Friday, July 31, 2009

A Million Miles, A Million Miles

My office is reorganizing, which turns out to be a reason to do the Happy Dance. I used to nest in the middle of the room, where I was forced to eavesdrop on my co-worker who can't trust her grown sons to call their own banks, not to mention feel the whoosh! each time someone ran past my desk to bang on the copier. Obviously, using my powers for Good has its limits. I was so sick of the running I was planning to put down tire spikes, and if you think I wouldn't, think again. Fortunately for everyone, I ended up in a cubicle in a remote corner of the room, where no one notices my hair standing on end like a plasma ball. Two conversations, this week:

Mary: What's with the pottymouth on Poor Impulse Control?
Tata: I am a foul-mouthed wench, duh!
Mary: Sure, but every paragraph? What's up?
Tata: I'm testy with piquant hostiility.
Mary: Will you help me and my divine daughter learn how to can fruit?
Tata: Okay, if you don't mind an attitude that might shatter glass.

And Wednesday morning, 8 a.m. in the ladies room:

Beth: I've been meaning to ask your help with something.
Tata: Who, me? I do three stupid things before breakfast every day.
Beth: I have this problem and I don't know what to do about it. Maybe you could -
Tata: Maybe I could eat cheese and wear at least some of it. What's bothering you?
Beth: It's just so weird and I don't really know -
Tata: Spill it!
Beth: I glued my foot to my flip flop and I can't get my foot unstuck and -

Beth curls her toes. They are stuck to nothing.

Beth: Oh! Never mind!
Tata: I need coffee...

No, really. I'm doing the Happy Dance.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

To Fall Down At Your Door

Siobhan's sister had a baby today, and there's a distinct possibility this new human may get a familiar name: Fifi! Siobhan and I could have matching Fifis. You know what that means?

This may be the first child in history to sashay into pre-school with a feather boa.

Let the shopping begin.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I Can Smell the Chemicals

Remember this motherfucker?
“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.”

But Ta, you say, the world is full of motherfuckers. Remind me: who was this guy and what mothers was he fucking?
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.

Oh. Right. Those mothers. Thank you, New York Times. Anyway, Mr. Hess isn't through making the homeless more homelesser:
The new policy gives the city greater latitude to push families out of the shelter system, which had swelled to a near-high of 9,720 families as of Sunday. Families could always be evicted for illegal behavior like bringing in drugs or weapons, but they can now be ousted for any of 28 violations, including failing to sign in and out or not keeping an active case file with city welfare agencies.

The new policy is also meant to encourage families to more readily accept permanent housing, even if it is not to their liking.

“We would only expect to use this process in the most egregious of situations,” said Robert V. Hess, the commissioner for homeless services, in an interview on Monday. “We do have a small number of families where temporary emergency shelter is really being used as permanent housing.”

Evictions are for a 30-day period.

I've read those four paragraphs about ten times, and if those words make sense in that order I need a new native language. And watch this exhilarating turn of phrase:
Mr. Hess said it was not clear where families removed from shelter might turn. “The most likely outcome is that the family would demonstrate that they do have a place to go,” he said.

Or...they might be homeless and have nowhere but the sidewalk, which by this motherfucker's definition is a place to go. But it's only for 30 days, right?
An instructional guide provided to shelter operators appears to leave open the possibility that families will be subject to the elements. It instructs shelter operators that no families should be ejected during a “Code Blue Winter Weather Alert,” or when the temperature drops to 32 degrees.

Compassion like that brings a tear to the eye it does.

Robert Hess, Commissioner of Homeless Services:

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City:

Government agencies sever parental rights over shit like failing to provide shelter. So why is the city doing it?


Monday, July 27, 2009

You're Gonna Rise Up Singin'

Perhaps you've noticed I cope with insecurity through artmaking and prodigious swearing. Times are terribly uncertain. I'm armed with Dad's Ball Jars, one-sixth of Dad's remaining cookbook collection and a bad fucking attitude. About two weeks ago, I started pulling down cookbooks and reading them with what I was seeing in the farmers markets in mind. You will be surprised to hear I couldn't find a single goddamn recipe for canning sugarplums, but that turned out fine since I couldn't find sugarplums either. On Sunday, Pete and I jarred blueberries with a buttload of sugar and a spoonful of rum. As jarring processes go, this one was truly simple. Cleaning up afterward required dedication and produced bleach-pruned fingertips. Later, we played Edward Scissorhands with eggplant and jarred some zingy caponata. I love you and all, but touch my caponata and I will stab you repeatedly with a grapefruit spoon. Do not give me the boo-boo eyes. I am a hard woman!

