Sunday, May 31, 2009

Running Up That Road, Running Up That Hill

Speechless with horror:
WICHITA, Kan. – Dr. George Tiller, one of the nation's few providers of late-term abortions despite decades of protests and attacks, was shot and killed Sunday in a church where he was serving as an usher.

The gunman fled, but a 51-year-old suspect was detained some 170 miles away in suburban Kansas City three hours after the shooting, Wichita Deputy Police Chief Tom Stolz said.

Although Stolz refused to release the man's name, Johnson County sheriff's spokesman Tom Erickson identified the detained man as Scott Roeder. He has not been charged in the slaying and was expected to be taken to Wichita for questioning.

There was no immediate word of the motive Tiller's assailant. But the doctor's violent death was the latest in a string of shootings and bombings over two decades directed against abortion clinics, doctors and staff.

Long a focus of national anti-abortion groups, including a summer-long protest in 1991, Tiller was shot in the foyer of Reformation Lutheran Church, Stolz said. Tiller's attorney, Dan Monnat, said Tiller's wife, Jeanne, was in the choir at the time.

I knew this day would come. Everyone did. Even so, he lived every day courageously in a dark and dangerous time. He is truly a hero, most especially to the vulnerable women whose lives he saved.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

See Right Through Your Plastic Mac

As far as I can tell, I've been in physical therapy twice a week since before Christ roamed the earth with his trusty dinosaurs. Mr. DBK asked last week what my complaint was, since apparently I complain with great enthusiasm but few specifics. My bad. Back when the sports doctor stared at my X-rays and turned pale, he saw three separate problems: an S-I joint wildly out of alignment, arthritis in the hip joint he'd expect to see in a person approaching retirement and the whole hip was twisted to the left. The X-ray didn't show two angry muscle groups staging their own protests. On the one hand: it was a tremendous relief when contact with the medical profession didn't leave me frustrated and the professional scratching her/his head. On the other hand: FUCK! It sounded like I was looking at hip replacement. Let me tell you something about replacement hips: they dislocate with flexion greater than 90 degrees. That would certainly leave a mark on my illustrious career as a dirty whore.

It would have been hypocritical to write about greener living when I was driving everywhere. I came very close to buying a cane and I probably will in the next year or so, but with a lot of therapeutic work, a few adaptations and a stream of obscenities in my wake that'd make a sailor proud, I can now walk to and from work most days. Hooray and all, but I'm not prepared to get back on my carbon footprint soapbox yet until I work out why one muscle group won't fall in and the therapist is frustrated. So: twice a week, the therapist sticks her elbow into knotted spots near my rump that would elicit screams if I were a normal person, but I laugh. Someday, this will be a rip-roaring story. Why wait?

Pete and I are shopping for an umbrella clothesline like Pete's mother had. It was second base when we played kickball in his backyard. That was a great thing: hitting your head - clang! - on second base. Drying clothes outdoors is good for us because it'll save gas and electricity. One of the tenants hang-dries her clothes inside her apartment, which is just silly. We can benefit, she too. Clotheslines run between $50-$100. Soon, I think!

Another thing we're working on is a leaf shredder. We live under huge old trees and in the fall, Pete counts on raking up at least a dozen of those municipally distributed bags of leaves, while I thank Kali there's a halfway decent chocolatier in town so I'm nibbling so-so bonbons while he's working that hard. So anyway, it dawned on me that if we shredded leaves we could stop buying mulch at Lowe's. Hooray and all, I bet I could get a mowing attachment on a Segway, if I put my mind to it, but I might need my mind later. It would be silly to lose it now.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hear Me You Don't Even

New York fucking Times:
Sotomayor’s Sharp Tongue Raises Issue of Temperament

What what what?
Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s Supreme Court choice, has a blunt and even testy side, and it was on display in December during an argument before the federal appeals court in New York. The case concerned a Canadian man who said American officials had sent him to Syria to be tortured, and Judge Sotomayor peppered a government lawyer with skeptical questions.

“So the minute the executive raises the specter of foreign policy, national security,” Judge Sotomayor asked the lawyer, Jonathan F. Cohn, “it is the government’s position that that is a license to torture anyone?”

Mr. Cohn managed to get out two and a half words: “No, your hon- .”

Judge Sotomayor cut him off, then hit him with two more questions and a flat declaration of what she said was his position. The lawyer managed to say she was wrong, but could not clarify the point until the chief judge, Dennis G. Jacobs, stepped in, asking, “Why don’t we just get the position?”

This sounds really familiar, but I can't fucking place it -
Other lawyers, though, are not so enamored. In the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary, which conducts anonymous interviews with lawyers to assess judges, she has gone from generally rave reviews to more tepid endorsements. Among the comments from lawyers was that she is a “terror on the bench” who “behaves in an out-of-control manner” and attacks “lawyers for making an argument she doesn’t like.”

Ringing a distant bell - so, so close -
“Some lawyers just don’t like to be questioned by a woman,” Judge Calabresi added. “It was sexist, plain and simple.”

I remember now! It was Mrs. Ornstein's tenth grade English class.
Gentlemen, importune me no farther,
For how I firmly am resolved you know;
That is, not bestow my youngest daughter
Before I have a husband for the elder:
If either of you both love Katharina,
Because I know you well and love you well,
Leave shall you have to court her at your pleasure.

[Aside] To cart her rather: she's too rough for me.
There, There, Hortensio, will you any wife?

I pray you, sir, is it your will
To make a stale of me amongst these mates?

Mates, maid! how mean you that? no mates for you,
Unless you were of gentler, milder mould.

