Friday, September 30, 2005

"The Days of Awe" by Hugh Nissenson

I read lots of reviews--books, plays, movies, art exhibits etc.--because it has become my vicarious way of absorbing culture for my culture-starved mind. I used to read the reviews and then follow through and partake of the offering. My life is a little "spirited" right now, tho, so sometimes I have to survive on the freeze-dried nutrients of the review alone.

But when I read this pup this morning, I added the book to my Amazon list forthwith. THEN I read this snippet with the author (he's 72!!) and I loved it. Especially the part where he says he writes "half stoned" so as to curb his chronic depression. A man after my own heart...(even tho I only write sober as a judge). Drunk sex=fun; (my) drunk writing=ludicrous.

Disclaimer: I tend to shy away from tragedy-specific genres like "AIDS plays," "Holocaust books," and I have careened away from anything to do with ANYONE'S reflections on 9/11, just because I am not ready yet. Reading about this book made me want to come out of hiding, tho.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

A Heartwarming Moment of Staggering Cuteness

I hoisted m' boy Ian up onto the changing table--and for those of you who know Ian, you know what I mean when I say "hoist." The kid weighs about 45 pounds--of solid toddler musculartude. He's three.

I said, "When are you going to be a big boy and go to the potty all by yourself?"

He smiled and said, "I don't know. Go ask your dad!"


O Happy Refuge!

You know how when you are going through something like, say, a nervous breakdown, and only certain music speaks to you? I am going through this thing right now. I have them all the time, nothing to worry about. Side effects of insanity sometimes include nervous breakdowns. I think of them as small strokes.

Anyway, the music that is speaking to me in such a big way, and I can’t really account for it, is Oasis. I know, that is so ‘90’s of me. I can be forgiven for that because I was overseas for much of the ‘90’s and so for me it’s really au currant.

Maybe it’s not such a good sign that I am communing metaphysically with a coupla fractious drug addled brothers.

I am listening to “Going Nowhere” now and it is making my heart float. Also maybe not so good that a drug addled band’s song called “Going Nowhere” is speaking to me. Maybe it’s a sign. Either that I need a wonderwall, or just some plain good heroin.

I love the way he says “mo-tor car, maybe a jag-u-ar.”

You see! Yesterday Bono was all talking to me and today it’s Liam and Noel. Naughty boys! So I thought, I’ll just Google the lyrics to this song that’s speaking to me because, while I can clearly hear the motor car/ jag-u-ar part, I can’t really make out some of the rest. Here are the lyrics!!!!!

I could do with a motor car
Maybe a Jaguar maybe a plane or a day of fame
I wanna be a millionaire so can you take me there
Wanna be wild cos my life's so tame
Here am I, going nowhere on a train
Here am I, growing older in the rain

I am now receiving messages in cryptic spirtual fashion from two bad boys. Thanks lads! Back to your pints! I could do with a pint right about now! What say? Meet you at the Goat 'n Grind in a jiff. Carry on.

Oh, as if that weren't enough symbolism for one day, oasis: 1 : a fertile or green area in an arid region (as a desert) 2 : something that provides refuge, relief, or pleasant contrast


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Lay Lady Lay

When your horoscope says, “Cycle is low,” that is code for “Do not, under any circumstances, leave the house. Ever.”

My “cycle is low,” but that’s OK. I know what’s wrong with me because Bono just told me in my car. He said, very clearly, “You’re dangerous because you’re honest. You’re dangerous because YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT.” God, Bono knows me so well.

Speaking of rock stars, I watched the Bob Dylan special No Direction Home on American Masters last night. Um, were you aware of how inarticulate our man Bob is? I was not. I mean, I am not a big fan of Bob, but you know he is certainly emblematic of a certain generation that I am not a part of—careful now—but that is just behind me. Like my brother and sister’s generation, let’s say.

I remember my brother mooning over Joan Baez and buying the new Dylan album and playing the Hurricane song really loud and swooning in liberal white man outrage over the wrongly accused boxer. I remember that.

But man, the deal with last night’s show is: everyone ELSE was OH SO MUCH MORE interesting. Like Pete Seeger and Liam Clancy, to name a few. Even ole Bob was visibly moved by those two in particular. The only time he was remotely interesting was when he turned to the camera, with a slight smile that looked like it would make his putty face crack in two, and talked about how “profound” Liam Clancy was “after about 50 Guinesses.” He also smiled when talking about two high school fillies that turned him on to poetry.

I’ve never bought into the whole Bob Dylan as a poet gig, though, and I sure as hell was relieved of that notion last night. He was all noncommittal about naming himself after Dylan Thomas and he was not enlightening, respectful or even interesting on the subject of the man whose soul he co-opted, Woody Guthrie. Some attention must be paid, dude.

THEN I remembered that, duh, Martin Scorsese, who directed this Dylan piece, also directed The Last Waltz. I am very, very weird about The Band. I am fascinated with Robbie Robertson and near-obsessed/reverential about Levon Helm, so much so that I almost named m’ firstborn Levon. True story.

Anyhoo, something is for sure happening to me. It’s tidal, gravitational—a shifting, moving presence. I think in layman’s terms it is called: A Nervous Breakdown. Either that or my astrological cycle is just “low,” and I need to wait for it to be “high” again.

Or maybe I need to get “high.” And lay across a big brass bed.


Monday, September 26, 2005

Unhappy Sunday

I think depression is nine tenths of the law. Continents shift, families readjust. Life. Is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.

Sunday, in our agreed upon effort to really focus on doing fun things with my mother, I picked her up at 9:00 a.m. with cherry Danishes in hand. I whisked her off to the aforementioned Brookside Gardens where we met ma famille—MZA, Nick, Ian and Daisy. They saw her in the parking lot and ran to her, delivering sweet hugs all around. She walked through the gardens in poetic amazement—absorbing each rose, marveling in all the colors and scents. She praised the kids to the skies; our interior conversations were lovingly bestowed maternal affirmations praising my life, my children, my husband, my talents. I was so happy.