Dad died two years ago, and this dehydrator sat in Pete's basement nearly the whole time. We have no idea if this thing will dry fruit or achieve low-earth orbit, so tonight we peeled, cored and sliced apples - for SCIENCE! Currently, the mothership emits a hot, moist apple vapor that is immediately swept outside by an overworked window fan. I haven't found much in the cookbooks about dehydrated foods, but as a preservation method dehydration is kind of interesting. I'm sure I'll have storage questions. The Ball Co. book says storage is no problem: sterilize jars, let 'em dry and store your dried whatsises in a cool, dark place, and I say whatsises because the book intimates an industrious yet insecure person like myself can dry just about anything. Whatever you do, do not picture clam jerky. Just imagine the pretty, pretty fucking jars.

Labels: ,

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Different Shadow On the Wall

Remember when I used to write a blog? It seems like only last week I wrote my often humorous musings on aging, politics, public transportation, food, gardening and green living, not to mention the surly extended family and the supercute grandson, at stultifying length and and interminable detail. Ah, those were the days. I was so young then!

Yesterday was the eighteenth birthday of my baby sister Dara. I called and sang "Happy Birthday, dear doofus" to her voicemail and was surprised when I wasn't her one call from county lockup somewhere, but today, the night is still young and she might figure our sister Daria might be an easier mark. A bazillion years ago:

Daria: Daddy, if Domenica and I had gotten arrested swimming in the reservoir would you have bailed us out?
Dad: Hell no! I drink that water.

Okay, it wasn't all that long ago, and our arrest records remain curiously clean, but everyone knows Dara's an evil genius who forgets to plot escape routes from her crime scenes, and colleges care about that shit. So if there's a lesson to be learned by the youth of America, who have spent every second of their brief lives under surveillance, it's this: your fingerprints and DNA are probably on file in some government system. Your best bet for a life of crime is in computer science unless you can clone a good twin you can play for a patsy. Bon appetit!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Never Was A Raisin Girl

I'm totally obsessed with the Tour de France.

Tonight for the first time we saw images of the cyclists peeing.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Burn Your Eyes On You Moving

So I'm watching the Today Show this morning and something - I can't quite put my finger on it - is making me very uncomfortable. What -
Last night, the president of the United States said nothing surprising when he observed that members of the Cambridge police "acted stupidly" in arresting a man in his own home after he had identified himself as the owner. Even the whitest and rightest of morans could figure out that's a stupid, outrageous, disgraceful way for cops to behave. Talk about government overreach!

No, the real shocker was the audible gasp from the mostly white press corps as Obama said it. They don't seem to understand, truly understand, that the United States elected a black man to be its president.

That's close, but no cigar. When Matt Lauer asks rhetorically if it's appropriate for the President of the United States to comment on his friend's racially motivated false arrest, he's not asking an etiquette question. Nope, he's asking if it's appropriate for a Black man to mention Black men have problems specific to being Black men, because the dominant paradigm says they don't. I stopped huffing my breakfast polenta when I heard the word appropriate which was bad enough, but I got up, shut off the TV and brushed my teeth when I saw Michael Smerconish was going to discuss race with Michael Eric Dyson, and I knew Dyson was going to be told by two white guys that Mr. Obama had no right to mention racism.

Here's the clip. Maybe you have more nerve than I do.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

You Know That Magic Often Does

Yesterday, I turned a corner in the drugstore as two extremely tall gentlemen turned another and ambled toward me. I was startled by just how tall they were and burst out laughing. The first man laughed and said, "Hi!" I followed the second man down an aisle toward the door and watched him duck his head to avoid a sign attached to the ceiling. The two men left and I stopped at the cash register, overjoyed. The cashier smiled from ear to ear.

Me: That was so exciting! I'm often the smallest person in every room, so that has to be a completely different life.
Kid: I'm adopted from Hungary, but when my parents came to get me they were the tallest people anyone there had ever seen.
Me: I was tall in Ecuador! Also, not to be disrespectful but seeing them brought back a really odd memory.
Kid: Like what?
Me: I went to high school with someone who was later a professional basketball player and one time I ran straight into his bellybutton.
Kid: Omigod, what happened?
Me: Well, after that, he always said hello in the hallways to the top of my head.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Find It Hard To Write the Next Line

How often do you read a headline and groan? Buckle up.
Henry Louis Gates Jr. Arrested, Police Accused Of Racial Profiling

So I used to work in this punk rock bar where pretty much anything could happen, but what happened every weekend was the employees got tanked after closing, told very funny stories and did all kinds of things we won't talk about until indictments are unsealed. One night, the bar's owner Doobie told us one time some guy picked a fight with Doobie's wife Connie. Hauled off and hit her. Knocked her off her barstool. Doobie groaned, "Oh man, you shouldn'ta done that." Connie stood up, punched that guy straight in the face and knocked him out.

I read this article and groaned, "Oh man, you shouldn'ta done that." This is very bad:
[Gates' attorney, fellow Harvard scholar Charles] Ogletree said Gates gave the officer his driver's license and Harvard identification after being asked to prove he was a Harvard professor and lived at the home, but became upset when the officer continued to question him.

