towels I'd stuffed in my coat pockets last winter before I gave up using paper towels in favor of cloth. I'm sure I look awful because before I came to the church, I had an appointment with Rosanna for a haircut at a salon less than two miles away. Rosanna arrived at the salon pale and drawn, and in the way that only happens in the intimacy of salons, proceeded to tell me very intimate details of her life while cutting off my split ends. Don't get me wrong: I am her friend and her neighbor. I worry about her and hope the best for her. And though I spent many Saturdays of my childhood cutting out Hamlet and Othello paper dolls sitting under the appointment desk at my grandmother's salon, I never understood the almost endless openness of women talking in salons. Rosanna told me things I would whisper in a remote corner of a dark bar, but in daylight, and ten other people overheard. This feeling of exposure pained me. After she cut my hair, I left the salon without any styling, sans hair goo, without fussing - I'm allergic, and scratching is a fashion faux pas. Makeup or no, outfit be damned, I arrived at the church looking like hell, and that's not the way you want to arrive at a funeral.

As an aside: if you want to blend into a crowd, don't dye your hair a red found only on tropical fish.

I'm crying intermittently when the three-year-old three feet away gives up trying to behave and ducks under the pew wall between us. Then she pops up. I pull my collar up over my eyes, then pull it back. My eyes dry a little as I focus on the lively little girl. My chest still feels tight with an effort to breathe evenly and control my emotions but I am playing BOO - PEEK! for all I'm worth with this child I only see at funerals. As an adult fully versed in The Crazy, I know this doesn't make sense, but suddenly I am okay. Boo...peek! Boo...peek! For the rest of the service, I burst into tears only once more.

When we walk outside row by row, the air is warm and sweet. The sunlight grates at first, but as I relax into this summery day in November, I tell a friend I've got to leave now. On the other side of the tiny graveyard I find the New Brunswick Police backing cars down a one-way street and observe traffic gridlocked on the tiny side roads. When I retrieve my car from the deck where I beached it on my way to the church, I find it surrounded by twenty- and thirty-somethings, holding the hands of toddlers in costumes. Traffic is at a virtual standstill as young parents smile patiently on Liberty Street at dozens of happy boys and girls, none of whom expect today to be anything but joyful.

Life has become very complex. I turn down New Street and drive the other way.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Life's An Illusion, Love Is A Dream

Section 10. No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or grant any title of nobility.

No state shall, without the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it's inspection laws: and the net produce of all duties and imposts, laid by any state on imports or exports, shall be for the use of the treasury of the United States; and all such laws shall be subject to the revision and control of the Congress.

No state shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty of tonnage, keep troops, or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another state, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Rocks And Stones There Is Water Underground

The election's finally over and various forms of everyday evil were forced out into daylight. Perfectly sane people have danced like they wore the Red Shoes - and no, I don't mean the Ruby Slippers. I have waited patiently for you to calm yourselves, get a good night's sleep and return to what's truly important to you: making Me happy. Yesterday's madcap romp through the Constitution proved that our legislators give us the gift of Pocket Change Joy; today we learn legislators had better hop to re-gifting Habeas Corpus.

Section 9. The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.

The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.

No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

No capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.

No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state.

No preference shall be given by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one state over those of another: nor shall vessels bound to, or from, one state, be obliged to enter, clear or pay duties in another.

No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time.

No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.

This morning, the temperature was warm and lovely. The sun shone. Puddles lay everywhere in my path to work. Getting to work without a second ablution required a great deal of concentration, and so I was walking down College Avenue, thinking my own thoughts. Thinking, thinking, thinking. I looked up and standing across the street was a random marching band where there'd never been one before. I did what anyone would do under the circumstances. I screamed.


Two hours later, Gianna walked through the office.

Tata: You will be pleased to note that this morning I did not hallucinate a marching band.
Gianna: I'm pleased. What?
Tata: I was walking down College Avenue and there it was!
Gianna: What did you do?
Tata: Wished for a can of Raid. Those don't come out easily!
Gianna: Why were they assembling at the crack of dawn for a game that's after supper?
Tata: If my hallucinations answer me, am I supposed to listen?
Gianna: Tonight's game is supposed to be the biggest thing the university's ever had, recognition-wise, and it's football.
Gianna: I mean: didn't Waxman win the Nobel Prize?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Some Came To Keep the Dark Away

This morning, I woke up to a blinking alarm clock - again. This is the fifth time I've awakened to blinky lights in a matter of a few weeks. Sometimes, there's only one course of action, it's bothersome and you have to undertake it anyhow - in this case, I will. I gotta buy a wind-up because I can't go on waking up two hours after I'm supposed to be leaving 'em rolling in the aisles at work. I hate wind-up clocks and in this day and age I shouldn't need one. Unfortunately, the wiring where I live is so 1947, I have to go all mechanically 1656.

