Tuesday, January 31, 2006
There will be plenty of that. There will be an obsequious nod to the atesticular Senate for yesterday's cloture vote on Alito. There will be the haughty assurance that the best way to honor the boys and girls who have fallen in Iraq or come back maimed is to keep sending boys and girls into the chipper. There will be at least a couple doublespeak initiatives to assure the final pillaging of the environment. And maybe, just maybe, we will have a solemn affirmation of the unique man-woman nature of marriage.
Sigh. Maybe Dennis Leahy will stand with his back to the podium. Maybe Ted Kennedy will simply vomit into the aisle during one of the half-house standing ovations.
Monday, January 30, 2006
"This goes to the core of what it means to be an American," said David Stevens, executive director of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations. "Conscience is the most sacred of all property. Doctors, dentists, nurses and other health care workers should not be forced to violate their consciences."A quote from me in response: The first, most sacred responsibility of any health care worker is to provide the treatment required by another human being in need, regardless of that person's gender, ethnicity, wealth, or personal belief system. Their basic humanity is the only qualifying condition, and the only question of conscience is whether you will provide the care they need or not. Your homeboy Jesus was notorious for caring for people whose practices and beliefs differed from his own. He only saw the humanity and the need, not the petty differences that might exempt him from doing the right thing.
Friday, January 27, 2006
This goes out to the dipshits who tailgate people all the way down University "Back In Parking Only" Boulevard. Here's a little hint: if I'm stopped, with my turn signal flashing, my reverse lights on, and an empty parking space just off the corner of my bumper, do not pull right up on my ass and sit there acting, in turns, dumbfounded and pissed off when I wave you around. I'm not likely to move, no matter how many times you honk your horn and flash your brights at me. Use your brain and get the fuck out of the way. I don't want to have to get out of my truck and slap your stupid ass.
There. And yes, I do feel better; thanks for asking.
Today turned into a day for comfort food. Comfort lunch has, for a long time, meant a machaca burrito and horchata on ice from Nico's Taco Shop. Back in the day when I still played co-ed soccer, my teammates who were also co-workers would join me for Machaca Monday, ostensibly for the purpose of feeding protein to our tired muscles. It is still quite restorative, even without having played a game and getting the crap kicked out of me the night before. Shredded beef, grilled onions and peppers and tomatoes, scrambled egg, thin red hot sauce, giant lard-infused tortilla. Good thing I had blood drawn last week for a cholesterol check.
Something about the angle of the sun this morning and, perhaps, the dew point kicked my dad into gear for his roughly bi-annual call to ream me a new orifice. On the surface, it's always about something else, almost always related to the kid. It quickly becomes obvious, though, that the real issue is any of a list of failures I have perpetrated--being gay, having the wrong priorities, having chosen the wrong major in college (that was a new one this morning; bonus points for originality). If I were a psychology student I might be tempted to write a paper about him attempting to deal with his own childhood anxieties by projecting them onto his grandson, who must be dealt with accordingly despite the glaring lack of evidence that he shares any of said childhood anxieties with his grandfather...
Days like this make me rue having grown so old and decrepit that heavy drinking really isn't an option any more.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
The girls' game had been played first, and some of the girls stayed to watch the boys play. They hopped down from the bleachers at the end of the game and walked out of the stadium ahead of us. I recognized one girl--not a player, but obviously a friend of the players--as a kid I had first noticed about 5 years ago, when she would have been 12 or so. I'll call her M. I noticed her back then playing in a club game first because she seemed to be one of the more technically accomplished players on the field, and second because she struck me as a likely baby dyke. A Floridian, a Future Lesbian of America. I ran across her from time to time and never thought much more about it than, oh, there she is again.
M is now probably 16 or 17 and has the total boi thing going. Short short hair, baseball cap on sideways, baggy jeans worn hip-hop low, exuding swagger and cockiness. When I see her it's invariably with femmed-out girls who may be former teammates, none of whom give me a particularly lesbo vibe. I wonder what it's like to be her, coming of age now instead of in the mid-80s. I wonder how she interacts with her straight friends, if she's dating anyone, how her parents deal with it.
I turned 17 in the summer of 1984, the height of the Reagan Era, in a part of the Midwest that was staunchly liberal when it came to organized labor but staunchly conservative on social issues. The concept of gayness was a very dim light, low on the horizon, centered on the stereotypes surrounding gay men. Lesbians? I'm not sure I even knew what they were.
