Sunday, March 30, 2008

As A Pocket With Nothing To Lose

Pete and I got up early and made a beeline for Sears, where we ran a paint salesman ragged, though he was definitely in on the joke, and while we were in the neighborhood, we picked up a few morsels to grill for dinner. Then we hightailed it to Pete's, where we worked our rumps off.

This picture's glare spots are a trick of the light and not at all representative of the actual glare, which is quite festive. The red dining room still needs work here and there. That pipe in the corner needs paint. A radiator you can't see will be sanded and painted outdoors while the walls behind it will be rolled red and the trim white. Eventually, we'll clear the rooms, sand the floors and apply polyurethane, but that's down the road, and we've already started driving toward the living room. Today, Pete and I took down huge mirrors around the fireplace original to the house. They looked ghastly. I wondered why no one took a sledgehammer to the things eighty years ago.

This staircase has driven me crazier, since it's ancient, filthy and almost impossible to clean. I scoured the banister for hours, the spindles for hours more and the surfaces - Flying Spaghetti Monster, the surfaces are miniscule, uneven and reachable if one were eight feet tall and 90 pounds. I am neither. We stained the banister, added a second coat and polyed. The banister and the column at the foot of the stairs glowed, as if the house approved. We painted the spindles white, and we'll get to the stairs and the hallway, but for now, we'll finish the dining room, paint the little living room before we move up into the hallway.

That green in the distance: it is my enemy, and it taunts me! I must vanquish its tealy evil!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cartwheels Turn To Car Wheels

Some Saturdays, I get home from the family store motivated to scour my bathroom, vacuum the drapes and refold Rhode Island. I roll up my sleeves and make the most of it, when I have that kind of energy. Vrrooooom! I love things clean and sweet-smelling! I love the few minutes three times a week when the bathroom floor is gritless and cat-litter free!

Today, however, I want a nap. It is my very good fortune that today, I can have one!


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Got To Make The Best Of

The primary season long ago lost its tinny glamor. The vote's behind us and I am aware that the Republican noise machine engineers dirty tricks, scandals and rumors into our political campaigns. Until and unless indictments are unsealed, I simply will not listen to rumor or innuendo. I won't listen to the insinuating chatter of reporters who have nothing to say. I'm not going to listen to anyone calling for any Democrat to apologize, to cast off an ally, a secret religion, to consider someone else's penis. No. I won't hear another word on the subject of entitlement, and you shouldn't either.

We are being manipulated. Indulge me just a teensy moment, please!

Perhaps you have a favorite candidate. Perhaps you've invested scads of time verbally excoriating his, her or its opponent. Perhaps you've gone so far as to instigate a comments thread where rash words were exchanged.

Hmmm. My darling, come sit next to me. Comfy? Can I get you a cup of tea? You're cutting down. I see. Okay, then. How's your blood pressure? Pounding in your ears? My sweet, it's time to reconsider.

Recently, I've heard people threaten to vote Republican if their favorite candidate doesn't win the Democratic nomination. These passionate, dedicated people have lost sight of what's at stake. They're not really Democrats, or liberals, or progressives, and they're certainly not people interested in justice or changing the world. No, they're handicappers, more concerned with betting the right pony than Civil Rights. They don't care whether or not children have health insurance, if the wars go on forever, if the economy tanks, if the government spies on its citizens, if the CIA operates secret prisons and tortures. Nope. These fuckers care about stomping their widdle feet and getting their way. Fuck the poor. Screw the Constitution. They'll show you!

That kind of unforgivable selfishness will get us nowhere. Let's look at one thing we must surely always keep before our eyes.

Say you're a human. Say you need medical treatment after January 2009. Say it's something you want to get over with and put behind you. You want and need to address your medical problem with all haste and in the manner you choose without interference from anyone. You want that. And you want to be left alone.

Now, say that means that for whatever reason, and there are many in the wide world of human disasters, you need an abortion. Or your wife needs an abortion. Your daughter, your granddaughter, your niece, your ward, your sister or your mother needs an abortion.

If you vote Republican, the religious right will be appointing Supreme Court Justices for the next four years. That abortion becomes less probable with each appointment; out with the bath water goes birth control. The Supreme Court is one provincial Republican appointee from grave danger to Roe v. Wade and two away from overturning it and throwing a picnic on the mall.

One more time, my pet: another Republican administration, Roe v. Wade, overturned. And it's not just safe, legal abortion. You know that. This is the tip of the Make Your Own Decisions, Occupational Safety, Environmental Progress, National Park Preserving, Equal Rights For Everyone, No Torturing, Rule Of Law, Privacy Respecting, Trade Balancing, Reasonable Search and Seizure, No Outsourcing Iceberg.

Let's take a deep breath, then, shall we? The other day, one of my blogmates told me on a third person's blog to go Cheney myself, presumably over the assertion that a woman president would be dandy. I did not respond to his vitriol because why should I lose my temper, my stomach lining or - Kali forbid! - develop a wrinkle because he's lost the plot? I'm beautifying the world one room at a time, so leaving a rumpled karmic mess is absolutely O-U-T out!

Appearances may deceive, my love. Nader cannot save us. McCain is not a reasonable centrist. Clinton is not Satan. Obama is not a terrifying racial cipher. Politicians cannot ride to our rescue from global nightmares of our own making. If we know what is good for us and our general health, we will carefully purge the junta and go about the next five years putting our nation, our international credibility, our infrastructure, our scientific community, our economy and our ethos back together. A great deal of work lies ahead of us. Now is the time to rest. When the election comes, you'll know what to do.

Well, I'm glad we've had this little chat. I hope you hear what I'm saying: disengage from the utterly irration media circus. Go for a delightful walk outdoors. This weekend, daffodils will bloom in New Jersey. Gazing at sunny yellow flowers is positively tonic.

Care for a crumpet?

Updated to correct amusing typos.

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And Call Ourselves An Institute

On our last trip to Virginia, we divided up Dad's tapes and CDs. I took some Leonard Cohen, a few Rickie Lee Jones tapes I'd made for him, a CD copy of Graceland, and a tape of a Greek singer whose name I can't spell offhand. It'd been a long time since I listened to Graceland, and I'd forgotten I'd always had questions about that album. If I could, I'd call up Paul Simon for each and every low-down.

