Sunday, April 29, 2007

brooklyn botanic garden, sunday afternoon

evening in hell's kitchen

As always, C & A threw a lovely dinner party last night. Delicious food, good wine, not so good port, excellent company, and a spare bed for those of us who were daunted by the prospect of a late-night, local-train commute home, especially given the need to be down at Penn Station at 9:30 this morning.

My contribution to the evening? Brussel sprouts. I'd never have believed it possible when I was a kid, but yes, brussel sprouts. Weird.

Brussel Sprouts:

Peel and roast a whole bunch of garlic cloves in a toaster oven at 400 for about 40 minutes, wrapped in aluminum foil and drizzled with some olive oil, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and lavender salt (or regular salt if you don't happen to have any lavender salt on hand...).

Rinse and halve a whole bunch of brussel sprouts.

Remove garlic from toaster oven and mash up in a bowl with some more olive oil. Add some finely chopped candied ginger (just a couple of pieces). Pour mixture over brussel sprouts in a tupperware container and shake vigorously to coat the sprouts. Let marinate for an hour or so, shaking every so often.

Pour sprouts into a glass baking dish, season with some more salt and pepper, both black and cayenne, and bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes, covered in aluminum foil. Give 'em a good stir about half way through.

wrap for me

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

and yet more news today...

Guantánamo Detainee Charged
Published: April 25, 2007

A Canadian detained in Afghanistan and held at Guantánamo Bay since 2002 was charged with murder. The detainee, Omar Khadr, 20, is accused of throwing a grenade that killed a Special Forces soldier while fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan, and planting mines aimed at American convoys. The military charged him with murder, providing support to terrorism, attempted murder, conspiracy and spying.

Can you imagine being arrested at the age of 16 and imprisoned with no charges brought against you for four years? Me, neither. On the other hand, at 16 I probably couldn't have found Afghanistan on a map, nor recognized a real hand grenade if it landed at my feet.

On a final note, three years ago today more than a million people descended on Washington, DC to participate in the March for Women's Lives, in a demonstration of solidarity to protect women's health and women's futures. Last week, five men decided they know better.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, responding to Dick Cheney's accusation that he's changed his position several times on funding for the war in Iraq: "I'm not going to get into a name-calling match with somebody who has a 9 percent approval rating."

-- Tim Grieve
Salon/War Room

tunnel to nowhere

Alaska was the home of the infamous plan for the Bridge to Nowhere, and now the peoples of Alaska and Russia, or at least the members of the Interhemispheric Bering Strait Tunnel and Railroad Group, have outdone themselves with a call for a Tunnel beneath the Beiring Strait. At an estimated cost of $65 billion dollars ($120 million alone would go towards a study of the plan) and 20 years of labor, this 68-mile long behemoth would connect two of the world's most sparsely populated regions. The reason? Natural resources. Within 30 years of completion, the IBSTRG says, the Tunnel would be turning a profit by mining the regions' natural gas, oil, and gold. An intriguing idea, no doubt, but chances seem pretty slim that this will ever reach fruition. After all, the City of New York began work on its Water Tunnel #3 some 37 years ago, and doesn't expect to complete it until the year 2020.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

a way with words

Barbara Bush, that dear, sweet, little old lady, has a certain way with the English language.

Recently asked if the electorate would be wary of Mitt Romney's Mormonism, she replied, "Not at all. I mean it was in 1897 that bigamy was outlawed in that church. You know we have a lot of Christian wild people too, and a lot of Jewish wild people and a lot of Muslim wild people. The Mormon religion takes care of its own, they don't have people on welfare."

Going back to Hurricane Katrina, Barbara had these choice words for the thousands of refugees forced to evacuate New Orleans and flee to the Houston Astrodome, "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them."

