Monday, June 30, 2008

'I sleep too much;
I curl in at midday, sheepish,
In strange rooms.'

-Sarah Hannah, Eclipse

Saturday, June 28, 2008

video of the day, random thoughts on guns, & etc.

It was impossible to avoid discussion this week of the Supreme Court's takedown of the Washington, DC handgun ban, and it will be interesting to see how this actually plays out.

Hardcore gun advocates see this as just the beginning, or, as scary, scary Wayne LaPierre (CEO of the NRA and author of The Global War on Your Guns: inside the UN plan to destroy the Bill of Rights
) put it, "I consider this the opening salvo in a step-by-step process of providing relief for law-abiding Americans everywhere that have been deprived of freedom." Poor, put-upon gun-owners, what with their lack of freedoms! But seriously, the NRA has already filed several lawsuits challenging gun restrictions in Chicago and San Francisco, with more probably soon to follow.

Gun-control advocates like the good people at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence are up in arms (so to speak) at the Court's decision, arguing that it upends decades of tacit understanding that the Second Amendment protects the right for states to have armed militias to fend off the potentially evil federal government, not the right for every man, woman, and child to carry around lethal weapons.

In purely statistical terms, it will be interesting to see how this decision impacts gun deaths in the United States, if at all. Justice Scalia, in a strongly worded dissent in the court case recently granting habeas corpus to Guantanamo detainees, argued that the majority's decision was bad because it "will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed."
More than 30,000 Americans die annually at the end of a gun. This is already more than 10 times as many deaths every single year than were caused by the terrorist attacks on 9/11. It's hard not to imagine that with yet more guns will come yet more deaths. (But then, I'm a New York liberal democrat, so what do I know?)

One last thought on this gun thing. This article is worth reading in its own right, but more importantly, take a look at the picture. The guy screaming. The guy with the sign. "If guns kill people... do pens misspell words?" Not only is it gratingly unlyrical, but do we really want someone who thinks guns and pens are equivalent to have access to deadly weapons? Pens may misspell words when placed in the wrong hands, true, but we've invented copy editors and spell check for that. What kind of check do we have for guns being in the wrong hands? Emergency rooms, I suppose.

One last, last thought on this gun thing (I promise) also brought on by this picture: do these people honestly believe that the founders thought every household should have a.. a.. I don't even know what exactly it's called, but the big, scary looking thing in the front right corner? I wouldn't have such a huge problem with the Court's newly-enshrined constitutional right of individuals to bear arms if they were bearing, you know, muskets.

And on a different note entirely, this for Marti: "
It is downright unsheeplike to leave the flock and stand nose-to-nose with a dog for long periods." -Jon Katz's Stories from the Farm

(My propensity for black clothes is clearly an evolutionary defense mechanism)

Friday, June 27, 2008

chopshop again

I was pleased to learn today that Alan & Rebecca's band, Chopshop, have a couple new songs up. Blacked Out's still by far my favorite but I'm looking forward to hearing the album in its entirety some time in the not too, too distant future...

what not to call a beauty center

Thursday, June 26, 2008

in my mailbox tonight, or, i think i might quite like this paterson fellow

June 17, 2008

Dear Ms. McNeil:

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support concerning same-sex marriage rights. It is affirming to know that you, along with many other New Yorkers, share the same feeling on marriage equality.

Currently, same-sex marriages are legal in Canada, South Africa, various European nations, and American states such as Massachusetts and California. With the recent decision in Martinez v. County of Monroe, these marriages will now have their rights honored in the State of New York. This new decision represents a major point of progress to ensuring marriage equality amongst all people. I firmly believe that this decision will only help the Empire State, as we continue to take significant steps forward in the 21st Century.

Again, thank you for contacting me and for your thoughtful words of support.

Warmest regards.

David A. Paterson

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

herbs & kisses & a guilty mind

I've been kissing a girl recently, a blond tomboyish girl, partly or sometimes or one evening at least for real as Steve Earle, R.L. Burnside, & Tom Waits rasped out of tinny computer speakers; other times merely in my head, in those pre-dawn moments when my mind has yet to fully latch onto the wakefulness and the new day.

Eating with this girl is a field strewn with landmines, yet I find myself wanting to eat with her, wanting to cook for her, wanting to feed her in spite of (because of?) this.

