Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Finale

Well it seems the time has come to "turn the page." I started this website one year (and six days) ago. My anniversary chance keyword analysis haiku said, "Say goodbye." The message, it seems, is implicit.

THIS HAS BEEN SO FUN!

Do I sound like a yearbook soundbite?

Sorry.

But it has.

I started this as a way to keep some form of creativity in my life when I was living through very stressful job times. For me, it's been the best exercise in being able to dream up things, notice things, ruminate, and then formulate something--usually a piece of my heart--and put it out into the world.

Now things are converging (colliding?) and it feels like all these swirling thoughts and ideas need to become more focused and coherent--and I need to obfuscate the details and wrap them in a net of fiction again.

Two cool things happened this month. A couple of weeks ago I was at the printer's looking at final proofs of a 130 page publication I've been working on for six months. It's so cool and, if I could, I would so put the link here. It's all about women taking care of themselves and taking care of others. That same week my editor on an anthology of short stories by DC area women sent me the galleys of my short story to review before the book comes out next month.

I was simultaneously reviewing a work publication (that I had honestly put my heart and part of my soul in), as well as this story that reaches deep. It felt a little bit like the epiphaneous, mythical, simultaneous O sequence in Lady Chatterly's Lover. You know, on that professional and personal level.

I'm glad I'm ending things talking about orgasms, aren't you?

I think what happened was, I recognized a dovetail--the two warring factions of my life, work and art (if I can call it that), came together in this symbolic helix for me, and I took it as a sign. A sign of precisely what I have yet to determine, but I felt the first step was to turn this page, and then a few others, and see what happens.

I am still going to READ everyone's website and post long nonsensical comments. 'K?

Thanks so much for coming here and reading and for being so kind and supportive.

À bientôt!


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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Ian's Cooking Show

The kids are home from daycare today so Ian is doing his own cooking show. What are you making Ian?

In his best Julia Child trill, "Today we're making GOLDFISH. In juice!" Translation: poisson d'or au jus!














Brother Nick, home on a half day, signals his gastronomic approval! Bon appetit!

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Spring is the Cruellest Month

I was chatting with m'son Nick this morning after he and MZA got back from a morning walk. He said, in reference to his wet socks, "There's one downside to spring, it almost always rains at night. Spring isn't always the happy-go-lucky gazelle running through the buttercup field."

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Diasporic 1980's Film Festival, with a Special Tribute to Frank Capra

Today is Frank Capra’s birthday! I KNOW! I am sure YOU bounded out of bed and ran around in a wild celebratory frenzy just like I did this morning. Wow. I feel so connected with you right now.

But seriously, this morning, as I lay abed thinking about what to write, something kept moving me toward The Diasporic 1970’s Film Festival. WHICH IS SO AMAZING because, if you’ll recall, it was my discussion with a colleague about her dissertation on Capra's It’s a Wonderful Life that got the whole diasporic film thing going. Kismet, or just plain ouiji board manifest film destiny? You decide.

First off, we’ll have to adjust the genre, and I know how you hate adjusting the genre. It is going to have to be the 1980’s Diasporic Film Festival, followed by an homage to our diasporic boyfriend Frank Capra.

Sharpen your pencils.

The other night MZA and I watched An Officer and a Gentleman because it was on PBS, for God’ sake, BECAUSE it is so damn old it is a classic worthy of viewing on federally funded TV. Sigh. Joints creak.

An Officer and a Gentleman came out in 1982 when I was…um, 19. Do the math because you’re not getting me to spit out my current age anymore. I’m going all Blanche DuBois these days and will only be viewed through a paper lantern scrim. Pass me a lemon Coke.

ANYWAY, I was 19 and so back then we were all in a tizz over the scrumptiousness of Richard Gere and our main focus was a) she’s ON TOP? How embarrassing! And b) did they really “do it” on the set? HOW EMBARRASSING!

Yes, these were the pressing intellectual concerns gracing my somewhat innocent Polly Purebred mind. However this time, I had my mind out of the gutter and I was far more focused on what an AMAZING performance Mr. Gere was giving and also how unbelievably sexy and scrumptious and sinuous he was.

ALSO, please see Lou Gossett, Jr. in a performance so tight and smoking and taught and killer that you'll need a Valium from the intensity. Don Cheadle is the only man to come along in a long time to match that intensity and thespic skill. Additionally, I was quite impressed with the atmospherics of the film—it conveyed the time, place and the particular salty, slightly seedy, company townishness of the Navy base in Washintgon state.