As a developing writer, you acquire an ear for words that feel out of place or put there as a signal. They feel like a bump in a smooth stretch of road. Let's try out these words from That Was Your Mother:
Along come a young girl
She's pretty as a prayerbook,
Sweet as an apple on Christmas Day.
I said, "Good gracious, can this be my luck?
If that's my prayerbook,
Lord let us pray."

If you're half-listening, nothing happens here but accordians and a story of a young man meeting a young woman. Simon is a really sophisticated lyricist, and a closer listen teaches you a few things. He's a New Yorker, for one thing. New Yorkers did not say "pretty as a prayerbook" at the end of the twentieth century, when this song was written. That's an old-fashioned southernism, which he follows with the humble "sweet as an apple on Christmas Day." So you have this explosion of color and sugar and light and fragrances, the mildest of which might be the apple, which also sets this story in a sepia-toned past. Then he makes one of those Paul Simon trademark turns of phrase that tells you he is not southern, not old-fashioned and won't mind spending a little time on his knees. It's brilliant, really, which is why when I get to this line I scratch my head:
Well, that was your mother
And that was your father
Before you was born dude
When life was great
You are the burden of my generation
I sure do love you
But let's get that straight

I'm the what? Of course, he's talking to his son and not me, but we have the layered pronoun problem: I'm the - wait, he's the burden of your generation? I'd like ring up and ask what particular left field we zoomed into. On this album, there are a few. All Around the World or The Myth of Fingerprints:
Over the mountain
Down in the valley
Lives a former talk-show host
Everybody knows his name
He says, "There's no doubt about it
It was the myth of fingerprints
I've seen them all and man
They're all the same."
Well, the sun gets weary
And the sun goes down
Ever since the watermelon
And the lights come up
On the black pit town
Somebody says, "What's a better thing to do?
Well, it's not just me
And it's not just you
This is all around the world."

I love this song. I love love love this song. Ever since the watermelon? What the fuck are we talking about? From beginning to end, I feel the loneliness but can't find the story, which is really, really unusual in a Paul Simon song. Almost 10 years later, a bunch of somebodies made a movie called The Myth of Fingerprints. That year, I was very busy being Me, so I didn't see it, but my Spideysense tingled. I don't know what that means, either.

There's another question I'd like to ask. Most of the time, Simon writes his own stories, but Under African Skies seems to have nothing to do with him, and then there's the second verse.
In early memory
Mission music
Was ringing round my nursery door
I said, "Take this child, Lord
From Tucson, Arizona,
Give her the wings to fly through harmony
And she wont bother you no more."

This seems to be Linda Ronstadt's story, paralleling the story of the title. The swooping sound of her voice suggests flight, steady and graceful. As a diptych, it's a lovely picture, but it's like looking at photographs of people you know you must know. Why these two people? What is the connection?

Today, I'm mailing more of Dad's books to Miss Sasha, who asks different questions. I still have no answers.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Don't Fear My Darling the Lion

New York Times Online:

White House Offers Grim Outlook for Medicare

I'll just tell you right now I can't read this article because I will suffer an aneurysm. God damn it, I cannot think rationally about depriving Americans of access to what little health care they have -

Okay, I read it and only went a little cross-eyed. Here's the howling mad part:
President Bush set forth his vision for Medicare in February, in a budget that proposed savings of more than $180 billion in the next five years. The House and the Senate rejected those proposals in budget blueprints adopted earlier this month.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the reports reflected policy decisions made by Mr. Bush early in his administration. The president inherited a budget surplus, but, rather than using it to shore up Social Security and Medicare, she said, he squandered much of it on “tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.”

Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the senior Republican on the Budget Committee, said the reports showed that the looming crisis in entitlement programs “is not a phony issue, as some Democrats have stated, but a very real problem that is on our doorstep.”

The administration has lied to us so often it now sends someone out to say, "We're not lying"? If you're lying, and you say you're not lying, YOU'RE STILL LYING. I believe this is another effort to turn the fiscal clock back to the heyday of the robber baron, and I'm quite sure about 67% of Americans agree. Don't fuck with old people!

The lighting fixture that started our quest for color that honored Pete's late mother's taste in furniture.

In other Stuff You Won't Believe, Stop & Shop corporate headquarters has not responded to my email this time to find out if I'm a real human and actually talk like this, but the local store's manager called me at work. We talked about recycled stuff and healthier products and he tried to convince me that he was doing the best he could. Chitter chatter chitter chatter later, I asked him straight out, "Why did you call me? You're not going to convince me to buy Bounty and shut up." He actually tried telling me that all his product options were set at corporate and recycled products weren't available. I said, "The Stop & Shop across the river has an entire recycled and healthy products ghetto, which is bullshit because when customers are in the paper products aisle they can't see what their real options are."

He said, "They have that?"

I said, "Maybe you'd better go look and compare notes. Your store is in trouble when I can tell you what you can order and you don't know."

DING! Thus ends Round 2. I may have taken that one but anyone could still lose.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

The Boom-Boom Into My Heart

Pete often takes interesting pictures of this dull landscape. Tonight, as he chose his images, a sunset orange as pumpkin blossoms kissed the city goodnight. It was impossible to photograph and gone in an instant. On Monday nights, Discovery Home Channel runs a series of shows about painlessly greening up your life, which is great but miles from our thoughts as we skedaddled to Pete's house, where we've been plotting, scheming and plotting some more, and now our eeeeeevil plan is in higglety-pigglety motion.

We've smooshed everything together into the center of Pete's dining room, covered it in canvas and painted one hundred year old plaster walls an elegant and foreboding red. On the way to red, we first primed the walls with a dusty rose primer that gave me terrifying eighties flashbacks. Remember that Laura Ashley period in your life or the life of a misguided loved one? Brrrr. Red is the toughest color to work with because everything else bleeds through it. We painted and cut in and painted and cut in and painted and tried not to kill each other and pretended not to notice the way the old greenish-teal trim appeared to vibrate horribly in a red room. You see it there, lurking in the distance. Eradicating it in the dining room became my obsession. I can't tell you how many times I said, "Five more minutes! Five more! I can quit priming any time!"

