Friday, July 30, 2004

Various Vices

This is a picture I took of a starving Ethiopian. Much as I like to pretend I'm all uber political and literate and serious, I'm a big faker and here's why. I have a secret vice. I'm addicted to celebrity gossip and celebrity fashion disasters. I can't help it. It's a dirty addiction. So...that's the real me. As a tribute to Michael (Daddy Sloth) I read the riot act and rabidly rant about random right-wing rubes while secretly salivating over senseless celebrity subterfuge. Click on the link to see who got fat and who got waaaaaaaaaaay too thin! Posted by Hello

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Mini-Post

This is just a tidbit that I grabbed off of McSweeney's today. I can't WAIT for the debates.
 
"One of the most meaningful things that's happened to me since I've been the governor—the president—governor—president. Oops. Ex-governor. I went to Bethesda Naval Hospital to give a fellow a Purple Heart, and at the same moment I watched him—get a Purple Heart for action in Iraq—and at that same—right after I gave him the Purple Heart, he was sworn in as a citizen of the United States—a Mexican citizen, now a United States citizen."—George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Jan. 9, 2004

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Thursday, July 29, 2004

Who's Who in Blogland?

Vader is not having a good day today. For a lot of reasons. One of the things she is concerned about is Blogger identity. I agree that it can get pretty freaky. I keep reading lately that Mr. Vodka is pissing people off and Vader commented that she thought he might be the same person as Kevin from TJ's Place. I have no idea if that's true or not. However.  I knew I remembered reading a comment by Kevin a while back that was relevant to this topic and went largely unnoticed by his readers. This may cause a flurry of whatever, but I feel compelled to re-print it here. This was posted by Kevin on his own site, Life at TJ's Place, on May 31st: Marc, I currently have only 5 blogs that I use to comment here. I'm gravedigger, Jenni from Alaska, Damian from the UK, Dan Tobin (I haven't commented as Dan for awhile because Surgical Strikes takes up a lot of my day) and starz from theblackandwhite.org. I used to be several others.   For those of you who have asked me in the past, this is exactly the reason that I don't email. You never know who people are and the temptation to trust people on the internet can get you in big trouble. I'm not offering an opinion about the good or bad nature of Kevin/Dan/Damian/Jenni, all I'm saying is that people can seem really nice and really not nice and on the internet the nice person and the not-nice person can be the same person. Yikes.

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Beatdown.

This morning's post is in honor of the beatdown guy who, regrettably, has been removed from the sidebar as he has not posted in a month. 1. If you smoke in the morning and then sit next to me on the bus so that I get to smell a wet ashtray all the way to work, you deserve a beatdown. 2. If you say that Teresa Heinz-Kerry is too mouthy and opinionated and you conveniently ignore the glaring double standard between men and women in the public eye, you deserve a beatdown. 3. Scientologist? Beatdown. 4. The weather is so muggy that my towel has not dried out for two days. Beatdown. 5. Ann Coulter, you deserve the biggest beatdown of all for being such a twat that you would attack  Max Cleland and belittle his patriotism and his war wounds. The guy lost three limbs in heavy combat during the Vietnam War and you accuse of him of lying about how it happened? What kind of fucking insect are you? I'm sorry, I do a disservice to insects everywhere by associating you with them. You are a goddamned turd and I hope you choke on your tongue.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Getting-on-with-things Sloth

