Monday, November 29, 2004

realer than reel

Bob at Whirl-a-go-go points us to an artist who photographs and mounts her own Viewmaster reels. Right now you can get Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, a set of four Franz Kafka parables acted out by little plastic figures, and lucifugia thigmotaxis, which is apparently a story about a cockroach. The cardboard part of the reels is letterpressed, and the narration comes on a separate CD notable for the charming ding tone indicating that it's time to move on to the next image.

I'm delighted that someone is doing this. And if you're in the Portland area, you should check out the live performance of her new work Jeremiah Barnes, about the mysterious disappearance of 86 earthmovers.

Friday, November 26, 2004

i want to be a reef!

Creative recycling of human remains. Up until now I was bummed that my (thoroughly abandoned) body couldn't legally be left out for lions to eat, but now I see that there are other interesting options.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

the people upstairs

Are having sex for the second time today. Taking longer than usual, too; the first time, I was talking to my mother on the phone, and by the time I got up to put on some music to cover, they'd finished. In a minute, I'll hear his heavy footsteps, and possibly the sound of the television being turned on.

Huh, no, they're really working at it today. In a minute, it sounds like I'll know their names. Maybe they took a class or something; usually it's much more perfunctory. Jesus, was that the sound of someone falling off the bed? Are there more people up there than usual? That thumping is new.

I have no idea what that sound was.

I think they're done now. That's insane, he's saying. I am sore tempted to go up and ask what new thing they were doing, because it has never sounded like that before. And I work from home, so I've heard a lot of the before. But that sounded epic.

It's not that I don't like hearing it. I just don't like hearing it when I'm not having any myself. Blasted holiday.

the raw and the cooked

Pancakes for dinner tonight. Deeply misshapen ones; I made them bigger than I could comfortably flip with my spatula, and they got all squished up and had tendrils flying off everywhere and droplets of batter sizzling away, far from the main body of the pancake amoeba. I ate the first two with my fingers while I made the rest, and ate the rest with butter and syrup.

The interesting thing about the mix is that the instructions tell you to adjust the amount of milk depending on how thick or thin you want the cakes. Which got me thinking about the difference between thick and thin pancakes, or cookies, or brownies, or seared ahi filets, or chicken cutlets, or anything prepared with heat. Because it's really a question of the ratio of surface area to volume, isn't it? A thick pancake mostly tastes of the interior, while a thin one the exterior. Your preference for thin over thick, or vice versa, could be a direct indicator of how cooked you want something to taste.

Had a foodie moment around this recently, talking to Thread about a disappointing loaf of so-called artisan bread I'd bought at the UN Plaza farmer's market. The crumb was too dense, I told her, and then had to explain that there are two different names for the "parts" of bread, interior and exterior, crumb and crust. I hadn't know that before I started catering. Yes, the outside is the crust, but for years I thought the guts didn't have their own name.

Crumb. Which is linguistically curious: crumbs are obviously small bits of crumb, but crumbs don't add up to crumb. Crumb is not a mass noun, like water or sugar.

English is damn weird.

Anyway. I had a babysitter when we lived in Mason (isn't it cute?) who would deliberately overbake the cookies she made, because she liked the burnt taste. Maybe also because that way she guaranteed that she didn't have to share with the rest of her family. If I have access to a pan of lasagna or macaroni and cheese, I'll go for the darker stuff around the edges first. I like the edges because they're chewier, and somehow richer than the center.

I mean, I'm happy to eat the center too, of course. But a tender center's not as exciting as the crunchy burnt bits. Maybe it's something primal or atavistic about me, the same impulse that makes vegetarianism so difficult to maintain: I want to chew and rip and tear.

But not with cookies, which I invariably underbake. And usually eat before they've fully cooled, pulling them off the cookie sheet in burning-hot, gooey fingerfuls.

Maybe in case that babysitter ever shows up and tries to steal them.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

what, you need a minyan for a circus?

Went to see Polk County at the Berkeley Rep tonight. Mixed experience; the show itself was strong, but I was in a funk that I was having a difficult time shaking. Winter is always a hard season for me, even out here where it's not so awful...the reality that MonkeyScientist will be gone come the new year is sinking in...I'm questioning my commitment to the troupe...and I'm feeling bored in my work, all three strands of it.

I'm just feeling kind of stalled out today, on virtually every front; I'm less than three weeks away from 35, and feeling like I should have my shit more together by this time than I do.

