Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Looking Back

So, this time last decade, I was planning a ginormous Y2K party. Remember Y2K? Do you feel a little silly now? I was kindasorta worried about it. My girlfriends and I rented out a room over the liquor store on Chicago and Wells and invited the crowds to come. I was engaged and living in Wicker Park and just barely 30 and on the edge of real life in a way that seems kind of adorable to me now.

Politically, globally, nationally, it was SUCH a shitty decade. It was the decade of 9/11 and George Bush and torture as foreign policy. But personally, it was really good. I got married to Don who is, honestly, the best man I know. He's so entirely himself, so full of life, and (mostly) so much fun to be around. (I add the parenthetical 'mostly' because he NEVER gets enough sleep and can be irritable as a result... I'm working on training him to sleep the way I know how to sleep. If sleep were an Olympic sport, I'd gold medal in that fucker every four years).

I got the job I'm in today. A few years ago, I felt like an epic failure working at the same place, not moving ahead, not bringing in the big bucks. But, y'all, these days, I like it a lot. I like having this job that's steady and liberating, that I'm good at. Some of my British colleagues disagree with me about the job. I say they should take a week working for a regular American corporation. Upon their return, they'd go all George Bailey running through the streets of Bedford Falls. No one polices my desktop. I am allowed to install my own software. I can sit at my desk in ripped jeans, a tank top and a snuggie and no one gives the tiniest rat's ass. These things mean something, I tell you.

And, Laney. I got Laney! I will never forget standing upstairs in my bedroom in Logan Square, in the middle of a workout, having just recently steeled myself to head back into the adoption breach after a series of disappointments. And the call came and they said there was a girl for us. And then the Fedex came to me at work the next day with pictures of the loveliest little girl. Oh, what an adventure! And what a (mostly) joy she is. (I add the parenthetical 'mostly' because she's a kid and a lot of times kids are giant pains in the balls).

And in between all these big things, there were small things. I remember standing in the living room at my Aunt Katty's house reciting Terence, This is Stupid Stuff with my father. Seeing the way my brother's eyes go all crinkley like my dad's when he laughs. Long conversations with my mother about just whatever. Evenings over ashtrays and wine bottles with my friends. Laney's arms around my neck. My head on Don's lap when we're watching TV. The color of the sky at twilight. Cold cold cold winter mornings driving to work, watching the mist rise off the lake. The ornaments dancing in the tree in the front of my house. A random, inconsequential, genuine pleasantry exchanged in line at the CVS.

So, here I sit in the kitchen of my first home. Well, sort of our first home. We owe more on it than it's worth. But, we're not going anywhere, so that's cool. There's snow on the ground and the house is mostly clean and I had a nice meal and played Clue with Laney and all seems right enough with the world that I'm prepared to make two resolutions.

1) I will finish my book. I'm almost halfway there and, at the risk of being immodest, I think I'm onto something. I've been talking about this book forever. It's time it was written. I'll write it.

2) I will, as god is my witness, learn to do something with my hair this year. It's time, for crying out loud. Surely someone of my intelligence can figure out how to do a fucking chignon or something.

I hope life is good for both of you. Oh, what the hell, I'm feeling optimistic, all three of you! Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Laney Hits the Nail on the Head...

My mother is at the Memphis airport waiting for her flight to take her to me. Laney just got out of the tub. Following is a transcript of our conversation:

Me: I'm going to pick your clothes out for tomorrow
Laney: Why do you always?
Me: I don't always, but Mimi's coming and I want to show you off
Laney: Why do you? It's not like Mimi has any medals to give.

From the mouths of babes, huh? Also, Mimi thinks Laney is the cat's pajamas no matter what she wears.

Monday, December 21, 2009

St. Lucy's Night

So, here it is, the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. It was light for 9 hours and 12 minutes in Chicago. In northern England, York, it was light for barely seven.

I'm in a distinct minority concerning these short days. I love them. I love Chicago in December. At around 4:00ish, looking out over the lake, the water and the sky are an almost indistinguishable, soft green. Right as the sun sets, the sky turns deep royal blue and it is like a gorgeous, lush, blanket.

When I was a girl in Memphis we celebrated Christmas Eve with my mother's family. The ladies would dress up. The men all wore ties. All the women in my mother's family have wonderful taste. Except me. If the party was at my Aunt Eileen's or my Great Aunt Katty's, it was always the same. The inside of the house looked so pretty, and there was good food on the table, the grown ups got a little loose and funny. And then, around midnight, we'd leave. I can still conjure up that magical, special feeling: the cold, crisp night, the privilege of being up so late, feeling secure and loved, blanketed in recent festivity, the quiet, bright lights and dark skies.

Oh, I know it still gets dark in the summer. But it's not the same. Summertime dark lacks the coziness and richness of night in winter.

Every night after this one is a little shorter.

People have celebrated the solstice since people have been people; they've celebrated the return of the light. But, there's room to mourn the coming shortness of the night. At least, that's how I always feel at this time of year.

What do you say to a little Byron? I hope you don't think this poem is shlocky. I mean, sure, pretentious dudes who overestimate their capacity for depth have tried to use it for a few hundred years as a means to getting laid. But, if I'm being fair, Byron probably wrote it to get laid. This doesn't really matter. I think he gets night about right. Remember: read it aloud!

SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that 's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Am I Disappointed?

Well, of course I am. I spent some time over at Shakesville today and yesterday and found myself cheerleading for this shitty healthcare reform bill. But that doesn't mean I'm not profoundly disappointed. I maintain, though, that getting this shitty bill through is the only way we're going to any meaningful reform; e.g., it's easier to amend an existing (albeit, shitty) bill than it is to pass a great big old new one. And the current shenanigans going on from the Senate Republicans encourages me that I'm right about this.

That said, it's still a shitty bill.

My title question, though, is more about Barack Obama than this shitty bill. Am I disappointed? Yeah. But, here's the thing: I'm not surprised I'm disappointed. This, after all, ain't my first time at the rodeo. To wit: when I hear "I did not have sex with that woman," all I can think is "god DAMMIT, Bill." Not about the affair, per se. Although a 50 year old boss having sex with a 22 year old subordinate is creepy and shameful. But the godDAMMIT is more about the lie, and the profound disregard that showed for the people who put him in office. Compound this with Clinton's failure to pass healthcare in the 90s, the loathsome don't ask/don't tell policy, the even more loathsome Defense of Marriage Act, let's just say I've learned to manage my expectations.

I hoped Barack Obama would be the agent of change he campaigned as. A lot of people did. But, you know what presidents are best at? Campaigning. He's a hell of a campaigner and knew exactly how to get himself elected.

He's also smart and thoughtful and competent. He's not liberal. I wish he were. But, and granted after eight years of Bush the bar is set just bananas low, he's about as good as I think we can expect. Not exactly high praise, but high enough. In short, and it today's stupid parlance, I'm still on Team Obama.

**********

Will Rogers said "I'm not a member of an organized political party, I'm a democrat." Still true. The right is much more organized, and their base seems to require a lot less from them, which allows them to present a pretty cohesive front. Let me give you an example: in order to prove your pro-life bona fides, it looks to me like all a pro-life president has to do is say he's pro-life. Did you see a lot of fury on the right when George Bush stayed way the hell away from any abortion fights that, as president, he could have successfully agitated on behalf? Nope. He just said "I'm prolife" and the right went, "we win! We have a pro-life president." Eight years later, abortion remains as legal as it was the day he took office. I think, of course, that this is a really good thing. But I'm surprised you don't hear more beefing from passionately pro-life conservatives about it.

On the other hand, Barack Obama campaigned as a "fierce advocate of LGBT rights." And, let's face it, his fierceness had had a seriously tepid quality to it. And lefties are complaining about this. And have been for about 9 months of his 10 month presidency. As we should. Barack, if you're reading this (welcome to my delusions of grandeur): it's time for DADT to go.

All things being equal, though, I'd rather be part of the quarrelsome, loud, disparate, FRUSTRATING left than the lockstepping right. That just feels more American. It also feels more productive. Dozens of time every day you run into something that makes your life better, and you can thank a liberal for agitating to make it happen.

Of course, I'm seeing some signs of the right breaking up their lockstep. Makes me kind of root for the tea party people.

Interesting Things my Kid Says in the Car...

So, this morning Laney was asking me about when we first brought her home, which is a topic I never weary of discussing.

Laney: What doctor did you take me too?
Me: Dr. G, who said you had terrible infection in both your ears, but he gave you medicine to make it better.
Laney: Did it taste bad?
Me: No. Medicine nowadays tastes good. When I was a kid it tasted awful.
Laney: Like frog breath?