I took photographs of my mother walking with Nick, of her looking out over the pond at the turtles and the geese. I ordered dim sum for lunch that MZA picked up and we supped chez nous, amid many toasts and happiness. Around 3:00, I pulled things together and drove her home. On the way, she talked about my father and the many things that she observed in me and about how proud he would be of me. Then, as we turned the corner onto Macarthur Boulevard, the street of my youth, she said, “I want to say one more thing, but I’m afraid I’ll lose you.” I said, “What?” And she said, “If I give you a thousand dollars, will you lose some weight?”

This statement, for whatever reasons, negated every thing she had said to me all day, including her opening comments to me that morning which were, “You are such a beautiful girl, do you know that?”

Now all of my successes and praised attributes were somehow lessened, compromised, clouded, inferior, incomplete. You are a beautiful girl, but…And I guess there is nothing worse for a once-beautiful (or whatever the hell I was) girl to hear. That in spite of all I have accomplished, it is somehow not enough. I am not as beautiful as I once was. And you know what? That hurts. That hurts the big one.

I climbed up on that pony known as the elliptical this morning. Maybe I will transform into the fabulous girl I am supposed to be. And then people will compliment me and I will feel bad for this girl, the girl I am today, because the new girl looks better than she does. And this girl is somehow diminished in that process.


Happy Saturday

We had a great Saturday in that surge of pre-fall bonhomie kind of way. Lots of familial activity on, of the standard issue suburban variety—soccer game in swell suburb, banter with moms—I asked if I was now officially a “soccer mom” and the two other mommies didn’t miss a beat and said, “Yep.” Then the sprightly rebel mom (whom I adore) said, “Next thing you know, you’ll be a Republican.” I said, “Yer funny.” Mom in the middle, who is probably a Republican, looked puzzled. As in, “Why would that be a bad thing?”

Pulled Nick early from the game to go to karate back in our own proletariat ‘burb. Dropped him off and took the bambini to downtown Prole Burb for the farmer’s market. It was lovely. We stopped at the bank first and so I had ample cash to just buy what I wanted—fresh green beans, tomatoes, a big fat crusty loaf of bread and an $8 bouquet of zinnias and sunflowers.

Nothing like a farmer’s market to get your liberal jive going—it makes me feel like I am simultaneously protesting the war AND preventing cancer from ever invading my body.

I was SUPPOSED to go to the anti war protest, however I got roped into Snack Shack duty. You laugh. I manned the booth—overcoming MASSIVE mathematics fear, doing calculations in my head--$20 minus $4.50, etcetera, without showing my absolutely craven and absurd inability with numbers. It’s almost like a form of dyslexia, exacerbated by a near-panic fear of being exposed as an idiot. Ah, most people just saunter through life, while I sweat each seemingly routine moment. Snack Shack: an exercise in how many phobias? We’ve lost count. But it was fun!

At one point I was ALONE in the shack—handing out foil wrapped buns and whizzing through figures like a 1950’s soda jerk (heh, good word). I felt like I had just wandered onto the set of “Happy Days.” The suburban communal swell of it all! And I could be counted on. I am a good mommy! I can wrap buns and organize items and DELIVER! I am a community mom!



Friday, September 23, 2005

Let's Learn About Friday Morning

Slumbering blissfully, the sleep of the damned, WHY LORD WHY is someone murmuring loudly, insistently, “Moooommy…mooommmy…” WHY? Tell tale murmur. 5:30 a.m. Because my kids, when they get up early, mean business.

Lying on the bed, the weight of sleep, of bliss, of near-euphoric death, peels away. WHY LORD WHY do I have to get up? I walk to her bedroom and say, “What’s wrong?” “Bottle with mauk.”

I careen down the staircase, unsure, groggy, confused. Bottle on counter. Tip some of the water out of it; pour in just enough “mauk” to make her think it’s a “bottle with mauk.” Try not to engage too much. Keep the sensors dulled so as to better court slumber again, fickle bitchy mistress, she.

Penetrate the cool blue hued bedroom of my wakeful childe—hand her the mauk bottle and she resists. I feel it coming—hysteria, insanity THIS TIME YOU WILL REALLY HAVE TO COMMIT ME. I hand it to her and assure her it is “mauk.” I close the door. All bets are off. Will she wail, please, oh please God, please deliver me.

Basically having children is as close as you’re going to get to really feeling your sanity leave the building. Like I can see it. Here’s me, there’s my sanity. It is dissolving, fraying, melting, and evaporating. My sanity is gone and now it’s official: I am insane.

I go downstairs to exercise because it’s been a toothless week in that I exercised on Monday and then not until Friday, so there is a big toothless hole in the week. Lazy sack of shit that I am. Never should have figured out that reading the paper at the dining room table is oh so much more satisfying than balancing it on the elliptical downstairs in my chambre de torture.

Après exercise, covered in an impressive, studly Lance Armstrong amount of sweat, I maneuver the morning. I decide to make tuna salad. Why not! Friday is as good a day as any to transform into a healthful matador of protein enriched fabulatude. Exercise, omega-3 fatty ass proteins, mesclun spring mix—a bitter lettuce, what better way to embrace virtue? Spicy elusive arugula...tender stinky strips of canned albacore…nay virtue is bereft without the unleavened whole grain slightly stale disk of over-long refrigerated pita bread. Matched with a baggie of sliced apples and pale burgundy fall grapes.

