Monday, December 4, 2006

In his new book “The God Delusion,” Richard Dawkins talks about religious hallucinations in terms of brain activity. He describes how the brain flips through stored images in order to match what it knows already with what it is seeing in order to identify it. Most of the time, we are unaware of this process. It happens very quickly and automatically.

On Saturday morning, my conscious self and my unconscious brain melded into one being for a moment. It was, to say the least, interesting and, of course, happened in the most mundane of circumstances.

Pete had computer training on Saturday and Sunday afternoon this past weekend, leaving me free to make a mess in the living room, painting a small vanity table he had picked up for me. Balancing my make up pots on the sink has led to more than a little exasperation and at least one unfortunate spill. The last thing a partner needs to hear in the morning is a yell of growling anger from his or her beloved, so he took matters into his own hands, found this little piece of furniture on Craig’s List, and bought it for me. It’s a trashy, cheap little piece, a filler for now until such time as we have the resources to redo the bathroom.

And it is almost entirely beyond the point.

The house is a mess. It has been a mess since before Thanksgiving when we hosted a late birthday gathering and had to leave in the morning before being able to clean, and I have not yet caught up. The mess has stayed one step ahead of me. And it has started to make me crazy. Getting that vanity out of the guestroom, painted, and into the bathroom was a First Thing that needed to happen, and it of course led to other things. The bathroom itself had to be reorganized, the piles of paper and books in the living room had to be put away, and things from both rooms had to be transferred to the basement. With Pete away for most of the day, I could make bigger messes with organization as the end result, and not make him loony in the process.

At around 11:30 on Saturday morning, I decided to take a stack of books downstairs to the area where Pete has started building bookshelves. I went down the basement steps to go straight across to the far wall and deposit them, when I stopped just short of a floor rug we have down there. It’s a lovely old cream-colored antique with rosy flowers along the edges, and it was Pete’s. On it was an object. This is where my brain kicked in, and I came along for the cognition ride:

Hazy dark spot ahead of me.
Object on floor.
Object on floor that was not there before.

(I could actually see images flipping through my head and the accompanying identifiers. It was like a slideshow with floating captions.)

Stuffed animal.
Real animal.
Real animal, not moving

(I don’t know when I have ever stood so still in my life. I was just standing there in my pj’s with a stack of books, in my basement, while my brain worked.)

Real animal on floor that was not there before, not moving.
Dead animal.
Dead rat.

There may as well have been a soundtrack to this part:

*Drum beat like thunderclap*
Insert close-up still of ringed, naked tail snaked out behind…

*Drum beat like thunderclap*
Insert close-up still of half-open black eye reflecting pinpoint of light…

*Drum beat like thunderclap*
Insert close-up still of little feet curled under dark grey furry body…

At this point, I became very aware of my reactions: my heart was racing; I had not blinked; I was very still and breathing through my nose. I became aware that I was frightened. Then I became aware that I did not know what to do. I knew I could not proceed and step over the rat and deposit my books in their intended position. I knew that I could not pick up the rat and dispose of it. And I realized that I was being a girl, and it made me mad at myself. I turned around on the spot, deposited the stack of books near the steps, and went back upstairs.

I did not want to return to the basement. I did not even want to be in the house with the dead rat. I was being totally illogical and irrational, and it pissed me off. I sent Pete a text message that read “dead rat in basement. being a girl. leaving now.”

He called in a remarkably short amount of time and said that he would take care of it when he came home for lunch. I went to the bookstore. Pete came home and buried the rat in the back yard.

“Did you say a few words?” I asked.

“I did, actually. I said ‘Poor rat. You get a bad rap.’”

I figure that Hazel, one of our female cats, and the only one of the two who mixes with the other cats, had caught and killed the rat. This was by deduction. She is the fiercest and the youngest. She was a stray. She spends a lot of time in the basement near the holes by which we now think the rat entered. I am guessing that one of the draws for this area has been the scratching and smells that she has detected and the hope that she would one day catch one it venturing into the house proper (it was under the crawl space under the new kitchen, I think). Sometime between Thursday night and Saturday morning, it, or one of them, did indeed make this unfortunate mistake, and she was there.

The fun thing now is getting rid of them. Assuming that there are more. I figured “OK, we’ll seal up the holes around the power lines that come in from the crawl space and get the squirrel corn out of the basement, and then I will call someone and have them take a look down there because there is no way I am taking that vent off and shining a light in there. But I guess that the whole Black Death/Rabies thing has sort of given rats a bad name because when I called a highly rated local pest control company, the guy told me to call the City of Saint Paul, and they would come out and bait the sewers. I could cover the drain, he said, and put out snappy rat traps, but that was about all. When I said that I thought they might have gotten in through my crawl space, the guy said that then I might have a broken sewer line, and I would have to call a plumber. When I said that my ex-husband had trapped a rat in the garage five years ago, he said I must have had garbage back there.

What was that all about? Don’t they “do” rats? Do I need a Pied Piper? I was ready to pay them to come over, take the vent off the crawlspace, shine a light, set some traps, and see if they could see any holes where they got in. I guess I should not feel so bad that I reacted illogically if even the professionals don’t want to come over.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Just Another Cat Story

While at Menards—a local, less menacing version of the Home Despot, I picked up a few cat toys. Max—the middle child, our Jan Brady, the weird one—likes to carry things around in his mouth, and he also likes to dismantle small stuffed animals, which he then carries around in his mouth (he took apart a small, jointed cat stuffed animal once and carried the mangled head around for weeks), so I bought little rubbery Koosh™ ball type thingies and also little puffs. There are a few scattered about the house now, and Max tends to squirrel them away. They appear every once in awhile, most often in the middle of the night accompanied by claws-on-wood scrabblings and astoundingly loud little cat feet. The purple one has been out most often lately, and I call him Arnold because that is what Ginny named her pygmy puff.

Last night, we bought our first Christmas tree as a couple and brought it in. Anything new in the house is cause for celebration by our four-legged housemates, and when that new thing is large, smells of the outdoors, and is accompanied by much moving of furniture, it’s practically a party. Fritz, the elder of the tribe, got out Arnold and started racing about the room as we attempted to adjust the tree in its red and green stand. Just a couple of evenings before, he had brought Arnold into the living room in his mouth and was vocalizing in what we have always thought was his mournful howl. We were sitting right there on the couch, and it’s a sound he usually only makes at night when he is alone in another room and we are already in bed. It has always seemed to us that he is looking for us or crying. It’s a very sad sound. But there he was, howling, Arnold the purple pygmy puff dangling from his teeth. He kept howling; we tried to talk to him, but he can’t hear very well anymore, and certainly could not hear us over his own racket. It was the strangest thing. He kept it up even after he made eye contact with us. We thought that perhaps he had the puff caught on his teeth and was upset about it. Then he dropped it and started playing again. All seemed well.

It’s another example of humans casting their own emotional perceptions onto animals, I think. Because last night, as he raced around chasing Arnold, he stopped periodically and made the same sound. He came into bed with us, but left soon after, and the sound wafted into the bedroom. Pete got up to check on him, and there he was in the living room with the puff between his front feet, howling. I now believe that what I thought was mournful, simply because it conjured up mournful feelings in me, is actually a little song that he is singing to his little toy.

Monday, November 20, 2006

No politics, yet.

You know, for a movie about tap dancing penguins, "Happy Feet" was far-fetched.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

John Kerry to Abandon Dreams of Stand-up Career

(Obligatory note to stupid people. I made this up. John Kerry did not say these things. And no, I didn't just call YOU stupid. Oh, never mind.)

After an off-the-cuff comment about stupid people was misunderstood and manipulated by stupid people, Senator John Kerry has decided to step back from his long cherished wish to become a stand-up comic. “I figure I travel the country so much as part of my job as a senator, I might as well use those open mics at colleges, expensive fund-raising dinners, and invited speeches for personal gain. And in my case, it’s making people laugh. Or, I thought it could be.” The Massachusetts senator, who ran for president in 2004, has “loads of material” he says, but little time to practice his act in front of a live audience when he is “not working.” “I thought I would try something there, but maybe my wife is right. I should save it for the living room. Or just save it. Teresa’s a riot.”

