Saturday, August 30, 2008


I've been avoiding politics lately, and eschewed with a vengeance this year's Democratic convention. Out of laziness, out of solitude (it's just not as much fun to watch this kind of stuff alone), out of 2004's heartbreak and the fear of having that heartbreak repeated.

But I was told in no uncertain terms Thursday night by an old friend that I damned well better get my act together and watch Obama. For the history of the moment, for the passion, for, if nothing else, the excitement and boosting the number of viewers, to add one more to the 34 million.

So I did. And was moved beyond words, not so much by the specifics of what Obama said (I've been, if not passionately, at least pretty solidly, in his camp for awhile now), but by the unavoidable sense of witnessing a truly historical moment. A black man, here in this land of slavery and civil war, of the KKK and freedom riders and the long, drawn-out fight for civil rights, more than four decades later, accepting his party's nomination for the presidency of the United States of America.

Yesterday, the day after this moment, I spent a little while avoiding work and reading up on the country's reaction, and was moved all over again to realize anew that not only am I not alone in feeling this way, but that even my own reaction is peripheral compared to so many Americans' experience of this moment.

Even if we fail, come November, to win back the White House, we will have had Thursday night. But even this atheist is praying that this is not the case. And I think McCain's VP pick probably helped us out, much as I admire Sarah Palin's choice in eyewear.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


We closed up the library last Friday evening, went out for a quick end-of-the-week decompression drink, then parted ways -- Nick off to Brooklyn for some party or other, Brooke making a mad dash to the Upper East Side in the hopes of getting to a particular store before closing, Erica down to 102nd Street for a slice of (so she claims) the best pizza in this entire town, and me, well, I had some time to kill.

I had plans to meet friends at the Rubin for a birthday gathering around eight, so I walked with Erica down to her beloved hole-in-the-wall pizza joint, and then, because the weather was just right and because the streets were teeming and because I had comfortable shoes on that day and I suppose, really, just because, I kept going.

And ended up walking all the way down to the museum. First through the familiar family-friendliness of the Upper West Side. Past Lincoln Center in all its cultural, if currently under construction, glory. Around Columbus Circle and the crowds converging on the Time Warner Center and the overpriced shop(pe)s all lit up and glowing from within. Down through the 50s and the 40s to Times Square, continually mind-boggling in all its flashy glitter, attracting millions of tourists like bats to a bug zapper (but not attracting me).

Did not linger there, but kept descending, and found myself somewhat taken aback by the trashiness, the industrial sleaziness, of the 30s, the upper 20s, with their topless bars, flickering neon, broken glass and cigarette butts, vast, empty buildings and trampy women and beckoning men.

Slipped, eventually, across some invisible demarcation line and into the hyper trendiness that is Chelsea, headed east on 17th street, trailed a mohawked man across 7th Avenue, and finally, finally, entered the Rubin Museum of Art, sank into its strange, blue-lit, Friday night pseudo club-scene glow.

I was relieved to immediately see Dave & Josh (I am always relieved to see Dave, who, at 6'4", is always easily see-able above the crowds). And I was amused to find the unknown mohawked man chatting with Dave & Josh, and with whom I am now affirmed Facebook friends.

So there we spent much of the evening, gulping red wine from plastic cups and sipping cocktails with names like "Blessing" and "Buddha's Tears."

Oh, this world we live in.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

easy red pepper & tomato soup

2 boxes Pacific Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup
1 head garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 biggish tomatoes, diced
2 handfuls couscous
1 tablespoon dried onions
1 ear of corn

Saute the garlic & red pepper flakes in good olive oil (I used the Fairway olive oil that Nate gave me for my birthday), till golden. Add the tomatoes and their juice, cook down for a minute or two. Add the soup. Cut the corn off the cob, scraping the cob down to get all the juice. Toss the cob in the soup, and also the dried onions, and let simmer for awhile. 5-10 minutes before serving, add the couscous. Just a couple minutes before serving, add the corn kernels.

Nate and I served this last night, with corn on the cob and grilled cheese sandwiches and beer, for one last dinner with Chris and Andrew. Scrumptious and easy.

the flipside

The flipside, of course, of cultivating a certain flippant cynicism about people living or not living beyond the age of 40 is that you are also never quite convinced that you will see the people you love again. You develop an undeniable certainty, however unfounded, that the pain of their absence will be ongoing & complete, and this makes saying goodbye a particularly odious task.

Friday, August 15, 2008

quote of the day

“If there is anything I am lacking in, I’ve got to tell you, it is taste in music and art and other great things in life. I’ve got to say that a lot of my taste in music stopped about the time I impacted a surface-to-air missile with my own airplane and never caught up again.”
-John McCain, in defense of loving Dancing Queen

Thursday, August 14, 2008

quote of the day

"[Pelosi] is committed to her global warming fanaticism to the point where she has said that she’s just trying to save the planet. … We all know that someone did that over 2,000 years ago, they saved the planet — we didn’t need Nancy Pelosi to do that."
-Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

re: shamelessly wallowing emma

One also listens, repeatedly, to Arcade Fire's cover of a certain naive melody, and then one feels much better.

shamelessly wallowing emma

Left work today, fled that basement biblioteque home away from home, and after a week or so of feeling, as often as not, on the verge of tears, managed to make it through the apartment door before collapsing on the floor in excellent hysterical-girl fashion, sobbing, scaring away the cat, squashing the mail, and generally making a mess of things.

