Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Urban Nature Blogging

A couple of monsoon babies made their appearance last week. I noticed this little guy in the back yard, hanging out on the bench under the mesquite tree. It was about 3/4 of an inch long and kept its pinchers at the ready, although it never took any swipes at my fingertip.

Blurry mantis nymph.

The pictures of the baby desert cottontail turned out better. This is one of the gaggle of rabbits that lives under the fence behind the office, sunning themselves in the parking lot, dashing off under the shed when people get too close. This baby could fit inside a large grapefruit if he tucked his ears in a bit.

Tiny desert cottontail.

The eastern cottontails I grew up with look strange now when I go back to Chicago, their stubby little ears seemingly out of proportion to their bodies. The desert bunnies' ears evolved long in response to the hot climate, their increased surface area of thin skin over a network of capillaries providing an efficient heat-dispersal system. The eastern cottontails' ears stayed small for the opposite reason, of course, that being heat retention in wintertime.

We used to see a family of Harris hawks prowling the neighborhood near the office, hanging out in the upper branches of dying trees and the tops of power poles. They moved on a little more than a year ago, and since then the rabbit and ground squirrel populations have exploded. Coyotes will figure it out soon enough, I suppose, and maybe the Harris hawks will come back to displace the Cooper's hawks that prey on the doves. Until then, we will burble over the baby bunnies.


I queried my co-worker. So, out of every ten days we work, how many are accurately described by "having a hard time focusing?" She laughed. Just about all of them, I think.


Perhaps it's the late-summer doldrums making an unsettling appearance at the end of July, now that the end of summer is getting yanked up earlier and earlier in August by the start of the school year. August 10? What the hell? Back in the day, August 10 meant we still had two or three solid weeks of vacation left. Now it means three weeks of regimentation keyed to the bell schedule before Labor Day even hits.

Or maybe it's the impending birthday, another of the milestone decade birthdays looming in a few weeks. My son turned fifteen yesterday and I'm 40 on August 18, finally officially and unavoidably smack-dab in middle age. Yesterday's shower found me reflecting on the almost 40 years and trying to identify the unassailable life lessons and wisdom I have accrued thus far. Don't try to make social commitments too far in advance was all I could come up with. Not much to crow about there.

Could be my girlfriend's daughter leaving for college in two weeks, and the sea change in our lives that departure will usher in. Maybe I'm getting a premonition of the ache that will come when my own kid takes off. Maybe I'm not sure what happens next.

Perchance I'm noticing my old dog doddering a bit more with each passing month, the canine senior moments coming more frequently, the clouds in her eyes getting thicker.

So I sit at work and stare at piles of artifacts, hoping some great truth will suddenly leap into my brain and give me something to write about. The boss hopes for a revolution every now and then. I have one brewing somewhere in all these data and maps and pictures and boxplots, but the required words balk at being dragged out of my brain and onto the page. Deadlines loom, expectations loom larger, and I wonder when I got too old to be able to knock back copious amounts of bourbon like I used to.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Cartoon Cartoon

Whole lotta catching up to do after the weekend, but first things first. I am majorly crushing on Paige Braddock, who does the Jane's World comic and a few other arty things besides. Just look at those eyes. Swoon. Awright, those eyes and those hands and that body of work. What can I say? I must dig female cartoonists.

Speaking of things drawn, I give the Simpsons Movie ten Boltgirl Seals of Approval out of ten. I do not normally laugh out loud at movies, or at least haven't since the first training scene in Dodgeball (if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball), but quite gleefully did at this one. Could it have been better? No, I do not think it could. It was that good.

Friday, July 27, 2007

In Which Three of Our Favorite Things Happily Converge

The Fighting Irish, every Irish girl's favorite cereal, and Teh Gay! Erin go bragh!

