Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Line Forms On the Right, Babe

Could it be our boy's done something rash?

Audrey and I are always in the same Aquarian boat, and have been since 1991. If I'm at the end of my rope with some man, Audrey's just put another on the train back to his mama. If her friends are acting crazy, mine play with toy trains on the railroad tracks. If her mother's speaking in tongues, mine has laryngitis. Yesterday, I was upset and sent her what would otherwise be an unintelligible email.

Tata: In the past two weeks, how many rats have jumped ship?
Audrey: They jumped in the month prior.
Tata: Alone, alone, alone?
Audrey: Yes, yes, yes.

She was right. I've been a slow learner. Aquarians of my acquaintance are all close to a breaking point, if they haven't already broken. A woman in my office has been calling her husband "the Liability" for a couple of months now. A man I see every day grows desperate about his wife's refusal to treat her depression.

Life is really fucking short. Enough with lovers who don't have time, can't be honest, have to play games or only want us on their terms. Let us waste no more time on lament. The trees are a breathtaking green. The sky is a pillowy blue. Every night is filled with starry promise, and Audrey and I are fabulous, brainy babes. Somewhere, there are courageous, lusty hedonists, and let's not keep them waiting.

One word: NEXT!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cards For Pain

Part One

The atmosphere inside the car became moist and sultry after a few minutes and positively tropical shortly thereafter. Where windows were open for fresh air, water splattered inside. I hunkered down facing forward in the driver's seat, winding a skein of yarn into a ball as water splashed down my back. I don't know how long it was before the first car zipped past me on the slick, winding valley road, screeched to a halt, drove backwards at a breakneck pace and screeched to a second halt. The driver jumped out and came running.

I pushed the car door open, and by open I mean up, and I climbed out from under the door.

Dude: Are you alright?
Tata: I am! I'm waiting for a tow truck. Everything's okay.
Dude: Are you hurt?
Tata: I'm not! It's not actually my car.
Dude: Whew! A truck's coming?
Tata: Yes, thank you, it'll be here soon.
Dude: Okay, then...

By the third time, I was apologizing.

Dude: Are you alright?
Tata: I'm fine, and I'm sorry I scared you. A truck's coming.
Dude: Are you hurt?
Tata: This is my friend's car. I'm just waiting for the tow truck. Thank you so much! I'm sorry!
Dude: Okay, then...

Yes, and picture all this with rain like a firehose turned on our faces. An hour passed, during which I thought at great length about Dad. I was doing exactly what Dad would have done, or had me do. I had no doubt in an uncomfortable situation. There was no folding and slinking back to the house. I was honoring my father by being the capable person he wanted me to be. When the sixth vehicle stopped, skidded, careened, and skidded again, the rain...stopped. I got out of the car soaked to the skin. Suddenly, I was in a National Lampoon movie.

A family of four blond people jumped out of a big pick up truck. For about a second and a half, it was as if the film sped up when, as one, they rushed to the edge of the ditch and came to a springy stop. Then the film stopped for a second or two as they stared at me in slack-jawed horror. The younger blond child licked a lollypop.

Dad: Didja have a downpour?
Tata: Yes, I am okay. There's a tow truck coming. It's my friend's car.
Mom: Are you injured?
Tata: No, I'm fine, thank you. Everything is okay. I'm sorry you were worried.

We stared at each other. Seconds ticked by. Their expressions did ...not ...change.

Mom: Can we get you an ambulance?
Tata: My family is at the end of the driveway and I am unhurt. I wasn't in the car when it slid into the ditch. The driver is being cared for at the house. The combination to my high school gym locker was -
Dad: You sure about that tow truck?
Tata: I am entirely desperate for you to have a good day, and I'm so sorry I frightened you.

The family turned dubiously back to the truck, disappointed that I wasn't bleeding. The younger one licked her lollypop. I smiled at her and wrinkled my nose. She climbed back in the truck. I slid down the grassy embankment and back into the car. As if on cue, the rain started again. The windows remained fogged. I felt mossy, like a fern in a crooked terrarium. Eventually, I saw flashing lights through the fog. I rejoiced: it must be the tow truck! No, it was the local police. I pushed the door up and climbed out from under it. Though my hobbies include bread baking, swearing and beautifying America one room at a time, I was unprepared for the handsome man's impatient reaction to seeing me.

Cop: You called the police?
Tata: I didn't! Must've been one of those concerned citizens who drove by.
Cop: What the hell are you doing?
Tata: I have to stay with the car. The tow truck should be here any time now.
Cop: No way! Folks'll keep stopping to pick up the body. Get in the cruiser!

For once in my life, in the rain, completely soaked, wishing I had solved the ditched car problem and had returned to being a mourner, I did what I was told without an argument, but I did laugh. In fact, I giggled like a teenager as I explained.

Tata: My father's memorial the house ...not my car club ...tow truck on the way ...friend with a cane...
Cop: You called the auto club? Where's your card?
Tata: In the car. I'll go get it.

I trudged the ten steps in the monsoon, slid down the side of the ditch, climbed into the car and got my wallet. On the way back, I lost my flipflops. By then, I was laughing so hard, I got back into the cop car barefoot. He called the station. The station called the auto club three times. The auto club said they'd never heard of me, then said, "Just kidding!" and sent another truck. By this time, the cop was irritated but apparently warming to my soggy beauty.

Cop: What's the phone number at the house?
Tata: It's...540-I GIVE UP! But it's right over there.
Cop: Where?
Tata: My Dad lives at the end of the next driveway.
Cop: And what were you doing there?
Tata: He's dead and we were having a memorial.
Cop: Where?
Tata: Over there!
Cop: I have to take you back there and get the phone number for the report.
Tata: Can I get my flipflops?
Cop: Grrrr.

I retrieved the flipflops in the soaking rain and once again, as soon as he turned the car around, the rain stopped. I directed him down the driveway, which everyone at the house could see. As he shut off the car and we got out, a crowd spilled out of the house and into the driveway to meet us. The cop was shocked that my story was true.

Darla: Sweetie, I bet that's not the first time the police brought you home!
Tata: If you can believe it, I've managed to elude capture! He needs the phone number here.