"He was shocked to find himself being questioned and shocked that the conversation continued after he showed his identification," Ogletree said.

Ogletree declined to say whether he believed the incident was racially motivated, saying "I think the incident speaks for itself."

Some of Gates' African-American colleagues say the arrest is part of a pattern of racial profiling in Cambridge.

Allen Counter, who has taught neuroscience at Harvard for 25 years, said he was stopped on campus by two Harvard police officers in 2004 after being mistaken for a robbery suspect. They threatened to arrest him when he could not produce identification.

"We do not believe that this arrest would have happened if professor Gates was white," Counter said. "It really has been very unsettling for African-Americans throughout Harvard and throughout Cambridge that this happened."

The Rev. Al Sharpton is vowing to attend Gates' arraignment.

"This arrest is indicative of at best police abuse of power or at worst the highest example of racial profiling I have seen," Sharpton said. "I have heard of driving while black and even shopping while black but now even going to your own home while black is a new low in police community affairs."

Ogletree said Gates had returned from a trip to China on Thursday with a driver, when he found his front door jammed. He went through the back door into the home – which he leases from Harvard – shut off an alarm and worked with the driver to get the door open. The driver left, and Gates was on the phone with the property's management company when police first arrived.

Ogletree also disputed the claim that Gates, who was wearing slacks and a polo shirt and carrying a cane, was yelling at the officer.

"He has an infection that has impacted his breathing since he came back from China, so he's been in a very delicate physical state," Ogletree said.

But wait, there's one more gut-punch:
The Middlesex district attorney's office said it could not do so until after Gates' arraignment.

Arraignment. Arrested for disorderly conduct in his own home.

Karmically speaking, we are about to see some shit go boom.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Back To Where We Started From

Okay: I give - and these words may never have been uttered in this order in all of history: what in glamorous tarnation happened to my fucking swiss chard?

One afternoon a couple weeks ago, I went outside to gloat about my sprouting planters and verdant garden beds, gloating, you understand, requires a significant investment of time, not to mention warm compost. Which is worth it. When I came around the corner of the picnic table, I found about half the chard leaves blistered and browning. This is hard to describe without sounding like a Discovery Channel special. But here goes.

When I was eleven, my parents had only just turned thirty and separated, so I spent a great deal of time unsupervised and at least once, burned down the kitchen. We ate a lot of take-out Chinese for a while, and Mom got a new stove out of the deal, but also, I watched with scientific detachment as a huge blister rose on the back of my left hand where a giant glob of molten wax landed, ending my career as a candlemaker. The blister was huge, the skin taut; I couldn't take my eyes off it. I was sorry when it healed, as slathering it with emollients had become my hobby.

So I was both horrified and fascinated to observe that chard leaves have top and bottom surfaces that can separate and resemble a blister. The leaves were taut, like a Ziploc bag sealed with air inside. I had never seen this before, so I did what any idiot would do: I got gardening shears and trimmed off the blistered and browning parts before they ate up the rest of the leaves. Nom nom nom. Of course, a gardener who knew what she was doing wouldn't have pictured her swiss chard stepping all over Tokyo and munching on a subway train, but I can't help but wonder if this could have been avoided somehow. What happened? Did the roots hit a chunk of something they didn't find tasty, maybe?

Pete and I are trying to jar or freeze something fresh every weekend. Last summer, we worked hard at it but we were also doing so much work on moving and the house that we didn't have much energy left to devote to preserving. Even so, we put away quart jars of Pete's tomato sauce that carried us through the raw, frigid days of February, when - let's be honest - if even dinner's no good you just want to kill yourself. Last night, Pete made both basil pesto and arugula pestos, which we put into the freezer. We have arugula growing on every surface, and the flavor has been peppery and sweet and totally fantastic, so its addition to regular pesto adds spice and bite and a nice change. On Friday, I picked up peaches at the farmers market, so this afternoon we're going to make a peach barbecue sauce we both love so much we'd eat it off a garbage can lid.

As a gardener, I leave much to be desired. Our next door neighbor's garden is lush and gorgeously green. The houseplants Topaz and Sweetpea tortured all winter came outside and promptly withered. I don't understand it. Last summer, in the exact same locations, the houseplants did everything but sing. This year: we pull them out at the anemic roots. And for some reason, I may be the only person in history who can't grow strawberries. They're weeds. Last summer, I planted strawberries that grew for a matter of minutes before they took one look at me and went to horticulture heaven. In May, I planted strawberry plants that gave me the raspberry, so last month, I planted more. These, finally, grew like gangbusters. Two days ago, they started to droop. I have every confidence these will be pinin' for the fiords by the end of the week. But at least I'm consistent.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Stretch My Neck To Look Up to Him










Thursday, July 16, 2009

Young Blood Is the Loving Upriser

This is one of our stray cat friends. We call him/her "Woym," like the kid from the Little Rascals. I can't really explain that, but I can tell you that feral cats avoid contact with people. Some feral cats come to our All You Can Eat Kibble Bar and though we can see them they flee if Pete or I take a step toward them. Woym, on the other hand, seeks physical contact. Woym wants to chat about his/her busy day of being a cat, wants some scritches and a nosh, thank you very much. This means Woym is not a feral cat. Either he/she ran away or was abandoned. I'm working on finding Woym a home because I can't standing thinking about what winter might be like for abandoned house pets.

