Thursday, December 8, 2005

I guess,
If this plane were to shudder
into violent orange bits
in the presure of this cold front
and we had a weightless moment
before the end
it would not matter so much
because after it was all over
I would not be frustrated
by my inability to explain death to you
because there you would be
and we could spend eternity
talking about what it was like
when our breath left our body
and how weird it was
that the stewardess was stuck
pushing bags of salted nuts
on weary passengers

Monday, October 31, 2005

And Your Little Dog, too.


That’s what she said when she realized who I was under all the green paint and witchyness.

“Demon wenches,” she slurred out as she looked beyond me to Kira and Greta.

You can’t go home again. That’s what they say. It’s one of those clichés, supposedly wrought from the experience of wise philosophers. And in some sense, it’s true. Things change, people grow older, they have kids, they get fat, sometimes they turn crazy. They even die. Buildings are taken down, new music wings pop up on the rear end of the high school, and your band conductor retires. Football players who used to throw things at you in the halls hit on you in the bar. You can’t go back in time, and thank goodness for that, I say. I don’t know about you, but you could not give me a million dollars to go back and redo seventh grade. Even if I did get to take everything I know now with me, and I could use the money to redo the bathroom. Everything I gained since then would be dismantled within days by the humiliation, bad hair, and orthodontic appliances. Because I bet I wouldn’t get to go back Hot.

But actually, you can go home again. And when you get there, your seventh grade health class tablemate will call you a demon wench. It’s refreshing; because if you return home expecting things to be the same or expecting some great sense of personal fulfillment or even that you will find that missing piece, and it will make your life entirely complete—something that your mom has been keeping for you in a box in the basement, perhaps—then you will be disappointed and sad. Home is what it is now, not what it was then, and it either needs to be rejected or appreciated on those grounds.

17 years or more after we graduated from high school, I am really only different in things I have and perhaps the way I look. Even green, I look much better now than I did then. It’s not that I arrive in Winona and immediately transform back into that insecure high school girl looking for approval from the alternative kids, but I remember that girl, and I appreciate her, too, for what she was and her part in getting me to where I am now: in charge of a whole fleet of flying monkeys.

The party that we attended was thrown by an ex-boyfriend of mine and Greta’s, sometimes at the same time, sometimes not. Were our lives back then to be made into a movie, it would probably be much more salacious than it actually was. Back then, it was downright painful. Now, it makes for a good story, and we are still friends. He now has two kids who he is raising by himself and runs a coffee shop. He has become the doyen of the Winona alt-creative scene, and he’s the crazy old uncle who has the place where the cool kids go. Everyone knows him, and he seems to have found his niche. He holds puppet shows and hosts musicians; he throws Halloween parties and Funky Formals. He really has not changed, not in essentials, just as we have not. We’ve added layers, for better or for worse, and we choose which layers we show depending upon our surroundings. I can truly say that I am happier, so it does not matter, most of the time, where I am. My life comes with me, and it’s a good life.

Usually, Halloween costume discussions begin in August or September, and we start getting things together soon after. Two years ago, the four girls, Greta, Kira, Liza, and myself were the four seasons, and it went over very well, I must say. Last year, we planned on being Dolls of the World, which was a much more fluid and unrecognizable theme by the time we were done with it. We were international, but we really weren’t dolls. Except for Liza, who went with the doll make up and the doll poses and is still pissed about it. The whole “doll thing” fell apart when Kira and I decided that we could somehow include our boyfriends in the theme. She was going to be the Spanish doll, and she decided to go with the grieving Spanish widow whose husband was gored in a bullfight. That would have made her boyfriend a dead matador. Once she said that, the Irish Doll (me) came up with the brilliant idea that my short boyfriend could be a leprechaun. When I asked him if he had ever done that, he said no in a surprised tone. Like he could not believe he had not thought of it before. Done. We became members of the Irish Faerie Court. Of course, by the time Halloween rolled around, Kira and her boyfriend had broken up, and though they were friendly and he seemed uncertain of his decision, she decided to turn him into the Portrait of Dorian Gray by the time the party rolled around. If he was not going to be her boyfriend, “I’m going to make him ugly,” she said.

Last Halloween, it occurred to me that for this year, I should be Dorothy and Pete should be a Flying Monkey. When I woke up, and Halloween was a week away, I switched to the witch. I have things at home that could make that costume. Dorothy, I would have to make. And Dorothy is stupid. Kira and her new boyfriend decided to be Perseus and Medusa. Greta chose Captain Hooker. Liza was going to be in Bemidji with the baby. We decided to go to Winona. Pete’s band had a gig in Rochester, which is only 40 minutes away from there, so we figured we would just go to the gig and then drive to my parents’ house afterwards. Get ready Saturday, go to the party together, come home Sunday. Perfect. It was all set, all planned.

Then Kira’s boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend’s mother died in Texas, so he took off at the last minute to attend the funeral, taking him away for the weekend. Kira decided to accompany us anyway, which made us happy, but she was of course sad that he would not be with her. Not to mention wondering why the gods just would not let her couples’ costume ideas work out.

Pete’s band played a great show, and everything came off just fine, even though we were running late from The Cities and then took a wrong turn, causing just a bit of tension in the car. I think that my heart actually stopped when Pete cut across a couple of lanes into en exit lane to turn around, coming up quite fast and quite close to a minivan that was also exiting in a more temperate manner. On Saturday, we took over the house. Luckily, my parents were out of town because we made a mess. By the time we were done, the family room looked like it had hosted a monkey fight. There were makeup tubes and bobby pins, feathers and bits of felt and fur everywhere. We just left it. Tomorrow is another day.

The party was populated by many people we did not know, some we knew by sight, at least one who should not be having a baby (I’m so judgmental), and a few of our high school compatriots. Some welcome, some not as welcome.