Oh, my, have the cease & desists from Notre Dame and General Mills been hand-delivered to Topeka yet? Fred Phelps (of the gay-hating Westboro Baptist Church) found out that Ireland is taking a breathtaking stride into the 21st century by preparing to accord full marriage rights to same-sex couples in civil unions (h/t Pam's House Blend), and his head exploded right on schedule, spewing a companion site to the execreble one I won't link to here. But I'll link to God Hates Ireland only for the adorable Notre Dame-Lucky Charms leprechaun mashup he chose as a logo. Go see it before he's forced to take it down; how in the world did Fred forget to show Lucky dropping a bar of Irish Spring?

Speaking of things Irish and gay, the latest recommended easy two-evening read is Emma Donoghue's Kissing the Witch, a set of interconnected, reworked fairy tales evocative of Jeanette Winterson, at least when Jeanette tolerably balances "fanciful" and "comprehensible narrative." Familiar stories are twisted just enough to let out the lesbian protaganists you may have suspected lurked there; waiting for charming princes to come to the rescue is not high on the priority list.

Unrelated safety tip: your fingers do not deceive you; those rocks that have been sitting out in the sun all day are hot, in fact, hot enough to leave second-degree burns with blisters on your fingertips. That's all I'm going to say.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Monsoon Madness

The frequent rains and lingering humidity of the past couple days finally ushered in the expected mold-induced headache, and since my stash of old-school Sudafed with the demon meth-spawning pseudoephedrine is gone, I went with the new, non-methable Sudafed with pseudoephedrine HCl. Whoulda thunk a little hydrochloric acid would mess with a body so badly? Or, specifically, with a body's brain? By the time I got to work I was starting to feel odd, and within an hour was certifiably baked. Since I really needed my brain that day to sort out discrepancies between artifacts and the database, I sat back and stared at my wall and thought deep thoughts about arrowhead manufacture along the Mogollon Rim, A.D. 600-1150, until my eyes uncrossed enough at lunchtime to let me drive home.

Good thing. A couple hours later a dandy monsoon ripped into Tucson, turning the street I take home from work into a car-swallowing river. The Daily Star put a slideshow up here.

Benjie Sanders / arizona daily star

Arizona has a "stupid motorist law," meaning that if you drive around barricades or warning signs into a flooded wash or dip in the road and have to be rescued, you foot the bill for the fire department. Maybe people are lulled into a false sense of security when they don't see the signs on streets that don't look like they should be flood hazards, like Country Club in the photo above. The problem is that Country Club was bult with an inverted crown, meaning the turn lane in the center becomes a running wash when the rainfall is more than moderate, and the water flowing east to west down the cross streets dumps into that inverted crown to create thirty foot wide, two foot deep traps with standing waves at every block. Go out an hour after the storm once the water's receded, and there are the piles of debris and stranded cars like ticks on a giant ruler measuring off the tenths of a mile.

Kayak Tucson Boulevard!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

In Which We Read Harry Potter in a Single Sitting (updated)

Updated with more space before the spoilers. And stuff.

The plan had been to buy the book at 8:00 yesterday morning and read. I got sidetracked a bit by the need to help a friend move, so I didn't hit the readathon until roughly 1:30, at which point I started playing catchup with my housemates.

Wire-to-wire time: 10 hours.
Actual reading time, subtracting a trip across town to drop the boy at a friend's, and pauses every four chapters until everyone was at the same spot: roughly 8 hours.
Total pages: 782.
Sustenance: handful of chips, teriyaki noodles with tofu, Breyer's Light ice cream, an Oreo.

Spoiler alert!

Crucial details revealed below!

*cough cough* you've been warned.

Deathly Hallows was okay. I got confused about the ending, as usual for me and every book in the Potter series. The unusual bit was coming into the book knowing that somebody important was going to get whacked. The former part-time housemate, who is an expert on all things Potter, warned at the outset that J.K. Rowling had said two major characters would die. So, imagine my surprise when my Dead Major Character counter ticked over to the three with a couple hundred pages left. And then four, then fivesix in quick succession. The woman killed off people left and right. Oh yeah, said the former housemate, she said at least two people would die. Fabulous.