And further back, on the eve of the invasion of Iraq in March of 2003, Barbara pontificated on the media coverage thereof, "But why should we hear about body bags, and deaths, and how many, what day it's gonna happen, and how many of this or what do you suppose? Or, I mean, it's, it's not relevant. So, why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"

Why indeed.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

further chop shop

Check out this video from their April 14th show at the Delancey.

gonzalez vs. carhart

As a staunch pro-choicer, I found myself pretty disgusted by the Supreme Court this week in its decision to uphold the ban on "partial-birth" abortions. I believe in abortion on demand. I also believe that the decision to have an abortion, for any woman or girl, is a difficult and often heart-wrenching choice. I believe in reducing the need for abortion by providing affordable and thorough access to contraception, as well as mandatory comprehensive sex education in every high school in the country.

Justice Kennedy's argument, the swing vote in this 5-4 decision, seemed, at least in part, to revolve around the idea that some women regret having had an abortion after the fact, and the government should protect them from this potential self-recrimination. (Take a look at Dahlia Lithwick's take on Kennedy's stance.) This is kind of offensive. Not to be judgmental or harsh towards these women who, years later, feel bad about destroying their child. I can sympathize with this, honestly, but also honestly, it was a choice they made. Why use their regret of a conscious choice as a rationale for taking away that choice from future generations? I regret that second glass of wine I had with dinner last night, but I don't think that everyone from here on out should be limited to one glass of wine with their meals. Not even me. And I certainly wouldn't want five guys in funny looking gowns down in DC telling me how much wine I can drink. I'm not actually comparing a slight morning headache to the aftermath of an abortion, I know this is a ridiculous comparison. But given the seriousness of abortion, it seems even more important to not politicize it.

One more thing. Very, very few abortions fall under this "partial-birth" umbrella. Every year about 1.3 million abortions are performed in the United States, the vast majority within the first trimester of pregnancy. About 2,200 fall under this new ban on intact dilation and evacuation, the actual medical term for the "partial-birth" procedure. But the heartbreaking thing for many of the women who, with their doctors, have chosen to go through an intact dilation and evacuation, is that often these are women who want this baby, but there are serious medical complications, either on the part of the mother or on the part of the fetus (or in this case, yes, the unborn child). A woman with whom I went to high school chose to have a late-term abortion a couple years ago. She and her husband very much wanted a child, but the fetus had such severe disabilities that it would die within hours of birth, if it even lived that long. So, after learning of these problems and agonizing over the decision, she and her husband, with the support of friends, family, and doctors, decided to abort rather than carry the child to term. The procedure that she went through, deemed the safest for her specific situation by her doctors as well as the least likely to damage her ability to have a child in the future, would as of this week be illegal. I don't understand why the government deems it necessary to insert itself into such painful, personal, decisions.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


I know it takes a person to kill someone with a gun; that these strange, heavy, metal objects don't take on a life of their own and shoot away, undiscerning of the tragedy that unfolds; that these frightening metal objects are not, in and of themselves, killers. I get that. I really do. But the fact of the matter is that on average 30,000 Americans die every year at the end of a gun, whether by accident or intentionally through homicide or suicide..

Jane Smiley recently wrote a piece that I found particularly moving, and boils down to the very simple fact that guns kill. Gun deaths are by no means the most common deaths in the United States, and fall way below heart diseases, cancers, car accidents. Gun deaths are not even, of course, the only means of homicide or suicide. People are bludgeoned to death with baseball bats and frozen turkeys, poisoned by arsenic or Polonium 210, intentionally run over by cars or flown into buildings, hang themselves, overdose on aspirin, jump off buildings and bridges. But guns are the one thing that have no other purpose than to kill. Ultimately, they are made to kill. We can couch this in terms of self-defense, in terms of an inalienable right to bear arms, and some have even begun to argue that if any of those kids in Norris Hall had been allowed to carry guns around on campus, that maybe fewer people would have died on Monday. And maybe this is true, for Monday. But if more people carry guns, and the temptation is there to act on angry or terrified impulse by drawing those guns, whatever the intention, what about all the other days?

