Sunday, August 28, 2005

Looking for a new band?

Here's what I've been listening to lately - trying to expand my repertoire:

The Fruit Bats - Spelled in Bones
Mellow, retro indie-rock with folk undertones.

Desaparecidos - Read Music Speak Spanish
Connor Oberst (Bright Eyes) leads this angry, socially conscious band through a thorough drubbing of the Almighty dollar.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Okay, I know I'm the last person on earth to discover Nick Cave's sultry, seductive travels down dark, twisting roads in the back of the subconscious...but dear god, his music penetrates your soul and leaves you slavering for more.

The grind intensifies

I'm sorry - I will do my best to keep posting, but it's pretty rough right now. We have so much to do before we leave in 2 weeks, and I'm about to vanish for a few days on a much-needed mother daughter trip to Lummi Island.

Right now, we're piling things into the designated "To Pack" corner of our room. It's going to be very interesting...I have no idea how I'm going to cram everything from bike pedals to Spanish workbooks into two suitcases, unless I jump on them for at least 10 minutes, thereby flattening all of my belongings.

But seriously, I'm exhausted -- and it makes it hard to remember to take my thyroid meds, let alone maintain an engaging blog right now...It's frustrating; just when I think I'm getting my stress under control, my dentist tells me I've ground my teeth out of alignment in my sleep, or my supposedly deceased thyroid starts doing backflips. Maybe I have a Ghost Thyroid avenging the loss of its corporal host.

If you need a little diversion, check out this quiz. I swear I didn't rig the answers to get this result, although I'm sure it's no coincidence... :) I gotta say, one of the things that most excites me about grad school is their equestrian team. The thought of soaring over a jump once in awhile...well, let's just say that I'm willing to swallow whatever new tack will cost me if it lets me get back in the saddle.

What Is Your Animal Personality?

brought to you by Quizilla

Tonight's countdown: 18 days left to the big move (or 17 GMT). Fish n' chippies, here I come!!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Glory be

Props to Liz for pointing this one out -- all praise the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

Fox News: Because One Foot in Your Mouth Isn't Good Enough

You know, I really despise Fox News. Now, I have an even better reason to maintain that sentiment.

Couple mistaken for radical faces backlash


LA HABRA, Calif. -- A couple whose home was wrongly identified on national television as belonging to an Islamic radical has faced harassment, and police are providing special protection.

After the report ran on Fox News on Aug. 7, people have shouted profanities at Randy and Ronnell Vorick and spray-painted "terrorist" (spelling it "terrist") on their property.

"I'm scared to go to work and leave my kids home. I call them every 30 minutes to make sure they're OK," Randy Vorick said.

John Loftus, a former federal prosecutor who appears on the Fox News segment "Inside Scoop with John Loftus," gave out the house address during the broadcast.

He said the home belonged to Iyad Hilal, whose group, Loftus said, has ties to those responsible for the July 7 bombings in London. But Hilal moved out of the house about three years ago.

Police have patrolled their house since the day after the broadcast and now have a squad car across the street. Police Capt. John Rees said the department was "giving special attention to the family to make sure they're safe."

The couple sought a public apology and correction.

"John Loftus has been reprimanded for his careless error, and we sincerely apologize to the family," said Fox spokeswoman Irena Brigante.

Loftus also apologized and told the Los Angeles Times last week that "mistakes happen. ... That was the best information we had at the time."

The FBI has launched an inquiry into the activities of Hilal, a grocery store owner who is allegedly the U.S. leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir, which has been banned in parts of Europe and the Middle East.

Hilal, 56, is apparently not suspected of any terrorist acts, but FBI terrorism investigators want to know more about his and the group's activities.

Who the hell thinks it's right to publicize the address of an individual anyway, unless that person has been convicted of a crime? Fox is always bitching about how that cursed liberal media denegrates journalistic, this would be a revival of good old news morals? Has anyone ever heard of checking their damned facts?? I'm sorry, but even as a freelance writer for a local paper, I wasn't allowed to print ANYTHING unless I could provide a legitimate source - and they would have fired my ass if I had written something erroneous about potato chips, let alone something that endangered a family. Why isn't Fox News terminating their relationship with this guy??

My guess is that they secretly believe he did the right thing, and that his only mistake was naming the wrong house. Outing a suspect, however, is completely kosher. Give me a break. How many groveling pleas did Newsweek have to make after their Koran desecration story was questioned? If this family is hurt or killed by a thug who can't spell, will Fox finally admit that going off "the best the time" is a terrible excuse for dangerously sloppy reporting? Someone needs to start a campaign to tell Fox it should drop Loftus - we don't need irresponsible people like this in journalism, no matter who they are.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Details coming soon

Sorry...I'm down to three weeks in the States, and things are a little crazy right now...I promise to post tomorrow: bike adventures, Mount Rainier, and political musings galore! Until then, thanks for putting up with me. :)

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Another sign that Wal-Mart is really just an alias for Hell

From the Associated Press...