We were undecided before but tonight we decided the trim should be white-white. When I saw the deep, velvet red next to the fresh, bright white, all I could do was cackle with joy. Joy! Tomorrow: we paint all the trim. Later, the radiator and a pipe will be silver.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Me While You're Looking Away


From the Times Online:
Far from heeding international calls for dialogue with the Dalai Lama, China has accused Tibet’s exiled god-king of colluding with Muslim terrorists to destabilise the country before the Olympic Games.

Ha haha ha hahahahahahaha hahaha...

Wait - the Dalai Lama's a - hahahahahahahahaha haha haha Flying Spaghetti Monster, that's a good one. I wish - ooh hoo! - I wish I'd written that one. Well, unfortunately there's more, reminiscent of the comic stylings of Dick "Heart of Darkness" Cheney.

State-run newspapers have issued prominent leading articles that are part of a campaign to portray the Dalai Lama as the mastermind of the deadly riots that have rippled through Tibet and ethnic Tibetan communities.

In Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, yesterday local TV issued the No 7 list of those most wanted in connection with the riots on March 10 in which Chinese officials say 22 people were killed, including a baby boy burnt to death in a garage and one paramilitary police officer.

The latest list included six women and one monk and brought to 45 the number of people the security forces were seeking. The police sent out text messages to all mobile phone users in Lhasa urging those involved to surrender and exhorting others to turn in rioters in return for a reward.

The Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile in the Indian town of Dharamsala has put the death toll at 99, comprising 80 in Lhasa and 19 shot dead as the violence spilt over into neighbouring provinces with a large Tibetan population.

China’s Communist rulers have presented the violence as a plot supported by only a minority of Tibetans. The People’s Daily said that the Dalai Lama had never abandoned violence after fleeing China in 1959 after a failed revolt against Beijing. “The Dalai Lama is scheming to take the Beijing Olympics hostage to force the Chinese Government to make concessions to Tibetan independence.”

It also accused Tibet’s spiritual leader of planning attacks with the aid of violent Uighur separatist groups seeking an independent East Turkestan for their largely Muslim people in the northwestern Xinjiang region of China. It said: “The Dalai clique has also strengthened collusion with East Turkestan terror organisations and planned terror activities in Tibet.”

The Dalai Lama described the accusations by China as baseless.

Never in a kerjillion years would I have described the Dalai Lama as violent, which just goes to show you my vivid imagination is not the stuff of explosive political greatness. I'm almost speechless at the artistic license with the truth issuing those statements would require. Jon Lovitz would turn down this role.

Until tonight, I have opposed boycotting the Olympic Games. I love the Olympics. The 1980 and 1984 Olympic boycotts hurt thousands of athletes and proved that diplomacy's failures make messes of absolutely everything. Tonight, I am not sure whether Beijing is urbane like Barcelona or doomed like Sarajevo, or if the Games will be peaceful like in Montreal or deadly like in Munich. I am now willing to consider the idea of a boycott. What do you think?


The family toy store sells all kinds of fascinating things I would never otherwise see. The other day I was looking at books for Panky and found Braille ABC Blocks With Sign Language. This find caused me to alert dogs within a square mile to my joy. Oh, the barking, but that's not all. The town, tiny though it is, is a hotbed of multilingualism, so nearby sat Russian, Hebrew and Spanish letter blocks. I made an exotic joke about wishing for Egyptian hieroglyphic blocks.

You know what? Uncle Goose makes them.


Friday, March 21, 2008

The Bodegas And the Lights

Daria and I, no idea where, about 1965. Also: the last time either of us saw our natural colors.

For a few days, Poor Impulse Control was dead as a doornail, though I wonder if doornails animate. Regardless: it has come to my attention that I handle frustration poorly. Don't try to dissuade me with your usual and completely justified mitigating praise. No, I may have a problem with poorly timed outbursts. Just this morning:

Siobhan: Jesus Christ, I bought a house!
Tata: You forgot to fix my fucking blog.
Siobhan: I'm so sorry!
Tata: Congratulations! When do we paint?

Two weeks ago, a man with the same name as my father's mother's father contacted me to ask if we were related. I read his list of family names and recognized none of them, but I asked about his name and told him to keep in touch. He said he believed he was named for my great-grandfather, and did I recognize this other list of names? It was my branch of the family. I was glad I was sitting down when I read it. We've chatted most days since then.

This morning, a woman found me by googling an eminent common relative, though she and I are not related. Mom was surprised and pleased but cagey with information. Siobhan, mysteriously still speaking to me, wondered what that meant.

Siobhan: Your mom is an only child who wants a bigger family but doesn't want to invite them to dinner?
Tata: My mom wants relatives she can keep to herself on papers that burst into flames upon her demise.
Siobhan: But your mom is so nice!
Tata: Geez Louise, do I have to write my next bitchy line?

I might be a little TENSE.

No More Falsehoods Or Derisions

It's an ad. Ignore that. See the kind of beauty that leaves me breathless.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Take Me To Another Place

Once again, Blogger will not upload pictures. This time, it offers a novel error message, which explains nothing and doesn't help. I would actually prefer error messages that brought the problem into focus:
* Publish? Fuck that. Where's our pizza?

* Pictures? Pffft! Send us boobies.

* Lost your blog? Like we care. We're Blogger.

Obviously, if I ship Blogger techs Skittles and porn, I stand a better chance of being in business.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Cloud Burst, The Head Of the Tempest

Stop & Shop Consumer Affairs

To Whom It Concerns:

Perhaps you remember my open letter of 14 November 2007, in which I presented problems with the 08904 Stop & Shop including smelly, rotten fruit, an eye-opening lack of products from recycled paper and a peculiar lack of significant baking ingredients for National Pie Day. It's true that National Pie Day is usually celebrated in January and fruit is supposed to be one kind of smelly but those things aren't important right now. No, what's important is that your feedback form and I have established a relationship, deepened by a phone call from a nice lady in corporate, and I wrote down almost everything she said because I have a memory that is for poop, a zany coincidence since she promised an improved selection of recycled products and last Thursday night, I found zero recycled paper products in that same store. But I get ahead of myself.