And I find myself inordinately amused at the things she can and can not (will and will not) eat. Basil and garlic, oregano and hot peppers, good. Cilantro very, very bad. Mint acceptable (but only in moderation). Lemon thyme unknown, but tested and deemed perhaps worthy. Peanuts in shells in. Peanuts not in shells out (unless they are Trader Joe's Thai Lime & Chili peanuts, which might be alright, apparently, in small doses). Chocolate bad. Tamarind (sweet tamarind) palatable in its comforting similarity to the already acceptable prune. (And all of this, I can only imagine, being only the tip of the iceberg.)

And then I talk to Erica, Erica who is dear and young and not afraid of being judgmental, of giving voice to a certain simplistic good/bad understanding of the world that I find both intimidating and admirable but also, yes, sometimes aggravating. Erica who is aghast at my behavior, and who declares that she's keeping her boyfriend well away from me.

I think she is joking, and joke back to her that he is not my type, that she need not worry, but her narrowed eyes tell me she's serious. "What about that old friend of yours? The Republican?" she demands. "He was married -- this is a pattern!"

"That wasn't anything," I protest. "A kiss. We hadn't seen each other in years. We were drunk. It was two o'clock in the morning just standing on the street corner.  We were saying goodnight!"

My protests fall on disapproving ears and I realize that I am rationalizing, that I am justifying myself, however unjustly. And it hits me -- I am parsing degrees of hurt (worse has been done to me), degrees of knowing (the Republican's wife, the tomboy's girlfriend, they are not friends of mine, they are not even acquaintances), degrees of responsibility (I don't owe them anything).

It hits me that I am parsing degrees of consciously inflicted pain and even if the wife, even if the girlfriend, never know it, I know it. I know it, and it makes me unhappy with myself.

But there I go probably over-thinking things again.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

tamarind seeds & bust magazine & soft language

I have to confess that I'm not very familiar with George Carlin's work and I'm not all that big on scatological humor, but I remember reading one particular quote of his awhile back that stuck with me for a long time. And thanks to this wonderful creation, this internets, this series of tubes, with a simple search of "soft language," I've rediscovered the quote:

"I don't like words that hide the truth. I don't like words that conceal reality. I don't like euphemisms, or euphemistic language. And American English is loaded with euphemisms. Cause Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality. Americans have trouble facing the truth, so they invent the kind of a soft language to protect themselves from it, and it gets worse with every generation."

Entirely unrelated, I bought some tamarind pods yesterday to use in a Thai-ish concoction for dinner and was so taken with the seeds that I decided to plant some and see what happens. I didn't realize that tamarind trees were quite so big, though (eighty feet or more) and am having doubts about the potential for a windowsill-sized bonsai tamarind. But what the hell. If it actually sprouts, I have plenty of friends doing that whole scary crazy adult house-buying thing, some even with yards and perhaps space enough for a tree. A really, really big tree.

Also, Bust magazine discovered the Barnard Library Zine Collection recently.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Some of the things I might tell you if we still spoke of such things --

I finally got around to watching Big Bad Love. It was kind of wonderful.

"His curse was remembering. It was also a blessing, and that was easy to forget."

Lauren and I saw the most ridiculous, wonderful car ever the other day on our drive up the West Side Highway from Brooklyn.

Apparently my birthday this year was in fact not the longest day of the year.

Being 32 so far is not a disastrous thing.

I've been watching The Wire, and the music at the end makes me cry.

"Did you ask for forgiveness?"
"Of course."

"What'd she say?"
"What she needed to say. Look, forgiveness from other folks is good, but it ain't nothin' but words comin'
at you from outside."

My avocado "tree" is growing, growing, and I'm discovering that all of the plants are doing pretty well even without you looking after them.

So am I.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

spas & why I hate 'em

Karen asked me the other day if I'd ever been to the Sava Spa, across the street from my apartment. Her inquiry got me to reminiscing (for lack of a better word) about spas and my general aversion to them.

I have been to three spa/salon type places. In reverse order, both chronologically and intensity of horribleness, they are as follows.

3) One of my best friends got married in May of 2006. The day before said wedding, for which I had the honor of being a bridesmaid, all of us bridal party women folk got our nails done. My feet are ticklish, so that was kind of funny. And the woman who did my manicure laughed at the gnawed-on state of my fingernails and kept stopping to answer the phone. (The wedding itself was lovely, though!)

