Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Be Running Up That Hill

Pete's a DIY guy. Yesterday, he sanded half the porch and re-stained it a lighter, warmer color. He'd carefully planned it so an upstairs tenant would get home after 10 p.m., well after the stain would have a chance to dry. We went out briefly to look in where we're housesitting, and to pick up a bottle of wine. When we got back, Pete noticed a familiar car and ran to look at the steps. A tenant we haven't seen in two weeks had left footprints in the stain. We went in through the back door and found him in the kitchen.

Dude, we said, Did you notice the stain on the porch was wet?
Yeah, he said, I noticed my shoes stuck to the porch. Don't worry about it.

You will be pleasantly surprised to learn neither of us shellacked him.

On Sunday, Pete and I found a couple of food-related questions answered on one shelf in the Goya section of the Milltown, NJ Acme. They're proud of their double coupons everyday! policy, but better for my purposes was a whole shelf of cornmeals ground differently. On the left, fine. On the right, coarse. In between, degrees of fine and coarse. The bags cost $1.39 apiece. We bought one of each - for SCIENCE!

Tonight, I made polenta with the coarsest grind. Every first attempt is fraught with tasty peril! I started with water. Next time, I'll start with chicken stock, but I wanted to get at the flavor of the corn. I like the texture, which is more like minced, dried corn than the fine cornmeal I've always used to make polenta. This is also a completely different beastie than the instant polenta my grandmother used, because why not?

A fine thing to do is make more polenta than strictly necessary for dinner because - you know - you're going to eat breakfast. You have two options: fried or toasted. We had fried for dinner. The polenta had a buttery texture but lost its significant corniness. Clearly, more SCIENCE! is in our future, and by that I mean in the toaster for breakfast.

This weekend, Pete plans to sand the other half of the porch and re-stain that. A quick glance at the long-term weather report hints that rain will never stop falling. We should ditch the porch and build an ark. I doubt the cats will be amused when we fit them with tasteful booties and floatation devices.


Monday, June 29, 2009

They Think They're Heroes

One hilarious side effect of working your tush off to - y'know - work your tush off is that your middle-aged weight shifts. Weight doesn't melt off the way it used to. The pants that fit last week droop here and tug there; one or the other is vexing but both wreck your chances of putting together an outfit you don't throw on your cubicle floor before lunch. By you I mean me, and of course if my clothes are on your cubicle floor, someone's got some 'splainin' to do. Thus, my bras snapped like rubber bands, and by the grace of Foundation Garment Goddesses, replacements arrive on a UPS truck. About half usually fit. Back go the others. Replacements arrive. It sounds like an unending pain in the ass, but it's miles better than the frantic public humiliationfest that is a Saturday afternoon trying on clothes in a department store dressing room with bad light and mirrors in Sensurround. Jesus Christ, remind me to do that if I need a shove off the ledge.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

It's A Competitive World

Lovely Topaz gives you the boo boo eyes. You are helpless before them!

Tonight, Mom reports that Grandpa's become very frail. He sleeps a lot, she says. That's good, I said. It means he's not distressed. She says he wasn't hungry for blueberry muffins a couple of days ago, but yesterday ate chowder with gusto. He's fading, she says. I've been down this road, I said, fairly recently. I know, she says. You should try not to worry, I said, often things are worse when we worry than when they actually happen. I've been worried a lot, she says. There's only one question left to ask, I said, did you open a bottle of wine yet? What, she asks. Red coping mechanism or white coping mechanism, I said. Actually, she says, I found a stray gin and tonic and gave it a good home. Call me tomorrow, I said.


Friday, June 26, 2009

This Blackboard Lacks A Piece Of Chalk

To say that our backyard is the size of a postage stamp is to insult stamps. If it were up to me, I'd rototill the whole tiny thing and plant vegetables, but it isn't up to me. Recently, a new tenant started putting her cat in the backyard on a tether every day, much to our chagrin and the dismay of stray cats we've been feeding. It never occurred to me someone would fight us for our yard space utilizing an unstoppably adorable rescued tabby cat. The cat is called Chase. He sits under the white lilac tree or the picnic table or wrestles with the pretty stray we call Woim, and so far, Chase leaves my spinach, arugula and squash alone.

Because we've had so much rain, Pete and I could not regularly feed our plants. In fact, it was a regular struggle to keep some of them from drowning. This year we chose to grow most things in containers we could move around the yard to fend off varmints and adapt to changing light conditions. We've found that window box size containers for lettuce and herbs work beautifully, but most plants need more root space. These squash plants are in a wooden box we found in the basement. Perhaps it should only contain one plant, but these thrive in this odd, small space. Once the flowers turn into little squashes I'll rig them little hammocks to keep them out of the dirt. This, I believe, is the only reason a sane person buys pantyhose.

No, really. This is a small container, sitting on a small picnic table Pete made, sitting in a small grassy spot in a tiny backyard. I rather like the mysterious rustic box. Pete's decided to elevate it for better drainage and to prevent the picnic table from shrinking. You can also see, lower and to the right, a large planter filled with vibrant spinach. Last year, we couldn't grow enough spinach to feed the groundhogs, let alone steal a leaf here and there ourselves.