While it is disconcerting to see someone for the first time after what is probably a decade and have them be fat and clearly crazy, there is definitely a sense of self appreciation that comes from it. I really don’t care if this person thinks that I am a demon wench. It’s quite funny, actually. “FUUUCK you,” was the first response Kira got from her when she went to say hi. She was swaying and slurring by the time she got to me, and Mattress was complimenting her “bath towel attire” and saying things like “I love what you’ve done with yourself.” She didn’t notice. She was too far gone. Sure, it’s mean and done only for one’s own amusement at the expense of another person, but somewhere inside of all of us is a person who wishes we could just spend one day being Karen Walker. And besides, she was not exactly being complimentary toward us, and this is the same woman who gave Kira a second hand sheet wrapped in a second hand belt as a wedding present. The gift was prefaced with a “I looked really hard to find something that I really though was YOU.” Pete asked us in the morning what she was dressed as, because he was hoping that would identify her in his mind. “A fat crazy lady” was what we said. He didn’t remember her.

Crazy people or not, I’ll go home again. I have family there, and it really is a beautiful town. Winona is part of who I am; it molded me for 8 years and continues to reside in my psyche. It’s an identity, a cachet even in some remote circles, and I am just fine with saying I am from there. It’s full of memories and associations, not all of which are necessarily good, but which stir up the heart and the head and get the cells working, the synapses firing. Besides that, the beer is really cheap.

But what are we going to wear?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I had left work early because there was nothing happening. I had a few errands to run, and then I thought I would stop by Headquarters and see if there was anything to do. Input data, stuff envelopes, box up a computer or two. I would be useful there. I was driving up Snelling Avenue to return some videos. Listening to public radio, looking at the campaign signs. Snelling Avenue North near the state fair in Saint Paul, Minnesota is Vegas for campaign signs because of its high traffic. I watched them flash past as I drove through the cold rain thinking, for certain, for the first time “We’re gonna win. We are going to win.” The numbers were looking good. The “no” vote, against the impending war, timed to hurt those running for office, had defied the pervasive political sensibilities and given him the lead. People trusted him and understood him, whether they agreed with him or not, and that respect led to a jump in the polls. “We are going to win.”

P.J O’ Rourke was speaking on the National Press Club, and his words about “pork” in recent federal government bills were ringing in my ears as I dropped off the videos and browsed for a few minutes. When I got back into the car, Gary Eichten, our Midday host on public radio, was speaking. “…no confirmed reports, but it appears that a small plane that was registered to the Wellstone campaign has crashed in northern Minnesota near Eveleth… it is not known at this time whether Senator Wellstone was aboard….”

No no no no no… please say no.

I headed down Larpenteur back to Snelling and back down the road. No. What are we supposed to do now? What am I supposed to do now? My cell phone rang, and it was my mother. She was crying; she was wondering what I was doing. Crying and driving and listening to the radio. She asked what I was going to do, and I said that I had been intending to go to Headquarters, but now I did not know what to do. She said I should go. So I did. I drove past a small crowd of reporters gathered around the doors to the building, parked, and walked over. The press manager was talking to the reporters, and he went to stop me, took one look, and waved me in. Inside Wellstone Campaign Headquarters was a feeling that had never been there. It was quiet; it was somber. People whispered and moved about as if in a trance. Some were crying, and no one really seemed to know what was going on. They were waiting; we were waiting. Hoping against hope, when we all knew the truth.

But I did not believe it until I looked up and saw Senator Ted Kennedy entering the room, followed by Walter Mondale and another man who, if he was not George McGovern, should play him in the film. They were all crying. They walked through the group of volunteers and staff, offering their condolences and hugging us in turn. This was real. But I felt like I was floating, dreaming a bad dream, and I would wake up.

No. No no no.
What are we supposed to do now?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Zen Moment

Who's taking care of the millionaires?
The federal government? The IRS?

And Powerball.

(Lucky Guy)

I love it when "strict fiscal conservatives" are also filthy rich. Because they can afford it.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The church that put up the "Children know what god wants" sign (*shiver*) changed over a few days ago to:
"Violence is a lack of imagination."

Um, I think it's a little more than that.

Chartered Accountancy is a lack of imagination.

Plenty of uncreative people don't kill...
or maim, break, destroy, ignite, run for office.

I am going to be keeping an eye on this church.

Monday, October 10, 2005

H. Sapiens 101

Mary Shelley was 20 when she wrote “Frankenstein.” She was expressing fundamental issues swirling about in society in the first part of the 19th century. Science was literally exposing layers of previously unimaginable prehistory, and humankind was grappling with the concept of its primacy—with its very nature. In the book, Dr. Frankenstein sets out to find the source of life, literally, the spark. He succeeds in creating life from inanimate material, but fears and loathes his creation, abandoning it entirely. The creature eventually acts out against the creator in horrific ways. The creator does not take responsibility for the creature until it is too late, and the damage has been done. It’s a quest that will take his life and eventually take the life of the creature.

The crux of this biscuit is; if you create a monster, you are then responsible for understanding, caring for, and controlling that monster. It is unkind to do anything else. It is disrespectful and dangerous to set that monster loose and then abdicate the Creator Throne.

In this life I have met fellow beings who consider themselves creators: teachers of humanity. There is that old adage “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” I don’t agree with that statement: it only applies to bad teachers. I have had many teachers who were brilliant, accomplished, and able, but they enjoyed being around people and imparting their knowledge, so they chose to stay in school. And thank goodness they did. The bad teachers are another story. Unfortunately, they are often very good at cloaking themselves in respectability and projecting themselves as someone to be reckoned with. Because they occupy a position of power, because they are magnetic personalities, they wield influence over younger, less experienced individuals. Because they have become so adept at subverting their own neurosis, they often walk among us unexposed. They think that they are qualified to impart their wisdom of humanity to willing subjects, and they intend to do it.

Thing is: in order to be a teacher in H. Sapiens 101, you have to have first TAKEN the class and received a passing grade. You must then complete the coursework that comprises the entire curriculum and obtain your degree and then your teaching certificate. As your career progresses, you must engage in continuing education activities that will be monitored by the licensing body. There is a minimum of credits that must be completed per year to maintain your good standing.

What I am really trying to say here is:
Don’t get up on that dais, put your notes on the podium, write on that white board, or pick up that chalk until you have dealt with your own shit. Otherwise, the monsters you create might be your own.

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Speech! Speech!

Obligatory Liberal Disclaimer: Saddam Hussein was a bad man. Osama Bin Laden is a bad man. Al Qaeda is a bad organization. Terrorism is bad.