MZA comes in the kitchen…cranky...he has a Big Project avec the out of school lads today. Ian is wearing his new blue faux suede cowboy hat MZA got him at the dollar store. He is singing, “Farmer in the dell farmer in the dell farmer in the dell farmer in the dell…” over and over and over again. MZA says, “Can I just watch some TV?!” You know, what with the hurricane bearing down and all. “The farmer in the dell the farmer in the dell…” “Why can’t I even….” Unfinished exasperation.

Nick offers me a lengthy discourse on ancient Greek housing and agriculture and then practices some of his Uzbek, then asks how to say “welcome” in Russian. “Ask Daddy.”

Partially deaf mamacita brushes teeth and can only vaguely hear mounting chaos downstairs, “I said to…Ian can you STOP IT? Nick, are you READY?” Then I hear my name, over again, insistently now. “Do you think I can ask Marie for the bike rack? Do you have her number?”

Her number is on a square yellow sticky that may or may not be next to the computer in the basement. “Can I borrow your car?”

I know there is something wrong; something missing. I grab my purse, cram whole grain pita masterpiece and bag o’ fruit THAT I REALLY WISH WAS A BAGEL SLATHERED IN CREAM CHEESE into my purse and walk to MZA’s car. Rear view mirrors all wrong, terrible auto radio selection—where are my stations? Ian runs to the car, “Bye mommy!” And I barrel out of the driveway…wait for obsessive POLISH DOG WALKER to pass with two large black unknown breed dogs, then peel out.

I figured out what’s wrong: I don’t have my glasses. They’re in my car. It’s OK. I only need them to READ, especially on the computer. Pull into work and Mathew Blades, my favorite morning radio moron cops to not knowing who NORMAN BATES is. I think if you are the host of a radio show in WASHINGTON DC you should be fired on the spot if you don’t know who Norman Bates is. PERIOD. His sidekick asks him and he says, “Uh, was he the guy who played the scary guy in Psycho?”

NO, I AM, AND YOU’RE FIRED!!!!!!!!!!!


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others

Tina Brown is pretty much amazing, and she knows a thing or two about rising from the ashes, I dare say. Today she is writing about Clinton and I am glad as hell someone is finally stepping away from the herd-think and saying it like it is. He was a great president and every time I have listened to him in the past five years I have felt like crying when I think of what Americans opted for in his place.

Here's my problem: Americans are so attuned to mediocrity that they are suspicious, nay disparaging, of intelligence. It is that simple. Al Gore and John Kerry were not defeated because they were robotic and indecisive, respectively; they were defeated because the mass media weirdshop machine and political spin empire made Americans believe that those two vastly intelligent men had something to apologize for.

With Clinton—here’s where the vast right wing conspiracy comes in—Americans were made to believe that he was an out-of-control libidinous lout who committed PERJURY because he lied on the stand to save his ass. All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others, wouldn’t you say? Which means: justice took a weird turn back then. And let me tell you this, the end did NOT justify the means.

Here are some highlights from Tina Brown’s article today:

Clinton seems to have found his role as facilitator-in-chief, urging us to give up our deadly national passivity and start thinking things through for ourselves. Commandeering the role of government through civic action suddenly feels like a very empowering notion -- the alternative being to find oneself stranded in a flood waving a shirt from a rooftop.

The White House doesn't seem to realize it yet, but we are entering a post-spin era in public life. Now after the Iraq debacle, the ballooning deficit and the aftermath of Katrina, Americans are pining for grounded leaders in public office, too -- leaders who have moral conviction, yes, but also the gnarly, dexterous ability to think things through.

I mean, what I truly do not understand is how any American could have allowed himself to be taken in by this giant fraudulent machine of Appearance Versus Reality/Saying it Makes it So Presidency.

I have said it before, the fairy tale that illustrates this presidency is: “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” This man has been parading through our streets, in a protective spin cycle cocoon with NO CLOTHES ON, and telling us all the while that he is wearing the finest hand spun gold vestments in the world. And it’s all been a big bag of lies.

This animal is more equal than anyone, in addition to being above the law.

Does is matter what you lie about? Yes it does. Saying you didn’t have an affair (I was as disappointed as anyone on that) is not the same as leading an entire nation AND OTHER ALLIED NATIONS into a war “on terrorism.” Ask yourself every minute of every day what that means. What is a “war on terror”? Is that a war that is meant to abolish the boogeyman? Is it meant to make kids' closets monster-free? Or is it meant to catch Osama Bin Laden? It might as well be a war to make kids' closets safe again, because it sure as hell isn't about rectifying the tragedy of 9/11 and punishing the people and countries responsible for it.

We are all complicit in this war because we didn’t do anything to stop it. Just when things were turning south, we all (OK, not me, but I don’t want you to feel bad) got suckered in by the democracy soft focus purple finger mirage. Daft squirrels.

Tina Brown is right, it is time that we turn our brains back on—turn off the autopilot—and start becoming engaged enough to participate in civic action and responsibility. Get off the bus and have an original thought and admire people, not for their deep pockets and perceived blue blooded lineage, but for their acumen, depth and above all, their compassion.

Here's a start: Win Without War, There will be a massive protest on Saturday, September 24th on the Mall. See ya there.


Just Read It

Dennis Hamill shoots down the hagiography of Bush's Bullhorn Moment


I wish I had a bullhorn to shout just how tired I am of hearing about how wonderful George W. Bush's "bullhorn moment" was.

...the words that resounded across the grieving outer boroughs and the sorrowful suburbs and the stunned globe, were but an orchestrated setup for a grander diabolical scheme.

Historians will refocus that bullhorn moment as the point of origin to exploit a terrible attack on America for a preconceived war in Iraq that had nothing to do with our dead.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Lunch With Zelda

It’s a beautiful day. Let’s walk to the WOW Deli to endure Perpetually In The Way Syndrome. I caught this disease in Tashkent—no wait; it all started in New York in my friend Roy’s father’s store in the East Village, then it metastasized in Tashkent. In the bazaars.