I'faith, sir, you shall never need to fear:
I wis it is not half way to her heart;
But if it were, doubt not her care should be
To comb your noddle with a three-legg'd stool
And paint your face and use you like a fool.

From all such devils, good Lord deliver us!

And me too, good Lord!

Hush, master! here's some good pastime toward:
That wench is stark mad or wonderful froward.

Nothing's as fresh as seventeenth-century sexism. Also: they suck as theater critics if they don't know what play they're seeing. The least the New York fucking Times could do is demand that these fuckers write their poison-pen OpEds that pass for reporting in iambic pentameter. Truly: that's the least it could do.

Updated to reflect common understandings of sentence structure and moral sloth.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Of the Memory Of Late Nights

Indoor Furry Overlords passing notes in French class.

We've been feeding the outside cats because they keep the squirrels and the birds out of our gardens. Sort of. Two bluejays have adopted the tree in our backyard from which they heckle us and the cats. The cats are taking it pretty well. They give the squirrels a run for their money, gnaw the heads off field mice and prowl around the place like a pride of lions - at least until the skunk turns up.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Borrowed Dream Or A Superstar

Miniscule cat and stiff ursine friend.

This morning, I woke up at 4 out of a sound sleep, lying flat on my back. Tiny Drusy was perched on my chest and we were nose to nose. My right hand was petting her. I'd been keeeessing her in my sleep. Because I loooove the Princess Drusy, even in my dreams.

Man, my subconscious is SO CORNY.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Sometimes You Picture Me

How did you spend your Memorial Day? Pete and I drove up to Hacklebarney State Park, hiked through the woods and along the creek banks in the mossy cool of a sun-dappled morning. The air smelled fresh and green. We met people walking the other way on the trails and everyone smiled. Leashed dogs capered in the creek to the frustration of fly fishermen. One of the most striking elements of hike was that people of all kinds greeted us with the same unguarded eyes. We took pictures like this one, rested on benches, and hiked off trail up rocky embankments. It was a test for my hip that my hip passed, then we ate sandwiches. On our way home, we stopped at the rose garden for a sunny walk, then we ate sandwiches. At home, we sang along with Pete Seeger while we prepared dinner, which turned out not to have a speck of meat in it. Essentially, we communed peacefully with nature, then ate it. Hooray!

Between the hike and the rose garden we stopped at a farm store. Pete got out and walked toward the building. I ran for the goat pen and stopped short. About twenty feet in front of me stood two benches. One one, a teenage boy slumped facing away from me, completely oblivious. Between the two benches stood a fully grown male goat, staring at me. I turned around and said, "Pete, get the camera."

The goat trotted off to this tree, climbed up and started munching on the leaves about ten feet to my left. I'm just out of the frame here. I was overjoyed! A family of picnickers grabbed its little children up off the ground but nobody panicked. I looked around to see if employees had noticed the escapee but for a while no, I was standing there on the lawn between the stray goat, the picnickers and the parking lot, laughing like the goat was wearing last season's cargo shorts. I mean, really. Finally, an employee appeared, walked past me and lunged at the goat, who appeared to say, Whoa, dude. Like, dude! and bolted for the chicken enclosure. I said, "That goat appears to know you." He nodded and took off after the goat. For the next ten minutes, the goat bolted here and there and the employee gave chase. I almost swallowed my tongue! Inside the pen, baby goats capered with other kids. Their frenetic little tails gestured madly. I turned back toward the parking lot and realized the teenage boy on the bench was playing a video game and never noticed the goat standing next to him. I was at gamboling distance, but the boy was two feet away and saw nothing. Then we bought spinach.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Special Places That She Goes When

Ever see yourself in a Lolcatz?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Telling Where the Money's Gone

I look but sometimes can't see.

Everest, from NASA's Image of the Day Gallery. No matter how I squint, my eye doesn't make this into a mountain.

Two weeks from today, NYC Swim hosts the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim. My cousins are coming from Guatemala to participate. It's very exciting: the woman who's my age fought a tough battle with breast cancer a few years back and decided to get revenge on her body by becoming a triathlete. This is worth mentioning because so few of us get up off our deathbeds to run marathons, let alone take a dip in the East River, which has to be at least as toxic as chemotherapy. I don't know how she's finding the strength to do this swim but it's made me examine seriously what I think is possible and of what I might be capable. I mean, seriously. This morning I took a container gardening class, which caused me a major attack of stage fright.

"Waaah!" I waaahed, "What if I'm stupid?" Pete burst out laughing.
"You're not stupid. Your brain is clogged with smart."
"What if someone asks me a simple question and I answer with things I learned before my brain short-circuited?"*
"Like times tables?"
"Just like the times tables!"
"If you studied in third grade you'll actually be right."

I was so frazzled I left the house without my usual IV drip of coffee, but it turned out I had nothing to worry about because my friends Siobhan and Mary, plus the Fabulous Ex-Husband's current wife Karen all met me there, and the teacher was fully crazy. The class focused on aesthetics and decorative plants, which don't interest me. As Siobhan said, "Turns out that unless I'm going to eat it I can't demonstrate the commitment to watering." After about 45 minutes of basics, the whole class got up to get squishy with dirt. I'd brought gloves and plant pots but developed a shocking case of ennui when it became apparent that only a person with an in-depth knowledge of what plants need what conditions could set up one of these planters, and I'm already growing mesclun mix in window boxes.

"I accidentally took a class on fertilizer once," Siobhan said.
"For your minor in art history?"
"I forgot the K stood for potash, not potassium."
"I've lost a lot of shirts to potash," Mary lamented.
"Where did they go?" I asked innocently.