Country superstar Garth Brooks has signed an exclusive multi-year agreement with Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

No details of the agreement were released by Wal-Mart officials on Friday, but the music trade publication Billboard reported that the deal will make Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and their online outlets the only places where Brooks' music will be commercially available.

Brooks, one of the all-time best-selling recording artists, retired from public performing in 2001.

"We understand the Wal-Mart customer and know that bringing them Garth Brooks exclusives in the upcoming years is something that'll excite them as much as it excites us," said David Porter, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for Wal-Mart, a leading retailer for country music sales.

Brooks' hits include "Friends in Low Places," "Shameless" and "Longneck Bottle."

To quote my husband: "So, you won't be able to buy his music anywhere else? Strikes me as a good thing." (Sorry, Wal-Mart shopping country fans!)

Murderball rocks and Seattle rolls

Seriously. You need to see this movie (check out Kid Sis' review on her site - it's under the July archives). I saw it yesterday and the film just blew me out of my chair. It busts every myth and assumption about disabled people you could imagine...

On the way back home, I remember why I love city life. It's midnight and we're riding the late bus cross-town to our transfer stop. At the front of the bus, a man with missing front teeth is swapping "what I did on crack" stories with a scruffy guy in a beret. There's a girl sitting across from us; based on the sexy black dress and heavy makeup, she's heading out for a night on the town. Suddenly, a skinny guy in his mid-30s pops his head into the aisle from the row behind us. He's been jittery since we hopped on the bus, and I can feel his knee jogging through the back of my seat.

He leans in towards the girl conspiratorily and says, "You know, I haven't told anyone this, because I just don't think I can trust people with my information. But I feel like I can trust you, I mean, really trust you, so I'm going to tell you why I disappeared for two weeks."

She blinks and nods warily at him, flashing that smile we've all had to give, the "Just do me a favor and don't ask me to give you my number" look.

He pauses and says in a low, earnest voice, "The reason I've been away is because I was in Puerto Rico, tripping on acid with a colony of spider monkeys."

Alas, we have to leave the bus at the moment of his disclosure, so we miss the girl's reaction. I can't even imagine what she came up with as a response...

We turn to cross a busy intersection. The light is about to change, and a couple of teens (boyfriend and girlfriend) on bikes roll into the crosswalk at the last minute. The guy makes it across, but the girl on the banana bike is...well...having problems. Her damned pedal won't stay under her foot, the little bastard, and so what else is she supposed to do but sit there and curse it? So, as her bike blocks the right lane, she futilely lifts her foot and slides it off again. Lift, slide. Lift, slide. After an interminable amount of time, the light turns green, and a row of confused minivans and SUVs slowly roll in her direction. Traffic is heavy; blocked by the steady stream of cars in the left lane, no one can maneuver around her. Meanwhile, she remains absorbed by her pedal dilemma, which had been complicated further by her inability to see it in the headlights' glare.

Finally, after about a minute, the Chrysler van in the front honks tentatively. Then a little louder.

Within a few honks, the girl figures out that she is somehow involved in the scene. She studies the white lines marking the crosswalk and apparently realizes her problem. By this point, a handful of sidewalk spectators are debating whether they should run across the street and push her out of the way. Maybe she'll just abandon the bike in midstream. Instead, she sweeps a mane of wavy blond hair off her shoulders, cocks her hat to the left and directs a long, defiant glare in the van's direction. The standoff lasts several seconds. The befuddled driver finally swerves around her, but five more cars endure the same ordeal, humiliated by the drunk-but-unyielding gaze of the bike girl.

Her boyfriend helps by shattering the night with a series of blood-curdling hoots from across the street. Finally, the light changes again and the girl manages to find her footing; she nearly rear-ends a parked police car, barely misses colliding with a cement wall, and weaves unsteadily into the night.

Apparently, whenever I'm suffering from writer's block, I should ride the late-night #26. Somehow, someday, these things will make cameos in my stories, just like my family's tattoo episodes and those "wish I could forget them" college moments.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

He can't live his life this way

Just some very, very rambling thoughts...

Kudos to Kanye West for being the first (I think?) prominent hip-hop artist to take a stand against homophobia in rap music. Although I'm not exactly sure if saying, "Yo, stop it," is going to accomplish much. Yes, those are his words, not mine. And for the love of god, could we possibly take a stand against misogyny, too??