Scenic 08904 is a tiny town of people from all over the world, though I happen to be a local. This all means that people walk to the grocery store, possibly because they don't drive, and when they get there hope to be able to pick up staples. It's a grocery store. You find pantry staples there. So. In November, I mentioned the selection of products from recycled paper was puzzling in 2007, when most people were aware that we were having some trouble with packed landfills; imagine my surprise when last week, which was undoubtedly 2008, I found no recycled paper products on the shelves what. so. ever. Not even one. Trembling with rage, I marched to the courtesy counter, where a manager and an employee pressed themselves against pregnancy tests and pouch tobacco, hoping I would go away quietly.

It's true, I threw a hissyfit. I expressed my G Rated outrage at this improbable turn of events. You'll be pleased to hear they were very nice The manager, brow furrowed, turned to go see for himself. I walked a whole step to the Express Lane, where I counted myself lucky to be third in line. Fortunately, that line didn't move, so when the manager came back from the paper products line, brow more deeply furrowed, he offered to order recycled paper products for me. This is awfully nice but it misses the point. Just today, I took aside the kid putting out the vegetables to tell him his arrangement of lettuces was truly beautiful, but that's beside the point, too.

Across the street, the health food store sells products from recycled paper, along with organic and natural products. That health food store does a brisk business. Tiny 08904 has set its sights on becoming a green town. In good weather, I myself walk to and from work in the city on the other side of the river because it's healthier for me and the planet. In 2008, people are more conscious of what they're doing and what they're ingesting, and yet your very expensive, very poorly stocked store is sitting right in the heart of town, a giant, stodgy blob of festering 1965. What gives?

Rumor has it I am not the only little old lady delivering this message. I hear that people rant this same rant all day every day, which means others think the same thoughts but don't bother mouthing off. If that's true, why is Stop & Shop resisting what customers want? That's kind of like saying, "Your mouth says 'No' but your eyes say 'Can I get extra styrofoam in my dioxin gazpacho?'"

I would like you to observe that Princeton, a scant few miles straight down Route 27, supports a coop, an Olive May and a Wild Oats. A McCafferty's is not far and several pretty good large grocery stores do fine. Even Costco now offers organic vegetables, healthy items and Marcal recycled paper products, which I've reminded you before are made in New Jersey. So what are you waiting for?

Safety first,
Princess Ta

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Monday, March 17, 2008

The Earth It Moves Too Slow

Rock and rock and roll radio!

Pete and I unlocked the front door of Rancho Rococo just before 8 last night, so tired showering seemed both essential and overly ambitious. The drive back from Virginia, which can suck beyond belief if someone sneezes on Route 78, was evidently sneeze-free. We ate Sun Chips. We drank gallons of coffee. We surfed the airwaves and found songs we loved, liked and minded somewhat, but only once did we both reach for the radio in alarm. The words "Monday morning: The Billy and John Boy Drive Time Show - where Rednecks find a home" made us both blink, then shout about locking the doors on that home and issuing flea collars.

Previously on Poor Impulse Control: my dad died 1 April 2007 in a surprising flurry of admirers, ex-wives and current children. Last fall, we had a yard sale of his things and because he was a tremendous packrat we had another this past weekend. If you've joined this story in progress, I can sum this up in one little moment from the yard sale, then I have other things I have to do. I will catch up tomorrow, I think. Anyway, Saturday morning, on a lawn in Staunton, Virginia:

A man and woman walk around the yard, then circle the tables and casual ground-level displays of some small number of Dad's thousands of books. Half a dozen other people wander around quietly. Daria, Todd and I don't look like anyone else and we're wearing canvas money belts. My teenage sister Dara looks a little more local. My step-mother Darla is standing near me when we discover the woman is paying attention.

She: Are you a family giving this garage sale?
Darla: We are.
She: Whose books are those? Who is the gourmet, who is the naturalist, who is the writer?
Tata: Those books belonged to one person.
Darla: They were my husband's.

The woman turns to the only male personage in sight: my brother Todd.

She: Is that you?
Todd: No, I cook but I can't keep up.
Darla: He died last year. These are my husband's grown children. They came to help out.
She: He must have been an interesting person.
Tata: He was quite a character.
She: You must be interesting people.
Todd: It's possible.
Daria: What I wouldn't give for a grilled cheese...


Saturday, March 15, 2008

No One Nice Again

We're sitting at the kitchen table reading Dad's antique Playboys. All the male models resemble Tucker Carlson and fuel-injected luxury Volkswagon cost $3300. A person might acquire a very respectable vehicle to do zero-to-fifty - yes, fifty - in 8.6 seconds. Todd looks up and says, "You could jog faster." Our favorite ad so far declares, "Introducing the new home appliance that answers your phone!" For crying out loud, the page Daria's reading features six people in some advanced stage of plaid gangrene, and she's convinced the best-looking person is the dog. The 1974 Spring and Summer Fashion Forecast is truly something special. An orchestra seat for Pippin starring Ben Vereen will run the Broadway goer a big $12.

I'm scritching Miss Samantha, princess and adventurous scrapper in a house full of larger cats. Pete, who should not lift anything, stayed home and whipped up a fantastic dinner of corned beef, latkes and cabbage, while we got up in the dark and had a yard sale of Dad's stuff. By the time we arrived back at Dad's house, we were ravenous and ready to bite each other's arms. Fortunately: latkes! After we stuffed ourselves, we all fell down or cleaned up, and when I woke up later, three cows were walking around in the front yard. We don't own any cows.

You should see the shoes.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Know When Or Where To Go

I'm packing to go back to Virginia again. The catsitter's coming tomorrow to adore Topaz and Drusy in my mournful absence. Tonight, I went to pick up snacks at the Extortion Mart across the street from the family store while Anya closed up. A six of San Pellegrino, carrot sticks and Sun Chips later, I found myself flummoxed in front of the toilet paper again when there wasn't a single recycled paper product on the shelves I'd complained held too few. Ten minutes later, Anya met me at my car a little flustered.