Anyway. In the lobby after the show, I ran into Bounce, a fight choreographer I had the real pleasure of interviewing a couple years back for an article. He was a real friend during the time my dad was failing; said some very useful things nobody was saying. So we're talking, and I notice that he's wearing a ring on the meaningful finger, and he admits that he's getting married come January. I give him a big hug and tell him how happy I am for them, and he says, rather abashedly, not to B, but to K, who I haven't met.


Bit of a U-turn there; last I knew (which I believe was April) he and B were solid. So I stood there for a moment making these chewing motions, and then I told him I was very pleased nonetheless, whoever K was.

Then he told me that right after the wedding, he's getting on a cruise ship (sans bride) for six months to perform in a new Cirque du Soleil project. He'd gotten the call two weeks into rehearsals. They needed a tenth man with his skills; how soon could he get to Montreal for an audition?

I was so happy for him, on both counts. So much exciting stuff is happening for him that for a few minutes after I took my leave of him, my mood was much better.

Then of course I started wondering when Cirque du Soleil was going to call me and tell me that they needed, oh, a tenth blogger to send to the Carribbean, and my funk sifted back in through the cracks. Now I'm home and feeling listless.


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

why doesn't the flashlight work?

Despite what everyone told me, I knew we had a future together. It won't last, said the experts. That kind can't be counted on. I was told that he would be capricious, that he wasn't strong enough for me, that I needed more juice, more oomph than he could provide. That without a cord connecting him to the wall and thus a steady power supply, it could be just a matter of months before we were through.

But my little Hitachi "personal massager", the second in a proud Japanese dynasty ruling the Waterbones empire, lasted years without complaint. Asking only that I keep up a steady supply of readily-available C batteries (I can't be the only woman in the world who's jumped panting out of bed to dig through the junk drawer and strip the flashlight, right? I sure hope my old roommates don't have any power outages any time soon, because they've got a surprise waiting for them), quiet and discreet, tastefully shaped like an overgrown vitamin pill: I bought this one in 1992 to replace the one I had in college (that itself made it through many a finals week unscathed) and it gave me twelve years (!) of dedicated service. Which is about four times what my most serious boyfriend managed, and he had all those pesky needs of his own.

I was starting to think my little blue-and-white friend was immortal, and I was overjoyed that I had a friend I could share him with. Which is how it came to pass that I wasn't alone when Hitachi-san--sporting a fresh battery purchased in haste from a 7-11 on Clement Street, not pilfered from anyone's disaster gear, thankyouverymuch--began the most pathetic imaginable death rattle. First a good solid buzz, then a slowing, then nothing. Shaking helped, but only so much; there'd be a burst of enthusiasm, but within seconds we'd go through the whole cycle again.

I know now what the term buzzkill really means.

It was kind of embarrassing. Fortunately said friend, who thinks I'm a loon anyway, was a good sport about it and we did something else.

The next time I hit the switch, I was alone and hoping for at least a brief, sweet, private farewell. I got nothing whatsoever. Hitachi-san, my friend in many a dark hour, boon travel companion, the point of light in my struggle with tendinitis in my wrists, was well and truly gone.

As I wrote last night to the last person to see Hitachi-san alive, I may bury it, my most faithful companion, in the yard, after a suitably tasteful state funeral. I was thinking about a velvet-lined shoebox, maybe. But in the cold light of day I remember that the yard still hasn't been landscaped, and when they come to do that, digging up a vibrator in a cushioned box could be a little weird. But just dumping it in the trash seems somehow disrespectful. Perhaps I could make a collage around it? Refashion the plastic shell into a dollhouse accessory or a tiny planter?

Rest in peace, Hitachi-san. You were a good friend and ally, and asked so little in return. You may be replaced, but you will never be forgotten.

Monday, November 22, 2004

found her on the first post

After finding Daryl and Pik, I am convinced that there's hope for the 'next blog' button. Which is why I keep slogging through the teenagers, the advertising (Blogger is now rife with so-called blogs that are just spam), and the Jesus freaks, who are legion.

Which is how I found Ellina at Screaming Monkeys Attack, apparently a waitress-slash-writer-slash-cellist. She's got one real post up so far, and it's long and complex, but beautiful. Waitressing and Arvo Part and sunlight. Check it out.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

tmi versus mitin

I believe I've mentioned MITIN (pronounced "mitten", natch) here before; it's an acronym I'm trying to inject into the language. It stands for "more information than I need", and while it may seem similar to TMI--"too much information"--it's actually quite different.