In an effort at fraternity-style ribbing, Mr. Kerry says he was just trying to call the president a moron for getting the United States embroiled in an overseas conflict reminiscent of Vietnam yet rife with enduring and explosive possibilities for hateful retribution against our country for generations to come. "It's all in good fun for a couple of Yalies like us." He says he was shocked and appalled when Mr. Bush and other republicans responded with such vitriol, though he opted to use the phrase "yucky feelings." He also steered away from the words “acrimony” and “vituperation” and the phrase “willful obfuscation of intended meaning for nefarious political purposes” fearing any more mix ups. “Did you know that according to Roget’s Thesaurus, 6th Edition, an acceptable synonym for ‘quagmire’ is ‘receptacle of filth’? I thought that was interesting,” he added as an aside.

Senator Kerry, who was born at an Army Hospital into an Army family and whose father volunteered in the Army Air Corps and flew during World War II, volunteered to serve his country in Vietnam after graduating from Yale, and served two tours of duty, which, he says “really informs my sense of humor.” His unsuccessful bid for president against fellow Yale graduate, George W. Bush (B.A. 1965, History) taught him a lot about “keeping things light.” “People accused me of being ‘wooden’ and ‘impersonal.' I thought that I could loosen things up a bit this campaign season because I am not running for political office." Mr. Kerry went on to say that, instead of being a stand up comic or president, he was just going to have to find a way to be content with being “really, really smart.”

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

I'm really too mad to actually write this...

They can say things like this .

Or this .

Or classics like this .

They can accuse all democrats of being terrorists, veterans who are democrats of being antipatriotic cowards, and they can insult people mourning the death of a beloved politician (I have worlds of words to speak to on that one), but Senator John Kerry flubs one joke equating the president with a moron, and it's Swiftboat Season all over again. First of all, Mr. Kerry is not running for office at the moment. Second of all, he's a decorated veteran who actually served this country in a foreign war.

Republicans, shut up already.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Rush to Criticize

On his October 23, 2006 broadcast, Rush Limbaugh, notoriously not hypocritical Konservative talk show host, accused Michael J. Fox of “acting.” As Mr. Fox is, in fact, a retired actor, Mr. Limbaugh got his research straight on at least one account, barring the use of the present tense, which I will let slide.
That’s about where his “facts” appear to leave off.

Normally, I don't bother to comment on Rush Limbaugh as he is so plainly moronic, but this time, I think I want to lend him my support. Bear with me...

Mr. Fox is, according to Mr. Limbaugh, “acting” in a recent campaign ad for Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill, "exaggerating the effects of [Parkinson’s] disease." Mr. Fox is supporting the use of embryonic stem cell research to help the living who are suffering with diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Many candidates and sitting representatives, mainly but not entirely on the right side of the aisle, oppose such research as part of their anti-science/pro-fundamentalism push to plummet America into the Neo-Dark Ages. Mr. Limbaugh observes that, in the ad, Mr. Fox is "moving all around and shaking… and it's purely an act. This is the only time I have ever seen Michael J. Fox portray any of the symptoms of the disease he has." Apparently, Mr. Limbaugh has spent much time observing the behavior of the former Alex P. Keaton and has not previously noted the presence of such common symptoms. Mr. Limbaugh went on to say that it was "really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting, one of the two." Well, Mr. Limbaugh does know a thing or two about shamelessness and medication, so we may have to give him that one, eh?

Mr. Limbaugh says that he will "bigly, hugely admit that I was wrong, and I will apologize to Michael J. Fox if I am wrong in characterizing his behavior on this commercial as an act, especially since people are telling me they have seen him this way on other interviews and in other television appearances." But he goes on to criticize, saying that Mr. Fox is just “using his illness as a way to mislead voters into thinking that their vote for a single United States senator has a direct impact on stem cell research in Missouri. It doesn't, and it won't."


You know what? Go for it, Rush Limbaugh. Go get him. Go get that little pro science/ pro advancement in health care, fake-Parkinson suffering little former actor. You tell him. And you tell us. As far as I am concerned, you can let fly with all your crap opinions on anything and everything if it will continue to expose the mean spirited, negative, power-at-all-costs core of the current Konservative movement. Keep up with attacking the weak and exploiting the “moral” attitudes of the people you help to misinform and lead into their own economic ruin. That way, you can do to yourselves with your own words what the rest of us have been unable to do with our litany of facts, figures, evidence, and truth.

Stand Up, Keep Fighting

“The future will not belong to those who sit on the sidelines. The future will not belong to the cynics. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”--Paul Wellstone, 1944-2002

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Who Decides, Who Wins?

The “Governmental department whose mission is to advance energy technology and promote related innovation in the United States” has had the remarkably innovative idea to charge the National Petroleum Council and its chairman, former Exxon-Mobil CEO Lee Raymond, to head a federally(read: tax-payer)-funded study issuing recommendations for the U.S. energy future through 2025. First of all, it’s 2007, and we can’t make a plan for more than eighteen years out when geologists and climatologists are dealing with a data set that encompasses epochs? Secondly, it’s the U.S. energy future, not the U.S. petroleum future we are talking about. For history’s sake, this is what the Department of Energy’s website had to say about the National Petroleum Council:

“The National Petroleum Council was established by the Secretary of the Interior in 1946 at the request of President Harry S. Truman…The purpose of the Council is to advise the Secretary of Energy on matters related to oil and natural gas, or the oil and natural gas industries.”

Oil and natural gas. That’s it. That is their charter. Not coal or nuclear or, god forbid, renewables, just oil and gas. Here is a group of about 175 people, selected and appointed by the Secretary of Energy, who serve voluntarily—they are not paid a salary—as “representatives of their industry or associated interests as a whole, not as representatives of their particular companies or affiliations.” Meaning, these individuals are supposed to represent the industry in general, not Exxon-Mobil specifically, but is there really a difference?

Making recommendations for America’s energy future, even ones as short-sighted as 18 years out, seems to be outside their mission.

To say this is “alarming” does not cover it.

But it’s not exactly a shocker, given this administration’s track record on cronyism, corporate handouts, scientific obtusity, and focus on short-term gain for the few.

To be clear about why this is a problem, it’s not just about “the environment.” First of all, “the environment” is not an esoteric political issue which can be fobbed off on a few tree-hugging holdovers from the 1960’s. It is a category of issues that reaches into all aspects of American life, be it national security, education, health, and social issues. Secondly, it’s about who is making decisions that affect our long-term health, safety, and security, and why.

A secure nation is a nation that plans for the future and incorporates the principles of self reliance and responsibility into its policies. In order to be a force for democratic change in the international arena, the United States must begin to craft a present and a future based upon a safe and sustainable society here at home. Only when we can responsibly take care of ourselves can we be expected to be a responsible player in the welfare of the international community. This idea of security encompasses not only our military policies but our social policies, our environmental policies, our educational policies—indeed, our democracy as a whole. Our nation is only as strong as our citizens. Our businesses are only as strong as our workers. And our future is only as secure as our ability to sustain ourselves. We cannot sustain ourselves with short-sighted energy policies that both contribute to questionable regimes overseas and pollute our citizens, giving unimaginable economic succor to a very small minority at great expense to the majority. The continued support of a fossil-fuel based economy takes away from entrepreneurialism and opportunity for growth in the emerging field of renewable energy, to say nothing of the funneling of American resources into overseas coffers which may in turn support forces which radically oppose the United States.

Appointing individuals who have personal, financial interests in furthering these incredibly damaging policies is unethical, and it is antithetical to the security of the United States. Mr. Raymond and Exxon-Mobil have supported the anti-scientific denial of global warming for prurient economic reasons, and this is downright embarrassing. It is shameful to continue to reward individuals who persist in ignoring or obfuscating irrefutable scientific fact. It will be disastrous to craft our nation’s future energy policies on the recommendations of a self-interested minority. This is no time for the United States to lapse into a pre-Enlightenment fugue combining propaganda and denial with an almost pathological pursuit of power for its own sake. This appointment is a wrongheaded decision and a bold-faced giveaway to an industry that has been working against America’s future for decades.


Oh my goodness.... the Department of Energy seems totally committed to renewable energy, sustainability, and conservation. That's excellent. It's about time...But... wait a moment...

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Aren't we all...
aren't we all

Friday, September 22, 2006

Notes during an acoustic performance

No one says "I am over you" unless they aren't. Wading waste deep in hammers pipes wrenches jewelerspliers cameras paintbrushes knots pocketknives bottles motorcycles;
"I am over you."

