Sunday, January 31, 2010

Instead I Pour the Milk

Never in my life have I personally been so frigging happy. Let's deal with that, shall we? Maybe it's the man, the food, the cats, the neighborhood, the job, the people - I can't say because I'm writing for shit and it's the middle of winter - but I am very happy, generally. Last week, I went to town meeting about sustainable living. One committee member said the schools aren't going to do something just because it's the right thing to do and I didn't punch her in the face because I've fucking matured. I take things in stride now. My hip is kicking my ass, making it tough to put on socks. I bought scuffs on sale for more than 50% off, causing me to do a cautious Happy Dance. Drusy got a box just the right size for a 6 lb. cat. Halle-freaking-lujah.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Candidate For Vietnam Or Watergate

Pete's brand new antique English racer. We are willing spring to arrive.

My sisters Anya and Corinne pushed the whole town uphill through failed fire inspections, endless phone calls and dozens of rushed meetings to throw a benefit tonight for Haiti. They assembled a bake sale, a silent auction, an art show, musicians, speakers and the mayor of less than a week into an orderly if passionate response to the destruction and ongoing needs. The process was brilliant to watch. This afternoon, Anya and Corinne burst into the back hallway of the family store and blurted, "What's for lunch?" I said, "Triscuits, caponata, fresh yogurt and popcorn." They stared because they were kidding. "It's just like you to throw a benefit to feed people and forget to eat all day." Then I nearly had to beat up Corinne when grabbed the yogurt, caponata and a spoon and ran for the door.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

In Bed With Only Highway

I drag around a buttload of stuff on my bike, but this is amazing.
On any given day in Northampton, Massachusetts, you might see something that would raise eyebrows elsewhere: Someone on a bike, pulling a giant trailer heaped with trash. You'll see this in rain, snow, or heat and humidity; on residential streets and on Main Street; even going uphill in traffic.

Since late 2002, the Pedal People have picked up and hauled more than 341,000 cubic feet of trash, recyclables, and compost, replacing big loud fuel-burning garbage trucks with...bicycles (at prices competitive with the trucks). It's not a viable model everywhere, and nobody's getting rich doing this, but it's the sort of carbon footprint-reducing business we should look at as a model for the places it would work.

You might think a bicycle hauling business wouldn't be viable everywhere because of weather - that it would only work in extremely mild climates. But Northampton gets snow in the winter and has real summers, and the Pedal People rarely delay pickups due to weather.

If there's a town small enough for this service, it's the microdot on the map I live in! But wait - Northampton's not the only steamy composting hotspot.
The Pedal to Petal process is a closed cycle, from food to compost to soil and back to food again, all without the use of fossil fuel dependent vehicles and machines.

Pedal to Petal members are involved in the creation and maintainance of organic edible landscapes throughout the city of Victoria. The compost created through this project will feed the soil and feed the city. An increase in locally produced food will mean a decrease in the amount of food imported from off-island. This further reduces the amount of fossil fuels being used in the course of providing ourselves with sustainance. Not only that, but small-scale organic agriculture has far less of an impact on the environment than farms that rely on the use of heavy machinery. We turn the compost piles by hand and use a method of cultivation that eliminates the need for roto-tilling. Once again, a vast reduction in fossil fuel use.

This is such an exciting, sensible idea. If I were an enterprising, underemployed bicycle owner with a big yard, I'd go into stinky business for myself. Some composting afficionadas go big and get a truck.
EARTHGIRL COMPOSTING will provide you with a five gallon bucket. We will pick up your full bucket weekly, biweekly or monthly, leave you an empty clean bucket and deliver your waste to Vermont Compost Company and/or Intervale Compost Products.

YOU DECIDE how often and we will do the rest.

When you compost with EARTHGIRL COMPOSTING you are making a difference.

All waste is delivered to Vermont Compost Company and/or Intervale Compost Products.

Vermont Compost Company was founded by organic crop growing professionals to meet the need for high quality composts and compost based living soil mixes for certified organic plant production. Vermont Compost Company recycles over 400 tons of food residuals annually and relies on bio-fuels, non-toxic lubricants, and plant-based oils for all of the equipment on the farm.

Intervale Compost Products supports our community and sustainable agriculture by turning waste into compost and selling that compost to organic farmers, gardeners, and landscapers.

Startling use of capital letters aside, that's a wild idea come to efficient fruition. Check this out:
We provide participants in the compost program with their own post-consumer, recycled compost bucket, free of charge. Each bucket comes lined with a completely compostable cornstarch bag.