He wrote down the number but he never asked to see Melody, which confused me, but when he pulled away, it didn't matter anymore. The tow truck came and pulled Melody's car out of the ditch. Guests told us stories, guests came and went. A few hours later, Darla and I sat on the dining room floor, talking about the future of literature. Daria and Todd appeared in the doorway, laughing.

Daria: You won't believe what just happened.
Tata: Try us!
Daria: Fred told us about the time he and Dad grabbed meat cleavers and stalked a burglar through an attic. It was a riot! Then we were standing there by ourselves. Nobody else would have gotten this! Todd said -
Todd: "From ze day he was born - "
Daria: And I said, "Shebop shebop shebop."
Darla: " - he vas trouble."
Tata: "Shebop shebop shebop."
Todd: "He vas ze thorn in his mutter's side."
Daria: "Not her back but her side."
Darla: "She cried in vain."
Tata: "Not the artery but the vein!"
Todd: "But he never caused her nozing but shame!"
All: "He left home ze day she died!"

Then we all did the twist.

I miss Dad terribly. Since the end of last year, I have been battered by terrible situation after terrible situation and little time to deal with the separate griefs. A time may come when I end up small and shattered but I don't feel that way now. I feel lucky to have had the father I did, who didn't metaphorically bind my feet. He knew I'd need them to land on and stand on.

Cards For Sorrow

About thirty miles from Staunton, I realized I was sitting behind an electrical truck I'd chased out of the left lane fifty miles before, my car had a distinct high-speed shimmy, and I was so far beyond exhausted I was a danger to myself and the other drivers. So I drove faster. It was 9:46 Friday night, 11 May, and it would have been Dad's 66th birthday.

When I got to the house, my female relatives were already sobbing. Someone handed me a glass of cheap white wine. It was as if I'd blinked and we were back in March, only Daddy was dead. I stayed up for a few hours with Darla and Miss Sasha until I was crosseyed and confused. Suddenly, it was morning. I sat bolt upright in my bed on Dad's office floor, marched myself to the kitchen and started baking. Darla and Miss Sasha slept in. Daria, Dara and Todd went grocery shopping. My brother-in-law Tyler and I stuck our heads out the front door, did Paper, Rock, Scissors about the weather and set up the buffet in the dining room.

Promptly at 2, Dad's friends began arriving for our memorial barbecue. Packs of nice people - some with faces familiar to me, some not - nodded and expressed their sorrow. Many told stories I cannot repeat because you wouldn't believe me. Daria and Dad's ex-wife Summer knew everyone who came down the driveway but I felt the pull of the kitchen. My impulse in a crowd is always to go scour something. At just about 2:30, Daria corralled Todd.

Daria: Take Barry and drag Melody's car out of the ditch at the next driveway.
Todd: What am I, Superman?
Daria: Keys!

Before you snicker: the country roads were slick, narrow and pitched at wicked angles. It could have been any of us that went for a frightening slide, but it was Darla's friend Melody, who walks with a cane. Todd and Barry returned to the kitchen fifteen minutes later.

Todd: It's tow truck time! Who's got auto club?
Tata: Hand me the phone and behold my truck-summoning powers!
Crowd: Oooooooooh!

The nice lady on the phone told me the truck would arrive to pluck the little car from the ditch before 3:55 but that I should be standing next to the vehicle cheerily waving my membership card in fifteen minutes. I thanked her, hung up, packed some new yarn into my messenger bag and set off down the driveway on foot. Before I got halfway across the lawn, heads spun.

Todd: What? Where's she going?
Melody: What's going on?
Darla: Need a blackjack and a Diet Coke?
Daria: Who's going with you?
Tata: I don't need back up.

Geez louise. The car was nose-down in that ditch on a diagonal. Todd had said one of the front tires was hanging in space but I never saw it or the front of the car. I climbed down three or four feet into the ditch and stood next to the car in two-foot tall grass, leaned on the car and started winding a skein of recycled silk yarn into a lumpy ball. Minutes passed, rain threatened, then suddenly delivered. I jumped into the driver's seat, set up yarn for more winding and opened a couple of windows a crack each for fresh air as torrential rain pounded the Shenandoah Valley. Then things got deeply, cinematically weird.

Part Two

Monday, May 28, 2007

Smile Up At the One Standing Proud

In this time of terrible cognitive dissonance, we can best honor soldiers and veterans by caring for their medical and occupational needs after they serve, because the dead need only love. As a person deeply opposed to war, I am also opposed to the mistreatment of people who trust us not to expend life and limb foolishly. There is everything to say now and no way to say it anymore.

This song still brings tears to my eyes. For a youthful, stylized version of what we had and lost, have a look at this.

Peace be with you this day, whoever you are.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

We Were So Close, There Was No Room

Previously on Poor Impulse Control: Dad got sick. Everyone dropped everything and went to Virginia. We laughed, we cried, we made ganache. Dad died on April Fool's Day and eventually we all saw the insides of our own houses again before we went back to Virginia for a memorial barbecue the day after what would have been Dad's 66th birthday. Believe it or not, I'm still writing this story, and as I do, I'll keep adding to this list. Only death is final. All else is editing.

Oh Jesus Christ, foreshadowing.

New Year's Eve

Sing out!


It's cancer.

Life expectancy.

Mop fu.

The year of no birthdays

home from the hospital, yay!


leaving tonight


hotel living, dying at home

the journey, the terror

Todd arrives, truths are told

praying with athiests

antics, remembered

Dad's mad magic

a prelude

be prepared!

the actual 'lude to what was pre

domestic pitcrew, gunfire

the outside world, in


chicken feet and Shut Up Time

that chanting thing

care and manicure

phones, running on phumes

t-shirts, felines, DMV

roadblocks, slaphappy

the only truth I know is you

Daria departs, grownups arrive

I'm pretty wide


Dad dies

Dad dies, I said

I come home

the undertaker


the outer world, again

poultry and legacy


we don't know what it means


that damn tree

Like this

questions and quiet

the premonition

the guitars, the poster

Love Has No Pride

a public person

Into the fray, out of the ditch

Artifacts and Anthems

Hopefully the fucking archives will be working sometime soon.