There, that concludes this portion of the Diasporic 1980’s Film Festival.

Let us now honor Frank Capra. Happy Birthday, Mr. Capra!

My favorite Capra film is You Can’t Take it With You. That also happens to be one of my favorite plays. It was written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman and I saw the play at Arena Stage when I was 16 and it had this really weird effect on me, in that I wanted to crawl onstage and become a part of this obliviously wacky family. I wanted that chaotic absurd madcap acceptance of all things abnormal kind of life. I WANTED IT SO BADLY.

Of course now I understand that as a teen (read: OUTCAST) it was probably very reassuring to watch a family of kooks embrace all of their kookiness so lovingly and unquestioningly. Kind of like the Munsters Effect, you know? Like we’re perfectly normal, what’s wrong with YOU?

That is a theme that plays out in a LOT of sitcoms (which owe a lot to the wackiness of plays like You Can’t Take it With You and that whole genre)—the wacked out family that ends up freaking out all the “normal” people and it turns out the “normal” people are just freaks anyway. There was The Addams Family, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, My Favorite Martian, etc. The message was: Celebrate the Freak.

Hmm, maybe I should write a dissertation on how Frank Capra, far from being a director about the diaspora, was really a CHAMPION OF THE FREAK. I have got to stop re-writing everyone’s dissertation! For the love of Pete!

What he truly accomplished was a gentle and respectful representation of the improbable—an angel trying to get his wings, a family of kooks with a delusional daughter in a ballet costume (we’re ALL about delusional dames in ballet costumes here at Zeldafitz) and an everyman who storms Washington with beliefs—yeah, yeah here is where I’m supposed to say that’s the most improbable of all. There, I said it. He also directed It Happened one Night with Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable and lemme just say, it’s very titillating! Indeedy, who knew there was such sexual tension going on back then! It is, again, about misfits, unlikely bedfellows and improbable events.

Frank Capra, far from being the patron saint of idyllic picket fence America, saw further into our eccentric hearts and directed films about our most essential and endearing traits—our undying belief in the rewards of being a good person and the esoteric patchwork of nuttiness that makes a person real, and not just a shell of projected normality.

Close your notebooks class, go out and jump over a white picket fence and then reach into your pocket to see if those petals you thought you dreamt about are still there…

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Happy Anniversary to...Zeldafitz!!!!

Hullo Mates. Yes, one year ago today I began this humble site. So, in honor of The Big Day, I decided to publish a haiku of sorts, taken from the "Keyword Analysis" on my statcounter. So, blogesque, non?

For the uninitiated, the key word analysis shows the words people punch into a search engine, that direct them to your site. They type in these enigmatic queries, and somehow the words match well enough with a part of your own content.

I love how this one panned out:

I drive barefoot,
Woodstock sprite.
She made him wear a silky dress with a zipper--
War’s impact on individuals.
Cocteau Twins/Betty Blue, Acapella Dave Matthews,
“Say Goodbye.”
On the floating/shapeless oceans/I did all my best to smile/’til your singing eyes and fingers…
Depression is nine-tenths of the law.

I think that sums up the year nicely and cryptically, just as I would have it.

Oh, there's that li'l inner hippie (barefoot Woodstock sprite)...

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!!!

I took two hours off yesterday, from my basement work schedule as Larry Tate starring in Phantom of the Opera, to man the duck pond at Nick’s spring carnival.

Yep.

It took me about half an hour to transform myself from Lon Chaney mode:

Into Perfect Exuberant Springtime Selfless Volunteer Mommy.

I was wearing my stock “springtime” pink tie dyed tunic from last year’s Old Navy collection, jeans and some very “cute” turquoise Old Navy flip flops with a psychedelic pattern on the footbed. Basically, I looked like I just walked off the set of “Hair.” Because that’s what I think a Catholic school mommy should look like.


After the screams of, “Look! It’s a DEMOCRAT!” died down, I got to work manning a blue plastic pond, with glass beads at the bottom and a passel of hard plastic, slightly grungy, duckies floating in it.

When I got there, the mom who explained the duck pond to me said, “This one is really easy!”

At which point my heart sank, because I knew somehow I wouldn’t understand the rules and kids would be waiting in a long line, tapping their feet saying, “This mom sucks! The duck pond was way better LAST YEAR!”