On the appropriate collection night, participants place their buckets on their front porch. We empty the contents of each bucket into our collection truck, replace the bag, and put the bucket back on the participant's porch, ready to receive another week's compost.

The collected compost is then taken to a city composting site, managed by the Department of Parks and Horticulture, where it is processed for re-integration into the ecosystem. The following spring, we deliver finished compost from the site to participants in the program, free-of-charge.

Montreal returns compost to participants, which is either great or a great threat. Weren't expecting buckets of nutrient-rich compost on your doorstep? Surprise! Goo for you! Were you to, say, Google compost services, you would find such services listed all over the place.

I'm not saying you should consider this an investment opportunity, but I am saying that in 2010, there is money to be made in dirt that can clean up your karma.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

If Dreams Were Thunder

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha -
Alleging a plot to tamper with phones in Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in downtown New Orleans, the FBI arrested four people Monday, including James O'Keefe, 25, a conservative filmmaker whose undercover videos at ACORN field offices severely damaged the advocacy group's credibility.

Also arrested were Joseph Basel, Stan Dai and Robert Flanagan, all 24. Flanagan is the son of William Flanagan, who is the acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana. All four men were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.

An official close to the investigation said one of the four was arrested with a listening device in a car blocks from the senator's offices.

- via C & L where - omigod, I can't breathe!
Dave N.: Hmmm. Wonder how Andrew Breitbart and Glenn Beck - who have relied heavily on O'Keefe's work to smear ACORN - will respond. One can only imagine the cries of persecution that will be erupting shortly.

One can't help but be impressed by O'Keefe's investigative-journalism technique. If only the rest of us poor schlubs had realized something O'Keefe obviously learned the first time around: You can get away with breaking the law if you can get it up on Fox News first.

I'm sure O'Keefe was banking on that this time around, too. Ooopsie.

Unfortunately, Jon Stewart fell for this shit. It's time for him to retract The Audacity of Hos.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Put the Tape On Erase

I learned everything I know about glam close up shots from Bruce Lee movies.

Recently, video of that radio comedy troupe I was in turned up on YouTube. The videos are of shows we did while working up new material for the radio show or because we were too bleary to refuse a request. Sometimes they're funny. Sometimes they're true dogs. This is all from a time just before I lost my memory, so I don't remember a whole lot about it except that when the wild ride ended suddenly, I felt lost without the constant companionship.

Even so, the past is the past. I kind of wish it had stayed there, but history is fluid. Sometimes history shows up whether you like it or not. You know who should feel my pain? Jim DeMint - he won't even notice, and that should be funnier.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Path Before Me Lies

Lovely Topaz, her arms around my hand, falls asleep.

The vet diagnosed Topaz's smelly breath and seeming fever as a painful gum condition that causes inflammation and makes veterinarians weepy. I listened to him talk about treatments, feeling like I'd been punched in the gut. I took the prescription to the drug store near my house, where times have changed. For years, I tricked the departed Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, into taking stinky medicine because the fish flavorings were ungodly expensive. Now, flavoring is $3 and the medicine is not even all that expensive. For about a week, we've mostly tricked Topaz into taking medicine mixed with tuna water - but it has to be fresh. Yesterday's chilled tuna water will not do. Because Topaz is getting tuna water, Sweetpea must have it, so now it's a treat and Topaz wants more.

In other news: tuna salad on crackers, tuna sandwiches, tomatoey tuna surprise.


Friday, January 22, 2010

On the Wall Where Darkness Fell

Bruschetta on the banquet at Lois's surprise party while we were hiding.

Let us say you are experiencing a context shift, by which I mean you suddenly are not where you usually are, under circumstances that are out of your control. Perhaps you're stuck in this new place for your own good; perhaps you find yourself lost and awaiting rescue. Be patient, if you can, with those who seek to comfort you. An hour will come when lightness arrives. Do not forget that someone is longing for you.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