There's no way to make the exit sign pretty, it's just time to go.

When you trace everything to its source, you will find that we are all eating stone.
When you trace everything to its source, you will find that there is none.
When you can't remember without concentration
without references of apartments past
or jobs once held
"Where was I when...?"
When even the list of names has faded.

Tired of suicide poets
tired of the tortured soul tired of drunken death tired of the gutter and refuse
give me a song give me a poet who loves through long life give me high notes off a tin ceiling silver moths by the canister lights

It's all I want now almost the only thing I remember these cowardly lion noises the funny faces pulled your cartoon voice your singing voice your talking voice wading waist deep in you.

Give me an example to live by.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Labor's Love Lost

I have oceans of time for those who actually love me.

The time I passed in love with those who were not you was time I passed getting ready to love you, and I can thank each one of them for his high school cheating; his quivering lower lip; bags of pot and “dude-ery”; late-night drinking and 19-year old waitress; years of distraction and backyard fucking; dependence and idolatry; indecision and wavering.

Thank you, I say, many thanks.

And I can thank my previously unswerving devotion to the proverbial Lost Cause, my younger, thinner self for her wrongheaded notions of the power to change. I lay laurels at the feet of every mistake and embarrassing blunder because here I am, walking hand in hand with you, smiling, out of a bar that holds so many punctuation marks of my past, without a look back in regret, without a glance of wistful What If? because here I am, walking hand in hand with you, smiling, out of a bar, something perfect, exactly as it is.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Thanks, I'm Fine

Other mortals may welcome “help”.
They may look upon “help” as a lessening of their earthly burden and a balm to the stress of daily life.

That must be bliss.

To me, “help” is a glaring signal of a lack of care on my part. A place where I have been personally deficient. “Help” actually causes stress for me, especially when it happens without my consent.

Coming home to find that a guest has cleaned the catboxes, done the dishes, swept the porch, and put the clean laundry on my bed is a red beacon of reminder that I did not clean the catboxes, do the dishes, sweep the porch, and put the clean laundry on the bed.

That is not to say that I do not enjoy helping others. I do, in fact, gain much personal fulfillment and satisfaction from helping others where I know that they actually require help and that help is within my means. It would be nice to claim a selfless beneficence, but that is, I think, rarely the case with humans. If a friend needs something that is not within his or her scope to procure, but it is within mine, I will do my best to provide it. I will not sacrifice more than I can afford either in strength or resources because it would merely render me, eventually, less capable of self reliance and therefore less capable of lending subsequent aid.

One must know one’s limits.

I do not apply my standards to the lives of others. Lest someone read this and believe me to be advocating a sort of laissez faire approach to social welfare. That is not the case. Were the society in which I live a utopia of equality and opportunity for all enforced by a legal, legislative, and executive authority with a sense of compassion, then perhaps I could adhere to the notion that America is, as Thomas Jefferson fervently believed, a “meritocracy”. That plainly not being the case, society and government must compensate.

Help, then, becomes relative.

At present, being born into the race and class position that I was, I do not require “help” from the government or society, be that help a program such as food stamps or a simple act of unsolicited kindness such as a simple household chore. At some point, life could throw me a curve that would require such aid, but for now, I’m good.

But cleaning the catboxes for me just makes me feel like an asshole.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Jesus Had a Horcrux

I am not going to get into my whole Joseph Campbell myth analogy between The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, and how I believe I can use the former to predict how the latter will turn out; because that sort of thing is really only interesting to, well, a whole bunch of people with whom I really don’t want to "hang". But as this country seems to be simply saturated in sticky Jesus stuff, that poor, young, misinterpreted lad is often on my mind. Kristians like to feel persecuted in America because I guess they are being mistreated and ignored, and there is a War on Christianity, though I did not know that America could sustain more than one War on a Noun. Even though Kristians seem to have infiltrated every aspect of public life, since you can’t say "Merry Christmas" in the office anymore if you work in the public sector, I guess they must be right. Modern persecution is really rough.

Then I read something like this:
"Pope's Top Exorcist Says Harry Potter Is 'King Of Darkness'"

This is yet another example of how the people in charge of the Roman Catholic Church really get it, you know?

Wow! First of all, "Pope’s Top Exorcist"? How do you get that job? And, What century is this? Secondly, "Harry Potter is ‘King of Darkness’"? Mr. Top Exorcist (or is that Rev. Top Exorcist? Fr. Top Exorcist?) is clearly confusing Voldemort with Harry, which I can totally understand because they are, indeed, so similar in so many ways. But if he really does mean Harry, himself, then I bet Harry, who already knows he is pretty important, really had no idea how important he is and how much power he truly wields. Book Seven is going to be GOOD.

The article goes on to quote Top Exorcist Man as saying "Magic is always a turn to the devil." (This guy is also the president of the International Association of Exorcists, which is definitely an annual meeting that I want to attend.) He says that "the series contains many positive references to ‘the satanic art’ of magic and makes no distinction between black and white magic." OK, so I get it, the "IAE" and The Vatican don’t have book clubs. Maybe they should start one! And it should include a dictionary. More on that later.

Seriously, I can’t get enough of this. I (almost)don’t even need to write commentary. It’s just too easy:

"[Exorcist Guy Who Is Anthony Hopkins In My Head] compared the Potter character to dictators Stalin and Hitler, saying they were possessed by the devil."

HEY, buddy! In America, we compare dictators like Stalin and Hitler to LIBERALS, not fictional literary characters initially meant for an adolescent audience. But this guy has exorcised over 30,000 demons—a regular Keanu Reeves—so who am I to argue with an expert, me with my lowly English degree?

But let’s talk about magic. According to the, wildly inaccurate "Concise Oxford English Dictionary", magic is defined as follows:

• noun 1 the power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious or supernatural forces. 2 conjuring tricks performed to entertain. 3 mysterious and enchanting quality. 4 informal exceptional skill or talent.
• adjective 1 having or apparently having supernatural powers. 2 informal very exciting or good.

As for Jesus, I’m thinking “magic.” I’ll leave all the healing and reincarnating and walking on water and loaves and fishes incidents alone in favor of talking about Easter, the slam-bang finish in the Vegas Show of Religion that is the New Testament: Jesus dies; Jesus rises from the dead; Jesus ascends to heaven. That’s a sell out! SRO, people! (Dark on Mondays and Tuesdays). If that’s not magical, I don’t know what is. The reviews of this trick vary depending upon which gospel writer you ask; It’s like any sort of party game of “telephone”—the story changes as it is passed on, and even if the same two people witness the same event, they will often differ in their interpretation or in what they remember. Anyone who has ever argued with a spouse or partner will attest to that.

In Matthew’s account (27:50-53), Jesus dies and the rocks split, and "the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life." Then, like "Night of the Living Dead", these dead people roam into the holy city and freak people out.

As for Mark, it’s more of a romantic comedy/buddy picture. He starts Jesus out nice and early "on the first day of the week" and sends him to see Mary Magdalene "out of whom he had driven seven demons" (snicker). She in turn went to tell the others, who, sanely, did not believe the woman. So Jesus appeared to two other mourners, who were, in turn, also not believed. Finally, he went to the remaining 11 disciples, while they were eating, and finally got his point across, which seems like what he should have in the first place. He chastised them. It’s unclear whether or not he had any food, but he asked them to go out and preach the good news about baptism and salvation and going to hell and whatnot.

According to John, Jesus was "alive" for 40 days before he ascended, so he had time to do "many other things as well." Apparently, at least in John, Jesus was very efficient, if vague, for "If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written." I guess we are just supposed to trust him.

It all sounds pretty magical to me. How does one rise from the dead without magic? How is having supernatural powers that supposedly come from God different from magic? It seems that he was resurrected in his bodily flesh, as well, which smacks of dark magic, if anything, and if he ascended into heaven like that, is he the only solid guy up there? Is he just walking around, bumping into things while everyone else just passes through them? Methinks Popey McDemonhunter doth protest too much. I think Jesus had a Horcrux.