I'm not really sure why so much of music seems to embrace misogyny and homophobia; it's easy to point the finger at rap, but no one's free from blame (Sinatra's tunes aren't exactly female-friendly, and I don't really recall any genre that embraces gay issues, although there are artists here and there). It's fair to ask whether we should focus on rap at all -- but, if we do, there are other challenges. As critics note, cultural discussions about rap music often are framed incorrectly or are held to support hidden agendas (e.g., rap music = black culture, rap music = homophobic, so black culture = homophobic). When you really think about it, who are the most homophobic, ostensibly misogynistic women out there? Eminem, the Beastie Boys...hmmm...white boys. And no, by the way, they're not "just playing" -- it always bothers me when otherwise rational people insist this is the case. Rather, their lyrics reflect and authenticate a cultural legacy of violence against women and gays (for a good critical essay on how Marshall Mathers' rhymes evolved out of his cultural context, check out this site). If they were just playin', there would be no reason to continue using violent imagery in their everyday conversations -- the hatred Eminem feels for his wife would be limited to what his onstage persona, Slim Shady, espouses. Instead, however, in interview after interview, Mathers references violent acts against women to describe his creative process or to discuss his success (see same article). As a woman, I have some serious issues with the messages his music broadcasts -- and nothing I've read or seen convinces me that he doesn't hate us. C'mon: could anyone but a hypermasculine bigot have the stomach to write lyrics about slashing his spouse's throat, let alone sing those words in front of a slavering audience?

It's also interesting that we generally tolerate "thug culture" when it's embodied by white people (Eminem and The Sopranos come to mind), but we feel a little less comfortable around 50 Cent and African American gangstas...of course, that could be because 50 Cent is just a terrible musician who can't write...But I digress...

It's well and good for West to come out against homophobia, but I think the effects will be limited unless fans get behind him. And how many of us cringe at one of Tupac's songs but love another? Rap records sell incredibly well, anti-gay or not (as does rock, metal, etc). Why would a successful artist change his ways if it impacts his livelihood? After all, people have complained about negative images of women in music for years to no avail; no one's really become successful by doing something to combat those portrayals. (Think about the lyrics to Kanye's, "I can't live my life...")

It might be a start, but I'll stay skeptical until Eminem falls from the charts and someone with a pro-women, pro-gay agenda takes his place.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Sound and Fury

So the e-mail was a misinterpretation of a misinterpretation. My friend is hereby exonerated, and I'm probably a bad person for writing anything in the first place. Or at least an impulsive one who should keep her conclusions to herself. I shall leave the post up for a warning about what can happen when the subtleties of communication are lost via the joys of modern technology. And never fear, my picture of the bridesmaids is on the mantle where it belongs and would have remained, regardless of any dress disagreements. Seriously, it's probably a good thing the world leaders don't hold strategic forums with each other by e-mail -- can't you see Kim Jong Il nuking the entire western hemisphere because Dubya makes some grammatical faux paux without realizing its implications?

The joys of e-mail ettiquete

WARNING: this is an off-the-cuff rage with no lag time for me to catch my breath. Anyone mentioned in this e-mail should not actually fear being dismembered or immortalized on my desk in an odious dress -- but I still need to vent. You've been warned.


Oops. I don't think I was supposed to be on the receiving end of this e-mail:

"...the bridesmaid dresses she chose were hideous, and I will now be memorialized on her mantelpiece swathed in light blue satin yuck."

Don't think you need to worry about being on the mantle now, darling! If you want to spend three straight days of your time trying to find something nice AND affordable instead of doing what most brides do by having a know-nothing wedding planner order something ten times too expensive in an outrageous neon color, be my guest. Since I worked my ass off to keep people from paying a lot for their dresses -- and solicted the time of a few others to help me find a dress that wouldn't make everyone gag -- I am annoyed. Especially since I gave people the chance to nix it. Which they could have.

Look, people. When the other bridesmaid dresses in 9 (yes, count 'em: NINE) shops run the gamut from "torn up street person clothing" to "haute couture fluffy thing with tulle ribbons and runched fabric coming out the ears," well, do the bride a favor and cut her some slack!

I dearly love the person who wrote this, but it's good we live a little ways away from each other, just for the next half hour.

There's no CRYING in baseball!

Well, after that little pityfest last night, I think I'm done. Yes, some things about life suck right now, and the suckage is guaranteed to continue in some form or another. However, I'll be damned if I'm going to into the "life's abysmal, might as well stay at home and moon about until I prove my point" girl I have no desire to become. Hell no! I can't promise that I'm going to be hunkydory, or that I won't feel the need to whine once in awhile, but that's that.

So, having shaken off the last external vestiges of moodiness, it's back to semi-normalcy. And guess what! North Dakota, the most forgotten state of all time, is actually in the news! Yes, even the most innocuous and boring outpost of our Great Nation is finding creative new ways to piss off the international community. You see:

Despite Canadian fears of contamination, North Dakota began pumping water on Monday from its Devils Lake floodlands into a system that leads eventually into a commercial fishery north of the U.S. border.

The U.S. diversion plan has been a diplomatic sore point because of Canadian concerns the water could pollute Manitoba's Lake Winnipeg, the world's 10th largest freshwater lake and home to a C$25 million fishery.