And No I Wouldn't Let You Think So

I do three stupid things before breakfast every day, which makes me an authority on the forehead slap, a world class practitioner of Let Me Rephrase That Last Dumbass Remark, and a gold medal winner in the all-around I Meant To Do That. Thus, I can spot a talented fuckup from a safe distance. Ladies and gentlemen, someone at Mexico - One Plate At A Time - some writer, producer, guest or star - has gone pro. From season 5, the episode called Modern Mayan:
Rick finds wandering through the ancient Mayan ruins of Uxmal a humbling and inspiring experience. The Mayans built a great civilization with pyramids, temples, plazas and breathtaking expanses. And their spirit lives on—and it’s experiencing a rebirth in the Yucatan today—in revitalized food, art and architecture. We get a glimpse of the rebirth at Los Dos, a cooking school in Merida, run by David Sterling, which specializes in classic Mayan food updated for this century. Rick joins David at his beautiful school as he teaches his chilled version of Sopa de Lima topped with a panucho of lime-marinated chicken salad. Then we look at the high-style of the Riviera Maya from the rooftop of the ultra-modern Hotel Básico in Playa del Carmen. Back on the ground in Merida, the cuisine of Nectar Restaurant soars. This ultra-modern dining room with its open-air kitchen is run by two chefs that study with some of the most inventive rule-breaking chefs in the world. Rick samples their Consommé of Cochinita Pibil and Oat Risotto with Recado Negro. Energized by Mexico, Rick takes us behind the scenes at his fine-dining restaurant, Topolobampo, to show us his own thrilling modern Mayan dish, Cilantro Salmon with Smoky Tomato-Habanero Lasagne.

I shut off this episode and flounced around my living room in a flamboyant huff. Now: this may come as a shock to you because it has often come as one to me, but every minute of every day, I live in a woman's body. I have to think about what that means every day, all the time. I can mostly understand the cultural experience of certain kinds of men - not men of color and not gay men - because the dominant culture forces that default white male perspective on those of us who are along for the dominant culture's ride, but I am always aware that woman-ness is a filter that picks out big honking chunks of cultural detritus that might fuck me up. That filter translates the words classic...updated for this century into a white man is about to appropriate the work of indigenous women and turn it into a paycheck and a high-end reputation. Fuck that guy! Words aside, the images were even worse.

This is what the cooking school guy saw. They're very nice pictures full of beautiful fruit. I saw this:
Wrought iron window guards on the outside of the cooking school, which after I saw them covered in ground glass in Ecuador, read as If you break into my house you will die. Inside: a cooking class taught by a transplanted white American man of white American students and the show's white American host, while two indigenous women dressed in what the TV viewer must assume is native costume make panuchos. The teacher rambles a bit about how this preparation is thousands of years old, then escorts the whole class into the kitchen to learn his updated way. The teacher describes his method for making his sopa di lima, which sounds like it might be tasty, if the prep sounds arcane. In the shadows, the two women hand him lima juice, other ingredients. The students assemble soup plates and updated panuchos and are seen heading toward a dining room.

The next shot: teacher, students and show host are seated at a long dining room table, toasting their sopa while the two women stand in the doorway with hands clasped humbly.

In art school, you learn stuff like Whose eyes am I seeing this scene through? and What is happening in this picture? Goddamnit, I hate when I'm forced to join someone else's war on the poor, which is exactly what happens in this final shot. It's one thing to hire a capable staff you treat decently and trust not to spit in your chicken stock. It's quite another to employ people so you can rub their faces in their servitude. Those clasped hands told me the whole story. Those women could have been somewhere else, doing something else, but no. They are a set decoration, there to visually reinforce for the American viewing audience that the appropriation of their work and their culture is right and just. Rick Bayless is often tone deaf about class, imperialism and economics, but this is freaking ridiculous.

Crap. I feel like I have to break up with my supercute new boyfriend before French class because he said the superstupid words freedom fries and I knew what he meant.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

You Won't Hear From the Messenger

Earlier today, Dr. Mark Hyman's bleakly titled article at the Huffington Post caught my eye. Haiti Journal: Hacksaws and Vodka was everything you might expect about the grimness of the field hospitals, but also gently heartening. The situation is slowly improving. The coverage of the crisis has been bugging the shit out of me, and at the bottom of Hyman's page, we find a striking image of why.

Four sage white dudes. I feel safer already.

In the first days, I noticed two stories: black people trapped, injured, starving and white people shaken but unharmed. Black people looting. White people, well-fed and healthy, clucking about horror. Black bodies are loaded onto dumptrucks with bulldozers. White missionaries in Connecticut tell Haitians they'll be back. Bill Clinton keeps a straight face. Wyclef Jean is in tears. It couldn't be more obvious, but nobody says a word, and the media seems not to realize it runs this script over and over again, every few years, somewhere in the world.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Here Below Nothing Is Moving

The tiny town in which I live, like other tiny towns all over the country, maintains a food pantry. Twice in the last year, calls went out that the pantry was empty and our neighbors were in trouble. The first time was startling. I didn't know we had a food pantry. Volunteers and donations turned up; the pantry shelves filled up nicely and overflowed into a storage closet in the senior center. Today on the second day of the second food drive, when I pushed open the door, the room was full of smiling, eager volunteers, many of whom I'd seen before. The shelves were clean and carefully organized, but there were empty spaces.