Saturday, September 2, 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I was sitting on the toilet reading “Beautiful Losers” when my middle one, the Jan Brady of the family, the weirdest boy, the grey-stripey stepchild came mournfully meowing into the bathroom wanting love and reassurance. He had been locked up in his cage in the basement since six a.m. after a night of carousing around the house for no particular reason. (The valium isn’t working.) In the morning I am blind as I do not sleep in my contact lenses and I usually cannot see where my glasses are. It was two of my other senses that led me to understand after a partial pat and an inhale and a half that he was covered in poop. I put down the book and pinned his clean side to the floor and shouted for husband making coffee and tea, forgetting that husband is growing harder of hearing, as musicians do, and probably could not hear me, but it was early, and it was hard to yell, yelling not being normal fare in our house no matter the hour, unless we are yelling at Max, the now shitty cat. I am sitting on the toilet, blind, pinning a stinky cat to the floor and though I am glad that Pete is taking care of the morning beverage service after a sleepless night, I need his assistance more than I need tea. In a perfect world, cats don’t need baths. Maybe show cats need baths, but housecats are self cleaning like fancy new ovens, but like with fancy new ovens, sometimes, accidents happen, and you can’t just push a button or whip out a small pink tongue and make it all better. This was a bathtub shampoo situation. This is what parentage is all about, though I do not believe, or at least I hope, that our future infants will not be as struggly or strong when they inevitably wind up covered in their own excrement. I envision baths being less violent and less prone to skin breaking physical injury than our experience this particular morning. (It’s a gorgeous morning by the way. 66 degrees and clear blue flawless sky, raspberries and tomatoes ripening in the garden, morning glories blooming.) The cage in which Max was confined sits outside by the back steps now, decorated like a monkey might, and Max is probably still in a windowsill, washing himself of the grapefruit shampoo bath we gave him. I am at work, having renewed “Beautiful Losers” at the library because I did not get nearly enough reading done this morning.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Lost Planet

I guess it was great while it lasted, you know? Being memorized by schoolchildren for generations. Having status. Real status. Like I was SOMEONE, you know? (to bartender) Can I get another Makers Mark, please? Thanks. (slugs whiskey) I mean, I know it wasn’t really much, and I was too far out to have anything to do with the fancier members of the club with their flashy rings and countless adoring moons, but I was PART of something. I knew where I fit in, man; I knew what I was. Now, after all these years, to be just demoted. By committee. Like I was some sort of professor who violated the university’s conflict of interest policies. (pauses and shakes head) No. I didn’t DO anything to deserve this. I have been out here, minding my own business for millennia, and I am not exaggerating. People always say things like “my head LITERALLY exploded” when of course it didn’t, but I mean it. I have literally been out here for millennia, and then this happens. I guess I should not be surprised, I mean, they have been debating this for a long time, and I should have seen it coming, but I guess I was just too enchanted with continually seeing my name in the papers, you know? Like a bigshot. People arguing about me. Important people. They had all sorts of other problems and issues to consider, and they were talking about ME. Cold, hard, little me. Heh. Yeah. That was gratifying. I did enjoy that. And I guess I didn’t worry. I didn’t think ahead to the possibility that I would end up here. I mean, what am I now? Is there even a classification for it? And if I don’t have a classification, do I get to keep my name? What am I now? WHO am I? So go from heroic, god like status—I mean, that is what my name implies, isn’t it? to this… this… this… what IS this? It’s all such a crap shoot, you know? So elitist. They set up the rules so that I would not qualify anymore, when they knew all along, all about me and my tendencies. They did it on purpose. They KNEW what would happen, and they did it on purpose. Now I am just a cartoon dog, a Disney afterthought. But I guess they can’t take that away from me, can they? Some consolation.

(pauses, looks into empty glass)

Dwarf planet.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

This is not the tone that I want.
This is not what I want to say.

I want to say that we all want to leave something behind. Material things that will lend to the memory of us and shape our perception long after we are gone. We sent spacecrafts up decades ago to explore, and included something of ourselves in case we should be gone as a race and unable to tell our story. We had, or our representatives had, a sense of time, of thinking back and forward, a sense of how we wanted to be remembered, and we did not sample from the culture of the time and risk offending a far-off race with disco but sent Wolfgang and Johann Sebastian instead. We wanted them to know that we were capable of beauty and love. We did not send the four horsemen and the seven deadly sins. We sent the seven wonders and the sound of wind, rain, and surf. Those spacecrafts bearing our essence, or our best selves, are still out there, beyond Pluto (who is no longer a planet, but that is another story), still traveling toward the dog star. Our best selves. Open to interpretation.

I am not getting there.
I am not putting my best foot forward.

But it’s just today; this morning. I want to make my mark, send out my best self, but it was an ungodly hour, for staying up or getting up. The years have added punishment to the rollicking that would have led to being up until 4:58 a.m., and I want no part of 4:58 a.m. Finding myself driving the streets, I wondered what those other people were up to. Knowing my purpose meant that only I could possibly have one; those others in their cars or unlocking their bikes or standing at the counter in a convenience store could only be up to no good. That I belonged was clear—-their purposes were nefarious and the individuals not to be trusted.

Having deposited my mother at the airport, we returned home and to the strains of heavy metal music coming from the house of the Neighbor We Don’t Know. “I keep thinking he’s making porn movies and using the music to cover up the noise” said Pete. “Have you SEEN him?” I said. No, again, whenever someone is behaving in such a manner, my mind, saturated with literature, pictures violence and dark strangeness coming from behind the lit but always drawn blinds on the tiny white house next door, and the thought of leaving even a small yellow post-it stating “The music is too loud. Could you keep it down please? Love, your neighbors, Pete and Karen” would be too much exposure for me, a mark I do not want to leave, and would open up an avenue of communication that I don’t desire. He has done nothing but move into his grandmother’s house after they shipped her off to a nursing home. Perhaps I hold the grudge of Violet’s dignity, who did not want to leave her home and who was lied to, as old people often are. There is probably nothing going on, nothing interesting, as this is not a movie, just my life, and it is probably as simple as he works odd hours, has questionable taste in music, and enough self involvement to not understand that his noise travels. Or perhaps, like the young men in their slick cars and their thumping bass notes, he just wants to be noticed. To leave his mark.

Returning to sleep at 5:00 in the morning is not as easy as it should be. Sleep is something that I am not good at, and as with all things that I am not good at, I don’t particularly like to do it, not wanting to make attempts in areas in which I do not excel. Not that sleep is something that will expose me to public ridicule; after all, no one will be watching me, except for possibly Pete, and he has a legal right to do so if he pleases. And, as Pete is not crazy, watching me while I sleep is sexy and not creepy.

I slept into a dream with a new house, overflowing with cats and neighbors and family. My aunt Ann was there, back from the dead, and we all knew it, including her. I wanted to ask her what it felt like, to wake up not dead and know that she had a finite time, and had to go back to being dead. I wanted to ask her how it had happened. Did she wake up in bed with her husband in the morning, like nothing had happened, but knowing that two years had passed? Was his new girlfriend there? Was he expecting it? But I did not want to be indelicate. Her husband, however, easy going and filled with humor, responded to her concern over having to be dead again soon with a blithe “Oh, Ann; it’s not like you haven’t died before.”

As I made coffee this morning, up for the second time in one day, I thought that perhaps this was Ann’s mark, for me. Not her mark for the rest of the world, like the terror alert colors that she inadvertently started, not like the mark for her children, their memories, but these little visitations that she grants me periodically. I want to think that they are her, not saying that she is OK, or that everything is fine, but checking in to see that I am.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Morning Thanks

It was a cloudy grey sky complete with drops of rain on my face as I rode my bicycle to work, thinking about how you spent so much time adjusting your orange tee shirt on your arms and shoulders. I could not figure out exactly what you were trying to achieve, but I found it charming. I am told that these things should be irritating me by now because that is what happens when you get married. Along with not having sex anymore.

(In my experience, these things happen before you get married the first time, but you are too wrapped up in wedding planning and living arrangements to notice, and if you do notice, it's too late now to call it off because what would people say? You'll go through with it. You'll make it work. It's better if he loves me more than I love him, isn't it? Isn't it?)

Even your inability to use soap anymore after it has reached a certain small size only makes me shake my head in wonderment. Why don't you throw it away? Why do you hide it under the new big bar of soap? You know that I will continue to use the small soap until it is gone. And because of this, I never get big soap. I am a soap martyr.

This morning a few blocks from my work, a young woman was killed on her bicycle, hit by a perhaps speeding pick-up truck. Both people were probably at fault, and it's a terrible thing. But how do you live after that? I might wish that I were dead, too.

If I were alone.