We don't have a lot of time to work on the gardens. The gardening classes we signed up for have not panned out. I'd like to learn more about what makes some things grow like gangbusters while others grow sort of as an afterthought. Monkeyfister offers good ideas and resources, though I feel like a poor student. Despite our efforts, these squash blossoms feel like luck, not knowledge. I may pout!


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Love You Save May Be Your Own

The Jackson 5's Greatest Hits was the first album I ever bought with my own saved pennies. These songs were so important to me as a little girl my parents took away my second record Ben. It wasn't until the last year of his life that Dad told me what'd happened. It was a shameful business: my parents were afraid that because Black is beautiful I would think only Black was beautiful, and I would never see my own beauty. Fortunately, I grew into my undeniable EXTREME! BEAUTY! I can't really explain any of that. No matter how strange things got for him, I always had a soft spot in my heart for Michael Jackson.


Everything Else But Us Is

My co-workers are talking in one corner of the room about something wildly improbable, so I hit the Great Gazoogle and -
Wallabies get high in poppy fields, make crop circles

Jesus Donkeypunching Christ. Why do I get up in the morning? For stuff like this:
WALLABIES are breaking into Tasmania's poppy fields and getting high. The strange occurrence, revealed in a State Government Budget Estimates hearing, has also solved what some growers say has spurred a campfire legend about mysterious crop circles that appear in northern Tasmania's poppy paddocks.

In true X-Files-style, Attorney-General Lara Giddings said the drugged out wallabies had been found hopping around in circles squashing the poppies, creating the formations – and hence solving the mystery.

This morning, I was walking into the library and most of the sky was gray but a big part was a really beautiful blue-blue. Naturally, I thought, 'I feel great! Crap!' but we can also attribute that to getting up at stupid o'clock and making Pete take pictures of the squash blossoms in our backyard before dew evaporated, which I totally did. Stoned wallabees! I'm set till lunchtime.

Siobhan has mad cheesecake skilz.

Sometimes, what you need is precisely what you don't. I know. The thought of it makes my eyebrows ache. Picture this: famous desert horrorscape and resort, where the problem is a little fresh water.
The parched moonscape, famous as the site of biblical Sodom and Gomorra, is the lowest point on earth and runs more than 60 miles through Israel and the West Bank. Large sections of the coast are fenced off and signposted in Hebrew and English: "danger, open pits" and "sinkhole area ahead." But it's too expensive to inspect every place for danger. Just two months ago an Israeli hiker wandered into an area that had no warning signs and was critically injured when he fell into a sinkhole.

While such accidents are rare, Raz says there are up to 3,000 open sinkholes along the coast and likely just as many that haven't burst open yet. And they're having a big impact on Israeli development plans.

The collapsing terrain has forced authorities to close a campground, date groves and a small naval base, and to scrap plans for 5,000 new hotel rooms, said Galit Cohen, director of environmental planning at the Ministry of the Environment. The holes, also found on the Jordanian side of the sea, are the result of the Dead Sea having shrunk by a third since the 1960s when Israel and Jordan built plants to divert water flowing through its main tributary, the Jordan River.

The holes form when a subterranean salt layer that once bordered the sea is dissolved by underground fresh water that follows the receding Dead Sea waters.

I'm no geologist, but it sounds like the earth's surface may not be where the people walking around on it think it is. For safety's sake, everyone should consider carrying around thirty-foot inflatable stilts and a bicycle pump. Taking into account the trouble our Northern European brethren are having with global warming and rising ocean levels, I bet you can find these useful appliances at Ikea. Or what about piping the stormy North Atlantic straight to the parched spa oasis, hmm?

I kind of live in fear of having to explain that was a joke.

Did you know there were such things as "mad cheesecake skilz"? Because I did not. This cake is covered with glitter dust. Richard Simmons was not harmed in the making of this cake - only in the eating of it.

What else is bugging me?
Kimberley Vlaeminck from the city of Kortrijk, 90 km (56 miles) northwest of Brussels said she fell asleep during the procedure, and woke up in pain when her nose was being tattooed.

But the 18-year-old was caught off camera on Dutch television when she said she quite liked the tattoo, but lied about asking for all 56 stars when she saw her father's furious reaction.

A teenager lied, the sky is blue and this is news. That could bug anyone.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Am Everyday People

This is vile. It happens all the time, which only makes it worse.
Request for Action from the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA):

Cirila Baltazar Cruz gave birth to her baby girl in November of 2008 at Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula, MS. She speaks very little Spanish and no English, as her native language is Chatino, an Indigenous language from Oaxaca, Mexico that is spoken by some 50,000 people.

The hospital provided her with an “interpreter” who is from Puerto Rico and does not speak Chatino, the language of the mother. Because of the language barrier and the misunderstanding by the hospital’s interpreter who only spoke Spanish and English, a social worker was called in.

The hospital’s social worker reported “evidence” of abuse and neglect based on the following:

* The “baby was born to an illegal [sic] immigrant;”
* The “mother had not purchased a crib, clothes, food or formula.” (Most Latina mothers breast feed their babies).
* “She does not speak English which puts baby in danger.”

Ms. Baltazar Cruz’s baby was snatched from her after birth at the hospital and given to an affluent attorney couple from the posh Ocean Springs who cannot have children.