And, for just a second, I believed in reincarnation because "frog breath" was strangely evocative of the way medicine tasted when I was a kid. Or am I misremembering?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Something COMPLETELY Different

I may have made this known already, but I really like this band, Phoenix, a lot. I was watching an interview with them yesterday and the interviewer asked them about singing in their second language (these dudes are French). The lead singer said something along the lines of how singing rock and roll in English is like singing opera in Italian: you're just singing it in the language it's meant to be in.

All apologies to Nena (ask your parents), but I think he's right and I think that's a cool way to put it.

If you have a few seconds, check out Phoenix on Letterman. I mainly include this because you have GOT to see the drummer. This dude is bananas. In the best possible way.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Thing I Learned from the Election of Barack Obama

The 24 hour news cycle is unrelenting, unmitigated, dangerous bullshit. Controversy and crisis are manufactured in the most facile way possible in order to encourage viewings and click throughs. I also learned that he who lives by the 24 hours news cycle (hello, Presidential Candidate John McCain) dies by the 24 hour news cycle (goodbye, Senator McCain).

If I had a dime for every breathless blogpost I've read about how lame HCR is going to be, how shitty the senate dems are, how betrayed we've been by Barack Obama, then I'd have enough money to fund my own private insurance for like 2.5 days.

On the other hand, Bernie Sanders and Anthony Weiner have both popped up on the Rachel Maddow Show to talk about how encouraged they are by what's happening in the senate. And, dudes, Bernie Sanders and Anthony Weiner have more than a little game in the progressive arena.

Can we all, please, stop panicking about every little leaked detail and just chill the fuck out?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Who IS this Guy

Look at this screengrab I took from my Facebook page:



I just now realized that this dude's face had just entered my sphere of awareness a long time ago without my actually acknowledging that it's some random dude with a creepy unabomber beard. I'm sure this is some goofy internet hoax. Or aliens? Or something culty? Or maybe a marketing tool to test the effectiveness of web ads? Or maybe aliens? Anyone?

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Paen to Cousin Honey

When I turned 40, my oldest friend who is also my cousin sent me something she wrote about me. It was so touching and wonderful. But she was wrong. She said she was always a little behind me. But I don't think that's true. She's been ahead of me on so many things.

When we were kids in the 70s, she lived in Houston and I lived in Memphis and we wrote letters to each other. She called me Pedro Ramirez. She was Rose Red and I was Snow White. When she came to visit, she made up these hilarious stories for us to act out. We were southern belles giving birth in inappropriate places and then having to clean up afterbirth. I know! But it was always so funny. I remember sitting on the giant sectional couch of her house in Houston, pouring through an astrology book, trying to figure out if I was really an Aries, if she were really a Sagittarius. I think we were.

And we wrote these letters. I'd about cut off my left arm to have some of those back. We were a HOOT! And she was always the one creating the scenario; she was the funny one. I just traveled in her wake.

And then we grew up and some wonderful person invented email. I email Cousin Honey 4 or 5 times a day every day. And she emails me back. She's had my back whenever I needed someone to have it. She's made me laugh when I needed a laugh. She's told me to straighten up when I needed someone to tell me to straighten up. She's told me to lighten up, when I needed someone to tell me to lighten up. She's been my friend when I needed a friend.

And she's been ahead of me! She married before me. She had kids before me. And when I don't know what I'm doing, she's the one person I can really count on for judgment-free advice. As I've said before, nowadays it feels pretty natural to be a mother, but in the beginning it was hard. And she was always ready to give me a boost, tell me about oatmeal baths and time outs, and reassure me that I was doing just fine, that it was going to be all right.

And she has the most wonderful smile. I might be especially aware of people with really good smiles, since I've never much cared for my own. But, Cousin Honey has one of those big, wide smiles that make you really want to be her friend. And, when she laughs (which she does a lot), forget about it. You're laughing too.

She's a proud, devout, Christian. I'm an atheist. She's suburban. I'm urban. She's Texas, I'm Chicago. She's a stay-at-home Mom, I'm a working Mom. On paper, none of this makes sense. But, when I think of the people in my life that I love, that I'm grateful for, that I don't know how I'd make t through the day without, Cousin Honey is right at the top of my list.

Happy birthday, my cousin, my friend, and one of the most wonderful, hilarious, smart and special people I know. You've been my friend for longer than anyone else. And one day we'll be old ladies together. And we'll be hilarious old ladies together.

I'll meet you in Galveston in 30 years or so. I'll bring the bourbon.

I love you a lot! Even if you are a technological retard.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like War on Christmas

I've had this on my mind a lot lately, so let me see if I can get this blogpost in while I'm waiting for a return to an email.

Let's start with this: Jesus is not the reason for the season. The solstice is. There's a reason why just about every major faith system has a joyous holiday that corresponds with the winter solstice: the days are getting longer and the light is coming back. This is nice enough in our modern world, but imagine how much nicer it was, you know, pre-electricity. In my experience, a mid-December day in the North of England is roughly 12 minutes long.

Solstice holidays existed. As Christianity spread it extrapolated its own holiday on top of existing ones to make the transition into Christianity more inviting. For other examples of this, you might look into the prevalence of bunnies and eggs at the time Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

"But, Meg!" you might say, "It's called CHRISTmas. Not SOLSTICEmas!"

Well, fair enough. The name of the holiday demonstrates the dominance of Christianity in our world. 76% of Americans are Christian. Our president is Christian (despite paranoid conspiracies to the contrary: Barack Obama is not a Muslim communist). Over 90% of our congress are Christian. There are lots of reasons why Christianity is dominant, not the least of which is because it's historically been pretty domineering, but that's for another blog post.

We call this holiday Christmas because that's how it's been incorporated into our society via a dominant religious affiliation.

Of course, Christianity's dominance means other perks for Christians. There are no societal impediments to practicing Christianity in America. Outside, I suspect, from finding parking at some of the bigger megachurches (my Dad used to call the megachurch outside Memphis "Fort God". Hee). At the risk of going all Sue Sylvester, you think it's hard being a Christian? Try being a Muslim. Try being an atheist. Those are some tough labels to wear in America.

This won't stop Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the right-wing desperate-for-victimhood-without-the-drag-of-experiencing-victimization crowd from crowing about the War on Christmas; whining about the assault on their faith from the clerk at Home Depot who says "Happy Holidays." I can't wait for Sarah Palin to chime in. I thought about friending her on Facebook just to see her take.

This "it's OURS and you CAN'T have it!" attitude makes me seethe; it so unfair and so contrary to the spirit of the season. And so so so so stupid.

Of course, it's my own damn fault for listening. And so I'm gonna stop. I'll treat it like the leotarded nonsense it is. I'll sing some carols and eat the good food and wrap the presents and trim the trees and have some eggnog and have a Merry Christmas indeed.

Except the eggnog. Eggnog is gross.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More Hilarious Things My Daughter Says: This Week in Cute... and then Kinda Worrisome

The Cute

Dateline: Monday Morning
We went out with some friends for lunch on Sunday who have an 15 month old daughter. Throughout the meal, Laney was playing peek-a-boo with her and generally being entertaining. The next day in the car, I asked Laney if she had fun with the baby girl. She sighed and said, "Happysitting is hard work." When I asked for elucidation, she expanded: "When you're too young to babysit, but you still have to make the baby happy, that's happysitting." Coincidentally, I'm pretty sure that she's just given me a great idea for my new professional title.

The Kinda Worrisome

Dateline: Minutes ago
Mommy: Laney, go put your bathing suit on for swimming
Laney: Did you put out my one piece?
Mommy: No, honey, that's too small.
Laney: It is NOT!
Mommy: Honey, your little nipples show over the top
Laney: You think that's a BAD THING?!?! THAT'S NOT A BAD THING!!!!

If you're curious, she's wearing the two piece.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Shhhh.... This is a Secret!

There are babies coming out all over the place. So many of my friends are having first or second babies and it's got me thinking about the big lie that everyone tells new parents.

We adopted our daughter. And it took a really long time before it felt natural or normal that I had a daughter. I stumbled over the word "daughter" and felt, in general, like a big fat fake for a good long while. And this caused me great shame and consternation.

After a while, I settled into it and now I put "Mommy" at the top of my self-identifiers (even before Raging Liberal).

I thought I was feeling this way because I adopted Laney. I had myself convinced that the Moms who carried their babies in their bodies and then gave birth to them were immediately prepared to put their own needs second and have also learned somehow biologically through the birth process what immunizations kids need and when.

It's what you see on the tv machine, right? First she's screaming and swearing hilariously and then she's all sweaty and holding the baby and beaming and the Family Is Made Whole.

But, I've talked to my fair share of Moms and Dads and the thing is, it doesn't always happen like that. I think it doesn't often happen like that. I think you have a period of time of looking at your kid and thinking "wha?" or "OMFG, what is this and why did I do it?"