The news is not all bad. Sleeping in on a rainy morning was divine, and waking up when one is finished sleeping is one of life's true pleasures. I vacuumed up grit under foot. I made coffee. I couldn't figure out what the news meant. Still, we face the day. It can be stinky.

Section 8. The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;

To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;

To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;

To establish post offices and post roads;

To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;

To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;

To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

To provide and maintain a navy;

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings; - And

To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.

This morning in America, we are looking at significant change, and we have to face that realistically. Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, gets oral infections, which means when he cleans himself he's actually getting kind of icky. This icky-ness transfers to everything he touches or sleeps on. This morning, I cowboyed up - hahahahaha! - and filled a tub with water.

Tata: I gave the cat a bath.
Siobhan: Hilarious! Are you bleeding?

I was not, but our feline friend, while newly sweet-smelling, was most indignant. When I pulled him out of the tub he made a break for the door, which was closed, alas! I toweled him gingerly, as the kitty hips are sometimes a bit tender. Then I blowdried him until he looked me right in the eye and climbed into the covered litter box, from which vantage point, he glared at me as if to say, "One of these days, you too will be Cat Chow."

Note to self: annoy the cat, then vacuum.

After the cat, the bathroom and I dried and I swept up the kitty litter that seemed to rain from on tiled high, I washed my bed linens because where I lie down the cat also sleeps. Hopefully, the apartment smells less like a sick kitty but because it's raining out and he's not fully dry I haven't opened the windows. It may take time to feel the effects of a fresh breeze.

Monday, November 06, 2006

To Tell You I Love You

Tomorrow is Election Day and if you're anything like me - and isn't being like me every heart's desire? - you can't wait until the election's fucking over. I'm sick of unbridled bad behavior. I can't wait until votes are counted and verified. I want the mainstream media, which kisses the asses of maniacs and pooh-poohs the rational, to calm the fuck down. So I can. The campaign speeches, relevations of felonious acts and racist, sexist, homophobic chitterchatter is harshing my glamorous mellow. How am I supposed to be adorable with steam coming out of my fabulously adorned ears?

Section 7. All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills.

Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a law. But in all such cases the votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the persons voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the journal of each House respectively. If any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law, in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a law.

Every order, resolution, or vote to which the concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the same shall take effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the rules and limitations prescribed in the case of a bill.

Wednesday morning, we're going to wake up in America, with the same friends, enemies and sweetener packets emptying grittily into suit pockets. I don't expect miracles like the most corrupt Congress in history finishing its spin cycle steam-clean and lemon-fresh, but maybe we could blow-dart the rampaging cutthroats engaging in zero-sum legislating and toxic commentary. Ladies, gentlemen and Merry Maids, we've got real problems and killing each other won't fix them. After we've weeded out Black Hats and tossed 'em into the hooskow, the rest of us have to grab up mops and start scrubbing like we mean it. You know why? Because when it comes down to it differences of opinion are good, and threatening to kill people who are different from you is a hate crime.

We have two metaphorical problems so far. One is genuine criminals are running our government into bankruptcy and killing people for no reason - at least none I can discern. The other is that the genuine criminals have loudmouthed lookouts on every corner making such a mess it's hard to remember how nice a place this was before all the spitting. Tomorrow's election won't appoint a new sheriff but even if we get a vigorous streetcleaner, possibly with indoor/outdoor stinky bleach, we still have a third problem.

The mess will take decades to clean up, and some of it won't scrub off. It will never come off if we pretend it's not there, but denial won't stop our creditors from calling in their markers, and it won't prevent the dead from rising against us. There is a whole lot of bad economic news coming down the pike - really, really bad news. We are going to have to sacrifice for years to pay off our current spending problem no matter who's in charge, and the voters have to realize nobody can promise anything different and keep that promise. So suck it up, already. Grab a sponge.