It changes everything, happiness does. Equal shares in a love relationship. For instance, I hardly ever surf porn anymore. I don't feel an insatiable need to go out every Friday and Saturday. I almost never sit on the couch and watch television shows on DVD and drink an entire bottle of wine by myself. (Unless you are away on business and I have been to two funerals in two weeks and have PMS.) I don't have tales of woe or drama to relate, which has led me to entirely uninteresting telephone conversations with people I have not seen in a while and an obsession with celebrity gossip sites, which are, I suppose, my new porn, as I am having sex, but I am still not famous. Probably because I did not parlay having sex into a career, but those possibilities are behind me.

And all of these things are good. I do not miss the things that have changed. Except for my old body, which was thin and fit but lonely. In this new body, it is easier for me to smile at strangers on a rainy sidewalk or appreciate the fact that the outdoor cat who we have adopted likes to sit in the plants in the front of the house and meow before you can see him. Now I am surfing the internet for puppies, not porn, and I feel linked to you with every cell in my body.

Even the fortune cookies seem to know that I don't need them anymore...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I don't have any answers

As far back as the 1790’s in the United States, when the political parties were developing along with the new nation, actual “upstart” men (most of them democratic republicans) were ridiculing college educated men (most of them federalists), book learning in general, the aristocracy, and refined manners. They believed that these American gentry, the Founders, were removed from The People because of their education, money, and social status as gentlemen.

In the twenty-first century, college educated, aristocratic, wealthy, “first tier” men are using the rhetoric of populism, the guise of lowly origins, a “man of the people” platform in order to gain popularity with the sector of America that resents the intellectual elite and the wealthy. Thus gaining the support of the very people they will grind through the churning gears of their policies.

It’s brilliant. An Ivy League educated man from a wealthy New England family has gained the highest position in the land by condemning the very thing that he is, and the public has bought it. The public, with a misguided conception of loyalty to “God and Country”, has purchased limits on freedom, less safety in a increasingly unsteady world, more government, less money in pocket, fewer desirable jobs, crippled public schools, declining access to health care, a burgeoning underclass, tax cuts for wealthy liberals, and worsening air and water quality.

Thomas Jefferson, the most famous of the “democratic republicans”, might be dismayed to learn that his unwavering, romantic belief in the virtue of “the people” would lead them to sacrifice themselves on the altars of political avarice.

Is this a critical, necessary evolution in the Great American Experiment, or the beginning of the end? Is it just another political swing of the sort that we have been enduring these 230 years, or is it the final ushering in of what Madison, Jefferson, and others of the post revolutionary period feared: the gradual ascendancy of a type of monarchy in the United States?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Wednesday Night

Having come to the realization, two and a half years ago, that, statistically, "someone" has to die alone, that the "someone" could well be me, and that I had better make good and sure that I was happy with my life--the one I could control--my actions my choices my responses--I gave up. I decided that I would rather be alone than settle, having settled for periods of time in the past. I would rather be alone than be struggling to win--his notice, his approval, his love, his devotion. I would rather be alone than go back.

My almost ex-husband in, what I believe was a combination of trying to win me back and trying to elevate himself above me, once told me that he worried about me; that no one would ever be good enough for me; that I would wind up alone.

It was "you won't find anyone better than me" and "I am better than you" all rolled up neatly in his nasal cartoon voice, a scoff at my choices. And I believe I listened in silence or I shrugged or maybe I said that he shouldn't worry about it. In any case, it didn't work. I didn't take him back, and I didn't feel chagrined.

And I did wade through a shallow sea of not better but different, pounding out the same weary lessons like stones on grey laundry. I never looked back to him. Only to me and those tired habits of unresolved emotion that included the fragmentary figures of men past and present. Until I washed up gasping with the effort of trying to control control mold and change what I could not.

Tuesday, 10:00 a.m.

The fish in the work tank have had a rough time of it, though if you asked the current residents, they would probably not spare a care for their former troubles, being, well, fish and not, say, jilted lovers or anorectic college students. It's hard to imagine--being human--overdosing on nitrogen, swimming through increasingly murky waters while your comrades float tangled and decomposing, pale in the brightly colored plastic plants, but at least--being a fish--you would not have the foreknowledge of your pending doom swimming around with you. You would only grow perhaps increasingly tired and short of breath as your gills clog up and your eyes cloud over. I suppose that might be a better way to go than some, but it's hard to say.

The fish in the work tank are all new since the tragedy, though some newer than others. The first four test fish we thought dead having seen neither fin nor tail of them since two were netted and tossed ingloriously into the office trash can--the one by the coffee pot. The new four, orange and vivacious, seem more like tame birds or puppies (most puppies are tame). They gather together at the upper corner of the tank when I arrive in the morning, nosing the glass for their flakes of food. Indeed, their fishy exuberance brought the two remaining, long thought dead members of the first group out of their hiding, tentatively swimming into the open, their more sedate champagne-colored translucent flanks propelling them slowly toward sustenance.

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Tuesday Afternoon

On page 66 of the book of poetry, I ran across the poem, which I had read elsewhere, that made me buy the book of poetry in the first place. Although I had been enjoying the poems to this point, quite immensely, in fact (I like it when poets make me laugh), I was pleased that the initial poem was recognizable and no less pleasing when I first encountered it. I stopped and placed the book on my lap. I was on my second bus, coming home from work, having sat on the second bench in the blazing sun, sweat running tracks down my back under my tank top, and I did not want to forget before I reached home. Page 66. I had gotten on the second bus first, willfully not waiting for a young mother to precede me because I do not believe that the simple act of having children necessarily affords one respect. After all, almost anyone can have a child. But perhaps I will feel differently when I have children. If I can have children.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Monday Morning

The day began at seven a.m. to the wet retching sounds that signaled an imminent hairball that would most likely be quite inconveniently deposited, as cats have no ability to leave these mighty offerings on bare wood or linoleum preferring rugs or carpeting or--even better--an article of clothing or important paper, perhaps a library book. I had the split second between receipt of sound, recognition of sound, its meaning and consequences, initial sleep-caked decision to ignore, quick reconsideration, and final leap from bed to convulsing cat who was indeed on the rug mere inches from the wooden expanse of floor. They must be moved and held through both the primary, more copious, ejection and the secondary, for if they are simply caught and released, they will drag themselves slowly back to the rug or object on the floor like morning glories reaching for the nearest limb (this is another thing on my mind today, but that was the last thing I did before leaving the house, and this is the story of the first).

It was just a hairball--a small plug, at that, decorated with small lavender flecks that can only mean that he has been nibbling at the dried remains of the last bouquet that stood on the piano until the brackish water began to emir that sulfuric, biological cloud that ends every nice bundle of flowers no matter the level of love or sympathy or regret with which they were given.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Notes for something later...

Of course, I am brilliant. I scheduled a gynecologist appointment for the day before my birthday and two days before my fake wedding, but I like to keep things organized, and this is when I have my yearly exam. I know, "overshare." But I need to scratch out a couple of notes here that I wish to write more about later:

1. Not only is my doctor a trustworthy and intelligent physician, she's adorable, politically liberal, and she wears cute shoes.

2. When I get pregnant, it will be deemed, medically, an "elderly pregnancy."

3. Tomorrow, when I wake up in the morning, by the time I have picked up Marina and Eva at the airport, I will be 36 years old. Technically, ending my 36th year and beginning my 37th.


I hope that I have the strength to make it to the stage when Marina calls me for my vows...

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Our State Bird is the Common Loon

The Writer's Almanac, from Minnesota Public Radio, is available daily, online. It comes to one of my hundreds of email addresses, and I try to read it every morning. If you have heard it, you know it is done by Garrison Keillor, and it always starts with a poem and ends with "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch®." In the middle, he puts tidbits about that day, usually, but not always, relating to literature. It's great. It makes me crazy. Because of this little daily missive, I have added dozens of books to my wish list. I have read many, many lovely poems by poets old and new. And I have learned many things.

Today, he brought up this:

"On this day, in 1858 the state of Minnesota was admitted into the Union. It's the home of the world's largest Paul Bunyan statue, and it was from Minnesotans that we got the stapler, water skis, and roller blades—not to mention Scotch tape, Bisquick, and Spam."