I would feel safer in a society that had no guns at all than one in which everyone carried a gun. I know that neither of these extremes is possible, but when an object exists for the sole purpose of death, how can anyone argue that more of it is better?

"Firearms are the second leading cause of traumatic death related to a consumer product in the United States and are the second most frequent cause of death overall for Americans ages 15 to 24. Since 1960, more than a million Americans have died in firearm suicides, homicides, and unintentional injuries. In 2003 alone, 30,136 Americans died by gunfire: 16,907 in firearm suicides, 11,920 in firearm homicides, 730 in unintentional shootings, and 232 in firearm deaths of unknown intent, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Nearly three times that number are treated in emergency rooms each year for nonfatal firearm injuries."
- Violence Policy Center

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

i know there's nothing to say

I had wanted to write something about Virginia Tech today, or about the Columbia Journalism student who was assaulted in her own home this past weekend, but I can't even begin to get my head around these things, and what words are there that could possibly begin to encompass either of them? My mother called last night just to check in, to make sure I was all right, to be sure of me in the face of incomprehensible, if distant, tragedy. In times like this, what can you do but reach out and make sure that the people you love are still intact, still living and breathing and carrying on?

There's really nothing to say, other than you're sorry something happened. I'm so sorry this happened.

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
"Pooh," he whispered.
"Yes, Piglet?"
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw.
"I just wanted to be sure of you."

Saturday, April 14, 2007

saturday morning

I actually slept in this morning until almost 8:30. This is nigh on miraculous.

Nova, my fat old feline, yowls a lot. But I figured out recently that, though she yowls a lot, it is often when I am sitting at the desk playing on the computer. I've had her for just over seven years now, having adopted her from the ASPCA in March of 2000. She was a timid little thing back then, and spent much of her time in the closet or under the bed. She didn't much like human contact, though over the years she grew accustomed to certain people, and would curl up on the couch almost within arm's reach. Eventually she started sleeping on my pillow at night, curled up between my head and the wall. This, when I was sound asleep, is when she was most comfortable with me. But, in her old age, she's mellowed out a bit. It's been a long, slow process, this mellowing, but Nova has settled in to her self, and in to her people. And lately, she's become practically a love cat. She likes to be near me now even when I'm awake, and will come scampering across the wood floor to jump up on the couch and rub her head into my open palm when I beckon her from across the room. And what I figured out is that she doesn't like when I'm on the computer because there's no where for her to sit at the desk. She will yowl, and yowl some more, and wrap herself around my ankles or the leg of the desk chair, until I get up and go sit on the couch, which is more conducive to kitty cuddling, and perhaps even a little brushing.

Nova's lucky that her person, being me, is a couch potato of sorts, and will spend hours reading or watching TV and knitting, in a place that Nova likes. And Nova's person, being me, is lucky that her cat is not a wild crazy young thing, and doesn't fight with her yarn or chew and claw at her knitting projects. Rather, we can be fat and old and lazy together, and curl up with each other, and love each other in our own odd way.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

a call to yarns

I'm not exactly an overly self-indulgent person, materialistically speaking at least, about many things, but I do love yarn. I think it's the colors, and the softness, and the ability to so easily create something warm for the people I love. I tend to buy more yarn than I need for any given project (and yes, often enough I'll just buy it without any particular project in mind), and so have ended up with leftovers. I decided in December that it would be fun to knit up little squares of my leftovers and, somehow, put them all together into a patchwork afghan. Mom was delighted by this idea, and last year she made scarves for nearly the whole family, and passed on the remnants of each skein to me when I was home for Christmas. Shanna, my brother's main squeeze, and Cindy, my beloved yarn-partner-in-crime, have both been generous with their remnants as well. So now I've got a decent-sized bag o' wool, or cotton as the case may be, and the long process of making tons of wee little squares has begun. So please, ladies & gentlemen, don't get rid of those remnants! Send 'em my way instead.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

black-bottomed cupcakes

These were one of my all-time favorite treats as a kid, and I started bringing them to the Lynch family Easter gatherings a couple years back after Mom passed the recipe down to me. They seemed to go over pretty well.