This is a photograph of a child's grave that I took at Mt. Auburn cemetery. Hello everyone - as a few of you already noticed, I'm back. I lurked around for a bit but now am back to posting. This post is a little long which I usually try to avoid because I don't like it when other people post long rambling passages either. I could have split it into two installments but, frankly, I want to be done with this topic. I am loath to dedicate two days strung together to death. So here is the last of it - it's just a section of the journal I kept while I was gone. It's nice to be back, even on a rainy day. Oh, and lest there be any confusion, we all called Lyla "Lee." July 22, 2004 Day one of death rituals. Today is Thursday. Lee  died on Sunday. We bury her tomorrow. I spent the night in Maine before picking up my dad's wife, Cindy, and flying to D.C. After an evening of drinking, smoking and crying with my mom and stepfather I woke up messy, but I was ready to go in half an hour. Go go go. Don't think about where or why, just get to the airport. Go go go. Then wait. Our flight was late. No planes could land in the soup of fog that passed for our atmosphere this morning. Eventually we landed at Dulles. Horrible airport. We had to walk through three enormous buildings to get to a taxi stand. Our cab driver was a special needs cab driver. He couldn't find the National Cathedral which is visible from every square inch of this city. Unfortunately Cindy and I were special needs passengers. We couldn't find our street on a map. Cindy was feeling nauseous from peeping at the map in a moving car (the short cab) and my teeth felt like they were being ground down to nubs. When the meter hit $40 I called my dad. He spoke to the driver who slowed to 3 mph as he spoke much too loudly into my itty bitty Zoolander phone, the face of which was barely visible peeking out from his meaty hand. We were still creeping around the neighborhood at the pace of a pig roast when my dad appeared on a corner and flagged us down. So we got here. And here we are. The house has my grandmother's good smell. A half-empty bottle of Chanel No. 5 sits on her dressing table. I looked through some of her drawers and found a quick, impromptu love letter from her husband, Ed, that somehow incorporates the word "discombobulated." I had to have my dad decipher the letter - the handwriting looks like Sanskrit and is very similar to his. There is no date on it, but it is likely quite old as Ed died when I was only a child. We picked up Lee's ashes at the funeral home this afternoon. The first line of their brochure reads, "When someone you love has died, regardless of how much time you've had to prepare for the death, it will be upsetting and shocking." I am inclined to agree. The pink wallpaper, the Monet print, the friendly young woman who was both kind and professional, the soft green velvet chair that I sat in - none of it was quite enough to distract from the grandmother-in-a-box on her desk. I just couldn't fold this information into my mind. Her naturally strawberry-blonde hair, the thin, tissue-paper skin over the delicate bones in her hands, her tiny perfect triangle of a nose, her painted fingernails, her small, hesitant legs, her Michelle Pfeifer lips are all in this box. The way she clasped the locket around her neck when she was at a loss for words, the way she maneuvered each forkful of food to her mouth without losing a crumb, the way she began her answers to questions with the word "well" in an upward inflection, the way she gracefully deflected any praise by pointing out something wonderful about the person offering it, the way she laughed, oh that funny, high laugh, and tried to talk through her laughter, making us all laugh more, the way she ran her finger back and forth over her chin as she spoke, the way she touched the corners of her mouth after taking a sip of Chardonnay, the way she kept her husband's love letter in a drawer in the vanity that she sat at every day for decades, are all in this box. Lee, the anchor of our family, the proud matriarch of our clan, is in this box. Now, away from that room and that desk, I correct myself. Who Lee was is not in that box. Lee is gone. She will never infuriate me by loving me too fiercely ever again. This is her death. This is the reason that I am here. And all that is in that box is carbon. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Grandmother to earth and ether. Granddaughter to grass and roots. I could just lie here, watch the sky go by. Wait for the lawn to swallow me up. Day two of death rituals - the memorial service Actually it's day three at the moment. In two hours about 50 or so people are going to show up here to pay their respects. They won't come all at once, of course. They'll trickle in and out. There will be food and drink. There will be hugs and tears and wine and remembrances and cards and flowers and eggs. Maria Theresa - the woman who has cared for my grandmother for months - is making something with eggs at the moment. The whole house smells like a salt marsh. We've made a little shrine to Lee on a long, thin table in the living room. Two bouquets of orange and purple flowers, photographs from all different stages of Lee's life, the folded flag from her army service and a sandalwood candle. Many of the guests will be foreign service people who will recognize the young Lee in her photographs, though it's clear in the pictures that throughout the progression of her life, she never lost the joy or the serenity that she seems to have been born with. There were only ten of us at the graveside service yesterday, plus the minister. He didn't know Lee. She hadn't been a regular church-goer for some time. But he somehow made the service seem very personal and particularly framed around her life. Dr. Bauman was a kind man who seemed to carry his own serenity and inner light. He smiled throughout the service, yet it seemed entirely appropriate. He celebrated the joy of her life and the belief that the family shared in the joy of her afterlife. I was glad for his presence. It is often difficult for me, as a non-believer, to find meaning in services such as weddings or funerals that are religious in nature. I grieve for my grandmother in a way, I think, that is different from the rest of the family. Our family is, for the most part, open to spirituality and the mysteries of the world, whereas I am too stubborn to embrace anything remotely resembling "faith." I say this not as an apology, nor as a regret, but as an observation of the differences in the way we mourn. I don't begrudge anyone their beliefs, but when Dr. Bauman spoke about the glory and love of God, about the teachings of Jesus, and about the triumph of the spirit in the afterlife, I found myself drawing away and needing in those moments to quietly speak to myself my own inner truth. She is gone. I miss her. I will never see her again. I miss her. I wish I could kiss her cheek. I wish I could get her back. She is gone. She is gone. She is gone. I wanted not to cry but I was crying before we even got there. Sitting in the chair next to Ed's grave I found myself scrutinizing the bouquet in an effort to hold myself together. That big yellow flower looks like the thing in that deep sea documentary I saw a while back, I was thinking. And that other flower looks like carpaccio. Yuck. Those big red flowers look like blood stains on thick paper. Blood. Lee died of blood in her brain. Lee died. She is gone. All gone forever. I don't want to be sitting here. I want to lying face-down in the cool grass. The flower scrutiny plan was a failure. Everyone spoke or read something at the service except for me. I thought I might feel guilty about that but I didn't. It just wasn't something I could do. There was a quote by Edith Wharton, a passage from Anne Lamott, a tidbit from the Bible and other things. I was glad it was just the few of us. I was glad to be able to say goodbye to her with only the closest of the family - crying together, feeling thankful together, loving her and missing her and wanting her back and releasing her together. There was an elegance to all of it, even to our grief, that seemed fitting to Lee's elegant life. After placing the roses and sprinkling the dried petals, we held a family circle around the grave. This is a long-held tradition in our family. In the moments before we take leave of each other we stand in a circle and hold hands. We pray or feel thankful or think good thoughts until we feel that we are ready to say goodbye. Then we squeeze the hands we're holding and everyone squeezes and it's time to go. We do this because in this family it's always been very difficult to say goodbye, even when everyone's still alive. During this particular family circle, I kept imagining the sound of Lee's laughter. It was something I did reflexively when her daughter died as well. It is bizarre, let me tell you, to feel tears sliding down your cheeks even as laughter rings through your head. I don't feel well. Throat like sandpaper. Tomorrow we will have to decide which objects will go to which people. It's a strange necessity and there is some dread nibbling at me, just as we seem to be nibbling away at her home. Wanting her bureau makes me feel like a loathsome troll. A troll with granite in my throat. Right now I am alone. Alone again, again, always alone. I don't know how to get a toe-hold on a life that people keep slipping out of. I don't know how to be ok. I miss her. I'll leave it here - this is just an excerpt of my journal from the funeral but I think it's enough. Anyway, it's good to be back. There's nothing like a speech from Senator Obama to cheer a girl up. I think the DNC is just the right medicine for a sad Sloth.  Posted by Hello

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Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Miss Me and I'll Miss You Back