Anya: Where'd you go?
Tata: I had to throw a giant hissyfit, and those take time.
Anya: What happened?
Tata: I can't believe it! In that store, in March 2008, I didn't find a single recycled paper product in that aisle - not a napkin, not a tissue, not a paper towel, not a single roll of toilet paper. In 2008, there's no excuse for this.
Anya: You're not the only one who has this talk with them.
Tata: I marched to the checkout line but two people were at the courtesy counter so I turned around, interrupted their conversation and described my umbrage. I was umbrageous!
Anya: Is that a word?
Tata: Of course not, so it's not a cliche!
Anya: Did they say anything or did they hold still and hope you don't bite?
Tata: The one guy said he was a new manager from Somerset where they have lots of recycled products. I corrected him by saying there's a recycled product ghetto that was inadequate but better than nothing. Anyway, he looked really surprised so he went to look for himself. Fortunately the Express Line wasn't moving so when he got back he said I was right but he had the decency to look confused.
Anya: Are you inhaling at all? Because I haven't seen you breathe for a few minutes.
Tata: He said it's a small store. I said that makes it worse because people walk to the store but then they have to drive two towns away for recycled paper and what's that mean?
Anya: Dead dinosaurs weep!
Tata: He said corporate in Massachusetts made the decisions. I said they'd already heard from me, and I was fully prepared to have a conniption up and down the East Coast.
Anya: We buy our Marcal products at Costco.
Tata: Really? I've never found them there!
Anya: We buy them for the stores and our houses at Costco.
Tata: I'll look again. Anyway, I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't believe it and I couldn't even shut my mouth! Hey, did I drive by your house? I can't tell when I'm nearly hysterical.
Anya: No, it's actually two ahead.
Tata: Your block has nine houses. Yet I can't pick out the one in the middle.

My campaign of letter-writing terror begins anew Monday.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Trouble Is A Temporary Thing

This week, I had to stop watching One Life To Live because during the writers strike, a familiar soap plotline developed: a glib blond bully menaces the whole town. This show has been down this road before recently. This glib blond bully has the added loathsomeness of racism and sexism, whereas the last one was merely a scheming sociopathic murderer. I have nothing against this actor and I wish him well in his career; I don't have any patience for cruelty and no desire to watch it for entertainment purposes. So. I'll read the plot summaries until the bully is no longer Chief of Police, because that shit is a little too much like real life. Via Pandagon:
Two years ago, Tunde Clement stepped off a bus at the city’s main terminal downtown.

Clement, a black man, was carrying a backpack and coming from New York City. That may have been enough to pique the interest of undercover sheriff’s investigators scanning the crowd with their eyes.

They cornered Clement and began peppering him with questions.

He was quickly handcuffed and falsely arrested. He was taken to a station to be strip-searched and then to a hospital, where doctors forcibly sedated him with a cocktail of powerful drugs, including one that clouded his memory of the incident.

A camera was inserted in his rectum, he was forced to vomit and his blood and urine were tested for drugs and alcohol. Scans of his digestive system were performed using X-ray machines, according to hospital records obtained by the Times Union.

The search, conducted without a search warrant, came up empty.

In all, Clement spent more than 10 hours in custody before being released with nothing more than an appearance ticket for resisting arrest — a charge that was later dismissed.

This story turned up in comments as a response to this post.
Police records show the officers called out a “Signal 38″ to alert a dispatcher they were onto something suspicious and about to pull someone over. They would later write in a report that they had pulled her over for “failure to signal,” although no ticket was issued, according to police records shared with the Times Union.

The actions of police in the minutes that followed would end in controversy rather than with an arrest. They would also leave Shutter, a 28-year-old single mother from Ravena, shaken and angry after one of the officers allegedly inserted his finger into Shutter’s vagina on a public street during an apparent search for drugs.

When it was over, “I pulled off down the road and I just cried for probably a half hour,” Shutter said. “I called my dad. - I felt like I had been basically raped.” The incident has triggered an ongoing internal affairs investigation by the Albany Police Department.

It gets worse.
One of the officers at the scene, Matthew Fargione, is the son of a former Albany police narcotics lieutenant, Thomas Fargione, who is a longtime friend of Chief James W. Tuffey. Fargione headed the drug unit for years when Tuffey was a narcotics detective in the 1980s and early 1990s, and the two men also worked together for the State Emergency Management Office.

A member of the Citizens’ Police Review Board, who spoke on condition of anonymity because only the chairman is authorized to make public statements, said some members of the board have privately suspected that the department may be hiding cases of police misconduct.

Shutter said she grew increasingly unnerved by her experience with internal affairs — which is known as the Office of Professional Standards — because male detectives twice requested she wear clothes from the night of the incident to re-enact the body search.

Tuffey declined to comment on a list of written questions submitted by the Times Union last week, including why internal affairs officials didn’t assign a female detective on Shutter’s case.

I get that sometimes white guys don't think sexism exists because women are so used to the vast pile of shit men heap out that ordinary, day-to-day crap isn't worth a mention. This morning, the man sitting at the next desk thought it'd be a hoot to email me about the hilarity that is a woman driver and I did not whack him with a shovel. I get that if I did whack him with a shovel the university would contact the local gendarmerie and I would be escorted off the property in shiny restraints because my co-worker's annoying remarks are supposed to amuse me, wherein my position becomes indefensible and, oh by the way, someone's going to have to mop that up: call a woman, preferably one who doesn't speak English. I get that.

I get that many white guys think there's no such thing as racism because it's not happening to them. People tend to congregate around other people who are like them and validate what they think, so white guys who don't think much about racism tend to spend time with other white guys who don't think much about racism. Together, they don't think much about racism, and are offended by any mention of the fact that they are white guys who don't think much about racism, which means they're practicing it willy-nilly. These are also the first people to get indignant when someone says, "You should hire some people of color, maybe a few of them should be women, and some people who aren't the same religion you are." I get this.

