Monday, September 25, 2006

What Should I Do?

Here's a dilemma you probably don't come across unless you live in the city:

What do you do when you are driving to work early in the morning and pass a man in nothing but a hospital gown, pants and shoes? He has a big wad of bandage on the inside of one elbow and a band-aid where the IV probably was on the back of his hand. The police station is two blocks up in the direction that he's walking.

Is that appropriate 911 fodder? If not, who do you call?

I bet your Monday morning didn't start with this kind of dilemma. I'm sorry to say that I took a very non-community solution: nothing. Ugh.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I Don't Like My Neck

I cannot say enough about Nora Ephron.

Nora Ephron, if you don't know, wrote When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle and a bunch of other extremely successful screen plays. She also wrote a book called Crazy Salad, which is a collection of essays that she wrote in the early 70s when she was both part of the feminist movement and a journalist writing about the feminist movement. I found this book when I worked at the used book store on Orcas and promptly fell in love with her candor and hoped that my blog essays were something even close to her style of writing.

She spoke at Columbia College this afternoon and my friend Jess, who is a MFA student there, got us tickets to attend.

She was everything I wanted her to be. She spoke on a series of epiphanies that she has had throughout her life as a child of screenwriters, a journalist in the 60s, her marriages (one of which was to Carl Bernstein of Woodward and Bernstein fame), her filmmaking career and now her "golden years," of which she has just written a new book.

I have so many thoughts that I don't know how to collect them all.

My brother David mocked me this morning when I said that I was going to hear her speak later on. Actually, most of them mocked me this morning for that. He asked if then I would write a paper about the talk, implying that I was an egghead of the worst sort. What is sweet about this little anecdote was that as the conversation moved on from mocking me (it always come back to that point, never fear), I looked over at David and while everyone else was talking he said, "It's OK for you to be smart." And I think he really meant it. I like it that he and I can be grown-ups together rather than stuck in our childhood roles of older-brother-tormenter and younger-sister-screamer.

I asked a question at the end of the talk. Most of the attendants were older women of the best-dressed variety, with expensive brooches and well-cut, boxy jackets made of silk. These were society women who had fought for women's rights and then married men of wealth so that Sunday afternoons could be spent enjoying the products of their labors. Because God knows that feminism doesn't pay. Maybe that's a terrible interpretation. Maybe those women earned those brooches through their own sweat and toil. Regardless, it was interesting to think about how old the original feminists are now. They are 60. Those that were in their 30s or even 40s during the movement are in their 70s and 80s. But you could still see the spark in their well-coifed, undyed hair, I mean, eyes. So, as I was listening to other questions about what advice she would give to aspiring writers and what the original ending to When Harry Met Sally was, a thought bubbled up in me. When she called on me I asked, "We live in a world where we are now studying the history of feminism. I know who you are because I found Crazy Salad in the used book store that I was working in. It's neat that now you're here. Thanks. Can you speak a little about feminism today?" You may now be agreeing with my brother David that I am an egghead of the worst sort after reading phrases like "We live in a world . . ." and the word "neat." But what can I say? I have to give you the truth or lose all credibility.

Anyway, when I asked about feminism, she talked about her dismay (more than dismay - almost disgust) at women who do smug interviews with the New York Times saying that they want to just be a housewife. She said, "Don't they realize that 'just being a housewife' means that you have to marry someone successful? And that is a bet at the craps table that is not even 50-50." Earlier in the question and answer period, she was talking about people that graduate from college and move to Hollywood to become screenwriters. She said, "They will write their coming-of-age story. Then, they'll write their summer camp story. And then they'll be 23 and they'll have failed to sell either of them." Her point was that all writers should be journalists first to let them learn how to really write and to give them time to have a few experiences. As part of this point before she listed off the archetypal young writer experience she said, "They haven't even been divorced yet!" I felt like part of a fellowship of women who had learned the hard way that they couldn't pin their hopes on marrying the right man to make them happy. Yesterday, I was thinking through what I would write in an ad for myself to get someone to let me join their folk band. I debated writing, "I am NOT in my early 20s." Why is that distinction so important to me? Nora answered that for me: "They haven't even been divorced yet!" How can I take their relationship angst seriously?