Recognizing it in myself wasn't an option. It's not that it was an option that I chose not to pursue--it simply did not exist in my universe. How differently might my life have unfolded had I been free not only to intellectually grasp homosexuality, but also to connect the dots of my own identity and be that, instead of dutifully shoving myself into the expected mold of school-work-marriage-kids?
What possibilities await young M, unapologetically slouching along in her Carhartts and white t-shirt, hands jammed in pockets, edgy, borderline belligerent in-your-face-here-I-am? She has a car, drives her friends around, talks about parties. Funny, but now when I see her my first thought isn't, oh, baby dyke. It's oh, child... be careful.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Near the end of the epic road trip over the summer, I hit the small town my family is from, a place I lived full-time until the age of 9 and spent summers in thereafter, the place I got married and baptized my kid, the place that is probably "home" more than any other. My dad's mother is the only immediate relative still living there; the rest of us departed for points west of the Continental Divide years ago.
Well, it wasn't really the end of the trip, but it was the turning-around point. Something about it being the culmination of the discovery phase, knowing that from that time on it wouldn't be a road trip so much as a long drive home, somehow made me irritable, made me feel rushed, kept me from spending the time I would have liked poking around for old memories. But it was early August, so the feel of summer there in southern Illinois was as familiar as ever.
When I was a kid, summer meant being in the place I considered home, afternoons and evenings spent at my grandparents' house--the yellow house with black shutters and white trim--playing in their wooded cathedral of a back yard. Hearing the smack of the screen door against the doorframe. Catching the scent of the fresh lemons in the ceramic fruit stand on the kitchen table as I walked through the Dutch door, the top of which was always open in the summertime. Watching and smelling the chicken or hamburgers cooking on the grill, always taking way too long for my dad's comfort level, but not mattering to me at all because it was summertime and I was running and playing inside and outside and had my grandparents and father with me and I was home and wrapped in the balmy blanket of a midwestern midsummer afternoon.
Evening meant hearing the soft call of the hoot-owl at dusk and Grandma fretting about the owl because he ate the baby squirrels. I was noncommittal, never having actually seen the hoot-owl, much less any baby squirrels, but my sympathies leaned toward the hoot-owl because I could at least hear his call and hearing it meant I was home and it was summertime and night was falling and the fireflies would be coming out soon.
Night meant escaping the sultry summer heat by going to bed in Grandma's attic, feeling the heat and humidity climb with each step up the (originally bare wood, later carpeted) steep enclosed staircase, trying not to fall backward while reaching up and fumbling in the dark for the loose door handle, and finally pushing the door open to the upstairs bedroom. Lying in the pitch blackness in the big soft bed, cold air from the window air conditioner blasting down onto my head, its droning whirr drowning out most of the sounds from outside. Hearing the train whistle, first in the distance but growing progressively closer, feeling the deep reverberation of the diesel engines as they roared past, and hoping I would fall asleep before the rhythmic clacking and rumbling of the cars on the track beyond the back yard faded into the distance.
Morning meant coming downstairs to the already-warm kitchen and the smell of pancakes frying in butter and homemade syrup bubbling on the stove, and choking down the orange juice that I never liked but that they always offered anyway, knowing it was pointless to decline, the sourness of the juice on my tongue making the first bite of sweet pancake a mouth-twisting sensation. I don't remember now if Grandma and Grandpa ever actually sat down and ate breakfast too. They bustled between stove and table in their aprons, making sure everyone else was fed.
All of these things exist now only in my memories. My grandfather spent the last two years of his life in a nursing home in a different town, existing in a different time when he was cognizant of anything at all. My grandmother stayed with him, all of her energies, thoughts, and dreams chained to the moment. Now he is in a cemetery in a different town, the place where Grandma grew up, a place I don't know at all. The yellow house has been repainted a cream color with dark blue shutters, and is rapidly falling into disrepair. It's too much for a lone 88-year-old woman and her cat to deal with. There will be no more barbecues in the back yard, or croquet games, or grandchildren running down the brick steps and across the long grassy lawn to the back fence to watch the train thunder by.
It was strange to be in the house with Grandma the only person there. When I was a kid, it was unusual to find the place unpopulated; the house of my memories teems with both grandparents, assorted family members, family friends, the dog. I found myself wandering around the silent rooms unconsciously waiting for Grandpa to get home, for my brothers to come crashing through the door, for the simultaneous conversations and kitchen noise to resume. The silence and space were unnatural, felt wrong. She plans to live until 92. The house and its sounds and smells await the next family. I wonder if they will devote even a fleeting thought to us, who lived and knew life within its walls and under its trees.