This is a photograph I took while I was in Oz of a kangaroo in a bizarrely human pose, just enjoying the leg room. Ok, everybody, I'm off to D.C. for all that stuff that goes along with someone dying. I'll be back next week. You all take care and remember to use protection. I'll leave you with a short observation about a tiny aspect of my life in the city. Every morning I wait in the cold or the rain or the snow or the blazing sunshine for the sixty-six bus. I am generally half an hour late for work so I take the bus with all the other people who are generally late too. I see the same tired group of travelers every morning and I have come to be fond of most of them although we have never spoken or even acknowledged each other with a nod. I know where their stops are and I even look forward to seeing them, but I have never been able to determine if they recognize me as well. It's possible that they do not, as I get on the bus fairly early on the line and it occurs to me that I have never noticed anyone who is already on the bus before it gets to my stop. It is the people who have already staked their claim on a small piece of real estate, a seat or a handhold, that notice the newcomers. Those getting on the bus are busy searching out a spot, vying for a seat, and squeezing their way down an aisle filled with back packs and elbows. They don't notice the sea of faces staring at them, recognizing them, silently welcoming them into our morning. There is the Asian girl who is shaped like a box but is nonetheless unbearably hip and sexy. She wears expensive, pointy shoes and thick eyeliner that tapers upward at the corner of each eyelid. Her face and manner are severe and I wonder if she intimidates her coworkers. There is the tall man with a ponytail that reaches all the way down his back. He wears a suit every day except when it's very hot out. Then he will forgo the jacket, but keep the shirt and tie. On these days he rolls his sleeves to just below the elbow. He has an enormous noggin and a face that is shaped like a pancake, and he wears a silver ring on the first finger of his right hand. He intrigues me because the expensive suits and shoes and his gray cashmere winter coat don't exactly jive with a long ponytail and a silver ring that is not a wedding band. I wonder if he secretly prides himself on his alternative tastes. There is the beautiful redhead who has a curvy body and wears it well. She folds her jeans square at the cuff and wears tight t-shirts and the same dark shade of lipstick every day. Her hair is cut short and stylish, with some kind of product in it that makes it shine, but not too much. I want her backpack. Instead of two straps, there is only one and it goes over the shoulder. It fits her snugly and when she wears it she looks tough and independent and feminine at the same time. There is the woman with long blonde dreadlocks and the pretty, brown girl who wears a leather hat in the winter and the pale boy who always looks like he's wearing his father's clothes and the girl with the red pea coat who smiles at whatever she is listening to on her walkman and the list goes on and on. I find it reassuring, seeing these same late-for-work people every day. On the rare occasion that I am on time for work there is a whole different gaggle of commuters on the bus and I feel lonely and lost somehow. It is interesting, I think, that a group of people whom I have never once acknowledged or spoken to can make me feel included in some way. As though we're all carpooling together by choice. As though I've stopped by to pick them up and we're all late together because we're the cool kids. Posted by Hello

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Dick.

Today we begin with another tidbit from McSweeney's Daily Reason to Dispatch Bush. This one is about Dick. Also known as "The Penguin." DAY 77: In January 2002, Vice President Cheney refused to let a congressional oversight body see records of his Enron meetings. The records might have helped determine how much influence the company may have had over the energy policy Cheney's task force developed in 2001. Cheney explained his refusal to publicize what took place at the meetings by saying that he and the president should be allowed to do their work in secret. He told CNN in 2002: "I have been in town now off-and-on for 34 years. And during that period of time, there's been a constant, steady erosion of the prerogatives and the power of the Oval Office, a continual encroachment by Congress, War Powers Act, Anti-Impoundment and Budget Control Act, previous instances where presidents have given up, if you will, important principles. So the office is weaker today than it was 30, 35 years ago." The administration that was in office 30, 35 years ago was the Nixon administration, in which Cheney served. Watergate took place during this same period in Nixon's first term, causing Congress to later establish reforms that made it more difficult for a president to conduct politically motivated burglaries. (Sources: "Cheney: We're keeping papers secret on principle," CNN, Jan. 29, 2002. Elisabeth Bumiller, "Enron's Many Strands: The Vice President; Cheney Is Set to Battle Congress to Keep His Enron Talks Secret," New York Times, Jan. 28, 2002. Adam Clymer, "Judge Says Cheney Needn't Give Energy Policy Records to Agency," New York Times, Dec. 2002.)

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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Mini-Post

This is a picture of a dragonfly in my parents' garden. It has nothing to do with this post. Just trying to conjure up pretty pictures and fond memories to float through the next few days on. This is a little snapshot from my childhood. I smoked my first cigarette in the seventh grade. My girlfriend swiped some pipe tobacco from her father and we rolled the shag into fuzzy brown caterpillars that we pinched together with our fingers and folded into torn strips of lined notebook paper - college ruled. They smelled wonderful like old leather chairs and old men who told old stories. Then we lit them and they smelled like a naughty brush fire. "Hold it in as long as you can," Katie squeaked at me, trying not to laugh. We thought this was how it was done. Her cheekbones were bunched up like plums. Her ribcage, expanded around her smoke-filled lungs, made her look square, like a gorilla on its hind legs. I inhaled. I held in. We stood staring at each other, holding our smoke, poking our gorilla chests out as though we were about to fight. Posted by Hello