North Dakota says the water from Devils Lake, which has swallowed up 90,000 acres of land over 12 years of higher than normal precipitation, is safe. But Canada fears the land-locked lake contains high concentrations of salts and other pollutants along with foreign fish and organisms.

But see, it's okay, because according to the article, North Dakota's going to dump tons of rocks and gravel into their lake to keep the organisms from slipping across the border. 'Cause, you know, microscopic organisms could never get through the spaces between piles of rocks. And the sediment from said dumping of gravel would never wash down into fishery waters.

North Dakota: the "What the hell were you thinking when you moved here??" state

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Circling the drain

I'm tired of feeling like my entire life is on hold. I'm tired of waiting for the big event at the end of the summer. I just don't care anymore. I'd rather be there and be completely overwhelmed by what's happening than sitting here by myself for another endless day, circling the runway without landing. I'm tired of feeling like nothing turns out the way you want it to. I'm tired of being depressed, upset and cranky around people I love. I hate feeling like I don't have enough time to spend with them when it's all that matters. I am tired. So, so tired. Crying would be a nice way to get out of it, but I can't. The level of apathy I've managed to work up is alarming. Entire days, wasted. Hours on end, frittered away trying not to think about everything that's happening. I hate being depressed, but I'm not sure what to do about it right now. Hell, I don't even know if I am depressed, or if I'm just having a normal reaction to all the crap going on. It's not just the move - it's the friends relocating, the pressures of a frighteningly rigorous grad program, the family support system I can't imagine leaving, and the job sucking away my husband's time and focus. Yeah, that. I wish the powers that be understood how little time we have left together. I wish I could just accept that this is the way things are and get up in the morning without feeling the need to sleep an hour late. I hate even having to write this - it makes me feel like I'm a failure somehow, like I can't cope well enough. I'm just not happy right now, at least not like I should be. I wish I was.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Body modification, part II

Our dog just joined me as another member of the body modification family. I went home yesterday to drop off a few boxes, so naturally I had to spend the requisite amount of time showering affection over the house's king-in-residence. Labradors have incredibly thick coats, so it's easy to lose track of anything that's going on under the surface, even if you regularly brush and groom them. So, as my fingers worked their way around his massive neck, they ran into something oblong. And hard. And, well, gross.

Today's diagnosis? A severely infected hair follicle that was ready to inflict serious damage on my boy's system. Normally, they'd put the dog under for a quick removal -- but our dog is special: he goes into cardiac arrest whenever he's given anesthesia. The vets just love him! Hey, here comes that patient we've almost managed to kill in the past - yay! We usually deal with the problem by ignoring any health challenges that might require putting him under, which worked up until now. Today, however, the vets needed to do something before the infection it was time for a little local anesthetic.

Apparently, my dog is better behaved than any of us envisioned; he remained quite calm while they made a three inch gash in his neck to drain the abcess. Now he's home, where he clearly expects to be nursed back to health with generous quantities of green beans and strawberries (yes, he's a freak). And I? I'm nervously checking my eyebrow every half hour or know, just in case any of those eyebrow hairs take a turn for the worse.

The girl's got a hole in her head

Well, it took me six years, but I finally did it. I'm now the semi-proud owner of a shiny metallic barbell protruding from my eyebrow, a piercing I've considered since college began. Anyone who thinks this could be related tangentially to my post about tattoos, well, don't remind me. I like to think this was an entirely impulsive event with no plausible cause and that I am far too mature and secure in myself to rebel against authority like that...erm...

Anyway, it doesn't look half bad, and I've only received two negative reactions so far. The second was the funniest. I was in an electronics store yesterday and I accidentally dislodged one of their digital cameras from its security clamp; a siren the pitch of an air raid horn started wailing throughout the entire camera section. Luckily, a nearby employee watched me bump it, so he knew I wasn't trying to run off with any merchandise. However, a pair of elderly women walked past, looked me up one way and down the other (taking in the tattoos, the multiple earrings and the piercing), and then one said suspiciously, "What did you do?"

Being the mature, self-confident woman that I am, I contemplated a range of possible options/actions to take, then settled for a malignant smirk. It's a good thing they don't admit you into graduate school on the basis of your social skills.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The wheels of bureaucracy are grinding...

I spent a pleasant morning today at Pike Place, doing some shopping for the big relocation. I purchased a half pound of my favorite tea to bring comfort on those lonely, grey sky English evenings. ("Sunset in Seattle" -- buy it now, or you will never know what real tea tastes like. Ever.) It smells delicious, but it also unfortunately looks quite a bit like a giant bag of pot. I pointed this out to the clerk, and she grabbed a big marker and wrote "NOT DRUGS" on the label, just to help me get through customs. Somehow, I think I might have trouble explaining this to airline security personnel.