The syndrome has to do with ALWAYS being in the wrong spot in a tight crowded space. And because I am temporarily DEAF in one ear, people get awfully grumpy because they have clearly been standing behind me for awhile saying, “Are you in line?” I am now apparently one of those vile clueless people who is OBLIVIOUS to the Deli Line Needs of others. This, for me, is mortifying.

I order my sandwich—chicken salad on a SPINACH wrap—because I am the healthiest, most conscientious lunch eater in the universe. Take notes.

I stand and wait for my sandwich, switching places in the tight joint about 16 times because people keep butterfly tapping me and saying—with that unmistakable irritation—ARE YOU IN LINE (bitch) ?

I stand by the condiments and Curly Hair Tank Top with Elvis’s Glasses (we’re twins!) is depositing every single solitary condiment into the gigantic sandwich box order she has. I shift to allow her the ketchup, then she reaches for the little sugars. I then move to the soda counter and carefully place myself at the coffee portion of the counter, because people will be going for sodas. I am, therefore, a bastion of considerateness because I am standing in front of HOT beverages no one would want on such a beautiful day. Except Bald Khaki Man with Stubble and Blotchy Tan.

So I move to the OTHER side of the condiment table and have awkward interchange with Kennedy Family Adonis Boy. Please stop checking out Kennedy Family Adonis Boy RIGHT NOW before he looks at you in horror and says something like, “You’re old enough to be my really old sister!”

Intently focus on sandwich making people, which naturally thwarts the entire process. Staring at the sandwich maker line is akin to watching a kettle try to boil. It guarantees YOUR SANDWICH WILL NEVER BE MADE. The choices: surreptitiously check out Kennedy Adonis in white shirt, undershirt and slightly vintage-esque brown pants, or stare at Sandwich Rockettes and delay entire lunch gratification process. The Kennedy Family Adonis wins the award for today.

Khaki Man gets his lunch, then “Pam,” “Jane,” “Mike!” Fresh piled meats on meats. The club sandwich is clearly the race track fave for today. Then slowly, like a tortoise in a fable, the wizened cashier leaves his post and pulls out—a green spinach sphere. My sandwich is in production. He calls my name. Mr. Kennedy Adonis and I are introduced, after a fashion. I walk past him. Retrieve my sandwich. Walk the thin gauntlet of booths out into the sun.


Monday, September 19, 2005

Life Ballet

Sometimes it’s fun to set yourself up with so many tasks that you think you will explode! Sometimes the life you’re living seems like this weird unlikely jumble of bizarreness. That has an odd cheesy cohesiveness.

Saturday we hosted my sister’s T’s birthday party. There were some “logistics” involved. I put out four lined sticky notes on the counter and listed all the different things--by schedule times, with accompanying lists--of what we needed to get, and who would go where for what, etc.

Nick had karate at 10:15 and a soccer game at 2:00. I was a door buster at Safeway with my store mate Ian at 7:00 a.m. Balloons, cornbread ingredients, angel food cake mix, juice boxes, seltzer water, flowers. Back to the house. Pillsbury Flaky Grands with apple slices for the hungry mob.

MZA takes Nick to karate; stops at the liquor store—wine and champagne--I call in the order to Famous Dave’s . MZA picks up Nick from karate; stops to retrieve food from Famous Dave’s. He gets stuck in traffic. I look at the kitchen floor and realize there is a Cat in the Hat bathtub type ring around the perimeter of the floor. Our nanny does “light” cleaning and apparently she only cleans the center region of the floor. That’s OK. It’s not good to be a hardass about someone who is taking care of your kids, you know?

So I get down on my hands and knees with a brush and scrub the neglected outer rim of the ceramic tile floor. I feel like Joan Crawford! I am covered in a lather of sweat, Clorox, Mop ‘n Glo and Lysol All Purpose Disinfectant. WIRE HANGERS! A little soda water will get that out…etc.
All creative fabulous child entertainment options are sapped and so it is time for the Aristocats, better known as the “kitty cat movie.” When it comes time to sing “Everybody Wants to be a Cat,” Ian gets up on his wood kiddie table and sings and dances along. Every once in awhile the tots appear at the door to the kitchen and I look at them psychotically—like Joan Crawford!—and say, don’t come in! It’s c-a-c-a!!!!!” Because the last time I had a fit of similar floor washing mania, Daisy waddled in and bananapeeled it right onto her head. It wasn’t pretty and girlfriend can WAIL. I set up a barricade with the trashcan and the stool. They looked at me like confused Victorian moppets.

I make the angel food cake—with Ian’s toddler “assistance.” Manic stirring, dollopping in the water, licking the spoon. Daisy tries to clamber onto the stool with him. Cooking with kids is fun! Especially if your kitchen is the size of a postage stamp.

The cake comes out of the oven and I place it on an empty bottle, hanging upside down to cool. Then I make my aunt’s jalapeno cornbread. I set up the hors d’ouevres tray—Boursin cheese and Stoned Wheat Thins. It’s funny how hors d’ouevres have their own milieus. Up at the lake we always eat Triscuits, summer sausage and horseradish cheese spread. Seriously! But back home we come back to our senses and serve foofy French cheese and appropriately austere crackers that accent the flavor of the fromage. Doncha know. Chips and salsa and Capri Suns for the kids.

Run up to take a shower. MZA comes in lugging enormous bags from Famous Dave's—chicken, brisket and LOTS of ribs. And cole slaw. My sister pulls up and she’s smokin’ mad because there was traffic on the Beltway. People in Virginia like to blame you for the traffic if you live in Maryland. It is a time-honored tradition. Miraculously, there is no traffic OR crime in Virginia! It is Utopia and Maryland is the sleazy hellish stepchild. WHATever.