2) One of ex-boyfriend Chris's cousin's got married back in November of 2005. It was a black tie affair. Pedicures were strongly suggested. I'd never had one before and didn't particularly want one. Have I mentioned I have ticklish feet? And the gentleman doing mine was shocked at my hairy legs. It was rather embarrassing and merely reinforced the notion that I am just not cut out for these girlish things.

1) Over spring break one year, back in those distant college days, I went to visit a friend who'd had to leave school the year before due to some mental health issues. Turns out the girl was still a little crazy, manifested in her unshakable belief that yours truly was none other than the Messiah. Really. Over the course of the visit she gave me a black leather jacket (literally the clothes off her back), kept insisting on buying me things ('offerings'), took me to her favorite spa for a facial (all the while explaining to the staff my exalted status), hit a bicycle delivery man with her car (my status further cemented by the fact that the poor man got up, shook himself off, and rode off into the night), and got into a heated argument with another friend's mother (the wife of a rabbi, as it happened) about the second coming of our lord & savior while I hid in the bathroom. Needless to say, the weekend was cut short when I fled back to my blessedly solitary Barnard dorm room. Last I heard, she was getting married and training to be a dental hygienist.

So no, I have not been to nor do I have any intention, ever, of going to this new-fangled spa in my ever-gentrifying neighborhood. I can only begin to imagine how much it is just not for me.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

thwarted, or, when the coffee stand man is just too nice

I had only a $20 bill in my pocket yesterday morning, nothing smaller, no change other than a handful of pennies. And I needed my morning coffee, my morning ritual on the corner of 116th & Broadway, where I haven't actually had to order in months and months. They see me coming, prepare my coffee, accept my $1.25, and I'm on my way. Sometimes we mention the weather, or wish each other a pleasant weekend. Sometimes it's just a nod and a smile.

So I found myself apologizing yesterday morning as I handed over my $20 bill, but was glad to be getting change so that I could at least buy my after-lunch coffee, from the coffee stand on 116th & Amsterdam, with something smaller. To my surprise, the coffee stand man waved me off, saying, "Don't worry, honey, just bring it tomorrow."

Which, of course, was very sweet of him. But then I had to psych myself up for going through the same thing all over again on my lunch break. Which I did. And when the other coffee stand man, the one on 116th & Amsterdam, saw me waving a $20 bill around, he, too, waved me off and said, "No, no, it's okay, just bring it tomorrow!"

So this morning I made sure to have exact change for not two, but four cups of coffee safely in pocket before traipsing on out to the bus stop.

One down, one more to go.

Monday, June 16, 2008

the myth of the post-Clinton female voter

Rumor has it that thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of female Clinton supporters, so pissed off that Hillary's been forced out of the race, are on the verge of abandoning their Democratic roots and jumping on the McCain bandwagon.

Really? I mean, McCain? The man who said to his wife (in public), "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt"? The man who thinks women just need to get themselves better educated and stop whining about unfair pay? The man who is anti gun control, anti birth control (not to even mention abortion), and has absolutely no time table for withdrawing from Iraq? The man who continues to oppose universal health care? The man who thinks that a "gas tax holiday" will save us from the oil crisis (even though this federal tax is the main source of revenue for little things like, you know, maintaining our roads and bridges)? The man who didn't bat an eyelash when a supporter, referring to Hillary, demanded to know, "How do we beat the bitch?"

Of course there will inevitably be some women who's presidential preferences will be Clinton, then McCain, then (or not at all) Obama. But to imply that this is a huge problem for the Democrats, to anecdotally create a mass exodus of Democratic women to Camp McCain, is both offensive and ridiculous. We women are not so hysterical or so illogical that we would vote en masse against our own interests and against decades of being democrats just because our girl lost.

And as for these post-Hillary-concession polls indicating that upwards of 30% of Clinton supporters are going to go out and vote Republican all of a sudden -- as one person pointed out, this is akin to asking a married couple in the middle of a big marital spat in September what their plans are for Valentine's Day. Even the most bitter, disappointed Clinton women will come around by November.

Already in a recent Gallup poll, Obama leads McCain amongst women voters by 13%. That's a pretty big lead by any standards.