He's not kidding about the "World's Largest Paul Bunyan Statue", but I can't help but wonder how many there are out there, and if this is really an achievement. I mean, there's a huge enormous Walleye (State Fish) on the shores of Lake Mille Lacs in Garrison, Minnesota, but is anyone squawking about that? Oh. Sorry. And by the way, there is at least one highly disturbing image here, in the answer to the "how many Paul Bunyans" question.

But leave it to Garrison Keillor to leave himself off the list.

I would also like to add:

Prince: Because short guys who are hot and play a mean guitar are awesome.

F. Scott Fitzgerald: Don't get me wrong. I didn't make it through "The Great Gatsby" in high school, and I most likely will never go back and try again, but there's something about being a manic-depressive crazy mooching drunken writer FROM MINNESOTA with an equally if not perhaps more crazy wife that I just love.

The First Minnesota Regiment at the Battle of Gettysburg: If you have never been to the Gettysburg Civil War Battlefield Park in Pennsylvania, I highly recommend that you stop by if you are ever in the neighborhood. The statue and plaque honoring the First Minnesota are not hard to find. They are cowering in the shadow of the towering domed marble Pennsylvania monument.

Charles Schulz: Come ON. Snoopy had a Van Gogh and a pool table and a spiral staircase in that little red doghouse. He was a WWI Flying Ace. We have Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, and Lucy statues all over the Twin Cities. I kinda like it. The real Snoopy used to go to a vet in South Minneapolis.

Jerry Juhl: I did not know this until today. See? Learning.

Paul Wellstone: I met him. I worked for him on his last campaign. I miss him. Whatever you might have thought about his politics, he was truly a good man, a caring man, and someone whose voice is sadly missing from the politcal arena.

Ethan and Joel Coen

Terry Gilliam

Dr. William Worrall Mayo

Eugene McCarthy: What can I say? Sometimes, we make really good politicians.  Sometimes we don't.

The first enclosed shopping mall: This is where I have to interject that I am not necessarily PROUD of all of these things, but the shopping mall is iconic American culture, unfortunately, and it started here because we were too cold to shop outside.

Izzy's Ice Cream: I can't explain. It has to be experienced.

The Mississippi River: Sorry folks, we started it.

More Northern European Protestants than you would even want to shake a stick at. Even though you could because I doubt they would fight back except with withering looks and guilt-inducing sighs.

"Minnesota Nice" which is not really nice at all, but passive-aggressive behavior worthy of competing in the passive-aggressive Olympics but only if you think it's OK. No, no really. I don't need to. It's fine. I didn't really want to anyway. Don't worry about me.

Target, which we love, but which we wish would stop giving so much money to republican candidates because then maybe all the generous community and educational programs that they have would either not be as necessary or might be more effective.

A remarkably frustrating tendency to undervalue ourselves and rename our home-grown companies such as Norwest, Dayton's, and Minnesota Public Radio.

Minnesota Public Radio

We have a State Reptile (Blandings Turtle); a State Muffin (Blueberry, not my cat, whose name is not even "Muffin", but "Fritz", but "Muffin" is his nickname, and I have no idea why); a “territory motto” from back in the day that went wrong somewhere in the translation, and actually wound up not meaning anything, instead of almost something, which is why pioneers should not try to use Latin; and a state song that I have never even heard, but which is appropriately called "Hail! Minnesota" though if you punctuated it differently, it would be a command, and that would be even more fun: "Hail, Minnesota!"

Fake Pre-american history It’s like our very own little Shroud of Turin, but without the imprint of the dead guy.

LeRoy Neiman Again, not because I am proud, more like, I am repulsed yet strangely compelled. It’s head-shaking nonsense… but I can’t stop looking… and the MOUSTACHE. Oh Holy Porn Lord, that’s rich.

And I would mention Bob Dylan, but he never mentions us, so he’s done, and I never liked him anyway.

And I am a little depressed that our State Drink is Milk. Not because I am lactose intolerant, or anything, but, well... MILK? COME ON, people. I guess I understand that our state drink really can’t be one of our excellent local beers, but MILK?! Any old mammal can make milk; it’s not really that hard or much of an accomplishment, nor were we originally designed to drink it past infancy or without chocolate cake.

All in all, I would have to say that it's good to live here, nice to be from here, and I have no plans on leaving, though it is pleasant to visit other places, and if I do come to see you, don't make a big bother because I don't like fuss and no no, really, I don't need any breakfast, and I'll bring my own beer, and PLEASE, sit down, I'll get it myself. It's ok. I don't mind.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

I took all the drunk

If you were trying to get drunk last night, and it didn't work, it's my fault. You see, there is only so much "drunk" in the world, and I used it up. Did you know that after two Guinnii, and a little more than a bottle of red wine, you should NOT proceed to have another Guinness and a shot of Powers? On an empty stomach? Now, I know that's not a LOT, but on a Monday night? What was I thinking? It's such amateur behaviour. Way below the professional standards I usually apply to my drinking. It's always good to be crying on the shoulder of your future husband, in the pub where you met, at 1:00 in the morning, because you love him SO MUCH, on a MONDAY NIGHT. It makes Tuesday all that much yummier.

I blame this (and the four pairs of shoes that I bought in the past three days) on the wedding. I am going to blame everything from now until the end of June on the wedding because I can never blame anything on a wedding ever again because I am never getting married again. For many reasons. Not the least of which is that Pete (literally) rocks. This will be a break in my usual "blame the Bush administration" routine, but I will really only use it for personal excuses. Everything else that is wrong in the world is still the fault of the Bush administration.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Lazy Insurance

Liberty Mutual is running these short commercials on PBS. I don't know if they are on network TV, too, but I suspect they are. In them, you see some "accident waiting to happen", like a banana peel on a sidewalk, or a rollerskate on a stair. The lower half of a khaki-dressed man walks into view and puts down an orange construction cone or puts up yellow "caution" tape around the obstacle and walks away. This is supposedly because they are into preventing accidents, no matter how small, they are looking out for us, and I guess that a board room of rich people removed from every day life saw the presention from the ad company and thought "oh my goodness how cute and clever" and paid loads of money to produce them.

What the fuck?

Just pick the shit up.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Red Dress, Nonetheless

Don't TELL me I can't have a red dress in Spring.
Granted, I went to Local Motion, Lula, JCPenny (don't laugh, you'd be surprised), Herbergers (again, don't laugh), Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Nordstrom, Marshall's, TJMaxx, Charlotte Reusse, and Marshall Field's, though it seems like I went to more places than that, and no luck. But I certainly thought that, what with prom coming up and all, there would be more slutty teens who wanted to wear red (or IM with Department of Homeland Security Officials) (Great. I should not have typed that. I will probably have an unwarranted wiretap now). But apparently, color is all about the melon now. Cantaloupe, Water, Honeydew, and... is there a Yelllow Melon? There is no way to make these colors look not cheap, I don't care how expensive or well-made the dress is. And for god's sake, I don't even eat melon, why would I want to wear a sparkly one? This is more shopping than I have done in months, and I did it all in the space of a few hours. I finally went online where all the red dresses have been hiding, apparently. I found one. It's in the mail. It's probably too big and definitely too expensive, but I woke up in the morning thinking about it, and Pete told me to just buy it already, so I did. We'll see how it works out. I hope it loves me because I love it, even though it's spendy.

Oh what the heck. I mean, you only get married for the second time once, right?

Friday, March 31, 2006

The First Rain

So, last night, I got home later than usual, which wasn't really bothering me. Fed the cats, printed out a couple of wedding invitations while I waited, and then went to the store. I bought ingredients for dinner, and when I came out, it was RAINING! Now, this might not sound like an amazing event; nature does it all the time (unless you lived in Phoenix over the winter), but after months of snow and cold, and then the dreck that is exposed by the melt, the first real rain of a Minnesota Spring is a true joy. It feels cleansing and new, just like Spring should be. I stopped at the liquor store so I would have something for the boys in case they were thirsty (one of the rock bands had rehearsal at the house) and some Guinness for me and sent Pete a text message: "RAINING!!! It's raining! I love you!" I was so happy. I came home, unloaded the groceries, put on "Confessions on a Dance Floor", and started cooking, which I truly love doing. A chicken in a tomatillo sauce and chorizo sausage in a red sauce with pinto beans. I was anticipating the arrival of my beloved betrothed, as this would complete the circle of happiness. He opened the door in, I came out into the livingroom, beaming, to greet him, and he says:
"It smells like cat poop in here."