Updated 5.29.07: Siobhan and Sharkey fixed the archives. PIC still has linky problems but at least the archives are visible. And the villagers rejoiced!


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Summer Sky And Stars Are Falling

Sometimes, the beauty of the whole world spreads out before us as undeniable as night and right as fresh air. A jewel, a moment we hold in one hand and turn this way, that way; if we give ourselves to time and rest gently on the breeze, we become, endlessly. There is no need, no more.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Music Blogging: What Else To Do Edition

I'll admit it: I'm a bit depressed. I could give you forty reasons why and if you could fix thirty-nine, you still wouldn't be able to do anything about that last one: people waste time they could have spent being happy together. There is often no discernable, rational reason for what happens. People act on the idea that the clock will never run out and chances for happiness will keep arriving but that's not true, is it?

Well, I can't change what other people do, so let's dance. It's a really silly video. Let's get lost in a song about exuberance and passion, and laugh about the hair.

I can't wait to go home today. The last month has been years long.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Is Equal To the Love You Make

Indulge me for just a second - or 4:33. With just over a minute-thirty left in this video, I start shouting every time.

This morning, I buzzed around my apartment and Today In New York was on in the living room. Mostly, I wait for the weather report but every two or three weeks, something catches my attention. This morning, during a report on seniors with AIDS, I heard the word abstinence and stopped buzzing. I saw an older woman saying, "As far as contact with a gentleman: forget it. Not me. No way." I mean, whatever. So I went and brushed my teeth. Anyway, I went to work and couldn't stop thinking about what I had nor had not heard. The video is posted to the Today In New York blog and I want you, and you, and you there. So, surrender, Dorothy. Here again is the video.

What is this report about, really? It starts out with a safe sex lecture at a senior center in Corona, Queens. Seniors are having sex and want protection from communicable disease, and recently a man "died of AIDS", leaving - forgive me! - high and dry four elderly ladies who didn't know he had the virus. Next thing we know, we have a city council member requesting funds for education programs, and here's where the subject drifts from the one in the headline and bumps into a couple of weird Republican talking points.

The cues are subtle. The problems with inflection are minor until we get to this whopper in reporter Melissa Russo's voiceover: "The commissioner would not comment on whether the city should spend tax dollars on more safe sex programs in senior centers." I didn't hear these words this morning. The next line is, "Of course there will always be some who practice abstinence."

Later, the condescending kicker: "The sad part is I mean is - of course it's good that these people are living longer lives - the sad part is if they'd known all along they'd live long their lives would have been so different." (What a bitch that was to transcribe. I bet closed captioning typists slit their wrists when this reporter talks.) Sure, if they'd known that gigolo with the plaid jacket had the rabid gay disco plague, all those love-starved grannies might've stuck with platonic bingo partners, is that it?

There is so much wrong with this I'm going to miss stuff. Feel free to write your own book report.

First, the headline is A Third Of New Yorkers With AIDS Are Over 50. This story mentions that people with AIDS are living longer, and society will have to consider their needs. The report offers us a retirement-age activist who no longer worries he's going to be cut down in his youth. That's it. I'm not wearing a stop watch but that's got to be less than 30 seconds in a report stretching past the four-minute mark. So, what is the actual topic? Our squeamishness, and we have it by the - forgive me! - buttload.

In 2007, a certain segment of the population believes that sex education must come with abstinence education or perhaps there shouldn't be sex education at all. The blank stupidity of this assumption hurts my head. The simple fact is that most of us are not having sex right now. We know what not having sex is like. No one has to teach us that, which differs sharply from our need to learn about the health and function of our bodies. We are not born with an expert knowledge of anatomy and physiology, and proceeding without one can kill us. Further, we should know how bodies function sexually and how to protect ourselves from disease. This information can be taught to us in a simply factual manner. It is possible to present facts without coloring them with opinion, which may seem like an absolutely crazy notion we can examine after everyone calms down, but really. For instance: I can teach you how to apply a condom and what you do with that knowledge is your business. Period. Everyone should know how male and female bodies work and why; it is simply a matter of public health. So, why does the question of "tax dollars on more safe sex programs" come up?

Even if we quake in our shoes at the idea that teenagers have sex despite the fact that we did, we have to grow the fuck up and accept the idea that adults have sex. Our opinion, especially if we don't like that idea, is unimportant. Adults have sex. That is a simple fact, and because adults have sex, adults should have a functioning knowledge of anatomy and physiology which a lot of adults do not possess, and where could one reliably acquire it? Instead of wondering whether tax dollars should fund safe sex programs, our reporter would better serve the public interest by asking that commissioner if he's ready to fund a 24-hour sex education channel. For one thing, people don't die of AIDS. They die of complications of AIDS. Those terrible deaths suck. And a reporter should be more careful with words.

The real subject of this report can be summed up simply: Gross! AIDS is too terrifying to inspire rational thought and my tax dollars buy Grandpa rubbers!

Next time, NBC news should send an adult.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

And the Shadows And the Stars

This morning, I had just left the apartment complex along one of the tree-lined avenues of my town when ahead of me on the sidewalk I spied a man so tall his head brushed the leaves well above me. I watched him for a few minutes as I caught up. He was wearing a brown suit. As I got closer, I guessed he might be 6'2" or taller with a stoop, and very thin. His left arm had a distinct palsy, and soon I saw his right arm had something odd about it too, though I can't say now what it was. His brown hair was white at the scalp, but older men have some latitude when it comes to hair fashion so I didn't think it odd that his hair was probably longer than mine. I soon came to a point where I was going to have to pass him and because it's a very small town and if I piss someone off he's going to spit in my snowcone at the next street fair, I have to be delicate about it.