But, here's what I'm telling all the new Mommies and Daddies out there: it happens. It always happens. You just give it some time and then ZING there it is. And it never goes away.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Siiiiiigh...

I saw this commercial last night on TV and figured that my various feminist blogs would do a pretty good of pointing out how just stupid bad this commercial is. But I find I want to say something about it too:



Beyond the epic fail of this kind of the obvious objectification, it promotes the hostile notion that women WANT to be viewed as, well, not the sum of our parts, but just parts. An ad purportedly selling a product TO women uses one of the most egregious misogynist tropes out there.

And, god, it's such a tired, played out, done, done, done idea. Can we just agree that we all get it: girls=boobs. Plus: she was asking for it.

Sigh.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hilarious Things my Kids Says, Part Elevnety Seven

I'm pretty sure this blog is degrading into two themes: the arrogance and soullessness of the right wing and hilarious things my kid says. Perhaps my focus is narrowing.

Anyhoo, on Friday nights Laney and I often go to bed at the same time. I was going to make a self-deprectating joke here about how glamorous my life is, but I am no longer the least bit ashamed of going to bed at 8:00 on a Friday.

Instead of stories, we get in my bed and watch Sponge Bob. I know you guys are really blown away by my parenting skills. I was going to read from Proust or Thomas Jefferson, but since she's not a native-born American she can't be president anyway. So what's the point?

Around 8:30, SpongeBob having ended up on top despite the failure of the rest of Bikini Bottom to really grok the purity of his optimism, we turned out the lights and Laney demanded that I tell her a story. So I decided to tell her the story of her adoption again. It had been a while, and she was old enough for me to add some detail, make it a little less fairy-tale-y.

Dudes, this is a seriously squishy story. I often have to stop in the middle to gather myself together. I remember how wee she was, how hungry, the way she smelled and how goddamn sick she was. The agonizing, torturous frustration of waiting for the barely-post-socialist bureaucratic Russian government to act! The unsurpassable joy of watching her push her own stroller through the the doors at O'Hare!

And, if I may, I can spin a yarn. I am an excellent story teller. Each scene a fully realized tableau. Each detail rich with corresponding emotion. If I told it to you, you'd be brushing tears from your cheek, feeling almost like you'd been there!

And when the story ended, Laney, sleepily, said to me, "You know what part I really liked?"

"What, sweetheart," I said, tenderly brushing a lock of hair from her eyes.

"The part where I barfed on the airplane and then pooped in my panties in the airport." This was followed by gales of laughter. Admittedly, from both of us.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I Believe the Phrase You're Looking for is "Kill 'Em All"

All right. So, normally I rely on my friend, Danno, to take down the abomination that is Morning Joe. But Danno has fallen down on the job (like he has a life or something like that) and so it falls to me to sort through this.

I watched roughly 12 seconds of Morning Joe this morning. This is not an exaggeration. Twelve seconds made me crazy. Mika and Joe were interviewing an editor from Time Magazine named Richard Stengel who was there to tout their cover story about Nidal Hasan: Terroristcakes. Oh goody!

Let's check in with out principles. First Joe:

You have people who say we still shouldn't talk about he's a Muslim!

Mika thinks Joe is missing the point. It's not about how he's a Muslim. The real story is how the press coverage of the event didn't talk enough about how he's a Muslim. I think this is because if you work on TV News, there is nothing to see past your own navel. Here's Mika:

I want to know your thoughts on the coverage because there was one place where we kind of cut through the BS and said this looks like it's politically motivated... there is nothing saying mental illness, nothing here saying PTSD, and that was right here and we were very much alone in this.

Joe, what do you think about that?

Everybody was afraid to talk about it. Jack Jacobs on the ground said 'This was politically motivated' and everyone around here sort of gasped.

Mika? Mika found a way to gasp sarcastically. I have to admit I was pretty impressed by how much derision she could put into one fake gasp. And then demanded of Stengel:

Bottom Line!

Golly, I don't know if he'll be able to talk above all the awesomeness and balls, but let's see if Richard Stengel can call out the real enemy here:

There's a lot of political correctness here.

Ooooh! Mika and Joe totally kicked political correctness in the nuts.

Of course, I'm a dirty fucking hippie and so I hear things differently than Real Americans (TM) like Joe and Mika. When I hear the phrase "political correctness" it makes me think someone has said something jerky and pre-emptively disregarded any criticism because only hypersensitive types would be offended. Or, in my dirty fucking hippie world, if you say you are politically incorrect, I'm going to guess that you're probably an asshole; the worst kind of asshole: the asshole who is proud of being an asshole.

Let's examine another quote or two:

Nov. 9th, Dave Gaubatz, author of Muslim Mafia: "Now is the time for a professional and legal backlash against the Muslim community and their leaders."

Nov 10th, Bill O'Reilly: "As a soldier, we can't kill all the Muslims."

Nov 10th, Sean Hannity: "there is a chance our government knew all about this guy Hasan and did nothing because nobody wanted to be called an Islamophobe."

Nov. 7th, Philip Sherwell and Alex Spillius in Telegraph UK: "Major Nidal Malik Hasan worshipped at a mosque led by a radical imam said to be a "spiritual adviser" to three of the hijackers who attacked America on Sept 11, 2001." (this, by the way, is entirely untrue)

Nov. 11, blogger Jim Hoft: "Today there are more reported hate crimes against Christians in the United States than Muslims." I'll let Media Matters expose how absolutely fucking retarded that analysis is.

In short, Mika and Joe, you aren't nearly as alone as you think you are. There are spineless bullies in every corner of the media who are thrilled to puff up their chests and their careers with facile analysis that results in Muslim=Terrorist. And, in the end, if their bitter and suggestible audience ends up grabbing pitchforks and torches and heading for the nearest mosque, we can all take great comfort in knowing that Mika and Joe will be nowhere near.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Profoundly Depressing

I don't believe in god. But I do believe that redemption is always possible, and that forgiveness is among the most powerful forces in the universe. I also believe that law should be dispassionate, civil and just.

And because I believe these things, there is nothing I find more profoundly depressing than knowing that I live in a country where people are executed.

I don't really have anything else to say about this, except, yeah, the fact that this happens makes me more disheartened and discouraged than just about anything else that happens in American government. And that is a mighty big statement.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Man/Woman

Are you expecting another gay marriage post? It's not (although, seriously, the fact that not a single elected representative has the spine to stand up and say that a civil right should NOT be up to a vote is pretty galling), it's about the actual words.

Last night I was lying in bed watching Project Runway, and thinking, "God, these people and their stupid clothes are boring." Is it L.A.? Did L.A. suck all the life out of Project Runway? Even Tim Gunn seems disgusted by it. But that is neither here nor there. What struck me (and it definitely wasn't the clothes because these people are really bland designers), was when Chris (the blandest of them all) said "I'm the last boy here."

Chris is 29 years old. I'm pretty sure he's married with child. He is not a boy.

But we do that, don't we? I've been talking about my "girl's weekend away" that I'm embarking on tomorrow. But those of us heading out for this weekend away haven't been girls for a long time.

It seems as though we've invested some kind of heft into the words. We save them for political discussions about gay marriage and old people, as best as I can tell. For ten years now, I've made a point to use the word "woman" to describe grown women. And ten years into this project, it's still feels awkward coming out of my mouth*. It feels much more natural to say, "a girl from work," rather than "a woman from work."

Honestly, I don't know why it is. But, I do think it's worthwhile to remember that I am a woman and not a girl. I just wish I knew why the words "woman" and "man" seems so charged and loaded. Do you think they are? Thoughts?

*That's what she said. (couldn't stop myself)

Crazy

(I'm not sure about any of this...)

My dad worked in the mental health field. And he was really good at it. He was a person of great compassion, great understanding.

Sometimes at dinner he'd tell us stories about things that had happened to him during the day. And a lot of times, I'd ask him "Why?" I'd be looking for some rationale, some indication of what the person hoped to gain through their actions. "Well, Meg," he'd say, "He was crazy."

When I turned on my computer this morning, I saw several stories referencing how the gunman at Ford Hood shouted "Allahu Akbar" before he started firing, and lots and lots of references about how he's Muslim. In other words, trying to tie these shootings to terrorism. But it certainly doesn't sound like that so far. It sounds like he was crazy and that no matter how hard we try to suss out some kind of rationale for what he did, we won't be able to. Something just went wrong inside his head and 13 people are dead because of it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

On Referendums and Recalls

So, I should be nerding out with V right now, but I got distracted by the Innertubes. This balloty referendum/proposition thing just has to stop. Referenda are for like "do you want the parks in your neighborhood to stay open past sundown on weekends" not "should basic civil rights be recognized for gay people even if you think it's super icky when two boys kiss." I blame California for this. This and that whole super skinny thing. Seriously, have you seen Maria Shriver? Her head is twice the width of her shoulders now. I don't know how she keeps it up.