My mother emerges from the car with her usual happiness and gracious wonder. Being the daughter of an eternal optimist was something I loathed as a dark and quagmired teen, but as an older dame I really like it. She gets totally excited about our neighborhood and the yard. It’s sad to see her struggle to climb the stairs to the house, tho, but she is well tended by my considerate brother-in-law, husband and nephews. She comes in and marvels at EVERYTHING. Says it’s all so beautiful and pulled together. Which is nice, you know.

She sits in her leather chair and we get the bevvies going ASAP. Wine all around! Or was that just me? Then we tie on the olde feed bag and tuck into the southern fine feastie. It was fun. We had cake and champagne afterwards. My mother kept saying it was the best day she had had in a long time.

Everyone left and I cleaned the kitchen and made my polenta and black bean casserole—new cult favorite—for a party that afternoon at our neighbors’ house. The babies were sleeping; Nick went to his game with another kid on the team. He came bounding home about 3:30—they won, again!

Daisy Faye woke up around 5:00, just as the casserole was reaching its bubbly browned conclusion. We slipped across the street to Barbara and Marie’s and ATE SOME MORE. Something light—Moosewood lasagna and Silver Palette carrot cake. Yum! The kids ran around the yard like—well, like kids. We went home and put them, noodly-tired, to bed.

Sunday we did our weekend fall back and went to Broooooooooooooooooookside Gardens. A beautiful respiteful landscaped garden with Asian themes. They have Canada geese, turtles, ducks and lovely wandering paths that showcase Latin named plants. Plantus erectus, with a conservatory that is sometimes filled with butterflies and sculpture exhibits.

There are also lots of NERDS at Brookside Gardens, I have noticed. You know how horticulture and ornithology bring out the nerds? Yep. Anytime you have Latin plant environs with a good selection of ornithological specimens to cluck over, OBSERVE, finger and discuss in hushed tones, there will be nerds. Wearing fanny packs, semi-hats with wide brims, long shorts (not long enough!), showcasing fish belly pale legs with hanging flesh, sensible tie-up shoes, and nerdy glasses with flip-up shades.

And bird and plant lovers are, by nature, not kid lovers. As a matter of fact, they all look pretty steamed that small mammal-type creatures are allowed to traverse their sacrosanct paths, interrupting their nature-ly reveries and NPR barley conversations about how thin the golden rod is! Yet how plump the koi fish! What a marvelous strain of Cladonia rangiferina! Cecelia, have you ever! Why when father used to grow it, it was always so perforated!!

Like all parents I look at them, waiting for them to melt with the cuteness of my own Daisy exuberantly running her side-to-side toddle in a pink flowered Hanna Andersson dress. Do you think they care? I wear sunglasses and wait for the molten smiles to cross their faces, and yet I am met with irritation. Don’t they see how cute she is? Does she not recall Wordsworth’s child of the fields, the symbol, the raison d’etre of Romantic poetry? The blissfully innocent muse. The calming influence of a suckling babe to her mad mother, "Sweet babe! they say that I am mad/But nay, my heart is far too glad…” Yeah, but the nerdy natura amoria are thistly about sweet babes running with their sturdy little legs through their stultified, catalogued flora.

It’s funny, when you don’t have kids you look at them like little monsters—obnoxious loud invasive sirens-- and when you have kids they are suddenly these poetic little emblems of perfection, traipsing along the landscape like ingenuous silky-haired nymphs.

ANYHOO, beauty and love are certainly in the eye of the beholder, eh? I was tired Sunday, the tiredness of the damned. But I was happy too. When MZA and I collapsed on the couchapalooza Saturday night after a day of fullness eternus, I said, “I am exhausted.” He said, “Me too. But it’s good.”


Friday, September 16, 2005

Separated at Birth?


This is all I am going to say about Kenny Chesney and Renee Zellweger

I knew it was going to happen from this one photograph.
I believe in the psychology of photographs—in that they reveal subtext visually just as clearly as any other form. Here’s the problem, and I spotted it right away, he has his other hand in his pocket, which means he doesn’t take ANY of it seriously—most of all his ridiculously bashful bride.

Ladies, watch for casual disengagement in your mates and gents, watch for desperation in your fillies—if ya see it, RUN. Renee is probably the most countdown, clock-ticking desperado out there. That girl wants to be HITCHED and hitched bad. Desperation is not a pretty vibe; it does not wear well; it does not smell good. And it is visible from outer space.

Also, ladies, if your man looks like a bizarre murderous cowboy robot gunslinger,
like Yul Brenner in Westworld, chances are things are not going to go well. Yul Brenner was hiding his interior robotic self and it sounds like Kenny was "fraudulent" about something as well.

Hmmm, I wonder what that could be. Maybe he's a "robot" inside too.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

The First PTA Night of the Year!

Yeah, it’s the kind of night we all love and cherish. I had been home sick for the third day, but was clearly on the mend. I changed into BLACK pants and a green hippie shirt. I wore my Impervious Bitch black glasses with tortoise shell accents (Gawker said, “Go see Elvis Costello in concert, what better way to pay tribute to the guy whose glasses you’re probably wearing”—so true!) and made the ominous trek to the fortress for my third annual evening of feeling self-conscious, out of the loop and stared at. Fabulousness!

The principal looks at me with pity, like I am a retarded sheep—who is this mommy? Does she have a child here? Why is she wearing Elvis Costello’s glasses?

Here’s the kicker, the head of the PTA, a Brit guy who sounds AUSTRALIAN but says he’s "English," kept telling people that there was beer and wine in the back and to help themselves. I was stunned. And of course secretly thrilled. HOWEVER, if there is one place in the world I do NOT want to tie one on (and believe me, there is only one place), it’s at the PTA opening night kick-off. You know? It’s like a good beer spoiled, to rework our good friend Mark Twain.