The town is holding a meeting about teaching children to garden. Do you suppose gardening gloves come in opera length?


Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Western Region Of My Mental Health

Yesterday, I got a survey and solicitation from the DNC, and those asslicking pigfuckers have a lot of nerve asking me for a list of my priorities and a wad of money after they spent the last year fucking pigs, licking asses and punching hippies like me. So I sent back a mostly completed survey and a paint-peeling description of why I will never give the party another red cent. If you receive a survey and solicitation, I urge you not to discard it. The DNC's list of 2009 accomplishments is a real knee-slapper, deserving of a hot retort or two. Answer the questions, tell the asslicking pigfuckers how you really feel and tell them why you're keeping your pin money. If you've been reading PIC for more than a few minutes, you know exactly why despite the fact that I am married to a man I wrote in black marker: The GayTM is closed.

I am no longer hostage to idea that I have nowhere else to go. I found somewhere else and went there. And I won't be back while the corporatists control the party. When the Democrats remember they are the party of labor, women, minorities, LGBTQs and seniors, the party of social justice and a strong safety net, we may talk again. Maybe. But don't count on it.

Not this time.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

What I Know If You Know What I

As aid trickles into Port-au-Prince, I feel as if I am watching a horror show I've seen before. In the days after the levies broke in New Orleans, one of my co-workers quietly asked if I thought help was slow to arrive. I said I was sure of it. Her son who had flown many rescue missions with the Air Force, had told her it took time to coordinate a large operation. I told her she should not expect to see President Bush exert himself on behalf of black people, even Americans, so imagine my surprise when I read this:
Obama enlisted the help of former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat who is already a U.N. special envoy for Haiti, and former President George W. Bush, the Republican who preceded Obama in the White House.

They agreed to a request from Obama to lead private-sector fundraising efforts, issuing a joint statement expressing deep sadness at the devastation and suffering in Haiti.

"In the days and weeks ahead, we will draw attention to the many ways American citizens and businesses can help meet the urgent needs of the Haitian people," Bush and Clinton said.

Their effort will be similar to that performed by Clinton and Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, when they led an international relief effort to help the recovery from the 2004 tsunami that swept South Asia and killed 226,000 in 13 countries.

Verrrrrrry interesting. Says Marcus Toussaint at Jack & Jill Politics:
A heady move on President Obama’s part. Clinton is having to slip the multiple jabs coming his way over his alleged “coffee” comments and, knowing politics as he does, had no choice but to say yes.

But the real coup de grace is getting the support of George W. Bush. Whether or not he feels he needs a mulligan, he needs one. Moreover, those who oppose Obama on Haiti and anything he wants to do regardless of whether it is actually good or not will have to do so knowing they are also throwing salt on one of their own. They’ll either have to call him a turncoat or find some way to justify his thug, which can’t be done without acknowledging Obama’s hand in it, though I’m sure they’ll try their darnedest to find a way.

If George W. Bush rescued kittens from a burning building I'd assume he force-fed them gold coins first and plans to use their carcasses as bedroom slippers. There's not an altruistic bone in his body, and he would only do a service mission like this because even he knows he fucked up so badly history has shut the book on him.

On the other hand, a survey of comments on news sites shows that Limbaugh's disgusting tirade has taken root. I won't link to that. Scores of human weeping fistulas have turned up everywhere, urging Americans to turn our backs on Haiti. I won't link to them either. However, as Toussaint says, the appointment of Bush to a relief mission in the face of crazy-racist wingnut disapproval is fascinating.

Bush cannot redeem himself. Watching him try against his every selfish instinct will be interesting. Absolutely riveting will be conservative response.

I'm making popcorn as we speak.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

On Angel Hair And Baby's Breath

The footage from Haiti is heartbreaking. The blogosphere is full of advice about donating to relief efforts, but just in case you happen to find yourself here at a decisive moment:

The American Red Cross

Doctors Without Borders


Mercy Corps

Search Dog Foundation


Someone I trust recommended Partners In Health, though I can't personally vouch for them.