President Bush gave a speech yesterday to the National Endowment for Democracy. This is an apparently well hung organization that is dedicated to “Supporting freedom around the world.” They were chartered by President Reagan, and they receive money from Congress. They say they want to “strengthen democratic institutions around the world through nongovernmental efforts.” Which seems covert to me. Wesley Clarke is on the board, and he has a brain in his head, so I’ll leave it to him to manage the crazies, should they ever appear.

Mr. Bush is apparently back on the horse after the devastating blow that Hurricane Katrina dealt to his approval ratings. I hate it when I lose points like that, so I understand. Granted, I am not in charge of a nation of 295,734,134 people (pre-Katrina), so I don’t know how heavily the deaths of over 1300 citizens would weigh on me. But I would probably have to get into the ring and throw punches like a prize fighter, staunchly declaring my purposes. I’d have to remind the American people that they are afraid, not angry. I’d have to get out that great glowing noun, Democracy, and its consort, Freedom, and have them puff up the chests of the faithful. I would have to redirect the nations’ eyes from the Louisiana morgue full of the nameless dead and the Mississippi families trying to rebuild.

Because we are under threat every day, every moment from extremist groups intent on burying our way of life. I would remind Americans to live in fear. Remind them that we have brought freedom to repressed parts of the world. Like Iraq and Afghanistan. (Don’t mention The Sudan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia. Repression is relative to economics and political necessity.) Focus instead on the fact that we have “gained the peace that freedom brings.” This is peace. Remember that. Because “We're responding to a global campaign of fear with a global campaign of freedom. And once again, we will see freedom's victory.” Whatever I do, I would not liken their global campaign of fear to my national one.

September 11. Smoking ruins. Evil. Fire. Twisted metal. New York City. “Let’s roll.” September 11. Do you remember September 11? Let me remind you: September 11, “a proud city covered in smoke and ashes, a fire across the Potomac, and passengers who spent their final moments on Earth fighting the enemy.” Side note: when I mention those “men who rejoice in every death,” please don’t think about the following people:

Repent America director Michael Marcavage said that it’s too bad that many had to die, but God “destroyed a wicked city.”

Hal Lindsey thinks that Katrina shows that “the prophetic times [he has] been expecting for decades have finally arrived. And even worse, it appears that the judgment of America has begun.”

Former Nixon special counsel Charles Colson speculated that God allowed Hurricane Katrina as to remind us how important it is that we win the War on Terror: "Did God have anything to do with Katrina?," people ask. My answer is, he allowed it and perhaps he allowed it to get our attention so that we don't delude ourselves into thinking that all we have to do is put things back the way they were and life will be normal again.”

Steve Lefemine of Columbia Christians for Life saw an image of an 8-week old fetus imbedded in the satellite image of Katrina: "In my belief, God judged New Orleans for the sin of shedding innocent blood through abortion."

Also, Please don’t think about the people of Mississippi, the City of Biloxi, the countless rural dwellers who lost their lives, their livelihoods. Don’t tell them that “Oops, sorry, you were just too close to that sin pot, New Orleans. God does not have smart bombs. No. Think about “Americans in uniform rising to duty.” But don’t think about them coming home in flag-draped caskets. Don’t think about 1945 American soldiers dead. Done. Over. Lives ruined. Don’t ever take any responsibility for anything this country has ever done to bring on acts of hatred. Only women can be blamed for their own victimization. America could never wear its skirts too short and sashay down a dark alley, inviting attack. Make sure to condemn others for rejoicing in death because it makes Americans forget that I don’t even seem to understand it. Don’t remind people that you cannot have a war on a noun. (See: War on Drugs.) Certainly and absolutely never mention Oklahoma City or Atlanta or the numerous abortion clinics bombed and Americans killed. Certainly, a statement like the following, taken out of context, could ONLY denote Islamic Fundamentalists.

“All these separate images of destruction and suffering that we see on the news can seem like random and isolated acts of madness. Innocent men and women and children have died simply because they boarded the wrong train or worked in the wrong building or checked into the wrong hotel. And while the killers choose their victims indiscriminately, their attacks serve a clear and focused ideology, a set of beliefs and goals that are evil but not insane.”

Remember: these people hate you and they hate your god. They hate your freedom. None of this has anything to do with American foreign policy or American history or a general trend toward radicalism, all over the world, fueled by poverty, lack of resources, poor education, and disenfranchisement of all kinds. Religious freedom equals freedom to practice Christianity. My kind of Christianity. Extremism is usually bad, would you say? Fundamentalism usually warps the religion, perhaps? Only their kind. My kind: good. Their kind: Bad.

Please, people, understand: Al Qaeda is a propagandistic organization, recruiting based on poverty, displacement and anger. They accept only their cause as the one true cause. I know this because the real one true cause, the cause that I represent, works in much the same way. Our weapon, however, is money. Money and fear. But I know. I can’t talk about that. I must remember to keep that to myself, only as a reference.

Remember: “We know the vision of the radicals because they've openly stated it in videos and audiotapes and letters and declarations and Web sites.” This should be easy to remember because we use these tactics as well. Please ignore the sulfuric smell of my smirking. These people are “fanatical and extreme and they should not be dismissed.”

Never forget, “these extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for democracy and peace and stand in the way of their ambitions. It’s not us. It’s them. They “regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity, and we must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war on terror.” Please do not think about how Iraq became that front. Don’t think about what would happen in the Middle East if the USA actually Let Freedom Ring and allowed these people to choose their own governments.

At this point I might bring up other despots in order to confuse the issue more. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot. Examples of “Evil men obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience” who must be “taken very seriously, and we must stop them before their crimes can multiply.” I would not point out to anyone on the left that this sentence could be turned against me.

I would have a lot of poignant things to say, that would come from my own experience over the last five and a half years of governing: “Defeating a militant network is difficult because it thrives like a parasite on the suffering and frustration of others.” and “The radicals exploit local conflicts to build a culture of victimization in which someone else is always to blame and violence is always the solution.” and “The radicals depend on front operations such as corrupted charities which direct money to terrorist activity.” and “They are strengthened by those who aggressively fund the spread of radical, intolerant versions of Islam in unstable parts of the world.” But I would not point out that, with a substitution of a few nouns, you would not know who I was talking about—my government or the enemy. This is fun. It’s easy to give speeches. I like talking to people.