Crisis averted.

For ONCE, I actually “caught on” to the rules of the game, because even a dead clown could have figured it out. Kids have to give one ticket and then they get to “pick a duckie.” The grungy duckies have numbers SHARPIED onto them and the kid gets a prize from a corresponding numbered bucket. I was ready to go!

But then no kids came and I thought, “Uh oh, I am manning the LOSER TABLE. No one will come to my event. I will be standing here, at the edge of the blacktop, while kids joyously choose other games.”

It’s lonely at the ducky pond, lemme tell ya.

That is, until all the Vegas gambling nocturnal vampire kids come out of the woodwork. You should see these kids! The ones that get hooked, I mean, on that fickle bitch “chance.”

Little girls clutched their tickets (please see: life savings, in the future) and bit their lower lips as they advanced toward the aquamarine baccarat table.

“Four again! But I don’t LIKE lollypops!”

Tough shit kid, that’s the luck of the dice.

Does anyone else out there get really irritated with kids who instantly want to bend the rules? BECAUSE I DO.

This was also an object lesson in what it feels like to have a menial job that is frequented by slightly spoiled, middle class, entitled kids. Because when you’re manning a duck pond, you are suddenly in the same social stratosphere as a carnival barker and so suddenly “Nick’s mom” is lost behind the barriers of class, socio-economics and all the other invisible (and sometimes visible) social strata that are in place in our society.

I loved looking at their faces through this mask. I was wearing sunglasses, which helped with the illusion. Only one little girl, that I observed, figured out which duck to choose to get the coveted number 2 basket prizes. Most of the kids really were shooting the moon—betting, hoping on the fates to shine down on them, each time, and deliver the prize they coveted the most.

My initial fears that I would be manning the “Loser Table” soon evaporated into a sea of hopeful faces, waiting in line, “ONE AT A TIME,” and waiting for their shot at Lady Luck.

One thing I have noticed, with increasing sadness about myself as a mother, is that I am not the “cool” mom. I am not the “nice” mom. I am not the mom-whose-house-you-want-to-hang-out in. I think I have become the kind of adult I didn’t like as a kid and I never wanted to be.

BECAUSE I AM A BITCH!

There, I said it. I’m just not Warm Squishy Mom. Dammit. I want to be, sometimes, but it’s just too damn counterintuitive to my nature.

When I was a kid, in the Pleistocene era, I remember when sometimes kids would be mean to me and my sister, who is 11 years older than I am, would say, “Kids are just small adults.” Sadly, it’s true.

Basically, to be any good at dealing with kids, you have to suspend that knowledge and pretend that kids are sunny, sugar-sweetened, innocent, little tabula rasas. But they’re not. They’re just little people, hard wired with all the manipulation and vices as the next person. Oh, proportionally they are more innocent, but the groundwork is there.

The whole time I was manning the booth, I tried to scan the blacktop and neighboring field to see if I could see Nick, so we could lock eyes and he could revel in the wondrousness of having a Participating Mommy.

I finally saw him, amid all the running and screaming kids. It’s really weird how your own child just sort of parts the Red Sea—you can always make out their particular countenance among the throngs.

It made me think of the day he was born when the doctor held him up triumphantly and my sister said, “It’s a BOY!” Right then and there, I saw his profile and it was permanently etched on my retina—the profile of my first-born son.

Later that night, I got up from my hospital bed—you know how you are completely transformed—like you’ve just been through this thing and then you are alone and you wander, butt flying in the wind in a hospital gown, pulling an IV on wheels beside you, down to the nursery and there, amid all the red pruny faces, the beacon of your own baby’s face shines itself out toward you, through the glass.

That’s what it was like when I saw him again yesterday, in his blue and gold shorts (school colors) with a Long Beach East Coast surf shirt. My son, with more of a defined, confident stride than when he was little—this lovely insouciance about him, carrying a blue plastic ball with stylized Hawaiian flowers on it.

After the carnival was over, I wrapped up my table—a little girl helped me scoop up all the glass beads because she liked immersing her hands in the water. Her mother waited impatiently on the side and the little girl said, “I’m helping!” And I said, from deep inside my cryptic heart, “You’re a BIG helper!”

I emptied the duck pond and put all the supplies next to the organizer’s minivan. I went inside to fetch Nick from his classroom. His teacher was there. I LOVE Nick’s teacher. Like, from the bottom of my heart. She has been The Inspiring Teacher that Totally Gets Your Kid. I think you get that once in your kid’s life. Maybe twice.