The authorities made no effort to locate an interpreter in her native tongue. MIRA located an interpreter who is fluent in Chatino in Los Angeles CA and has interviewed the mother extensively with the interpreters help. The mother has been accused of being poor and not being able to provide for this child. No one has asked the mother to provide evidence of support. She owns a home in Mexico and a store which provides both secure shelter and financial support, not counting the nurturing of a loving family of two other siblings, a grandmother, aunts, uncles and other extended family.

Meanwhile, there is word in the Gulf Coast community that the “parents to be,” have already had a baby shower celebrating the “blessed arrival” of this STOLEN child!


If you believe this is unjust and outrageous and goes against all moral and religious beliefs and values, please call or write to the presiding Judge and the MS Department of Human Services to STOP this ILLEGAL ADOPTION! Stealing US born babies from immigrant parents is a growing epidemic in the United States. Many Latino parents have lost their children this way!

Honorable Judge Sharon Sigalas
Youth Justice Court of Jackson County
4903 Telephone Rd.
Pascagoula, MS 39567

Children’s Justice Act Program
MS Dept. of Human Services
750 North State Street
Jackson, MS 39202
Call (601)359-4499 and ask for Barbara Proctor

For more information please call MIRA at: (601) 968-5182

MIRA Organizing Coordinator
Victoria Cintra at (228) 234-1697 or Organizer Socorro Leos at(228) 731-0831

Between 800-1000 people read this blog every day. You could do some real good in the world by making a couple of polite phone calls.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Your Future: It's Gonna Rain

My brother Todd, who sent this cartoon, is quite a card.

For the most part, the men in my father's family either live well into their irascible nineties or they turned 43 and keeled over. I reminded Todd of this during an exchange of pizza recipes recently because mine - and this seemed significant in this context - wouldn't stop your heart, what with Todd being 43 and all. He says times have changed. He runs all the time, eats lots of seafood and vegetables and knows his cholesterol numbers. He's highly motivated by his two little children to stay active and vigilant. I don't really worry about him.

Meanwhile, last week, I upped the resistance on both the rowing machine and the stationary bike, which predictably affected my appetite. I went from Hormonally Hungry to Glamorously Ravenous. This morning, I had not one but two small grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches on whole grain toast rounds, and my biceps feel beefy! Which I love! But I sure would like to get a handle on this worrisome hunger thing. This is not the kind of bad example I like to set.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Stretch A Band Between His Toes

On Saturday, Pete had a delightful encounter at the toy store.

Pete: I looked up and there was this little girl, about nine or ten. She looked like your niece.
Tata: Which one? Lois?
Pete: Lois! Light blond hair, blue eyes, skinny. She was wearing a little girl t-shirt, a little girl sweater, jeans and sneakers. And a big fake mustache like that movie critic -
Tata: Gene Shalit?
Pete: Yeah! She was completely serious, so I said, "Can I help you, sir?" She cleared her throat and said in a deep voice, "Yes."
Tata: GET OUT!
Pete: I didn't smile or anything, I just kept going. "Would you like me to gift wrap this for you, sir?" and she said, "[deep voice] That would be nice." She was alone in the store but her mom kept peeking her head in from outside.
Tata: I'm so happy! Did you recognize the little girl?
Pete: How could I recognize her? She was in disguise!
Tata: Omigod, you should have taken a picture!
Pete: I wanted to but I would've had to let on I knew she wasn't a grown man.
Tata: Then what happened?
Pete: She got into a van with her parents and her sister and they took off.
Tata: I'm so jealous! I wish I'd seen her. Oooh, you know who are going to be mad they missed that? Anya and Corinne! My sisters are going to be steamed!
Pete: She's my favorite customer ever. "[deep voice] That would be nice."
Tata: I love that you didn't tell her to take off the mustache or pretend it wasn't there. That's the most fun: seeing something coming and letting the adventure unfold.
Pete: And it was way better than my other idea: there's a man wearing a little girl suit and forgot to cover his mustache.
Tata: Hmm, suddenly this has gone all Cinemax.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

All She Wants To Do Is All She Wants

A long time ago, far, far away, a friend took a job in Tewksbury, MA, and from distant New Jersey, I saw this for what it was: an opportunity for a scandalous road trip.

Johnny's always been the pretty one.

Every so often, Siobhan pipes up with tales of another episode from our freewheeling life together that I've totally forgotten. Yesterday, she went a step further and produced pictures I evidently captioned by hand. That's a new twist, even if the words themselves are Johnny's longtime motto. In any case, I had totally forgotten that the unnamed, over-employed friend on a business trip used my nail polish to paint symbols on his forehead. If Siobhan has pictures of that, that might be a career-ender for our friend. Ah, youthful exuberance! You're as young as you feel until the cops show up and you hand them an AARP card.

Don't forget to floss, kids!

In point of fact, Ivan and I donned those Santa suits at the drop of a hat for years. We bought them for Santacon a bazillion years ago. Come to think of it, I should have mine bronzed. He should have his fumigated.

When Siobhan reminded me of this scurrilous excursion, the only thing I recalled was sitting outside a waffle house on a Sunday morning, all five of us blisteringly hung over and paralyzed while Ivan read us the chapter from Steve Martin's book Pure Drivel about memory loss. It was obvious to the locals we had not just come from church and our presence was suspicious. Breakfast both saved and imperiled our lives. That, I remember.