But you gotta hand it to the Catholics, they are realistic about when some booze might be a good incentive technique and they know that when something is as BORING and ritualistic as PTA opening night, you better serve some mind altering potables. Hooray for the Irish and the Italians!

There was a ballet done by two of the traffic patrols and then there was a LENGTHY two person play about what constitutes a “sloppy” student and a “neat” student. It was funny and cute but went on about fifteen minutes longer than it should have.

And kids, you want to talk about INVOLVEMENT? Because I do. And of course, as with every single solitary thing in life, it is drizzled with irony. Nick attended kindergarten at our neighborhood public school and we were awash in liberal perfectionism in that our childe was partaking of the governmente wroughte educatione systeme, and it was goode.

However, the day I had my conference with Nick’s kindergarten teacher (named Amber) there was a “special needs” child screaming like
Mrs. Rochester in the attic across the hall. If you think I am exaggerating, you’re wrong. The teachers were spending lots of time on “discipline” issues and, as is often the case, the well behaved children (named Nick) were getting ignored. But we were so into it and so was Nick.

MZA showed up for Parent Clean Up Day and there was only one (1) other parent there. The principal wasn’t even there. We were getting a little disheartened, and then we found out there was an opening at our Catholic school, so we went for it.

We wanted more parental involvement and BOY DID WE GET IT. You have never seen such an involved parent body. EVER. I signed up last night for the Wine Tasting committee (stop laughing), the Cake Walk committee, the Holiday Vendor committee, the Book Festival committee, and I don’t know what the hell else. Oh yeah, I signed up for manning the “Snack Shack” during football games. Nick doesn’t play football; I did it out of personal fabulousness.

As for activities, Nick has soccer practice Monday night and twice back to back on Thursday nights and games every Saturday. He has karate at the YMCA Saturday mornings and just signed up for Cub Scouts, which meets every other Sunday. Just when I thought I was avoiding the stereotype of the overbooked child. Good luck trying to avoid that. Inclusiveness is all part o’ the package. Exclusive inclusiveness.

Um. But I like it.

I went to church last Sunday, avoiding laser trained lightening bolts, and it was this gorgeous day and the church was packed. Nick was wearing a long sleeved white pique shirt with plaid shorts and I wore a paisley aqua skirt. We sat together in a pew and the sun was streaming in through the stained glass windows. It is a pretty church with an elaborate nave and lots of gilt and symbolism.

The priest called all the children to the front of the church and a little blond boy in his Cub Scout uniform hugged his sister as he walked down the aisle. Then Nick scooted past me. I didn’t know what was happening exactly because I AM DEAF and didn’t know why the priest was motioning for the children. It was for the children’s liturgy portion of the Mass, that I would know about if I ever went to church.

I sat there in the pew alone, my sole frame of reference for sitting in church is my father, so actually it is kind of a pleasant thing. It was the one thing we shared exclusively, I was the last of his potential acolytes, he had failed to sway my brother and sister, and so I was his final hope for a full Catholic immersion.

He was devout in a way people are not devout anymore—he went to church every single solitary day AND didn’t talk about it. It was his own deep mystery, the respect and the inner culling of the divine, and the adherence to the rituals and the demands. He met them all with constancy and dignity.

And so I figure I will always be a Catholic, in whatever crappy form, because it is a part of me, by default and by blood, in a sense. And I don’t mind that my son, my father’s third grandson (that he never met), is observing the traditions and the rituals and the mysteries and determining for himself if he will follow them.


Ornately Colored Hats and Resisting Self Pity

I have a Snoop Dogg song in my head, along with half a lake. Can someone perform an exorcism?

I had catastrophe dreams all last night involving inner sprinkler systems, kitty litter on counters to put out fires, and hiding from an NYC mounted policeman under a bush. I was also in a 3-D teen horror film—3-D in that I was a part of the film and couldn’t escape the weird ear slicing carnage. A dream the other night involved watching an enormous beautiful Greek Orthodox Church implode like Vesuvius in a gorgeous sort of slow motion fashion and all that emerged were ornately cut and colored hats.

This is one of the best assessments of George Bush I have read to date, especially with regard to the hurricane, his reaction and his presidency. It’s by David Remnick, in the New Yorker. Here’s a highlight:

And yet, to a frightening degree, Bush’s faults of leadership and character were brought into high relief by the crisis. Suntanned and relaxed after a vacation so long that it would have shamed a French playboy [LOVE IT!], Bush reacted with fogged delinquency, as if he had been so lulled by his summer sojourn that he was not quite ready to acknowledge reality, let alone attempt to master it.

I was talking to someone the other day about her blog and I could tell she didn’t want to talk about mine because you kinda know when someone thinks it’s a frivolous “vanity” project or some kind of “waste of time.” But she did say, “You’re a pretty good writer.” Then she followed it with, “You going to do anything with that?”

Nah, I think I’ll just continue unfulfilling my promise and not living up to my potential. Thanks for asking!

I mean, I don’t believe in excuses, but IF I DID, I have plenty. Not the least of which is, we found out when we got back from vacation that MZA lost his job. So I am the sole breadwinner right now.

I had to pee really badly the other day; my mother called me in semi-tears; I was cramming a final fork into a jammed dishwasher; Daisy was intermittently encircling my knees; MZA was on the computer downstairs in a bit of a funk; I had to pee (did I mention that?); I had ongoing vertigo/nausea/confusion, and suddenly I felt entirely overwhelmed.