I also purchased a photograph of the Seattle skyline at sunset so I can look up at my city when I miss it most. It does not include the Space Needle, but it does have the long-gone Kingdome in it. After all, no one from Seattle actually wants to spend money going up the Needle to see the city they already live in, and everyone misses the Kingdome in a sick, twisted way. Afterwards, I stopped in at Le Pichet to have a croissant and a cup of hot chocolate, and then I made the Fatal, Irreversible Error of the Day: I went to the King County records office to obtain certified copies of our marriage certificate.

The clerk seemed helpful at first and prepared two certified copies. I took them, paid, and started to walk away -- then I glanced down at the certificate. The certificate was for a Megan Matthews. From Hawai'i. Married to some guy from Lubbock, Texas. Five years ago.

Foolishly, I assumed this had to be a quick, easily remedied mistake. The man at the counter looked at the certificates with consternation, clicked a few things on his computer screen, and said cheerfully, "Well, you're right - this isn't you!" (Thank you for that, sir. I sometimes forget and think that I am an older Hawai'ian woman married to a Texan.) Then he furrowed his brow and said, "The bad news is that you aren't on file. We don't have a record of your marriage."

I blinked. He waited for a response. I continued blinking.

Eventually, he realized that my stunned silence was a reaction and told me to wait until he could ask his supervisor about what to do. It would have been nice to know that she was on the phone with the world's most ponderous, agonizingly dimwitted customer -- I might have left, gone up the hill to have a haircut, purchased a week's worth of groceries, returned home, put them away, and come back in time for her to hang up the phone. Instead, I stood in an incredibly ugly lobby by some deceased pointsettias, unsuccessfully attempting to rest my back against the 45-degree angles of the nearest kiosk.

After several years passed, the supervisor hung up the phone, and my assistant went over to discuss the situation. She apparently decided they couldn't do a damn thing, because they told me to go back upstairs to marriage licensing to ask them what happened. I wanted to point out that this wouldn't accomplish anything, since the whole county is on the same computer system with the same freaking records, but they called the next customer and that was that.

Upstairs, they told me I needed to find the commemorative version of the marriage certificate, bring it in, and beg the General Records Department to accept it instead. The commemorative version was in Snohomish, what with it being a completely useless, symbolic piece of paper.

After a breakneck drive to Snohomish and back, I made it through the door of General Records just before closing time. Everything was set, and then they told me that it would cost $34 to record it...because it was double-sided and they had to charge by the page. And they only took cash, but their ATM was broken, so I'd have to sprint up the 30-degree slope of James Street to the nearest bank two blocks north because it was 4:21 and they closed at 4:30.

At that point, I picked up the nearest blunt object and smashed every monitor in the room to bits before stealing their scanner and doing the job myself.

I sprinted up the hill and made it back in time, though I was unable to speak for several minutes after running for my life up a fricking mountain and narrowly missing being crushed under the wheels of a red-light running Metro bus. So I paid $17 PER PAGE (plus $12 extra for two certified copies!) and thus: my marriage became legal. Or will be tomorrow at 9am, since they mysteriously stop registering new certificates at 3pm.

As I turned to go, I cautiously asked, "So, this certificate will be legal tender in other places, right? Because we're moving out of the country..."

The customer service agent waved her hand blithely and said, "It should, yeah."
Should? SHOULD?!?!!

For all of these hassles, we should have just stayed single and waited for common-law marriage rules to kick in. It would have taken about the same amount of time anyway.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Losing the last shreds of dignity

The girl at the Fremont Outdoor Movies on Saturday night who was wearing two foldable armchair carrying cases in lieu of sweatshirt sleeves? Yes, that was me. Apparently, I'm the only person in all of Seattle's outdoor-moviegoing crowd too dim to realize that it gets damn cold near the canal after sunset.

In case you're interested, it's very difficult to turn magazine pages when your hands are encased by chair bags. It also makes you sound like a branch of leaves rustling in the wind whenever you move. Or breathe. However, it does make it easy to obtain elbow room in an otherwise-packed venue. Oddly, no one wants to sit within range of Armchair Sleeve Girl.

America. F--- Yeah.

You know, it's not the macrolevel policies, the bloviating political bigwigs or the embarrassing international behavior of the country that really get to me. It's something much smaller, something relegated to the shadows and gutters of our national consciousness, as embodied by today's grocery store trip.

We're housesitting in the Maple Leaf area right now, a north Seattle neighborhood where homes are slightly more affordable than their centrally located neighborhood. (Read: you can purchase a 2-bedroom for under $400,000 instead of half a mil.) Consequently, it's populated predominantly by young homeowners, minority families and elderly residents from the area's half dozen retirement centers. It's more diverse and less affluent than most of the neighborhoods just north of downtown.

As a result, you can walk into the local grocery store on any given night and actually see (gasp!) people from multiple age groups. I love Seattle, but we aren't exactly teeming with diversity, at least when compared to other places I've visited or lived. Or, maybe we're diverse but fragmented...but I digress.