Words fail me. Audacity? Arrogance? Blinding imperial hubris? Listening to the man lecture reporters that "if there's any amendment to the Constitution of the United States that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with it's the Fourth" and then proceed to deliberately misstate and distort that amendment made me physically ill. He stood up there and unabashedly lied.
How is the Constitution safeguarded when the people who are sworn to protect it grab words and phrases out of context, and then use them as justification for ignoring the rest of the document? For ignoring the rest of the very amendment they just quote-mined?
There should be a special place in hell reserved for mainstream media that do not present this for exactly what it is--a bald-faced power grab facilitated by the deliberate distortion of the Constitution (liberal bias, MY BIG FAT ASS). That they know they will, most likely, get away with it is an indictment of the American public's ignorance, apathy, and ovine desire to be "safe," no matter the cost in principle and actual harm.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
As always, my long-term ADD kicked in after a day of shoving bookcases around the grungy linoleum floor, stacking and re-stacking piles of books, sorting through boxes of dusty rocks, and finding the odd bag here and there of misplaced artifacts (!) that should have been returned to the museum years ago. Now that the bulk of the shuffling is finished, I find myself sitting and wondering what I've been doing for real work and what I need to do next.
Disturbing how easily I'm derailed these days.
Interesting things uncovered in the move:
1. little compartment boxes I can put little rocks in
2. missing bag of ceramics from a bucket of trash rocks
3. two pictures my son made for me long ago
4. my Nunzilla windup doll
5. stack of blank CDs
6. ancient petrified lime from under the table
7. two model airplanes I'd thought I'd lost
8. replicated projectile points made by a master knapper
9. my bottle of green hot sauce
10. exciting assortment of post-it notes
My goal for the rest of the week is to finish the current major project and make some headway on the next one. No problem, right?
Monday, January 23, 2006
The kid had been interested in playing for the "finals, baby!" team as a guest player in the year-end tournament. I don't think I'm going to encourage it. I love the coach, having worked with him in the past. The kids on the team are mostly okay, with the usual small ratio of jerks you expect from any group of adolescents, but the parents are unbearable. I wonder what they're going to do with themselves when their kids leave home (most assuredly NOT on a full soccer scholarship to a Division I school). What other channels for vicarious living will be available to them? Will dogfights and cockfights suddenly regain social acceptability?
Thursday, January 19, 2006
This is one of them, Tom G., the main one, the ringleader. The best teacher I ever had. The guy who taught me how to write and how to think.
A guy who happened to have a room in his house completely walled with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.
I house-sat for him the summer after I graduated from high school, and made it a point to copy down a list of all of the authors he had in his library. Some day, I thought, I will have a room like this. And I wanted to make sure all the right books would be in it. I trotted off to Northwestern U for college and promptly found and fell in love with Bookman's Alley (Evanston) and its proprietor, Roger Carlson, who loaded me up with more books than anyone who helped me move in subsequent years wanted to look at, much less haul up and down flights of stairs.
A large portion of my personal collection is fluid these days. Thanks to Bookman's in Tucson (no relation), there's great incentive for trading in volumes I probably won't read again for succeeding generations of one-time-reads. The core collection never gets culled, though, only added to. These would be the classics, both the stuff I read in school and the stuff I should have. If it's mentioned in Jasper Fforde's sublime Thursday Next novels, I try to have it on my shelves. Modern writers who have permanent niches in the core collection include M.F.K. Fisher, Andrea Barrett, Jeanette Winterson, Jasper Fforde, Jane Smiley, Roddy Doyle, and Ruth Reichl. Oh, and the Harry Potter books, of course. I have tried to get into Annie Proulx, but Shipping News just didn't do it for me.
Tom and his wife are going to be in town next month, but of course it's on a weekend that is already jam-packed with too many things for me to do. I hope to see them, and I dearly hope they can come by the house... and that the library is finished by then, and that when he sees my books he will chuckle in approval and recognition.
Some anniversaries I sense by the angle of the sun and temperature of the air, feeling them innately before consciously cluing in on what the date is. A familiar breeze on my skin, squinting in a certain way as I walk down a certain sidewalk... I am briefly transported back to another time, to another person. It's something I picked up early in life, and first noticed when I went away for college, walked outside on the first balmy morning of spring, and felt a stab of giddy anticipation I immediately recognized as the excitement heralding the new soccer season.. and tasted the penaut butter cookies my mom always seemed to have made on the day I filled out my registration form. That one persisted for a while.