Lupin? She killed Lupin and Tonks? What the hell? They were my favorites (!), and their deaths did exactly squat to advance the story and everything to totally piss me off. And Colin Creevey? That was just plain mean. Snape's murder was too abrupt to be satisfying, and his inevitable redemption left me kinda deflated, delivered as it was via the recovered memory in the Pensieve. I don't know. Maybe Rowling got tired and figured the best way to do it would be through the book equivalent of a flashback show. Same with the whole Harry and Dumbledore in... Purgatory? King's Cross Station? The light at the end of the long tunnel? Too much hurry-and-cram-it-in revelation. The two chapters coming on each other's heels felt like a cheap out after so much grand storytelling.

Even so, I realized I respect Rowling the most for creating nuanced characters that, rather than being one-dimensional stock good and evil children's book figures, were all deeply flawed and thus accessibly human. At the end of the Deathly Hallows, I am coming to believe Snape is the ultimate hero of the series. His choices made all the difference, and were far more difficult than the actions Harry believed were not choices so much as destiny compelled by his place in history.

Rowling's ability to spin such a complex tale and keep it consistently compelling and well-written through seven books and however many thousand people borders on the unreal. Final verdict on book 7? I don't have a regular rating scale, but let's call it... five Oreos. A nice handful. The complete series? It gets the whole package of Double Stuf.

Bye, Harry (and Remus, sniff sniff). It's been amazing.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Breaking News

Bush to cede power to VP during colonoscopy

‘The president has had no symptoms,’ Snow says before Saturday procedure

Routine colonoscopy will search for precancerous polyps, Snow said. No word on whether Bush's brain is also on the look-for list while doctors have the camera jammed up his ass. Snow was similarly mum on whether Cheney's two-hour stint in the Oval Office will result in the invasion of Iran. Stay tuned.

Friday Linkfest

The monsoon finally showed up in midtown Tucson last night after a few days of circling around the mountains to the north and Phoenix del Sur, er, I mean Vail and the hodgepodge of cookie-cutter developments to the south. Wind! Lightning! Thunder! And buckets of glorious rain. Unfortunately, the beagle mix didn't see it as glorious quite so much as deadly threat to be barked at all fucking night long, so I'm a bit fuzzy this morning and hoping the third cup of coffee jolts the synapses into some coherent firing pattern.

Until then, some required reading to ponder.

Eugene Robinson on Bush's bizarre happyland mindest:
It's almost as if Bush were trying to apply the principles of cognitive therapy, the system psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck developed in the 1960s. Beck found that getting patients to banish negative thoughts and develop patterns of positive thinking was helpful in pulling them out of depression. However, Beck was trying to get the patients to see themselves and the world realistically, whereas Bush has left realism far behind.

For soccer fans who like pictures of underfed supermodels and their hawt footballer husbands, the Becks-Posh photo spread in W magazine. Beckham: saviour of the MLS, or league-bankrupting boondoggle? I'm not holding my breath. But his tattoos are nice.

Deb Price on recent Supreme Court trends that maybe should be a tad disturbing for us gay folk, now that O'Connor is drawing a pension:
The Roberts court -- whose votes in nongay cases strongly signaled that Chief Justice John Roberts and Samuel Alito can be expected to join Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas in opposing almost any imaginable gay-rights plea -- is moving frighteningly close to having the five votes it would need to weaken the groundbreaking rulings of 1996 and 2003 acknowledging that gay Americans are protected by the Constitution.

And, finally, I can't decide if I kinda like Rick & Steve, The World's Happiest Gay Couple or kinda hate it. It has moments that go both ways. Maybe I hate it because some of the digs at both dykes and gay guys jump right across that line from spot-on funny to mean-spirited and uncomfortable.