I turned the corner to the produce section and heard a clattering to my right. Before rows of dully waxed apples in faux straw-filled crates, an elderly man was wrestling to place his foldable walker beneath his grocery cart. He was extremely frail and gaunt, stooped from the back to the shoulders like the bow of a weighted fishing pole. Arthritis had wrenched his knuckles and fingers into sharp angles. He was alone in the middle of the brightly lit section, pushing at the flat skeleton of his walker as it dragged against the floor. All around, people passed by with baskets in hand. No one even glanced at him.

I helped him move the walker onto the bottom of the cart, and we went through the awkward routine that always follows. Thank you, even though I feel worse because I needed your help. At least you noticed me. You're welcome, but I'm a coward because I'm not going to ask if I should stay to help you shop. I'm sorry. For everything.

I don't think there was anyone waiting for him outside. There's no way he could have driven a car. The nearest bus was a block and a half away, and it only ran every half hour after 9pm.

You can call me a bleeding heart, but here's the deal: I wanted to cry when I left, and I've been thinking about him all night. I hate the way we treat our elders in this country. They nurture us and prepare the way for our success, and we thank them by leaving them to die unnoticed and alone. If you're rich, you'll hire personal caretakers who can help around the house, and you will pay off your mortgage before you have to stop working. If you're like everyone else, you'll be lucky to escape the dank hallways of dismal nursing homes; you'll be living pretty well if you eke out a living off food stamps and long bus rides to the grocery store.

(Coincidentally, there's a very powerful piece out right now, written by a physician whose father is going through the end of his life. You can find it here, but I wouldn't recommend reading it if you are feeling at all down, or possibly if you're going through something similar. It's a tough read.)

I wish our culture placed greater value on family connections. I don't see any political leaders on either side who campaign vigorously to help families care for each other in their twilight years. No one with power advocates extended leaves of absence for people who need to help their parents or grandparents, nor do they offer tax breaks so families can hire nurses' aides to help. So we're forced into nursing homes, hospitals and hospices while our families suffer the combined mix of guilt, burnout and exhaustion. It infuriates me.

If anything ever happens to anyone in my family, I will do whatever it takes to be there for them. It scares me to think that might not be enough - I might lack the finances, medical knowledge or emotional wherewithal to see it through. I wish things were different. Seriously, if I ever miraculously publish a book that sells, part of the earnings will go towards services for the elderly. We're all going to be there someday, even a handful of the high and mighty who think they can buy their way out of anything. If for no other reason than pure self-interest, you'd think we'd want to change the way we value our predecessors.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Quote for the weekend

When god closes a door, he always opens a window, because you can't throw yourself out of a door.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Resisting the urge to hyperventilate

Augh! Augh! I just received the unofficial guide to my Big English University (for the sake of being able to write about it in the future without upsetting anyone, I'm going to leave it unnamed...). Here's a sample of what I'm supposed to cope with once I'm unceremoniously belched out of the airplane into the terminal...

Getting to BEU from central London: Take the train from King’s Cross to BEU. Try to get an express. About GBP 17 unless you have a young person’s railcard (you have to be under 26 to be eligible for one or have proof of being a student.) You can get this right at the train station or from the Graduate Union Shop for GBP 20 and it saves you 1/3 off rail fare for a year. You will need two passport photos with you. If you plan on going to visit London or really anywhere at all in England, be sure to pick up the railcard early in the year, since the savings really will add up. If you’re over 26, the rail station requires a letter from you college confirming that you are indeed a student. You can also get a Young Person’s rail card by showing an International Student Identity Card. I know you’ve mentioned this later, but it might be worth mentioning it here. The Graduate Union Shop, however, only requires you to show your blue university card and the wait is normally much shorter.

Passport photos?? College letters?? What the heck is a blue university card?!? And what's with the two-person dialogue going on at the bottom of the paragraph? Is it talking to me? What did I say to it??

Suddenly, my brain is pulsing against my skull with insistency, but there's nothing I can do to comfort it. Oh my god, what have I done? I'm trading in my secure little life for a blue university card, rainy weather and questionable vegetarian food. And the sick thing is? I can't wait to get started.

Except for the whole "getting from London to BEU" bit. Maybe I can develop a teleportation device in the next five weeks...

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Musings on married life

Somehow, getting hit on is much more entertaining. It's fun to smile and nod while they test out cheesy platitudes ("Damn, you work out? You're all put together..."), then flash the ring with mock disappointment and announce that you're off the market. Although this guy did offer to give me his card "in case things go south." So professional...

The perennial guilty pleasure arrives with a boom

A sonic boom, that is.

Good god, I don't care if they are a symbol of war, if they scare my friends' cats, snarl traffic, piss off locals and create one big pointless diversion. They are the best pointless diversion I've ever seen -- I still remember my first summer solo in Seattle, when I leaned on the rail of my apartment building's rooftop deck and watched them fly over the neighborhood. Our building was the tallest in the city, so the squadron used it as a marker to make their turns; they flew so close I could see the pilots in the cockpits.