Though I seldom step into the street on this particular tree-lined avenue at this hour because drivers are talking on cell phones, pulling on pantyhose and noshing toaster strudel without a thought for reasonably unarmed pedestrians and I am one, I did. Within ten steps, the gap between us closed and I turned to say a polite, "Good morning" to the person I'd just passed. I pass a lot of people. Usually, people smile and respond in kind and nobody worries about snowcones. This man stopped, bobbed and made a burbling sound. His face was doughy and his expression blank. The detail that caught my attention though was his belt: the prong was stuck through a hole, the end of the belt dangled a long way. It was the belt of a large man who'd lost a great deal of weight. I snapped my eyes forward, then turned back. Without looking at me, he took a step backward, then began to walk forward slowly. Ahead of me, in the distance, walked another man with a huge bag of laundry on his back, and ahead of him, on the other side of the town's main drag sat a police car with lights on. That was three things in a row I did not expect to see on this normally tranquil spot. I looked around for toaster strudel.

I felt sick. I felt like I'd seen something I shouldn't have. Maybe I was overreacting, but I was afraid he was having a stroke. Maybe he was fine and just really quirky. The other possibility, fresh in mind from having to corral Dad when he hallucinated, was that this man suffered from dementia and this morning he got dressed and went out because that's what he used to do. I came to the corner of Tree-Lined Avenue and Main Drag, hesitated for a moment, then turned toward the bridge and kept walking. The cop was one traffic light away. The man was a block behind me. I thought I'd have an aneurism. I started arguing with me in self-defense.

Tata: What are you doing? We can't leave that guy like that! He's in trouble.
Tata: You're a fucking drama queen, you know that? He's probably fine. If he's a mathematician, he's probably better than fine.
Tata: You're such a bitch! You're more afraid you're going to be embarrassed than that that guy needs an ambulance.
Tata: Shut it, that never happens. We've been wandering around for four decades and how many times have we ever called an ambulance? Zero. He's an old guy out for a morning walk.
Tata: Coward!
Tata: Busybody!

Yeah, my insides spun like a like a funnel cloud as I crossed the bridge, then walked under Route 18. Standing on Albany Street, I dialed the town's police non-emergency number and, marching along at a brisk clip, reported my suspicions to the person who answered the phone, and when I say this is a really small town, that person was probably someone walking her dog by town hall when the phone rang. Then I walked the rest of the way to work, rationalizing my decision to call the cops. I'm sure I looked really sane, what with the waving and "Would you shut up, please?"

For the last hour, I've stared at my office phone and wanted to call back. I haven't. I'm scared the police will tell me I was foolish to worry and would I please not tie up their lines, thankyouverymuch? Or they'll tell me they didn't find him, or they found him too late. Why didn't I call sooner?

I don't trust me. That's my problem, right there.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Just Keep the Groove And Then

Each time Blogger leaps about like a puppy about to pee itself, I get nervous. A lot of bloggers get nervous. Over the weekend sometime, Blogger upgraded some contraption and now I can't preview. What's this post going to look like? We don't know! Fortunately, I love surprises, and when one of my posts doesn't suck, it's Happy Birthday to Me! So let's hope for cake.

Two stories are burning up bandwidth in the Blogosphere tonight. One is that Bush is actually planning to double the number of combat troops in Iraq, which comes with a tasty sidedish of Congressional Democrats caving. The other story is that the President appointed himself Emergency Czar. This is a highly unusual step that circumvents two whole branches of our government as described by the Constitution. On a daily basis, I find one news story out of Washington so astounding I can't believe what I've just read; to find two appalling stories in one day is almost more than I can bear. I gotta think about something else tonight.

Daria and Tyler are in Hawaii, which doesn't suck except that neither of them sleeps well and there's a substantial time difference between the Jersey Shore and the North Shore. After that last gypsy caravan to Virginia, Tyler handed me one of his cell phones he didn't use, said, "Use it to call your sisters," and stalked off. I stared. Talk to them more? Not without quitting my job, I can't. But what the Hell, Sunday I charged the paperweight and called. It was noon on my living room floor. Daria was thrilled to talk to me at six in the morning because, of course, she was up. She sounded like her eyes were rolling around in her head but if you have to have insomnia, Maui is a fine place to have it. She said they were thinking of going snorkeling or canoing with giant tortoises and suddenly I pictured a family reunion coinciding with Discovery's Shark Week. I said she should stick to canoing, as it had a lesser probability of ending in teeth.

On the other hand, what the hell do I know? For months, I've been staring at the weights on my living room floor and wondering why I'm not lifting them. I love lifting weights. I've been doing it off and on for thirty years. I've stared at the yoga mat. Why am I not doing yoga? I don't know. I haven't known for a long time. Yesterday, I was staring at the weights again when I thought, 'Uh, princess, you walk to work every day. Why not velcro on those wrist weights?' Sure, I felt stupid getting a bright idea at this late date, but this morning I wrapped the weights around my wrists and patted the fastener, then repeated the process on the way home. I should have done this months ago.

And frosting. I should've done that, too.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

What I Am Needs No Excuses

The weather is gorgeous. There's a lazy breeze blessing a street fair in town. My lunch was a fragrant, ripe tomato sliced onto roasted garlic ciabatta bread, drizzled with fruity olive oil and balsamic vinegar, plus salt and pepper. This morning, I installed my air conditioners. I should be thrilled. My apartment is utterly spotless. By now, you probably know this means I'm hopping mad.

Daria: So what's with you and that guy?
Tata: Got me. I'm a positive treasure, and if he doesn't know that he's just wrong. I can't even take it seriously.
Daria: I've already picked out your next ex-husband. You should marry him, then start dating.
Tata: Is divorcing him first, then dating too intimate? I'd know we could live together if we separate decently.

No, my sleep-inducing love life merely annoys me. My problem is this.
Jim in LA here with a site update: I just spoke with Jen and a member of Steve's family has requested that no further communication about Steve's condition be communicated with his readership through this site, or in any other method.

We will comply with the request - so if you want to know about Steve's condition, there won't be any further update until he's able to communicate it himself.

It took me about three hours to stop seeing red. I've never met Steve Gilliard and yet besides the anger I also feel a terrible, choking fear for him. Someone in Steve's family is not actually on Steve's side.