Now there are new associations, perhaps tellingly tied to individual people rather than group activities. The crazy whirlwind centered on that one girl and the other one I thought was her soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend... a breakneck drive up the West Coast and back filled with wonders and discoveries completely unrelated to the girl that made the heartbreak worthwhile... the growth of one friendship on the heels of another's demise... the longing for someone I could never have... the comfort of an old friend... the tantalizing first exploratory steps of a new relationship... the melancholy of looking back and finally understanding William Blake, all the while wishing I didn't.
It is a strange sensation, this fleeting flashback transformation into my past self, a person I no longer inhabit and, at times, find it hard to understand. I wonder what place I will look back from when I re-enter this time in my life, what insights I will have then to put all the pieces together and see something good.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
1. Whoever Drew Barrymore pays to be her personal assistant should be slapped for letting her go in front of cameras braless in that particular dress. I hate my bra as much as the next girl, but come on! More than a little support was warranted, and I suspect the dress material didn't look quite so translucent to Ms. Barrymore when she stood in front of her mirror. I mean, if her goal was to put her aureolas on display, she could have done so a little more fashionably.
2. Geena Davis is pretty funny.
3. Chris Rock is starting to get on my nerves, although I did so appreciate the disdain on his face when Tim McGraw came out.
4. Harrison Ford needs to make the goatee a permanent addition, to hide his increasingly jowly old-man lower face. Sigh.
5. Methinks the revulsion Pamela Anderson barely bothered to mask at being paired with William Peterson was mutual.
Monday, January 16, 2006
Re-Elect Gore 2008? Maybe. Gore-Edwards? Gore-Obama? Not Gore-Clinton, please.
Inspired by a bitch's dinner party list, here is my guest list for the most-interesting dinner party ever.
MFK Fisher (she can cook and then write about it later)
Ruth Reichl (sous chef and guest columnist)
Abraham Lincoln ('nuff said)
Howard Zinn (would have interesting questions for Lincoln)
my grandma (feisty)
George Will (yeah, a conservative... but articulate and shows flashes of reason)
Jane Addams (would have some interesting questions for Will)
Ellen Goodman (can keep Will in line)
Lou Holtz (good for stories)
Dean Smith (interesting counterpoint to Holtz)
Bill Clinton (between him and Holtz, no one else will get a word in edgewise)
Paul Krugman (can help keep Will in line)
Robert E. Lee (studies in leadership: compare and contrast with Holtz and Smith)
Amy Ray (would have some interesting questions for Lee)
Julie Foudy (love her politics, and she's easy on the eyes)
me (listening in awed silence)
Another letter in the paper today from the retired Air Force colonel, doling out his right-tinged version of reality. I am glad I read it; otherwise I never would have known that Alito gave straightforward, honest answers in his confirmation hearing, that the Democrats badgered Mrs. Alito [sic] to tears, or that they were engaged in a Clintonesque strategy of character assassination.
Fascinating stuff, that.
I'd write a rebuttal but don't have the energy today. I wonder if the colonel thinks the same thing about my ilk that I do about his, namely, how people can go through their days so completely oblivious to any reality but the one they want to be true.
Friday, January 13, 2006
Alito's inability to answer a straightforward question with a straightforward answer, even a hypothetical with all the exegencies laid out for him, was maddening enough over the broadband. Major props to Feingold for not leaping from the dais and slapping him upside his shiny mug. Major props to Feingold and Kennedy for being the only Dems with enough balls to hang onto their questions with bulldog-like tenacity and actually state that they're moving on to another question only because they were resigned to never getting a straight answer. Feinstein came close a couple of times, but let him wiggle off the unitary executive hook instead of reeling him in. Go for the kill, people! Don't get the man teetering on the brink of admitting his affinity for an imperial presidency, only to shift gears to the Commerce Commission! Warrantless wiretapping... signing statements...
So, yeah, I need a day off from politics. Today promises a paycheck and a trip to the Icecats game. We got a raise for the first time in... four years? I think... so maybe I'll splurge and get an overpriced quality beer instead of the usual overpriced crap beer. Then again, it is hockey, so maybe it should be Bud.
I shall drink blue-collar beer and bemoan the fate of the Republic.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Nah, nothing salacious.
Tucson changes more than any city I've ever lived in. Go away for a week--sometimes just for a weekend--and on your drive to your house on the day you return you might see a familiar business closed, a new one opened up, an old building demolished, a new one sprung up like spadefoot tads after a summer rain. So you can live in a near-constant state of anticipation, wondering what new place is going to move into the storefront that's recently been vacated and remodeled.