Worth reading:

Frank Rich's piece in the Times yesterday
Huffington Post's Unmasking McCain

Thursday, June 12, 2008

grieving from afar

I'd been planning on writing tonight about the Obama Baby Mama embarrassment that is Fox News, but Karen, ex-boyfriend Chris's mother, left me a message earlier this evening to let me know that Josh Perl died Tuesday night.

Josh and Lucy are the parents of Chris's childhood friend Sam. I first met the three of them the same evening that I first met Chris's parents, back in November of 2001. I was pretty anxious about meeting Karen and Jerry (a psychologist and a federal judge, for God's sake -- who wouldn't be a little nervous?), and was vastly relieved to discover that not only were they decent folk, but that their friends were pretty amazing, too. I was particularly grateful for Josh's uncanny ability to put people at ease.

The seven of us periodically got together for dinner over the next five years.

It was a longstanding tradition to have Christmas Eve dinner at Josh & Lucy's place, just up the block from our apartment. Lucy and I would bond over knitting and having family in the Pacific Northwest. Josh would disarm us all with his smile.

Josh and Lucy gave me my favorite kitchen utensil, a five-inch Global chef's knife, which I have been using almost daily ever since. And it was because of Josh's delicious chicken & dumplings and enthusiasm for one particular cookbook that Staff Meals from Chanterelle's David Waltuck became one of my culinary bibles.

One afternoon Chris and I ran into Josh and Sam on the street outside of our building. We were on our way to the subway, trying to get to the hospital where we had just found out a friend had been taken the night before with severe pneumonia. Josh and Sam had been heading to their car for, I think, a shopping expedition. The hospital, all the way on the other side of town, was nowhere near their destination, yet Josh, with his ever present generosity, insisted on giving us a ride. When I thanked him and suggested they drop us off part way there, he just gave me a look and said, "Emily, we have a car. What's a few more avenues when you have a car!"

They live just up the street from me, Josh and Lucy and sometimes Sam, and yet I have only run into Lucy once, and Josh and Sam not at all, in the year and a half since Chris and I broke up.

I didn't even know until this Tuesday, when Karen came to pick up the last of Chris's stuff, that Josh's cancer had returned, that pneumonia had complicated things, that they had decided to forgo any further treatment, that it was a matter of time.

It is a strange and heartbreaking thing to know that I am so close to Lucy and Sam, geographically speaking, and yet at the same time so far away that I'm not even sure of sending a card.

I would bring them offerings of chicken and dumplings, cookies and casseroles and a bottle of Sauternes, if I could.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

daniela's blue egg

you know you're home when...

. . . you get off the train and the family friend waiting to pick you up says, "I didn't recognize you, what with your hair not being fuschia and green," and you patiently explain that, in all fairness, it's been thirteen years since you last dyed your hair fuschia and green, not at first realizing that family friend is grinning wider than the Cheshire cat.

Monday, June 09, 2008

mccain on the stump, or, how abysmal does he have to be for fox news to ridicule him?

On another note, Nas hit the musical campaign trail recently with this Obama homage. Funny, I haven't listened to Nas much (though have liked the little I've heard), but have been listening to his father's music for quite a while now. I know I tend to be just a little behind the times, but this borders on the ridiculous.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

intro to the wire

Detective McNulty: Let me understand you. Every Friday night you and your boys shoot crap, right? And every Friday night your pal 'Snot Boogie,' he'd wait till there was cash on the ground and then he would grab the money and run away?"

Witness: [nods]

Detective McNulty: And you'd let him do that?

Witness: We'd catch 'im and beat his ass but ain't nobody let it go past that.

Long pause.

Detective McNulty: I gotta ask you. If every time 'Snot Boogie' would grab the money and run away, why'd you even let him in the game?

Witness: What?

Detective McNulty: If 'Snot Boogie' always stole the money, why'd you let him play?

Witness: Got to. This is America, man.

(The Wire, Season 1, Episode 1. I think I'm beginning to get why Nate & Shanna are so addicted to this show.)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

trees i have loved

A few weeks ago Erik and I got together for drinks and commiserated over the fact that we both seem to be suffering from allergies this year. I'm not sure what my problem is, but Erik walked out of his apartment one morning this spring, sniffling and sneezing and itchy-eyed, only to realize that all of the trees on his block, recent additions to the neighborhood as part of Mayor Bloomberg's MillionTreesNYC program, were in full bloom.