As a family, we LongItalianLastNames have just been through hell with Dad's illness and death. Even so, it could have been a great deal worse for us, his caregivers, and for him. After Darla, who is well-versed in the blogosphere and conversant in matters newsgroup-related, posted to Dad's newsgroups details of his condition, then put up a livejournal to keep phone calls to minimum, affectionate posts and emails rolled in in waves. Hundreds of people wrote to say how much he meant to them. We were in tears every day, all of us, especially Dad. He was shocked, completely shocked because he hadn't always been an unmitigated nice guy on the net. Hell, he wasn't a nice man, but he was a good person, charming, well-informed, a better writer than I will ever be and where food was concerned a genuine expert. He'd helped and amused a lot of friends and strangers, and they wanted him to know it. Moreover, Dad had radio shows in the Shenandoah Valley for 20 years and he'd done all sorts of local television. He had fans. Going to a grocery store with him was an utter nightmare, even when it was interesting to learn everything there was to know about kiwis. Those people who'd listened to him all that time sent cards and letters. The phone calls were relentless for weeks. It was an awful lot to deal with, especially for Darla, but it is part and parcel of having a family member who is a public person, and it made Dad feel loved and respected. Families have to deal with that, whether or not they like it.

There's more: sometimes, the needs of the sick person conflict with the needs of the caregivers. We were lucky that Darla was capable, intelligent and completely devoted to Dad. Darla made sure that what Dad wanted, Dad got. We went to help and spend time with him, but Dad made the decisions and Darla backed him up and there was no discussion. No matter who had an issue, it didn't matter. Only Dad mattered. We were there, yes, our feelings meant something to some degree but not much. I was entirely clear that my feelings had to be put aside for another time and my needs were insignificant. I wasn't the one dying. So, we were lucky. Not every sick person has someone like Darla, whose every effort for two months guaranteed Dad a minimum of strife and anguish. If not for Darla, Dad's last days might have been very miserable indeed.

What if the wrong person or no person is in charge? What if the person who is supposed to make decisions doesn't really know the sick person or care what the sick person wants? Years ago, a friend of mine died of complications of AIDS. Her family, from which she had been estranged for more than twenty years, wanted nothing to do with her. Did not visit her while she was slipping away. When she died, the family initially did not claim her body. We were street kids. No one I knew had the means to do that but I remember being shocked that they hated her so much they waited three days to have her body cremated. It happens. Sometimes our loved ones hate us.

Sometimes, we are part of a past they'd rather forget. Sometimes, they don't know us at all. I am very careful when I talk to my family members about myself because I see our shared history being rewritten, and my part in it comes to sound very strange when the rest of the tableau has a wicked coat of whitewash. And there are just things about me they don't know and don't want to know. I can say this with complete certainty because any conversation beyond the smallest of small talk results in shock and "That's true, but..." negotiations, though at my age, my personality's fully formed, my views are published here and there, and I'm not going to become the nice person anyone wants me to be no matter how it reflects on them. I was estranged from the family for more than ten years. They don't really know me, and for the most part we're comfortable that way.

Steve Gilliard's family may mean well, for all I know, but it takes a certain kind of bizarre selfishness to deliberately turn a blind eye to Steve as a person, and a public person at that. In the way that political bloggers can be, Steve is famous and people care. He cares about them too, which we know because he asked his blog partner Jen to post updates on his condition. His family knows that, so why the pointed request to stop?

Selfishness. Steve's inability to speak for himself has given someone else the power to steal the meaning of Steve's life and work. His identity disappears, just as Dad's would have if someone besides Darla had been making the decisions and cut Dad off from his community, affection and support. It could have happened without her. I shiver when I imagine how he would have felt and what he would have been thinking about his online relationships if someone had just turned off the computer and denied Dad succor.

Whether or not the - as Jen termed it - "dissenting family member" gives a shit about the blogosphere and what it means, Steve does. We have years of reading material as evidence. It's not a mystery. What is mysterious is why anyone would deny the person his people, our affection, our support and concern. Who is protected? Who exactly is served? It isn't Steve. Jen asks us to respect the family's decision, but my thorough contempt for it harms no one. Once again, my feelings on the matter are of no importance other than here, and I say what is important is respect for the sick person, not what we wish they were.

Some time ago, I wrote a profanity-laced rant about what, pursuant to my untimely demise, my life may mean. It is called Uses of Me, and I mean every foul-mouthed, uncompromising word. I am what I am, not what someone else wishes I were and not what someone says I was independent of my actual life. In light of what's happened to Steve Gilliard, I'm going to get a will written post haste and inform my family, such as they are, what they absolutely will NOT be doing should I linger, like cutting me off from my friends.

I could be wrong about Steve's family. Hell, I could be wrong about that man I might or might not be sleeping with, but if I'm not, there's cause for concern. I can't do anything about either situation. I can encourage you to take steps to avoid finding yourself at the mercy of some well-meaning idiot who doesn't know you, because, yes, that is Hell on Earth.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Music Blogging: It Feels So Strange Edition

One of my favorites.

Friday Cat Blogging: Ticking, Ticking Edition

Last night, I couldn't get Blogger to preview or import images. This perturbed me a bunch. I take lots of pictures of these frenetic kittens but seldom get anything decent. If they're doing something cool in the living room, after the seconds it takes to turn on the digital camera, the kittens are now fighting on top of the dryer. So imagine how thrilled I was to see Drusy's paw in this picture of scheming Topaz. You can almost hear her adorable predatory purr.

I'm doomed!

"The Committee finds your activities counterrevolutionary. As punishment, you must buy the Committee new cat toys and feed the Committee members wet food with big chunks and more gravy. The Committee enjoys gravy."

Topaz and Drusy go a little crazy over just about any event or noise, so it comes as no surprise that when I get on the floor, kittens go mad! Every morning, I lie on the living room floor and do crunches. Then I get up, freshly toothmarked. Apparently, they're taste-testing me.

Five cuddly pounds of adorable Eeeeevil.