TMI, as it tends to get used, usually connotes something beyond what the hearer is comfortable with. A good example might be talking about your hemmorhoid surgery at a fancy cocktail party. MITIN, as I see it, is something beyond the hearer's level of patience--but it's not necessarily messy, distasteful, or somehow inappropriate. So if I say that my conversation with the guy who fixed my, oh, toaster was MITIN, what I'm saying is that I didn't really need to know how the heating element works, or how many pieces of wire there are inside the average Westinghouse toaster versus the average Braun toaster, or who invented the first toaster and what that meant to the development of a democratic society. I don't need to know those things to okay his going ahead with the needed repair.

TMI and MITIN do share in common that they are completely in the eye of the beholder and fluctuate according to situation. I don't think Snufkina or Thread, for example, have TMI thresholds (except perhaps hearing about their parents' sex lives), while I know that Sleek does have one, and it's directly related to the mechanics of straight sex (can't use the word moist in conversation with him, about anything, because it makes him think about girl parts, which he really prefers not to do.) MITIN's the same, and then some: I was happy to hear all about the innards of my car before I agreed to have her disemboweled, but I don't really need to know what Muscles did to make my computer work again--although I am of course deeply grateful that he did.

So. I recognize that my writing style is probably MITIN for a lot of people, and bless those of you who like being "in the center of my life", as my godmother said of reading my essay. And there's some stuff coming up that may be a little TMI--how can I put this? I've been in a pretty intense sexual situation for a few months, and I'm learning things from it that I would love to talk about here, things as meaningful in their own way as watching my father fade out--but ours is not a culture which can handle talking seriously about sex.

I'm casting about here a little, I know. I guess this is just a heads-up. I'm going to be talking about sex more and death less and catering hopefully very little unless it's entertaining; bear with me.

Friday, November 19, 2004

this is how bad it is

D and I volunteered to be among the first staff cut tonight; the party (a corporate open house) had run an hour past the official end time, yet our manager was trying to stick to the original allotment of staff hours he'd been given, so people had to go. I used to feel weird about being among the first to leave, especially with this particular manager. I thought it reflected badly on my dedication, blah blah blah, I imagined that he was narrowing his eyes as he noted that yet again, I was piping up that I would like to leave.

No more. I'm a manager myself now, and responsible for staying until the bitter end of the parties I've been given to run; I don't feel obligated to do the same for events that aren't mine. And I'm really past caring whether upper management thinks I'm dedicated or not. The parties I've managed since they put me back on (it took a while, after my extended absence; I captained a lot) have come off smoothly, if we don't count the Great Cheese Riot. The feedback has been good, nothing major has been lost, broken, or set afire on one of my parties, and I haven't made any staff cry lately. While I may not be a shining example of the ultimate floor manager, I'm doing my job competently.

But I digress. D agreed to drive me home, so I wouldn't have to wait for Emperor, who is driving on his spare tire today. Very, very, slowly and nervewrackingly. D and I used one of the unassigned cubicles to change out of our tuxedos (there's a whole big cube farm this company hasn't filled yet, it's a little eerie) and I was done first. I've been wanting to do this all night, I told her, and proceeded to crawl under the desk, into the dark little space bounded by desk and cube wall.Now nobody knows where I am. D humored me for a moment--calling my name, asking loudly if anyone had seen me, and so forth. And then, because she knows a good idea when she sees one, she crawled under the desk with me.

Which is when things got really silly. Here we were, two adult women, curled up in the fetal position under a desk. Railing against the circumstances and our own inability to find lucrative work we believe in that keeps us beholden to catering, to all the frustration and waste that catering entails.

Wouldn't it be funny if we stayed here until they thought we were all gone, and we could hear what they said about us? she said, meaning the clients. Wouldn't it be funny if we stayed until after they left, I shot back, and went in and rewrote all their stuff? Then we speculated on whether there was a high-tech security system with lasers, like in any movie you've seen that involved a heist, that would cut us to ribbons the minute we crawled out from under the desk. Then I pressed my face into the carpet and moaned, Goodbye cruel world! I'm going to huff the formaldehyde outgassing from this industrial carpet and end it all!