It would be important to again link Iraq with Al Qaeda and September 11, perhaps with a statement like this, “Some have also argued that extremism has been strengthened by the actions of our coalition in Iraq, claiming that our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals. I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001, and Al Qaeda attacked us anyway.” Iraq is just an excuse now for the liberals and the terrorists, and I need to remind the American people of that. I need to put these concepts into a sentence together again: Iraq, Al Qaeda, September 11. And it’s always good to have an esoteric link between liberals and terrorists floating around out there in the ether.

If it weren’t ludicrous and could actually spawn laughter, I might link Islamic radicalism with communism. I might say that “this fight resembles the struggle against communism in the last century.” Because “Like the ideology of communism, Islamic radicalism is elitist, led by a self-appointed vanguard that presumes to speak for the Muslim masses.” “Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy teaches that innocent individuals can be sacrificed to serve a political vision. And this explains their cold-blooded contempt for human life.”

Don’t point out that Kristian philosophy neglects this world of the flesh in favor of an afterlife in paradise. Don’t refer back to the Wrath of God/Hurricane Katrina people. Don’t think about Valerie Plame. Don’t look into the service records of my administration or our average net worth. Don’t think about the elections of 2000. Don’t define the term “corporate oligarchic theocracy.”

Don’t point out that Karl Rove basically transposed his philosophy for taking over America into this very speech. “Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy pursues totalitarian aims. Its leaders pretend to be in an aggrieved party, representing the powerless against imperial enemies. In truth, they have endless ambitions of imperial domination and they wish to make everyone powerless except themselves. Under their rule, they have banned books and desecrated historical monuments and brutalized women. They seek to end dissent in every form and to control every aspect of life and to rule the soul itself. While promising a future of justice and holiness, the terrorists are preparing for a future of oppression and misery. Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy is dismissive of free peoples, claiming that men and women who live in liberty are weak and decadent.”

Don’t trace the co-opting of populist rhetoric by the conservative right.

At this point, I am confused, but I was told to keep reading. I won’t stumble over this because it sounds so familiar, so home grown: I will charge on. I will finish this speech with a few more points. Some of these are actually funny, but I won’t chuckle. “The essence of democracy [is] making your case, debating with those who disagree, building consensus by persuasion and answering to the will of the people.”

This is tough. But it’s on the teleprompter: “In fact, democratic federalism is the best hope for unifying a diverse population, because a federal constitutional system respects the rights and religious traditions of all citizens while giving all minorities…a stake and a voice in the future of their country.

Gosh, I hope no one analyzes this speech.

“As Americans, we believe that people everywhere—everywhere prefer freedom to slavery and that liberty, once chosen, improves the lives of all.”

Who writes this stuff? Karl? Can I have a word with you? No? OK.

Almost done.
“There's always a temptation in the middle of a long struggle to seek the quiet life, to escape the duties and problems of the world, and to hope the enemy grows weary of fanaticism and tired of murder.”

Great! This is where I get to take a vacation. Excellent. I have brush to clear. I hope no one ever passes a law that says if you start a war, you aren’t allowed to go on vacation until you finish the war. That would suck.

Last but not least:
“Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that regimented societies are strong and pure until those societies collapse in corruption and decay.”

Ah, truer words were never spoken.
Is this thing on?

Runners' High

I don’t like running
If I had to run for my life, I’d die.
I quit track after 9th grade because they would not let me just run fast and then jump, and they would not let me just run fast and then stop. They wanted me to run. They made me run. And run. Just run. Run and run and run.
I didn’t like it.

This past weekend was beautiful. A showcase of Twin Cities autumnal majesty. One sparkling, warm yellow light day, and one grey blue breezy day. It was the weekend of the annual Twin Cities Marathon, and my uncle and aunt had arrived so that my uncle could run in it. I was excited to see them as they are two of my favorite people in the world and my example of how a couple should behave; madly in love, even when you are doing the dishes. But I don’t like running. I don’t know if I have mentioned this, but I just don’t like it. It kills my prematurely old knees, and it makes me sad, deep in my respiratory system. It would be great to cheer Mike on, but being that close to so many people who are running…. I just didn’t know.

I don’t understand marathons; I don’t know why anyone would want to do it; I don’t see the point. This does not mean that I am not impressed by the achievement because I most certainly am, but I did not see how I could get much actual personal enjoyment out of being a spectator for a marathon. And actual personal enjoyment is an important pursuit in my life.

Pete and I decided to ride our bicycles. Most of the route through St. Paul was familiar and relatively close to our house, and it seemed strange to use the car to cheer on people who are running. Jump in the car, drive the car, park the car, get out of the car, “GO MIKE YAY MIKE”, jump in the car, drive the car, park the car, get out of the car, etc. I figured it would stress me out and make me feel even more of a fitness loser than I already am. I jumped astride Stan (link) and Pete got his bicycle (who will remain nameless), and we struck off to meet the marathoners.

We arrived at the Lake Street Bridge that connects Minneapolis to St. Paul where the Mississippi River separates them. People, everywhere. Cheering and whooping. Waving signs and clapping. Runners passing under us on the River Road, clearly members of the elite, still cruising along at Mile 21 like they had just started out. We were meeting the family at mile 18, across the river. I was surprised by my reaction to all the activity. It was as if the air was full of the runners’ endorphins, and I felt no pain, just a positive sense of ineffable joy. It was the kind of free-floating goodwill that makes you say nice things to people you don’t know, remark on the cuteness of strangers’ dogs, and walk around with an idiotic grin on your face, directing the glow at everyone in your vicinity. I found myself looking for things to compliment. “Nice boots!” “I love your top.” I look forward to moods like that.

We crossed the river and rode up the path alongside the course. The family was there, dutifully waiting for Mike. Spectators were stretched out as far as we could see, each way along the route, and the runners formed a steady stream of endurance. Almost eight thousand people would pass through here once the day was over, running, wheeling, walking, breathing, smiling, wheezing, and sweating. It was unbelievable, and I felt emotional, teary. I thought that perhaps I was losing my mind until I looked at Pete, who said, eyes red, “I feel like crying.” Freak. Freak like me.