Today, they came straight over Broadway while I was driving, accompanied by a little Red Baron plane that managed to hold its own. Everyone was stopping in the middle of the road, craning their necks or pulling out camera phones to take pictures as they turned on the smoke and shot over Capitol Hill.

Trust me: I know it's anathema to all that makes me an upstanding antiwar activist -- but against my better judgement, I still get goosebumps whenever I hear that telltale roar coming closer. I feel like a little kid again, the same one who wanted to learn how she could fly a few feet from another plane going 100 miles per hour. Guilty as charged, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

When all of your tears dry...

This isn't going to be a great post, but sometimes I just need to let my music speak for me.

I've been listening to Carbon Leaf a lot lately; their new album, "Indian Summer," manages to contain songs that cover every emotion I've experienced this summer. Now, on the eve of my best friend's departure to Kansas, I just keep listening to this same song -- it seems like an appropriate sendoff:


Call my friends to share some wine
To share some laughs, and last goodbyes
My photographs of these years
Will make me laugh through the tears

What are the odds, what are the odds
this ends and we don't meet again?
What are the odds, What are the odds
that I will miss your smile?

Take awhile! Take awhile! Take care and
Fly away and see the world
Take awhile! Take awhile! Take time and
If you need rest, I'll keep your nest

Let fondness be our souvenir
To keep it warm, we'll keep it near
Otherwise with no heart to recall...
A memory's just a memory after all
I will not leave this pulse alone
Though it may take the long way home
I will not wait until the end
For my applause for you my friend

What are the odds, what are the odds
This ends and we don't meet again
What are the odds, what are the odds?
This ends and we won't meet again
What are the odds, What are the odds
That I have missed your smile?

Take awhile! Take awhile! Take care and
Fly away and see the world
Take awhile! Take awhile! Take time and
If you need rest, I'll keep your nest

I know, of course, that I will see her again, many a time throughout our long lives. That's what appeals to me about this song: it's a determined pledge to maintain the integrity and intimacy of a friendship, despite all of the changes in store.

This isn't going to be easy, and the closer my own departure comes, the more goodbyes I have to say. I never realized how hollow those can make you feel, how much your chest aches when you give that last, awkward hug before turning away for awhile. You have to say goodbye to everything: your friends, your old haunts, your favorite view of Lake Union...So I cling to another song, playing it time and again in the car as I cruise slowly down the road:

You've come far, and though you're far from the end
You don't mind where you are, 'cause you know where you've been...
When all of your tears dry,
let your troubles roll by

I'm terrified and excited; a jumbled, incoherent storm of words; the flutter at the throat of a bird before it takes flight. Part of me wants so badly to let this pass me by, and the other half is pleading for the courage and faith to see it through...I want someone, anyone to take me by the hand and guide me through to the end, but I know I have to do this on my own...and I know CB and Kelli and everyone else will be there for me, but I'm still insecure enough to beg for reassurance...I need wisdom and faith, a faith I don't have right now and don't know how to retrieve.

Raise the roof, that I might see the stars
To gain wisdom, to see things for what they are
Please, I need proof

Dance till you fall
Love till you die
Shut your mouth
Raise the roof

Trapped in the snare with too much dreaming to bear
Fearful and frantic, hopeless and a romantic
Inspired but tired, I run this wide-open course
Like the sagging spirit of an older horse

Peel back this backdrop, like the lids from my eyes
Put you in plain view, let me visualize
Touch me again in my dreams till I feel
Touch me again till I wake and it's real

The wisest advice to me that I didn't reach
Was to lock up the heart, but keep the key within reach
Touch me again in my dreams till I feel
Touch me again till I wake and it's real

Dance till you fall
Love till you die
Shut your mouth
Raise the roof

The enormity of it overwhelms me to the point where I feel consumed by my own future. I know it's going to be better in the end, but oh how I wish I could slow down just long enough to gauge where I am before I try to keep going. Some days, everything feels like it's at the right pace; today, as the inevitability of the big move grows clear, I feel like I'm flying too fast to breathe.

Too much to do, too much to see
Pictures to take, people to meet
When there's so much space in between
It overwhelms me

Scene after scene passes by my life
The window's a wound, the road is a knife
The irony, ask me, "Where have you been?"
I don't know, I don't know
because I don't know where to begin

I warned you: it wasn't going to be a great post. I'll try to be a little more articulate tomorrow, but for now I just want to sit and figure out where, exactly, I should begin in this new part of my life.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Forehead-slap worthy article of the day

Look, people: it's a DESERT. What did you expect when you moved there? Water? Did you expect water? Well, have I got news for you!