My mother had walked her indomitable friend Aunt Donnie, a fellow Women’s Airforce Service Pilot (WASP), out to her car after their visit. My mother was wearing socks and tripped on a hose that was spritzing the elaborate flower beds around her place. They all came out and got her; she was OK. But she was tearful when she called me and the sensation of walls closing in was augmented by my temporary deafness—as though my body was providing an aural metaphor for the constricting feeling of defeat or something. And man, you know how you try not to slip down that slope. It’s a hard slope not to slip down—the Self Pity Slope that is. I am resisting it.

It was one of those things where I thought MZA’s contract renegotiation would actually bring a raise and that maybe I could cut my hours and, well, write, and of course you know that didn’t happen. Not only did he not get a raise, he got the opposite of a raise, so I guess that’s why it stings sometimes when someone asks, well why exactly are you not fulfilling your promise?

I have a New Yorker cartoon on the fridge:

I don’t know what you do if that happens. I’ll keep ya posted.

I want to go read a book in the nettled silence of my bedroom. On gossamer green sheets underneath my flowered duvet. With sun dapples on pale yellow paint.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Lake Inside

Coffee smell and lilac skin….we’re listening to Jeff Buckley's "Everybody Here Wants You"...everybody here thinks he needs you….Talk amongst yerselves…

OK, here we are. Apparently my love for my beloved Cimino (pronounced Shemina) Bay is symbiotic, because as I intrepidly crossed it’s liquid Hope Diamond depths on a daily swim, with a varying troupe of fellow swimmers——including swimmer emeritus my cousin Carolyn, my sister T, Moira, Eve, Chris, Mike, Nick, MZA, Joe, etc.--a wavelet lapped into my ear, causing a dual infection and trapped liquid in the inner sanctum.

I went to the crack team of docs I go to—ear nose and throat specialists—because I am just THAT sort of prima donna who always goes to a specialist. Just that sort. These specialists are listed in Washingtonian magazine’s Top Doctors issue, which is like Hypochondriac Porn. Love it! Except it can be faulty.

When I had strep throat back in March, I went to this crack team and the doctor looked at my ravaged throat and said it’s not strep but I’ll take a culture anyway. My sister T, like many people in my family, is an unlicensed doctor and she said it's strep and to hell with it. And she and the culture were right. Dr. Crack was wrong.

So this time I thought I’d be crafty and not go to Dr. Crack but a different member of his team, surely another doctor who would be the reason they were listed in Washingtonian’s Hypochondriac Porn edition.

Dr. D did not look promising, as he looked like the jerk shuffling in front of me in college for four years, knock-kneed and headed to the gym to shoot some hoops, but surely not like a guy off to med school to learn the fine points of aural maintenance honorably enough to analyze the delicate inner workings of my fluid filled head.

I saw Dr. D on Friday, wherein he gave me a spectacular misdiagnosis—a dermatological “problem” in the ear canal caused by my skin’s reaction to a resident mold. Ew! Dumbass. I said, "But there is drainage and I think there is liquid in my inner ear," (I am also an unlicensed doctor) and so he grudgingly blew some stupid black tube in my ear and flashed a bulb and determined that no, there was no water in there. You sure? Yes he was sure and he had a blond med student there that he was far more intent on impressing anyway.

Saw him again on Monday and he realized that there was water in there. Quack. I resisted the urge to ask him where the hell he went to med school. He said, "How did you feel after I treated you the first time"—he had extracted some wax and thought that should cover it—the equivalent of phoning it in in the ear nose and throat world. I said, “It felt like you hadn’t gotten to the root of the problem.” Things were going great!

He said he was going to send me for a hearing test. I was like dude, I don’t need a fucking hearing test to tell me I can’t hear. I am deaf! I am Johnny Belinda! I told MZA this morning, “Now you are my ears!”

He was getting peevish at this point and said I could get a second opinion if I wanted. Oooo, you know when you’re getting into Huffytown, doncha? All doctors say it is absolutely positively your PEROGATIVE to get a second opinion and they don’t mind, but THEY DO. Especially men doctors. It’s all penis related. Like, I’d like to get a second opinion that you really DO have a small wanker. That sort of thing.

SO he said he could drain the ear with a puncture—gasp—or I could take steroids. Of course I said I didn’t want to take steroids but asked what would be the best approach, as if he would know, and he said the steroids because that is the second method of medical phoning it in—prescribe inappropriate strong weird internal drugs to treat a problem instead of directly addressing the problem in a medical arts fashion.

So like the lame-o that I am, I opted for the drugs because I have a double infection and he said it would be better, bla bla bla. I took the steroids yesterday, with visions of me morphing into the Incredible Hulk and bursting through some scenery or something, and then I got really really nauseated and I read the side effects. Don’t EVER do that. It said, if you experience “coffee ground vomit or black stools contact your physician immediately.” I sure as hell felt like I was going to experience coffee ground vomit momentarily, both from reading about it and from the heave inducing drugs coursing through my innocent body. I try to keep my contaminants organic, as in wine. As Carolyn says, “It’s natural! It’s a fruit!”

I took a shower and was feeling covered with that clammy horrendous chilled feeling of perfect nausea. Nausea freaks me out more than almost anything. So you’ve got the vertigo from the inner ear disaster abetted by the sinister steroids. I had to take another one this morning, so I am trying to beat the clock before it kicks in today.

The upside of inner ear vertiginousness, mixed with a horrible pharmaceutical cocktail, is that you have to leave work early so as not to puke on your colleagues or your phone. So I came home and lay in bed like Camille in my muffled padded seasick world. A loss of one sense is supposed to make your other senses more acute. It has only served to dull all my senses in unison.

When I felt well enough to wade down the stairs, I watched the clear-eyed Judge Roberts face his questioners. It was kind of fascinating, but my favorite part was everyone tossing around stare decisus. Seriously, what a beautiful Latin phrase. Who is this Starry Decisus anyway? It sounds like a Tennessee Williams character. I watched him; I watched him dodge the abortion questions; I watched Diane Feinstien doing a bang-up job, even though I am sure most women younger than I don’t have any idea why she is peppering him with those questions. Because Roe v Wade has been so protected by stare decisus all these decades.