I guess that it was the upbeat nature of the event, the actual pointlessness of it. It is what it is, and for all its homogeneity (white, middle class, middle aged), this positive sense of accomplishment for the sake of accomplishment was hanging in the autumn air, just underneath the canopy of grey clouds. And it was affecting everyone. From me with my low expectations and disdain of running to the women who were across the course from us on Mile 18, cheering indefatigably for anyone, everyone who went by, using some stand-out aspect of the participant’s costume or appearance to designate them. “Go Spam! YAAAAY!!! All right you guys, you’re looking great!! Woo Hoo! Number 8413!! Super Fly!! Sparkle head! Batman! Robin! Superman! Keep it up!! Great Job!! YAAAAAAAAYYY!!!” They were incredible. My uncle would tell us afterwards that the crowd was pretty quiet, compared, at least, to Pittsburgh. But we can’t be compared to steel workers of the western Appalachians. It’s just not fair. I posit that they were pretty loud for a bunch of passive aggressive Minnesotans.

It’s a gorgeous route to run, if you have to run. Or if you want to run. It starts in downtown Minneapolis and wends its way past the Sculpture Gardens, though neighborhoods that inspire envy, home of the Mary Tyler Moore house and Walter Mondale’s home, past the chain of three lakes, Isles, Calhoun, and Harriet, along the Minnehaha Parkway and around Lake Nokomis, north/northeast along the river and then back down the other side, over and up along Summit Avenue through Saint Paul, past the Governor’s Mansion, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s brownstone, Garrison Keillor’s neighborhood, and down past the Cathedral and on to the State Capitol. Pete and I put in over 16 miles on our bicycles, a pittance in physical expenditure compared to my uncle and the thousands of others who finished, but it felt good. It was fun to ride alongside, to look for him in the crowd, to cheer him on, to have that brief moment where I actually understood why someone would want to do this. I won’t be running a marathon any time soon, or ever, I should say, but I will probably get the bike out again next year, and cheer on a bunch of strangers.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Tropical Storm Tammy

Tropical Storm Tammy.
Now, not to diminish the possible destructive power of this storm, but... Tammy? It's really hard for me to take this seriously. It would seem that the National Weather Service is running out of names, and it might be time for a new system. Because I am just not ready for Tropical Storm Bambi to take out Savannah or for Hurricane Debbie to do Dallas. They only have 21 names a year, and there are apparently only a few left. Then they have to resort to the Greek alphabet, which I personally am much more excited about. Hurricane Omicron and Tropical Storm Upsilon sound peachy to me. Once we pass by Wilma (from the Flintstonian epoch), which is the last name, we're headed for Alpha. I think that the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) which is a United Nations agency, should look ahead to next year and start with an entirely new idea. Hey, why not continue with the name theme, and the Greek theme, and start in with God names from the Grecian pantheon. This could then branch out to Roman names and Norse names. Hurricane Odin? Thor? Absofuckinglutely. There are only going to continue to be more storms, guys. You had better get the name arsenal up and running.

Author's disclaimer: This was not the intended entry today, but the author left her journal at home by her bed because she is stupid. Also, the author would like to note that looking forward to Hurricane names such as Athena and Hephaestus does not mean that she condones the use of Mother Nature to inflict suffering on the human race. But hey, it happens. It might as well have a good name.

Not With The Band

I guess I can be thankful for my mediocre musical talents in this way:

I don’t have to be in a band, deal with my bandmates (i.e. drummer), negotiate with clubs, or worry about the high school politics of “the scene.”

Pete is, however, very talented musically, and gets no greater thrill out of life than playing music, on a stage, for humans. Therefore, he gets to deal with the accompanying bullshit. This is also probably another reason that I have not ever tried to publish any of my writing: bullshit and dealing with said bullshit. Oh, and soul-crippling rejection. But that’s another story.

In other professions, you make a deal, and both sides of the deal agree to provide certain amenities or execute certain tasks. They are expected to live up to them. But it seems that in the music business, only the club matters, and the bands just have to take it, unless they are hugely up-and-coming or already established.

In other professions, if you show up on time, according to the previously arranged deal, with everything you were asked to provide, and the other side of the transaction changes the rules, say, changes the time, you have every right to say no, and walk away. In the music business, however, you have to smile and nod and suck it up, and if your drummer throws a hissy fit because he can’t stay up that late because he single-handedly runs a 6 million dollar hedge fund during the day, and your bass player is nonplussed and also works in the morning, and your fiancé is freaking out because she is not going to have time to sew your monkey head, and you decide to pull out because it’s just not going to be fun anymore and this is supposed to be fun, right?... you have to deal with the fact that you will never play that club again, and never play with that band again, and word could get around that you are pussies. And that is one less place where you can experience the weightless joy that music brings you.

And you will spend another hour, at home in bed, not fornicating like you should be, but being talked down off the ledge by your previously freaking out fiancé, reminded that this is supposed to be fun, and you are not trying to score in the music industry anymore, that this was, in fact, why you quit your other verge-of-successful band, and that life and grown up responsibilities have, for better or for worse, taken priority over stardom, and that was the choice you made, for very good reasons, four years ago.

I am all for Pete playing music, don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to Yoko him out of his band. I love going to hear them play, and I almost never miss a gig. Even when I have a monkey head to sew. (Or when I wind up in the middle of nowhere northern Wisconsin surrounded by weekend warriors). Heck, I practically ordered him to take the free drum set his drummer was offering and set it up in my basement long before we had even talked about him moving in. But I also hate to see him wrecking himself over the politics and stressing out over things he cannot change. I would love it if he had a chance to play more because it makes him so very obviously happy, and happiness is sexy. Especially when accompanied by guitar face. Really. But he probably needs a new drummer, at least for weekday gigs, and he will obviously have some damage control to perform from last night, which I have no doubt he will be able to do; he’s charming and has experience with this sort of thing.

And once that is all in order, after they have a band meeting and sort out their issues, after he makes the rounds he might have to make, he should roll out and get those gigs, and get those new songs together, and play music, even if it’s only for the 5 people who show up. I’ll be there.

With a monkey head on.
If I ever get it done.

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

The Slow Exhale

It was a school bus morning.
I awoke to the sound of heavy rain and rumbling thunder. Flashes of lightning gave the bedroom an electric quality. The house was dim, the grey outside only lending a touch of daylight to the quiet rooms. I turned on the kitchen light in order to make the coffee and prepare for my day. When I sat down on the living room floor, I heard heavy wide tires on the wet pavement and the release of the brakes as a yellow school bus trundled down the street, and I was immediately 15. Waiting for the bus on a rainy fall morning in my house in Winona, Minnesota.