Karen was having a grand old time, but the rest of us thanked the teacher and went on ways merrier than we imagined. The trick to doing it is - apparently - just doing it. I'm back at square one, where I belong.

*Yep. To this day, I blame it on a tragic feather boa accident.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Understand You Understand

The neighbors are rebuilding a fence that recently failed to resist gravity in any meaningful way. An older, shirtless man I don't know is directing a teenage boy in Hungarian. It is a beautiful language, full of nuance; I grew up hearing Hungarian spoken by my next door neighbor, a ballet teacher who fled Europe during the Revolution. The teenage boy, who last fall was the subject of an exciting police raid, is kind of handsome and thoroughly stupid. Yesterday, I took a vacation day and attempted the highly difficult mid-week sleep in. The boy's car alarm went off at 8:00 and after an eternity, he finally shut it off. I hope it's a good fence.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pander To My Taste For Candor

Today, I've been preoccupied with Topaz's labored breathing. The poor darling makes the same face people do when we have headaches. Mostly, she stays upstairs in the attic, where it's warm and she has fresh water. At the moment, she's walking around on the counters in the kitchen like nothing's up. Yesterday, she curled up on my lap for a couple of hours, which she has never done, so things are up and down. Cross your fingers, Madame just has a cold.

So I made pizza for dinner and cut the kinds of corners busy people do. Stop & Shop sells inexpensive 12" whole wheat crusts, two crusts to a package. The crusts do not have much flavor. Think of them as blank canvases that won't kick your digestive tract's ass. I brush each with olive oil, then flavor with garlic, basil and whatever rocks my boat that day. The toppings: chopped spinach, a broccoli crown, half each of a red, orange and yellow pepper, 1-1/3 pieces of turkey sausage, 2/3 cup ricotta, salt, pepper, grated parmesan cheese. I forgot the diced tomato but didn't miss it. If you can operate a pairing knife, you can make this pizza for yourself and - and here's the key - it's actually good for you. If you're a vegetarian, leave off the sausage. Still good for you. You can eat it for breakfast without regrets.

In the meantime, I devoted my time to making special chicken stock for cats. Georg recommended gravy for dogs I've had zero luck finding, but suggestions are still welcome. With boiled chicken and special stock, I'm in grave danger of becoming the Mama Celeste of the cat world.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

They Say When We're Together

Topaz is feeling under the weather and I'm up to my neck in work. At least the protest poop seems to have stopped. Between that and the diarrhea it was a real costume party around here, but only if the theme was "Come As Your Least Favorite Gooey/Stinky Mess, Plus Bleach."


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tell Each Other Fairy Tales

In a cyclical fashion, I get sick of dealing with someone. Recently, it was Verizon. I currently hate Verizon with such fiery passion that I forgot I hate Cablevision. I currently love Cablevision. When I think of Cablevision little hearts float over my head; such is my hatred of Verizon. So Pete and I canceled a bunch of services and went with Cablevision's bundled cable/wifi/phone package, involving three of the four televisions in the house. I don't have to plug my laptop into a phone line. Joy! We saved a bunch of money. Joy! Our one compromise was the attic TV, which used to get satellite TV. I used to row loudly and watch soap operas and cooking shows at an unholy volume. Surely, everyone benefitted from the wisdom of Pepin, whom my neighbors could not help but hear. I imagined them picturing his mother's rustic corn pancakes. Anyway, now the attic TV is on one of those converter boxes everyone with a cable show urges you to get. I forget the absolutely-last-chance-no-more-freaking-chances deadline. It might be June 12th. If that's true, June 13th is going to be a hell of a day, because these converter boxes don't pick up much. We're up pretty high. We get three NBC channels, and the best is Telemundo. Fortunately, I like Telemundo.

The morning show on weekdays features very excitable women talking about who the hell knows what in a language I don't speak. In other words, it's exactly like watching The Today Show. The other morning, I was plugging away on the exercise cycle and I looked down at the meters for a long minute. When I looked up, a completely different group of women were hopping up and down glamorously. The one on the right was freelancing with the choreography. Suddenly, everything went to commercial. Cue an old-fashioned girl gang beat down.

In the afternoons and evenings, I don't know what I'm in for. One day, Caso Cerrado introduced the idea that a TV judge might sing her show's introduction. A dating game - 12 Corazones - matches women of different zodiac signs with men of startling machismo. I think. I don't speak Spanish but I know Miss Scorpio wanted to know about each Mexican wrestler's pinning technique. Meeeeow! All of this is to say my gooey teenage love of Cablevision and hatred of Verizon brings me a good reason to listen luxuriously to Spanish almost every day, and if I listen I hear words, and when I hear words my brain is embiggening. Good for me! I am not sure the same happiness will happen in homes where airwaves fail to deliver strong signals and a wide variety of channels. A large number of small-scale disasters may be just around the bend. It's hard to know if this will be important.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Red Rain Is Coming Down

It is better to see the truth than to live with lies.

Fifteen of the sixty photographs the administration seeks to conceal may be seen here. Some closely resemble images you may have seen before from Abu Ghrahib. Many reality-based bloggers are posting these images this morning, each with her or his own reason for doing so. I will tell you plainly these pictures did not shock me on sight. I had to think about what I was seeing, about the people in the pictures. This image in particular rang a distant bell for me. I was reminded of Phoolan Devi.