For the long road ahead:

Habitat For Humanity

Let us hope today is a better day for the Haitian people than yesterday was, and tomorrow is better than today.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Back To That In Our Family Portrait

Last Saturday, the family and half the tiny town threw - flung, perhaps - a surprise party for my niece Lois's seventeenth birthday. Pete turned out beautiful, sculptural platters laden with bright fruit, cheeses and crisp vegetables and an abundant variety of dips, breads and crackers. My sister Daria arranged the tables. She told me later, "Pete put down a platter and I said, 'Nice. But not there.'" My cousin Sandy contributed an elegant display of striking cupcakes in the party's black and white theme. We've developed the confidence to throw - fling, really - a party anytime, anywhere.

It's also at these moments I remember our parents have always been batty.

Do not adjust your monitor.

Somewhere in 1950s America, Mom learned that significant teen occasions must include layered or rolled pink and green sandwiches with a creamy olive filling made by professional bakers. Psychiatrists refer to this as an idée fixe. Every time a member of the increasingly large family reaches a milestone, out come these completely tasty and mildly psychedelic sandwiches. Then those of us not thriving on diets of Frankenberry and Count Chocula detox for months.

Seriously: the ingredients are cream cheese, olives, bread and two vats of food coloring at truly dubious points on the color wheel. I'm sorry I'm not eating one of these sandwiches right now.

In an unrelated and equally inexplicable development, I seem to be able to try stuff and generally succeed at it again. Last week, I decided I could make the pierogies I wanted to eat. With Pete's help and Siobhan's favorite dough recipe, it worked! I was flabbergasted, and I mean completely flabbergasted when not only did the dough come together in my hands after chilling overnight, but the filling was brilliant: sweet potato, a bit of andouille sausage, vitamin greens and homemade yogurt, drained and herbed. The pierogies served with more yogurt and homemade apple butter were so good we could barely summon words to describe our joy. The next day, I made the desperate decision to make tamales. Somehow. Because I really, really, really want to eat those. Really.

While we all know better than to shake babies, science has yet to deliver a verdict on how many forehead slapping moments a brain can stand. For quite a while now, I've been looking for banana leaves in the produce aisle of the Asian market I love. Sunday morning, Rick Bayless was talking tamales on Mexico One Plate At A Time and he held up a bag of frozen banana leaves, saying they're everywhere these days. I slapped my forehead and probably lost five I.Q. points I might need someday. Banana leaves, with their rich, verdant aroma reminiscent of my grandmother's artichokes, have been in my grocer's freezer all along.

Yesterday, I awoke from my nap anxious to make tamales. All I had to do was decide I could, and then I could! I moved fast but everything I wanted to do as prep took about an hour longer than I planned for. Result: with better planning, not only can I make tamales on week nights -

- but we can eat them as well. Poor banana leaves! Without their scrumptious corn, chicken and achiote filling, they look so sad! And yet, I am so happy!

Tomorrow, between jobs, we will have the pierogies we made with yogurt we made and apple butter we made and green beans someone with a tractor made. I love this idea so much I want to buy a small tractor. Tonka makes them. I'm almost sure.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Daisies And Violets At Your Door

Though I awoke an hour before the alarm this morning thinking about it, I neglected to take chicken out of the freezer. I'm all in bits and pieces. Last week, an email arrived, and I was delighted to see these words in this order:
I am told that the truck is now placed in such a manner that we can squeeze by.

Yes, that's true. We are all hoping to squeeze by.

This sounds simple enough:

The Department of Sexual Assault Services and Crime Victim Assistance, New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and AmeriCorps are sponsoring a clothing drive for survivors of sexual violence. All donations will benefit female and male survivors of sexual assault whose clothing is collected as evidence. Items most needed include any size new or gently used pants, shirts, flip flops, and new underwear, socks, and general hygiene items, such as toothbrushes and paste, mouthwash, soap, deodorant, brushes, combs, and women's sanitary items.

The wording seems odd, doesn't it?

All donations will benefit female and male survivors of sexual assault whose clothing is collected as evidence.

Why doesn't that announcement skip mention of gender - we often function on the assumption there are two, both are described - and go straight to the survivors? Must be because we also assume only women suffer the pain and humiliation of assault, followed by confiscation of clothing by the police. We try not to think much about those women but we know they exist. We don't think of those men at all. The world is wide, though, and we are so small.