It’s definitely autumn now. It was 85 degrees yesterday and humid, but ask the garden, and it will tell you. Walk out into the light, and it will touch your skin with that certain slant that is palpable. A new season, and my favorite. All around the city, the leaves are retreating, leaving behind red and gold and orange and brown as the trees shift into sleep. The peppers and tomatoes are still ripening, running a race with the first frost that could come this week. I’ll cover the plants that need it for as long as I can, eking out those last few basil leaves, and I’ll bring in the plants that can survive over the winter as long as Miss Hazel does not chew them to bloody stumps within the first week. She won’t be able to hide it when she leaps onto the bed in the morning, purring. And we slowly notice a pleasant whiff of… Rosemary? Sage? Two more and we’d have a folk song. No wonder our house does not smell like cats. Our cats smell like herbs.

Watching the garden go, moving the green inside, these cool rains and surprising warm days, tumbling crunchy leaves, nature doing its best Kandinsky, the sun and the earth dancing to a Parrish waltz. It’s like stepping into a stipple brush landscape. The kind that makes you want to name your house and don your overalls to take in the harvest; to lean on your shovel and smile knowingly at your surroundings, humming Copland. It’s that last sigh of contentment, the settling in before the storm. With comfort, we take our places in the flow of the seasons, and we wait.

But first, there is this. This spectacular show, this slow motion yearning toward repose. Perhaps we will walk to the market on an Indian Summer morning and sip a mocha on the patio. Maybe we will open the windows to the rain and thunder and take advantage of our love, the proximity of our warm bodies. It could be that all I want is another pint of raspberries before the frost, an apple pie from the orchard, a sighing afternoon in a park with you. Or a day without the news.

The Worst Thing

"There's nothing worse than seeing someone driving down the road, on the phone or shaving or putting on make-up, and there's a child in the back seat.”
-RICHARD ROY, a state representative of Connecticut, on a new law banning the use of cellphones in cars.

The worst thing? Really? The worst. Do you want to think about this at all, Sir? Not at all? It’s the WORST THING. OK. There’s nothing worse. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of people yakking on cell phones while they are driving, and this includes my lovely and talented fiancé. I might even go so far as to get one of those “Shut up and Drive” bumper stickers... but what if I have to make a call?

Granted, it would be nice if actual common sense prevailed and multitasking was not so fashionable as to make an actual law necessary for such things. But given the prevalence of AM radio-style common sense and the ease with which “the American People’s” feathers get all ruffled when anyone mentions legislating private behavior in this manner, I am sure that plenty of arm chair libertarians and many conservatives will cry foul (fowl?) over any attempt to bring mandates to the state level (as has happened in several states already, so I gather). Never mind that konservatives who cry foul over such laws don’t seem to have a problem with the federal government killing its citizens as part of its criminal justice system or pouncing into the bedroom with sodomy laws or into half the population’s naughty bits with regulations. These seem like extreme and potentially dangerous extensions of governmental power. Nope. Cell phone laws and private property laws and gun laws require red-faced ranting.

Gosh. So many things I could say about what I just said. I basically wanted to make a statement about priorities and perception in America, but I have crushed it under extra words. A woman putting on makeup in the car, baby or not, is poor judgment. Happens all the time. Is it the worst thing? I know this representative’s comments are probably taken out of context in the above quote (found in the New York Times), but I just have to wonder: don’t we have more important things to worry about right now?

Like a new football stadium.

Monday, October 3, 2005

The Story of the HurriKane

Alabama State Senator Hank Erwin, September 28 2005:
"New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast have always been known for gambling, sin and wickedness," Erwin wrote this week in a column he distributes to news outlets. "It is the kind of behavior that ultimately brings the judgment of God."

"Warnings year after year by godly evangelists and preachers went unheeded. So why were we surprised when finally the hand of judgment fell?" Erwin wrote. "Sadly, innocents suffered along with the guilty. Sin always brings suffering to good people as well as the bad."

Does this mean that Las Vegas will be swallowed by a dust storm of political, er, I mean Biblical proportions? Perhaps my Los Angelino friends should really be watching for that earthquake sometime during the Bush Administration’s tenure? But maybe Vegas already paid with the October 2003 mauling of Roy Horn by one of his prized white tigers, and they can rest at ease for some time to come. It’s just nice to know that if I ever want to know what God is thinking, I can ask Senator Erwin because The Big Man Himself sure seems to be whispering sweet nothings into his right ear.

It’s not as if these sorts of pronouncements are new. Both sides in the American Civil War believed that they had God on their side, and therefore the Cause belonged to each of them. Of course, only one could win. Sometime in the 1990’s, I went to sleep, and God became very interested in the National Football League, and seems to be on both sides as well. Again, only one team can win (and that is whoever is playing the Minnesota Vikings, it appears). But I guess that, either way, God wins because he is playing both sides. Smarty. He should be pretty happy with his odds now, what with both sides again claiming the same thing: Hurricane Katrina was the Wrath of God. Retribution for Sin. Of course, the sides in this little squabble are Kristians and Al-Kaeda, but never you mind that. It’s OK to say such things if you are Kristian. Those Arabs want to destroy America. Kristians are only trying to help.

This leads me to add two words to the Glossary of K, as I am now calling it, what with examples popping up all over. “Kompassionate” & “Konservative.” In my world, compassion used to be a good thing. Loads better than tolerance and even better then sympathy. I sense little compassion in either beliefs such as Mr. Erwin is pronouncing or in comments uttered by our Former First Lady and Queen Mother Barbara Bush regarding the better-off-ed-ness of Katrina refugees who had been granted asylum Texas style in the Astrodome. And believe it or not, I have met conservatives who I both like and respect. I even voted once for a conservative candidate for Governor of Minnesota. But he was a political conservative. A republican of the older school. Granted, not so old a school as Lincoln, but the sort of socially and fiscally responsible conservative who really had ideas and principles about how government should treat its citizens and run itself. I did not always agree with those conservatives, but I understood their reasoned arguments. These are many of the same people who have tried to distance themselves from the Neo-cons (Konservatives), but who can’t quite seem to get the ear of the press (liberal bias in the media, you know).