This is something I can change. That is an important point to hold on to when much of the world feels deeply unjust, corrupt and profoundly dangerous. I can change some things. Sometimes it is a matter of finding a creative way to do it. We are looking down the barrel of an economy about to blow, which means we are hearing cries for help more often. We cannot ignore them, even as we accept that we have limited time, money and growing compassion fatigue. Arthur Silbers needs your help.
And I'm about to face (again) a choice between food and heart medication. I've eaten through almost all the food I had stored up; in the last week, I've been forced to eat the contents of a few cans of food that had been pushed to the backs of some kitchen shelves. They were very old; perhaps the recent intestinal unpleasantness was the result of something that shouldn't have been eaten. But those particular problems have periodically gone on for a long time now, so possibly tainted food can't be the entire explanation. Eating healthy foods, which would be a good idea given the heart problems, is pretty much beyond my means for good now. Last week, I spent most of a donation from a regular contributor on cat food. (Many thanks to K.R. and to the few others who make donations on a regular basis, as well as to all those who help keep me going.) First things first. It's one thing for me to fade away, slowly or perhaps more quickly, but I can't allow the same to happen to my two feline companions. If I were truly responsible, I would try to find them good new homes right now. That undoubtedly has been true for some time. But I admit that I can't bear to think of life without them. The dilemma haunts me every day.

What can we do for him? If you're in Los Angeles, can you help him find good homes for his cats? You can. Can you bring him a bag of groceries? You can. Can you help him find an air conditioner on Freecycle? You can. If you have a bar and a band, you can hold a benefit. If you're outside Los Angeles, you could drop a little dosh into his Paypal account. Got ten bucks burning a hole in your pocket? Five? Three fifty? Please consider donating.

My friend Mary, deeply involved with the concerns of growing girls, forwards a link to Girl Effect. Their website is a little heavy on persuasion and light on statistics, but it reminds one of Kiva. I can't vouch for Girl Effect, and hope you'll do your own research, but it's great to see momentum building worldwide for the improvement of education and economic opportunity.

Woym has sweet chartreuse eyes and soft fur. I have a feeling my co-worker, bruised by the sudden loss of a feline friend, will take Woym in. Serena told me her daughter had a dream about a tabby cat trying to get in. I said, "Far be it from me to separate you from your companion." The path through despair is love.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cool Winds That Blow Down

Photo: Bob Hosh.

Per Mr. Hosh: Perfect specimen of the "Destroying Angel" (Amanita bisporigera) the most toxic mushroom in North America. Found on a mountain trail last Saturday morning in Kings Gap State Park, PA.

First thing this morning, I dropped Pete's socks and undershirts into the washing machine so he could hang them out on the clothesline. I don't know why a poison mushroom made me think of that.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

If Anything Was Broken I'm Sure

Via Pam's House Blend, about which I am only a teeeeeensy bit obsessive, comes this suspicious tidbit:
No one is talking on the record, but here's what happened:

"OLTL" was taping scenes in late-June concerning roommates Cristian, Layla and Fish. (They'll air in September.) Cristian and Layla suspect that sweet cop Fish is gay, but aren't sure how to approach him about it. So they buy a book about how to tell if you're gay and plan to give it to him.

Cristian's mom, Carlotta, was supposed to find the book and assume Cristian is gay. Her reaction was scripted to be very accepting and even amused, citing his love of art and fondness for going shirtless as signs she should have recognized.

But Mauceri, who has played diner purveyor Carlotta Vega for 14 years, refused to play the story as written, saying a Latina mother would not be so accepting. Rather, Mauceri rewrote the scenes to make Carlotta confused and troubled, and submitted them to "OLTL" execs.

"That's not the story we're telling," responded an exec.

Mauceri then said she could not play the scenes as written, so the show called [Saundra] Santiago.