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Monday, July 19, 2004

The Ambassador's Wife

This is a picture of a small statue in my grandmother's garden. My grandmother, Lyla, met my grandfather, Ed, during WWII. She was fond of telling me that she outranked him when they met. She had entered the army as a nurse and when she arrived at the base she had been assigned to in California, Ed was the first person she met. He was the only one with a car, so he had been sent to show her around. He was a handsome man, with a regal rectangle of a face and a vaguely rascally twinkle in his eye. He was instantly smitten with her and they married soon after. My grandfather climbed the ranks until he became a U.S. ambassador. I believe the first country they went to was Morocco, but I could be wrong. My dad, the youngest of three, was born in Bombay, India before they moved to Holland and then to South Africa. Apartheid was very troubling to their family and my grandmother taught her children to abhor it. They grew up under the specter of racism and all returned to America with a heightened awareness of global injustice. All three of her children were political activists in the 60's and 70's. In the 80's, my dad went to Nicaragua to help pick coffee and support the Sandinistas. My grandmother had raised a highly intelligent, politically aware family in deserts and jungles, teaching them their manners and their letters on sea voyages that lasted for months and in the echoing halls of the ambassador's compound. When they returned to America my grandmother's duties as the ambassador's wife did not abate in the least. She held parties, soirees in fact, and flitted among the guests in their Washington D.C. home with a grace and style to rival Audrey Hepburn. There are heaps of pictures in the study of that home of both her and her husband smiling next to heads of state and other political heavyweights. She was unbelievably beautiful. I remember the day my grandfather died. My dad and I had been visiting and when we got to the airport our plane was delayed for three hours. We decided to go back to the house where my grandfather was ill with cancer and receiving hospice, instead of wasting hours in the airport. As soon as we walked in the front door my aunt came to tell us that he was dying right then. I held the priest's hand and watched my dad over my grandfather's deathbed. My dad held his mother's hand and they cried and said some things that I can't remember. It was my first death. I was eight. My grandmother carried on without her husband, strong as always, and a lioness of a mother. She never remarried. She was angry with me when I dropped out of college, but proud of me to an embarrassing extent when I went back. She has always had a tendency to shower members of her family with so much praise that we have to beg her to stop. It's incredible to me that that much love could be contained in a body so small. Today my grandmother's house is still filled with beautiful statues and paintings that were given to her by tribal leaders and presidents in various countries. A few years ago it occurred to her to have them appraised and she was startled to learn their worth. Most of these items, now considered "artifacts," are intended for the Smithsonian, which makes the Smithsonian very happy, but occasionally when I visit I will find a sticky note here or there, stuck to a mosaic from Japan or a print from Zimbabwe, that has my name on it. There are other names too. My family members are stuck to most of her possessions now with a little piece of tape. She has set her house in order. My grandmother died of a massive stroke yesterday. Everything is a flurry of phone calls and "arrangements." I will be gone most of this week. Take care everyone. I'll be back in Slothville soon.  Posted by Hello

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Friday, July 16, 2004

Felix

As I mentioned way back when I started this blog, this is my parents' cat, Felix. He's 17 years old and very curmudgeony. I am posting this because I found out today that he was in the hospital for an infected paw and I know I'm being sentimental, but I love him even though I'm allergic to him. Sorry, Michael, I know you're not so much a cat person. At all. But the other reason I'm putting this up is that I am less than thrilled with my last post and I don't blog on the weekends so I wanted to leave something else at the top. Have a nice weekend everyone. Posted by Hello

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Travel Journal Part 6

This is a photograph of a peacock at Maggie Beer's Winery and Farm Shoppe. Today we visited some wineries in the Barossa Valley district. It was a bit of a drive but so worth it. We lunched at Maggie Beer's Winery and Farm Shoppe - pate and carmelized onions on melba toast to start, lamb with prosciutto and black lentils with a light shiraz for lunch. It was so peaceful there. It felt as though we had found this secret, hidden place - an enchanted cafe. I imagine the fact that it was on a small pond, down a bunch of dirt roads and that there were peacocks meandering aimlessly about the place added to the feeling of seclusion. While we were there, we spoke to a grizzled old man who keeps the pheasants they make pate out of. He wouldn't let me take his picture but he did let me into each cage to photograph the birds. Their colors are incredible. Deep magentas and blues, startling greens. The males have long tails like bright striped ferns that brush the ground when they walk, but the females are plain brown and without decorative tail feathers. To collect a harem of females in the wild, the male puts on a great, flamboyant show, dancing around and flicking his jewelled feathers in the air. Or so the old man told me. Afterwards we made our way to the Jacob's Creek vineyard. It could not have been any more different from Maggie Beer's farm. It was all sleek chrome and glass with video screens and a metal bar where we perched for tastings. I bought three bottles there - all wine that they don't export to the States, of course. I like Maggie Beer's better though. It was less pretentious. I'm glad I bought some of her's too. A note on driving on the left... Being in the front seat of a car on the left hand side and not driving is vaguely disconcerting. At first I thought that my twitchiness over being too far to the left was just me being nervous and unused to the new passenger/driver arrangement. Then we ended up on the curb and I realized that CB is still getting used to it too.  Posted by Hello