Lovely Topaz is sweet and mysterious and reminds me of that friend everyone in college towns has who speaks with a heavy accent but you can never tell from where. Oh how marvelous it must be to know all exotic Topaz knows! Oh how weary is the kitten who has seen so much we would never understand! Note her triumph over the forces of yarn and roundness. We can only yearn for her love.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Eve Brewed Good Apple Wine

I had a dream about us the other night. You'd invited me to your city for dinner and I traveled a long way to meet you. Who knows why, but I thought we would be alone, and in a way, we were. In Ecuador, two friends and I found a restaurant like this one, where surfaces appeared to roll one into the next, floor into wall, and shadows made by candlelight softened all angles. In the dream, the empty restaurant formed a soft, billowing envelope around our table for six. One of my friends from your city sat down next to me, but I could not take my eyes off the woman touching your arm.

This woman took only polite notice of me, but I saw everything about her, from her slender wrists to her skin's honeyed hues. Her hair hung long and sun-bleached, while her eyes were the color of the sky where it meets ocean. I knew at once she was your lover of some years and she didn't worry when your key was late at the front door. My presence meant nothing to her. I wondered about you, and why I had come so far, but it's not that mysterious, is it?

You had to show me what I observed in impassive silence. I have been here before, in the pillowy time before you tell me you love her but it's not enough, she doesn't understand you like I do. You can't leave her, but you can't live without me, you'll say. You'll beg me for solace with a wicked gleam in your eye. There is no reason for joy before we strike this bargain. You love me and I will be yours now for years to come.

Naturally, I ordered dessert.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

And Looking Up I Noticed I Was Late

Linda Ronstadt's version of Love Has No Pride is beautiful, yes, but harsh and sharp around the edges, whereas Bonnie Raitt's is softer, resigned, and infinitely sadder in a more mature way. Bonnie Raitt's rendition is on Dad's iPod, which doesn't surprise me.

About ten years ago, after Morgan moved out and I sank into luxurious, life-threatening despair, I dragged myself to the grocery store at 3 a.m., when I wouldn't have to explain why I looked like death warmed over because everyone in the store looked worse. At 3, you can hear the music. I happened to be staring into space in the canned vegetable aisle when I heard the first improbable strains of Love Has No Pride. My heart was broken, well beyond the balm of tears. I felt pulled to get closer to the song. Just as it ended, someone tapped me on the shoulder. My hands hurt but I didn't know why. A boy said, "Miss, would you like to get down from there?" as I realized I'd climbed the shelves and hung off the top in chin up position for a while.

I smiled and dropped from the shelf. Falling has never been a problem.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

But That Dream Is Your Enemy

Last night, Todd and I searched the house for one of Dad's guitars. Todd cased the music room and couldn't find this most important one; I heard strain in his ordinarily even tone of voice. We found this guitar in the upstairs room to which we banished ourselves after Daddy declared Shut Up Time every night for the last weeks of his life. Todd calmed visibly when he opened the case and sat down to tune. It had been a long day but finally we were alone in Dad's and Darla's house. Children ran around us in pint-size throngs. Dara and her new boyfriend sat in the living room five feet from Todd because doors were open and we left the teenage lovebirds alone. Daria, her husband Tyler and I cleaned up after the memorial party until we finally sat down exhausted.

Todd: Two months ago, Dad closed his eyes and said, "I love that guitar."
Daria and Tata: Mmmm.

Our earliest memories revolve around Daddy sitting in New Jersey living rooms, tuning and playing, tuning and playing. Sometimes he sang for us. Sometimes we sang along. We knew the words to Greenback Dollar, King of the Road and half the Weavers' catalog before we could read. Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan were our heroes. And last night, Todd found himself at a loss. What to play? What did he remember whole? Then, Todd laughed and started the intro something from just before Dad left us: Me & Julio Down By the Schoolyard. Daria and I swung around and stared at each other for just a second. The children looked around like when she and I spun around and danced, singing at the tops of our lungs. Todd's wife Bette sang along. The teenagers stared. Then Todd accidentally El Kabonged his toddler and six adults pretended we weren't laughing hysterically. After the tears dried, Todd opened the Jim Croce songbook and played Operator, which our parents used to sing together in the kitchen more than thirty years ago. This means nothing to you. To us, it meant that our parents made music, made sculptures, made gardens and grew vegetables, and if they'd loved each other, our lives would have been very different.

Finally, the children lost patience with us. Todd put away the guitar, where I found it this morning and took this picture. All of Dad's guitars will eventually go to California and be Todd's.

This poster hangs in my living room now. When I left Virginia in April, I accidentally left this behind. I literally ached for it. In a way, it is nothing. Little holes in the plastic, faded spots and tears in the paper make this an unbeautiful object that tells a remarkable story. Dad moved to Europe in the spring of 1973, when I was ten and he was thirty-one. At thirty-one, I committed art crimes in the streets of New York; Dad, at the same age every bit as impetuous, peeled this poster off a wall in Paris because he liked it. The featured dancers are Jacques Marsa, Arlette Thomas and Pierre Peyrou - hoo! google that name and see the gossip in French - all of whom have enjoyed long artistic careers. That's comforting. This poster came to symbolize for me everything that made Dad different from other people: he was curious, adventurous, interested in everything, less fearful than most people, wildly unconventional and capable. This image is exuberance, vitality, strength. This is just one story. And here is one ending.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging: Supermodel Edition

Kittens are curious!

We observe a morning ritual: I climb out of the shower and the kittens leap in. Sometimes they are together, but not always. This time, Topaz got to the still dripping faucet first as Drusy looks on from a discreet distance. Please note that my tub is about 900 years old and has been scrubbed over the years beyond its intended point of cleanliness, which ironically makes the tub look very dirty. Note the footprints. I had just cleaned that.

Topaz is gentle, eats too much and schemes to take over the world. I look into her orange eyes and know my days are numbered. She seldom lets me scratch her head and if I pick her up: it's war! Topaz's fur feels different from her long-legged cohort's, softer somehow. Drusy, who I sometimes locate by listening for kitty bathing noises, is crazy for me. I so want to scoop up Topaz and love her up but I expect I'd lose an eye.
Though I am not a girlie girl, that shower curtain is indeed a color between pink and lilac usually found on cheap toys made in illegal Asian factories. Siobhan and I were tooling around Target with cash burning holes in our pockets when this thing appeared before our eyes. When we were laughing so hard we couldn't stand up straight this regrettable decor choice had to come home with me. This morning, I was wrapped in a towel, taking pictures of cats in a wet tub, when the gorgeous kittens heard some signal inaudible to my ear. Faster than you could say You better work! Topaz and Drusy switched places and were gorgeous - for Science!