I cried during our parent teacher conference (as I have for every single parent teacher conference I’ve ever had for Nick—I know, FRUITCAKE) because she looked at me and said, “I’ve been wanting to meet you.” UH OH, that’s when the floodgates began—inside—I managed to escape pretty much without the full waterworks. She looked at me so intently and talked about Nick so clearly, and so lovingly. Well, it killed me. In a good way. She hugged me that day when I left.

Yesterday she got up and hugged me again—really tight—and she whispered, “Happy Mother’s Day,” as I melted in her warm embrace, in front of the entire third grade.

I said, as I squeezed her back, “Happy Mother’s Day to you.” I thought I might never let her go.
Afterwards, Nick looked at me sort of amazed. Because I’m not exactly the kind of person people feel comfortable broaching and embracing, as you may have discerned.

My stint as an anonymous carnival barker was over. I was back in the fold of being Nick’s mom—that cranky bitch!

We walked through the halls together and I felt, somehow, slightly less anomalous.

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Poems in Response to the War

Hi--after hitting the wall, the well's a little dry. Serendipitously, I got this press release this morning from Beltway Poetry Quarterly, so that's the topic for today! It's free and it's a REACTION:

Beltway Poetry Quarterly, the region's premiere on-line poetry journal, announces The Wartime Issue, an anthology of poems by 46 authors from the Mid-Atlantic region, writing in response to the ongoing presence of the American military in Iraq. The issue can be read for free on-line at: http://washingtonart.com/beltway.html.

In her Introduction to the issue, Guest Editor Sarah Browning writes: "When the politicians are compliant and the press is distracted by the next sparkly thing, the poets continue to believe, to speak out, and to say no to fear."

Poets in the issue are all ages, races, and ethnicities. They are gay and straight, and represent a wide variety of religious faiths. Some have many books of poetry to their name and for some, this is their first publication. The poets also take a diversity of approaches to the war in Iraq, telling the story of the war's impact on individuals, families, and communities at home, on members of the Armed Services, and on the people of Iraq.

Browning's introduction explains: "The poems here tell stories – of loss and of connection despite the anguish. 'A part of us vanishes each day,' writes Adam Chiles in 'Tucson Elegy.' 'We suffer another missed touch,' Venus Thrash tells us in her poem, 'Ritual.' The poems won't let us forget. When the war is, as Reginald Dwayne Betts's 'A Conversation' says, 'tucked into the back pages of the paper,' the poems remind us of the atrocities our own sisters and brothers are committing in our name. Linda Pastan asks what we are capable of. The poems answer, in sorrow: almost anything."

And yet, the poets are also hopeful. Browning writes, "Even in [the poets'] despair and their outrage, they call us, as Melissa Tuckey does in her poem, 'Forsythia Winter,' to 'go ahead, open your hand.'"

About Beltway Poetry Quarterly: Since January 2000, Beltway Poetry Quarterly has published poetry by authors who live or work in the capital of the United States. Beltway strives to showcase the richness and diversity of Washington area authors in every issue, with poets from different backgrounds, races, ethnicities, ages, and sexual orientations represented. It has included Pulitzer Prize winners and those who have never previously published. The journal publishes academic, spoken word, and experimental authors--and also those poets whose work defies categorization.

Read Beltway Poetry Quarterly at http://washingtonart.com/beltway.html.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Saving the World: One Bee at a Time

I went out with The Ladies on Friday night. Glenda sent out an All Dog Bark--it is not so easy to get everyone together--but we try. We hardly ever have a quorum, except at Christmastime.

We went to Grapeseed in Bethesda, just to go "uptown," since the covens usually take place downtown. Suzanne, Susie, Glenda, Moira and I were there. Holly was en route to or from Bogata--I sent her a link to Michelle's site and she said I made her day because she has the exact same shelf of religious little dudes. Mary also could not make it and Hope was there, in absentia--we talked about you, ladyfriend! Everyone loves your site.

The conversation started off, surprisingly enough (for me) about this website. We discussed the contretemps over a recent post and they said I overreacted (IMPOSSIBLE!). I was so, um, heartened to hear from my friends on this initiative because they don't comment on it--in posts I mean--so it was good to know they are listening.