In the 1994 movie The Bandit Queen, Phoolan Devi's gang rape is horrible enough to sit through, but worse immediately follows as Phoolan is forced to walk naked and filthy through a town and her rapists. This degree of suffering drives people to madness. You see it in the film. You know it in your heart. What you must also know is that while Americans pretend nothing unusual is happening in these pictures, rage has already taken hold among the victims of Bush and Cheney's imperial adventure. You see: the people know what we have done to them. The rest of the world knows what we have done. The only people still blissfully unaware may be Americans.

I am having trouble forming a sentence about this picture. I've erased several because they weren't quite right, and that's really the problem. The picture as we see it is a problem. What interrogators are doing is a problem. What the interrogators mean for the prisoners to feel is a problem. The intended sexualized domination is a problem. That there are now people walking around among us who did this is a problem. Nearly 100 people died in custody, many were probably tortured to death. That the serial killers who ordered this are not in chains is a problems. It's hard to form a sentence with so many problems.

So these pictures reminded me of three women: Phoolan Devi, Valerie Plame and Liz Cheney. Perhaps you've never heard of Phoolan Devi. Her story is relevant here, and worth knowing for what it predicts. Violence begets violence, and the people we tried to subjugate will rise against us. That is the real lesson. History books tell it over and over again. Then there are the headlines. Greg Sargent:

Liz Cheney Claims Victory In Obama Detainee Photo Reversal
On Tuesday, Liz Cheney was widely quoted bashing Obama for being prepared to release the detainee photos, a move she said would be anti-troops. “When did it become so fashionable for us to side, really, with the terrorists?” Cheney asked.

Yesterday, of course, Obama reversed his decision, citing national security. Now check out this nugget in today’s Washington Post piece on Dick Cheney’s ongoing torture tour:

“This isn’t about partisan politics, it’s about what’s right for the country,” said Liz Cheney, the former vice president’s daughter and a former State Department official. “Every American, whether you’re a Republican, Democrat or independent, would agree that before critical decisions are made about national security of the nation, we ought to have a full and fair debate.”

Cheney’s daughter was among those who pointed to yesterday’s White House reversal on the detainee photos as evidence that a vocal, public debate over the new administration’s policies can make a difference.

So Liz Cheney is claiming victory, and clearly, this will only embolden the Cheneys to keep up the assaults.

By saying that he has now concluded that releasing the photos would endanger the troops, Obama is reinforcing the idea that he was originally prepared to do something that would endanger the troops, and only reversed himself after conservatives called him out on it. Whatever the merits of Obama’s decision, its political impact is that it lets the Cheneys continue to frame the ongoing debate, and to continue casting a full torture accounting as a threat to our national security.

Liz Cheney should go fuck herself. We can't shout FIRE! in a crowded theater when the theater already burned down. Sargent is also right to say our president has made a very dangerous statement when he said his earlier position endangered the troops. The Cheneys control the conversation, so it will never end.

But what of Valerie Plame? This is still a puzzlement. I started reading newspapers when I was eight or nine, during the Vietnam War, then through Watergate. The CIA became the shadowy, brutal, power-mad villains of my childhood. The outing of Valerie Plame by Dick Cheney has always perplexed me. Yes, I've read the reports and followed the trial but still it's never made sense. I'm still angry that for a brief moment I had some sympathy for the CIA - not that that's important. I am not sure why I thought of her when I saw these pictures, but perhaps because she made CIA agents look so civilized. So pretty. So urbane. So civilized.

It is better to see the truth than to live with lies. Back to the pictures: it would be better for us to see what everyone else already knows.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Gypsy Swore That Our Future Was

This kitty, with her handy false mustache, knows you cannot resist her, yet she remains mysterious! You are lured by her charm, yet you cannot really know her. The beautiful pussycat! With the mustache! Note her taste in lovely velveteen pillows, made more wonderful by her presence! Who is this beauty? Why, it is our lovely Sweetpea!

Did you guess?


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How Right It Is To Care

It took me a whole day to stop hyperventilating.
The Bloomberg administration has quietly begun charging rent to homeless families who live in publicly run shelters but have income from jobs.

The new policy is based on a 1997 state law that was not enforced until last week, when shelter operators across the city began requiring residents to pay a certain portion of their income. The amount varies based on factors that include family size and what shelter is being used, but should not exceed 50 percent of a family’s income, a state official said.

I'm speechless.

What percentage of my budget should go to housing?
Nauseous in New Brunswick

Dear Nauseous,
There's a chart.
30% Housing
18% Transportation
16% Food
8% Miscellaneous
5% Clothing
5% Medical
5% Recreation
5% Utilities
4% Savings
4% Other Debts

This is if one's situation is stable and one is looking to miraculously cut one's medical costs to 5% and spend less on pizza delivery. Evidently, even numbers are different in New York.
Vanessa Dacosta, who earns $8.40 an hour as a cashier at Sbarro, received a notice under her door several weeks ago informing her that she had to give $336 of her approximately $800 per month in wages to the Clinton Family Inn, a shelter in Hell’s Kitchen where she has lived since March.

“It’s not right,” said Ms. Dacosta, a single mother of a 2-year-old who said she spends nearly $100 a week on child care. “I pay my baby sitter, I buy diapers, and I’m trying to save money so I can get out of here. I don’t want to be in the shelter forever.”

“I think it’s hard to argue that families that can contribute to their shelter cost shouldn’t,” Robert V. Hess, the city’s commissioner of homeless services, said in a telephone interview Friday. “I don’t see this playing out in an adverse way. Our objective is not for families to remain in shelter. Our objective is to move families back into their own homes and into the community.”