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Oh, How Time Flies

Let us whisper all we know: You live in exile upon a rolling sea. I have lured many to the rocks.

I'm leaving for Virginia Friday afternoon. On Sunday, I'll come home to you.

You live in exile upon the dark ocean. I know. I know it.

You don't need the harbor anymore. I see with diamond eyes.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Won't You Ease My Worried Mind

You are splendid smooth surfaces and other cheeks. You are curves fading softly into distance and rounded lips. There is no here and now with you without crushing absence around the bend. Your secret hollowness will always be untouchable. Pressed, you break and disappear.

I am the bright morning when your heart breaks open. I am silence before mimosa leaves offer their prayers. There is nothing to say when the choice is you or the folds of curved space. I might be any collector if I had never loved cobalt blue. Rest here, and wait for fireflies to find us.

Cut glass. Broken to a width of two microns. A vessel filled with wax drippings and a desert of dried tears. Roadside evidence of ordinary disaster. Bad luck's dosage instruction. The surface between us and sepia toned children. Maybe we loved them, or our longing is traditional. The brightness of knowing, while there is still time to gently circle back.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Any Way the Wind Blows

Oh. My. God. Twisty:
It is with curled lip and bloodshot eye that I anticipate a total lack of surprise at the news that last month a 17-year-old Iraqi girl was stoned to death in an “honor killing” — words I cannot type without overloading my Oxymoronitron. I expect abhorrence, yes. Disgust, yes. A crushing sense of the futility of it all, yes. Surprise, no.

Because this shit never goes away, it will surprise no one that this girl’s murder began by eight men dragging her from her house into the street, and ended after they had hurled rocks at her for half an hour. Nobody will raise much of an eyebrow when it is revealed that a mob of people watched this murder, and that none of them felt sufficiently moved by notions of a higher moral purpose to intervene. There is nothing particularly out of the ordinary, even, in that more than one of the frenzied spectators possessed such sangfroid as to record the murder with a cellphone video camera and post it on the internet, where it is causing a mild sensation; after all, this is nothing that American soldiers haven’t done, and done famously.

Watch the video. Read the rest. Let this child haunt you. She should.

We made that possible - and this necessary.

Crossposted at Blanton's & Ashton's.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Go Back To the Top of the Slide

Today, the family celebrates the birthday of my niece, the Princess Fifi, the world's youngest catalog shopper. She was born two years ago and immediately began assembling a wardrobe. We're having a barbecue at Daria's house, where we can expect gifts, appetizers and Chlorox Bleach Pens.

A few days ago, Daria expressed in comments interest in a loaf of bread I'd baked. I felt so exposed! Imagine how the bread felt. I shiver, just thinking about it! Regardless, then, on Thursday night, I set up no-knead bread dough and last night just after 6:30, I set the oven for 450 degrees and soaked the clay pot in water. Italian TV waxed operatic in the living room. The kittens tussled athletically on the carpet. My dinner was just losing its singular appeal when tranquility was shattered by the ear-splitting peal of my building's fire alarm. Kittens dove under the couch for cover.

These are garden apartments, which means two apartments on the ground floor and two above, inside the firewalls. I ran for my door and my neighbor across the hall met me in the foyer. There was nothing to do but stand there because we coudn't see anything but each other. We smelled smoke but couldn't see it. As we stood there, staring at the bleating smoke detectors, her upstairs neighbors flung open the front door and bolted up the stairs past us, smiling sheepishly. "We smell it!" they said, and that's all they said.

I said nothing. They'd left an appliance unattended and were too embarrassed to say so, which meant that they'd deal with the noise. My neighbor and I went back to what we were doing. The hallway was so thick with smoke I could smell it in my apartment and with bread baking. The racket was paralyzing. Doors slammed upstairs, then outside. The young couple upstairs has relatives here, and they were obviously seeking help with the situation.

This is not the kind of place where I'd know much about my neighbors beyond their names, if that, so I don't know these two. They have two cats, they're well-educated and keep a nice home. They're the nice people I fretted about in December. You'll recall I considered breaking and entering to find out if they were upside down in a ditch. I'd guess they're in their mid-twenties, probably just a little older than Miss Sasha, and I guessed further this had never happened to them before because a few minutes turned into ten, then twenty, and still the distressing cacophony continued. I hated to intervene, but I couldn't take it anymore.

I took my four foot step ladder into the hallway, set it up, climbed it and disconnected the ground floor smoke detector. Reluctantly, I took the ladder upstairs and disconnected the upstairs smoke detector. The silence that followed was better than a cold drink on a hot, arid day. Then I knocked on their door.

She is tall and willowy, almost delicate. I've seen her books so I don't underestimate her intelligence. As I talk with her, I realize she depends absolutely on her more gregarious husband, and that I am old enough to be her mother.

Tata: Patricia, you had a little fire? Everything's all right now?
Patricia: The toaster caught fire. It's out. Dennis went to find someone to turn off the fire alarms.
Tata: I've disconnected them. Are you okay?
Patricia: I am okay. Dennis didn't know how to turn off the alarms.
Tata: Okay, then. It's simple. When the smoke clears, connect this to that, then screw this back into place.

Dennis bounded up the stairs a moment after Patricia closed the door. I explained the reconnection to him, searching his face for anything like wounded pride. A young man can be so easily hurt when women either trust him to know what to do or don't rely on him, as I didn't, and it's always hard to know what will offend. I also explained that for the first weeks I lived here, the downstairs fire alarm went off every night at 3:30, so I can disconnect these things in my sleep. Almost.

Daria's loaf of bread turned out beautifully despite the chaos.