I digress.

What I'm saying is can someone call up everyone in California and tell them enough with propositions, already? Their influence is spreading and it's getting out of hand. While you're at it, can you also call up Fox News and let them know that a judicial decision that irritates the right wing does not equal judicial activism? You might want to point out a certain Supreme Court decision from about 9 years ago to exemplify what judicial activism really looks like.

Anyone who thinks that democracy = majority rules needs their voting cards taken back until they complete a fourth grade civics class. Else, they need to write 500 times on a chalkboard "Will of the majority while respecting the rights of the minority, which is often the point for that whole third branch of government."

If, for example, a ballot initiative showed up in Illinois to revoke the drivers licenses of people who put those obnoxious Calvin pissing stickers on their car, I would have to vote yes. I would be compelled to disregard everything I believe about democracy in the hopes that I would never see another sticker of Calvin pissing again. In Illinois. But, people also have a right to publicly display how tacky and stupid they are. Shoot, without that right, the networks would be free of Seth McFarlane shows and we can't have that (oh, but if we could...).

Did I just manage to compare gay marriage to those obnoxious Calvin stickers and Seth McFarlane? Oh god... I need to shower and start nerdfest '09.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Divorce: A Tale of Baseball and Bitterness

I guess the World Series is happening. Go Phils. For me, finding out someone likes the Yankees is like finding out they thought Reagan was like a totally excellent president: so disappointing!

But, that said I can't bring myself to really care anymore. I used to care. Don and I fell in love over baseball, I think. But, then the 2003 Cubs happened and I. Was. Done.

Let me tell you the whole sad maudlin tale. What? You think you know? You have no fucking idea.

I'd spent most of 2003 trying to adopt a kid, filing paperwork, being told to be patient. Wait. Wait. Wait. I toyed with the idea of naming the child Godot (that joke achieved a level of pretension rarely seen outside freshman dorms). And then in August of 2003 my father died suddenly. The two or three of you reading this know that already and are probably also aware of how that colored my worldview for some time after the fact. But he died in August of 2003 and it sucked.

In October of 2003, I was sitting on the couch watching Game 6 of the World Series. I was scoring at home using the score book I'd made for Dad so he could score the Redbirds. On the front was a quote from Catfish Hunter I'd dug up. Catfish had just blown a big game (I think it was a World Series game) and when the reporters came back into the locker room he looked just the same as always. When they expressed their surprise, Catfish just shrugged and said "Sun don't shine on the same dog's ass everyday." I love that quote and it totally sounded like something Dad would say.

Oh for Catfish's equanimity! Because when the cursed inning happened, I scrawled through the pages and threw the book across the room.

I had a ticket for Game 7. But I couldn't go. Because I had a work trip. To Del Ray Beach, Florida. Yes. For Game 7, I was going to be in Marlin country instead of nestled in the bosom of the Friendly Confines.

Do you remember Game 7? The Cubs opened up a bottle of weak sauce and tossed it ineffectually at the Marlins. As this was happening, I was sitting at a bar in southern Florida in my sad little Cubs hat and the two or three other people in the bar couldn't have possibly cared less. It really chapped my hide to be losing to a team with such weak ass fans.

My mother called around the 6th inning in the throes of a freakout. I think the rule should be that after the death of a spouse, you should get a solid year to freak out whenever you want to. I talked to her on the phone through the freakout, standing outside the bar, watching the Cubs flail hopelessly through the window.

And then I went back to the hotel. And remembered how I'd felt the night before. I'd felt good. And then the Cubs went and peed in my cornflakes again.

Well, that was it. I was done. If after the year I'd had the Cubs couldn't even manage to maintain an eight run lead going into the 8th inning (do I have those numbers right, I've blocked it) to go to the World Series, I wasn't going to care anymore.

It's been revelatory. I can watch baseball and just enjoy it like the weakass fans in Southern Florida do. Hey, it's a nice day! Am I tanning evenly? I sure do enjoy the repartee between Pat Hughes and Ron Santo.

So, tonight Phils fans and Yankee fans, enjoy the game. Phillies, I hope the sun is shining on your dog's ass. But, all things being equal, I'd have preferred to watch Glee.

****
Edited to add: Any suggestion that I become a fan of the White Sox, not gonna happen. The same reason I'll never become a Mac person. Because then you become one of those people. Oh, you know what I mean.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Note on Aging

So a note on aging. Outside of the bullshit physical stuff which everyone deals with once you start getting older. And, to which there is really only way comment: "Fuck! Really?"

But there are the mental aspects as well. Now, in my family we have a decided lack of old men, which sucks a lot. I wish we had some more old men because that would mean that the men in the previous generation would not be, you know, dead. So, when I make this grand sweeping statement about old men, accept that my experience is limited and so I could be wrong. But, here's something I think is a hallmark of old man-dom: an old man may only have the loosest understanding of what it is but they KNOW they don't like it. And don't want to know about it anymore. And you're an idiot because you do like it.

It used to be that kind of philosophy was mostly about music and TV and other forms of pop culture. But nowadays we're living in this era where technological leaps happen every 10 minutes or so, which I think is causing the old man thing to proliferate across all ages and most emerging means of communication.

I was at a kid's party over the weekend where I made the crack "You'd know that already if you would just give it up and get on Facebook!" To which the response was "I don't want to reconnect with my friends from 25 years ago. If I still wanted to know them, I would." And then there was high-fiving.

Laney was tugging on my arm, so there was no time to respond, but I really wanted to! This misunderstands broadly (and I would argue purposefully) the point of social networking. For example, the people I communicate the most with on Facebook from my past are often people I wasn't particularly close to at that time I knew them in the real world. At it's best, it's like going to a party where you hear what people are talking about and find people who you want to talk to. At it's worst, you find out that that fellow you know tangentially thinks racist pictures of the president are hilarious. But unlike being at a party where you'd have to extricate yourself delicately, you can just unfriend and move on.

I'm at the point now where email seems like an obsolete, clunky way to communicate. With social networking, it's like you put something out there for people to pick up if they want to. When you email me pictures of your kid or that hilarious link, it gets all mixed in with the 800 emails I get a day from various political groups and I feel like I have to look at it right then or else I'll lose it in my inbox. I'd be thrilled to relegate email to professional communication only. But, I have people with whom email remains my sole method of communication, because they refuse to join the rest of the world in social networking. Get off my lawn.

The telephone, by the way, is only to tell me that someone is dead. I'm not really sure why I still have one. I can texted for mortal alerts.

To be fair, I do see one legitimate reason for eschewing social networking: you're old school when it comes to privacy. Which I understand even if I think it's kind of quaint.

But to the rest of you old men out there, it's kind of fun to have people on your lawn.

That sounded a lot dirtier than I meant.

Also, up to Chapter 10 on Brooke, if you're interested (pw is brooke!123 )

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Great Moments in Parenting, the Unironic Chapter

Today, a friend of mine took her daughter and Laney to the Disney Store for an event there. I went to meet them after work. The girls were playing in the play area when I arrived, so I sat next to my friend and she told me about their day. She had a big bag and in it were some fairy wings she'd bought for her daughter. "But, don't worry," she said "I told Laney they were just plastic bags I needed for my recycling."

I asked if they were expensive and she told me they were 50% off. So, on a whim, I headed into the Disney Store and bought Laney a Rosetta (from Tinkerbell: The Incredibly Successful Marketing Tool) dress and fairy wings. When I came out and showed them to Laney, the look on her face was priceless.

She was gobsmacked.

Later, as we were walking to dinner, my friend tells me that Laney had pointed out some dress-up shoes and said "These are accessories. I don't have any accessories. Mom says we spend money on what we need, not what we want."

I've heard it a million times: your kids internalize the things you say over and over to them. What is often omitted in that bit of wisdom is how often you'll discover that you sound like an asshole.

I'm so glad I bought her the damn fairy wings and dress.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Greatest Quote on the Internet

I am ripping this off shamelessly from Shakespeare's Sister, but I went to the link itself because I thought they must be snarking or something. But they aren't. The actual quote about Balloon Boy's dad, Richard Heene... I kind of want to make you wait for it because it's just that good... but I can't. Just read it:

"Heene believes the world is going to end in 2012," she said. "Because of that, he wanted to make money quickly, become rich enough to build a bunker or something underground, where he can be safe from the sun exploding."


Admit it: that's the funniest thing you've ever read. Did we really get punked by a a six year old and a dude who thinks a "bunker or something" would help you survive the sun exploding?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are


The reviews are in for Where the Wild Things are and I'm mostly finding them annoying. There seems to be this developing meme that kids can handle dark and scary stuff if it weren't for all these neurotic and over-protective parents. Blerg.