Meanwhile D, who really looks like she's toeing the cheerful-cheerful party line when you see her on the floor, was going off on a rant about the sticker on the underside of the desk printed with a date two months after the war on Iraq began, something about the relationship between the dot com bubble and the military-industrial complex that I couldn't quite follow, something about how the bodies hadn't started coming back yet, and we were both laughing hysterically and hugging our polyester tux pants-clad knees to our chests and trying to stretch out the achy places in our lower backs.

It's moments like these--or the Contraband Scavenger Hunt at the coming-out party Danielle Steel threw for her daughter, or the bus trip back from a Big Sur gig where one of the other managers demonstrated his fellatio technique with a (very long) banana, or every time I do a little swing dancing with the chef who beat throat cancer last year who, regal in his whites and Dansko clogs, dips me until my braid brushes the kitchen floor--that make it hard for me to imagine leaving catering. I don't remember liking anyone at ILM this much, except Almeida; here I'm surrounded by awesome people. If we could all go form another company, some other sort of thing altogether, that would be perfect.

For now, though, we brace ourselves for the holiday season, and the onslaught of superficial, ultimately joyless little parties that people throw out of obligation, and dream of our real work.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

good news on the children-with-aids front

According to the BBC, a clinical trial of a promising antibiotic has been cancelled because the drug was proving so effective in slowing the deaths of African children with HIV/AIDS that now they're giving it to all the kids. A bright spot.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

i may have to marry this woman

Daryl was looking for baseball stuff and found Majikthise instead; I'm not linking to any particular post of hers because I'm overwhelmed by the choices. Philosophy that works. Just go.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

your fickle will ruin things otherwise

Thread has a line, so to speak, on all the silliest things. I have no idea what language this was translated from, but some of it--I leave to your imagination what--is actually true.

Sagittarius - Your Love Profile

Your positive traits:
Your playful nature brings out the happy inner-child in dates. You're willing to take risks in love... and reap the rewards.You've got a killer sense of humor that gets talking with any hottie you meet

Your negative traits:
Sometimes your sarcasm comes off as biting and abrasive. You can be brutally honest, tactless, and truthful even when it hurts. You're such a free spirit that you find it hard to commit to one person

Your ideal partner:
Someone high energy who will pick up and out with you whenever. Is creative and fun - thinking of new adventures for the two of you. Is bold... and not afraid to tell you "I love you" early on

Your dating style:
Unpredictable. You never know how the night is going to end up.

Your seduction style:
Daring. You're always pushing to try something new in the bedroom. Full of imagination. You've always got a new fantasy you're dying to try. Spritually driven. Sex for you can be an other-worldy act.

Tips for the future:
Realize that while freedom is great - sometimes a stable relationship is better. It's not all about you. Focus on your parnter's needs every once and a while. Make up your mind about your parnter, and stick to it. Your fickle will ruin things otherwise.

Best color to attract mate: Purple
Best day for a date: Thursday

Get your free love profile at Blogthings.

no, i don't believe it either


What herb are you?
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Sunday, November 14, 2004

when bloggers run around loose

This woman, wearing denim painter's pants and slightly banged-up red Timberlands, was sitting across from me in the AirBART shuttle from Oakland Airport today. She's going to be speaking at an event down in San Jose as one of a batch of "Online Divas"; I watched her trying to explain blogging to a hefty suit with a Southern accent. He held her card in one hand for a long time as she held forth on the election, gesticulating and smiling.

I couldn't catch her name, and from what she was saying I thought for a moment that she might be Wonkette, and I got all excited. Only upon getting home and doing a search did I realize my error.

Anyway. I'm watching her talk this guy up, and waiting for an opportunity to say something, introduce myself, do a little blogger shmoozing, but she's totally into her conversation. I assume, from the way he didn't put her card away right off, that the guy has probably done business with the Japanese. The bus pulls up to the Coliseum station and we all tumble off. I notice that she's only carrying a backpack, and think it strange, but I'm so intimidated by her focus on the suit that I don't say anything. Once inside the station, I sidle up to them and try to help them navigate the BART ticket-buying maze, but she's having none of it. I need to ask her [the information person in the booth] a question. Here I'm thinking, hey, bloggers gotta look out for each other, but no dice.

So up on the platform, waiting for the train and wondering if it's worth trying to make contact at all, make sure she and the suit get on the right train, I was guiltily amused when she realized that she'd left her suitcase on the bus. I mean, it's awful: she had to go back down and probably paid the "excursion fare" in time to get out on the sidewalk and realize that the bus--and everything that she hadn't packed into her bulging blue backpack--was long gone.