We have a lot of filthy, disgusting, slimy problems. We have a denial problem, a selfishness problem, a fuck-you-I've-got-mine problem, a screw-the-poor problem, a lying-liar problem, a war-for-hubris problem, a rewriting-the-Constitution problem, a torture problem, a no-bid-contract problem, a union-busting problem, a bankruptcy-law-favors-the-credit-card-companies problem, an empty-Treasury problem, a ruthlessness-against-defenseless-enemies problem, a mounting-casualty-count problem, a drowned-NOLA problem, a secret-appropriations problem, a no-fly-list problem, a Unitary-Executive problem, a Vichy-opposition problem, a borrowing-from-China problem, a domestic-surveillance problem, a consolidation-of-Church-and-State problem, an Our-Children-Left-Behind problem, a no-privacy-rights problem, a Jack-Abramoff problem, an Abu-Ghraib problem, a Terry-Schaivo problem, an unverified voting problem, a dismantling-the-middle-class problem, a falsifying-evidence problem, a race-baiting problem, a phony-immigration problem, an outing-a-CIA-agent problem, a global-warming problem, a inciting-to-endless-panic problem, a gutting-Social-Security problem, a pitting brother-against-brother problem, an anti-gay marriage problem, a can't-fucking-trust-Congressmen-to-obey-the-laws-they-wrote problem, a stealing-medicine-from-everyone's-Grandparents problem, a disavowing-science problem, a selling-off-the-National-Parks problem, a no-one-could-have-foreseen-fill-in-the-blank problem, a Darth-Cheney problem, a sell-off-the-ports problem, a new-and-mind-blowing-problem-every-day problem. Problems-I-can't-remember problems. We've got problems. We've got 600,000,000 hands, if have two each, which some of us don't anymore, and some of us never did. There is a whole lot of filth to muck out.

Fractured metaphors aside - because every heart's desire is that quit tossing 'em crookedly into the air like juggled eggs - the only way to a shining future is together, through each other. I don't believe for a minute you won't swing that broom handle like a crowbar, but it won't help. I'm not saying you should turn the other cheek while your opponent is still hauling off and hitting you, because some opponents will do anything to win, and don't take your eye off him. I'm not saying anyone should expect cooperation from every quarter. That will never come. But please think about trying.

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When I Needed You Most

I can't bear the thought you imagine I've abandoned you but I've got my hands full at the moment. Tonight, I'll make time to be with you, you, you. In the meantime, accept Section 6. as a token of my love.

The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States. They shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.

No Senator or Representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time: and no person holding any office under the United States, shall be a member of either House during his continuance in office.

Put on your fluffiest socks and throw in the JiffyPop, darling. You know just how I like it.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Someway, Maybe I'll Understand You

First thing this morning, the newsy conundrum that preceeds the Today Show offered one of my favorite things: speechless presenters. I was sitting on my couch, counting how many fingers I was holding up and trying to remember my name - as I do every morning - when Rob and Darlene stuttered and I looked up.

Unlike the last time I was suddenly unsure whether or not I hallucinated livestock on the news, this time I can produce evidence. I can't prove it, but I'm starting to wonder if my problems are really Chopper Dan's, and maybe both of us need vacations. Coincidentally, Merriam-Webster's word of the day is cowcatcher.

Section 4. The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing Senators.

The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.

That wasn't actually the first thing that happened this morning. First-first thing, I was dreaming I'd missed my alarm and was late for work and the alarm wasn't going off and I was too tired to get up and began to worry and I picked up my head to look at the clock and it was 5:15 and that's way too early and I still thought I was late and then I was awake enough to scratch Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul and to know that my bedroom was fucking cold. The cat was clever enough to observe me turning on the heating pad for him. I hope he doesn't burn down the house before I get home - unless he has to for, you know, Science!

Section 5. Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members, and a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties as each House may provide.

Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.

Each House shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such parts as may in their judgment require secrecy; and the yeas and nays of the members of either House on any question shall, at the desire of one fifth of those present, be entered on the journal.

Neither House, during the session of Congress, shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.

I meant my house, not the House. In life, we have to accept that reality offers us few absolutes short of Death and bad hair days, and even the best whole wheat bread recipe will be subject to the rise or fall of humidity levels in uncaring temperate zones. After our parents' breakup, Daria, Todd and I were for a couple of years commune kids. We spent a lot of time with the other commune kids, and when the commune broke up over issues of direction, responsibility and who forgot to pay the damn heating bill in the mammoth house, we kids were kind of lost for a while. In the bargain, Mom found Tom. Daria, Todd and I got his daughters Anya and Corinne as sisters. We have been thus since, which I suppose might have been 1974 or 1975. I don't know. Who cares, right? But what do we call those other kids? Who are they to us, and where did they go? Do they miss us? At least some of them do. Etienne, a small stone skipping across the surface of my life, asks for a current picture, sparking a little crisis.