Mix together in medium bowl:
1 1/2 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cocoa

Mix & add to dry ingredients:
1 cup water
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 large package (8 oz.) cream cheese
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
beat together until smooth, then stir in 1 small package (6 oz) chocolate chips (I usually ignore this and stir in most of a large bag of chocolate chips)

Fill 18 paper lined cups 2/3 full of batter. Top each with 1 tablespoon filling. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. You won't regret it.


Easter was always one of my favorite holidays, right after Christmas, but this has nothing to do with Jesus. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure Jesus was a pretty cool guy and all, but he just didn't figure much in my family's worldview. Case in point: when Nathan was, oh, about five years old, we got up on Christmas morning, opened all our presents, gorged on candy canes and hot chocolate and other goodies, and finally, satiated, Nathan turned to the rest of us and said in his small lispy child's voice, "Isn't today s'posed to be somebody's birthday?" To give my father credit, he pulled out the family Bible right then and there (yes, we did have a Bible in the house, despite our heathen ways) and read us the nativity story. Easter was about meticulously dyeing eggs, often with standard CVS-bought kits, but sometimes, and most beautifully, boiled in onion skins wrapped tight in lumpy little packages of cheese cloth and rubber bands. Also it was about eating a large ham, and afterwards indulging in delicious mom-made angel food cake with fresh strawberries and homemade whipped cream.

We moved from Oakland, California to the Bronx in August of 1981, to a little two-bedroom apartment on Johnston Avenue. Our neighbors in this apartment building happened to have two sons, and the four of them quickly befriended the four of us. Starting in the spring of 1982, we spent every single Easter with the Obligado family. The parents would shut us inside and "make" us watch TV while they hid chocolate eggs and wee little bunnies. In the early years this massive candy hunt took place in the park across the street from our building, and we had to keep an eye out for broken beer bottles and used condoms, but we were thrilled anyway. Two years later we moved up to Mohegan Lake, and the Obligados would drive up to our place for the day, and we got to hunt for all those bright foil-wrapped goodies (by which of course I mean chocolates and not condoms) in the safety of our own yard, in amongst the daffodils and tulips and mountain laurel. Eventually the Obligados moved up to Mohegan Lake too, and that just made everything easier.

We went to the Obligados' house for the last Easter that my family was in New York, that April of 1994. They had always come to our house before, but that first Easter after my father died, I think the adults must have decided we needed to break with tradition a bit. And Easter after that wasn't so much fun anymore. In college, and for a few years after, I spent the holiday by myself, often wandering the city with my walkman, watching people in their Easter finery walking to and from church, bouquets of flowers everywhere. It was a very lonely feeling, as if a wall of glass separated me from the day in which I found myself wandering. But then I met this boy, and started spending holidays with his family. That first Easter together, in April of 2002, we went with his mother's family to a restaurant in New Jersey. His grandmother is amazingly shy, and doesn't like new people at all, is in fact afraid of them, and this was the first time we met, and yet somehow at the restaurant she and I ended up sitting next to each other. And, seeing as I am sometimes almost as pathologically shy as she is, we were able to be shy together, and not startle or scare each other, and in the end it worked out well. And every Easter since then, until now, I have spent with this family.

I am, finally, starting to get used to the idea of being on my own again, though I still miss the easy embrace with which this boy and his family took me in. I am shoring up walls, taking measures, and will be having dinner tomorrow evening with Andrew & Chris. It's too late to sink back into wandering the city alone on Easter, that sense of separateness is not a place in which I want to find myself again. Besides, I have to see the boys if only to hopefully pawn off some of the Easter goodies that arrived from my mother in the mail yesterday. Tropical flavoured jelly beans and chocolate marshmallow eggs and mini Cadbury eggs and pastel-wrapped Hershey's kisses and little yellow Peeps. I do love chocolate, but there's only so much one girl can eat.