I am annoyed as a rule by strawman arguments. I'm pretty sure this is one. I haven't heard a parent out there say the movie is too dark for a kid. I've heard a lot of parents say it's too boring for a kid.

And here's the thing: I'm willing to bet that 9/10 of the things hailed as the Greatest Kids Story/Movie/Book/Whatever get that moniker when viewed through an adult lens. Grown ups love Where the Wild Things Are because it reminds us of how we felt as children. Kids think the book is good. But I'm willing to bet dollars for donuts that there's not a kid out there who loves that book anywhere near as much as you remember loving that book when you were a kid. Because you didn't love it that much when you were a kid. You love it that much as an adult because it reminds you of how you felt when you were a kid. Savvy?

You know what kids do love? Farts. They think farts are hilarious. If Max from Where the Wild Things Are and Captain Underpants were both drowning, I'll give you one guess which one the kid is going to save.

I've been a grown up for a long time, but I've never stopped reading books ostensibly for kids. I'm not sure who died and decided that at puberty you need to cast off Maurice Sendak for Proust or something, but there's just no reason why we can't accept that fact that we love those books more than our kids do. And there's nothing wrong with sharing these things that you love with your children. So long as you leave a little room for Captain Underpants too (full disclosure: Captain Underpants cracks me up)

A few months ago I took Laney to see Ponyo. One scene scared the bejeezus out of her; the rest was marginally entertaining. I loved it. A year ago, I took her to see the play The Selfish Giant, which made me weep with its wondrousness. She gave it a 6 out of 10. All this is cool because remembering what it's like to be a child is nothing like what it's really like to be a child. Savvy?

I have no idea what I'm using this expression "savvy?". It was in a movie. But I can't remember which one. Probably watched it when I was a kid.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Attn. All My Chicago Peeps

So, I have a question, Chicago People, does the following ring true to you at all?

Chicago is known as the Windy City. And Chicago can be pretty windy. Picture: it's January and you're walking amongst the skyscrapers downtown. Those tall, elegantly substantial buildings protect you from the bitter, biting wind if you hug close to them. But one building will give way to the next and and as you make your way across the corridors between them, a wind tunnel can strike. Wind tunnels focus the wind so that as you cross them, the wind might blow off your hat, knock you off your feet. But, if you are a Chicagoan, as you brave that wind tunnel with frozen snot on the inside of your scarf and sensation in your feet a distant memory, you'll grab your hat before it flies away, chuckle and think "It's only a certain kind of person tough enough for this. In Chicago, we filter out the weak. Chicago is so awesome."

This brings me to the real reason why Chicago is called the Windy City; because despite those January days, Chicago isn't really all that windy. Cleveland, I'm told, is way windier. And while there are various theories as to how the moniker came into being, there's one I believe because it sounds so much like Chicago. It was coined by the editor of the New York Sun in the late 19th century to refer to the Chicago habit of rabid boosterism. To his point: even the truly terrible Chicago weather serves as a point of pride for a Chicagoan.

Only denizens of the wider Philadelphia area are more vociferously proud of their hometown. And whence this proud spirit of noisy boosterism? Much of it stems from a genuine recognition of all the things that are wonderful about Chicago, the amazing architecture and theater, the sports teams, the brusque affability of its people, the sparkling lakefront. Yet there is one shameful, unspoken reason Chicagoans boast so much: it's often just so much whistling in the dark to cover up the younger sibling inferiority complex we have with New York.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Coupla Things

So, I have this long commute to work and sometimes Laney and I chat (these days mostly about what things AREN'T FAIR). Other times we play various alphabet-related games. And sometimes we sit silently seething over the soul-crushing waste of time that a 45 minute commute is (it could be that only one of us if silently seething). But under any circumstance, whenever I see this car:




I feel like I've been transported to some third world banana republic and the recently deposed dictator of the military junta is sitting in the backseat wearing fatigues and wraparound aviators. Is that just me?

Also, two more chapters of Brooke, if you're interested (pw is brooke!123 )

Thursday, October 8, 2009

America?

So, I'm a liberal which means I hate America. Duh. So, I'm having a hard time figuring out what to make of these two things:

Thing One: Frederic Mitterand, the culture minister of France who vociferously defended child rapist Roman Polanski, wrote a memoir in which he tells us:

I got into the habit of paying for boys....All these rituals of the market for youths, the slave market excited me enormously... the abundance of very attractive and immediately available young boys put me in a state of desire. (h/t Paul F)

Thing Two: In Australia, they think performing in black face is HILARIOUS!



Seriously, if i'm going to carry on being an America-hating liberal, the rest of the world is going to have to stop being so so so creepy!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pardon My Head Exploding

It's just been a weird few weeks. First there was this view of idealized (crazy photoshopped) womanhood:


And then there was this (hahahahalightenupit'sjustajokecakes)"



And how about Don Draper being voted the most influential man of 2009 on a poll by askmen.com?

On the political front, the NRCC is distributing literature waxing rhapsodic about how badass general McChrystal can put Nancy Pelosi "in her place." I bet they're disappointed that Don Draper can't put Nancy Pelosi in her place.. he'd be good at it. Then again, Nancy Pelosi is so old and gross! Speaking of which...

How about this article about Ten Hollywood Actresses who are "past their expiration dates"?

And then my head exploded. And I thought I am raising a daughter in a world where she will be viewed as no more than the sum of her parts by a substantial portion of the people she'll walk the earth with. In a world where braying jackasses somehow wield enough corporate, media power to put boob-to-waist ratio at the top of the general female wish list.

And then I picked up the pieces and remembered that there are lots and lots of really good men out there. I'm married to one. And we're raising a daughter with a focus on finding a place outside the vast sea of corporate, media-driven sexist shittiness out there. If we do our jobs right, she'll grow up understanding that her function in life is not to fit into some pat, played out definition of what a woman should be and instead just be the person she wants to be.

That is if she can avoid the kind of crap thrown at her from magazines and television.

Sigh.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Morning Commute Conversations

This morning we returned to a familiar topic: how much way more totally awesome it is to be me than it is to be Laney.

Laney: It's not fair. You get to do so much more stuff than I do!
Me: Like what?
Laney: You get to drink Miller Lite.
Me : I think you may be overestimating the value of Miller Lite.
Laney: But it's still not fair you can do so much more than me!
Me: You can put both of your feet behind your head. I can't do that.
Laney: Maybe I can do more actions, but you can have more permissions.
Me: Don't you think that's a fair exchange?
Laney: How do I get the mucus inside me?
Me: I really don't want to talk about mucus this morning.

I really think the ease with which we segue from putting your feet behind your head to mucus is really indicative of just how long our morning commute is. Also, Miller Lite? We're really not much of a Miller Lite household. It's not like Don comes home from work and says "Hey, baby, got a Miller Lite for me?" I don't even think there's Miller Lite in the fridge. Whence came the Miller Lite comment? I can only surmise that she's been watching football with Daddy.

Now, had she bemoaned not being allowed wine...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

On Modern Concepts of Civility

Let's start by taking a look at Mr. John Derbyshire

DERBYSHIRE: Among the hopes that I do not realistically nurse is the hope that female suffrage will be repealed. But I’ll say this – if it were to be, I wouldn’t lose a minute’s sleep.
COLMES: We’d be a better country if women didn’t vote?
DERBYSHIRE: Probably. Don’t you think so?
COLMES: No, I do not think so whatsoever.
DERBYSHIRE: Come on Alan. Come clean here [laughing].
COLMES: We would be a better country? John Derbyshire making the statement, we would be a better country if women did not vote.
DERBYSHIRE: Yeah, probably.

John Debyshire is probably unfailingly polite, rigorous about avoiding profanity and almost certainly considers himself a titan of civility. I disagree. I think he's an asshole.

I don't call him an asshole because I hope to change his mind. Anyone who is opposed to women's suffrage in 2009 is not going to change his mind. He is hopelessly retrograde. I call him an asshole because he is an asshole. And people need to know that these assholes are out there.

If you believe that Barack Obama is a Manchurian president, hoping to convert America into czarist, socialist Russia, I am not going to change your mind at all. I am probably not even going to be able to convince you that czarist Russia and socialist Russia are entirely different entities. But if you and a whole bunch of your likeminded troglodyte friends gather together waving signs of Obama with a Hitler mustache or in tribal clothes, I reserve the damn right to call you an idiot. Why? Because people need to know that you idiots are out there.

We seem to be living in a country where, for example, it's considered less civil to point out someone's racism than it is to be a racist. Where a swear word or a slipped nipple send us straight to the fainting couch, but torture apologists offer seasoned wise Sunday morning counsel.