Maybe yesterday's blog entry wasn't especially clear on this topic: I'd rather re-grout my tub than have a camera pointed at me. With Silly Putty. What do I look like? How would I know? I look like stuff. I look like the person who rides by on a Segway and in your head you hear the Reverend Horton Heat play "Stop the Pigeon." I look like what changes on the next go-round. I look like I beat Carol Burnett to the curtains. I mean, for all practical purposes I'm your invisible friend - right up until someone else makes eye contact. Let's hope it's a bartender.

I don't know what Etienne expects. Daria insists she took this picture between stops on Corinne's 1997 bachelorette pub crawl outside the bar I refer to as "the bar" and atop the vehicle referred to as "your truck, ma'am?" by the Turnpike Authority. It's as close to what I look like in my mind as can be seen from the outside, but I don't think it'd help Etienne pick me out of a lineup.

I mean, should he have to.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

If I Listen In I Feel My Own Heart Beating

Some battles are not worth fighting. A few years ago, I gave up fighting my hair for Coif Supremacy, when I realized I could just as easily throw $100 a month out my window as move to a slightly better apartment and give it to my landlord. See, ultimately, I'm too selfish to fight anybody or anything for anything they don't want to do freely, and if my hair won't behave, I don't have to tolerate its existential crisis. So now I tint my own hair and Rosanna cuts it every six-eight weeks, depending on how often I look in the mirror and find I look more like Yahoo Serious than "Yoohoo! Gina Lollobrigida!"

When I'm holding a drink, the resemblance is uncanny. To hers. Anyway, I had an appointment Saturday morning Rosanna called on account of weather and the flu. While I was grateful not to be reinfected after last month's miserable pox on my house, I'm not pleased to remain shaggy.

A few weeks ago, a photographer I've known many years asked to photograph me and in a moment of complete idiocy, I agreed to pose. I know how this works. I modeled for artists for ages; my face becomes a medium for the artist and ceases to be itself, and I am not myself. I understand how distressing this is for academic feminists, and we can worry about those complicated issues another time. For the moment, we've got more than we can handle. We're tangling with my rampaging vanity, for crissakes, and I don't trust the photographer. Or this either, now that we mention it:

Section 3. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.

Immediately after they shall be assembled in consequence of the first election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three classes. The seats of the Senators of the first class shall be vacated at the expiration of the second year, of the second class at the expiration of the fourth year, and the third class at the expiration of the sixth year, so that one third may be chosen every second year; and if vacancies happen by resignation, or otherwise, during the recess of the legislature of any state, the executive thereof may make temporary appointments until the next meeting of the legislature, which shall then fill such vacancies.

No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years, and been nine years a citizen of the United States and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state for which he shall be chosen.

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.

The Senate shall choose their other officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the office of President of the United States.

The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the members present.

Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States: but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law.

Last night, I schemed and plotted my cosmetic itinerary leading up to Monday's appointment with the photographer until a phone call changed my perspective rather sharply. Sharkey called to tell me another member of our tribe had passed away, though I would never say they'd lost battles with cancer. The cliche doesn't feel like a fit. In June, we lost Freddy, who was also called Stinky Sonobuoni, and found ourselves at the only funeral I've ever attended where everyone told stories about leopard print underwear. The subsequent wake in the bar where we all met, drank and fell down a million times was cathartic and wonderful, and the last time I saw Lance Carter. At the wake, I was surprised to see Lance in a wheelchair. While I knew he'd been sick, I had no idea how sick. Our tribe is large enough and loose enough that while I saw Lance and his wife Lisa around for almost twenty years, they were really friends of my friends.

Lance and Lisa documented his illness extensively on Lance's blog, which is both beautifully detailed and painfully honest, an amazing read. I can't say enough about it - and I shouldn't. It is everything.