Nora bookended her talk with this mantra of her mother's: "Everything is copy." She said that when she would come to her mother with tales of woe of something terrible that happened to her, her mother would stop her before she even began and say, "Everything is copy." What she meant was that everything that happens to us is fodder for a story. Basically, her mother was saying, "I don't want to hear about it until you have gained enough perspective to tell it as a funny story." She acknowledged that she did not follow her mother's parenting model with her own children because it was awful. However, as she told stories about her own life when she realized that a novelist COULD NOT MAKE THIS UP, she realized at pivotal moments that her mother was right. Everything is copy. Slip on a banana and people laugh at you; tell people that you slipped on a banana and the experience becomes your joke. I cannot tell you how many times in my life I've comforted myself in the midst of a terrible situation with, "At least this will make a good story." Even before I had the blog as an outlet, I distinctly remembering thinking that an experience on my honeymoon wasn't so bad because I could make a scrapbook page with before and after pictures of the rainshower. Since I wrote about that epiphany in the ultimate scrapbook page, I'm somewhat flabbergasted at just how very "meta" I am and just how trendy that makes me in the world of Tristam Shandy. I was lucky in a way that my husband turned out to be an honest-to-God pathological liar. My unbelievable pain makes for really good stories. Like the time he took me on an impromptu tour of the campus that he was getting his "teacher certification" at on Tuesday and Thursday nights. We were heading to a friend's house and he asked if I wanted to see his classrooms since the campus was on the way. Since his transcripts show that he did not take one of the classes that he claimed during the time that I knew him, this was a pretty bold tour to take me on. Like men watching another man get a good'un in the nuts in a slapstick comedy, people never fail to groan appreciatively when the prevailing conversation leads me to tell that part of the story.

The last thing that struck me about this Nora Ephron event was the reception afterwards. Fantastic food abounded and I had three glasses of wine in the hour and a half. I bought a copy of Nora's new book and my copy of Crazy Salad signed. Jess and I flirted with the jazz trio with our eyes and smiles and ate fantastic hor's devours and took home extra desserts. Since I had asked a question, women I didn't know thanked me for it and we had beautiful conversations about feminism and men and art. We talked with Jess's department chair and his wife about the fact about the fact that she recently won an award for her fiction. We had our pictures taken for some media venue. We talked with a woman about WITASWAN, which is an unruly acronym for Women in the Audience Supporting Women Artists Now but allows for swans to be worn in support in jewelry and the like. I felt a little bad about that conversation because although I support pushy, slightly unattractive feminists in theory, Jess's department chair walked up and I had to turn away from her and so could not support her in reality. The interesting conversation took place with a woman who advocates and works with women in trades, which is fascinating to me. Most women that construction companies hire to satisfy federal requirements are stuck as flaggers, which is the lowest paid of the positions, offers no satisfaction and has no potential for advancement like the skilled labor of driving a tractor, grader, forklift or bobcat can. I knew this before meeting Mary and was moved by the information and so was fascinated to meet someone who was actually helping women do something about this. We talked with women in the lobby on our way out about husbands and their expectations and how much money we make and retirement. My mother will be shocked that I enjoyed talking to so many strangers. But I did!

Thanks, Nora Ephron, for yet another experience that is unique to living in a city where college environments are close for free talks with wine and food served afterwards.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Girlyman and Coincidences

I went to a show at Schubas tonight kind of randomly. A friend of a friend (who I have enjoyed on several occasions) just sort of up an called me yesterday to see if I wanted to go see this folk trio and since I am always trying to encourage other people's efforts when they reach out to me, I said yes. As it happens, I really like folk music and I think this band - which is made up of a straight woman, a gay woman and a gay man - will fill the niche in my life that Sons of the Never Wrong left went they started to get all -every-song-is-beautiful-but-sounds-just-like-every-other-song-and-I-don't-understand-any-of-the-words and left their whimsical, witty identity behind. This new band is called Girlyman and the guy has lips and a nose just like Genie from PeeWee's Playhouse. But I could get caught up in a mostly entertaining analysis of the evening and that is not the purpose of this blog. The purpose of this blog is to talk about coincidences.

You see, when I got to the concert, just as the opening act was wrapping up, I looked over to my right and there, not looking at me, was my friend Lorinda! She, too, had been asked to tag along to this show by a friend. Our friends did not know each other and neither of us had said anything to the other on Sunday because neither of us knew that we would be spending out Tuesday nights this way.

I like running into people this way. It make the city feel much smaller. More like an actual community. You know, like an island. This has happened to me several times. Some of those times have been in the neighborhood that I live in and go to church in and so I don't count those. But, for instance, Amy lives in one of the northern neighborhoods and as I was riding the train home from yoga one night, there she was sitting in the seat right across the aisle from me! Think of all the ways that we wouldn't have seen each other. She could have gotten on a different car or sat in a seat behind me or been five minutes earlier or later and had to catch the previous or next train.