We talked about the difficulty of incremental revolution, the disappointments of the Democratic party--none of us likes Hillary--everyone, but me, is in for a multiparty system. (When I brought that up with State senate candidate Jamie Raskin on Sunday he said, "How about if we get the two party system to work?")

I told the ladies how I'd been "working" in the garden with MZA--he is building a trellis out back--and he rigged this string with a rock tied to the end of it for me to use as a level while he poured concrete around the posts. I felt like Fred Flintstone. I had to hold the string, pressed against the wood, to see if the rock dangled evenly.

I said, "How did you come up with this?"

He said, "It's physics, baby."

Oh.

I watched him out in the yard--so thoughtful, concentrating, and I thought one of the many reasons why I love him is that he doesn't have that typical (American) male swagger of condescension and "little lady" pedantry.

He was sweating and concentrating and so I looked at him and said, "You're sexy." More to break his intense concentration, than for an insatiable desire kind of thing. You know.

He said, "Is that all you think about? Sex?"

I said, "Yeah."

He paused, then he looked up, beaming, and said, "Hey! Me too!"

Then, as he was pouring concrete into the final post, I looked down and saw some kind of bee-like creature struggling in the concrete.

I said, "Hey! There's a bee down there!"

He got a twig and tried to help the bee out of the cement hole, but he couldn't get it. So he waived his hand over the impromtu bee grave and intoned a Russian blessing--just then, the bee emerged again and he got the twig and helped him out.

I recounted this to the ladies, amid all of our fine talk about revolution, making a genuine difference, and civic and moral responsibility. They had been talking of their immediate involvement in making changes to the world, and I had been bemoaning my revolutionary inertia. They excused me because of the kids and work gig. It was cold comfort because I need to do more--especially in protest of this war, which I have been against since the moment it was publically broached.

When I told them the bee story, Susie said, "Hey! You are saving the world--one bee at a time!"

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Sex with Bob Newhart or Che? I'm going with Che...

I dreamt Bob Newhart came on to me last night.

Maybe you need a chance to let that sink in: I dreamt Bob Newhart made a PASS at me last night.

I am a little concerned about the "symbolism" and all other inherent repurcussions that may or may not have. And I'm a little flipped out. And grossed out. I think, inevitably, that it points to one thing and one thing alone: STRESS.

Because I can't think of anything else to blame it on. And I am looking furiously.

We watched Domino this weekend. HELLO??? Why was I not notified of the brilliance of this film? It is GREAT. OK, and I have a pretty long attention span--I love Henry James, that sort of thing--but this movie is a SHORT attention span person's wet dream. (i just looked up the reviews and it got pulverized! See at your own risk, but I liked it).

I LOVED it.

If I were in my 20's ( a distant memory), this would have been my favorite movie ever, along the lines of "Blue Velvet," "Diva" and "Betty Blue." OK, maybe not "ever," but I really liked it. And Keira Knightly IS the most beautiful woman in the universe. Wow.

Things I liked:

  • Tough beautiful heroine
  • Old movie connection: daughter of Laurence Harvey (who starred, incidentally, with Simone Signoret, in the film adaptation of also one my MY FAVORITE NOVELS EVER: Room at the Top)
  • Total hot scrumptious sex scene IN THE DESERT, in Jim Morrison fashion--totally--with Che Guevara swarthy scrumptious lookalike--a blending of pent-up release (for audience AND characters) and then the brilliant highlight of:
  • Tom Waites--yes, him--as the hallucinagenic, revealtory minister vision-thing.

Really? What ELSE is Tom Waites if not a mescaline-induced epiphany bearer? Please tell me.

We watched The Color Purple in what was clearly a crack-induced, Netflix queue judgement laspe on my part.

Woof!

I KNOW. I loved it (AND THE NOVEL) when it came out 30 years ago, or whenever that was, when we were all still in hopeless thrall with that hmm hmm Steven Spielberg, who wrenched our hearts out equally over aliens and goonies.

Then he laid his overbearing, overworked hand on The Color Purple, and I think the continent shifted and the cosmos was permanently realigned when the two metoerites known as Oprah and Speilberg collided.

BLECH.

But of course Nick, MZA and I sat riveted and I bawled my fool eyes out, on cue.

As Celie was reading Oliver Twist, and talking about a "systemmatic form of treachery and deception," Nick explained how that was a parallel from the Dickens novel to what was actually going on on the screen.