Finally, I want to be very clear here: if you think I'm talking about you, I'm probably not. These calls for civility are all over the internet, always coming from the right, and almost always following hard on the heels of some lefty who said "fuck" in a bloggy response to someone suggesting a military coup of our democratically elected president. Call me crazy (honestly, I don't mind. I'm a dirty fucking hippie, you can call me names), but I would love to see someone, somewhere point out that it's probably a little ruder to suggest that women shouldn't be allowed to vote than it is to say "fuck."

That is all. I am ending this rant. Fuck.

Outside My Comfy Liberal Enclave

-Deleted this post. I decided not to get all up into this mess -

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

About Brooke...

I noticed that there were a couple of people reading Brooke. But I'm told that if I publish this on the intertoobz, I might run into trouble if I really try to publish it. Not that I am hopeful in that arena, but there's no reason to completely rule it out, right?

So, this is problematic for a few reasons. The most important was that publishing it was keeping me disciplined. So, what I think I'll do is make it available via drop.io or something and alert my Facebook friends when it's updated. There a compromise has been reached. What's that? I should be writing on it? Yes. You're right. I was going to tell you all about Rosie in this chapter (who is not nearly as trampy as that awful Teddy makes her out to be) and you were going to meet the villainous bar owner too.

I'm going to get cracking right now...

Dear Hollywood Liberal Elite

I hate it when we fight! Normally we're so simpatico. Mostly. But this defense of Roman Polanski has just got to stop.

Look, history is rife with great artists who were terrible human beings. Wagner was stridently anti-semitic. Jerry Lee Lewis married his 14 year old cousin. And Roman Polanski raped a 13 year old girl.

This does not mean Rosemary's Baby is a bad movie. You can still watch it and enjoy it. You can still teach it in film school. All these things are possible. In other words, the fact that Roman Polanski committed a heinous crime in no way impacts his brilliance as an auteur.

But, really, it's stupid to pretend that there's something provincial or puritanical about holding a rapist responsible for his actions. The message being sent by Polanski's extradition is that men of power and position are not free to rape children. And, frankly, it's hard to believe that everyone in the world is not on board with that particular message.

In the end, though, I think the comparison flying around the intertubes is the most apt: what if we were talking about Fr. Polanski?

********

On another note, I've learned something new about putting stuff you write on the internet, so no more Brooke. I don't think anyone will particularly miss her. But, I'm still working on the book every night and perhaps one day I'll self-publish and you can all make fun of me at cocktail parties.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tricky Tricky Tricky

I was reading a blogpost by the great and wonderful and wise Ta'Nehisi Coates over at Atlantic and in the course of writing about something else he had this great line about how all his black friends have loads of white friends and all his white friends have one black friend. Outside of just being kind of witty, I thought how true it was.

Think about when you're watching some mainstream sitcom on the TV, it's not at all unusual to have one black guy hanging out with a bunch of white people, but how often is it the opposite? I mean, it struck me watching Pysch last night (shut up, I love that show and both those boys are super cute), that Shawn has been the lone white guy with Gus's friends and family on a few occasions. And it's notable, I think, that this struck me as something unusual.

So, I'm a white lady and can only extrapolate, but I imagine it can be a total drag to be the one black friend. I mean, how often do you get called upon to arbitrate: "racism sucks, but I'm cool, right?" One of the many cool things about having Barack Obama as our president, is that he flat out refuses to be that guy. You say to him "racism is everywhere! but I'm cool right?" And he says "Um, yeah, so, how 'bout them Sox?" In other words, "I am not Morgan Freeman in any of those movies. Work it out yourself."

So, in the interest of working it out let's take a look at a couple of virals and you can tell me if I'm right or if I'm cuckoo for cocoa puffs or not. Actually, these things may not be mutually exclusive, but still.

Viral One:



As soon as I'm off the phone with a great deal of my customers I'm prone to turning to a colleague, cussing a blue streak and gesticulating wildly. But I doubt a youtube of me doing that would ever go viral.

How about if we switch it up and look at this:



Now, let's swap out the race there and does this still seem like the a hilarious, joyful way to kick off a wedding? Or would it then be, you know, "ghetto?"

In a phrase, I'm not saying, I'm just sayin...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Where's Brooke?

So, I published the first damn chapter. I hate it. Of course. I'm going to move it and keep my beloved Shouting Down the Well for shouting down the well.

If you want to follow what's happening with Brooke (and, it's quite a tale... I can say that without fear of hubris since I stole it all from George Eliot and I think we can all agree that she was really really good... unless, of course, your only experience with George Eliot was being forced to read Silas Marner in 8th grade which probably means that you disagree with me that George Eliot was really really good, but you're wrong. She was), go here.

A quick post more in keeping with the general tone of this blog:

Yesterday, I read these story in the St. Petersburg Times comprised of reactions to the president's speech yesterday by high school students. It made me hopeful for the future. Seriously. But my favorite was a comment that I can no longer find:

"Hitler also washed his hands."

(not sure if you watched the speech - Obama urged school children to wash their hands to prevent the spread of flu).

Anyway.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Brooke: Chapter One

On a hot August Tuesday, 1991, Brooke stood on a bustling corner in the heart of downtown Chicago as the 78th averted eye and 39th irritated sigh brushed past her, her clipboard and her thinly veiled air of superiority. She rolled her eyes and consoled herself thusly: “There is still nothing more satisfying than having met one’s moral responsibility.”

I know. She sounds like an asshole. Youth and untried ideals can make assholes out of the nicest people. But we hope, and are often rewarded in our hope, that the rich complexity of everyday life will exorcise tendencies toward smugness and self-righteousness right out of a girl. It usually does. But, for the time being, Brooke is as committed to her assholery as she is to the environment. And Brooke is very committed to the environment.

Bear in mind, this was some time ago! Al Gore was too busy campaigning for Vice President to be telling us inconvenient truths. None of us turned the water off when we brushed our teeth. Thanks to the lachrymose Indian, most of us had stopped throwing pop cans out car windows for close to 20 years now. But we weren’t recycling them.

Brooke was. And she was loudly, obnoxiously, and frequently demanding that everyone around her do the same.

Surprisingly, given her passion for the environmental cause, she’d come lately to it. Through her first three and a half years at Loyola, Brooke had devoted herself wholeheartedly to a series of causes: anti-apartheid, PETA, ACT UP. She wrote letters to Lech Walesa and Gloria Steinem. She floated from worthy cause to worthier cause, with boundless energy and single-minded determination. But nothing stuck until the second semester of her senior year when, for elective credit, she signed up for an environmental ethics class. Fifteen minutes into the first lecture of the first class, she found her world both endangered and rocked. Thus was the great passion of her life (so far) born.

She worked tirelessly at all the action items suggested by her professor, putting so much effort into Chicago’s big 20th anniversary Earth Day Event that she almost flunked a history class. But she pulled it out at the last minute and graduated on time, ready to take our poor poisoned planet by storm, convinced that all the environmental movement lacked was talent, doggedness, and an extreme level of commitment.

Brooke and her extreme level of commitment spent their first post-University summer unemployed, waving placards at sparsely populated rallies, petitioning for Greenpeace, and writing passionate letters to the editor. By August, she’d grown used to feeling like a Cassandra, and secretly (not so secretly) felt pleased to be so much more prescient and virtuous than her fellow man.

This particular August afternoon, her moral obligation vis a vis petition signing having been met, Brooke returned to the Uptown apartment she shared with her sister, Celia. She found Celia sitting on the floor painting her toenails, while their neighbor, George lounged behind her on the couch. They were watching cartoons. Animaniacs. Brooke rolled her eyes. Waited. And then sighed loudly.

“Brooke,” said Celia, “Why don’t you just watch it with us instead of sighing like that. God. You can be such an asshole sometimes!”

“I might be an asshole,” said Brooke, “But at least I am an ADULT.”

Celia flipped her a bird with the hand she held the polish wand in.

George, meanwhile, jumped up off the couch like it was on fire. He ran his hands through his hair and grinned winningly at Brooke. Well, I say it was winning, and you’d probably think the same, but Brooke found it grating. It bugged her that Celia’s boyfriend was always hanging around. It bugged her even more that Celia wouldn’t admit George was her boyfriend. It especially bugged her that Celia insisted that George had a crush on Brooke, as though Brooke would be interested in a frat boy like that.

George was good looking in that blonde Midwestern, rosy cheeked, leaning towards beefy kind of way. He was also bright and convivial and far from the arrogant, entitled, frat boy Brooke had pegged him as. He worked hard for low wages as a doorman at a local tavern while studying business at DePaul. He was cheerful and sweet. But Brooke never could see the cute tree past the threatened rainforest.