Intersecting worlds.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

the world is bound by secret knots

Chilling in Glendale, in the toy- and book-strewn precincts of AX's brother's home, recovering from an absolutely insane day yesterday. The troupe performed as part of the Spark! tour, and I was there as a percussionist, which is a story I will tell another time when I'm not completely ravenous and trying to follow along with the Reading Adventure of Clifford the Big Red Dog.

But here's a link to an exhibit at the Museum of Jurassic Technology, a very odd and charming place tucked into sun-bleached Culver City. Athansius Kircher was a Jesuit scholar who believed, among other things, that everything in the universe was controlled and defined by magnetism; the title of this post was his, and for some reason it's just, well, sticking to me.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

under her skin

Here's the 2005 reading schedule so far for the anthology I'm in. I'm definitely going to read in San Francisco and Berkeley; there is a possibility that I might read in Cambridge as well. If one of these is in your town, stop by in any case; there's some great stuff in the collection.

February 11: Politics & Prose, Washington DC

February 22: Modern Times Bookstore, San Francisco

February 24: Black Oak Books, Berkeley

March 10: Center for New Words, Cambridge

March 22: Bluestockings Bookstore, New York City

Pooja is talking about getting together dates in Seattle, Chicago, and Pittsburgh as well; I'll post those as soon as they're firm. Also, there's going to be a review of the book in the December issue of Elle magazine. Yes, I find that weird, but what can you do? Publicity's publicity.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

help winky and wanda

My mom just forwarded me an online petition regarding Winky and Wanda, the Detroit Zoo's Asian elephants. The girls are getting on in years, and the Zoo would like to send them to a nice big elephant sanctuary in a warm place (Tennesee or California) where their arthritis and other health problems wouldn't be so burdensome. Here's what Hugh McDiarmid at the Freep has to say about it.

Seems like the right thing to do, right? Well, apparently other members of the American Zoo Association are protesting the move; their counter proposal is that the elephants be sent to the Columbus Zoo instead. There are already elephants there, and the climate's not a whole lot better. The hard concrete of their winter lodgings gets woodchips sprinkled on it "from time to time to break up the monotony" and the animals would still not have enough space. This wouldn't be any kindness to Winky and Wanda.

The people circulating the petition believe the other zoos are being snarky about this because it's an ethical slap in the face: here's the Detroit Zoo making a decision based entirely on the elephants' comfort, and not on keeping a big draw (elephants mean money to zoos). I'm not sure this is completely accurate. I've known of other zoos that have yielded their animals when it seemed to be in the animals' best interest, and I do believe that many zoos do try to balance ethics with the bottom line. The whole question of whether there should be zoos or not--and I struggle with that--aside, I've seen that zoos like our own Oakland and (increasingly) San Francisco zoo do try to do the right thing. But sending these elephants from Detroit to Columbus just seems wrong.

It's also interesting because if you read the signatures on the petition, some of the comments give a lot of insight into why other people are supporting the proposed animal sanctuary move. Here's what Nancy, signatory number 3,070, has to say on the matter:
Any show of ethical behavior in Detroit should be applauded. It's in the Bible that we are responsible to treat animals with care, and I believe we will hear from the Creator on how we dealt with His other creatures.
I am, as I'm sure is obvious, usually pretty uncomfortable when people talk about God's will in anything, but here we have people (and Nancy's not the only one) representing their faith as a humane one, and I respect that.

I signed the petition. I hope you'll consider doing so too. Here's one more interesting article, from the Humane Society of the United States, that goes into more detail on the AZA, standards for elephant care, and so on. And here's a cute piece about the opening of the Detroit Zoo; it seems that the people who built the zoo were told that if they didn't get the enclosures finished on schedule, the animals would be housed with them.

And the elephant pictured above is neither Winky nor Wanda, but their predecessor Paulina, who also helped build the zoo.

Monday, November 08, 2004

take that, dr. atkins

Very interesting piece about a suggested link between red and/or processed meat and type 2 diabetes. I'm eating meat these days myself, but I'm uneasy about it; this doesn't help a bit.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

just remember

The last Southern schools to desegregate did so in the past fifteen years.

There are people alive in this country who remember when abortion was illegal.