I asked how and he said, "For example, when Mister is getting ready to see Shug, Celie knows what he needs to get ready, but she waits for him to come to her so she can hand them the items one by one. Then when Mister hides the letters from her, he is deceiving her. It doesn't say that in the script, but they give you hints."

Mmm 'K.

On Sunday, I went to a small house party for this candidate, Jamie Raskin, who is running for State senate in Maryland, in my district of Silver Spring-Takoma Park. I went to high school with him (in DC) and really wanted to lend my support. You never know how those kinds of things are going to go--whether you'll experience the disillusionement of the damned, or whether you'll walk away newly restored.

I experienced the latter. Really. It was so nice.

OK, excuse the weirdly abbreviated format, but must fly. Working on soul crushing initiative (as usual) and really need to get it off into the firmament.

More anon...

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Friday, May 05, 2006

Houris on First?

I showed today's cartoon in the Post to MZA and Nick scrambled around the table to see it. I thought, "Oh, he's not going to get it. I wonder how I'll explain it?"

Just as I began, "Well, you see, they say that there are 72 virgins..."

And he said, "Oh, you mean the 72 black-eyed virgins that, according to Islam, are waiting for you in heaven?"

I said, "Um, yeah."

He said, "They're called houri."

"What? Whores? Are you saying whores?"

"No, Houri, h-o-u-r-i. They are there to pleasure the men and then their virginity is restored."

MZA says, sotto voce, "Pleasure the men?"

"Where did you learn that?" My Muslim husband and I ask.

"From my mythology book, you know, that you gave me."

Right. MZA and I exchange glances.

Moral of the story: Never underestimate your kid. You never know WHAT you're going to learn.

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

TILT!

Things I LOVE Thursday (TILT) has reared it's beautiful head! Another reason to be eternally grateful to Weaker Vessel--whew!

I saw this at the gift store at the Sackler Gallery and fell crashingly in love:


It reminds me of Radar O'Reilly, swilling a grape Nehi at Rosie's bamboo and corrugated tin hooch joint, with his adorable sentence-finishing, earnest, teddy bear ways---an American boy who wove himself into the fabric of a war-torn Asian land, amid unthinkable circumstances, without losing his puppy dog, furrowed-eyebrow, virginal charm.

It also reminds me of lots of other beautiful bicultural fusions--Asian billboards, the opiated rickshaw exoticism of pre-communist Shanghai, cinnabar painted lacquer, and one of my favorite novels (and movies) ever, The Lover.*

*The direct inspiration for marrying my own Asian lover, which led to the creation of our own three bicultural fusions.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

In Which Our Heroine Ventures Even Further into Uncharted Water...

I did something I have never done before—I pulled a post because it was on the precipice of garnering some reactions that I didn’t think I could contend with. The post was about my three and a half year old son’s reaction to a black person—first politically correct challenge, she is not “African” American, she is from a different country, therefore I do not call her “African” American.

I pulled the post because I was queasy about writing it in the first place—because it deals with the absolutely monumental hidden elephant in the room: racism, perceived racism—basically everything we want to deny and hide from, AND it deals with my son and I did not want to expose him to anything negative—even 1,000 times removed.

I THOUGHT I felt confident about posting it—why? Because I felt that my conscience was clear and I could withstand any accusations. I still feel that way, but because my boy, who can’t defend himself and who did not give me permission to post that on the Internet, did not give me his OK. And somehow, knowing Ian, I don’t think when he is of age he would like it.

I was also accused of using terminology that was derogatory in a previous post about calling someone “appreciative and quite white” about something. He equated “quite white” with “decent,” whereas I, who grew up in the predominantly black city of Washington DC—the actual city, not a suburb—think of that phrase, as the ultimate put down of white nerdy capitulation. He also said, “You call yourself a writer?”

And I thought, yeah, I call myself a writer. That always seems to be the first thing people want to grab away from you.

I think what I am seeing is so much more of a desire to not engage in discussion but to engage in accusations and insinuations.

It is so much easier to assume something about someone and aim for the jugular than it is to honestly analyze something.

You can equate that with the last election, when it was so much more convenient for Americans to be spoon-fed their reactions on the candidates based on the press spin (that includes ALL press spin, liberal and conservative—we were equally let down) than it was to do the research and make informed opinions.

THAT is what I am afraid of and that is what intrigues me—that as a nation we are so much more comfortable with the shorthand for a person’s beliefs than we are in finding out what that person really stands for and believes in.

