Thursday, July 31, 2008

down by the water (M's birthday)

on attending a wedding in three days' time at which a former lover and his new girlfriend will also be present

I was remembering that December night out west quite a few years ago when everyone else had gone to bed and we stripped off our clothes and ran outside into the cold and immersed ourselves in the hot tub.

I was remembering that night in the hot tub, and how it snowed, and how the water was too hot but we went in anyway, opened our mouths to catch icy snowflakes and let them melt on our tongues, on our faces, in our hair, and how we stayed in too long and grew dizzy and headachey and sick from the heat, and how we eventually climbed out, wrapped each other in towels to ward off the winter cold, fed each other ice cubes on the kitchen floor.

I was remembering this somewhat longingly, but then realized that if someone were to suggest today that he and I make love in a hot tub, I'd have the good sense now to not submerge myself for so long.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

postcards & last suppers & family far away

I had dinner with Nathan, my Nater Tater, tonight, and even though he's not actually leaving for Portland for another month or so, it is likely that this might have been our last dinner together, just the two of us.

We were waxing nostalgic for this past year, this shared time here in New York City, these semi-weekly sibling dinners, at his place or at mine, that have become such a normal, such a wonderful and welcome and routine, part of our lives.

I was having dinner at Nate's place tonight, drinking wine and keeping him company as he chopped onions and garlic, boiled water, and picked windowsill basil for a delicious pasta, when I saw a postcard on his counter and, in my ever nosy fashion, flipped it over to see who it was from.

I should have known, really, given that I've been getting similar postcards or cards or packages for over fourteen years now. These weekly mailings arrive like clockwork from Anacortes, from our mother, sharing her daily goings-on with us in a simple intimacy that continues to amaze me.

They're full of little news, by which I mean the small intricacies of a life full of contentment, full of amusement and affection for the people and places and things inhabiting this life.

I asked Nate if he keeps any of these cards and he gave me a look and said yes, of course, all of them. And I felt guilty, because I don't. I keep my favorites on the refrigerator with a magnet, replacing them every so often with a new favorite. And I keep all the rest in piles scattered around my apartment for awhile until a cleaning frenzy kicks in (more rarely than I would care to admit) and I throw away everything that has accumulated on the dresser or the counter or the floor next to the bed in the preceding months.

I was talking with Sarah once, years ago, about these weekly notes, about how Mom has been sending them almost without fail since I graduated from high school. And Sarah was silent for a moment, and looked far away, and finally said, "You must have boxes of them. These pieces of her life."

I don't, even though sometimes I feel like I should. Which is kind of funny, because between Nathan and me, you might guess that I'm the more sentimental of the two, certainly the more overtly (some might argue just plain overly) emotional, and yet it is he who is keeping these cards, these notes, these little windows into our mother's world.

Maybe that's okay. Maybe I can be the overly sentimental of the two, the one more inclined to self-indulgent ramblings and crying jags and giggles, and he can be the steadfast keeper of the cards.

She'll know that we both love her, that we both adore her, in our oddly complementary practical and sentimental ways.


Dear Emily,

This is an odd little card, but the bunny must be wishing you a Happy Easter!

I talked to G. Mac* on Saturday, & she sounded pretty happy. She's feeling well, too. She's saving stamps for Paul & always asks when we're coming down to get them!

Have a good week!

Mom & Paul

P.S. I made curtains for the kitchen nook windows - they look cute!"

*Grandma McNeil

Saturday, July 19, 2008

the great state of texas

Texas: Bible Classes Approved
Published: July 19, 2008

"The state’s Board of Education gave final approval to establishing Bible classes in public high schools, rejecting calls to draw specific teaching guidelines and warnings that such approval could lead to constitutional problems in the classroom. The Legislature passed a measure in 2007 allowing Bible courses to be offered as an elective. State officials are still waiting for an attorney general’s ruling on whether the classes must be offered to students or left to school districts to decide. Critics say the rule does not provide specific enough guidelines to help teachers and school districts know how to do that and avoid a First Amendment clash over freedom of religion. Mark Chancey, associate professor in religious studies at Southern Methodist University, has studied Bible classes already offered in about 25 districts. His study found most of the courses were explicitly devotional with almost exclusively Christian, usually Protestant, perspectives. It also found that most were taught by teachers who were not familiar with the issue of separation of church and state."