Most people wouldn't know now, if you asked, what the word miscegenation means, yet it was still illegal in 16 states as late as 1967, and the last state to repeal its miscegenation law (Alabama) did so in 2000.

Women didn't have the vote in every state in this country until 1920.

The Stonewall Raid, the first time a group of gay people stood up against oppression (in this case, abusive police) and widely understood as the birth of the gay rights movement, took place in 1969.

Title IX, which ensures equal funding for young female and male athletes in school programs, was passed in 1972.

I could go on like this, but the point is that we need to not panic, and keep an eye on the long term. Many of the freedoms we take for granted are actually quite new, and society is changing faster than human flexibility will sometimes allow.

I've said it before, I'll say it again; there will be a time when we look back at these years and wonder why it was so difficult to imagine gay people marrying the way we now marvel at how blacks and whites were once prohibited from marrying. There will be a time when all women and men have the right to choose what happens to their bodies. There will be a time when the sovereignty of every individual is recognized and honored.

Maybe not in our lifetimes, but that's a chance we have to take. People like Dr. King and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Harvey Milk didn't know whether they would see true and lasting change, but that didn't stop them from getting out of bed in the morning. Every movement for change has its setbacks, but if you look at where we are now, compared to where we were a century--fifty years--even just ten years ago--the larger pattern reveals a slow swell of social evolution towards a more just and humane society.

History will vindicate every person who sighs now and puts their shoulder back to the wheel. I know it's exhausting. I know it's disheartening. But there has been real change, and the fact that we need to fight to defend it doesn't invalidate all the work the generations before us put in.

Friday, November 05, 2004

a couple of good things that happened tuesday

These are from an email I got from

In Colorado, voters passed Amendment #37, an initiative that will now force the state's major energy companies to get 10% of their energy from renewable sources by 2015. This new law will reduce pollution just as much as taking 600,000 cars off of Colorado's roads each year!

In Montana, voters defeated I-147, a mining company-sponsored initiative that would have polluted the state's rivers, streams and drinking water by overturning a ban on dangerous open pit cyanide leach mining. Despite the fact that the mining company spent five times as much money as the grassroots campaign working to to uphold the ban, 60% of Montanans voted against I-147!

It's victories like these that give us hope. In both cases, the grassroots campaigns faced serious opposition from well-funded industry interests, and in both cases, the voters responded to support the best interests of the people and of the environment.

I'm finding writing anything I don't absolutely have to completely exhausting, and the work is uninspired. My NaNoWriMo count has slowed to a crawl. I want to write to friends but I don't know what to say. No progress on any of the art projects. After the election, and some of the wretched things Bush has said in the past couple of days, I'm feeling pretty listless on the creative effort front.

The artists I'm working for are feeling it too. So far I've modeled every day this week--one day I did two gigs--tomorrow is the last job of the week, and then I get a day off. Upshot is that the people I've been seeing the most of are all artists, and they're all furious and despairing. They stab at the clay and fitfully crumple up the drawings that don't please them. So I'm working doubly hard to be giving, present, engaged as a model. Putting out more than the usual amount of energy. Sweating more than usual; this morning I could feel it running down the insides of my legs, which is unusual, to say the least.

Throwing oneself into work is not sounding like such a bad idea right now.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

what we do now

This post, of course, started very differently. When I was thinking about it yesterday morning, after hearing that Kerry had conceded, there was a real rant quality; there was a lot of how dare they and how the hell did this happen.

And not much more. Imagine a woman crying and foaming at the mouth and you've pretty much got it.

So I refrained, and other people have said cogent things much more elegantly than I would have, and I vented some bile in real-time conversation, and came to the conclusion that I would talk about something else.

Namely, what we do now. Those of us who aren't leaving the country, of course, and assuming that Nomad's idea--that the states that went blue ask Canada to annex us--doesn't gain the requisite support.

Senator Kerry has asked us to extend our hands to the people who gave Bush a second term. There was the obligatory talk of letting the healing begin. Someone on NPR was talking about how the more mature members of the two big parties will doubtless make an effort to bridge the tremendous, acrimonious gap that has appeared in our society.

That's all well and good, but a little too abstract for me right now. What I want to know is how those of us who were counting on an end to the Bush presidency heal ourselves, and what constructive steps we can take so that we don't lose faith altogether. I've talked to an astonishing number of people who are considering, with various levels of seriousness, becoming expatriates. That's one answer, and there's a lot to be said for it, but those of us who are staying need other stuff to do.