My thought process is remarkably constant. Hey, something new's going in. What do I hope it will be? A lesbian bar!
Then I drive another block or two and wonder why I always think I want that. We already have a serviceable dyke bar here, the Biz, not too far from the cozy abode. I've been in there maybe a dozen and a half times, hardly at all in the past couple of years. It's way too smoky--I mean, smoky to the point that you need to wash your hair a couple of times when you get home, and you might as well burn your clothes--and it's louder than I would prefer. It's a nightclub. Yeah, there are a couple of pool tables, but it's a nightclub. I want a bar. A bar with music, yes, but at a level that permits non-shouted conversation, without too much smoke, with some decent food to nibble on, quality beers on tap, and good coffee. In essence, I guess I want the bar that already exists a few blocks from my house, but for dykes.
What is it about explicit lesbian ownership or designated target clientele that is attractive? I've been happily partnered for the last five years, so it's not like I'm needing the one-stop-shopping assistance a bar might offer. I live in Tucson, where several woman-owned or at least woman-friendly businesses already thrive, yes, again, not too far from where I live. I can walk into Antigone Books, or Bentley's House of Coffee and Tea, or the Blue Willow, or any U of A women's basketball or softball game and be surrounded by enough dykes to get some feeling of community.
But it's never the same concentration of big numbers in a small space that you see at the Biz. Sometimes I simply long for that kind of demographic in a well-lit, mellow atmosphere with breathable air. I don't know how often I'd go to, say, a lesbian cafe for lunch or to sit and read. There is a coffee shop down on 4th Avenue, Rainbow Planet, that I dropped into a few times after I first came out, but, at least in those days, it was sparsely populated and was mainly guys.
Just knowing it's there would be the point, I think.
Friday, January 06, 2006
Red Garter Saloon
Bob Dobbs (if you're in the mood to reek of garlic for several days after)
CDs I guess I'll buckle down and buy after all:
The Arcade Fire--Funeral
Mountain Goats--The Sunset Tree
What I like at the movies:
Places I've been once I'd like to go back to:
Puget Sound, WA
Black Hills, SD
Door County, WI
Places I've been once I have no desire to ever see again:
all of Minnesota, at least in summer
Childhood mad crushes:
Current mad crushes:
Foods I simply cannot eat:
Foods I simply cannot live without:
chocolate kitties from Trader Joe's
Beyond Bread rustic
Thursday, January 05, 2006
I have lost my share of dogs over the years, but somehow have never been in the position of holding them in a vet's office, waiting for the needle. We lived in the sticks when I was a wee tad, and our beagles disappeared occasionally, likely stolen by somebody who wanted a new rabbit dog. Or maybe that's just what my dad would tell me. Maybe they got run over instead. When my parents split up and moved to different towns, and weren't able to take the dogs with them, we found farmers to take them in. And the dogs I had in high school died when I was away at college, and when I'd moved out on my own several hundred miles away.
I don't know that I could do it.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Every time I've lost a dog I've sworn I'll never get another one. Then it happens again. These are the dogs the kids will remember as their childhood pets. The hardest kind to say goodbye to, the ones that still bring you to tears twenty, thirty years later.
Why do we torture ourselves this way with these bundles of happy, panting, unconditional love?
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
The familiar hollow-post holiday feeling hit me as I drove to work today, spurred somewhat by the low, gray clouds gracing the Basin this morning. They're supposed to dissipate later this afternoon, returning Tucson to its usual sunny, low-seventies state. We will quickly revert to the generic climate that fails to trigger an automatic sense of place and season, body memory or nostalgia or melancholy for dates long past, conditioned responses to the calendar. I spent my first 27 years learning that early January meant face-first into a cold wind under steel skies, a long trudge through a winter looking bleak now that the anticipation of Christmas' warmth is past, Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's a pale flicker beckoning us on. We return to our routines made slightly more empty and futile by the cold distractionless days of ice and gray slush that lie ahead.
Today I felt a twinge of that, but only briefly. Maybe it actually helped that we took all the decorations down. That usually makes me sad, but this year I am in the middle of building bookcases and have wood and sawdust strewn across the front room, so it's something of a relief to have the extra clutter put away. Or maybe I was too busy to get sad, or too tired, or too befuddled by Notre Dame's 8th consecutive bowl loss. Maybe it doesn't matter in the desert, where it's sunny 360 days a year. Maybe I'm finally old and cynical, maybe I just don't care as much as I used to.
Maybe next year will be different.