I’m guilty of the shorthand. I make assumptions all the time, but I honestly try and leverage my assumptions against more in-depth analysis. I am not always successful, but it is an ongoing goal.

I know I could talk until I am blue in the face about how I am not a racist. I know we all could. I went to the first de-segregated school in Washington DC and I mention that, not so much as a badge of honor, but as a wake-up call that whatever feelings I have on the subject are ingrained in my actual experience, not in something I was programmed to think or feel.

I grew up in a city that was proudly dubbed, by the majority of the population, Chocolate City.” I was talking to my friend about that moniker and how I could bring it up on my site and he said, with all of his ingrained good humor, “Don’t even go there.”

So that is where we have come? To where we cannot even utter certain truths, certain realities, for fear that we will offend someone?

I cringed when I thought I had offended people about Atlanta. I felt so bad, and yet, it was not a good experience for me and the best part was the people who wrote me (thanks y’all) telling me what I MISSED and how I should give it another chance.

I want to know what I missed. But I do not want to be presumed a racist based on the unfiltered comments of my child.

It’s my own fault—as my sister was quick to point out—because I open myself up to this criticism by writing so publicly. She is MORTIFIED that I maintain this thing, but I have persevered because I wanted to meet the challenge of breaking down the barriers and inhibitions that prevent (my) artistic expression.

I wanted to put myself in the fray and to not be afraid of recriminations.

I know what kind of person I am. I know what I am (most of the time).

I don’t have a pat way to sum this up.

I want discourse; I don’t want to shy away from opinion and criticism and reality. That’s what this site is about. But I am sensitive, I have raw emotions—I am a writer, by vocation and avocation. If that’s what I want to be for Halloween, I think we have to respect that. But I think I’m going to deflect the other labels, or insinuations, because they don’t suit me and they are made superficially, without substance or real perception.

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First Carousel Ride (of the season)

Taken at the carousel on the Mall, in front of the Smithsonian castle...


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Monday, May 01, 2006

Lost In Translation

Maybe I should just rename myself Odysseus?

Because I seem to keep having these odysseys, not just “adventures” or journeys.

My scared little ectoplasm moved out of its familial shell and flew to Atlanta. It was OK, except I do not like Atlanta, Sam I am. Too much concrete, no feeling of time or place or context.

I was in Buckhead, which is supposed to be a nice area of town, again, too much concrete, not designed for walking, and the scourge of Americana in the form of homogenous chains: Starbucks, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, Macy’s, the Corner Bakery, Staples, yawn.

Weird asymmetrical crooked hotel, with everything too narrow and at a tilted slant. Overly perfumed room. Lavender! A gargantuan bed, an indecipherable clock radio, a gargantuan TV, “fancy” spa bath products, institutional shower curtain, a loud A/C, a shitty view—again tilted, slanted—of the driveway, a large asymmetrical building and the Corner Bakery.

Inhale the: LAVENDER! Is that supposed to be classy or something? Asphyxiation by LAVENDER inhalation.

Lunch outside at the Corner Bakery—mozzarella and roasted red pepper sandwich. It was good. Sitting outside on the patio at stainless tables, pretending I was in LA. Hot, sultry, outside, confusing—what am I doing on Peachtree Street of a Tuesday afternoon? Iced herbal tea at the hotel afterwards with colleagues.

Work—set up, exhaustion, dinner in room—way too oily salty vegetarian pasta dish with a glass of Chardonnay. I overtipped the bellman. He feigned tears.

Next day bright and early—I have to write a report of this two day meeting WHICH MEANS I have to actually pay attention to every single thing for two straight days. I think I got carpal tunnel syndrome. In my brain.

I could write a doctoral thesis on the psychology of meetings.

This was a very liberal group of people—Harvard, Stanford and U Penn were very well represented—and yet I found some of them to be so nauseating after a fashion. Like the liberalism became this horrendous ostentatious, dare I say, elitist badge.

Kids, here’s what I thought: I thought no WONDER Republicans make fun of liberals. We’re NAUSEATING sometimes.

I guess I was mad that people were epitomizing every single liberal stereotype—the slightly wacky groovy aesthetic—the Harvard prof with the rumpled brown linen jacket, the John Lennon glasses, the wrinkled khakis. The genial smile with crinkles around the eyes, the anecdotal evidence of reading to his kids in the morning, please imagine red wine dinner parties and Moosewood cookbook lasagna. Add garlic bread as needed. See wife crying in shower. Pass the ice cream eaten directly out of the container. Add Kevin Kline, Glenn Close and William Hurt, stir, lather rinse repeat.