Maybe I like it because it reminds me of the Playmobil sets I always drooled over (with the coolest accessories ever, especially the pirates). South Park pulls the edgy stuff off better, but it's early yet, so maybe Rick & Steve will step it up. Lord knows I don't make a habit of telling people what to think about anything, so look for yourself.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


A stunning letter to the editor in this morning's Daily Star:
Re: the July 10 article "Drivers, take water for border crossers, new coalition urges."

I am still floored by the article asking citizens to carry extra water in our vehicles to help illegal border crossers.

Excuse me, but when did refusing to aid and abet illegal activities become "an indictment on us as a community," to quote Dr. Norma Price?

Why is this issue even news? I've lived here for 19 years, and every summer it's the same story. If illegals continue to try and cross our desert in triple-digit heat, they're going to die. This is a no-brainer. Weren't two people arrested a few years ago for doing just what this new coalition is asking people to do?

I for one will not help these folks. If this sounds cold, so be it. I am a law-abiding citizen of Tucson and plan to keep it that way.

Deborah Hodges

Do I even need to say it? Yes-no, yes-no... ::mulls for two seconds:: Well, Law-abiding Deborah, should your car break down on Route 86 west of town this summer, make sure you're carrying your birth certificate and voter registration card with you, because if I don't have proof positive that you're an American citizen, you're not getting any water from me. Actually, I will also need notarized affidavits stating the same from two other American citizens, which means I'll need proof of their citizenship, and their witnesses' citizenship, and...

Because obeying the law always outweighs saving the lives of other human beings. Always.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Book Anticipation

Yes, I am preparing for the arrival of Harry and those Deathly Hallows. Although the movies are generally a fine accompaniment to popcorn on a Saturday night, I have always gotten much more enjoyment out of the books than the films. There's nothing like getting engrossed in the print version and losing hours in hundreds of pages, being unable to put the damn book down despite the 800-odd pages weighting my forearms into cramps.

The plan was for the girlfriend to run out at the crack of 8:00 Saturday morning to buy an armful of copies from Target, since they'll be on super-sale there and should be amply stocked. Then the houseful of females--me, the girlfriend, her kid, our former semi-housemate--were going to sequester ourselves and read all day, fortified by food from El Molinito. However, another friend needs help moving, so I will miss the first part of the readingfest. It's okay. I read pretty fast and can probably catch up by the end of the day Sunday, so hopefully we will all find out simultaneously whether Harry lives or dies.

Boltgirl predicts: Harry won't die. That would kill the eternal prospects of the franchise, and JK Rowling ain't stupid. I will be very interested to see how she wrangles it if she's decided to redeem Snape at the end. If Hermione or Ron die I will be seriously pissed.

The other book release I'm looking forward to even more than Harry is First Among Sequels, the next Thursday Next novel from Jasper Fforde. If you liked high school English even just a little bit, or have rediscovered British and American classics now that you're a grownup, the series is required reading. I want to be Jasper Fforde. Actually, I want to be Thursday Next. Or date Thursday Next. The writing is crisp and so incredibly, impossibly clever. Anyway, the next Next comes out on July 24, and I'm grooving into it without even a smidgen of the stress surrounding Harry. No worries about some git shouting out the ending on the way into Borders, no hopping around biting my fingers waiting for the rest of the household to get to the part I just read that desperately needs discussing. Just me and Thursday and, probably, a bottle of wine to accompany me on frequent runs into my library to look up literary references that escape me.

Bring it on. My eyeballs are warmed up and ready to go.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Whole Foods Comes Out In Chicago

Regular sound-and-fury boycotts from the American Family Association aside, it isn't all that risky for major corporations to associate themselves with Teh Gay by sponsoring pride festivals or putting ads in The Advocate. Most Americans don't actively despise us enough to swear off their Bud Light just because of the full-page glossies depicting two hot guys holding hands, and even if they do it's easy for them to frame gay-friendly ad campaigns as companies simply tapping into a market that seems to have more spare cash on hand than the average non-Halliburton shareholder demographic.