Last night, I made yogurt and polished my nails. These are small tasks, unremarkable in any picture large enough to squeeze shoulders through the frame. Just after Christmas, two people of my acquaintance went to the hospital for what are projected to be lengthy stays. Pete's lifelong friend neglected an abcessed tooth until infection coursed through his blood to his heart and brain. The ten year old daughter of my lifelong friend has a rare leukemia the family has seen before. Neither is local, or the casserole dishes would pile up in my kitchen, so my nails are red and my fridge is filled with fresh yogurt.

Now is the time to sit quietly and meditate on gardens we can plant come spring.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Everybody Here Is Out Of Sight

Dear Exo-Pro:

Just saw your TV commercial for the first time. Perhaps your neoprene cold weather face mask plays really well in the Midwest, but here in New Jersey, your products are just fucking dangerous. Wonder why?

This model, which you had the good taste to title EFFNBLACK, would certainly cause the wearer, unless he was effing white, a world of trouble. This mask is practically a signed confession if worn by a person with a tan, let alone an African-American, who would be safer in Klan robes in Milltown than in this while shoveling his driveway. But that's not the worst of it.

Picture a college-educated gentleman -

You know what? Forget it. If you sell these in New Jersey, they might as well come with the phone number of a licensed undertaker.

I'd ask if you held stock in Taser, International but there's not a cop within state lines that's getting close enough tase. No. The wearer of your garment will skip the hospital and head straight to the morgue.

And speaking of effing white, this is your EFFHNWHITE model, which is guaranteed to cause local police departments to think burn patients are on the loose. I'm guessing you think by default, people are supposed to be white, but even white people aren't white - unless they have pink eyes, which will definitely cause the local gendarmie to go all bang-bangy.

In conclusion, your product, while it may be efficient, logical and possibly supercool, is going to get my neighbors killed. Please rethink this in a wild hurry.


Princess Ta


I Understand About the Food

I swear to sweet baby Jeebus: this morning, I found a bag of masa flour selling on EBay for $9.98 - used.

In other news: today, we will acquire banana leaves or I shall have to reconsider my opinion of my zip code. Reconsidering is thinking. That's hard work, my pet.


Saturday, January 09, 2010

Like A Drunk In A Midnight Choir

Let's go back to the beginning, shall we? There are certain, mathematical ways to apprehend the harmony one hears in the chorus: it's perfect. It's the vaulted ceiling of related guys what sing together. But that has nothing to do with the goosebumps you feel when the Neville Brothers sing the word free.

Are you?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

And Now You Do What They Told Ya

Call me crazy, but I've always thought Caravaggio's Judith didn't want to get her hands dirty.
Let's review:

Yehudit (Judith) was a widow living in the city of Bethulia. The Assyrian King, Nabuchodonosor, sent his general Holofernes to punish the city. Holofernes went and cut off the water supply and laid siege to the city.

The city's elders were about to give up when Yehudit told them she had a plan. She went in her nicest clothes and jewelry to the camp of Holofernes. The general was taken with her beauty and invited her to a feast. Holofernes drank a lot of wine and got drunk.

Yehudit went back to his tent and, when they were alone, and Holofernes was passed out from the alcohol, she took his sword and cut off his head.

With the death of Holofernes, his army was in disarray and the Jews were able to mount an offensive and defeat the Assyrian army. The account of this story is in the book of Yehudit, which is part of the apocrypha and, while it was originally written in Hebrew, only the Greek version survived to be translated.

All my life, men have given me knives. Perhaps I was the only one who didn't know why.

These are the words, just a few words. I'd count them like daisy petals: He loves me. He loves me not. It always comes out even, though. Somehow, I find it in my heart to be surprised every time. Once I said to a man packing his bags to go, "You love you the most." Without blinking, he said, "Of course."

And that took away my breath.

In another life, I could sing the lives of the saints. In another life, after the ashes scattered in the wind, only the stories mattered. We don't listen to stories anymore. Stories interfere with the words we tell each other. We say words like protection and safety, when what we mean is keep your distance and love is infection.

Artemesia Gentileschi understood Judith, because Artemesia was raped and painted with every enraged fiber of her being. This painting, Judith And the Maid Servant With the Head of Holofernes, captures the fear of being trapped so viscerally that one might not at first notice the maid servant stuffing the bloody head into a bag. Judith is afraid but not ashamed.