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Thursday, July 15, 2004

Warning: Serious and Personal Post

Ok, this post is kind of heavy, so hold on to your hats.   I hate abortion. I hate thinking about it, I hate talking about it, I hate dealing with it. I even hate the word. Ah-bore-shun. I’m sick of hearing those three syllables slipping out of the television screen, sliding out of my radio, knocking around in my head. I wish I could substitute that word with something else entirely. Something soft and pleasant like…. Freesia. But calling abortion something else doesn’t make it something else. Abortion will never be soft or pleasant. Everything about it is difficult and tense and exhausting. Everyone is anti-abortion. There is no such thing as “pro-abortion.” No one wants abortion to be necessary because it’s icky and confusing and not fun. The doctors who perform the procedures would rather be doing almost anything else you can think of. The women who opt for the procedures, even more so. I get up at 7 a.m. on Saturday mornings to stand in front of Planned Parenthood and escort patients through the gaggle of protesters in front of the clinic. Believe me, I’d rather be home in bed. We all would. The doctor, the patient, the escort and the protester would all rather be home in bed. But we get up and we go to the clinic and every one of us does it because, for whatever reason, we are unable to turn away. A few weeks ago I went to a panel discussion on abortion politics at the Kennedy School Forum at Harvard University. The place was packed with college students on both sides of the issue and the panel was evenly split. One of the pro-choice panelists was Kate Michelman, the former president of The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. At one point during the discussion she said something that took me by surprise. “Every woman knows that abortion is the end of a life,” she said. “We are not stupid. We know that if we have an abortion a life will end. A person who would have been will not be.” She went on to speak about the value of a life – a woman’s life – and the value of freedom and privacy and empowerment. And all of that was true. But I was glad that Ms. Michelman didn’t shy away from that other truth. The truth that is harder to take.   I know many pro-choice activists who claim that a tiny bundle of cells on a uterine wall is not a life. That the notion that life begins at conception is false. Perhaps they feel that this makes their convictions easier to defend, but I disagree. Four cells may not look like life, but if left to their own devices, those four cells will likely become a person. That is life. And to claim that it isn’t does a disservice to every woman who is faced with the decision of whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. This is no coin toss. This is no should-I-take-the-bus-or-the-subway. This is a very big deal. I know an abortion-rights activist who is also a faculty member at a prestigious university in Boston. He told me a story from his days as a resident physician in the early seventies, before the advent of Roe v. Wade. A patient was brought into the ER one evening suffering from severe sepsis. Her dark brown skin had turned a lighter, purplish/mahogany color. Her lips and fingernails were a light, dusty blue. She was unconscious, slick with sweat and her abdomen was horribly distended. They knew immediately what was wrong with her. They had seen complications from botched illegal abortions before. With the severity of her condition, the only solution was a full hysterectomy. She was rushed into surgery. When they opened her up they found that her abdominal cavity was filled with pus from a punctured and infected uterus. They siphoned out the pus and removed the woman’s mangled reproductive organs. The operation was made more difficult by the fact that her tissues had developed the consistency of wet toilet paper. She was coming apart and the sutures would not hold. They did the best they could and, after nine hours, she was placed in a bed in post-operative intensive care. This man I know stopped by her room later that evening to check on her. He found the surgeon holding her hand as she lay comatose. The surgeon was still holding her hand, hours later, when she died. She was seventeen.   The bundle of cells that was removed from that girl’s womb was a life. But was it more valuable than her life? Women have proven time and time again that they will do horrifying, inhumane things to themselves in order to end a pregnancy that they do not want. If we humanize the fetus, we dehumanize the woman who carries it. But the messy part – the confusing part – is that if a fetus was not a life, abortion would not be an issue. If a pregnancy would result in a woman giving birth to a coffee maker or a grapefruit or a ribbon candy, she would never risk her life to stop it. No way that seventeen-year-old girl would have died for a grapefruit. It is precisely because it is a life that could become a person that abortion is such a volatile issue for both sides. Otherwise, none of us would give a damn.  I had an abortion in 1996 when I was twenty-one. During the short time that I was pregnant I did a lot of throwing up and a lot of crying and thinking. I knew that I was too young and too poor and too messed up to have a child. I knew that an abortion was the right decision for me. But that didn’t make it any easier. It was an awful, lonely time, those couple of weeks. And going to that clinic was one of the most difficult things I have ever chosen to do. But I did choose it. I chose an abortion and I have never once regretted that decision. Of course I have felt some whimsical twinges here and there over the years. Of course I have wondered fleetingly what that child would have looked like. But I have never wished that my life had taken a different path. I’m glad that I was pregnant and I’m glad that I had an abortion because it allowed me to feel empathy for other women who are faced with the same colossal experience. When I see the women who come to the clinic on Saturday mornings, wearing sweatpants and carrying pillows, I can almost smell their fear and I remember exactly what it felt like. Some of them are sick. Many of them are in tears. And I can place my hand on a woman’s back and tell her with absolute conviction that she is going to be alright, because I would know. I hate abortion. It is scary and painful and I wish I didn’t have to think about it. But a woman’s life is no trivial thing. She is not a bag of blood and nutrients. She is not an animal to be bred. She is a person whose rights and freedoms must be protected or she could die. That is the reason that I cannot turn away.       

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...And a Misogynist

DAY 72: On Tuesday the Senate confirmed Bush judicial nominee J. Leon Holmes to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas in a 51-46 vote. Holmes has written that abortion is akin to the holocaust. He also said that concern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami. In an article he co-authored with his wife, he said a wife has an obligation "to subordinate herself to her husband" and "to place herself under the authority of the man." Holmes' judgeship is a lifetime position. (Source: www.chicagotribune.com, Chicago Tribune Online Edition, July 7, 2004. Neil A. Lewis, "Senate OKs Bush judicial pick: 3 Republican women vote 'no' in fierce debate," Chicago Tribune Online Edition, July 7, 2004. www.pfaw.org, People For the Am.)

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Surprise! The Chimp is a Racist!

We'll start the day with an entry from McSweeney's Daily Reason to Dispatch Bush. DAY 74: George W. Bush is the first president since Herbert Hoover who has not attended a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) convention. Bush declined a recent invitation to speak at the NAACP's upcoming annual convention. NAACP spokesman John White said that Bush has rejected every invitation to speak at their conventions since the president has taken office. (Source: "Bush Declines NAACP Invitation," The Associated Press, Thursday, July 8, 2004. See article at: www.cnn.com.)

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Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Starry Brother

I didn't have an appropriate photograph for this post so I just grabbed something out of the pile. This is a plant in my parents' kitchen. So, I'm going to continue the travel journal tomorrow I guess. Or maybe later today. I should really try working at work once in a while. This is a story about my former friend, Pete. And before it upsets you, please know that no Petes were killed or seriously maimed in the making of this story. I met Pete when I was a freshman in high school. He was younger than me, maybe by two years, but he looked the same age. He was a friend of the boy I lost my virginity to that year. Pete was short, hairy, and he had this weird smell. Now, I don't mean to say that he was like a midget yeti or anything, he was a fairly good looking guy and as the years passed he got better looking, but he was still short, hairy and smelly. Pete was really friendly, always nice to everyone, but he was a huge klutz. He was one of those people who couldn't touch anything without breaking it. If he stood up from his chair, he would knock something over. If he rode his bike, he would crash. If he picked up scissors, something would get cut that wasn't supposed to. It was just the way he was. I was sixteen when I got my tonsils out and Pete took me out for soft pasta when I could finally eat again. I had lost all this weight from not eating - I was down to 84 pounds - and he was really patient while I slowly chewed and chewed and chewed to try to turn the noodles into liquid so I could swallow them. During that meal he got too close to the candle on the table and his big frizzy hair went up in flames. Not like a little sizzle. Pete's head was on fire. I mean, flames flickering in the air above his noggin. He whacked himself about the head until the fire went out and, I'm sorry, but I just laughed and laughed. It was just exactly the kind of thing that would only happen to Pete. He was always having crazy accidents that didn't make any kind of sense. Pete and I ended up having a falling out because by the time I was a high school senior he had gone from hippie to New Age fuckwad. Suddenly he was all about being a shaman and healing people and crystals and auras and hemp bracelets and what the fuck ever. I HATE that shit. He got little business cards made and he had changed his name to some lame-ass star name or something and, I shit you not, the little job description on the card read, "Starry brother specializing in love and light." Uh, yeah. So I was all done with Pete because he had suddenly become the most annoying person EVER. So, a few years ago I got a call from someone I knew in high school who was just calling to say hello. Toward the end of the conversation he said, "Oh, by the way, did you hear what happened to Pete?" As it turns out, Pete had taken his furry, klutzy butt to Hawaii to be a shaman there. And he was all into the spiritual healing, shell-necklace-wearing, and general doofus-being. So one day, there was a big storm and Pete decided to go out and do his medicine-man thing and like, I don't know, prance along in the rain or something. So he's up on this mountain dancing around in the rain and, what happens? He gets hit by lightning of course. Why? Because he's Pete. And that's just exactly the kind of thing that would only happen to Pete. Don't worry, he lived. He's fine. But man, did I laugh my ass off. Posted by Hello