Friday, June 19, 2009

A Vacant Lot For Any Spirit To Haunt

Oh brudder:
A passenger told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that she noticed Sicily was missing - while she was on a flight to the island. Smaller islands, such as Sardinia, were in the right place on the map.

Alitalia was re-launched earlier this year under private ownership. It had been a state-run company for more than 60 years before going bankrupt.

One Italian Senator, Riccardo Villari, said it was unfortunate the big advertising campaign surrounding the re-launch had been followed by "unpleasant" errors. The magazine editor, Aldo Canale, said: "We have run lots of editions on the beauty of Sicily and we would never dream of eliminating it from maps of Italy."

This reminds me of that time on a genealogical bulletin board when someone said my great-grandfather never existed. I recall shouting a lot, "The proof that he lived is that I'M SITTING RIGHT HERE." See, he married a divorced woman, which was cause for little old ladies to slather White Out all over the family records. Hope Sicily reappears or floating through baggage claim in the Mediterranean's going to be VERY FREAKING TRICKY.

You've got to give it to Chris Dodd. He knows he's about to fuck up so bad Connecticut's voters might finally put him out of a job, and yet he sounds so calm about it.
On the one hand, Dodd expressed his strong support for a public health plan that would compete with private insurers and give Americans to buy into an insurance system that doesn’t fatten corporations’ bottom line. On the other, Dodd signaled his willingness to accept a “compromise.”

“We have the votes to pass a bill that expands coverage to millions of Americans, improves quality, protects patient choice, cuts costs, and averts disaster for our economy and our families,” Dodd wrote. “But, as frustrating as it is to you and to me, I don’t know if we have the votes to pass a strong public health care option. What I do know is that whether we can get there or not is still an open question. What I do know is that I plan to fight hard to convince my colleagues on the committee and in the full Senate that we need a public option. What I do know is that I’m going to need your help.”

I'd sound a little more nervous if I were saying to Americans, "Dudes - can I call you 'Dudes?' - Dudes, we're going to expand coverage by forcing you to buy it, refuse to help pay for it and sit around with our collegial thumbs up our asses while the insurers refuse claims and make your lives an exorbitantly expensive living hell." In fact, knowing that this plan will actually make the lives of Americans much worse would prevent me from saying it at all.

So who knew I had some dignity? Not Siobhan, who just sent an old picture of Ivan and me in Santa suits in a Tewksbury, MA hotel room where she, Ivan and I met up with Johnny and drank Boone's Farm out of bowls. Apparently, paper cups were illegal within the city limits - but whatever: dignity, motherfuckers! Like the Portuguese, I guess:
Notably, decriminalization has become increasingly popular in Portugal since 2001. Except for some far-right politicians, very few domestic political factions are agitating for a repeal of the 2001 law. And while there is a widespread perception that bureaucratic changes need to be made to Portugal's decriminalization framework to make it more efficient and effective, there is no real debate about whether drugs should once again be criminalized. More significantly, none of the nightmare scenarios touted by preenactment decriminalization opponents — from rampant increases in drug usage among the young to the transformation of Lisbon into a haven for "drug tourists" — has occurred.

The political consensus in favor of decriminalization is unsurprising in light of the relevant empirical data. Those data indicate that decriminalization has had no adverse effect on drug usage rates in Portugal, which, in numerous categories, are now among the lowest in the EU, particularly when compared with states with stringent criminalization regimes. Although postdecriminalization usage rates have remained roughly the same or even decreased slightly when compared with other EU states, drug-related pathologies — such as sexually transmitted diseases and deaths due to drug usage — have decreased dramatically. Drug policy experts attribute those positive trends to the enhanced ability of the Portuguese government to offer treatment programs to its citizens — enhancements made possible, for numerous reasons, by decriminalization.

You had me at postdecriminalization, Mr. Greenwald.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Is Pack Up And Run

Johnny, Poor Impulse Control's Southwest Bureau Chief, reports from New Mexico:
You'll enjoy this. My knees are killing me. I go to the rheumatologist. She orders xrays. She says it's osteonecrosis, where blood flow has somehow been cut off and some sections of bone have died and are presumably rotting. She says I'm too young for knee replacement and cortisone shots won't help. She says the only thing she can offer is - you guessed it - painkillers. I can't win.

Dude! Did you tell her you were an addict? Wait, you've mentioned osteonecrosis before. Do you have other necrotic joints or did I dream this?
Oh, all my doctors know. I'll be in trouble if I ever get in a car wreck. They'll offer me an aspirin.

Actually, about ten years ago, my knees hurt and the MRI showed osteonecrosis. How do you remember these things? I can't remember what movie we watched last night.

Actually, last night I was playing Embudo Station, up past Espanola, which is a lot like a movie set of a cafe' by a river in the south of France, especially when we play the CanCan, which I spell the CannesCannes. We're there every Friday now, except when we're at the Lucky Bean in Rancho Viejo. I'm making about a hundred bucks a week playing music. I've always played just for the honor of playing. I can hardly believe I get given money and dinner now. The burst of pride I feel when I bring home my pay and give it to my wife to buy dog food and paper towels with is monumental, like the Great Wall of China, or at least a Very Good Wall of China. I'll never be able to repay everything I've cost this family in medical bills, but you gotta start somewhere.