I don't know about you, but when I read a story I am aware of things moving in the background. Sometimes I can see what they might be; sometimes not. Here, it's possible Mauceri is an artist with some integrity, in which case working on the soaps may not be her best bet for avoiding cognitive dissonance. Listen: One Life To Life has underground cities, stolen babies, secret twins, visitations by the series' creator, burn victims without scars, bullies with bags of lightly chilled blood we're supposed to believe just came from a donor, folks rising from the dead so often crypts should have ejector seats, time travel, cowboy industrialists with lawyers named "Beaver," multiple personality disorder described through hair and makeup choices, newspaper magnates lingering in modest kitchens over coffee, people cough a few times after stuff blows up, serial killers get their own European kingdoms, nobody ever goes to jail unless their contract's up and not even I would plan a double wedding with my ex-husband. We're not going to get much in the way of real life here. Or dignity. Even so, it must be said that recently OLTL has been a little weird in its treatment of Latin peoples, with a moment that made me cringe and turn off the TV. This one:

A character that supposedly lived for years in Puerto Rico and Europe is throwing a party and mistakes her guests for "the help" because they speak with a heavy accent. I threw myself at my remote and found something else to do for a while. So I could understand if someone had absolutely had it with this show on this topic and decided to give the script writers a little tough love. Unfortunately for Mauceri, writers are big users of strong words. Let's go back to the article and weigh the words:
No one is talking on the record, but here's what happened:

Omigod, I can't tell you what happened but this is what happened.
"OLTL" was taping scenes in late-June concerning roommates Cristian, Layla and Fish. (They'll air in September.) Cristian and Layla suspect that sweet cop Fish is gay, but aren't sure how to approach him about it. So they buy a book about how to tell if you're gay and plan to give it to him.

There are no gay people in Pennsylvania so you can get manuals that tell you how to be gay and only straight people know where to buy them.
Cristian's mom, Carlotta, was supposed to find the book and assume Cristian is gay. Her reaction was scripted to be very accepting and even amused, citing his love of art and fondness for going shirtless as signs she should have recognized.

What could my son's love of Post-Its and fondness for going to grocery stores mean? Perhaps I should have recognized his penchant for being Latvian.
But Mauceri, who has played diner purveyor Carlotta Vega for 14 years, refused to play the story as written, saying a Latina mother would not be so accepting. Rather, Mauceri rewrote the scenes to make Carlotta confused and troubled, and submitted them to "OLTL" execs.

If I can't write caricatures based on my prejudices I don't know what the world is coming to!
"That's not the story we're telling," responded an exec.

Don't think: it weakens the team.
Mauceri then said she could not play the scenes as written, so the show called Santiago.

I'll overlook the fact that some people are still mad about Carmen Miranda's Chiquita banana thing because Latin people are just so darned temperamental. You can't work with 'em.

Frankly, I might be smashing heads in the office photocopier, if that were me. It also can't be overstated that treating your gay roommate like his homosexuality is an exotic disease makes you a big jerk.

Of course, it's possible Mauceri is just a bigot, but it's also possible we only caught a glimpse of what happened and this is a smear. Mauceri's out of a job. Everything else is rumor and speculation.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Your Watch, Your Rings And All

Yesterday, friends and family of Isabella's husband gathered at the unnamed university's gardens, where Isabella's family had spent many afternoons over the years. He knew the Latin names of plants and thought nothing of it. He was gentle and erudite, and so funny. In the hospital, he spoke to us only in Spanish, though he never said why. So there we were in the gardens on a brilliantly sunny Sunday morning, The deacon talked, the cousins remembered their childhood together in a reasonably Irish suburb of Boston, Isabella said she'd had no idea how many people loved them. Neil's beautiful daughters gave up any pretense at composure and wiped their eyes on his sleeves. They're all flying back to Seattle today, leaving behind a quiet that surprised me. It's also the first rest day on the Tour de France, and to my chagrin, time passes.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

There Will Have Moved Here

Topaz here. Tonight on Poor Impulse Control Theater: Drusy tries to make her boney body even flatter to combat the heat while Sweetpea snoozes the day away. I've befriended a French-speaking dust whirl and tomorrow, plan to overthrow the municipal Supervisor of Public Works, who smells like cheese, which I like. Don't get me wrong. He may be very nice but he reminds me of a rabid badger. That's tonight on Poor Impulse Control Theater. I'm Topaz. Goodnight!


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Tried It All But He Never Would

There's an old Jewish expression: When you have two Jews, you have three opinions. One reason converting to Judaism was so easy for me was that my being of two minds about a topic was actually a dinnertable-argument asset. It's no surprise then that this week's developments in the fight for sensible health care just about sent me round the fuckin' twist.

Via the Sideshow, a call to action I've been waiting for:
Yesterday rumors were flying and some folks are saying they’ve been confirmed. The Senate Finance Committee (SFC), in an effort to make health care into a bi-partisan effort, is considering a restriction on abortion funding with the passage of health care reform. This could mean not allowing a public health insurance plan to cover the cost of abortions for women. It is still unclear under what circumstances this provision would apply, but we want to make sure that you all are aware of what’s going on in the SFC!