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Mini-Post


This is my parents' dog, Homer, resting his head on my head in the car. They got him from a shelter after his owner died and this was the first day we ever met. I was visiting them and they picked me up from the bus station with Homer in the back seat. This mini-post was inspired by Michael's latest post about cat v. dog people. Posted by Hello

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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

World's Smallest Political Quiz

Where do you fit on the political map? (As if you don't already know.) I bet you can guess where I land...

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Travel Journal Part 5


This is a picture of the jetty on the beach right next to CB's house. Day 4 Well, here we are in Adelaide. It's a much smaller, funkier town than Sydney but there are palm trees everywhere and you can smell the ocean. It's colder. It was like summer in Sydney - in the upper 60's and lower 70's every day. Here it's like fall, low to mid-50's and the air is so crisp and breathable that it feels as though it's moving in and out of my lungs of its own volition. Last night we went for drinks with CB's friend Steve who is uber delicious to look at, but only 21 years old, with the predictable result that he is entirely unattainable to the likes of me. If he was less than 7 years younger than me, I might try to hit it and if I was of the state of mind to still do the casual sex thing without feeling like I just wasted my time and added another notch to the already over-notched belt, I might try to hit it, but as it is I do believe that the 4 lonely condoms I brought along "just in case" will be coming home with me to reside in my underwear drawer until they expire, unused and unloved. Day 5 Went to CB's university to see the campus and tap the internet. I sent a query to Travelocity which was, I suspect, far too vague to achieve any results as I am totally ignorant of my airline, my flight number, my departure time, my log-in for Travelocity and, apparently, the most basic traveling skills that even a donkey could master. Tonight we had dinner at CB's with some of his friends. CB cooked some pepper, olive, sausage, mince meat, raisin thing which sounds horrendous but was one of the best meals I've ever had. During dinner we watched "Old School." Again. The boys were quoting from their favorite scenes before the movie had even ended. 10 minutes after the frat initiation scene, they were still yelling, "Blue, you're my BOY!!" Sleep time now. Beach combing and wine tours on tap for tomorrow. Posted by Hello

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Monday, July 12, 2004

In Search Of...


I stalked it for weeks before I finally caught up with the beast. The heat was unbearable. Toward the end, every movement took a strength I didn't know I had. The underbrush was slick and filled with angry insects. Each night I laid my exhausted body down in the squirming the mud and covered myself with banana leaves for camouflage. I tracked it by its footprints and by its smell - a combination of ice cream, musk and mischief. Sometimes I would come upon the place it had bedded down for the night only hours after it had left. I wanted so badly to collapse into its temporary nest, the mugginess and exhaustion were overwhelming. But I kept going, camera at the ready. I had to prove to the world that this mythical beast really did exist. I only found the beast by accident, in the end. It had been distracted by the smell of a deep fryer, perhaps in a nearby village. It was standing in a clearing, a look of deep desire on its face. With my remaining strength, I crawled quietly toward it on all fours. At the very last second, however, it spotted me. At that moment, it showed me "the hand" and bounded away, no doubt to lurk in the wilderness for decades before it is spotted again. If only I had had my pistola at hand, I could have brought back its hide. As it is, I will have to content myself with this tiny shred of proof. Anyone care to guess what this creature is?  Posted by Hello

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Friday, July 09, 2004

Travel Journal Part 4


This is a not-very-good photograph of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. This morning we had breakfast at a London-esque, pub-ish, underground joint called the "G-Spot." Where in America we would normally have some sort of potato thing with our eggs and bacon and toast, like hash browns, Australians provide grilled tomatoes. They are so so so good. This place also made fresh-squeezed apple juice. It was incredible, like walking up to an apple tree and taking a big bite out of a granny smith still on the branch. Then we walked to the Sydney Harbor bridge to brave the famous Bridge Walk. It's a three-and-a-half-hour climb up to the top of the bridge arch. We suited up in jump suits that zipped up the back and were nice and breathable. We put on harnesses, radios, headsets, and crampon-type things and climbed over a thousand steps to the top. Part of the climb was ladders and part of it was cat-walks. I'm normally nervous about heights, but I did ok. At the top it was terrifying and beautiful. Not a cloud in the sky, not a breath of wind. The flags on the arch lay against their poles like sleeping bats. We looked out at the opera house, at Manly, at the ferries passing beneath us, at Luna Park, at each other reeling with wonder and gratitude for this perfect moment. Our legs were shaking by the time we got to the bottom. A perfect warm day to be high above the world. And now we are headed to Manly on the ferry for dinner. Well, Manly was a bust. We got off the boat and walked into the...city? It reminded me of the abandoned amusement park in "Spirited Away" except a whole. lot. crappier. Everything was closed except for a few pubs that were populated by surly career alcoholics and surlier bartenders that flat-out refused to make cosmopolitans. We finally found a place right next to the ferry terminal that was willing to mix me a pink, triangular cocktail (which for some reason are always served with two straws resting atop the glass here). CB had some absynthe which was radioactive green in color and burned my nose hairs when I dared a tiny sniff. Then we ran like hell for the next boat back to Sydney. As we approached Circular Quay on the return trip, we realized that the detour had, in fact, been worth our while as the coastline of the harbor came into view. Seagulls flew along with the boat, the muscles of their pale bodies flexing in the light from the deck. Homing in on Circular Quay was like floating toward a wall of tiny blinding squares - the lit windows of skyscrapers climbing the sky. Our search for a restaurant to our tastes was stressful and harried as it was getting late. We discovered, belatedly, that George Street is not known for it's eateries and found ourselves, once again, on the stretch of restaurants along the edge of Darling Harbor. The one we picked was entirely satisfactory. I ate kangaroo. It was a bit stringy but otherwise delish. Tomorrow we fly to Adelaide. Posted by Hello