On Saturday, at the Renegade Craft Fair, I ran into my older brother's friend Steve. This is slightly less crazy since Steve works in design and lives in the neighborhood directly south of the fair. Still, at an event that draws thousands of people, to get a chance to stand with a guy that sometimes comes to our house for Thanksgiving and talk about the dynamics of his band is pretty cool.

Several months ago, I was at a coffee shop in Wicker Park for a show and saw my younger brother's good friend Bob. He had stayed for the show after getting dinner because he saw the guys haul in a Hammond organ and was interested to see what they would do we it. So, we stood around and talked about Daniel.

At a friend from college's 30th birthday party that he was hosting jointly with two other friends that I did not know. When I realized that I had been staring at a woman all night, I asked Erika what her name was, assuming I recognized her from college (only 1800 students makes that totally plausible) but Erika didn't know her. Then it hit me: her name was Amy and we were on the speech team together in high school. I got to tell her the story about how the coaches totally changed their coaching style for the better because of her but after she graduated.

As I was heading to a different friend from college's 30th birthday party, I was dolled up and waiting for my train. This was when I still had a gigantic crush on Motorcycle Boy. (By the way, I don't know that I like that nickname, but I'm kind of stuck with it for clarity of communication.) I was staring off into space and looking fine when the train heading the other direction pulled onto the platform. I was looking at the people inside and my attention was caught by a rather unfortunate-looking head of dreadlocks. They were just getting started and looking as awkward as a new mustache on a 14-year-old boy. Plus, the guy must have had to have his fingers in his hair all the time, twirling them to get the to mat. I had that thought and then went back to staring into space. Then, I heard a knocking. I look up and Motorcycle Boy has pushed his friend with the ugly head aside to get my attention through the window and he waved at me! I was the happiest girl alive.

Let me stress that all of these occurrences took place with people who were out of their neighborhoods and, except for the last one, when I was out of my neighborhood. When I was living on Orcas Island, part of what I loved about the community was that you were bound to run into everyone at the grocery store at some point, since there was only one grocery store. People you didn't like, people you loved, people that you had just met the night before, people who had been shopping in your store two weeks earlier. I was comforted because all of the extras in the movie of my life were familiar to me (3,000 people is not that much more than 1,800). I wonder if these coincidental meetings are evidence that I am finding or creating community at least in a sub-group of the population of Chicago. That would be a sign that I had actually applied the lessons that I learned on the island to life as I live it now. That would be pretty cool.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Oh Yeah!

Friday night, I had dinner with Matt before his overnight shift at work and since Jess is sick, I then came home to practice some major domesticity.

My friend Emily and her husband Joe are having a baby and do not want to know its sex. They have painted a beautiful yellow bedroom with a giant giraffe care of her artistic father. When I opened the closet door while on the tour, I was faced with over 30 baby outfits hanging on tiny little hangers from the bar. All of them were yellow or green.

So the blueberry hat that I was planning to knit for the little one that is going to be born in December was out. I now have to make a lemon hat.

Woohoo! I just happen to have a skein of white alpaca (so soft) yarn that I used for a stripe in a hat and have no future plans for. I also have 6 packets of Kool-Aid.

What does the Kool-Aid have anything to do with knitting a little bitty baby hat? you ask.

Well, it is a little known fact that Kool-Aid is a fantastic dye for yarn that comes from animals. I have known this for awhile but have never gotten a chance to test this arcane knowledge.

So, this was my exciting Friday night.

Six packets of Kool-Aid. Look at the carnage! Probably, I needed less orange than I thought I did. I was a little worried that the color wouldn't be interesting enough without a little variation of shade. Hence, the orange. Variegation is one of my favorite words, you know.

Painting was fun. This might just become a little addicting. Does anyone out there need a hat? I'm going to have more than I know what to do with very, very soon.

This is the yarn after I've microwaved it but before I've rinsed it. The liquid that it is sitting in looks milky because the color from the Kool-Aid has been leeched into the yarn, leaving the rest of the liquid colorless. Compare it to the yellow in the measuring cup above to see what I mean. Pretty cool, huh.

Although this isn't a knitting blog, (you'll be amazed at how many of them are out there) I'll post pictures of the finished product.

And here's Georgie in the debut of his modeling career.

I'm pretty proud of myself because this feels like a very island kind of craft that I'm practicing right here in the middle of the city.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Contemporary Christian Music

I hate my music director.

