Saturday, May 27, 2006

Things I've learned recently

1. Drinking does not help you forget. It does lots of things: gives you heartburn, makes you weepy, leaves you feeling like absolute refuse the next day. But forgetting? Not really. It's also a complete and utter waste of time, money and valuable lip resources.

2. Doctor's visits can last five hours. And yes, you can successfully read every available magazine in his office while you wait for your father's test results.

3. Young boys can be really terrific. Not cranky like teenage girls can be. They even help around the house, when asked. They also like watching anything funny: Monty Python, The Awful Truth (hopefully both seasons) --- even Anchorman. Plus they love new stuff, and pop, and any godawful junk food you can supply. And the best way to get their attention is to use their names. Which, no offense intended, reminds me very much of my dog. He too only hears Charlie Brown teacher voices unless you say "Marlon" at the end of every other sentence.

4. You never really get over the absence of someone you love. Even if you try to prepare for it. Even if you know, watching them grow more feeble, that they won't be suffering anymore. Even if you see you're wasting whatever little time you have left with them prematurely mourning. Some people say you never really lose someone you love. I believe you never really had them in the first place; any such conditions and proprietary notions are purely wishful thinking.

5. Huge car payments really suck. Even when you surprisingly can afford them. But what sucks even worse is having your temporary tag blow off the car on the Shoreway, only to discover a new law prohibits the transfer of license plates without a copy of your social security card. Which you can't get unless you show your birth certificate. Which you cannot find -- anywhere. And that Nissan dealership -- nice as it is -- cannot help you.

And what have you learned, lately?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Preferable to silence

Studying Stones
i am out here studying stones
trying to learn to be less alive
using all of my will
to keep very still
still even on the inside
i've cut all of the pertinent wires
so my eyes can't make that connection
i am holding my breath
i am feigning my death
when i'm looking in your direction

'course numb is an old hat
old as my oldest memories
see that one's my mother
and that one's my father
and that one in the hat, that's me
it's a skill i'd hoped to abandon
when i got out on the open road
but any more pent up emotion
and i think i'm gonna explode

there's never been an endeavor so strange
as trying to slow the blood in my veins
to keep my face blank
as a stone that just sank
until not a ripple remains
i am high above the tree line
sitting cross legged on the ground
when all of the forbidden fruit has fallen and rotted
that's when i'm gonna come down

'course numb is an old hat
old as my oldest memories
see that one's my mother
and that one's my father
and that one in the hat, that's me
it's a skill i'd hoped to abandon
when i got out on the open road
but any more pent up emotion
and i think i'm gonna explode

---Ani DiFranco

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Olberporn of the Week

Because I had the greatest dream about him this morning - until C came and slammed my bedroom door because "your window fan is making me freeze to death." Freezing or killing the best dream ever: which is more cruel, I ask?

Anyway, here's my gratuitous Olbermann ogling, long delayed due to computer problems. It's past due, since he reported on Thursday how during a Medicare "town hall" meeting everyone arose to meet the President, save one senior citizen in the front row. Bush apparently said, "You look mighty comfortable" to the gentleman, chiding him for not standing. The man was in a wheelchair.

Way to go. He deserved Worst Person of the Week for that gaffe.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Jack Cafferty: America on brink of dictatorship

Forget vindication for everything we'd suspected would happen since the Patriot Act began. I'm too frightened -- and when CNN's Jack Cafferty backs me up on America's slide into FascistLand, there are no more words:

JACK CAFFERTY: I don't know about wisdom but you'll get a bit of outrage. We better hope nothing happens to Arlen Specter, the Republican head of the Judiciary Committee, because he might be all that's standing between us and a full blown dictatorship in this country. He's vowed to question these phone company executives about volunteering to provide the government with my telephone records and yours, and tens of millions of other Americans.

Shortly after 9-11, AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth began providing the super secret NSA with information on phone calls of millions of our citizens, all part of the war on terror, President Bush says.

Why don't you go find Osama Bin Laden and seal the country's borders and start inspecting the containers that come into our ports?

The President rushed out this morning in the wake of this front page story in USA Today and he declared the government's doing nothing wrong and all of this is just fine.

Is it? Is it legal?