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Get Your Crush On

So I jokingly requested that Michael write me rap that was all about how much he loves me. And he did it. And now I'm all giggly and blushing and acting like I'm in 7th grade. I hope he doesn't mind if I post it here. (Mike, I will delete this post if you want me to.) Sloth, baby, for you I'm in compliance You're droppin da science on Chimpanzee defiance You know he's a liar -- injustice don't get by ya And that is why I respect and admire a Girl who'd sigh, ahh, I'd love a guy--a Man who'd love me like I love papaya. With your big Boston brains and your sexy sloth bod When you pahk your cahh in Hahhvahhd Yahhd I say to myself, Oh my God! I lose my head –I'd scare Ichabod. Cute at 2AM or in your pink hat cloth That's why I'd be proud to be Daddy Sloth.

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Thursday, July 08, 2004

Travel Journal Part 3


I took this picture in a public loo in Sydney. Went to dim sum today. They call it "yum chow" here which I think is far more appropriate. It was just a big huge room filled with Asian people shoving food in their gobs. Ate all sorts of mysterious tidbits that tasted good but could have been cat loin or wombat balls for all I could tell. Also drank 800 cups of strangely addictive green tea. Back to the hotel to freshen up (yum chow can make a lady perspire) and then off to the aquarium. Yay! Wow - aquarium was amazing! Glass tunnels through the exhibits allow one to walk beneath and beside the animals. The manta ray was fascinating from the caudal view - alien looking, with a small mail slot of a mouth and flat, white gills. It flew through the water like a great, gray cape caught in the wind. The sharks were enormous - bulbous in the middle, even. I got my first really close view of their many rows of teeth. They are such amazing, evolutionarily perfect predators. After the aquarium we went for cocktails at a club on the harbor. It had cooled a bit so we sat near a heat lamp and watched the water. At the bartender's recommendation I got my cosmopolitans with a burnt orange which involves a lighter and an orange peel and a 4-foot-tall bartender with a flirty streak. Finally, Italian food and then back to the hotel for hibernation-type sleep. It is of note that all of the toilets here have two buttons for flushing. One shows a circle half filled in and the other a circle all filled in. Like an SAT answer bubble. One is for a half-flush (pee) and the other is for a full flush (poo). Why do we not do this here? It seems like it would save a lot of water.  Posted by Hello

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How to Waste Taxpayer Money


Good morning boys and girls - today I'm going to tell you a little story about election year politics. I'll try to keep it short. So there's this bill, see? It's about corporate litigation and it's aimed at preventing settlements in which the plaintiffs wind up with coupons or some other paltry nonsense from the company they sued while their lawyers walk away with millions and millions of dollars. It's a popular bill. Senate Republicans like because it because the huge corporations in whose pockets they reside like it. Senate Democrats like it because in a way it is also aimed at helping people who are legitimately suing companies for wrongdoing. So everybody likes it and everybody wants to vote for it. And here's where it all goes to shit. Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist (we'll just call him The Maggot from here on out) has prevented any amendments from being tacked onto this bill. Here's how the amendment-tacking-on-thing works (if you already know this feel free to skip ahead) when there is a bill in the senate that is popular and expected to pass, senators from both parties traditionally tack amendments onto it that don't really have anything to do with the actual bill, but that are favored by at least a small majority. So, for instance, on the litigation bill a Republican senator was planning to add an amendment regarding immigration laws and a Democratic senator was planning to add an amendment regarding welfare. There were many more but I won't list them all. These amendments are not relevant to the bill in question but enough senators would be willing to vote for them that they can be tacked onto the bill without a fuss - and this is how the senate works. There is compromise and haggling and that is how laws get passed. Except, in this case, The Maggot took to the floor and declared that only five "relevant" amendments from each team would be considered. The word "relevant" is tricky. What it means is that the amendment has to specifically apply to corporate litigation. In other words, he changed the rules. Both Republicans and Democrats complained loud and long. So The Maggot, in his wisdom, changed his mind and decided that all amendments would be considered. And then he proceeded to fill every available slot with an amendment of his own making. Why did he do this? Let me explain it to you. He did it because he doesn't want his own party to publicly take a stand on issues like immigration and welfare in an election year because their stand SUCKS ASS and is CRUEL and that might not go over well with a whole bunch of people who are Republican because they don't know any better. Although, in my opinion, anyone who is planning on voting Republican MUST already know that they couldn't care less about anyone but themselves and not give a shit. What it all boils down to, folks, is that we have been paying our senators to dick around FOR AN ENTIRE WEEK with a popular bill that should have passed and now will not because The Maggot has pulled out the rug from beneath his own legislative body. That's your tax dollars at work, people. God bless the USA. Posted by Hello

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Wednesday, July 07, 2004


Fleece - these may be the "ladies" you were speaking of at Gay Pride Boston? Posted by Hello