On the other hand, Texas is seriously developing its wind-power capacity, which is of course very commendable.

Friday, July 18, 2008

"rapid" transit

So Chris and Lisa and I went to the Bronx Zoo last Sunday to ogle the lemurs in all their adorable wonderfulness (pictures coming soon -- I've had a busy week, okay?). We had a jolly old time, though I was kind of dreading the trek back to Washington Heights afterwards. But once Chris and I got his mom safely on the Metro North train back to New Haven we caught one of those new-fangled BX12 buses up on Fordham Road and, amazingly enough, it was faster than I expected! And a welcome air-conditioned oasis after an afternoon at the zoo.

Nate was pretty excited when I told him about this. Urban planning being his gig and all, and the fact that he does after all work for the MTA, goes a long way to explain his enthusiasm for transit talk. I was glad to partake in said talk (and to watch this interesting video on public bus transit in Bogota), and will sorely miss having Nate to complain to about my temperamental A train refusing to go to my subway stop most weekends and the shuttle buses refusing to work to my liking.

And speaking of urban planning, there was a fascinating article in the Times recently about urban gardening. See, Evan, you could come to New York and garden in a skyscraper instead of your backyard!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

weddings & such

Bill McAllister got married this past Saturday, in an absolutely lovely wedding out in Amagansett, Long Island. It was a perfect summer afternoon: warm but not too warm, a slight breeze, shade beneath the trees, beautiful music, delicious food and drink, good company.

I wish at times like this that I were a better public speaker, or in fact capable of speaking publicly at all, because there are things that I would like to have toasted, that I would like to have said.

I would have liked to explain
that Bill has been such a presence in my life, such a fixture, that anyone who knows me at all well knows at least his name.

I was five or six years old when Bill first came into our lives, quickly befriending my father at Barnard after our move to the Bronx -- a rather turbulent time for this displaced west coast family suddenly set adrift in New York City.

He's pretty much been around ever since.

I would have liked to explain how Bill kind of sort of took the three of us under his wing for awhile after Dad's death, coming up from the city to spend weekends with us in Mohegan as often as he could, and eventually helping Mom move across the country to settle in Anacortes, Washington and re-find her western roots.

Bill has continued to be a presence in the years since we all left Mohegan Lake, keeping an eye on me and Nate in his unobtrusive yet incredibly warm and affectionate way.

It's tempting sometimes to
call him a father figure but that's not quite right, because he's never felt parental, exactly, to me.

And it's tempting to refer to him as a friend but friend isn't quite right either. H
e's always provided a sense of comfort, of being looked after, of being home, that one wouldn't ask or expect of a friend.

Familial, perhaps, though again that sounds somehow too... something. Too formal, too constricted, too obligatory.

So it was strange, when other guests at the wedding asked me how we know Bill, to not hav
e a ready answer.

He was one of my father's best friends. But he is also just our Bill, our Bill McAllister, and dear to us

We'd never even met Jill before the wedding on Saturday, but already
we approved. To finally meet her was merely a formality in the process of growing to love her. The loving her started as soon as we began noticing a certain calmness, a certain new contentment, in Bill a year or so ago.

So to Bill & Jill, may you have many, many joyful and happy years of sharing this whole togetherness thing.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

emergency contact

I was sitting on the A-train the other evening, heading home after a wonderful weekend visiting friends out on Long Island, listening to Doug Martsch croon about the weather ("and the wind and snow and the rain that blows, none of those would matter much without you; as long as it's talking with you, talk of the weather will do...").