In a dining room cabinet with a glass door sits a pile of pen knives. One, given to me by a woman who loved me but could not stay, is a tiny mermaid keychain. It is the kind of treasure one might easily overlook.

I am not trapped on the wrong side of any line. It does not make me brave to say so.

Let us be perfectly clear: the people we hear talking about healthcare reform are the people who will neither benefit from it, nor will they suffer. The voices we hear and the writers we read will lose nothing. They are almost uniformly wealthy, and nothing will touch them. Then, there's everyone else; there's us. We can talk to one another, but no one will hear us. Our words interfere with the stories.

One by one, we must cross into the enemy's tents and test our courage. Each of us must draw the knife. Each of us must find her own reason not to live in fear anymore. I myself will listen past the words to the stories, and I will not back down.

I am not afraid and I will stand my ground.

What, then, is this ground?

What is it?

In another life, I could sing the lives of the saints. In another life, only the stories matter. In my story, reproductive freedom is a concern of the distant past, but that's not the end of me.

This law that limits the bodily autonomy of poor and middle class women - a fair-sized number of the people this law is supposed to help - will be enacted, if not word for word. It's going to kill women you and I don't know, but those women are real. Their stories matter, if not in the tangle of words.

I am sharpening my knives.

This evening, I looked around to see what an abortion costs. No one offered me anesthesia when I had mine, so I wasn't surprised to learn that it cost extra. Trust an old woman: pay it. From now on, I will never be without what it costs to prevent words from interfering with the stories of women around me. Make no mistake: this is not a conversation we should have to have, but we will. Because time has run out. Because words have come between us. Because I am sharpening all my knives.


Tuesday, January 05, 2010

As I'm Closer You Look Better

Over the weekend, which seems like weeks ago, Darla came from Canada via my sister Daria's house in Flemington. Pete had a cold. Darla had a cold. Topaz had a cold. I was putt-putting along until I stopped, fell over sideways and burbled a lot. I spent most of Sunday and Monday in bed and on the couch, and I'm not leaving the house any time soon. For one thing, I am the western world's leading source of fresh, flowing snot. I like to think I contribute to society in exciting, unexpected ways.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

What It Don't Get I Can't Use

Huff Po nonsense...pointless crap...nonsense...celebrity gossip - what's all this, then? Sez Arianna:
The big banks on Wall Street, propped up by taxpayer money and government guarantees, have had a record year, making record profits while returning to the highly leveraged activities that brought our economy to the brink of disaster. In a slap in the face to taxpayers, they have also cut back on the money they are lending, even though the need to get credit flowing again was one of the main points used in selling the public the bank bailout. But since April, the Big Four banks - JP Morgan/Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo - all of which took billions in taxpayer money, have cut lending to businesses by $100 billion.

Everyone around the table quickly got excited (granted we are an excitable group), and began tossing out suggestions for how to get this idea circulating.
Meanwhile, America's Main Street community banks - the vast majority of which avoided the banquet of greed and corruption that created the toxic economic swamp we are still fighting to get ourselves out of - are struggling. Many of them have closed down (or been taken over by the FDIC) over the last 12 months. The government policy of protecting the Too Big and Politically Connected to Fail is badly hurting the small banks, which are having a much harder time competing in the financial marketplace. As a result, a system which was already dangerously concentrated at the top has only become more so.

We talked about the outrage of big, bailed-out banks turning around and spending millions of dollars on lobbying to gut or kill financial reform - including "too big to fail" legislation and regulation of the derivatives that played such a huge part in the meltdown. And as we contrasted that with the efforts of local banks to show that you can both be profitable and have a positive impact on the community, an idea took hold: why don't we take our money out of these big banks and put them into community banks? And what, we asked ourselves, would happen if lots of people around America decided to do the same thing? Our money has been used to make the system worse - what if we used it to make the system better?

Imagine my surprise when I found useful advice on the Blogosphere's leading source for medical quackery and Hollywood divorce tweets! But enough about me, what's Arianna got to say about you?
The idea is simple: If enough people who have money in one of the big four banks move it into smaller, more local, more traditional community banks, then collectively we, the people, will have taken a big step toward re-rigging the financial system so it becomes again the productive, stable engine for growth it's meant to be. It's neither Left nor Right - it's populism at its best. Consider it a withdrawal tax on the big banks for the negative service they provide by consistently ignoring the public interest. It's time for Americans to move their money out of these reckless behemoths. And you don't have to worry, there is zero risk: deposit insurance is just as good at small banks - and unlike the big banks they don't provide the toxic dividend of derivatives trading in a heads-they-win, tails-we-lose fashion.