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Reality Is Creeping In

One of the worst things about being single is not having anyone to meet you at the airport after you've flown half way around the world. It's the most startlingly alone I've felt in a long time. I got off the plane and picked up my bags, found a cab with a driver who looked like he was still in high school, watched Boston-at-night go by out the window on the way home. At home, there was hardly anything to eat. I made a ramen-style noodle bowl, fried some eggs, dipped the last of the swiss cheese right into the mustard jar. Munched half-heartedly on some dried-up baby carrots. After that there was only flour and some off mushrooms left so I went to bed and slept until six o'clock the next evening. Travel journal part II Flying low over the coast of Sydney, the sunlight looked like a spray of gold needles on the water. Every Australian I met on this flight admonished me for visiting their continent during the winter months. "Woy ah ye hea niow? It's fuckin' frigid, mate!" Walking to the cab I noticed that it was about 65 degrees and people were wearing mufflers. Yeah, frigid. It's the same exact temperature it was when I left Boston, you CRAZY PEOPLE. And, ooh! We're driving on the left! And our bags are in the boot! And I smell like a dead baboon! Day 1 begins - first order of business at the hotel was a shower and a tooth scrubbing. (In the bathroom of LAX I had to ask a stranger if I could borrow some toothpaste. She reluctantly squeezed a little blob onto a paper towel and handed it to me.) Felt so good to be clean. Other than some general wobbliness, no problematic travel symptoms. After shower strolled toward the harbor in search of a little cafe that Abysmal Crayon mentioned in a sweet, sad post on her site and found it without too much trouble. It's in a church and it's quiet and old and musty but clean and sort of ancient and mysterious feeling. I ordered a flat white and an anzac biscuit (since Crayon had explained what both were) and they were delicious. Afterward, we tiptoed into the church but then mass started and we scuttled right out as fast as we could. I like churches, but only to look at. Not to stand up and kneel and sing songs and stand up and kneel and pray and kneel in. We walked down to the harbor and snapped some pictures of the opera house and the angular underbelly of the Sydney Harbor bridge. Wandering through The Rocks we stumbled across the back door of an art gallery and popped in for a look. I loved the paintings of extravagantly elegant women in big hats and pearls with berry-colored lips and eyes delicately closed. There are many narrow, winding stone staircases here but in some ways I keep being reminded of Boston. Certain parts of The Rocks look like a cleaner, more spacious Downtown Crossing. At 4 o'clock it was time for a pint (a "schooner," actually - they come in schooners and pints) and then back to the hotel for a little rest before dinner. It got cooler in the evening, enough to wear a little jacket. Walking to dinner I saw parrot-looking birds and sleek sea birds with scythe-like beaks. The first restaurant we went to in Darling Harbor wouldn't make a martini because it wasn't on the cocktail menu. We were flummoxed. How is it possible to have a cocktail menu without a martini on it? And why is that you can make a drink with straws and pineapples and flames and rainbows and shit coming out of it but you can't pour a little vodka in a glass? Definitely time to move on. At the next restaurant we had mussels and garlic shrimp and I drank three yummy cosmopolitans, then went back to the hotel and slept like a rock in a river bed.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2004

It's-the-middle-of-the-night-for-me Sloth


Note to self Having sex with the Vietnamese ballroom instructor in the airplane loo may seem like a good idea at the time. But that's the Valium talking. Well hello! I'm home safe and sound and the ticket thing was very stressful but it worked out in the end (I used the age-old "stoic crying" trick where you try valiantly to speak through a deluge of tears without raising your voice even a tidge. The sympathy just RAINS down. Took my lost-ticket charge down from $1100 to $100. I win!) Next installment of travel journal follows. (Separate post as cannot be seen typing from scribbles in little black book at work and must wait until lunch hour). Will update later about Edwards as veep if I can muster the energy. Have not slept since yesterday afternoon. Jetlag is a bee-yatch. Posted by Hello

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Thursday, July 01, 2004

Bouncing Around Down Under...The Covers...I Wish.

Sorry I don't have time to respond to comments at the moment - this is just a quick post to say that I'm having a great time and to get my crack fix. First thing's first: I have heard through the grapevine that a certain blogger (Todd Vodka) has been saying that I'm lying about the time of day that the picture in my last post was taken and he just knows it's true because he can "clearly" see sunlight streaming through a window onto my face. Mr. Vodka has apparently never heard of electricity (although how one blogs without a socket remains to be determined). It's my bathroom light, freak show. Why would I lie about something so stupid? Ok, on to more important things. I am going to post my travel journal here but not all at once because that would be too long and no one would read it. It's ok, I wouldn't read it either. So here is Day 1. Flight day. Above L.A. at night. Strings of fluttering lights - grids - endless. Çell phone cacophany upon hitting the runway. Sitting up, looking around, everyone within my field of view is on the phone. Everyone is talking, no one is talking to each other. And not about immediate, practical things. More like: "My mom makes me insane..." "So, he put it on a payment plan?" "Well, we've been going out for like six months now..." "Life is R-rated." "My daughter's allergic to nuts." It is 800 degrees in here and we have been sitting on the runway for an hour waiting for a gate. My soul is filled with grouchiness and sour milk. Oh happy day! Not only is flight to Sydney 2.5 hours late, but it seems that the flight will be populated by 5 or 6 high school sports teams and myself. Gee, I hope they talk to me. I'll have to figure out which ones are the popular kids and try to "get in" with them. Maybe one of them will let me wear his varsity jacket. There is a circle of boys in red jerseys doing jumping jacks and chanting. It is deafening. It is also 3:30 in the morning for me. I feel like my skull is splitting in a jagged fissure over my left eye. A group of the red boys (they have now broken formation) is clustered together, looking at me. I just heard, "Maybe you should ask her." I'm all a-quiver. Maybe one of them wants to be my boyfriend! Oh good, now hot lava is pouring out of fissure in head. Teeth are fuzzy. Need shower. Need sports team death-ray. Oh, sweet sweet valium. How I love thee. Ye have quelled my hatred of all things sports- and teenager-related. Time to get on the plane. Ok that's it for now - I'll be back in a few days. Hope you're all well. Ciao sweet thangs.!

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