Not sure what it was about, entirely, other than the obvious things: the departure of one's brother & all around best friend for the opposite side of what is an entirely too wide country; the awkward if not entirely unpleasant recent chatting with one's ex-boyfriend and one's ex-boyfriend's girlfriend, both looking all together too happy and too well-dressed and too California sun-kissed gorgeous for one's taste; the marvelously magnificent marriage of two of one's best friends, when one is decidedly alone and about a million years away from anything of the sort (not that, in one's saner, more balanced moments, one actually minds this all that much).

What one does to recuperate from the aforementioned hysterics, of course, is pick oneself (by which, of course, I mean one's self) up off the floor, pour a good-sized shot of Jim Beam, call one's dear friend Lauren, and commiserate over the folly that is life, the unfortunate lack of brownies in one's apartment, and the apparently horrific experience that is driving in Long Island summer traffic.

And then one watches several episodes of Heroes on one's computer and drags oneself off to bed.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

odss & ends IX

The United States v. the Driver. US sentences Bin Laden's chauffeur to five and a half years! Are we safe now?

Bush Declared 422 Major Disasters. Perhaps he'll declare himself to be the 423rd.

On a much happier note, Anne Shirley, later Anne Blythe but best known as Anne of Green Gables, one of my all-time heroines,
celebrates her 100th birthday this year!

A meaner, grittier West Side Story will be making a come-back early next year.

The Bush Administration tries to put yet more restrictions on abortion and family-planning in general. (See William Saletan's rather amusing retort here.)

Bloomberg & Gates join forces to end the scourge of tobacco smoking! Maybe, what with all their billions, they can reimburse me for the literally thousands of dollars I wasted on cigarettes in the years since I was a stupid teenager.

Chris Mark and I have developed an odd habit over the years in which we email to each other the most disturbing, grossest, weirdest, or quirkiest news stories we can find. I usually win. But this time, he succeeded in totally grossing me out. And will make me think twice about ever taking Greyhound again. Or maybe ever traveling to Canada. Or, you know, being within stabbing distance of anyone, ever. Way to go, Chris.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

'very practical woman Grandma'

My last living grandparent, my paternal grandmother, Grandma Mac, is quickly approaching her 91st birthday. This longevity astounds me, flying in the face of my sometimes overly-cynical, anything past 40 is icing on the cake, take on life.

But sadly, I get the feeling that it astounds Grandma in a way, too, and maybe even dismays her.

She is in relatively good health, considering. She walks and talks and writes the nicest, kindest birthday cards ("To dear, sweet Emily -- Late, but with lots of love. Grandma McNeil") and always seems thrilled when we grandkids call to chat, though chatting is increasingly difficult. She lives with her beloved fat cat, Lola, in an assisted living home near my aunt & uncle in Olympia, with whom she also spends a lot of time.

But she is forgetting things, and worries, I think, that she will soon be forgetting people. She has outlived her husband by almost ten years and her youngest son by fifteen. I can only imagine that she must be lonely, despite the undying devotions of Lola (who takes advantage of Grandma's kindness and forgetfulness by asking for, and receiving, lots and lots and lots of treats), despite the proximity of my uncle and aunt.

She recently spent some time at the lake cabin in Idaho with various relatives. Cousin Eric emailed me earlier this week with lake pictures, an update on the local development scandal, and a short description of one particular morning at the cabin when Grandma was having difficulty breathing and thought she was dying.

I've been talking to friends about Grandma, about her forgetting and her age and her desire, not in a morbid, depressing way, but rather in an "I'm old; I've lived; I'm done," kind of way, to die. And while we all adore her and maybe have a difficult time imagining the world without her, I think we all also understand this desire, and hope that she will go quietly, comfortably, perhaps in sleep, surrounded by people who love her, and whom she loves.

It would have pleased her immensely to have passed away at the lake this summer. As Eric put it, "Her thing is that she wants to die at the Lake and join Bill and Grandpa and doesn't want to make anyone drive her ashes back across the state -- very practical woman Grandma."

None of us would mind, of course, driving her ashes back across the state. But it would make her immeasurably happy, in her last moments, to think she'd saved us the trouble.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

lizard love & other tales from the animal kingdom

Harvey the tuatara gets it on in southern New Zealand.

Also in animal news today, the population of lowland gorillas in equatorial Africa is apparently much higher than previously estimated, despite the ravages of war, predatory humans, and outbreaks of such fun diseases as Ebola and hemorrhagic fever.

And lastly, on a more personal animal note, Llama has made a new friend in Houseguest Marcos, who returned to New York recently after a year abroad. Marcos has been staying with me & the Llama while searching for an apartment and has been generous with his catsitting skills while I was traipsing around upstate.

I suppose I should clarify, though, that in typical feline fashion, while Llama has found a new friend in Marcos, the interaction is more than a little one-sided, and Marcos has not necessarily found a new friend in Llama.

Monday, August 04, 2008

escape from nyc

-waiting for the train with my bird pal
-ari's house of plenty (purslane, pattypans, basil, summer savory, ground cherries, tomatillos)
-old catskill factory (where ari wants me to move)
-found object
-lemon meringue at bell's cafe
-esopus creek