Friday, April 06, 2007

odds & ends

It's Friday morning, as happens every week, but I realized the last couple of Fridays that I'm not dreading the weekends anymore. Back in January and February and even well into March, I loathed the weekend. Too much alone time, time to think and stew and ponder and beat myself up and otherwise wallow in abject misery. Nate tried his best to keep me occupied. We even ventured out to Queens, had lunch at a Himalayan restaurant (salted butter tea and goat curry, anyone?), took the 7 out to the old Faigrounds and checked out the Robert Moses exhibit at the Queens Museum before wandering around Flushing and then taking the G train all the way to Park Slope, Brooklyn. And I tried my best to keep me occupied, even forcing myself to initiate contact with dear friends I was almost too shy and feeling too needy to reach out to. But Monday morning was always something of a relief. I was talking about this to a coworker and he said, "Geez, Em, you know you're in a bad place when you're looking forward to Mondays..." Well, I'm pleased to report that I'm back in tune with the working masses again, and am happily looking forward to closing up the library tonight promptly at seven o'clock and not having to think about the place for two whole days.

Speaking of the working masses, I received my annual Social Security Statement in the mail yesterday. I'm always slightly amazed by this thing, not quite sure why. If I were to die right now, my non-existent child and spouse could each receive $978 per month. Is this, in part, how Social Security stays afloat? People like me, with no dependents, paying in, dying alone, leaving no one to collect our share? If I were merely to become severely disabled, I could receive $1,201 per month. And though I earned around $1500 per year in 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1997, I earned exactly $0 in 1996. What the hell was I doing in 1996?

I check the temperature every morning before I leave for work, either through the NY Times online, or on NY1 (channel 98 here in the city). But I rarely think to actually look out the window and see if it looks like it might rain. Nathan gives me a hard time about this, but he's a little obsessed with having everything he might ever need with him at all times... not that this is a bad thing. Anyway, it's April 6th and freezing out. I mean that quite literally it's 32 degrees out. Only 5 degrees warmer than Fairbanks, Alaska. When we were in Fairbanks on January 1st of 2006, it was apparently an unusually warm -11 degrees there, and when we got back to New York, it was nearly 60 degrees here. That's a big difference. 5 degrees, not so much. I hear it's a balmy 85 degrees in parts of Madagascar, though stormy and awfully humid. I'll take my crisp, freezing New York weather any day.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

another reason to love this city

Wrapped in Subway Logos, Free City Condom Is a Hit
New York Times
April 5, 2007

Seductive forces abound in New York City: music, bars, food, money, power. And the No. 1 train, of course, though some people think the D train is really hot.

Subways and sex? Apparently so.

In just a month, the city gave away five million of its new subway-themed condoms, officials said yesterday. Lest you read past that number unimpressed, consider that that was about two condoms for every man living in the city ? more than the city distributed in all of 2003.

This condom was the first designed just for the city, in a wrapper with lettering mimicking the logos of subway lines. First released on Valentine’s Day, the new condom exceeded all expectations, with five million sent out by mid-March.

“I think the key thing is this branding effort,” said Adam Karpati, the assistant city health commissioner in charge of H.I.V. and AIDS programs. “It’s our own brand, it’s a New York City-specific thing, and people really respond.”

The city began giving away condoms in 1971, but for decades they were available only in city-run health clinics and from H.I.V. service groups. But a few years ago, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene began recruiting bars, restaurants, block associations, theaters, shops, doctors’ offices and even churches to hand out the condoms.

Last year, with the help of 877 such partners, the department distributed 18 million condoms, compared with about 4 million distributed in 2003. Since it announced the city’s own brand, promoted by an ad campaign, 500 new groups have joined the effort, Dr. Karpati said.

Now, the subway condom has led the city into temptation - the temptation to use as many suggestive puns as it can.