Then why did the Justice Department suddenly drop its investigation of the warrantless spying on citizens? Because the NSA said Justice Department lawyers didn't have the necessary security clearance to do the investigation.

Read that sentence again.

A secret government agency has told our Justice Department that it's not allowed to investigate it. And the Justice Department just says okay and drops the whole thing.

We're in some serious trouble here boys and girls.

Here's the question.

"Does it concern you that your phone company may be voluntarily providing your phone records to the government without your knowledge or permission?"

If it doesn't it sure as hell ought to.

It sure does, Jack. Has for about five years. Where's everyone been, anyway? And where are they now?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Riddle me this, Batman

What has 1200 square feet, five people - four teens, one adult, four cats, one dog and a burning need for a maid?

If you said my house, you'd be right. Gah! It's scary. Temporary, but scary. We'll lose three people in July, if all goes well, my oldest living with her grandparents during mom's hip surgery and beyond. (Said arrangement the cause of this Faustian bargain resulting in our newest family additions, Shoova and James.)

Aside from the noise, constant interruptions, comings and goings and general surliness of teenagers, it's all going better than expected. I've known both of them for awhile (though never quite as well as when you share a single bathroom and shower). In a way, I feel alot younger and more alive than I have in years. Something about hanging with the unjaded, hopeful and energetic 18 year old boys that might rub off. Great antidote for all the work and sorrow going on just a few streets away.

But days off are history. Wednesdays are eaten by yard work, cooking and doctor's appointments for the parents. Weekends are for trying to do that stuff at my own house. Unlike the other day, I'm not bitching about it right now. It just is. Shoova and James, like C & G, actually help keep the focus light and fun.

We do, however, need a bigger house and a second bathroom.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Stephen Colbert -- my hero, now more than ever

Not having your own computer really sucks.

I totally missed the hullabaloo over Stephen Colbert's brilliant excoriation of Bush at the White House Press Correspondents' Dinner.


Well, part of the problem is the fact the press was eviscerated by Colbert's comments -- makes it a little rough to keep giving them airplay. The other part might be that people expected Colbert to be a "funny-haa-haaa" performer; they couldn't wrap their heads around the fact he's a brilliant satirist who may be the only person who ever put to good use having Bush as a brief captive audience.

Reading the transcript (damn library computers - no speakers!) my mouth fell to the floor and stayed there straight through the point where he mocks Bush's penchant (and obvious disdain shown by Bush) for giving reporters cheesy nicknames.

Just a few excerpts, and the link should you wish to view what will go down in history as a performance as edgy, vital and amazing as anything by Lenny Bruce:

"Now, I know there are some polls out there saying this man has a 32% approval rating. But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in "reality." And reality has a well-known liberal bias.
So, Mr. President, please, pay no attention to the people that say the glass is half full. 32% means the glass -- it's important to set up your jokes properly, sir. Sir, pay no attention to the people who say the glass is half empty, because 32% means it's 2/3 empty. There's still some liquid in that glass is my point, but I wouldn't drink it. The last third is usually backwash."

"Okay, look, folks, my point is that I don't believe this is a low point in this presidency. I believe it is just a lull before a comeback. I mean, it's like the movie "Rocky." All right. The president in this case is Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed is -- everything else in the world. It's the tenth round. He's bloodied. His corner man, Mick, who in this case I guess would be the vice president, he's yelling, "Cut me, Dick, cut me!," and every time he falls everyone says, "Stay down! Stay down!" Does he stay down? No. Like Rocky, he gets back up, and in the end he -- actually, he loses in the first movie.

"I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message: that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound -- with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world."

Bravo, Stephen. You spoke for the non-backwash Americans.

To see it all, click here.

Apres "The Great Deluge"

The first full-length book chronicling Hurricane Katrina and its immediate aftermath, The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley, is long on outrage and pointed fingers (perhaps rightly) but short on insight.

Some would say it suffers from too much emotional closeness, as Brinkley is a history professor at Tulane University and a native of New Orleans. Given the scale of said tragedy, the understandable outrage and horror at our ineffective, inert government, I'm not sure any such overage could exist.