*Sound of record scratching*

mood shot

pissed off

He totally peed in my cornflakes.

I said "Maybe it's my cooking," and went back to the kitchen.

Well, of course, he had no idea that he was stomping on a good mood. He was just making a statement. But those good moods don't always stand the test of criticism of any kind. Criticism is, in fact, anathema to them. I am already super sensitive about the cat smell in the house (we have four cats and a small house); this sensitivity goes back to my firm belief, before I met Pete, that I would become Crazy Cat Lady and Die Alone, my nose chewed off by a tabby. It's the end of winter, and the windows have been closed for months, so yeah, there is a noticible tang of cat in the air. I need to spring clean and air the place out. I know this. Pete was not criticizing me, he was just making a statement of fact, but it felt personal. The boys showed up for rehearsal almost immediately, which was for the best because it stopped me from behaving too much like an asshole and making things worse, which I really used to like doing. By the time rehearsal was done, I was still mad, but the four Guinnii had somewhat appeased me. We'll clean up the house on the first sunny and warm day, open all the windows, and let the cats run away.

Just kidding.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Girl Rules

There are certain Girl Rules that I understand perfectly:

Be nice to the new girlfriend of an ex boyfriend with whom you are on good terms.

Be nice to the new girlfriend of a guy friend.

Don't sleep with your girlfriend's ex boyfriends if they are on the "Do Not Sleep With" list. (It's always best to check first)

TELL your friend if she has something stuck in her teeth or hanging out of her nose.

Don't let her leave the house if you think her outfit makes her look crazy or retarded.

Don't toss over girlfriends for boyfriends.

These seem obvious and logical. Granted, we don't always follow them to a tee in our twenties, but thereafter, we should have gotten it together. The other Girl Rules, the ones that depend upon fashion and seasons and "In" vs. "Out" baffle me because they do not adhere to sense. All I want is a red dress for our May 20 Wedding Party here in Minneapolis.

I went into a boutique called "Local Motion" in which we have had Good Dress Luck in previous years, and the owner asked what I was looking for. "A red dress." "Oooh," she said, looking at me as if I was a three year old who was being told that there were no more lollipops, and I would have to settle for lemon drops. (mmmmm... lemon drops). "You really won't find a red dress in Spring. Maybe a casual sundress in Summer, but..."

She really was perfectly nice, but I was just not aware of this rule. I know the whole white after Labor Day thing, but that's about it. I will, of course, prove her wrong. First stop, the best little vintage dress shop in town, called "Lula"...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Strong to the Finach

Pete thinks that this is a rather grandiose claim, but I truly believe that I was the only person on the planet, this morning, who was carrying on an internal medley of tunes from the 1980 film "Popeye" while I primped for work. I don't know where these tunes came from, why they were there this morning, but now I need to see the movie again. You remember it, don't you? It was bleak and purposefully unattractive and profoundly weird. And I loved it. I watched it over and over again on Showtime in the early 80's, strangely compelled by this noncartoony cartoon movie. Its sensibility is Victoriana meets Gilliam, the cast is well-placed in their roles, and the songs, well, clearly the songs stuck with me. "Sweet, Sweet Haven/God must love us..."

Pete may have just earned himself an evening of spinach and Altman.

"Children. Bless their little hearts, if they was really made out of gold, I'd like to sell'em on the open market. I could make me a fortune."--Poopdeck Pappy

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

On February 28, 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of the DNA molecule. They studied Rosalind Franklin's X-ray pictures of the molecule, made sketches, built theoretical models, hit on the correct structure, and went to the pub.

The best thing about this, aside from the pub, is that only two months later, they published their discovery in the April 25, 1953 journal Nature with a one-page announcement including a simple diagram beginning with the words "We wish to suggest a structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid (D.N.A.)." So unassuming. So concise.
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I wonder if the neo-christians would try to have this discovery supressed today. Or what the god-spin on it would be.

Friday, January 27, 2006

What Global Warming?

It's January 27, 2006 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It's 46 degrees. The skateboarders are outside my office, some of them in their shirtsleeves (and they are at least 20 years younger than I am, but that's another story). Now, I know this is all relative. If you live in Los Angeles, say, the thought of skateboarding at all in 46 degree weather, let alone in your shirtsleeves, is bone-shivering. But we are a hearty people, and all we really need is good surface conditions to get out our bicycles, motorcycles, skateboards, and rollerblades. This, I love. It can be ten degrees outside, and you still have to "Start Seeing Motorcycles" and watch for bicyclists. That is not my point right now. It's January 27. It's 46 degrees. There are skateboarders. There is no snow.

I know that this alone, this Friday weather, this January warm-up, this freak of winter is not, by itself, Global Warming. The record was 47 degrees in 1934. But the average temp for this time of year is 23. And this warm -up has been going on a few days, weather in the high 30's, low 40's, and looks like it is going to continue. It might rain tonight, for crying out loud. Rain. Not freezing rain. Rain.

By Minnesota Standards, passive-aggressive as they usually are, this is a heat wave. All those maxims about weather-inappropriate clothing denoting craziness go right out the window when it is 46 in January in Minnesota. Shorts. Shirt sleeves. That guy on the bus wearing pajama pants and an open, fuzzy green parka with tennis shoes and no socks might NOT be crazy. It's that warm. Ignore that he is smiling and nodding at everyone who boards while muttering to himself. It could be spring fever.

Of course, for all of February, it will probably be one degree.

And that one degree will be divided over the course of the entire 28 days.

One degree.

That's all you get.

Dole it out as you see fit.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hey Moses! What's For Dinner?

All these creationists and fundamentalists and neo-christians with their “the bible told me to, this” and “the bible says so, that” really make me ill. It would be one thing if they kept it to themselves, like you are supposed to in America, but they need for everyone to live by their beliefs and feel that they are justified in this because they know what God wants. And they refuse further lines of inquiry. A colleague of mine has a creationist roommate who actually said the words “I would rather be ignorant than believe what you believe.” It all comes down to their belief that this jumble of texts sewn into one book has some divine origin and is actually the Word of God, and therefore you cannot argue with them, but come on.

Have you ever read The Bible?

I know I haven’t, at least not all of it, the Psalms and Song of Solomon aside (If you have not read it, you should; it’s dirty. Don’t know how that one got by the censors), but I also know that you can find bits and pieces in The Bible to support whatever position you want. That is how God was on both sides in the American Civil War and how he roots for both football teams in the Superbowl. It’s how abolitionists and pro-slavery Americans could insist that The Bible supported both of their “philosophical” positions. It does. The bible even tells you how you should treat your slaves. Sweet.

My favorite, however, so far, is Leviticus 11. I am mainly using the King James Version of the Bible because I love its flowery, overblown, pompous English. It’s how religions should talk. In Leviticus 11, we learn that the LORD told Moses to pass on to the children of Israel that they should not eat camels. Or rabbits. Or pigs. You can only eat beasts that have cloven hooves AND chew their cud. Not one or the other. It has to be both. Does Satan chew cud? If so, I guess we can eat him.

It’s all about what is clean and what is unclean, though the reasons are usually not given for the delineation. As far as all that live “in the waters,” you can eat these creatures if they have fins and scales. If not, they are not to be eaten (no mermaids). And this is repeated over a few chapters, in different ways, so you really get the point:
“9 These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat.
10 And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:
11 They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcasses in abomination.
12Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.”


Beware when you ask your waiter for the fish special.

Bird wise, don’t eat the eagle, the osprey, vulture, the kit, the raven, the owl, the night hawk, the cuckow, and the hawk. Oh, and the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl, and the white owl (when do we just get to say “owls are right out”?), and the swan, the pelican, the stork, the heron, lapwing, and the bat. And any birds that “creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you.”

ON the menu, however, are “every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth.” And bugs. Beetles, locusts, grasshoppers. But other flying creatures with four feet? Do not make yourself detestable with any “swarming things that swarm.” No. Also, no weasels, mice, or tortoises. Or ferrets, chameleons, snails, and moles.

I think there should be a Leviticus Dining Club. It would be a heretic society that would revel in eating all the things that the LORD says we shouldn’t. We’d feel so naughty.

And then there are cleaning instructions for your vessels, lest any of the carcasses of the unclean that shall not be eaten should happen to fall into them, or touch them, or look at them funny. And instructions for your cooking areas and fields lest any carcasses of the detestable should come into contact with them. If you touch any abomination listed above, you are to wash your clothes and be unclean until evening. The original “Go to your room.”