Tonight we go see some friends skate in the roller derby. I love our life here. I think we know more gay people than straight, and, like the song, where she makes love to him in his Chevy van, that's all right with me.

Did I tell you that a month or so ago we were playing the Farmer's Market on a Saturday morning and about ten guys in full Star Wars stormtrooper costumes walked past us, like it was the most natural thing on the planet, going God knows where? We looked at each other, shrugged, and kept on playing. I think we were in the middle of Czardas, the Israeli national anthem. You think I'm kidding.

Actually, I think Ha Tikva is the Israeli national anthem and Czardas is Hungary's. Why do I know that when I can't remember the name of the woman who sits next to me at work? And who knew I'd feel underdressed without a roller derby?


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

She Sings From Somewhere You Can't See

Regina swims around Manhattan! See the race's unbelievable ending!

Pete and I make glamorous cameos! This video will fit neatly only in archives!


Monday, June 15, 2009

Deal With Rockets And Dreams

The weather, I am under it today. Most of the morning, I couldn't open my eyes. It's not a big deal, but my patience wears thin when my body refuses to cooperate. I'd call a meeting with it but I'm sure it would hang up on me. Thus, now is the wrong time for me to notice that one of my soaps is about to step into a stinky mess. This child holding a child is the mother nearing the moment she decides to raise her baby rather than give that baby to a nearby adult. I'm neither an advocate for adoption nor a detractor. Most - not all but most - of the adults I know who were adopted are very fucked up about it. Adoption is better than foster care. Sometimes. Depends on the circumstances, the kid, the parents. But the soap saying that kids can raise kids is going too far, especially with the class issues packed - no, stuffed - into this particular scenario. It's a bad scene, glossing over what this means in real life, like that the teenage characters are unable in any way to provide a home for themselves or the baby. So today, I shut off One Life To Live half an hour in, and I'll come back when the show veers back to husband-stealing, underground cities and mental illness. That weirdness I can handle.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Be Loved Or Be Forgiven

Tonight as the sun sets on a rainy afternoon, neighborhood children released from the captivity of some fearsome rec room run screaming in a sopping backyard. Under the canopy of tall oaks and maples, sounds echoes, amplified, distorted. What sounds like a rampaging mob may be two enthusiastic Marco! Polo! players, but whatever it is, it's nearly over as bedtime approaches. I've been having that dream again in which I'm chained to the stake and the flames are rising, so I hope they sleep well. Someone should, but I keep getting up for little glasses of water.

Yesterday's brief issued by the Department of Justice defending the Defense of Marriage Act knocked the wind out of me. It was plain during the long campaign that Candidate Obama was a corporate centrist, which while better than the alternatives was miles to my right. I didn't have high hopes for progress, but I hoped we wouldn't lose a lot of ground. Unfortunately, a whole lot of President Obama's supporters have discovered since 1.20.09 - I have the t-shirt and everything - that their groups' love wasn't returned. Some of these groups overlap, but if you happened to be a phone-tapped pot-smoking union anti-war mortgage-holding uninsured olive-skinned pregnant lesbian with credit card debt, man, you are shit out of luck. But who among us is not?

As light fades under the trees, the echoes yield to the sounds of rain dripping from rooftops onto pitted concrete. It's quiet, but quiet has layers. Traffic on the highway on the other side of the river rumbles but this sound is neutral and somehow unlike noise. The Defense of Marriage Act clearly defines GLBT people as second class citizens, and I cannot make this work in my tiny brain. So many words, so much talk, so little compassion and the result is that some people diminish the lives of other people for no reason and in ways they refuse to apprehend. It is difficult to ponder the psyche that actively seeks to harm, but this we must, over and over. The thing that is most puzzling about this oppression is that in the putting down no one is raised up. No one's life is improved when GBLT cannot comfort one another in hospitals. No one's marriage is strengthened when GLBT people cannot marry. No children live better lives because GLBT people cannot adopt them. No one benefits. We allow all this love to slip through our hands is because it's easier to stick our fingers in our ears when people suffer than to embrace them.

Once, I was sitting in the fenced-in cafe of a girl bar in Asbury Park on a sunny day with my lover, my live-in boyfriend, a woman I sometimes cozied up with and our friends. That was quite a weekend. I spent a lot of it sticky. As the long rays of afternoon light combined with the beer and no particular need to go anywhere or do anything, bottles sailed over the wall and crashed at our feet. It wasn't the first time, and certainly not the last as the neighborhood, once gay-friendly and quiet, was changing. Nothing really happened, you see. No one was injured, but if someone had been, no one stood to gain.

Even now, so much is lost you have to wonder why.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Or I'm Still Alive And There's Nothing I Want

First thing yesterday morning, the genteel older gentleman who sits next to me smiled sweetly and said something so bitchy all I could do was stare at him until my eyeballs parched. Thus, I was discombobulated by 7:35 A.M. At lunchtime, I could not find my strawberry banana yogurt in the refrigerator no matter how many times I searched, but there was a vanilla yogurt of the same brand on a different shelf. I stared at the contents of the refrigerator. Once again, until my eyeballs parched. So I ate that other yogurt, because obviously one of my co-workers must've innocently eaten mine.