I get that through the lattice of patriarchal oppression, people near the bottom oppress each other in festive circles of hideous words and deeds, and by oppressing, get something they need from the patriarchy by making sure some other group doesn't get it. It's ghastly to observe and weird to be a part of because society is set up such that I must actively or passively do a certain amount of it to get by and so must you, but I get that.

What I don't get is how these white guys aren't sued into extinction by the vast numbers of lawyers being churned out by law schools in this country who can't get jobs because now even litigation can be outsourced to India, and by gum, those white guys are infinitely replaceable by qualified men and women who may or may not be a different hue or follow a different creed. Why yes, the Supreme Court is stacked against those seeking relief from the throttling cruelty of the bullying white guy, but I have faith in the sheer number of ingenious seekers and the wear of time. Someone shall overcome, fuckers.

The days are now numbered.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

When Kindness Falls Like Rain

This week, the temperature is supposed to be above 40 every day. This means I can walk to and from work again, which is grand news. I walked today and love what it does for my metabolism and morale. It makes all the difference between feeling confined indoors burning fossil fuels and getting out into springtime and new life. Today, I was sorry to read that Twisty's father died last week. That anyone endures this now inspires a familiar ache for me. I want to say, "I don't know how you feel because I am not you, but I know it gets better with time."

This weekend, we have the final garage sale of Dad's stuff. I expect we'll cry all Saturday. But it gets better with time.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

That Endless Skyway

Recently, Pete and I watched a documentary on PBS about Pete Seeger and the sloop Clearwater. I was stunned by the story because, like many children our age, my sister Daria, brother Todd and I participated in it. Daria reminded me that we and our neighbors rode on the Clearwater more than thirty years ago. This is where we learned about basic environmentalism and took to heart a love of green places. This, I remember now, is where I became a shameless treehugger, for which I will never have even a single moment of embarrassment.

Last night, my own Pete happened on another PBS fundraiser and we both stopped what we were doing. Channel 13 out of Newark - you know, where Sesame Street came from - was running The Power of Song. Once again, I was shocked speechless by what I remember of Pete Seeger's life and what I had forgotten.

In 1952, I believe it was, Pete Seeger was blacklisted for being a communist and didn't appear on radio or television - except for PBS - until the Smothers Brothers invited them on their show in 1967 and 1968. One of his biggest legal problems is that he would not sign a loyalty oath or swear that he was not a Communist. Funny thing: in February 2008, a math teacher at California State University at East Bay was fired from her new job for refusing to sign a loyalty oath that included promises of violence.
California State University East Bay has fired a math teacher after six weeks on the job because she inserted the word "nonviolently" in her state-required Oath of Allegiance form. Marianne Kearney-Brown, a Quaker and graduate student who began teaching remedial math to undergrads Jan. 7, lost her $700-a-month part-time job after refusing to sign an 87-word Oath of Allegiance to the Constitution that the state requires of elected officials and public employees.

"I don't think it was fair at all," said Kearney-Brown. "All they care about is my name on an unaltered loyalty oath. They don't care if I meant it, and it didn't seem connected to the spirit of the oath. Nothing else mattered. My teaching didn't matter. Nothing."

A veteran public school math teacher who specializes in helping struggling students, Kearney-Brown, 50, had signed the oath before - but had modified it each time. She signed the oath 15 years ago, when she taught eighth-grade math in Sonoma. And she signed it again when she began a 12-year stint in Vallejo high schools.
Each time, when asked to "swear (or affirm)" that she would "support and defend" the U.S. and state Constitutions "against all enemies, foreign and domestic," Kearney-Brown inserted revisions: She wrote "nonviolently" in front of the word "support," crossed out "swear," and circled "affirm." All were to conform with her Quaker beliefs, she said. The school districts always accepted her modifications, Kearney-Brown said. But Cal State East Bay wouldn't, and she was fired on Thursday.

In what fucking bizarro universe does a math teacher need to defend the goddamn State of California? And - wait for it - California officials can't agree on what the problem is.
Modifying the oath "is very clearly not permissible," the university's attorney, Eunice Chan, said, citing various laws. "It's an unfortunate situation. If she'd just signed the oath, the campus would have been more than willing to continue her employment."

Modifying oaths is open to different legal interpretations. Without commenting on the specific situation, a spokesman for state Attorney General Jerry Brown said that "as a general matter, oaths may be modified to conform with individual values." For example, court oaths may be modified so that atheists don't have to refer to a deity, said spokesman Gareth Lacy.

What the fuck is wrong with these people? The article goes on and on with the kind of bureaucratic back and forth anyone who's every tried to work with a state structure recognizes. Then she's fired, which raises the question: does anyone truly believe Medieval history and Comp Sci grad students are going to take up arms to defend anything? Of course not. That's why THEY'RE IN FUCKING COLLEGE. So what's that oath really intended to do?

Simple: to screen out people of real conscience.

"I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, that I am any less of an American than anyone else.

I am saying voluntarily that I have sung for almost every religious group in the country, from Jewish and Catholic, and Presbyterian and Holy Rollers and Revival Churches. I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent the implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, make me less of an American."

- Pete Seeger before the House Un-American Activities Committee on 15 August 1955.

We have been here before. We have seen this before and done this before. It was a tragic, terrible failure. And we can't wait to do it again.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Every Purpose Under Heaven

It rained here for a day and a half, sometimes with impressive ferocity but it didn't seem like anything special. It was raining. Then it stopped. As anyone who lives on a river knows, your weather matters but what matters more is the weather upstream. For two days, upstream, it was monsoon season. This morning, Pete and I drove two miles to Mr. DBK's house on the other side of the river, and to cross we had to backtrack around a flood plain. The park glistened where the river broke its banks and settled, bringing hungry geese almost to the road's edge. We decided then that later we'd go out and take pictures. Turns out taking pictures along the river just before sunset is a bitch.