I was impressed with him, even though I kept nudging myself not to be. But the plain fact of the matter is, it’s stunning to be in the presence, if only through TV, of someone with such raw and blatant intelligence. Intelligence is usually a liability in the States, hence the stubborn adoration of our Commander in Chief, that’s the only way I can explain it. But when you see someone like Roberts or, say, Clinton, it’s pretty humbling. To see them respond extemporaneously on such a wide array of topics.

I read this op-ed piece by Ellen Goodman a coupla weeks ago that I meant to put here about paying attention and listening. She said in this hurried technological world we have lost the ability to listen to one another and that in the future paying attention would be the coin of the realm. I want to inhabit that realm. Where doctors and politicians listen and answer thoughtfully.

In my deaf world, the loss of sound, especially peripheral ghostly nuanced noises, has left me feeling empty and queasy. We need to hear the hushed sounds all around us, in order to respond effectively and meaningfully.


Thursday, September 08, 2005

Vacations and Jerkers of Tears

Lovely vacation what! Tally ho! Pip pip and all that tommyrot.

It was magnifico, splendiferous, relaxing, elegant, fulfilling, and familial. I don’t know. It was great. Honest. I am not going to go into everything because it’s all too new. Too fresh! Too hard to crystallize. I shall crystallize sometime later. Crystallization will occur. We will have prismatic summer stalactites to observe perhaps in winter when we need them most. Suffice it to say that I am very fortunate to have a most excellent family, immediate and extended, and absolutely lovely friends. True story!

Now, for the important stuff: Depressing Morning Commuter Moment! As you may or may not know, I am a glutton for morning radio show banter torture (GLUTTON) and so I listen with sinister precision to The Mathew Blades radio show on Zzzzzzzzzzzz104. He is probably the stupidest man who ever drew a breath. Give or take. And he has a somewhat “sassy” sidekick named Whitney (never, ever a good sign) who seems like she is perhaps white trash but has redeemed her stature with her spunkiness or something. She’s funny sometimes and—praise the Lord—she gives Mathew a hard time for being such a Velveeta stuffed provincial cow licked moron. Worst of all, he’s from my beloved Minnesota. BLECH.

Anyhoo, the fascinating topic for today, so fascinating that I am going to replicate it here, was Movies That Make Men Cry because Matt likes to talk a lot about his “sensitivity,” as though it’s some kind of penis enhancer.

I just detect this disingenuous male bullshit technique of copping to “sensitivity” from him that is a thinly disguised Fonzie-fied way of appealing to the fillies. It often occurs in sports fanatic men who like Velveeta and hockey and are always talking about what lucky stiffs they are for being married to Iowa Marshmallow Queens named Nicoli.

Anyway, Movies That Make Men Cry was the topic for the day and we were getting the usual drivel like What Dreams May Come, which Matt predictably loved and which I will not watch because it has Robin Williams in it during the high fructose corn syrup phase of his career (think: Patch Adams).

Then someone called and said Brian’s Song.” And there was a pause. And I was waiting for everyone to concur in a mass of concurrent concurrence, because it’s the biggest tearjerker EVER and it’s about sports so it is de facto the perfect guy tearjerker. But the pause was because THEY HAD NEVER HEARD OF BRIAN’S SONG. For crying out loud. Maybe because it was made (for TV) in…er…1971? But still!!!

Back in the day it was big. Back when every single movie and made for TV movie was about someone dying of the Big C. Love Story started an epidemic and you couldn’t turn a corner back then without someone becoming luminously ill and dying on a perfect padded Hollywood fluffed pillow with lots of “there was joy there was fun there were seasons in the sun” music going on in the background. Anyway, callers called in saying “My husband always cries during Beauty and the Beast.” Mmm hmm. And then Matt threw in Armageddon. WHATever.

This leads me, naturally, to my all time tear-jer-ker. The forget-it-I-have-to-leave the-room-I-am-crying-so-damn-hard movie. And I can’t even explain why it devastates me so. But even when it starts I get weird and the closer we come to Greer Garson’s true face on that fake alp on their honeymoon, I am getting weirder by the minute and then the tears start and they are voluminous, soggy sheets of uncontrollable lachrymity.

The movie is Goodbye Mr. Chips. The British 1939 version with the gorgeous Greer Garson and Robert Donat. It’s about a schoolmaster. When he starts out he’s all stiff and boring and none of the boys like him and then he meets Greer on holiday and falls in love and they get married and she comes to live with him at the boarding school. She softens his image—never underestimate the power of sex!—and the boys begin to love him. And then…well, you’ll just have to watch it.

Here’s a quote from Greer to her husband, Mr. Chips:
It must be tremendously interesting to be a schoolmaster, to watch boys grow up and help them along; to see their characters develop and what they become when they leave school and the world gets hold of them. I don't see how you could ever get old in a world that's always young.

I know, you’re probably already crying, but here are Mr. Chips’ dying words:
I thought I heard you saying it was a pity... pity I never had any children. But you're wrong. I have. Thousands of them. Thousands of them... and all boys.

FORGET IT. It’s amazing. I mean it’s dated and cheeseball and they pull out ALL the stops, not just some, but it’s a good movie and it’s the one that makes me have to wear a bag over my head to breathe. So there ya go!

What’s your sad movie? As long as it’s not Beauty and the Beast or Armageddon or Patch Adams I want to hear about it.

P.S. I didn't know what to say about the Hurricane, so I thought I would just elude it with stupidity and fluff, but then I read this article and I wanted you to read it too because it's brilliant: "The 'Stuff Happens' Presidency"


Cynicism is another word for reality

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