While he made dinner last night, I mentioned this odd occurrence to Pete, who has had run-ins with guilty co-workers. Pete growled. Pete gnashed his teeth. It was like Where the Wild Things Are with julienned radishes. Dinner was pretty good, too, with cute little meatballs rolled like the heads of his enemies. So imagine my chagrin when I emptied my messenger bag and found the salad I never ate and the strawberry banana yogurt I never put in the fridge.

This morning, I put a vanilla yogurt back where I found it. I am torn between writing a note of apology and wiping clean my fingerprints. I will say this: it was a very tasty yogurt, and I truly enjoyed it, but I recall it even more fondly, knowing it was pilfered. Yes, delicious, delicious stolen yogurt. I can't wait until someone comes to my desk and tells me a story.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Lock It Fill It Call It Find It

Christ on a water cracker, what the fuck is this?

One month after successfully tucking an amendment into the credit card reform bill that expanded gun rights, a small number of Senate Republicans are looking at the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act as another chance to score a victory for the Second Amendment. The possible plan — to add an amendment that would allow gun owners to carry their weapons from one state to another in accordance with concealed carry laws. The possible rationale — to defend gay rights.

This is such bullshit that actual bullshit would turn up its metaphorical nose.
“It makes sense for a group of people who would be protected by hate crime legislation to support something that would let them defend themselves before or after the crime,” said one Republican Senate aid familiar with the discussions. “It’s relevant, and we want to work together with gay groups to get the message out.”

While the aide described the discussions over a gun rights amendment to the hate crimes bill as “very fluid,” conservative and pro-gun rights gay groups outside of the Senate are ready to make a real push for it. GOProud, a new gay rights group that broke away from the Log Cabin Republicans in April, has talked with top staffers for Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) about how to make the civil rights case for conceal and carry reciprocity.

Yes, that's right. Gay Republicans decided to overlook their ostracism within the party so they can ostracize each other!
Supporters of concealed carry reciprocity argue that the case for attaching it to a hate crimes bill — if that is the way that it can be passed — makes even more sense than the case for Coburn’s amendment. “Plenty of people have used guns to defend innocent people,” argued Second Amendment scholar and attorney David Kopel, “including crimes motivated by bias. This is a legitimate thing to attach to any bill that’s concerned with violent crime.”

That’s the case being made by Pink Pistols, a gay gun rights organization whose slogan is “Armed Gays Don’t Get Bashed,” and whose members can recount stories of fending off potential attackers by brandishing their weapons.

“Self-defense with a firearm is a valid and viable method of self-defense and protection,” said Gwen Patton, a spokesperson for Pink Pistols. “Imagine that individuals follow you from a place known in the neighborhood as a GLBT gathering place. They follow you to your car, and when you try to open the door, they hold out pipes and yell — ‘Hey, faggot!’ You pull out a concealed weapon that you have a license to carry. They say, ‘He’s got a gun!’ They drop their pipes and run away. No shots were fired, but a beating was just averted.”

Well, that'd be hunky-dory, wouldn't it? But that's a fucking fantasy because - hypotheticals get messy, here - suppose that GLBT gathering place is a bar. Now you're tanked and carrying, nervous and trigger-happy. You have just become a real danger to yourself and others. Okay, suppose that GLBT gathering place is a community center and armed thugs approach and menace. Does anyone really - really - believe for a microsecond that the resultant shooting will not result in a scandalous trial and a lengthy sentence for your armed gay self, especially if the assailants are young, white men? Now let's recalculate: how many beatings have been prevented?

This reminds me of a talk I had with a friend right after 9/11, when a great many people lost their minds.

Tata: ...so the Assistant Principal had the six-year-old arrested for carrying safety scissors in her backpack, when he could have called her mommy and suggested other arrangements for art supplies.
Friend: At least, he did something!
Tata: That he's sack-of-hammers-stupid, a coward and dangerous to children has left the conversation?

Yep. See, the difference between doing something and doing something constructive is pretty fucking obvious unless you're not really trying to do something constructive, which these fuckers are not. They are not. No. They do not even have good intentions. They are attempting to exploit a situation they themselves as members of a homophobic, xenophobic, anti-woman political party help to foster, which is diabolical. It'd be funny if it weren't for all the fear, the injury, the deaths, the terrible losses and the lengths to which GLBT people have to go just to live. Of all people, these self-loathing fuckers ought to know this campaign is in truly terrible taste.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Unfold Your Body Is Free And Behold

On Saturday afternoon at the South Cove in Battery Park City, each racer had a boat with a team and at least one kayaker. The racers stopped every fifteen minutes or so for water and a nibble. My cousin Sela was on the boat, with Regina in the water. Sela had told me Regina's girlfriends traveled to New York and would be waiting in the park; I should look for "a bunch of crazy Guatemalan women with Guatemalan flags." For an hour, I eavesdropped on every Spanish conversation and watched for flags. Pete was talking about something I instantly forgot when behind him I saw the blue and white Guatemalan flag unfurl and I ran around him to find four women in matching shirts with Regina's face on them. There followed a lot of squealing and jumping up and down. Thank Kali I'd just spent months in physical therapy, specifically forbidden to jump up and down.