I think it would be hard to argue that there's a bigger dick anywhere than Robert V. Hess, Commissioner of Homeless Services, who plainly has never missed an expensed meal in his life. His argument is precisely, on its face WRONG. Isn't it fortunate that he has a public office from which to broadcast his dickishness, and you can call it?

Robert Hess, Commissioner of Homeless Services:

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City:

You can help Mr. Hess conclude that he is full of MATH FAIL. It'd practically be a good deed to get him fired. Maybe he'd develop some compassion!
A flier posted in one shelter last week warned residents in bold, underlined type, “Failure to make the required contributions could result in the loss of your family’s temporary housing.”

But advocates for the homeless said the new policy was punitive and counterproductive, and some shelter residents, in protest, have already refused to sign the documents acknowledging receipt of the rent notifications.

“Families have been told to pay up or get out,” said Steven Banks, the attorney in chief for the Legal Aid Society. “The policy is poorly conceived, but even more alarmingly, it’s being poorly executed. What is happening is that we have seen cases of families being unilaterally told, without any notice of how the rent was calculated, that they must pay certain amounts of rent or leave the shelter. We’ve already had a case of a survivor of domestic violence who was actually locked out of her room.”

Mr. Hess acknowledged that if a family does not pay the required rent, it could be told to leave the shelter, but he noted that residents can contest the rent required through a state hearing.

Ms. Dacosta, for one, said she had spoken with her caseworker and demanded a hearing. Martha Gonzalez, who is 49 and lives with her 19-year-old son in a rundown shelter in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, said she was informed last week that she owes $1,099 in monthly rent on a $1,700 monthly income as a security guard in Midtown. She said she planned to contest the rent demand in court.

...Because the working poor have plenty of time to take take off for pointless, dickish hearings pointing out that dickish New York City is extorting rent from the poor. If there's one thing the homeless need it's being told that unless they pay up they'll be EVEN MORE HOMELESS. More homelesser. Man, I hope they splash those on superglam NY1! I still don't know what to say, but it's Limerick Day. That seems promising.

A homeless commissioner named Hess
thought the homeless should have even less
he charges them rent
dumb money spent
when saving up worries us hairless.

That sucks, but I write a blistering email. Hope you will, too.

Update: That guy is such a motherfucker I can't believe I got through this post without saying motherfucker.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Love So We Can Stop Repeating

"That's a nice looking rain barrel ya got there," he says from his side of the fence. Our neighbor, laying out a garden and looking befuddled, is the local Green Living Poobah here at the unnamed university. He's also really young and somehow looks different each time I see him. If he weren't wandering around the property adjacent to Pete's wearing t-shirts I'd seen before, I couldn't pick him out of a lineup. Let's call him Davey because I wouldn't be surprised to see him ignoring the advice of a Claymation talking dog.

Tata: Yeah yeah yeah. Remember you told Pete you bought your rain barrels at Lowe's? The one in East Brunswick said Lowe's didn't sell them. I threw a giant hissyfit.
Davey: You what?
Tata: All I have to hear is the word no -
Seriously, last weekend, I stood at the customer service counter the Lowe's on Route 18 in East Brunswick, NJ and explained to five different employees, with various titles on their Hi, I'm ____ name tags, that I would like to be able to walk into their embarrassingly huge garden section and walk out with rain barrels. I need at least four of them, I explained, and to have them shipped to my house would cost as much as a fifth rain barrel. I would prefer, I repeated and repeated, to pay Lowe's for rain barrels and leave. Not one of them saw there might be some profit to Lowe's to carry the very specific thing a customer was asking to buy four of. No, really.

Manager: At corporate, they don't think it's a good idea to carry something we might sell only once a year.
Tata: Water is expensive. This is a good guard against drought, and you have a lot of small farms around here.
Manager: Maybe you could try our website.
Tata: Did you not hear me explain about the shipping charges? I want to be able to come here, pick out the kind I want, pay you and leave. I want to be able to look at them and see them before they are at my house.
Manager: Some things are just decided at corporate.
Tata: Well, they decided wrongly.

Pete: Lowe's said they didn't sell rain barrels. Today, we were in the Piscataway store.
Tata: I got all frustrated. They had a whole aisle full of decorative lawn shit nobody needs but we couldn't find rain barrels. I gave up and stuck to the swearing because I'm really good at it but Pete's patient. He found them stuck in a dusty corner of shame.
Pete: We couldn't get it into the car but I could tell by the look on her face that thing was coming home with us if she had to hold it out the window.
Tata: If I had to run alongside the car, that was coming to our house.
Davey: How'd you get it home?
Pete: A bungee cord and string. The trunk wide open. We violated local traffic ordinances in two towns. How do you like yours?
Davey: I have to raise it up. Gravity's all wrong for watering the garden.
Pete: Want some cinder blocks? There're some behind your garage from a wall that fell down.
Tata: You "found" cinder blocks?
Pete: No, I found cinder blocks.

The space between Pete's garage and Davey's may be about four feet deep and ten feet long. From this space, I have seen Pete produce glass building blocks, 36" planters, fencing material, whole logs and used tires. I'm fully expecting the DIY version of rabbits and a lovely assistant, but cinder blocks are funny, too. It's kind of a miracle Davey speaks to us. His wife always takes one horrified look and crabwalks back to her kitchen, perhaps because in a stiff wind like yesterday's my coif resembles Grandmama Addams'. Pete produces two cinder blocks, Davey's rain barrel gets a gravity-assist from blocks that could have come from - for all I know - the Planet of Lost Socks and Bic Pens.

It was a very good day for recycling.