That said, Katrina's usual suspects: Nagin, Brownie, Chertoff and Bush, deservedly fare poorly. During an interview with Don Imus on MSNBC this morning, Brinkley stated that Bush's problem during the hurricane was one of bad PR -- he "didn't have a bullhorn moment" and didn't "find a way to connect" with the predominantly minority citizens suffering through unimagineable loss and horror.

Sorry, Doug. You lost me right there. It wasn't about PR, or about bullhorn moments. It was about taking the bull by the horns at the precise moment doing so mattered most. That's not something you can fix with the right staging, or scripting after the fact. As the latest 31 percent Gallup poll approval rating reflects, Americans saw the empty Presidential suit for what it really is, and haven't forgotten.

The best thing about Brinkley's book is that many many others will follow. Hopefully at least one of them will get it right.

Monday, May 08, 2006

What's the cab fare for a trip to crazy?

Rip out the table
we need room to move
in a life unstable
you're so easily amused
anywhere you hang
yourself is home
throw in a tape, fix the tone

Someone take the wheel
and I don't know where we're going
anybody say what you feel
everybody's sad, but nobody's showing

-- The Replacements

If I actually had time to think, I'd be worried about so much. So much so that I'd become completely inert, unable to move or function or even get out of bed. Which is probably why I pop-up like tarts from a toaster every morning at 5:30. No apparent direction, no pressing need - work, life's calling or even nature's calling related - yet there I am, every morning before dawn, pacing and peering out from behind the curtains like some cut-rate version of Lady MacBeth. Right before the big scene.

So it's probably for the best that there's zero time to really think, between my parents increasing disconnect with reality, trying to finish cleaning out their entire house before surgery D-Day of June 1, Christie's issues and her two friends I've apparently unknowingly adopted for the next few months, the new courts, old courts and looking at possibly moving soon...

Because if stopping for a moment, even just to think, weren't such an unaffordable luxury right now, I'd realize what it feels like to be so far in over your head that drowning seems a reasonable, if not the only, way to bring some peace. The built-in failure of all of this would be just too obvious. If I had time to see the oncoming train, I might actually try to sever the cords connecting me to the track.

No such luck.

Monday, May 01, 2006

And what if tomorrow never arrives?

As the elevator doors snapped open and just as quickly closed, I caught only a glimpse of her red hair and tired smile, a slight flicker of recognition passing through her eyes. Then, just as quickly as she'd arrived she was gone.

A free spirited survivor of the Haight Ashbury days, Arlyne and I knew one another in passing. She had her court turf; I had mine. We shared the parking garage for cigarettes, and even then only by occasional happy coincidence. The only other thing we shared were mutual friends: Nancy, Luann, Joanie, Helen -- all fixtures long before I arrived, years of shared collecting: partying, husbands, memories, stories and of course, legal records. Arlyne was the oldest of the bunch, but hardly looked it. I couldn't believe it when she said she was nearly 70.

She didn't like or believe in doctors, and said she didn't want to know when her time was up. She was arty, funny, friendly and kind.

I was doing her court records for her the past few weeks, waiting for her surgery, recovery and return after removal of a mass from her brain. Today I heard the court clerks say she died Friday. I'm very sad over this woman's passing, and yet we didn't really know each other well. We never partied together, like me and crazy redhead Luann, or shared cancer stories, like Luann's mom and I do - or even talked men and relationships, like Nancy, Helen and me.

It just seemed like we were kindred spirits in many ways, except one: Arlyne lived her life exactly as she wanted to live it. She wasn't waiting around for this, that or the other event to happen so she could finally do what made her happy. She just did it.

This has been on my mind all day long -- how important it is not to squander time, or live with regrets. Because you just never know.

Wish I could say it made me happier and less afraid about my recent big life choices - the car, the whole "should I stay or should I go" choice that has to be made by this weekend, everything involved in this latest risky venture. . .

But it doesn't.

What it does in some weird way is make me more afraid; getting mired down further in debt and adult responsibility is moving away from what should be my path and on to one that belongs to someone entirely different. When all is said and done, I'm not meant to be this person -- this person that takes care of everyone else --- who couldn't keep alive house plants not that long ago. Mortgages, bridge loans, new dwellings and new cars all feel like bigger traps to me.

Some days I just want to run screaming from all of it. But I can't.

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