The reason I was waiting for this was that I've been paying attention for the last thirty years, and I knew there was no way the forced birthers were going to let real women's health care get into that plan, and that the Democrats would immediately cave, because vaginas have cooties. Also via the Sideshow, a more or less incoherent piece at Buzzflash so filled with Newt Gingrich's specially conditioned assumption language that the title tells the reader everything she needs to know: Should We Sell Choice To Get Change? As a cantankerous little old lady, I feel obligated to deconstruct that question with a rolling pin. Whack! Individually, some Congresscritters may desire "change" - which is to say a national healthcare plan - but most have accepted bribes - which is to say campaign money and buckets of it - from insurance, pharmaceutical and for-profit hospital corporations. Our interests as citizens and the interests of our congressional representatives diverge, a big problem for us, because that brings us to the second assumption packed into the headline: that reproductive rights may not go down the tubes with this plan. They're going. I'll be blunt: this is going to sting. A comment from the Buzzflash piece by Jeremyg:
We should all be able to agree that we need to respect the rights of people who believe abortion is murder, and not force them to pay for it with their tax dollars. Isn't that what a tolerant society is all about? Respecting the rights of those we disagree with. Tolerance is better than any fundamentalism, even pro-choice fundamentalism. Let's respect everyone's choices.

That is hay-filled, corn-fed bullshit, right there. I actually don't give a good goddamn anymore about the opinions of people who think abortion is murder because - once again - I've been paying attention for the last thirty years and I know they don't respect my opinion that another person's medical procedures are none of their fucking business. Moreover, we as taxpayers do not get to decide how the money is spent. Our one decision: do we or do we not in good conscience pay our taxes as they have been assessed? If the answer is yes, write the check and shut the fuck up about how my tax dollars are spent. You know what, person of faith? I argued vehemently against the war, against privatizing government services, against the death penalty, against the war on drugs, welfare, unemployment, the aged, the disabled, the homeless and hungry, ridiculous and xenophobic border patrols, the national parks, the environment, endangered species, public transportation and fucking common decency, but does that really matter? No. Because while I believe we shouldn't spend a red cent on the Pentagon, my tender feelings don't figure into the budget priorities of the United States of America, and neither should yours. Sending kids to die for an imperialist adventure was murder each time we've done it, so plainly this money-murder relationship is not the dealbreaker you make it out to be. But that's not the worst of it. No, the worst is when middle-aged women of faith sell our daughters down the river, as Blue Gal does:
A fellow blogger had a fit last night via email, because that blogger heard a rumor that possibly abortions would not be covered under the Public Option. I. Just. Winced. All. The. Way. To. Bed. We don't HAVE a public option yet. It's not a sure thing. We have to wait for the insurance companies to fail before single payer is maybe possibly back on the table, but let's pour a heaping cup of the most divisive issue of the past fifty years into the pot right now, because it's so very critical.

It is critical, because abortion is often an economic decision. In real life, sometimes women choose not to bring a pregnancy to term because they can't afford it. If you think abortion is murder, that probably boggles your mind, which boggling has gummed up government for a handful of decades, especially since our government quit paying for abortions in the seventies. Insurance companies, as Blue Gal reminds us, sometimes pay for abortions. But what happens if we develop a national healthcare plan that doesn't cover them? Bet your shoes that insurance companies will stop covering anything the national plan doesn't. Once abortions are off the table, contraception is next, and mental health coverage, and dental, until there's nothing left in that plan.

The place to draw the line then is at abortion. It must stay in the plan or we return to the time pre-Roe, with even less than we have now. Back-alley abortions and deaths are only the beginning of what awaits us.

The second thing driving me out of my mind is that the administration doesn't seem to know how to haggle. There are two ways to strike a bargain:

1. You start bargaining from a position beyond your wildest dreams. For instance, if you're going clean Ted's gutters and you want $100 for the job and Ted is going to bargain with you, you start by telling Ted you'll do it for $200. If Ted says, "No, dude, here's ten bucks and a used bowling ball," you know that Ted is not serious about wanting his gutters cleaned. Note that Republicans offer Democrats used bowling balls all the time. They are not serious about bargaining. If however you ask $200 and Ted says $45, you may get some back and forth that results in a price close to what you want.

Where healthcare is concerned, Congress fucked this up badly by starting with a stupidly modest plan that will make only the healthcare industry happy, because it will do nothing for the common good. Our representatives should have started with plans well beyond single-payer, knowing how legislation is enacted. That they didn't tells us that we cannot hope for anything.

2. The Chicago way, as described by Sean Connery in The Untouchables:
Malone: You said you wanted to get Capone. Do you really wanna get him? You see what I'm saying is, what are you prepared to do?
Ness: Anything within the law.
Malone: And *then* what are you prepared to do? If you open the can on these worms you must be prepared to go all the way. Because they're not gonna give up the fight, until one of you is dead.
Ness: I want to get Capone! I don't know how to do it.
Malone: You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. *That's* the *Chicago* way! And that's how you get Capone. Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that? I'm offering you a deal. Do you want this deal?
Ness: I have sworn to capture this man with all legal powers at my disposal and I will do so.
Malone: Well, the Lord hates a coward.
[jabs Ness with his hand, and Ness shakes it]
Malone: Do you know what a blood oath is, Mr. Ness?
Ness: Yes.
Malone: Good, 'cause you just took one.