Clearly, “God” is just trying to watch out for public health in a hot climate with no refrigeration. Smart that “God” would be trying to keep people from getting sick through the use of superstition. After all, he’s God, and “I got you out of Egypt, and I’m holy, so you have to be holy too.” So paternalistic.

I guess that when we start hiring for the Leviticus Dining Club, we have to make sure that we don’t hire a literalist chef. He or she certainly would not cotton to the club charter let alone the menu requests, but they might wander in to the interview just because of the name. Unless he or she is a person who is willing to pick and choose what parts of The Bible they adhere to literally and are willing to compromise their religious morals for a little cash.
But come on, what do you think the chances are of finding someone like THAT?!

Monday, January 23, 2006

According to Reuters (January 19, 2006), a UCLA alumni group, not affiliated with the University, is offering a reward to students for exposing “radical” professors. Now, unlike the bounties for coyotes, mountain lions, and wolves that were all the rage in late 19th and early 20th century America, in order to claim the money, students do not have to provide pelts of the professors, just a recording. This means that we, the public, won’t be subjected to pictures like this:

that show rows of tweed sports jackets with frayed leather elbow patches, stained and bloody, with smoking bits of American flag melting the thin snow below them.

This all sounds so familiar. These “suspect faculty” are on a list called the "Dirty Thirty". Those who are “considered by the group to be the most extreme left-wing” and it includes a profiles of their “political activities and writings.” So familiar. Where have I heard of things like this before?

I am sure it will come to me.

To be fair, the Chancellor of UCLA has denounced the campaign and warned students that to present recordings of lectures would be a violation of university policy, and many members of the board’s advisory group have resigned. The founder of the group, Andrew Jones, says he wants to "restore an atmosphere of respectful political discourse on campus." But he seems to only be picking on lefties. Strange.

Seriously, this sounds so bloody familiar.

This is part of on ongoing recent campaign to purge liberals from college campuses in the United States. This is presumably also part of the general disdain preached from all corners of the land against “that intellectual elite from the blue states.” Did you know that liberals are responsible for the decline in the sales of American automobiles? I had no idea that I had so much power. It is probably way past time that I started using it for good instead of evil. Or is it the other way around?

I guess, on the bright side, this backlash against progressive ideals that started, well, when Bill Clinton helped move the Democratic party to the middle, continued with the “election” of George Bush, the death of Paul Wellstone, the re-election of George Bush, and the avalanche of books like “Bias” and “Treason” and my favorite “Deliver Us from Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism” (If there were not so many people in American taking this sort of tripe seriously, it would make me laugh), shows that us liberals really are a scary bunch, if we need this much vitriol in order to keep us down. I guess it’s fine to attack a bunch of snotty smarties who vote “(D)” with books, if they are poorly researched and written books. Anything else would fly in the face of their own anti-academic, anti-intellectual rhetoric.

In the meantime, we truly must get our fresh-faced, impressionable, would-be-conservative-if-not-for-those-commie-teachers away from any new ideas, or history of ideas, or study of ideas, or teaching of critical skills to formulate ideas, or independent thinking ideas of any type.

Snotty liberal remark:
Has anyone else noticed that King George’s accent is getting even hickier?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

this is it

"I never thought it could be this good," Pete said as he washed the dishes in his blue rubber gloves while I fed him home-made french fries.
"What? Life, or frenchfries?" I queried.
"Marriage.... I mean, I know that technically, we are not married yet, but..."
"This is it. This is the way that it is. This is how we live together; it's been over a year" I said.
"It's been a very good year... And I love you very much," he replied.

The french fries were really good.

If I weren't so happy, we would make me ill.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Home, Sweet Home

It was the kind of lightning that made Ben Franklin giggle with girlish excitement.
It was the kind of lightning that reveals the murderer, and he is right behind you.
It was the kind of lightning from which sirens spring.
The atmosphere this evening on our way home had the manic quality of an unstable dinner guest with a drug therapy problem. We drove home on a rain black street into a panoramic screen torn by flashing blue-white crags that lit the sky purple and gave the neighborhood an ominous feeling of twitchy, untrustworthy daylight. The lightning was so continuous that the thunder was an afterthought—a low, monotonous grumble, unnoticeable in its repetition. Even the rain was secondary, not pouring down in torrents that pounded the pavement but a steady shower that would have been pleasant for gutter splashing were it not for the threat of electrocution.

Eventually, the rain overtook the lightning or at least matched it, and streets began to flood, traffic began to stall. We passed safely through on our way to meet friends at a tapas bar in Minneapolis. Minneapolis. My old neighborhood. I felt like I was spectating, a tourist… all the pretty lights, all the traffic. All the night-life, at 9:30 in the evening. I felt like I was in an entirely different city because, well… I was. Minneapolis and Saint Paul, though they rub lasciviously against one another at certain junctions in their municipal plottings, are separated by the Mississippi River in other places. That river intervenes for a reason. Aside from the mundane facts of modern boundaries and governmental organization, they were founded years ago, many miles apart at the time, and thought of themselves as different entities, if they thought of each other at all. They still do.

I used to get lost in St. Paul, until I bought a house there and left my young, irresponsible, Minneapolis days behind. It was time to bring a little life to the capital city. Or at least a few tax dollars. From 1841, when its name was changed from Pig´s Eye Landing to Saint Paul, right up until this morning when I walked the half a block to the bus stop, St. Paul has been thought of as sedate, responsible, reliable if a little boring. This was, no doubt, why it was chosen to be the state capital.

On the east side of the river, the village of St. Anthony was settled around1839. Presently, it is represented only by a struggling shopping plaza named “St. Anthony Main” as the city of Minneapolis, which originated on the river's west side in 1847, annexed St. Anthony in 1872. The resulting city was a lumber and flour milling center, bustling with merchants and manufacturing, clearly too unstable to represent the state and host the government.

After all, St. Paul gets Garrison Keillor, and Minneapolis gets Prince. St. Paul has the Winter Carnival, and Minneapolis has Holidazzle! St. Paul had F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Minneapolis had Husker Du, the Replacements, and the Suburbs. (Actually, these things are not so far apart. F. Scott was a wild man.) St. Paul has the hockey team, Minneapolis has the basketball team. Chamber Orchestra? St. Paul. Symphony? Minneapolis. Science Museum, History Center, State Capital Building... St. Paul. Art Institute, First Avenue, Dream Girls... Minneapolis. You see my point.

A few years ago, our wrestler governor made headlines when he announced on a late night talk show that St. Paul’s streets were designed by a bunch of drunken Irishmen. People got upset. Whether or not it was true that inebriated former island-dwellers from across the pond had laid out St. Paul, it is true that the streets are often convoluted and many people from Minneapolis fear to go there. But give the guys a break; they had a river, bluffs, and interesting glacial topography to contend with. Apparently, “people” say that St. Paul is the last eastern city, and Minneapolis is the first western city. I had never heard this before last weekend, so who these “people” are is as yet unknown. It is amusing to me that there are not numbered streets in St. Paul, most everything seems to be an avenue, and the numbers on houses correspond to precisely nothing. You have to rely on your sense of direction to find places and not on an organized system. Luckily, I have that sense of direction to fall back on because I really do tend to appreciate an organized system here and there.

When I started looking for houses in 2001, I was initially hoping to own in Minneapolis, in the same neighborhoods I was accustomed to living. Uptown. Uptown was definitely where I wanted to be. After all, I had lived in the general vicinity since 1992. However, this desire proved impossible, due to my measly income, and I was nudged into either North Minneapolis or St. Paul. North Minneapolis seemed farther away from Minneapolis than St. Paul, and the quality of the neighborhoods varied block by block.

I drove by many places and marked certain ones for entry. First there was the house that was near one of the lakes and within my price range, but was so thickly painted as to hint at concealment of a crime that involved bodily fluids. Then the house that my realtor basically said I would never be able to afford once the bidding war was over. Then the house that already had an offer. Then the house for sale by owner that was priced way above its worth. And then the house that was passable.

My little house was the seventh house I walked into, and I knew right when I entered its dark, paneled kitchen that it was my house. I saw what it was right away, underneath the carpeting and paneling and boxed in bathroom appliances. St. Paul became my home because it was where my house had been living, all this time, without me.