I came home from music team rehearsal last night and cried because the tension created by the fact that I hate him and the fact that I have to work with him to get what I need got overwhelming.

I think there were probably two things that struck those of you that know me about those first paragraphs. I would hope that the first thing you would notice is that I don’t really hate anyone. Not my ex-husband, not his new wife, not my old boss who fired me suddenly and without cause after promising for 8 months that he would never do something like that. Probably, I don’t hate my music director, either. Probably, I hate the way he treats me.

But it sure feels like I hate him.

The second odd thing about my opening salvo to those of you that know me is the revelation that I am on the music team at church.

I do hate contemporary Christian music. That’s a fact.

Lots of people my age don’t go to church any more because they had traumatic experiences there as kids. Most people I know were not abused there, although that is certainly the story of some people. Most people I know were angered by the hypocrisy of Church Adults telling them what to do while not obeying those rules themselves. That betrayal takes lots of forms and can be very severe. It’s like their childhood innocence saw God most clearly through the Church Adults in their lives. When those Church Adults displayed hypocrisy by divorcing their wives, swearing, being mean, being bigoted, being intolerant, not listening, not loving, being selfish, drinking too much, or demanding humility while dressing like a peacock for Sunday Services – when those Church Adults displayed that very human trait of hypocrisy and sometimes even denied it when the kids called them on their behavior, then those kids who saw God through the behavior of those adults felt like God was hypocritical.

Hypocrisy is the worst sin in the eyes of an adolescent and for God to have perpetrated that wrong is very traumatic. Many never get over the betrayal, preferring simply to avoid church altogether rather than to relive that hurt as adults. Those of us that can recognize that most of those adults weren’t betraying us intentionally still might fear becoming Church Adults ourselves and taking on that burden for a new generation and so also stay away from church.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the option of staying away from church. I tried it for a while when I was in college and when I was first married. I was so lonely. My husband had no faith background and so could not understand me at some very basic levels. I missed worship, which was a weekly reinforcement that there was something so much bigger than me out there. I am so comforted to know that I don’t have to struggle to see the big picture, that my impact on the world – good or bad – is actually inconsequential to the greater scheme of things. With that burden off my shoulders, the motivation for my choices becomes about what kind of person I will be after I make that decision. Music, liturgy and sermons remind me of that once a week. Participating in church activities gives me a sense that I am not the only one who sees the world through this lens of faith. So, about 4 years ago, I started going to church again. Mainline protestant churches. Very familiar, very safe, very easy to go and get a hit of worship and community, then head home without actually being a better person when I was done. About nine months ago, I started attending a church that doesn’t have the atmosphere as the other churches of my life. Its appeal is that I cannot stay in my personal bubble. I have to open up to the other people there and risk that they might betray me like some of the Christians of my youth did. I guess, actually, that I don’t “have to.” It’s not a cult or anything. But, I think God is telling me to. I think God wants me to start healing some of the pain that other Christians dealt out to me during my adolescence through this church that I am attending now. That has to be why God wants me to go here, because everything else is totally objectionable except the few other misfits that attend and the sermons.

My sense of betrayal from Church Adults came through music. In junior high and the first two years of high school, I had a phenomenal Youth Minister named Malcolm. In a conversation recently with the current Youth Leader at the church I grew up in, he told me that those years are sometimes referred as the Golden Years of youth ministry. Malcolm had the soul and voice of a very large Black woman fighting to get out of his wiry white man’s body. He would teach us songs about Jesus that we had never heard before and then teach us harmonies to create aural complexities that the musical illiteracy of the congregation could never pull from the traditional hymnal. I could feel that something-so-much-bigger-than-me with my whole body when I sang at youth group. We loved this music and these harmonies so much that a group of 3 and 4 of us girls sang whenever there was down-time in our social activities. We did not know then that this was the beginnings of the contemporary Christian music movement. We just knew that this music felt like ours in a way that camp songs and hymns on Sunday never had. In the mid-90s, there was Christian Rock but that had nothing to do with Sunday worship or with the music we were singing on Thursday nights and on retreats. (Sorry, Petra.) Ultimately, we began to wonder if this music wouldn’t be the solution to boring Sunday services and began working on a special service to introduce it to the Church Adults.