One night, the first week we were in Virginia, Auntie InExcelsisDeo and I came to the same conclusion. It was in the air. I knew it, and I am always right about these things. Someone in that room was pregnant. Everyone said no. Everyone swore up and down that no, we were wrong. Summer's new husband called from California and said only, "When is the baby due?" which shocked us all into silence.

So today we learn Miss Sasha is pregnant after all. I am going to have a grandbaby. Let the shopping begin.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Friday Art Blogging: The Only One I Know Edition

The trees were still budding days ago when these structures went up in New Brunswick. Yesterday, I took my camera and walked to work, intent on showing you just how big these things are. The man in this picture is probably a little over six feet tall. By the way, I was entirely surprised by just how fast the leaves filled out, and how hard it was to find a clear shot of this image - please don't feel frustrated by the sunshine. After the recent storms, the ground still hasn't dried out. There's mud everywhere.
I love this image with my whole black heart and some of yours. It stands on the corner of Albany and George Streets, on the lawn of Johnson & Johnson's interplanetary headquarters. Buildings to the left obscured by trees and my refusal to look at them were designed by I. M. Pei, who probably looks back on that design and wonders what's in the water out here and how he quit whatever it was cold turkey. Plus, on my walk home from the library, a terrifying parade of slick corporate identi-babes streamed across the sidewalk, flowed across teeming Albany Street and stopped for cross traffic on Nielsen Street. They were talking about hotel arrangements but what I heard sounded like geese honking. They were spike wearing heels on cobble stones. Every one of them had long, straightened brown hair. They were dressed in tight-fitting synthetic suits. I was filled with such revulsion I stepped off the curb and into traffic to get away from them. I had to. I was invisible to them. One actually bumped into me, looked straight at me and was surprised something was in her way.

That's eight hours from when I snapped this picture at the corner of George and Hamilton Streets. It's early. The sun dapples the lawn but smiles on the old stone building behind this structure. In theater, a free-standing, three-sided tower is called a periactoid or periaktoi. It's a good, stable structure offering a stage crew a pile of advantages, the first being no one breaks a foot kicking set supports. One day this week, a strong wind blew off the river, which is about 100 yards behind me in the first image, and a crew blocked the sidewalk on Albany Street with caution tape, lest art take wing and injure the curious.

This line of towers and panels is not far from the one just above. New Brunswick is a small, snug town. Things are close together. Unplanned space looks like broken teeth, except for lawns like this, which create the feeling that these buildings are unapproachable. Most people will not walk up to these panels and examine them. The towers might as well sit in the middle of the Raritan. Ordinarly, I have a problem keeping off lawns and avoiding attractive nuisances but have I mentioned the mud?

Because the sun is low over the river to the east, these panels look and feel bright with possibility. In the afternoons, when the sun has rolled over the leaf canopy and sprawled languidly in the western sky, long shadows like smoke rings vibrate and billow. These images appear through the trees and the shadows, less possibility now than threat, like the growling of an as yet unseen giant cat. We are small and breakable in the eyes of our own imagination.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Down On A Brand New Day

Last week, one of my favorite relatives - I have lots of favorites for different reasons, don't anyone get bent out of shape - sent out an email blast rant. He was frustrated. I could hear the frustration. In essence he said: if he had to get drug-tested to get a paycheck, why shouldn't welfare recipients be drug-tested to get assistance and sit on their asses? Didn't I agree? Wasn't that a great idea?

I had so many different problems with this scenario it was hard to know where to begin. Let's enjoy the Dead Kennedys during this musical interlude while I see red and continue counting to TEN GODDAMN THOUSAND.

Before I can deal with anything else, I have to quit twitching and say this one thing: my interest in peace, and economic and environmental justice is not a passing fucking phase. Anyone who doesn't know that doesn't know a goddamn thing about me, blood relation or no. It boggles my mind that anyone thinks I'd enthusiastically "Hear! Hear!" an oh so whimsical, thoughtlessly invasive plan to punish poor people for being poor.

So. Now that my bruised ego has an ice pack, I've got a new subject to research and write about and you get more music. Let's not talk, okay? Let's just dance.

I'll be coherent again presently. This isn't about Me, Me, Me. Essays and footnotes will follow.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Laughing In the Face of Love

Milton Glaser

Something new called the Coexistence Festival raised its banners in New Brunswick over the weekend, and I was thrilled to see all 43 panels. Some are familiar amd many do nothing for me but this one, standing on perhaps the most traveled and photographed and surveilled corner in the city, was the only one that made my heart race. There's no other place this image would remain intact. Some idiot would feel the need to vandalize it, and that "some idiot" factor is important when thinking about public art.

Outside the library stands a Mary Miss installation that is universally loathed by the faculty and staff. Sometime, I'll take pictures of it because otherwise you'd never believe a description of what's out there. In my opinion, it's not just that it cost the university over $100,000 that makes it a whirling vortex of suckitude. No. It's bad art. It's lifeless, it interferes with ordinary movement and restricts simple line-of-sight judgments like, "Hey, what's that guy up to?" You'll notice the installation is not featured on Mary Miss's website - or you can trust me: it's not there. That is because when we saw the piece unveiled, staff members here stared at the construction project that'd made our lives miserable for some time and said, "Excuse me. That sucks. Get out of Dodge."

Some people tried to be nice. They said things like, "That naked Emperor has a nice ass." We have been stuck with this eyesore, which made me appreciate temporary eyesores - though I've always liked that one - for at least a decade. I've had time to think about it, I've weighed the merits of this installation. My feeling hasn't changed. This thing is bad art, and shame on the committee that didn't speak up before the money was spent.

I'm not sure what about coexistence merits a festival. That's like saying, "Hey, let's celebrate," and reminds me of Tom Lehrer's National Brotherhood Week. And I'd stand by that assessment that coexistence is a foolish, modest goal except people get all wound up and kill each other for no fucking reason whatsoever. So, sadly, coexistence suddenly looks ambitious, and let's invite the Indigo Girls and Richie Havens. I'm a little frustrated.

It's 2007. Two thousand goddamn seven, and some idiot will at least try to vandalize that gorgeous image and those simple words to obliterate the powerful notion that we are all interconnected. Peace, love and understanding just keep getting funnier and funnier.