It’s all well and good, I suppose. We would not want William Bennett, who in Minneapolis/St. Paul is broadcasted on an AM station named “The Patriot” and whose mug is plastered on billboards under the statement “Intelligent Radio,” to be stuck with the same company over and over again in the Kristian Green Room. It’s good to mix it up a bit. A little Wrath of God is a great addition to any Social Mixer. Senator Erwin will be most welcome with the other Kristians, I believe. Hmmm… Kompassionate Konservative Kristian. Sort of has a “ring” to it, doesn’t it?

Friday, September 30, 2005

No Direction/Home

He’s my musical Hemingway; my poetry Pollack. He’s the thing that separates me; the thing that defies me, denies me, and I don’t get it. And that makes me deficient, somehow. I should smoke more weed and then I’d see. I should reread, relisten, resee and then I’d understand and then I’d be a man. It’s not my epithet but things I roll my eyes at. Someone who denies home and family and place when that denial is what defines them. I don’t buy any of it. And I don’t think he does, either.

But in an effort to dip my tin cup in the same cool spring that my love drinks from, I am trying to find a common ground, a common space. A place where we can meet, even if I have to be looking through a tiny window into the house of his appreciation. At least I will know: this is where the filler words fit in. Where the “Well’s” and the “Yes and’s” and the “Oh’s” originate.

Is it the simplicity of the early lines? The easy rhymes, the expected verbs? The accessibility and “Yeah, man. I know what you’re talking about” of it all? The rambling in a voice not his own? Are these things now too ingrained in the culture that I can’t wade through what has become cliché? The ABCBCBD of it all. I’m always one to balk at the obvious. The “Come gather round” troubadour and the self referential “This song is” ploys. I like the internal rhymes, the tumble of assonance and alliteration that trips over the tongue. The title “Motorpsycho Nightmare” makes me happy, but the story does not hold me. I think I like “Tangled up in Blue”, but maybe that’s because he talks about a redhead. I might have a dance with “Just like a Woman,” but he’d have to not sing it. “Wedding Song”? Really? I’ guess I need to hear it. “All Along the Watchtower” is Jimi Hendrix for me. “Shelter from the Storm” can come in for a cup of tea. But I’m too tired to read anymore. There isn’t enough of a return for me.

The problem could be that I dealt with people who remind me of his projected persona. Of the “I” in the songs. People, hell: men. Dealt with, geezuz: I tried to be with them. That detached you-will-never-really-know-me is attractive for some reason to girls in their twenties, and then it becomes a habit that is hard to break. We don’t know it’s because they don’t know themselves. We don’t know it’s not an aloof self confidence; it’s the opposite. We figure if we can be the one who breaks through, then we can win. You don’t have to be anyone, just be unattainable. And my 25-year old brain in this 35-year-old woman—this 35-year-old woman who finally clipped the dark wings of expectation and landed firmly on the ground where you, love, were waiting—that 25-year-old brain remembers the patterns and worries that if you love the music, you might be like the man. You might be like the other men. Luckily the 35-year-old knows better. And usually, it is the 35-year-old who gets control of the heart and the mouth that voices its deepest desires.

I love you, but “Don’t Think Twice” will always piss me off.

"K" is for...

William Bennett is the author of such books as “Moral Compass : Stories for a Life's Journey”, “The Book of Virtues for Young People” and “The Book of Virtues”, “The Children's Book of Heroes” and “Our Sacred Honor : The Stories, Letters, Songs, Poems, Speeches, and Hymns that Gave Birth to Our Nation”.

I think you get the point.

He stresses compassion, responsibility, friendship, courage, perseverance, and faith (Author’s aside: “Faith” and “Perseverance” were the names I gave my right and left hands during a darker, more lonely time in my life. But that is another essay). He writes that "an honest heart will always find friends."

Wow. Sounds pretty good, eh? If a bit naive and simplistic.

From CNN, September 30, 2005:
"If you wanted to reduce crime, you could—if that were your sole purpose—you could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down.
"That would be an impossibly ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down," [William Bennett, former Secretary of Education]

From the Cambridge English Dictionary:
eugenics, noun:
the study of methods of improving humans by allowing only carefully chosen people to reproduce

Apparently, it’s an honest, white heart.
And one does not have to be good, to be honest.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome,
William Bennett: Kristian.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

This is something I just don’t understand. Certainly not the only thing, but it’s less baffling than a Sierra Club sticker on a W4Pres SUV, and it is therefore easier to knock around in my head:

Why replace the letter “C” with the letter “K”?

As in “Go Kart” or “Kitty Kat Club” or “Kones” or “Krafty Melt”.

Is it a German thing?
Sure, it’s a marketing thing, and sometimes, in the instance of “Kitty Kat Club” it almost makes sense. It’s an attempt at cute (kute?). “Kitty Kat” is cuter than “Kitty Cat”; it looks better and accentuates the alliteration. It stands out as a proper name. But in the case of the “Kitty Kat Club,” it would really only make sense if you logically extended the K substitution to the last word as well: Klub. Of course, this can’t be done, as the ensuing abbreviation might send the wrong signal.

In the case of the “Kones”, meaning “Ice Cream Kones” wouldn’t it then be “Ice Kream Kones”? Is “Kream” too porny? And if the word “Kones” is standing alone, as it is on a neon sign at the Minnesota State Fair, why change it at all? I would think that “Cones” would get the point across just fine. We have shakes; we have root beer floats; we have malts; we have cones. Or is there something dirty about that?

Which brings me to the absolutely grotesque and incomprehensively altered “Kum & Go” chain of gas stations in Iowa and South Dakota. Unfortunately, this diverges on another path involving dirtily-named convenience stores, and that is a different essay.