It was a smashing success. The youth led a special service and we threw our hearts into it. The Church Adults loved it. Plans were put in place to make one of the two Sunday services in a “Contemporary” service. And that’s when everything went downhill. Instead of the intimate harmonies of 15 kids before a Bible study, the entire congregation of 300 people took our songs and droned them out just like their heads were sunk into their hymnals. A totally square group of Church Adults stood in a cluster and made the altar into a stage with microphones and guitars and sang our songs with enthusiasm and boisterousness. Probably the same enthusiasm and boisterousness with which they had sung “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” and “If I Had A Hammer” when they were adolescents. The formally trained Western choral director would clap his ridiculously long and skinny arms with straightened elbows in perfect 4/4 time to encourage the congregation to “sing along!”

All of the magic was gone. The grups had taken it from me.

I have had an antagonism towards “contemporary” Christian music in all of its ever-increasingly over-produced styles ever since.

So, when it came time to find a new church in Chicago, I expected that after looking around for a while, I would find the type of church that was like the other churches I attended as an adult: mainline protestant churches with traditional worship where almost everyone was older than me and even the folks my age were different because they had kids. But God had other plans for me.

It was so freaking cold last December that I got grumpy just thinking about walking to churches that may or may not end up being a new and slightly uncomfortable experience, which was my usual modus operendi. I had tried once and, although it was entertaining, I was in no mood for further adventure. I had fought against a particular church down the street for a number of reasons: chiefly that they were all young and beautiful people looking for their Christian mates, my family didn't like the service they went to and my Dad was so over-the-top in trying to get me to go. However, I went because I knew it would be on my list eventually and I lacked the gumption to do research to find any other church. This was the Sunday before Christmas. So I went with my heart's fists up and many of my misgivings were confirmed. However, as I sat there, the Contemporary Christian Music inexplicably relaxed my metaphorical hands and calmed my heart. The music team is led by an African American man who leads it gospel-style, which is a sound that will always pierce me. So, as my heart quieted from its defensive state, a thought bubbled up that this was the type of music that I'd like to make next. Maybe. So, I went back on New Year's and was charmed into a state of worship again. The third week, however, the worst type of Amy-Grant-impersonator music was being made and my defenses went up immediately. But, I'd been offered by the assistant pastor to sit down and talk about my responses to the church, whether I intended to join or not. So, I called and had dinner with him.

I began the conversation asking what direction the church intended to take its music and he assured me that the past Sunday had been an exception. Then, I attempted to hold him hostage a little and told him that I would not join the church unless I could be on the music team. He laughed and arranged a meeting with the music director the next day. What I was most impressed with at both of these meetings with the leadership of the church was their willingness to be candid about their own frustrations with the church (which is only two years old) and then also with their reasons why they stay. I think that if they had presented me with a smiling, shiny image of this “great church that everybody should join!” I would have known them for fake and looked elsewhere. Instead, they were human and vulnerable and real and that's a relationship that I can really be a part of.

Since I've started attending regularly, I've found a few more people that are willing to be awkward and uncomfortable sometimes in order to achieve a greater spiritual goal, in addition to being reasonably enjoyable and personable. However, the early days when the music director was honest with me and appreciated my support are long gone. I cannot tell you where the change occurred, but I know that I began feeling that he was acting like a Church Adult when he would cancel rehearsals because no other vocalists but me showed up. Also, he is pretty unprofessional in how he actually conducts rehearsal. He took my feisty disappointment as a lack of support and it all went downhill from there. He is a jerk to me and I’ve been told that I just have to submit by the two head pastors and so I agreed and I do submit and I still get treated like a recalcitrant troublemaker.

I would quit the music team except that during the 20 minutes that we sing on Sunday morning, I can feel something-so-much-bigger-than-me with my whole body again for the first time since I was 16. I also know that without the responsibility of leading worship most Sundays, I would lose the impetus to engage people on anything more than a surface level and would ultimately stop going.

So, last night, he did not start rehearsal for half an hour, while he waited for the rest of the vocalists to show up, saying repeatedly, “Where is everyone?” as if I and the other woman who had come on time were no one. The bewilderment was also odd since no one else ever arrives before 8:00, despite the stated 7:30 tee time. Without having made this commitment to submit, I would not arrive before 8:00 because he always makes us sit around and wait for the band to finish up anyway and then spends at least the first 15 minutes of rehearsal talking before we ever start singing. Although for once he had planned which songs that we would sing on Sunday before rehearsal actually started, 3 of the 4 songs were not part of the regular repertoire. When he realized that he could not teach even 2 new songs to the vocalists in less than an hour for Sunday’s service, he simply canceled our participation on Sunday morning and spent the time polishing a song that we already knew. He’ll sing by himself on Sunday. I’ll have to stand in the congregation with my heart’s fists up again on Sunday. I pray to ask God to help me worship regardless of the style that is presented to me, but I’m just not there yet. The betrayal of the Church Adults is still too fresh in my heart. Leading worship helps break down those walls that I built to protect myself from Contemporary Christian Music and the betrayal that is associated with it, but when I don’t get to do that, I am stuck standing behind them again. Standing behind walls is lonely.