But installing your retail store as the anchor of a shiny new GLBT community center is a stronger statement more akin to sticking your neck out, and that's what Whole Foods has done in Chicago.
Having Whole Foods as a tenant provides the East Lakeview neighborhood with an upscale grocery store and the community center with income to help its endowment, but it also provides potential clients a discreet gateway into the center, said Modesto Tico Valle, executive director of the non-profit center.

The Whole Foods store has its own set of doors on Halsted Street. But it also has a side entrance that spills into the center's expansive lobby, where there will be tables and seating for 50 around a fireplace and easy access to the center's elevators.

"There's a lot of people that are still struggling with coming-out issues," he said. "We're definitely setting the benchmark when you're talking about a comprehensive center."

Of course marketing research had everything to do with this, and of course the typical Whole Foods customer is more likely to support gay rights than, say, the typical Kroger's customer, and maybe I shouldn't be so pleased that a major store has decided damn the torpedoes and go after gay people's wallets too.

Although Whole Foods is thought to be the first retailer of its size to anchor a gay community center in the U.S., the retailer views its location as more of a gold mine than a gamble, given the population density of its neighborhood just east of Wrigley Field and its demographics.

But I am.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Less Bush, More Helen Thomas, Please

Helen Thomas. 'nuff said. The first 45 seconds of the video are all you need to see.

Q Mr. President, you started this war, a war of your choosing, and you can end it alone, today, at this point — bring in peacekeepers, U.N. peacekeepers. Two million Iraqis have fled their country as refugees. Two million more are displaced. Thousands and thousands are dead. Don’t you understand, you brought the al Qaeda into Iraq.

THE PRESIDENT: Actually, I was hoping to solve the Iraqi issue diplomatically. That’s why I went to the United Nations and worked with the United Nations Security Council, which unanimously passed a resolution that said disclose, disarm or face serious consequences. That was the message, the clear message to Saddam Hussein. He chose the course.

Q Didn’t we go into Iraq –

THE PRESIDENT: It was his decision to make. Obviously, it was a difficult decision for me to make, to send our brave troops, along with coalition troops, into Iraq...

Another presser, more of the same. September 11th, Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein. New way forward. This young democracy. Freedom. Govern, defend, sustain itself. Hard work. There rather than here. Mix 'n' match.

Meanwhile, as W pays lip service to our brave troops, we learn that Marines are being sacrificed in the interest of no-bid contracts.

The contracts continued even though Force Protection "did not perform as a responsible contractor and repeatedly failed to meet contractual delivery schedules for getting vehicles to the theater," the report said. Under one contract issued in 2005, Force Protection failed to deliver 98 percent of 122 mine-resistant vehicles on time despite getting $6.7 million from the Marines to upgrade its production facilities.

The report, signed by Richard B. Jolliffe, assistant inspector general for acquisition and contract management, also found that a subsidiary of Armor Holdings of Jacksonville, Fla., was late delivering some crew-protection kits, which are added to vehicles' windows and doors, and provided others with missing and unusable components. The delays, including reinstalling the kits, "all resulted in increased risk to the lives of soldiers," according to the report.

Remember, voting to cut off funding in order to bring the troops home undermines them, but continuing to pay companies who lag far behind schedule or deliver substandard quality somehow supports them.

And all for what? Propping up a barely wheezing government that will collapse the second we leave? Keeping the bad guys at bay until the Iraqi security forces decide they want to show up for work?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

How the GOP Supports the Troops

By filibustering the Webb Amendment, which was designed to ensure that combat units get at least as much downtime between deployments as they get in the theater of operations. Yes, fillibustering. The party of the self-righteous demands for "up or down votes" filibustered, betting that the Dems and defecting GOPers wouldn't be able to muster the 60 votes needed to bring Webb's proposal to the floor for the hallowed up or down vote.