A small price to pay, perhaps, for the joy of living on a block chock full of flowering trees. But I'm left with this vision of millions of New Yorkers, used to our concrete unadulterated, left to the mercy of the million trees, sneezing and sniffling and bleary-eyed, clutching packages of Benedryl and Claritin and Zyrtec and Sudafed, leaving crumpled, mucousy, Kleenex trails behind us like snails.

Do you think maybe Mayor Michael and the drug industry are in cahoots?

But enough tree teasing. There was a lovely
piece today in the City section of the Times, bite-sized stories from various New Yorkers about their favorite trees, and it got me to thinking about the trees I have known.

I would be hard-pressed to pick one favorite tree.

The magnolia tree in our front yard up in Mohegan Lake would have to be near the top of the list, I think. Every spring I looked forward to its blooming, and thought its flowers, thick waxy petals a pristine white on the inside, pale lavender on the outside, among the most beautiful things in the world. But they only lasted a week, or so it seemed, and then Nate and I had to rake them up before they rotted on the ground.

The Japanese maple that grew outside of my bedroom window in that same house might have to be my favorite tree in the world. I loved to sit on the window seat in my attic bedroom, reading, sunlight filtering in through its flame-red leaves.

But then there is the old apple orchard in Idaho, and the particular apple tree under which the ashes of my father and my grandfather are buried. I cannot say that I love this particular apple tree for itself, exactly. It is not especially beautiful, nor have I spent very much time with it. But as the final resting place for two of the most important people in my life, and eventually, I imagine (not to be too morbid or anything), as my own final resting place, I can't help but hold it close to my heart.

I'd love to hear other people's tales of trees they have loved, the where, the when, and the why.

quote of the day, or, rick santorum & what he wants to do to his mother-in-law (& other news from the marriage wars)

"Is anyone saying same-sex couples can't love each other? I love my children. I love my friends, my brother. Heck, I even love my mother-in-law. Should we call these relationships marriage, too?"
-Rick Santorum, intellectual giant

Rick, dear, if you feel about your kids and your mother-in-law the same way that two gay men wanting to get married feel about each other, well, you've got even more problems than I thought you did when you merely got booted out of office back in 2006.

In other, more sane, news, Adam Liptak of the Times seems inclined to believe that gay-marriage opponents will be hard-pressed to stop Governor Patterson's recent directive to all New York State agencies to comply with a February appellate court ruling that the state must fully recognize gay marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

But then, of course, there's the ongoing uproar that the California Supreme Court, in its commitment to equality and justice, instigated recently with its ruling allowing gay marriage. Not only are the conservatives up in arms in California proper, but now 10 attorneys general from other states have petitioned to stop California gay marriages from going into effect until after the November election, at which point Californians will have the opportunity to vote to return to their pre-enlightenment days of injustice.

I'm putting my money on gay rights, though, at least in California. Not only has the Terminator himself come out in favor of gay marriage, but a recent Field Poll indicates that for the first time more Californians support gay marriage than oppose it. And as California Attorney General Jerry Brown so succinctly put it, "Same-sex marriage is a deeply contentious issue, but in California the matter has now been resolved by the state Supreme Court."

Back in New York, on the one hand we've got James Dobson's Alliance Defense Fund for some reason threatening to sue Governor Patterson over his directive and yet on the other hand we've got Republican senate majority leader Joseph Bruno saying, "I don’t care whether they’re gay, black, white, Oriental, whatever. Equal justice. That’s what it’s all about."

And speaking of the Alliance Defense Fund, the LA Times ran a series recently, a week-long debate between Glen Lavy (a top lawyer for the ADF) and Jon Davidson (Lamda Legal's legal director). Makes for fascinating reading, well worth the time, if you're interested in such things.

One thing I like to keep in mind, especially when I'm feeling particularly frustrated about this stuff, is that those who oppose equal rights really are on the losing side. Whether they lose now, or in a decade, or in several decades, they are already losing. Polls consistently show that more and more young people support equality, and eventually, inevitably, those young people are going to take over the country. And there's not a damned thing that the Rick Santorums and the James Dobsons of the world can do about that.