Scrap the plan as it exists. Start from a position beyond your wildest dreams and make it politically expensive for opponents of a good plan for the common good.

We won't see either a decent plan or the survival of reproductive rights as we know them for ordinary American women if the administration doesn't send a few Republicans to the political career morgue very soon.

Sorry about the fucking bruises.


Friday, July 10, 2009

With the Most Cake

It's a home movie, without the usual swearing.


Thursday, July 09, 2009

I Felt So Symbolic Yesterday

This morning, Neil called to tell me his father died last night, just before midnight. Neil's timing was perfect: I was getting ready to walk across the river to the hospital. Plans are in the works for a wake in an Irish bar and restaurant in our old hometown, and for a memorial on the grounds of the unnamed university's gardens. Isabella is going to scatter her husband's ashes in a public place where someone might attempt to discourage her. I volunteered to create the kind of diversion that might get me arrested while she does what she has to do. You know: because.


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Good Is Going To Happen

Tonight, I didn't get home from the hospital until 9:45 and I hated leaving. I wanted to be at home, on my couch, cooing at my lovely cats and holding a glass of wine but without leaving Isabella, Neil and Matt. Trout had gone home before I arrived. The new room is wonderfully good: when I arrived, Isabella was taking a shower in the private bathroom without the terror of leaving her husband. When I called earlier, Isabella asked me, "Do you need a drinking partner?" I shifted gears.

Tata: Do you need anything? Are you out of illicit booze?
Isabella: No, come here and be funny.
Tata: As! You! Wish!*

So I showed up in my pajamas, with my laptop full of pictures of adorable Panky and one special thing. When Pete was on his way to pick me up, Isabella finally sat down next to me. Neil said, "Tata brought you something." I pulled a moist ziptop bag from my belongings. I held each leaf under her nose and let her inhale.

Isabella: What? What is it?
Tata: Ah! Here. I brought you some summer. Smell this!
Isabella: It''s...tomato?
Tata: It is! It's a tomato leaf from my garden. This -
Isabella: I don't recognize that.
Tata: It's an unusual lettuce. This -
Isabella: Ooh. What's that?
Tata: This is arugula. This -
Isabella: That's very pretty.
Tata: This is a different lettuce. My garden is full of it. You'll recognize this. It's -
Isabella: Ah, mint!
Tata: This is more lettuce, like before, and this -
Isabella: That's familiar. What is it?
Tata: Basil!
Isabella: I'd know that better if I -

Isabella tore off a leaf, took a deep whiff and popped the leaf into her mouth. Then she laughed.

Isabella: Basil!
Tata: I grow all kinds of crap in my miniscule backyard.

I put the leaves into a paper cup, added water from the bathroom sink and placed the little bouquet on the only surface I could find where cords, bags, medical debris and bedding would not knock over the bouquet. The doctors had just left. Isabella gave them permission to up the morphine dose.

I'm going to need more than basil.

*The Princess Bride quoted with immunity to iocaine powder and without a giant.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Someday You'll Have A Beautiful Life

Our kitchen window, just before sundown.

Tonight, the nurse asked if we would like to move to a private room. Isabella, Trout, Neil, Matt, Matt's wife, Matt's ebullient four-year-old daughter, Matt's mother-in-law Auntie Zee and I quit squawking and looked at each other for one long pregnant moment and started packing. Neil and Matt went down the hall to scout out what number of chairs, what pillows, what stuff we would move and what we'd leave. Neil returned with numbers. I'd already packed food, clothing linens and the bottle of booze we were hiding from the staff. When the cleaning of the new room seemed to take a long time, I scurried down the hall to see it myself. It's a quarantine room with an outer door and an inner glass wall. It will squelch sound. It will be fabulous. I skipped back and declared it our snow globe.


Monday, July 06, 2009

All I Know Is That To Me

On Friday morning, I brought fresh strawberries, sour cherries, blueberries and a loaf of garlicky spinach mozzarella bread to the hospital room. Sunday morning, it was grapes and Pepperidge Farm cookies. Last night, I smuggled in a bottle of Bailey's, paper cups and my laptop full of pictures. I have an adorable grandson, and I know how to use pictures of him. Anyway, when I broke out the bottle, Isabella cheered right up. She took a few drops of it and rubbed it on her husband's tongue, knowing that would be his wish. We then gave him a few drops of water on the sponge, which he drank even in his morphine drowse.

Isabella poured the Bailey's with a question not quite reaching her lips.

Tata: We [I pointed around the room at all of us] are the bad kids.
Isabella: Why do you say that?
Tata: I've known us a long time.
Isabella: Most people didn't know that about me where we worked together.
Tata: You held your cards close to your vest.
Isbella: And two aces in my bra and a bottle in the bottom drawer.