Next week: another funeral. Then we will throw Lance a glorious, loving wake. While I'm contemplating my vanity and mortality, I should say that Lance was one of those lovely souls who always had a smile on his face. He was vivacious and enjoyed a good laugh. So laugh because life is really, really short, but don't try this at home.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I Forget What 8 Was For

Siobhan sent me a joke.
The famous Olympic skier Picabo Street (pronounced Pee-Ka-Boo) is not just an athlete...she is now a nurse currently working at the Intensive Care Unit of a large metropolitan hospital. She is not permitted to answer the hospital telephones any longer. It caused too much confusion when she would answer the phone and say,
"Pikabo, I.C.U."

A good clean joke is hard to find these days - pass it on! (Admit it... you're smiling.)

I AM NOT SMILING! My horoscope said I should just stay calm, which immediately made me nervous. Then Siobhan, who loves children once they're old enough to send out for booze and ammo, emailed me A BABY JOKE. I should have realized left was right, up was down and Daniel Ellsberg would speak here Wednesday, as if to remind the faculty it forgot to tell students who Daniel Ellsberg is and was - fear not, Stephen Colbert remembered. Now that all those children are not being left behind, it's a good thing Comedy Central helps them catch up. Let's all do our part, shall we?

Article I
Section 1. All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Awesome. Since this was published before indoor plumbing, let's hope that implied a safe distance and separate outhouses. Otherwise, the ground under our nation's capital might shift uncomfortably at odd moments - like this week, when I suddenly understood why Elvis shot up televisions. Here we are using our giant brains to read the Constitution while men and women running for Congress seem unable to use theirs at all - and the electorate isn't in great shape, either. In fact, a good part of the electorate sounds like we should have conned the grownups into pulling the plug ages ago. I'm not talking about people who have carefully reasoned ideas and vote them, liberal or conservative; people are entitled to opinions and, politically, feelings are facts. That's fine by me. No, the citizens keeping me up nights are the mouthbreathers who consider politics boring, jury duty a burden, registering and voting less important than another trip to WalMart - the undecideds who can't be bothered to acquaint themselves with the issues. A few weeks ago, I had this conversation with someone dear to me.

She: ...I have to think of another way to get out of jury duty. With the job and the kids, I just can't manage it.
Tata: Your kids are in school, right?
She: Yes.
Tata: Don't you have the kind of flexible job that lets you pick your own hours?
She: Yes.
Tata: That's your obligation as a citizen - jury duty. You take a book. You read for a few hours, break for lunch, read for a few hours. Then someone tells you you've got the crazy eyes and you're excused, right? Or is that just me?
She: (Pause, as she hits ERASE on the conversation) I have to think of another way to get out of jury duty...

Initially, I thought Section 2 micromanaged a wee bit -

Section 2. The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states, and the electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature.

No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen.

Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct. The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each state shall have at least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the state of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse
[sic] three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

When vacancies happen in the Representation from any state, the executive authority thereof shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.

The House of Representatives shall choose their speaker and other officers; and shall have the sole power of impeachment.

- then about an hour ago I found a student worker in my office trying to drink hot coffee out of a melting paper cup and what seemed simple wasn't.

Tata: Dahhhhhhhhhhhling, can I persuade you to make a fresh pot of coffee?
Student: Sure! What do I do?
Tata: The coffee machine is unique and disaster-enhanced. First, take out a filter and find the coffee. Because ten cups fit into the pot, you put five scoops into the filter. Good job, lovey. Watch this door here, if you close it, water can go everywhere and you'll feel like salmon swimming upstream to mop. It'll happen very fast so be careful. I'll be right back!

It's true. I stupidly sashayed off because I thought my phone might be ringing and who am I to disappoint my public? About two minutes later, I returned.

Student: I can't get it to go.
Tata: I don't know what you mean, pet. The coffee pot appears full of coffee.
Student: Yes, but -

Suddenly, I knew. This young woman attending an accredited state university - very probably a high school graduate from a public school in a state that truly values education - had not emptied the coffee pot but had added fresh water to it and placed it on the burner. In doing so - and this is the part that made me fear for this poor soft thing in a world full of solid objects - she had expected the pot to empty itself through its non-porous glass surface into the coffee machine and generate coffee. I did what any reasonably compassionate registered voter whose horoscope had advised her to stay calm would have.

Tata: My pet, I know that in teaching you to make coffee I help you have coffee for a lifetime, and that's just the kind of giving person I am. So. You empty "fresh water" into the body of the machine, replace the carafe quickly and press the ON button. We always have extra hot cups around here. Please throw away that waxy improvisation - however clever! - and use this special tool. And promise me, won't you, you'll stay for grad school..?

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