So it died.

And the Republican senators who supported the filibuster while claiming to support the troops will, later today, have their flunkies lock up the office and head off to the bar for a cocktail or two before going home to snuggle into their beds and perhaps dream of the fundraising junkets they'll go on during their upcoming monthlong summer recess. And the boys and girls in Iraq will hit their racks in 110 degree heat so they can get up in a few hours to go out again the next day. And a few of them will leave their limbs and their lives on those miserable fucking streets. And their buddies who get through physically unscarred will get to look forward to a three-month longer stay than they'd bargained for, followed by a few months at home before they're shoved back into the grinder.

And we're called defeatists.

There is some hope, though, as more Republicans trickle over to the withdrawal side of the line.
Two of the Republicans who voted for the Webb amendment, Sens. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine) and Chuck Hagel (Neb.), announced this morning they would also support Democratic legislation, soon to come to a vote, that would begin troop reductions no later than 120 days after enactment. U.S. forces would then shift their efforts to targeted missions such as counterterrorism. The process would have to be completed by April 30, 2008.

"We have arrived at the crossroads of hope and reality, and we must now address the reality. We need to send a strong message from the United States Congress on behalf of the American people that the current strategy is unacceptable," Snowe said.

How long before even W has to address the reality of the mess he's made? Time should be counted in days. Unfortunately, our time in Iraq is counted instead in bodies.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

This, That, the Other

Oh, fantastic.

As he sought to renew the USA Patriot Act two years ago, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales assured lawmakers that the FBI had not abused its potent new terrorism-fighting powers. "There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse," Gonzales told senators on April 27, 2005.

Six days earlier, the FBI sent Gonzales a copy of a report that said its agents had obtained personal information that they were not entitled to have. It was one of at least half a dozen reports of legal or procedural violations that Gonzales received in the three months before he made his statement to the Senate intelligence committee, according to internal FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Surely this was an oversight. A slipup. Gonzo wouldn't deliberately lie, would he? Heaven forfend.

Hmmm, then there's this.
White House counsel Fred F. Fielding informed lawmakers in a letter yesterday that Bush was asserting executive privilege for the second time in two weeks regarding requested testimony by former counsel Harriet E. Miers and former political director Sara M. Taylor about the prosecutor firings.

Bush won't let Miers and Taylor testify for real, you know, under oath and on the record. He's happy to make them available for "private interviews," which seems to mean "presenting utter fabrications without penalty. And he's invoking executive privilege because his counsel is part of the executive branch. But his vice president isn't.

It makes perfect sense.

And, in other news--almost too predictably--another family values-trumpeting, traditional marriage-defendin' politician, David Ritter (R-LA) is found to have taken an uncharacteristic walk on the wild side. Oh, but look--he has his very own get out of jail free card, at least where he's hoping the morality police are concerned:

"Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling," Vitter continued.

Evangelism may not mean never having to say you're sorry, but it does seem to mean you can do whatever the hell you want, while working to officially smack down other people for what you define as a sin, just as long as you say the magic "I'm sorry!" words to excuse you from all culpability for whichever of those holy commandments you broke this time, clearing your slate until the next time, and the next. It's the smug arrogance that leads people to wear t-shirts like this one. Few things make me want more to punch people in the face.

It goes without saying that Ritter was a big federal marriage amendment supporter.

"I don't believe there's any issue that's more important than this one," said Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican.

Except maybe deciding to stay away from the hookers between floor debates on the inevitable deletrious effects of Big Sodomy on his own marriage.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Ah, Food

As I sit waiting to see who Gordon Ramsay will reduce to tears on Hell's Kitchen tonight, I contemplate my culinary history and its standing in the grand scheme of things. The early years consisted of what I might euphemistically describe as honest cooking with simple ingredients with an eye toward economy, but that's like dumping a can of Durkee's over a vat of condensed cream of mushroom soup and calling it cuisine. More accurately, it was midwestern non-ethnic white people food.