Saturday, May 09, 2009

I Can't Feed On the Powerless

On a spring day, a young instigator's mind turns to registering dissatisfaction with the status quo, and foliage. I started writing letters about this constuction project two years ago. Some months back, I wrote to one of the unnamed university's urban planners about the time it was taking to finish a relatively simple paving project on Route 27 under Route 18. The urban planner, evidently uncomfortable with the words corruption and visible to any idiot assured me stiffly that the project would be finished in April of 2009. In the meantime, this corridor was closed for a weekend during which about half a day's work was done, and since October, on few occasions have workers attended the traffic cones, displaced lanes and construction signs. This project is going nowhere fast.

Longtime readers of Poor Impulse Control may recall that my mouth has the power to move mountains, and so it would be effortless to imagine that someone, deep in bowels of the New Jersey Department of Transportation, has heard my piteous mewling and decided to punish commuters on two major roadways, possibly for a year or more. Though I am indeed a special snowflake, let us resist this blizzard scenario. For one thing, because New Jersey is rife with corruption we can all see and for the most part expect. Sometimes, we even benefit from it. If we were to accept that my protests changed the pace at which this project was being completed we would have to attribute to me the power to piss off corrupt officials. That is too much to believe. So this must be some professional-grade incompetence at work. Impressive, isn't it?

As I've also mentioned before, the two buildings in the distance in that last picture were designed by I.M. Pei in what can only have been the most desperate moment of an otherwise interesting career. The building on the left is the Hyatt. No one can afford to stay there except guests of Johnson & Johnson and you see people with little wheelie suitcases crossing Route 27 and tripping bicyclists all the time. It's like a video game with lacerations and credit card reward points. I took these three pictures walking on the Albany Street Bridge toward New Brunswick, and on this picture I looked over the side. That asphalt is new and those street lights are puzzling. Right now, they light the homeless, who live under the bridge I'm standing on. The street lights are a portent of something we've all wondered about: what are they doing with the river front? It doesn't take a genius to know that when the river rises those lights will be halfway under water, along with the luxury housing on the other side of Route 18. It's a flood plain.

Last September, I photographed this corridor. It's changed somewhat. This stretch is so bad for bikers I can't picture riding to work until it's fixed. The other side of the road was fixed in a somewhat conventional sense but I still wouldn't let my worst enemy out on that side of the road.* The best thing on that side of the road is when cars fly off the Route 18 ramp and come to a screeching halt because cars exiting Route 27 have the right of way and really bad attitudes. As a pedestrian, I want to get right in the middle of that.

I do like that my shadow resembles that of a giant squid. I feel underdressed without tentacles.

These spots are very close together, but shadows deceive. Two people my size could not walk side by side on this path and people who meet must negotiate their passing. There's a second aspect to this: the grade. Under the overpass, water pools. It's rained off and on for more than a week. Where there's dirt it's all mud, and dirt is everywhere. People walk this pushing baby carriages. I hate to think of them crossing paths with the seemingly endless parade of young men cycling to jobs in every kind of weather.

In the center of this picture looking back behind me you can't see where old pavement was cut and new pavement now sits almost a foot lower because I am a sub-par photographer. When a rain cloud forms, people turn truly stupid on this very spot. They drive right into a pool of pooling water and sit there, waiting for the light on the other side of the bridge to turn green. That light is at least 100 yards away and not visible from this spot. I wonder if this spot was engineered with the blessing of towing companies, or perhaps it's a municipal fundraiser.

Truly, the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train. This spot is actually getting worse. It's really hard to negotiate this place between the overpass and the Hyatt without getting muddy. When I attain the traffic light ahead, I know that it's 100% certain that I'm as muddy as I'm going to get, barring a sudden altercation with corporate landscapers. Which could happen. Possibly. Even though it never has. Anyhow, I compared the images from last September and these and I was actually surprised that anything had changed. There's still a light that tells pedestrians to go but no light to arrest vehicular traffic, but apparently the Department of Transportation considers a few high-speed maulings the price of doing business.

This project could have been finished easily in a matter of months. Instead, it's dirty, dangerous and will probably go on for as long as possible. Even the mob would be embarrassed.

*She is still SUCH a BITCH.


Friday, May 08, 2009

The Bad Times Are Clean Washed

On the advice of the physical therapist, I started slowly.

Wednesday, I Pete drove me to work and I walked home. My steps were smooth and even. I had no pain to speak of, and I climbed the long, steep hill into town with surprising ease. This small triumph inspired a new goal; today I walked to and from work. This morning, sunlight bathed the streets in ways I'd never noticed before. Not far from my house, I turned back to look for cars and saw rays of light form a huge, coursing stream coming straight at me. I half-heartedly fumbled for the camera, knowing I'm not the kind of photographer who could capture that. I'm not much of a photographer at all. When I took this picture of dew on the lawn in front of Johnson & Johnson's Interplanetary Headquarters, I knew it was silly, and naive, and cliched, but I couldn't not do it. I could not contain my joy.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

She Was Dark At the Top Of the Stairs

Library of Halexandria:
The earliest representations of Lilith seem to be as a great winged Bird Goddess, a wind spirit, or one associated with the Sumerian, Ninlil, Goddess of the Grain, and wife to Enlil. As the “hand of Inanna”, Lilith was notorious for bringing men from the street and fields of war to Inanna’s temple for holy sexual rites, in which the intention was to civilize the people. The sacred sexual customs were, in fact, considered the greatest gift of Inanna.