These women told me they'd been friends with Regina since pre-school and they'd all come to New York to celebrate their 45th birthdays. They were vivacious, loud and happy. Two Spanish-speaking EMTs joined the conversation and everyone talked at once. I was breathless with joy. We'd gotten used to the pattern by this time: in the distance, we'd see one of the big boats, then a kayaker, then flashes across the water's surface that became a swimmer that swam right past us and finished the race. Then we saw this.

Tata: Those kayakers do not appear to have swimmers.
EMT: They're all supposed to have swimmers. These guys may be something else.

I turned toward him slowly and with purpose.

Tata: Are you saying those are MARAUDING KAYAKERS?

He nodded slowly.

EMT: I suppose I am.

This might be a good time to mention the Guatemalan women had difficulty believing I was born in New Jersey, lived all this time in New Jersey and continued to live in New Jersey. In the distance, there, it doesn't look like that much of an improbable suckfest.


Monday, June 08, 2009

With the Scenery Flying By

Saturday morning, Pete and I climbed the long flight of concrete stairs to the train platform and walked a long way to an empty space against the wall. I heard an accordian and took the camera out of my bookbag. "Pete," I said, "it is totally crucial that you take a picture because nobody believes that everywhere I go there's theme music. If we're very lucky, you'll also capture the back up dancers." Of course, you may be inclined to say, "Ta darling, those are people having their own lives. Your presence is a coincidence. Stop being so Center Of the Universe about it." Shaaaa. Have you met me?

This is the only picture Pete took all day of something that wasn't moving so obviously that's the one out of focus. But it is important! All hail the bowl of Veselka's borscht, the bowl of soup so sublime it must be experienced to be believed, and no shimmering verbiage approaches its epic yumminess. The ordinary bowl cannot contain it! The challah must sop its brothy goodness. Behold the borscht - and know that when you stare into the borscht, it stares into you!

The coffee was also pretty good.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Just De-Lovely And Delicious

Holy crap!
Yesterday, my brilliant Guatemalan cousin swam the hell around Manhattan Island!

It's been about thirty hours since Regina climbed out of the water, wrapped herself in mylar and a towel and ran to a crowd of friends she's known since pre-school and I still don't know what to make of what happened. What did I see? What was it? Who the hell knows? A Daily News reporter leaned over the railing with me after the first racers finished, pulled out a notebook and ran a sweaty hand through his hair. He asked if he could ask me a few questions. I said sure. Then he stuttered, "What do you make of all this?"

I gushed about the Twitter feed that started when the race did and mentioned Regina by name. The whole undertaking seemed preposterous and frightening, and the Twitter feed assured readers the race sponsors took the racers' safety very seriously. Not a single thing I said made it into the article, but I totally didn't care.
Strokes of genius 'round Manhattan
Sunday, June 7th 2009, 4:00 AM
It's not the easiest way to get around Manhattan.

Dozens of swimmers braved the chilly waters of the Hudson and East Rivers yesterday to compete in the 27th annual marathon swim around the island.

The 25 solo racers and nine relay teams jumped in at Battery Park City to swim the 28.5-mile race - the best finishing in just over seven hours.

"The water was cold when we first started through the East River, and it warmed up around Harlem," said George Pond, 43, whose relay team scooped first place.

"This is a great way to see New York, I highly recommend this to anyone."

Large crowds cheered and applauded the swimmers from the shore, as boats honked their horns to show their support.

That's us. We were very large but dressed in layers we shed as the temperature became less temperate.
"The Hudson was really choppy, so it was the biggest obstacle by far because you couldn't get into a rhythm," said John Van Wisse, 36, from Melbourne, Australia, who won first place in the solo race with a time of seven hours, 10 minutes and 35 seconds.

"I sing a lot of songs in my head during the race and try to go into a trance and focus on the stroke.

"The training is fairly intense," he added. "The water was really clean considering the rain. It was a surprise."
Swimmer Penny Palfrey won the female race, completing the challenge in seven hours, 17 minutes and seven seconds.

Most sports reporters use the word women's when not referring to livestock.
The first-place six-man relay team was Vice Lords, with a time of seven hours, 12 minutes and 42 seconds. Team Mexico was the fastest four-man relay group, swimming the distance in seven hours, 40minutes and 42 seconds.
"You couldn't pay me enough to do this," said Cealan Clifford, 21, from Florida, who was watching the event. "It's actually really dangerous. ... There's even huge pieces of wood that you can swim into."

Swimmers from around the world come to New York every year to take part in the contest.

Hopefully, I will be less speechlessly stupid in days to come.


Friday, June 05, 2009

All In All, It's All the Same

Some time ago, Grandpa took a dive and was found on the floor of his apartment. After a stint in the hospital, he moved to a swanky rehab joint where he instantly charmed the staff. That is his way. People love him up! On the other hand, Mom and Tom finally read the tea leaves and emptied Grandpa's apartment last month. At first, this all seemed scary. Now, we've changed our minds. Hooray! Grandpa's surrounded by people who dote on him madly! Hooray! It's also frustrating, because I'm three hundred miles away and for some odd reason, he cannot hear the sound of my voice on the phone.