But perhaps this marketing tendency could be useful for the purpose of informational differentiation—to show us what we are dealing with and expose differences. Because lately in America, there are too many people trying to cram themselves in under one heading: Christianity. Perhaps some of these high-profile Christians, the ones with the big mouths and their mitts in the democracy; the ones who vote their religious agenda and neglect reality; the ones who want everyone to submit (and not in a nice way) to their idea of what Christianity is; these neo-Christians, if you will, should adopt the “with a K” kutism and become Kristians. At least that way, the rest of us would know who is who. So the “Christian Group” praising Hurricane Katrina for wiping out the abortion clinics (klinics?) in New Orleans (along with hundreds of living, breathing Americans) would be “with a K” Kristians. The “Christian Leader” who calls for the assassination of an elected world leader would become a “Kristian Leader.” All the Governmental Christians who use religion as a cover while they advance their radically conservative agenda and harm those less fortunate (blessed are the peacemakers)? Kristians. And they can take their Kreationism (oops! Sorry. Intelligent Design) and their Kommandments and sit in the corner with Al-Qaeda (Kaeda?) until they are ready to play nice. Call it a time out for Jesus.

Friday, September 23, 2005

I thought I heard a...

Last night as we were sitting down to reheated homemade chicken pesto pizza (yes, life is good), I noticed that the 35 pound bag of black oil sunflower seeds that we have for the birds was rustling. Making little crinkly noises in the corner, all by itself. No wonder Maxcat has been going nuts back there periodically. It’s inhabited.

As the bag was still sealed, and there was not seed spilling out of it onto the kitchen floor, I figured that it was not a mouse. Also, mice can make a lot more noise than a faint, “did you hear that?” background scratching. It was probably those annoying little grey brown mothy creatures that hatch from squirmy cream-colored grubs and often wind up in your cabinet-stored bulk dry goods. Judging from the noise, there was a lot of them. A bag to be opened outside.

We have to keep the birdseed inside because our squirrels are little demons. Don’t worry, I am long over the bug eyed, crazy with venom desperation that people often get when trying to keep squirrels out of their birdfeeders. There’s just no point in worrying about it. Accept it: they will get the birdseed. One way or another. If they have to break into your toolbox and build something, they will get the birdseed. I am even at peace with the fact that they will dig up any plant or seed that I put into the ground and replace it with a single kernel of corn or a dried-up nut. They killed my first planting of strawberries this way. (Things to do today: dig out fresh new strawberry plants, bite through roots, discard. Replace with old corn.) They have forced me to adapt because they are more clever and more persistent, and as I am supposedly a higher form of life, I can choose the road of tolerance and appreciate the ingenuity and tenacity of my fellow creatures. It’s even OK that they chewed up the edges of our little cooler. We should have put it away. They are on a mission, and if we keep providing supplies, what can we expect but that mission succeed?

It’s just that since they ruined both of our finch feeders by chewing out the tiny holes meant only to let thistle seed through, to the size of quarters, or, in one case, a half inch sized gaping ribbon that goes three quarters of the way around the whole tube (like chewing off your arm to get out of a trap), some of my birdfeeding enthusiasm expired. Birdfeeders are not inexpensive, in the relative scheme of things, and I did not have 60 spare bucks to replace them. Without them, the sunflower and safflower feeders just went by the wayside. All this for seven pieces of millet. Little bastards. Never buy the thistle mix. Shell out the extra 75 cents and go for the good stuff.

But I’m over it. It’s fine. Even the tiny red squirrel who sits in the branch above the feeders and screams rhythmically until all other life forms vacate them. He’s fine too. Really. 6:00 in the morning? No problem. He’s aggressive. He knows what he wants.

He’s loud as fuck.

I have to make some sacrifices for the fact that my garden is magic. If I have to put up with chewing and digging and scratching and cheeping, so be it. I get incredible raspberries and red spinach that replants itself and glorious amounts of basil, which made last night’s meal possible. So, I put little cages around new plants and fencing over top of any disturbed ground, and they seem to leave things alone. In return, they get sunflower seeds. Like last night. What a boon.

We took the bag outside behind the house, and Pete opened it up. Little puffs of bug flew out everywhere, and hundreds more were swarming in the bag, tiny ribbed larvae inching along as well. Clearly this seed could not be stored inside anymore. It was pretty much done. The moths had not hurt anything; I just don’t need them in the kitchen. In my flour. In the oatmeal. Which meant that it all had to go out: fill the tube feeders, fill the platform feeder, cover the ground below it, and leave the rest in an open plastic wastebasket by the steps. Pete wanted to cover it, but I said that the chances of them not chewing up the wastebasket itself were much greater if we simply left it exposed. I half expected to open the back door this morning and find twenty five squirrels, passed out on the steps, in the driveway, in the wastebasket, covered in sunflower shells, little paws on their distended bellies, trickles of drool on the cement, as they twitched and hiccupped in the midst of the best dream ever, muttering about how much they love each other and how great those seeds were, man.

The reality was a crisp, cool, perfect fall morning and one single squirrel in the driveway, surrounded by empty shells, eagerly chipping away at the bounty.

Yes, life is good.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Red Cross, Yellow Donor

I should be giving blood right now. I have so much. They are driving for it down the street, siphoning the students and staff for the benefit of the greater good after that Hurricane What’s-her-name drained so many unwilling donors. I should have already walked over there and offered them my unrepentant arm. I should be laying on a guerney watching “An Affair to Remember” and waiting for my cookie from the vampires.

But instead, I am sitting here at my desk, cheating the company and chattering away on my keyboard. I don't know enough about my blood to go and give it away. What is its type? Does it like tall, dark, and handsome? If it takes after me, not so much. I'll take short, blonde, and handsome. Does it enjoy moonlit walks on the beach and drippy poetry? I have to admit that a moonlit walk on the beach every once in a while is not to be turned down, especially if it includes the aforementioned short, blonde, and handsome one. As for the drippy poetry, my high school notebooks are chock full of it. Does Type O blood, being the universal donor, mean that a person is more giving and open, excited about new places and new things? If so, I am definitely not Type O. Are AB people, being universal recipients, grasping, wheedling, party animals? Or are they just sluts? If so, no comment.

My mother is a nurse. I asked her a couple of years ago what my blood type is, feeling that it is my duty to know, and assuming that being 1) my mother and 2) a nurse, she would certainly have the answer. Blank look. No idea. But she thought she could find out. This would be one more reason to go next door and donate blood. Maybe they could tell me. Maybe my blood type is the personality key I need to quit my job and just go ahead and get rich already.

Probably not. And my rationalizations and avoidance, my ramblings and my cowardice have made it certain that I don't have to find out today. It's after 5:00. They are closed. Oh well. I guess I'll wait for Rita.