As Adam’s first wife, however, Lilith really got into trouble with the patriarchy. She had the audacity to want to be treated as Adam’s equal. According to Hebrew mythology, the Babylonian Talmud, the Zohar, and the Alphabet of Ben Sira, Lilith refused to lie below Adam, and thus set the archetypal example for later feminists. God allegedly threatened her by decreeing if she did not submit to Adam, that “one hundred of her children would die every day.” Lilith chose exile.

Which really got Adam’s goat! Despite being ostensibly happy about having Lilith out of his life (and later blessed with a subservient, if not occasionally misguided Eve), Adam apparently never gave up resenting Lilith for having chosen exile to being with him. Not a lot has changed in thousands upon thousands of years: A woman deciding her life is better alone than with a particular man is still the height of insult to that male.

The male patriarchal traditions, therefore portrayed the situation as one in which the first woman on Earth, who was created equal to man and a free spirit to boot, would be condemned to survive for eternity as a she-devil, mating with demons and devils and bearing monsters instead of human children. “This image was to serve as a threat and warning to any woman who might consider leaving her husband or defying male authority.” [1]

But it was all to no avail.

Lilith by John Collier.

Women put up with a lot of shit every day, a goodly amount of which is so normalized few bother to mention it. Two days ago, men in my department, whom I would describe as reasonably harmless, were talking and I made a suggestion. Another woman drew near and made a suggestion. The men talked over us. I walked away. She followed me and asked if I felt brushed off. I said I would refuse to discuss the project further. Later, one of the men came to my desk and asked a rhetorical question. I said that because he didn't actually listen to me I wouldn't discuss this project anymore - and he kept talking. I said no, I wouldn't discuss this further and again he kept talking. The third time he finally got the message that we shouldn't converse. Perhaps it was the gesture I used. The reason I mention this is because it's so ordinary for men or a man to talk over women that it's barely worth a mention, like this conversation.

Tata: I want to be the little old lady on a shiny Vespa.
Guy: No, what you want to be is...

Apparently I'm so impressionable that men who are not me know what I want better than I do. Don't be surprised. It is a common conversational event, barely worth a mention. It will happen wherever men and women gather, and only women will notice.

Daily Contributor:
WFSB-TV in Hartford reported [Johanna] Justin-Jinich’s boyfriend entered about 1 p.m. local time carrying a gun and wearing a wig that also was left behind, the station said.

Yesterday, a man walked into a bookstore and shot a woman point-blank. His intention was to kill her and he succeeded. The Daily Contributor, as tepid a name as any, reported online and still reports as of this writing, that the murderer was her boyfriend. We expect that. It's so common we barely notice. These two people were not engaged in a relationship, however. He stalked her. According to NBC News while I was bicycling this morning, she'd filed at least one complaint. Yesterday, he killed her. The Hartford Courant article chooses neutral words very carefully.
"She's a really loyal friend; a really loving, passionate person about life and about her friends and family," [Leah] Lucid said of her friend, whom she affectionately called Yo-Yo.

Her passions included writing and her work in public health and women's issues, Lucid said. Justin-Jinich volunteered at various Planned Parenthood offices in her home state and in the area.

"She was the most giving and loving person I have ever known," Lucid said. "I'll remember her loyalty and her warm smile whenever I saw her and her very funny voices she would make with me."

From miles away, you can see it coming, can't you?
Ryan La Rochelle, 23, of Boston, said he was shocked. He knew Justin-Jinich from Westtown School, a small boarding institution in southeastern Pennsylvania they attended as high schoolers. La Rochelle learned about her death from the media.

"She was a very beautiful and kind girl," La Rochelle said. "I have no idea how something like this could have happened."

After [Jen] Bromley, the owner of Silk Waxing Spa, learned that Justin-Jinich had been shot, she closed the shop and drove to Middlesex Hospital with her cousin, another friend of Justin-Jinich's who attends Wesleyan. They thought she was still alive. But as they pulled into the hospital parking lot, the cousin's boyfriend called with the news.

"I've been crying and distraught all day," Bromley said Wednesday evening. "She's a really happy, really smart girl. Really intellectual...I can't imagine why any one person would dislike her and want her dead."

Beneath the simple laments, you can feel issues of class, feminism, the meaning of beauty and the same old male entitlement crap simmering until it boiled over. Nobody understands. Nobody thought anything of it. Of course, no one understands. Until our hearts break, this stuff is barely worth a mention.

[1]Demetra George, Mysteries of the Dark Moon, The Healing Power of the Dark Goddess, Harper San Francisco, 1992.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Nothing To Hold

Raw Story, which for some reason reads like the Onion today:
UPDATE: Sen. Arlen Specter says he "conclusively misspoke" in his Times interview, after being asked about the quotation by Congressional Quarterly late Tuesday. "In the swirl of moving from one caucus to another, I have to get used to my new teammates," he said. "I’m ordinarily pretty correct in what I say. I’ve made a career of being precise. I conclusively misspoke."

Who he’s backing now? "I’m looking for more Democratic members. Nothing personal."

Norm Coleman, R-Fantasyland, subject of Arlen's invigorating blunder. See more obstructionist Republican clowns here.

You see, Arlen Spector switched teams but forgot that meant changing his team jersey. It caused quite a ruckus among people playing for Arlen's new team. Even the cheerleaders were confused and, let me tell you, gum and condoms took flight. Oh, the humidity!

Anyway, I enjoyed that. A showing of true colors is comedy gold. But wait, there's more! Am I dreaming?
Additionally, Democrats took away Specter’s seniority on the committees he serves on, the Washington Post reports:
In a unanimous voice vote, the Senate approved a resolution that added Specter to the Democratic side of the dais on the five committees on which he serves, an expected move that gives Democrats larger margins on key panels such as Judiciary and Appropriations.