The Raritan is a wide tidal river of variable depth. Pete and I both remember big boats on the river when we were children, their starling horns renting the air. Now, even the unnamed university's boathouse is a ghost town and it's possible the crew program's been disbanded; in any case, the only little motor boats on the river seem to glow a little and commute back and forth to the Arthur Kill. That can be seen from space, you know.

Mighty Route 18, which skirts New Brunswick before zipping across the river and stopping in the middle of nowhere, has been under construction for three years. I can see construction from my living room window, and listening to it has been pretty awesome. It's got a great beat, but absolutely nobody can dance to it. Years ago, I read the plans and saw something I didn't understand: specs for a tunnel under Albany Street, which is to say the bridge I walk across into the city. There's no place at the edge of the river where anyone needs a tunnel. I waited and waited, and one day I found the construction had hollowed out a section of previously stable Route 18 and Route 27 merge space, wrecked the road surface and put in a set of concrete stairs to ...nothing. The sidewalk I walk on is cracking under the pressure. The tunnel itself is crushed and failing. Well, that's not true. Along the edge of the river live the homeless, and these concrete steps take one to the spot where people have always lived out of doors. There's trash everywhere. When Pete and I went down to look at the tunnel, we saw someone living in it.

The tunnel goes nowhere. We'll go take more pictures - but not of the river people. They don't need attention. Someone besides us should know of this wasteful bullshit, and the tunnel that serves no purpose but to destroy the bridge.

Note: Fucking Blogger won't upload pictures tonight. I'll add them to this post later.
Update: Images added Monday night. Blogger's help board was full of messages about this since early Monday morning, and Blogger kept mum. I guess you get what you pay for there.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Until She Slipped Into My Pocket

I'm wimping out here, to which I freely admit. It's raining a little, cold and the wind is blowing through the trees along the river with some force. Am I going outside to take a picture? Fuck no. Instead, you get a picture Pete took of wine in a jelly jar while he was chasing the pussycats around the living room. I love the honey-colored light, the glistening glass surface, the smoothness of the table, but I also see this still life as a very active image. To my eye, this glass looks still only at its center, the way candlelight is always in motion. I know this room was alive with cats running in circles and one athletic man fiddling with the flash - even I was laughing. This is what we distill of that moment.

On Friday, minstrel wrote about a report that lengthy, repeated tours of duty are destroying the armed forces. I'd read this report, too, but I don't have the same capacity he does to break out meaning. The article:
The report showed that 27.2% of noncommissioned officers - the sergeants responsible for leading troops in combat - reported mental health problems during their third or fourth tours.

"Soldiers are not resetting entirely before they get back into theater," said Lt. Col. Paul Bliese, who headed the team that conducted the study. "They're not having the opportunity to completely recover from the previous deployment when they go back into theater for the second or third deployment.

Note the inconsistency within the article: the first paragraph cites third or fourth tours; the second paragraph mentions problems beginning with second and third tours of duty. This is not a small discrepancy. It means that problems start even sooner than anyone is willing to discuss: with a second tour of duty. A second. We're sending them in for a fourth. Minstrel:
They are driving the army straight into the ground. Also, these type of endless and back to back deployments have never happened. No one else in the history of warfare has done this to their troops.

Let's read those words again: No one else in the history of warfare has done this to their troops.

No one else in the history of warfare has done this to their troops.

Rumor has it the tours of duty are about to be extended again, and it will be done quietly. When the destruction of our armed services is an undeniable fact in history, will you then support the war crimes trials of the people whose thoughtless cruelty, greed and hubris left you more truly vulnerable than you have ever been in your life?

What will it take for you personally to get off your ass and do something about this?


Friday, March 07, 2008

If Seeing Meant That

Lovely Topaz.

Photo by Pete.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Sound That I'm Hearing Is Only the Sound


Tonight, I spent a couple of hours on a ladder at the family store, sanding and repainting walls so light a green the color is nearly indistinguishable from the gallery-white ceiling. For me, this was howling good fun. I love painting. I love the perfection of fresh, clean walls and wild possibilities, which is marvelous considering I'd locked myself out of my apartment while Bill Cosby was explaining Black people to Oprah. Note to self: flu leaves one too weak for ordinary activities like breaking and entering. Yes, I'm sure it was a little disconcerting for my neighbors when I was hanging halfway out my living room window and couldn't pull myself up the rest of the way. That'll never happen again. My feet will not again dangle!


My office is shaped like a z, with my cubicle dead in the center. I hear everything. I was emptying an ancient kardex file with a new co-worker and we were talking about technology.

Her: My new phone comes with a stop watch. I can take splits.
Tata: You can be all like, "This conversation is going in circles. Let's see how fast."

Just then, my phone rang. I ran for it and whacked my arm really, really well.

Him: You named a vendor record "ABBY NORMAL"?
Tata: Yep.
Him: I'm putting on the Ritz!
Tata: Hot. I'm hanging up now.

...which I said because I could hear him laughing from less than 40 feet away. You would not believe the bruise,


She's Interactive

I am not a librarian. There're two degrees and an attitude problem between me and librarianship. The job market being what it is, I am surrounded by MLS holders in entry level positions. I'm surprised there aren't more hilarious and well-informed suicides.

That's Joe Uveges. I've never heard of him either.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Make You Stay Out All Night

Tata: You are totally falling down on the job!
Miss Sasha: What? Which job?
Tata: The new pictures job. How on earth can I gloat to the other grandmas if I have infuriating outdated pictures?
Miss Sasha: Omigod, I'm sorry!
Tata: Oh, and there must be gloating. Gloating!
Miss Sasha: I'll get right on that.
Tata: See that you do!

He's so cute I plan to be intolerable all day.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

And I Forgot My Spoon


The doctor's appointment went well. Pete went with me because memory loss and flu symptoms are a match made in Dubuque. In the parking lot, we met Siobhan's cousin with whom she and I were in a radio comedy troupe, and in the doctor's office, Pete and I met another erstwhile comedienne and her 18-month-old protege. Cue the ceremonial dropping of the cow, signifying the end of the sketch.

My doctor is a glamorous, no-nonsense Dutch lady. "You're much too sick to find this funny!" she shouted as I clutched the blood pressure cuff and gasped for breath.