No, really. He hears Tom just fine. Grandpa makes jokes with Daria. He ignores Mom when she argues with him but he overhears plenty. Anyway, he can't hear me, and when I call he becomes agitated about not understanding who's on the phone. That is a great feeling I have to say I enjoy like dental surgery. So the other day, I mailed out a bunch of postcards someone more sonorous will read out loud. So far, they all say the same thing:
Dear Grandpa,
I love you!

Hopefully this amuses him. Another pile will go out next week, corresponding with my need to clean up my cubicle, where I possess an impressive collection of postcards from places I've never been, like Mr. DBK's current locale, though I'm not very possessive. Thank you, Minneapolis. Say hi to my grandpa!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Lips Oh You the Doors Of Breath

We had all the weather today. The broccoli plants enjoyed it.

In February, my co-worker and friend contracted an infection and two weeks later an EEG showed no brain activity. The family clung to hope that activity would appear on subsequent tests. For me, it was all over when brain death had occurred, so it was painful to watch her husband and grown children talk about how she was just resting and would be fine, and so much prayer. My head swam. I think it was the backstroke. Every day, I think about her. Our last conversation still brings tears to my eyes.

We walked out of the library in two lady-size huffs.

Tata: - He didn't have to do that. I mean, nobody has to be that big of a douchebag -

Diane stopped in her tracks to howl.

Diane: I haven't heard that word in ages!
Tata: I say it all the time - just not in the library.
Diane: Oooh, that's funny! I'm going to say it all evening.
Tata: I feel we've both profited by this conversation. See you tomorrow!

But the next time I saw her she was in a coma and her daughter was reading to her from the Bible. Of course, I wish I'd started swearing sooner. We all have regrets.

One thing I didn't notice until weeks after her death was that all along she'd given me little presents. In the foyer of my house sits a candle she gave me as a housewarming gift. On my desk is a work-safe photocopy of a prayer I don't actually believe but loved because it was just so funny. In my desk, I found a magnifying glass she gave me when she decided my job was all detective work. She gave me a music box harlequin topped with feathers and decorated with sequins she said reminded her of me. I wondered if that meant I was a shiny clown on a portable box, but who can argue that? Even the portable part? She gave me mint plants pulled from her mother's yard and I fully expected them to take over a section of the front lawn. Strangely, this is the gift with an unexpected outcome: the mint died, too. I am absolutely sure Diane would find that hilarious.


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Dances While Her Father Plays Guitar

Some of the stray cats prowl the yards and gardens, but stop by our backyard for a cautious bite to eat. Others, like this giant tom we call Tom, come around for an amuse buche and repartee. His eyes are green, his movements smooth and fluid like a cougar's. While Pete stood on the back steps with the camera a huge Rottweiler on the other side of the fence barked ferociously. Tom didn't flinch. He's a professional, you see.


Monday, June 01, 2009

No Other Troy For Me To Burn

I've been thinking all day about why I stopped doing clinic defense almost twenty years ago. The clinic I'd devoted two years to defending was firebombed and I gave a speech standing next to the charred ruins. For me, something had changed. Domestic terrorists, well-known to the government, were allowed to carry out their threats. It didn't have to happen, but it did. This wasn't in Kansas or Texas, where you might expect women's medical care to be imperiled. No. This was New Jersey. Everyone knew Operation Rescue had it in for us, and in George H. W. Bush's America, everyone left us twisting in the wind.

Shortly thereafter, my grandmother died, I left the Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) and launched my illustrious and all-consuming art career. The lessons I had learned were that my vigilance accomplished nothing; that we were each on our own and that law enforcement didn't give a shit about women. On that last point, I have never been disappointed. Instead of clinic defense, I drove women for abortions because I am not afraid to punch rabid PTA moms in the face while cooing gently to a distressed patient. That is not actually good escort behavior, by the way. Eventually, I couldn't stand even talking to pro-choice relatives who insisted Roe would never be overturned while they voted Republican. I went home. I admit this: I do not have the strength to argue anymore, and for myself, I don't have to because after the hysterectomy, I do not have to worry about getting pregnant. Believe it or not, this is not all about me.

I'm long done with candlelight vigils and patience. My standing ankle-deep in slushy mud holding a sign so I can be counted for women's organizations that care more about donations than resisting Samuel Alito's Supreme Court nomination is not gonna happen because fuck that noise. I'm done listening to men talk about icky abortion because do I fucking talk about my feelings about prostate treatments? I do not because there's no reason for me to have feelings about fucking prostates. I DON'T FUCKING HAVE ONE. My opinion is not needed. Perhaps 95% of men have no standing to discuss abortion, and this -
Tiller's Killer
Is it wrong to murder an abortionist?

- is so far beyond the pale that saying Fuck this fucking guy isn't fucking enough. But singling out Saletan for a verbal beating accomplishes nothing. I'm done with that, I'm done with all that. I'm done with one more thing: shame, because we can no longer afford it. I have had an abortion. The circumstances are not important. Your sympathy doesn't interest me. What is important is that I chose to have that kind of medical care, and I do not regret it. In theory, it shouldn't be any more important than if I'd had wisdom teeth removed. Further, people who think they don't know anyone who's had an abortion are fucking kidding themselves.

It's time for old ladies to stand up. No one is going to come to my house and put a bullet in me for exercising my right to chose, thus it is my obligation to defend that right I no longer need for young women who do. What I'm done with, that's behind me. I do not know what I will do, but I'm starting here.