The city’s posters advertising the condoms proclaim “we’ve got you covered,” and “New York’s hottest new wrapper.” A press release yesterday said, “the rubber is hitting the road,” although it probably should have said “railroad.”

So will the department choose a new, sexy theme to evoke the city’s peculiar appeal? Bridges and tunnels? Bagels?

“People have made that suggestion to us,” Dr. Karpati said. “The possibilities are endless, and so are the double entendres.”

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

fox news

I watched "Outfoxed: Murdoch's War on Journalism" last night. The whole thing was fascinating, but one particular bit of dialogue jumped out at me. I can't remember if it was from Bill O'Reilly or one of Fox's other overly bombastic conservative pundits, but someone said, not long before the 2004 election, that Iran wanted Kerry to win the election, presumably because of course liberals are so darned weak on security. And the reason this jumped out at me is because, not long before that fateful November day, the AP ran a story called "Bush Receives Endorsement From Iran." I was so amused, not to mention amazed, by this article that I immediately emailed it to myself. So here it is, in honor of the ever fail and balanced Fox news, the original article in all its original glory:

Bush Receives Endorsement From Iran
October 19, 2004

Filed at 6:31 p.m. ET

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- The head of Iran's security council said on Tuesday the re-election of President Bush was in Tehran's best interests, despite the administration's axis of evil label, accusations that Iran harbors al-Qaida terrorists and threats of sanctions over the country's nuclear ambitions.

Historically, Democrats have harmed Iran more than Republicans, said Hasan Rowhani, head of the Supreme National Security Council, Iran's top security decision-making body.

"We haven't seen anything good from Democrats," Rowhani told state-run television in remarks that, for the first time in recent decades, saw Iran openly supporting one U.S. presidential candidate over another.

"We should not forget that most sanctions and economic pressures were imposed on Iran during the time of Clinton," Rowhani said of the former Democratic president. "And we should not forget that during Bush's era -- despite his hard-line and baseless rhetoric against Iran -- he didn't take, in practical terms, any dangerous action against Iran."

Though Iran generally does not publicly wade into U.S. presidential politics, it has a history of preferring Republicans over Democrats, who tend to press human rights issues.

"We do not desire to see Democrats take over," Rowhani said when asked if Iran was supporting Kerry against Bush.

The United States severed diplomatic relations with Iran after militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. Iranian clerics were crucial in determining the fate of the 1980 U.S. election when Republican Ronald Reagan won in part because Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter was unable to secure the hostages' release.

The hostages were freed as Reagan was inaugurated.

The United States supported Iraq in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, but by the late 1990s, U.S.-Iranian relations were somewhat better. They plummeted again after Bush accused Iran of being part of the 'axis of evil' with North Korea and prewar Iraq.

The Bush administration also accuses Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons and sheltering operatives of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network. Still, Iran was happy to see Bush destroy two big regional enemies -- the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Iranian political analyst Mohsen Mofidi said ousting the Taliban and Saddam was the "biggest service any administration could have done for Iran."

And Bush, he said, has learned from his mistakes.

"The experience of two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the responsibility Bush had, will make it a very remote possibility for him to risk attacking a much bigger and more powerful country like Iran," he said.

Mofidi added that "Democrats usually insist on human rights and they will have more excuses to pressure Iran."

Republican and Democratic presidents have issued executive orders against Iran, with Reagan in 1987 barring Iranian crude oil and other imports, and Clinton in 1995 banning U.S. trade and investment in Iran.

Bush has been reluctant to offer Iran any incentives for better U.S.-Iranian relations, but in recent days there have been signs Washington will back European economic incentives if Iran stops uranium enrichment activities.

Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, was quoted by state-run television Tuesday as saying Iran is interested in buying nuclear fuel from the West, but will not concede its right to the technology.

The nuclear issue has been most sensitive, and the Bush administration is threatening to press for sanctions against Iran over it. Washington accuses Tehran of trying to build bombs. Tehran says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful, for energy purposes.