There shall be much wailing and gnashing of teeth

Hurrah for the potential downfall of Bill Frist, who hath invoked the wroth of his evangelical keepers. He's basically been univited from the Justice Sunday II gathering, even though it's held in his own state. Bill made the mistake of thinking that they were his handmaidens, rather than the other way around -- and now, surviving his term will be more difficult than keeping pork out of the energy bill. You know you're in trouble when Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council warn there will be hell to pay -- 'cause they're not kidding. That's capital "H" hell they're talkin' 'bout. Those "reprecussions" FRC promised after Frist pledged his support to stem cell research? They'll be in the form of holy hand grenades.

The saintly model of moral integrity, Rep. Tom DeLay, shall make the keynote address in Dr. Frist's absence.

Signs that I haven't quite rejected our consumer culture in its entirety

1. My incessant urges to have my hands on my new computer. I keep toting it outside to check out the indoor/outdoor screen, screwing the monitor around so I can use it as a notepad (will I ever need it? Who cares?!), and fabricating excuses to surf the internet because the web's become cooler since I found a computer with wireless capabilities. Kelli gave me EndNote as a wedding gift, and I started salivating. I was more excited about a freaking bibliography program than I think I was about getting into some of my grad programs...though that may not say much, since they were in LA. I also keep telling people that I purchased a new computer and then insisting that they come over to see it, because I don't feel like exposing it to the dangers of the outside world yet. My own father was forced to follow up a perfectly nice sushi dinner with a trip to our current house so I could show him the twisty-screen feature. Amazingly, he's still willing to help me fly home for Christmas. Someone. Please. Help.

2. The pathetic thrill I feel when I purchase a new bike jersey or pair of gloves. They're woven, cheap fabric in gaudy shades your colorblind aunt wouldn't wear, for god's sake. It's not like I stumbled onto that mint-condition Prada top hanging in the back of Buffalo (although I think I'd prefer the bike gloves). Now, I'm drooling over the bikes in the latest Trek catalogue -- for the price of a semester at graduate school, I could own Lance Armstrong's freaking model racing bike. And when I skidded across the wet cobblestones of British roads at 40 mph and wrapped the bike around a telephone booth, well, at least I'd have the sweetest wreck you've ever seen. Seriously, this obssession must stop. I'm starting to see the appeal of those insane multicolored jerseys that weekend warriors wear -- and from there, it's really just a quick slide down the slope to purchasing bike socks with flashy designs and spandex pants for every occasion.

3. Tortoise supplements. Laugh as you will, but it's no different than buying expensive cat toys or humiliating your dog by having its nails painted. Okay, so I technically did that, too, when my husband made Ndugu this swanky tux for his wedding day role. Anyway, by this time next year, Ndugu will be sequestered in an outdoor pen where at least 10 varieties of weeds, greens and grasses will sprout for his consumption. And yes, I did in fact spend the weekend building an outdoor tortoise pen -- which he hates. It's not interesting enough, or big enough, nor does it have a little button he can push to make worms pop out of the ground. Still, I'm trying to make up for it with the pasture mix, the feather grass, the dandelions and the "krunchy krouton" all-natural nutritional food topping. I don't need a child, thank you: I have a chelonian.

4. Did I mention my new computer?

Great site for Seattle cyclists

If you've ever been hit, share your story here. It's about time that cycling conditions in the city received more publicity. I realize we're better off than most, but I've still had more close calls than I prefer to remember -- and some of these stories are pretty awful. Hopefully, the site will make an impact.

*Dreaming of Cambridge, where bikes rule the roads...*

Monday, August 01, 2005

Missing the womb

Back in my undergraduate days at Seattle U's Honors College, Becca and I knew a neurotic friend who had difficulty confronting its life-draining demands. He unsuccessfully tried managing his problem with copious quantities of pot, beat poetry, vodka and spray paint (mostly of an atomic bomb exploding next to a giant phallus on his dorm room walls...pity the summer cleaning crew...). Then, he discovered the one trick that worked: a return to the womb.

The womb, in this case, consisted of one's dorm room bed: insert self deep within its covers, pull blankets over head, and think calm, blank thoughts while the afternoon ticks away slowly.

We laughed about it at first, but soon both of us were unable to resist its alluring, white-noise call...and the Honors Womb became a fixture in many a dorm. What this says about the mental state of honors students, I prefer not to ask.

Today, I find myself longing to return to the womb again. My tortoise is gone, my best friend is moving to Kansas, and I've managed to accomplish just shy of nothing in my summer grad school prep. Seriously, this is ridiculous. I've never been so stressed out. I went to the dentist a week ago to find out why I had a new gap in between my molars. He looked up from the chair and asked, "Have you been under a lot of stress lately? You've managed to clench your jaws hard enough to work your teeth out of alignment."

Just remember that when you see me three or four years from now, wandering the streets with my second set of braces ('cause I'm sure not getting them in England!). I'm the girl who managed to clench my teeth into a whole new position. Somehow, I find this entirely amusing, which is probably appropriate for a frantic grad student.

Seriously, the womb sounds pretty good right now. Anybody have a spare mattress?