George was smitten with Brooke. He had been ever since she and Celia moved into the apartment next door. Here was this skinny girl in a message tee shirt with all this pretty, long dark hair. She held forth with such ardor about saving the whales and the evil that Bush was doing in Central America. She was smart and passionate…and that hair! He’d pictured that hair countless times splayed carelessly post-coital across his chest.

Celia threw a pillow at George. “Tell Brooke what you told me.”

“Oh, yeah! The March is hiring,” said George. “I can get you a job waitressing there. You can do that a few days a week to make rent and spend the rest of the time on your environment stuff.”

“Fantastic,” said Brooke dryly, “I can wipe down the bar with my college degree. Dad will be so proud.”

“Yeah, it’ll just kill him to have to stop paying your rent,” said Celia, taking Brooke’s dryly and raising her a solid acre of Sahara.

Celia was a little more than a year younger than Brooke. She was embarking on her senior year at Loyola while working retail at Marshall Fields. She lived a very different life than Brooke, with her head firmly in this world and her feet both stylishly shod and on the ground. Secretly, though, she admired Brooke for eschewing worldly things like work and rent and what other people thought. At the same time, she resented Brooke for recusing herself from the real world and being a burden on their sad, widowed father.

“Hmmm, you may be right,” said Brooke, who'd recently donated a good chunk of her rent money to an Indian hurricane relief fund. “I guess a job like that won’t be too taxing timewise, and I will be able to spend my days on important things. George, tell them I’ll come by in the morning to fill out an application or whatever it is I’m supposed to do.”

“Will do,” said George, imagining crazily romantic scenarios: in the soft dawn light, he’d walk her home and then, at the door, she’d let her hair down and smile up at him…

You know where this is going. You know better than George. George is a sweet guy, but kind of a sap when it comes to romance (and by that I mean prone to confusing being horny with being in love). He’s also not right for Brooke at all. Celia, on the other hand… well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

George took off to go to work and Celia turned to Brooke: “Look,” she said tentatively, “Do you want to finally split up Mom’s jewelry or what?”

Their mother, dead several years now, had passed down a moderately nice collection of jewelry which she’d intended for her daughters to split upon college graduation. Their father took this to mean upon Brooke’s college graduation, and had given his daughters the box in June immediately after the ceremony.

“Oh, Celia,” said Brooke wearily, “Can’t you just keep it? You’re more into that kind of thing than I am.”

Celia said softly. “Don’t you want something that was Mom’s?”

Chagrined, Brooke nodded.

Celia rushed into the other room and returned with the box. She opened it up and pulled out a simple silver chain with a ruby pendant. “Here,” she said to Brooke, “This will look so pretty on you with your coloring.”

Brooke held up both hands as if to push something distasteful away, “Oh no! Who knows who was exploited to get that stone. We should send all that stuff straight back to Africa.”

Celia frowned and stared into the ruby. “Mom wore this whenever she got dressed up. Do you remember? She’d put on her little black dress and the ruby would pop out all red against the black. She looked so pretty. When she came home she’d come into the bedroom and kiss us good night. Do you remember? She’d come in on tiptoes, smelling of cigarettes and perfume and she’d lean over and kiss us. When she stood up after kissing me, I remember the closet light catching in the ruby and thinking how much I loved that smell and how pretty Mommy was and wanting to grow up and be her. Remember?”

They were silent for a few minutes and then Brooke said quietly, “I do. You keep that necklace, Celia. You look more like Mom than I do anyway. Next time you get dressed up, you can put on a little black dress, and wear your blonde hair up like Mom did. Put that ruby on and smoke a cigarette and all the little girls who see you will be desperate to grow up too. I’ll take these silver earrings. Do you remember these? Dad vacuumed them up one day and Mom dumped the bag out in the back yard. I wanted to help and ended up covered in dust. Mom hosed me off outside. I can wear them whenever I want to play in the hose.”

Celia smiled fondly. “Take more,” she urged. “There’s more here. What about this ring? Or these other earrings?”

“No” said Brooke firmly. “Just these. You take the rest.”

And then Brooke left her sister sitting on the couch to sort her jewelry and emotions, and went to work on a letter to the editor about the deforestation of the Ecuadorian rainforest.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The 300th Post

And it's gonna be so lame! I really am working on the book and so not really planning to blog, but this thought hit me today and I wanted to share...

I'm hosting a baby shower in a couple of weeks and I decided to do cupcakes instead of cake. This is because it's all women and I've noticed that women tend to eschew cake, but they will eat a cupcake. Why do you think that is? Or do you think this is an entirely fallacious observation?

Personally, I never turn down cake in any way shape or form (except coconut because coconut is gross).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hiatus?

I'm taking a break from Project Runway: The All Star Challenge to blog. I think I may have forgotten how to pay attention to television anyway. Which is sad, because I LOVE Project Runway. I love Tim Gunn. If he and Cat Deely were to ever join forces, the sheer power of their combined charm, taste, good looks, and genuine supportiveness would cause peace to spotaneously burst out in the middle east... AND in democratic townhall meeetings!

I'm also taking a permanent break from arguing about healthcare on the internet. Instead, I'm putting my little money where my mouth is and I went to Act Blue and gave them $25. If you want a public option too, give them some scratch. We got Barack Obama elected by raising money $25 at a time. Let's give the congressional dems a taste too. I know the cynics disagree, but I think we got a real shot at this thing. (I notice the people who say the public option is dead are the same people who thought Obama was going to lose the election. To quote CNN, just sayin'!)

And while I'm taking breaks from reality television and arguing healthcare, I'm taking a break from life too. We're heading off to scenic downtown Lake Ojiboki, Iowa for a few days of R&R and when I get back, I'm going to try to start really writing again. Which means also a break from this bloggy thing.

My plan is to try and get really disciplined about this thing. That said, all is not lost my 1.5 fans! If all works out as planned, I'll serialize weekly. If all works out as planned. Of course, when has THAT ever happened?

But one rant for the road. You know what really chaps my hide? People who refer to the president as "Barry." I get it. Barack is evidently some kind of subtle anti-American affectation and completely and entirely unrelated to the great, grand, gone Poobah of the Republican party having gone by Ronald instead of Ronnie. As Atrios so eloquently (and frequently) says: the stupid, it burns!

Adios for a few weeks!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Three Only Loosely Related Thoughts - None Even Bordering on Political

So, I accidentally quit smoking. I didn't mean to, only I ran out a few weeks ago. I used to have this nightly habit: once the dishes were done, work caught up on, child nestled all snug in her bed: I'd lean over the sink with a drink and a cigarette. It was awesome. But then I smoked the last one in a pack and every time I thought about running across the street to get some more, I figured I'd probably end up shot in a robbery or hit by a car and then the newspapers the next day would say "Mother,40, Killed Running Across the Street for Smokes." And since there's nothing shamier than smoking, they'd probably find some way to throw in how much I weigh. So, I just sort of fell out of the habit of leaning over the sink with a cigarette and when I did my life insurance bloodwork, my blood came back negative for nicotine.

Who'd of thunk?

Of course, if I find myself in the presence of one who has not accidentally quit smoking, I quickly metamorphose from someone who doesn't smoke to someone who "doesn't smoke."

***********
All day today I felt really fat and gross and jiggly. I have a rule that I'm not allowed to use the phrase "I feel fat" around my daughter. It is one of many fond wishes that I manage to, if not kill, at least thwart the body shame that women pass from generation to generation. My mother was almost always on a diet which was a shame because really loves food and would have been gorgeous even if she'd weighed 30 pounds more than she did. It'd be nice to be able to really relish a meal without feeling guilty about it almost immediately after. Maybe that can happen for Laney.

What's weird, though, about my particular body issues is that they're pretty fleeting. Today I felt fat and gross and jiggly. Tomorrow, I'll put on heels and a dress and then on the way to work I'll catch some guy checking me out and I'll feel great about myself.

There's a sad little self esteem irony, huh?

**********

Poetry hour! I decided to read poetry to Laney tonight. She never wants to do it, until we get a poem or two in to Where the Sidewalk Ends. If you have kids, you can totally hook them on poetry with Dreadful. Just make sure you really burp at the end.

The thing about Shel Silverstein, though, is that his poetry is only ostensibly for kids. As you leaf through, you'll stumble across a poem that's so wistful and lovely you know there's no way a six year old would get it. Shel slipped it in there for the mommies and the daddies. Like this one. Read it aloud. It's Shel Fucking Silverstein - you can read THAT much poetry, can't you? Aloud?

Forgotten Language

Once I spoke the language of the flowers,
Once I understood each word the caterpillar said,
Once I smiled in secret at the gossip of the starlings,
And shared a conversation with the housefly
in my bed.
Once I heard and answered all the questions
of the crickets,
And joined the crying of each falling dying
flake of snow,
Once I spoke the language of the flowers...
How did it go?
How did it go?