Got that? Don't be a-skeert! If you've been reading PIC during 2009, you may remember I skipped community banks, passed Go and went directly to the credit union:
The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) is the federal agency that charters and supervises federal credit unions. They also insure savings in federal and most state-chartered credit unions across the country through the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF), a federal fund backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government.

Sort of makes you want to get all common-bondy with someone, eh? Thing is you might already be. I didn't know this, but here in New Jersey, there are literally hundreds of credit unions. The unnamed university has a credit union for faculty and staff, but not everyone knows there's another for students and alumni, and if you're an immediate family member of faculty or staff, you can join too. The one I belong to used to serve as the rusty vault into which I stuffed money. It was hard to get to and with limited hours, even small, regular deposits added up - mostly for Miss Sasha's tuition, but I've stopped having nightmares about writing those checks and the credit union's services are online now. Anyway, credit unions have branched out into home and car loans, CDs and other thingies. The credit union gave me a loan for my braces. Straight teeth, yay! I paid it back in record time and improved my credit rating, also yay! Bonus: a credit union can also connect its members to better insurance policies.

The big banks, generally, are too big. Many are insolvent and many more are unstable. There's no incentive for them to do anything but exploit their customers to the bitter end. You may not have to suck on that. What if you could move your finances to an institution that wasn't trying to fuck you over?

I moved almost everything to the credit union but I still have a checking account for reasons that may no longer be valid. It may be possible to establish electronic billpay, but it is not yet possible to buy savings bonds through the credit union. If I can find a way around that mulberry bush, my checking account will be history; so I am not asking you to consider making a leap while I cling to the ledge. No. I'm pretty sure there's a soft spot where we can all land.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Think It's Not What You Say

Nonny Mouse tells us a story:
Our politicians, just about all of them from every country, are like children playing on a beach while the tide goes out and fish flop on the sea bed, ignoring the signs of a coming tsunami, too busy squabbling over toys and kicking sand in each other’s eyes. Our current technology is shackled to oil interests, with alternative energy and its technology insufficiently advanced to make much of a difference. According to the figures whizzing by ever so quickly on an excellent website, Worldometer, we’ve consumed nearly 170,000,000 MWh of energy today alone, 156,700,000 of which is from non-renewable sources. We’ve got 15,676 days left until oil runs out completely.

That’s slightly less than 43 years. That’s all – 43 years, and we’ll have sucked those wells dry as a witch’s... bones. My grandmother was born in 1910, she saw the car replace horse-drawn wagons, and by the time she died, she’d witnessed the birth of the internet and a man walking on the moon. A child born this year, 2010, a mere hundred years later, could possibly see that happen in reverse... should we survive that long. By 2030, energy, water and food shortages will be heading toward a ‘perfect storm’, with major upheavals, destabilization and riots worldwide as food prices will rise to become unaffordable to the majority, starvation increases and millions of refugees flee climate ravaged regions.

Two nights ago, my sister Daria, raised by the same tree-hugging hippies and scientists I was, argued with our stepmommy Darla that we "have to listen to both sides on climate change." When I heard that last night, I blew up. Life is really fucking short. Life is getting shorter every minute we patiently listen to tales like Jesus rode dinosaurs to make us beholden to British Petroleum. We owe no one patience with this bullshit, because what happens next is a really old story.
[The King] said, "What does a person deserve who drags another out of bed and throws him in the water?" "The wretch deserves nothing better," answered the old woman, "than to be taken and put in a barrel stuck full of nails, and rolled down hill into the water." "Then," said the King, "Thou hast pronounced thine own sentence;" and he ordered such a barrel to be brought, and the old woman to be put into it with her daughter, and then the top was hammered on, and the barrel rolled down hill until it went into the river.

Every day, we are pronouncing our sentence. Every. Day.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Word From A Guy Who Heard

Darla, Dad's third wife, is on her way over to our house. She has a cold, which is not alarming since Pete has one, too. Pete's baking a loaf of whole wheat bread, heavy on onion and molasses. We've spent our New Year's Day tidying up the house, lounging around and doting on Drusy, Sweetpea and poor Topaz, who is also stuffy and sneezing.

Borscht is simmering on the stove. Soon, we will ladle fragrant soup into bowls and top the soup with fresh homemade yogurt. Hopefully, your year will be peaceful and prosperous.