Tata: I'm usually the one still standing when everyone else is sick, so I figured I was due.
Dr.: That's funny thinking. You know those people who after four girls try again to have a boy? The odds are still 50-50. From now on, you get a flu shot, and don't be a hero.
Tata: I still have a headache and - Pete, what's wrong with me?
Pete: Where do I begin?
Tata: Nausea and... oh, my lungs are kicking my ass. I should be better by now!
Dr.: How long does a genuine flu episode last?
Tata: A week? A week and a half?
Dr.: At least two weeks! You're going to be sick for some time to come, and you're just gonna cough, okay?

Properly chastened and coughing up a storm, I allowed as how I understood. She prescribed cough medicine and a rescue inhaler, because flu makes hot house flowers of us all. Then Pete drove me back to work, where today, one of my co-workers has begun to cough.

I feel as if I've really been through something. No wonder dozens of people die from flu every year in the U.S. Thus, we promised the comediennes we'll go on highly athletic bicycle trips in a month or two, with spouses and at least one junior expedition member. I will have gallons of Calamine.

Times Have Changed And Now the Poor Get Fat

Mom sent this so you will sit up straight and learn the capital of Vermont.

I do not endorse. I observe.

Monday, March 03, 2008

I'm Afraid Of Americans

A thousand years ago, when dinosaurs and free-range physicians roamed the earth, the unnamed university required persons staying home from work more than one day to bring a doctor's note. In those days, all one did was phone up one's doctor, cough a bit and one would be invited to cough on other sick people in the doctor's waiting room. After a dignfied period, one saw the doctor, who tapped, prodded and called patients by first names. Soon, one left the doctor's office with prescriptions and a note. If one was short of cash, arrangements would be made. I know a doctor's family that used to accept chickens as payment.

Today, I have an appointment with my doctor, a Dutch lady with a lofty teaching position at some other branch of the giant, unnamed university. She has many times come to my rescue, but I hate making appointments to see her. First: she has no time and too many commitments. Second: her office staff takes it as gospel that the job is to protect the Good Doctor from patients. A month ago, I ventured over there to ask about the invigorating vertigo. She said, "Make an appointment for a physical. We'll have a blast." I marched no further than 20 feet and said, "She says make an appointment for a physical." The Keeper of the Book said, "We don't have any. Call next week." So our party is postponed until I feel well enough to deal with the office staff. Does my doctor miss me?

Today, I'll ask why I still have a headache and why the flu won't leave my lungs. I don't know about you, but I need those. One thing I don't need is a note. Everyone in the library's basement could write an affidavit attesting to my constant coughing, which is nice and all, but no one has that much insurance. I hope they take chickens.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

You're In the Middle Of the Ride

Sunday, just about midday, I coughed up breakfast, then spent a day and a half either unconscious or very close. I could barely open my eyes, so mostly I lay still or sat still. With my body out of commission, I thought about Melissa Ethridge, dreaming herself well. I thought about the passions of the saints and the phrase "lying in the light of the Lord," which I would bet is a normal physiological reaction to high fever. Ever wake up in a dark room and wonder who turned out the flood light? Yeah, that can have consequences. I don't want to find a flowing spring off the Raritan with my bare hands, but if I do, I'm keeping a manicurist on call.

When I couldn't move, I slept. I lay awake and drifted. I listened. I listened to TV, to the talk of cats, to the sounds of my neighbors, to quiet and birds, to Pete. For the first day, I wanted to hear the predictable, soothing rhythms of reruns and soap operas. Later, I wanted to listen to the cool and the quiet. Sometimes, I lay quiet while Pete watched cartoons, which was sweet, but I also heard a commercial that soured my mood. It's stuck in my mind now, and I'm pissed.
Reese's has a new candy product out, which is apparently a whipped, smoother, fluffier candy resembling its other candy line products. Actually sounds pretty good to me.

Reese's Whipps has a TV campaign stating, "Whipped and proud of it!"

Who reading this is not familiar with the phrase "whipped," and its connotations? Does anyone need me to explain why I have a problem with this ad slogan being used in ads pumped across "family time" TV shows?

There's a word missing before "whipped." A very important word. For the .04% of you who don't know what I'm talking about, whipped refers to a man who is bossed around by a woman due to her sensual charms.

The word we all know coming before whipped is also a name for cats. And it rhymes with wussy. Hey, if you think this post is drifting toward the vulgar - now you are getting my point. Don't direct your anger at me; I'm the cultural observer here pointing out the trash. So help me take it out. My firm wouldn't touch creative like this with a 10-foot Hershey bar.

Fuck me running. How on earth did that get past the grownups at the ad agency?

Another thing I'm sorry I heard was an Oprah Show report by Lisa Ling about a woman who strips to provide for her three children. By the end of the report, I was so angry about the loaded language, ignored economic realities and mob mentality I wanted to conduct classes explaining to Oprah viewers what a railroad job they'd just seen.

I hate Oprah. One of the absolute worst aspects of any Oprah show is the part where Oprah poses question after question to elicit shame. In this case, when the subject didn't exhibit - har har! - any shame, and her 13-year-old daughter was actually proud of Mom, both Oprah and Lisa Ling were openly scornful.

I could go until I turn blue about how much women hate other women, but I couldn't possibly do this moment justice: the subject was describing how some club clients just want to talk - about their own wives and children, about her children. She mentioned she kept a picture in her shirt.

"What shirt?" snorted Ling. The audience cheered. It was a good thing I'd already felt physically ill, so I noticed the nausea right away.

The message board is an embarrassing woman-on-woman hatefest. Nothing is said about the men who abandon families. Nothing is said about the man whose jealousy and possessive behavior kept her prisoner in her home for five years, then left her and her children to starve. Nothing is said about the society that scorns working poor women with two jobs and no time with their children, but hates women who take sex work and have time to correct homework. Nothing is said about how what women really hate is the window into their own economic vulnerability if that man at home ever gets up and leaves.

I wondered how the producers found that woman. I wondered what she thought would happen. Whatever it was, I wish I'd changed the channel and slept easy.