I did not encounter a taco until I was ten years old and living in the relatively teeming metropolis of South Bend, Indiana.

Before that it was a trailer park next to a lake outside a small town in southern Illinois. My mom was never big on cooking and didn't pick up the wide range of American standards her own mother put on the table on a regular basis. My grandparents fed me a steady stream of roast beef with noodles, chicken and dumplings, pork chops and scalloped potatoes, turkey and dressing.

Mom's repertoire was a bit more limited, but I didn't notice or mind at all. I'm sure we must have eaten more than four dishes on a rotating basis, but my memories of early childhood meals feature only these: Sweet Sue chicken and dumplings from the can (still available online! I swoon!), pizza (Jiffy crust mix from the box, slathered with tomato paste straight from the can, sprinkled with dried basil and oregano, topped with browned hamburger and mozzarella), beef Stroganoff (noodles. lots and lots of noodles), and the absolute star of the kitchen and highlight of any given gustatory week: Spanish Noodles.

I do not pretend to know why anyone thought this dish had anything to do with Spain, although the "noodles" bit of the title is accurate enough. The recipe: brown ground beef, drain, add can of tomato sauce (or was it ketchup?), squirt of mustard, and several slices of American cheese, stir until melty, dump over cooked egg noodles, stir around into a giant glob, serve.

Horrifying! And so delicious and toothsome! Did I mention this was in a trailer park?

My move to South Bend at age 9 opened up culinary worlds I had no idea existed before. Alien foods called "enchiladas" and "hong sue chicken" blew my hick tastebuds straight into stunned wakefulness. Thank you, Happy House. I would find your Cantonese fare way too tame to be happy there now--amazing egg rolls aside--but you served your purpose, even if your odd choice of house accompaniments (pull-apart rolls served with every dish!) led me to ask really inappropriate questions the first time I went to a Thai restaurant in Evanston (you want bread? are you out of your mind?) As did you, Hacienda, and your wonderful--if unfortunately named--smothered burritos. And you, Al's Anchor Inn, with your homemade pierogi and frog legs on Friday nights.

Then I went away to college in Chicagoland, within a 45 minute train ride of pretty much any cuisine on the planet, and never looked back. Thai, Szechuan, Italian, Ethiopian, Cambodian, Mexican, Peruvian. And trips back home to southern Illinois had their high points--breaded tenderloin sandwiches from the bar in Sullivan, Indiana (a hop, skip, and jump away); tacos on Tuesday nights at the Town House Tavern in Lawrenceville (a hop away) that were shredded beef cooked with onions and green chiles topped with "sweet sauce," otherwise known as pureed jalapenos, wrapped in delightfully blistered and flaky tiny flour tortillas (where the hell did those come from?); and the ever-reliable Big Murt burger and chocolate shakes from Hovey's on Main Street in Olney.

What a wonderful world to live in, with such wonderful things to eat.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Monsoon Onset

Why do people get excited about monsoon season? the girlfriend asks with mild exasperation. It goes from 110 and dry to 101 and humid, and if it rains it cools off for maybe half an hour and then we're steamy again.

I shrug. 110 and dry, 101 and muggy, to me they're simply different paths to the same level of misery, so we might as well have a multimedia presentation to go along with it.

Most of us love monsoon season, I think, because gives us small packages of drama on a daily basis and we're desperate for relief wherever we can find it. Wispy clouds at sunrise give way to cumulus puffs that build through the midmorning into the afternoon, when they tower with brilliant white anvils above glowering purple-gray bases. The wind swirls here and there, lightning flashes over the mountains, and we wait with growing anticipation, listening for the distant rumble, hoping it comes closer, poised for the elusive whiffs of cool air that organize into a genuine cool gust that ushers in the rain, a few bits of spittle here and there, growing into drops that splat in the dust and finally hammer the desert into submission. If the storm is still building as the sun goes down, the sunset is a watercolor masterpiece painted across the clouds, the dust and ice particles in the air creating a perfect wash of brilliant orange grading through pink into purple, the cumulonimbus canvas backlit and edged with liquid gold.