Then there was the “radical” sprightly sprite—see bad Woodstock flashback. He’s the “imp” who alluded to “something he smoked.” Ooooooo so outré! Wears the standard issue red tag faded Levis—WHAT A NONCONFORMIST!—and let’s us all behold his iTunes playlist on his laptop. It flashes up on the screen. Please be impressed with fabulously “cool” musical tastes. Cue the Grateful Dead.

Sigh.

Groan.

I turned to my colleague and said, “Why doesn’t he just put on Beethoven?”

When the Dead came on, I think something short circuited in me. Like I had given him the benefit of the doubt up until then and then I just thought, “Fuck it.” The 10,000 Maniacs were also heavily represented on the playlist. Stop snoring.

Are playlists our new way of defining ourselves? Because what irritated me was that we seem to be counting on these dumbass “signs” and “signals” to define what we “are.” And I just don’t think it’s that simple.

I detected an overwhelming smugness too, which I didn’t like, because it represents a hypocrisy to the whole liberal ideal. I think you have to be a liberal in word and deed and I think showing a playlist with songs that were counterculture and cool 30 years ago is a kind of lazy shorthand for “I am relying on the music and message of another generation. I have no originality. I am frozen in the era when I evolved. See: the 80’s.”

Tiresome.

The second night I ventured forth, in an effort to give the concrete jungle of Atlanta a second chance. I definitely felt like Bill Murray in Lost in Translation. I just sort of levitated to the MARTA train and looked at myself in fluorescent reflection in the window. I emerged at Peachtree Center. Dark concrete, light concrete, a Hooters, fat slow tourists.

I ended up in the lounge of the Ritz-Carlton in a Holly Golightly move—I knew it was the only place that would soothe me. And it did, in a way. Talk about Lost in Translation. Like you can take the Ritz Carlton out of New York—but I’m not so sure what happens to it when it gets to Atlanta.

There was a flat screen TV above the beautiful chandeliered bar—a black woman pianist tickled the ivories in a lovely, genteel, self-effacing fashion, I ordered a $13 glass of pinot noir and “light fare” chicken quesadillas. The service was slow. Guests were wearing jeans. I was not.

I left and went back to Buckhead. I watched a documentary on Billie Jean King on HBO. It was amazing. Then I watched a documentary on the Bunny Ranch. Now THAT was truly amazing. I became addicted to HBO. I also watched Elizabeth I with Helen Mirren and was transfixed. Jeremy Irons—old and reliable—still scrumptious.

The next day the meeting slouched toward a conclusion. The psychology of meetings dictates that people use these kinds of phrases, which make my flesh crawl: “when the rubber meets the road,” a “beautiful dose response result,” “having said that…”

I got on the train and went to the airport. I got motion sick on the train. I was way early for my flight, but I didn’t care. I wanted to be as close to the craft that would transport me home as possible. I bought Rolling Stone (BECAUSE the cover had a picture of George Bush in a dunce cap. I wanted to be cheered up. It worked), Harper’s, Newsweek and lifted a Travel and Leisure from the seat next to me.

The flight back was on a mosquito sized Delta shuttle puddle jumper, waiting dramatically on the tarmac. I felt like Ingrid Bergman, as I think we all do when we walk, windblown and dramatic, toward the cone of a parked airplane.

I got on board. Looked at my ticket and then looked at my flight companion.

I’m not being mean because he was the NICEST man in the universe. And that’s a good thing because we were enmeshed—flesh to flesh, full body lock—for the quaint two hour flight back to DC.

When I rolled out onto the tarmac again, at a slight angle, I thought it might be too dramatic to, you know, kiss the ground, but I THOUGHT about it.

An Ethiopian taxi driver whisked me home. MZA came out to the curb. The taxi driver smiled. I told MZA he was from Ethiopia. We talked about an Ethiopian restaurant in downtown Silver Spring.

I thought about categorizations—me, stereotypical Foreign Service brat/Peace Corps volunteer, reaching out, talking to the displaced? Or just a humanist wanting to connect?

I hope it is purely the latter, without any labels or role playing.

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Cynicism is another word for reality

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