Isabella has been my friend for a very long time. Her daughter Trout and I met when she was 17, naked and unabashed; I was 14, terrified and trying to stuff myself into my gym locker. You know: to save time. Later, Trout's brother Neil was one of my best friends and dance partner in some high school musical. For four people attending a deathbed, we laugh a lot. It's a little jarring to the doctors when they walk in on us yapping about pictures of my red dining room or time trials on the first day of the Tour de France. Neil's daughters play soccer at a serious level, so they were thrilled that I'd had physical therapy in the same gym as the players of Sky Blue FC.

Tata: A Brazilian player on the next stationary bike laughed at my jokes, though she didn't speak English.
Neil: Which player? Rosana?
Tata: I think so. There was also one woman with fantastic tattoos.
Neil: That's Natasha Kai. She runs onto the field and fouls someone. BLAM! Hi, I'm here!
Tata: I totally wanted to talk with her about the tats but I was always doing something stupid and awkward when she walked by. I couldn't bring myself to pretend I was cool while ankle weights made me keel over sideways.

Isabella's youngest son is married to the daughter of the Head of Housekeeping in the hospital. This means special things, like a fan for the patient, which seems to have come from the Payroll Department surreptitiously. We wonder if the hospital's checks are going out sticky, but there's nothing to worry about. Auntie takes care of it.

For days now, I've been level and bright in the hospital room, and exhausted at home and at work. This morning, I arranged a place for the inevitable memorial, which I worked out with all the patience of a German shepherd gnawing a soup bone. Tonight, Isabella caressed her husband's arm and said to him, "It's okay. Go for a long walk into the woods." For the first time, I averted my eyes and lost my breath.


Sunday, July 05, 2009

Over This Land, All Over This

So here I am again, at the foot of the sickbed, watching the clock run down. Our families are marvels of construction on the fly; when the doctor asked on the first day who I was I said, "I'm the foster child." Isabella blurted out, "Yes, but not really," and the doctor smiled. By blood, the unconscious man struggling to breathe is no relation. He has called me "my other daughter" for a couple of decades, but I suppose I am really just a friend. On Thursday and Friday, there was still some hope he might survive the pneumonia, but no more. On Thursday morning, Isabella and I used tiny sponges on sticks to moisten his mouth with scant drops of water. It was a two-person job. I held the oxygen mask away from his face while Isabella sopped up a little liquid, placed the sponge in his mouth and hoped he would drink. Mostly, the morphine put him to sleep and our job was to watch and wait. I have been here before, and I am fine.


Friday, July 03, 2009

In Your Head They're Still Fighting

Despite the fact that I am still fuming after yesterday's episode in which my sister was a controlling bitch, I'm trying to be philosophical today. No matter how much I love someone I can't work her karma for her - especially when she's being a controlling bitch. But I digress. I'm philosophical, bitchez!

Good thing we didn't try carrying this metric buttload of produce.

Our town has a farmer's market on Fridays, where local farmers, bakers and cheesemakers bring really good stuff to a parking lot on the main street, fucking up traffic that must travel Route 27 and probably doubling our carbon footprint. Today, Pete and I dragged the little red wagon out of the basement and launched a two-person parade to the market. We had an absolute blast walking from stall to stall, choosing bok choi from the tattooed girls, fresh onions from the family chatting up older ladies, and raw milk cheese from the cheese evangelist. His gospel is local and grassfed, and he preaches it loud and proud. Praise be to gouda!


In our vast old age, Pete and I entertain ourselves on a Friday night by making pesto. We stripped leaves from stems on four bunches of basil. Pete washed them three times - this is his ritual. Then he tossed them into the food processor with a mess o' garlic, grated parmesan and drizzled in olive oil until he was happy with the texture. I tasted it. The tenant wandered by and tasted it. The committee decided the pesto needed a little more cheese and a smidge of salt. We tasted again and decided it needed pepper. When it was a winner, Pete jarred. My job: zip around the kitchen restoring order with a sponge.

Pesto action photo!

We decided weeks ago that we would make a concerted effort to jar something every weekend, whatever's good and in season. Today, the basil looked brilliantly green and smelled heavenly, so that was a natural choice. The ease with which we processed these jars is promising; we could easily do this again next Friday night. We have jars. We have lids. We have space in our freezer. I almost can't stand the glamor of planning January's dinners in July.

I have the ancestral food dehydrator in my basement, though I've never used it. It's a bad weekend to ask questions, but what the hell. Have you tried one?


Thursday, July 02, 2009

Everything I See Is Red

Today is not a good day for my sister to be a controlling bitch.


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Let Alone An Egg

Good kitties...good kitties...

Sharkey bought a house that came with concrete outdoor cats.

Anyone know a garden center where I can pick up a concrete ball of yarn?