Yeah, didn't happen yesterday, except for the bit about the sunset. I caught a half-minute's rain on my windshield on the way home, but we did get a prodigious wind that dumped pine needles all over the yard and toppled a few signs between home and the office. The swamp cooler apologetically pumped not very cool air into the house last night, which I spent with the floor fan on full blast, not feeling the need to stick my toes under the sheet until about 4:30 this morning.

But that's okay. Today the slate is wiped clean and we watch the sky and hope again.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Seven Years Out

Independence Day is my personal coming-out day; I wrote about it last year if you want the gory details. This year I celebrated with Bailey's in my coffee and the Cubs on TV. They went on to lose horribly, but the coffee was good.

Seven years is simultaneously a lifetime and the blink of an eye, at least to me, at least when that's how long I've been out. It's nothing and it's everything.

Seven years out in America, all of them fortunately spent in Tucson, flitted through my head last night as I sat on the roof watching the fireworks. Friends who got it immediately, family members who didn't then and still don't now, the girlfriend who turned into a best friend, the one who didn't. The shock to the system of suddenly having a label affixed that explained the lifelong sense of difference and separation from what I was expected to be. What I tried to be with little success.

The day came and went with no fanfare, as maybe it shouldn't. Just another day in an ordinary life.

Monday, July 02, 2007

In Which We Find One More Reason to Love Trader Joe's

It ain't big, in the grand scheme of things, but considering that my morning's already on shaky foundations, bad coffee does not help. But--BUT--something does help bad coffee. When the brew in the office pot is a bit on the weak yet apparently burned into vague strength side, chasing the sips with a few Trader Joe's peanut butter-filled pretzels transforms the taste experience into something approximating a complex coffee flavor that is not at all unpleasant. And is protein-fortified!

The Cool Church Doesn't Like Us Either

It's been something of a slog, this getting back into the daily routine when I still desperately want to be someplace else and it's unbearably hot, to get hotter, and the AC in my truck decided to die in a very expensive way. But I was getting there, avoiding heat-induced nausea for most of the day, managing to just see the tough little desert trees without comparing them unfavorably to towering oaks and maples, breathing sighs of relief that excellent Mexican food is never more than a few blocks away, you know, feeling Tucson again and being mostly okay with it.

Because Tucson is mostly a cool place. A cool, cool place, so I had never batted an eye when I saw banners and bumper stickers for "The Cool Church" popping up here and there. Some of the banners had pictures of the pastor on them, a muscular, 40-ish dude with spiky bleached hair and an earring. Shrug, move on.

Tee hee. Yeah, whatever. The front page of this morning's Daily Star carried this headline:

'Cool Church' Teachings on Gays Decried as 'Uncool'

And as much as I despise religion-section fluff getting front-page play, even when it's below the fold, I just had to read.
Church member Rinehart said his feelings toward gays and lesbians are hurt and sadness.

"They don't realize the destructive lifestyle they are living," he said.

"Money, sex, drugs, stealing, killing, prostitution — you name it. We all have problems. We all sin. Jesus told us we can't be perfect. That's why we need him."

You know, since it's a Cool Church, I was hoping for a little more cutting-edge characterization of my depravities. Comparing me to a drug-addicted kleptomaniac murderous hooker is just so 1990.

A trip to the church's website gets you hip-deep in tired anti-gay and pro-Christian-Nation propaganda lifted directly from the Family Research Council and the Wallbuilders pseudohistory shills (exhaustively debunked, respectively, by Jim Burroway and Ed Brayton). It's the same old fake evangelical science and fake evangelical history in a slightly shinier package. And, Daily Star, it's still not news.