Kerry, who says halting nuclear proliferation will be a priority if he becomes president, believes Bush should have done more diplomatically to curb Iran's alleged nuclear weapons ambitions. He says Iran should be offered nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes, but spent fuel should be taken back so it cannot be used to develop nuclear weapons.

Kavoos Emami, another Iranian political analyst, praised Kerry for mentioning the need for dialogue with Iran, and said the Democrat would be better for Iran.

"Bush has insulted Iran more than any other U.S. administration. If Kerry is elected, a U.S. military attack against Iran will never happen or will be a very remote possibility," he said.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

my friend ben (revisited)

Ben and I became friends in 9th grade. We both lost parents by the time we went off to college, and it was this shared experience, I think, that truly cemented our friendship. We don't see each other very often these days, really just every couple of years, but there's a closeness, an affection, even a protectiveness, that I still cherish beyond measure. A month or so ago I was talking to him about the Chris debacle and he got kind of quiet for a minute, which is unusual for Ben, and then he said, "You know, Em, I had forgotten how much I react like an older brother to you sometimes, and I never feel this way towards anyone, but I think I want to hit Chris..." Joking, of course, but still I took a strange comfort in this. Ben is a big guy.

Ben and his daughter, Daniela, drove down from Peekskill this past Saturday to have dinner at my apartment. I was a little bit nervous about this, because Daniela is a mere three (just shy of four!) years old, and I haven't had kids in my apartment really before, and I haven't spent much time around children in eons. Though we were timid with each other at first, before long we'd bonded over refrigerator magnets, and yarn, and stuffed animals, and Nova. The magnets are still caught in the cracks of the couch, the yarn is slowly being made into a bright pink scarf, and all the stuffed animals remain scattered around the living room. Best of all, poor Nova was adored by little Daniela, and demonstrated remarkable patience for a fat old feline, though by the end of the evening she was cowering under the bed. Little Daniela, at least, was adored by me if not by Nova. And in the midst of all our play, she did give me and Ben time to catch up, which was just lovely as well. I hope to see them again sometime soon.

Monday, April 02, 2007

i love cary tennis

I don't read horoscopes, barely know my own astrological sign; and I don't read womens' magazines or gossip magazines, and certainly not advice columns. But I have a little confession to make. I read Salon almost every day more for Cary Tennis' Since You Asked column than for anything else. I don't particularly care what the reader is asking, or what the problem is, but I have a serious crush on this Tennis person. Though the questions and problems don't particularly interest me, Tennis has something that brings me close to tears on a semi-regular basis. This from today's rather boring question about a woman who had a 20-year affair with someone and then, a couple years later, got upset when the someone got drunk and groped her:

"I know a thing or two about overwhelm. I didn't know about overwhelm at first. I didn't know that was what you called that terrible, cold wind that would blow when you tried to look at things. Somebody who liked me but knew I was too screwed up to get involved with told me you call that overwhelm. Before she left me for good she told me about the overwhelm and I got it checked out and sure enough there was overwhelm taller than the high corn. I had no filters. There was rain coming in. There was light of all descriptions not filed properly. There were words and memories and no system for accounting. It wasn't that the filters were defective. They were gone."

There's simplicity in Tennis' language, and yet a clarity and force that I find, at times, almost overwhelming. This, perhaps obviously due to my own experience of having a mother who, for whatever reasons, had to move very far away from me when I was eighteen, particularly moved me:

Here is a phrase I made up when I was thinking about my friends and my kitchen: Psychological ergonomics.You want your friends close at hand, like the dishes are close to the dishwasher. New York has great psychological ergonomics. Beware of living where there is no subway!

You came to where your mother was and she left. Yes, there were reasons. We are so quick to see the reasons, aren't we? We are very grown-up. But in relation to our parents we are children, and the child doesn't care about the reasons. The child wants to be with her mother. What a great burden to be the child who understands and forgives!

Your mother up and left, and you soldiered on.

Less soldiering, more mothering, I say."