I'm not sure what got me to thinking about phone numbers, but it occurred to me that in the two years I had a cell phone on Chris's plan, I couldn't for the life of me ever seem to remember the number. Though in all honesty, there are few phone numbers I can remember. My Lake Mohegan childhood number (914-528-4466), my old and now defunct land-line here in the Heights (917-521-2052), my current number.

And then it suddenly struck me that I couldn't remember Chris's cell phone number. Or rather, I should say, I realized that I had finally, finally forgotten Chris's cell phone number. And a weight lifted, somehow, and something opened up -- a sense of relief, a sense of floating, of escaping, of at last letting something go.

And then my ever annoying brain started tweaking and tugging and pulling, phantom fingers pushing tiny buttons, remembering patterns, and inevitably, much to my consternation, the number came back. And I was frustrated, so frustrated that even after all this time, after a year of not dialing that number, my fingers, my brain, couldn't truly seem to forget it.

And then I realized I was kidding myself, that in fact it had been quite a bit less than a year, that in the midst of walking around the night after I put my cat, my Nova, to sleep back in January, these preprogrammed fingers of mine pushed those buttons, as if there were no other possible buttons to push.

In my defense, even in that undeniable moment of weakness, standing in the sleet under a streetlight on Central Park West, these fingers managed to hit 'end' before worse happened, before voices could be recognized, before words could be exchanged.

Now, as I am writing this, I am wondering, trying to remember, if I ever got around to replacing Chris's cell phone number as my emergency contact at Columbia's central Human Resources office. I'm not entirely sure that I did.

I'd better not get run over by a campus catering cart or hit on the head by a piece of falling cornice while crossing College Walk on my way to the office tomorrow morning.

Monday, July 07, 2008

changing of the guard & other tidbits

The Anchorage Daily News posted an interesting video last week that just completely demonstrates the glaring differences between the old school fear-mongering that is the GOP (here channeled through Ted Stevens' rantings about protecting us from "intruders from outside" and the horror of America turning into Italy or France) and the pleasingly fresh, sane voice of the Democratic new guard (here given voice by Anchorage's own Mayor Mark Begich, David to Stevens' Goliath in the Alaska senate race).

Also of note, the Carpetbagger's 'When a candidate unveils an economic plan -- without any numbers,' on Team McCain's new and miraculous economic promises (and the free ride they're getting from the media).

And lastly, the scary One News Now Christian news organization ran a piece recently that has, for the first time in my life, made me regret getting kicked out of the Girl Scouts (or maybe it was Brownies? Who can remember these things) in first grade. Any organization that can work the fundamentalists up in to such a tizzy has just got to be doing something right, and now oh how I wish I'd stuck it out long enough to write an essay like "
All I Really Need to Know About Being a Lesbian I Learned at Girl Scout Camp."

Sunday, July 06, 2008

in the 'burbs

-Guest room at Lauren & Justin's house (perhaps subconscious inspiration for my own room?)
-Homemade ricotta
-Buttermilk cake (served with marscapone & mascerated berries)
-My buddy Oscar (there's nothing quite like having an 80 pound pitbull draped across your lap, contentedly licking your ear as you try to read)
-Prep for homemade barbecue sauce
-Oscar gets banned from the kitchen
-White beans simmering with onion & rosemary
-Warm white bean & shrimp salad

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Grand Jury Clears Texan in the Killing of 2 Burglars

Just so I get this straight. The Supreme Court recently found that the death penalty can only be enacted against murderers -- no other crime, not even one as heinous as child rape. But in Texas, it's okay to shoot people in the back if you happen to see them robbing someone else's house, even while a 911 operator is begging you not to shoot and police are on the way.

I know we all theoretically have the right to life, liberty, and property, but I hadn't realized before that we have the right to kill over one person's property at the expense of another person's life. That's a new one.

bridge, 6.28.08