But Democrats placed Specter in one of the two most junior slots on each of the five committees for the remainder of this Congress, which goes through December 2010. Democrats have suggested that they will consider revisiting Specter’s seniority claim at the committee level only after the midterm elections next year.

Senate Democrats did the right thing? There must be some mistake! No, says the Washington Post:
The Senate last night stripped Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) of his seniority on committees, a week after the 29-year veteran of the chamber quit the Republican Party to join the Democrats.

In announcing his move across the aisle last week, Specter asserted that Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) had assured him he would retain his seniority in the Senate and on the five committees on which he serves. Specter's tenure ranked him ahead of all but seven Democrats.

Instead, though, on a voice vote last night, the Senate approved a resolution that made Specter the most junior Democrat on four committees for the remainder of this Congress. (He will rank second from last on the fifth, the Special Committee on Aging.) Reid himself read the resolution on the Senate floor, underscoring the reversal.

Democrats have suggested that they will consider revisiting Specter's seniority claim at the committee level only after next year's midterm elections.

I'm doing the Happy Dance! For once, the Democrats weren't out-maneuvered in an easily foreseeable maneuvering!
The loss of seniority could prove costly to Specter in his campaign to win reelection in 2010, denying him the ability to distinguish himself from a newcomer in his ability to claim key positions.

Specter said last week that becoming chairman of the Appropriations Committee was a personal goal of his, and his Senate service seemed to put him in position to be the third-ranking Democrat there. Now, though, he will not hold even an Appropriations subcommittee chairmanship in 2011 - a critical foothold Specter has used to send billions of dollars to Pennsylvania.

I almost feel sorry for the selfish old coot. He's the girl at the prom wearing a puce lace creation and tennis shoes. So yes, let's dance.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

But Really, I'm Not Actually Your Friend

The physically delicate older gentleman seated eight feet behind me in my office at the unnamed university has been experiencing gastic dismay on a daily basis. At 1:30 each afternoon, I email Lupe.

Tata: PU! Again! It can't be a surprise. Why doesn't he Beano so there'll be no gas?
Lupe: I can't breathe!
Tata: YOU can't breathe?! Ellen just walked by, and in accordance with Smelt It vs. Dealt It, she didn't look at me but plainly thinks I have the stomach funk!
Lupe: You're killing me!
Tata: Do you know how much havoc I could wreak in the library with a cigarette lighter right now?

I hate to kick a sick guy when he's down, but after a week and a half of sitting in someone else's toxic cloud I've had enough. And when I say that, I live downwind of a garbage dump visible from space, and I've had enough! Today, I brought in a Glade air freshener so my office doesn't smell like farts, it smells like apples, cinnamon and farts.

Tomorrow, I'm spraying him with Oust.


Sunday, May 03, 2009

So the Room Must Listen To Me

Tata: Okay okay okay okay-
Daria: I'm sitting down.
Tata: Okay okay okay we went to Lowe's and bought peat moss and two bags of manure -
Daria:Those are words you'll never hear me say: I went to Lowe's for two bags of manure.
Tata: I could swear I just heard that. So we're walking out in the parking lot in a pouring rain and Pete tosses two bags of manure in the trunk of my car and I stomp around to the passenger door, open it and sit down. I thought I was sitting on my keys so I jump out of the car and it still hurts and I slap my pants where it hurts and omigod a yellow jacket falls on the ground -
Daria: Where'd you get that?
Tata: Lowe's, obviously. So obviously I freaked -
Daria: Obviously! Daddy was deathly allergic to wasps -
Tata: I yelped that! If I have trouble breathing take me straight to the hospital!
Daria: Did you?
Tata: Well, no. I was yelping, what with the inhaling and exhaling. So there I was, freaking out, and Pete was holding the mooshed yellow jacket and asking, "Should I hold onto this?" and I was like -
Daria: Did you take the yellow jacket back to Lowe's?
Tata: I should have returned that and claimed it was already broken but I was thinking Omigod, I cannot die from bee bites. So I said, No. Jesus! You'll need both hands if you have to carry me into the Emergency Room. The freaking thing stung me four times and I have a crazy strip of swelling down my left thigh.
Daria: I might have to Facebook this: Today, in a pounding rain, my sister got bee-stung on her butt.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

She Is Looking At Me As If I Am

This morning, Pete and I slept in. This is code for "we kicked the cats out of our bedroom and played naked Parchesi," but don't tell anyone because having a secret language makes us cool. We are cool! So Pete and I slept in, then made breakfast, then fed the varmints, then we went grocery shopping. Stop & Shop recently opened another store in our 49 square mile hometown so the yuppies could have their own market, and good for them, since they can bite me. This means the Stop & Shop near our house, which is full of nothing, and the Stop & Shop where there used to be woods, which is full of yuppies - neither of those is full of us. We went to the one where the movie theater was when we were teenagers and oh thank Vishnu bad kids didn't burn that down.

All of which reminds me of sausage. I can't explain that.

Anyway, we bought some bottles of Terracycle Worm Poop besides the groceries and drove home on two wheels in time to get ready for work at the family stores. While I was waiting for Pete to find a shirt he wanted to wear to sell toys I skipped outside with a container of compost and found my neighbor contemplating a shovel and a relocated tree without a clear crime scene. You have not lived until you've dressed for work and spinning the composter, I'll just tell you that now. It's just a good thing I look great in minced orange rinds.

Somehow, I found a minute to pour Worm Poop on the blueberry bush, and, pardon you, I am not speaking in code. You didn't suppose I'd sink to fertilizer jokes, did you?