The thing is, there are really two separate issues here. One is that Bush is still president, with all that entails; the lies, misdirection, Halliburton, etcetera. The other is that slightly more than half of our neighbors raised their voices in support of a worldview that many social liberals find deeply troubling, and we've got to get our heads around what that means. Four years ago we could howl about a stolen election and believe that the country really didn't want Bush. This time, although I've heard that there were troubling anomalies, the disturbing fact is laid bare: half the country thinks Bush is the man for the job. This was not a political election, but a cultural one, says another NPR guest I'm too shell-shocked to catch a name for. But I don't believe there is a culture war going on in this country.


I don't know how to handle the second problem. I'm feeling personally attacked by this election; the news that my childhood home was one of the eleven states that passed a gay marriage ban (even if it did go blue) surprises me. The realization that so many people believe that the government has a right, nay, an obligation, to make personal choices for me sickens me. The news that an unusual number of women went for Bush shames me. I have no idea how to make any of this better. I'm not sure how to fight the culture war.

As for the other, however, I have some clue. Besides open insurrection, which seems like fun until you're showering off the tear gas residue with cold water so it doesn't get into your pores, may I make some suggestions?

We need to stay on top of our senators and representatives. We need to encourage them to redouble their efforts; we can't afford to have them missing votes or confirmation hearings. Rehnquist is hanging on by a thread, and we'll probably find that some of the other Supremes were stuffed with sawdust and propped up in their chairs years ago. One commentator noted yesterday that the Court Bush appoints will affect our society for the next forty years. That's two generations.

I plan to be alive at the other end of that span, and hopefully not rotting in jail for sedition because I've shown up at a rally in a provocative T-shirt, which tells me that We need to pay attention to what the adminstration is doing. I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't know all the provisions of the Patriot Act until a bookstore clerk told me he wouldn't be noting which books I was purchasing, just how much I'd paid for them. So if the mirrored-sunglasses dudes came asking what I'd been reading, Bookstore Guy wouldn't be able to tell them. I'd had no idea. But then, I hadn't really thought anything so heinous could clear both houses.

Guess what? It can, it has, it will. We need to know what's being considered so we don't, as the Who says, get fooled again; here's the site for Senate bills, and here's the House of Representatives.

Let's keep an eye out for organizations that the Right opposes. I'm betting folks like Planned Parenthood are going to need more help in the future--time, energy, money. If Roe v. Wade is attacked again--and it will be--these people are going to need our help. I know my mother's feeling exhausted as she reads this; I'm past the age myself where I can easily imagine standing in front of a clinic at six am in the rain. In a perfect world we wouldn't have to keep fighting this battle. In this world, there is coffee.

Consider volunteering in general. Doesn't matter who for, as long as you believe in them. I recommend this because I've found that volunteer work goes a long way towards helping me climb out of depressive states, and it feels a lot better in the long run than hunkering down with the raw cookie dough (although I'm doing that too.)

While I'm not prepared to try to put a good face on what happened Tuesday, neither am I willing to give in to the temptation (strong as it is) to retreat from the world, because that helps nothing. Ranting about Tuesday isn't making me feel any better either, so I'm going to try to keep a leash on that. The arenas above are where I plan to take the energy, try to spin my anger and dismay into something useful.

Will I see you there?

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

doing the deed

San Francisco City Hall, North Light Court, 2 pm Election Day. There are ranks of folding chairs set up on either side of an aisle leading from the atrium to the stairs to the ground floor. On one side, the signs tell us, sit the clerks. On the other, the inspectors. Waiting their turns to staff the polls.

Really strange walking down that aisle; even though the group is not broken out along red/blue lines, the sensation of deep division is strong. Resonant with where we are as a country today.

I am feeling especially conspicuous; having modeled this morning for painters who wanted "a lot of color", I am wearing a very silly sundress with a crinoline, and yarn braided into my hair. I hope people don't think this is my special voting outfit. That one's got fringe. This, I feel like saying, is my job interview outfit.

Absentee ballot, man. I didn't even have to get in the line; a woman asked if I was ready to hand in the (signed, sealed) envelope I had in my hand, and I watched her put it in the box. So I got to fill out the ballot in the privacy of my own home, and do some people watching. Best of all possible worlds.

Now I spend the rest of the day trying to soothe my agitated stomach.