Sigh. It's so wonderful watching your kid speak that language but, dammitalltohell, isn't it sad knowing that you never will again?

Downer, huh? Click on the link for Dreadful. It's awesome. Especially if you really burp.

Two Notes on Two Amendments

First Amendment: I am not infringing upon your first amendment rights if I call you rude or stupid or ill-informed or a giant sucker. I am exercising mine.

Second Amendment*: If you think your rights as an American are being infringed upon because you are not allowed to carry a loaded sidearm into a presidential rally, you are nuts. Nutsaroo. Nutty McCrazypants.

Also, if you are Chris Matthews, you should not be giving a forum to Nutty McCrazypants.

Finally, if you are Chris Matthews and you ignore my good advice and have Nutty McCrazypants on your show, you can at the very least insist that he articulate what American freedoms are being lost BESIDES the right to carry a loaded weapon into a presidential rally.

Sigh. Sometimes I love Chris. Other times, I want to punch him in the junk.

* Typically I hate it when a blogger answers a question that hasn't been asked. Like when they say "I don't like cats. And, no, I don't think kittens should be drowned for sport." Are you familiar with that stylistic meme? It's creepy; a way for the writer to articulate her point and then assume that anyone who disagrees does so because they're bonkers. That said, I do feel like I should mention that, no, I don't think guns should be outlawed. I don't know many people who do. I think if you want to own a gun, don't have a criminal record and will abide by sensible gun control laws (like, you know, you can't bring one into a presidential rally), more power to ya. Guns scare the shit out of me. But so do junebugs. And I don't think junebugs should be illegal.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Loudmouths

It has gotten LOUD out there, hasn't it?

Think of those dimwits screeching about socialism and how Barack has six letters in it and so does Hitler and A HA STALINISMCAKES!!!!! This leaves me wanting to stand on a chair and scream "WHYAREYOUSUCHAGIANTDOUCHEYDUMMY?" You can see how I might be concerned about the productivity of such a move.

I admire people who can coolly and calmly address issues. Once I saw Molly Ivins, Bill O'Reilly and Al Franken on the same panel. O'Reilly was typically red-faced, incoherent and furious. Franken kept interrupting him, trying to correct, as O'Reilly laid slander and stupidity upon stupider stupidity and slandery slander. Molly Ivins just sat there taking notes and then, when called upon, revealed herself as the smartest, savviest one there. Hold back, take notes, and then destroy them with the force of sheer logic. Franken was delighted. O'Reilly had on his "Fuck it! We'll do it live!"face. It was awesome.

Barack Obama seems to have driven the right completely bananas. I mean, Rush Limbaugh is up on his show telling his audience, who, let's face it, probably ain't the sharpest tacks in the toolshed, that if Obama gets his way, it will be the end of representative democracy and that a bunch of men in black (or black men, which sort of seems to be implied) are coming to kill your grannies.

So, is yelling back helpful or not? I keep waiting for Obama to pull a Molly Ivins (she would have loved him, I suspect, and also been wildly disappointed in him. There are no words for how much I miss her hilarious, kind and trenchant analysis). The problem is that there's no moderator. No one seems to be calling on the folks who've held back and taken notes. It's all heat and no light and it really sounds like the leading conservative voices in the media are dog whistling some pretty heavy shit.

I'm kinda freaked out. But I also remember during the primary, when K.O. did a special comment about how Hillary Clinton was dog whistling an Obama assassination. Dude, I fucking HATED Hillary Clinton during the campaign, but even I thought that was pushing it. (Hillary will, I'm sure, be glad to know that I once again love her and have left all that primary craziness behind). Are we lefties freaking out over nothing? Surely there can't be that many people who really think that Barack Obama is a stalinist, muslim, kenyan usurper who hates old people and mentally disabled babies, right? Right? RIGHT?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Bourbon Blogging

A lotta lotta years ago, but after the end of Star Trek: TNG (this is a necessary qualifier and not just another nerdy Trek reference... well, and not JUST another nerdy Trek reference), I had this dream where I was walking through LAX, and from far across the terminal, I saw Jonathan Frakes walking towards me with this big grin. In the dream, we'd worked together on Star Trek. In the dream, I was so glad to see him. I was filled with a sense of pleasure and happiness at this meeting; consumed by an entirely comfortable joy at the prospect of reconnecting with my past; equally satisfied with both my past and present.

I woke up depressed. I couldn't think of anyone in my own life I'd have been so glad to see. It felt like most of what I'd done had been hallmarked by plodding effort and insincerity and it would be tedious and arduous to muster up that long since cast away persona. God, what would we have to talk about?

That dream has stayed with me. It seemed so sad that of all the people I've loved, I wasn't eager to run into any of them walking down the street. My own past was just too murky and disconnected to invite it into my present.

And then tonight. I was dining al fresco with LaneyBon, chatting about this and that, when a friend from way back in the day suddenly appeared at my side. And, what do you know? I was just as happy to see him in the waking world as I'd been to see Riker in my dream world. I was filled with this totally comfortable joy at the chance to reconnect, however briefly, with someone from back then.

I'm not sure what happened, what shifted. I suspect this is one of the happier circumstances of aging. It's easier to be who you are, generally less awkward. And you grow forgiving of any inauthenticity or discomfiture of the past. Because, after all, they were good days.

Aw, it was just so good to see my old friend. I hope I run into him again one day.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Marriage

Let me begin this blogpost with an absolutely true anecdote from the files of Megbon. On May 5, 2000 at 5:00 in the afternoon, I was standing at the back of St. Stanislaus Church in Chicago's Wicker Park absolutely scared shitless. I looked down the aisle, spotted Donbon, and said to myself "eye on the prize, Rhem, keep your eye on the prize." And then I walked down the aisle and got married and haven't regretted it for a day. Not the marrying Don part (although: that too), the having a wedding part.

When you're planning a wedding, you'd be surprised how many people tell you that you should just go to city hall because it's stupid to spend all that money "for one day." Once you're married, if you have the wedding, you'll be tempted to bewail the money spent, wish it back, regret the finery and the pomp. But, me? I'm all about the ritual.

Here's the thing: marriage is work. It's an awful lot of work. But that's not a bad thing; what thing of value do you have that isn't work? Marriage is an endeavor and an adventure and I think it's best to anchor it with a little ritual.

We made real promises to each other that day. We made them publicly and that gave them some heft, some durability. I have, for example, left a dry towel in the bathroom for Don every day (that was a vow). Don has had pizza with me every Sunday, in spirit if not in fact (that was a vow). We have been faithful to each other, we have been interested in each other (we promised that too). We have kept on loving each other, even when we had to remind ourselves to do that.

Throughout the course of my marriage, I've fallen in and out of love with Don thousands of time, sometimes in the same day. And when I'm picking up his socks for the eight millionth time and thinking what a grind, what a challenge it is, I remind myself to keep my eye on the prize. And then suddenly, before I know it, that cute guy in the terrible tuxedo (I lied, I have one regret about my wedding: that goddamn, stupid stud he wore in lieu of a tie) shows up again. And I remember what I promised. And I'm glad I promised it.

And, don't kid yourself, I've seen that same look cross Don's face. I've seen him look at me with renewed fondness, with an "ah, there's my girl again" face.

Finally, don't forget the party. Never underestimate the value of a truly great party. Our wedding remains the best party we've every thrown (and we've thrown some wang-doozies). We drank and danced and ate and laughed and we did it in a roomful of people who were, honestly, happy for us and happy to be there. That alone was worth the price of admission.

Shoot, y'all, I'd do it all again if I could.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Yeah, That's What You Think

So I stumbled across a comment thread on Facebook that began with a status update from the airport which went something like "Too many wild children in this airport! Parents, it's your job to control your kids!" And then there were a string of comments mostly along the lines of "my Mom would NEVER have let me..." and "when I was a kid I knew better than to..."

At first blush this seemed reasonable. I mean, my daughter has thrown some wild fits out in public and I don't remember ever throwing wild fits out in public. Ipso facto, our parents were better disciplinarians.

And then I thought a little more and un-ipso-ed that facto. My daughter is 6 and is at an age where I can nip a tantrum in the bud in a public place. When she was two or three or even four, it was a little trickier. Like a bolt out of the blue it hits me: all of us, every last damn one of us has acted like a miserable little cuss in public and made one or both of our parents' life hell. But the good lord that I don't believe in has arranged it so that our rotten behavior happens in our own personal prehistory.

If you don't believe me, call your mother. I bet she has at least one story about you acting like a total toddler asshole in the grocery store or a restaurant. Probably more.