I guess I just have to come home some nights and cry to let out the tension of working with someone who seems to feel threatened by me despite the fact that the only thing I have ever complained about was the fact that he canceled so many rehearsals, which meant that I couldn’t sing on Sunday mornings. I know that I must contribute to the tension because, despite the fact that all of actions are impeccably correct, my defeated attitude must color the atmosphere. But I don’t know what else to do.

Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11th

I wasn't going to post about the anniversary today. But I was over on TunaGirl's site today and felt a need to respond to some of the comments to her post about not being interested in gawking at Ground Zero when she was in New York. Bonnie, one of her regular readers, wrote,

"I actually saw some website where someone had some little toy - a smurf or something. Their thing was to take it to tourist attractions & take a picture of it in front of the tourist attraction.

Yes. They actually did one at the WTC site. I couldn't believe it. I almost left a comment asking if they had thought for an instant about what had happened there whille taking their funny little picture, ha ha ha how humorous.

But then I thought 'Why bother?'."

I thought I would share with you what I wrote.

TunaGirl, I am completely of your mindset regarding Ground Zero as a tourist attraction. I personally have no interest. And Bonnie, I think your disgust at the Smurf picture is appropriate. However, the Smurf got me thinking about tourism. Isn't a major part of almost every tourist's agenda visiting some monument to tragedy or another? Ford's Theater, the Wall, other war memorials and statues dedicated to world-changing people who died too young. Birmingham, Alabama has created a sculpture garden to remind us of when children were assaulted with fire hoses and attacked with dogs.

We must make our history into a place to visit or it really will be forgotten in this world that sits in front of its TVs and computers and considers itself "global."

There will always be children who do not yet have the world-view to comprehend the magnitude of the event that is commemorated and adults who deal with the enormity of emotional impact through humor and lightheartedness. It is human nature and to rail against its occurance at a site that our generation considers sacred is a waste of time. The families of Civil War soldiers grieved just as much as the families do now. However, tours of the old battle sites are marketed as entertainment. My own disgust is reserved for local TV news that hunts down Chicago folks that haven't yet told the stories of their harrowing escape from the 103rd floor 5 years ago: a story that is also, coincidentally, bound to boost ratings.

People will be people. We all acknowledge horror when and how we can. Anniversaries and tourist destinations are a step toward keeping history remembered so that it is not repeated. Just as there is not such thing as bad publicity, there is no such thing as bad monuments, reagardless of how flawed the motives of the participants may be.

As we remember, all we can do is work to make the world a better place for people to live out their lives in all of the fullness that God intended them to have.

29,000 children (compare that number to how many died on this day 5 years ago) die every day, most of them due to hunger and preventable diseases. HIV and AIDS orphans more than 6,000 children every day. Our sense of violation is real and valid. Some perspective on our place in the world make solutions to our grief obvious.

I wish I had remembered to mention that several of the holidays that we take off from work for, such as Martin Luther King Day and Veteran's Day, have also been sullied by one-day-only sales and Law and Order marathons. Somehow, though, because it is someone else's tragedy, we do not feel such disdain for those people that aren't as respectful as we would like them to be.

I am not attacking anyone for their hypocrisy. I'm owning up to it right alongside everyone else. Hypocrisy is another part of human nature and it just wastes time to insist that it shouldn't be. But once we recognize it for what it is, I believe we are duty bound to try to make reparation for our own callousness toward the grief of others wherever we can. Although those others may no longer be alive, it is OK to pay that debt to those who are, even if they may not be related at all. All good done to others gets tallied on the same scoreboard.

If you're interested in the entire conversation, you can find Tuna's post here.

Friday, September 08, 2006

You lose

As I have a night to myself, without anything to do, I had intended to write a little bit about my life for your amusement. However, I haven't read a book in a long time and I always forget that I go a little crazy when I - unlike Gumby - don't walk into a book every once in awhile.

My roommate Paige moved out and it easier to breathe now. I liked her quite a bit. She was a little odd and treated Daniel and I a little bit like peasants, but she came out of her academic reverie and engaged me in conversation when I came home emotionally agitated in any way and, for that, I can dub the experience of living with her as positive. However, now that she is gone, my soul sits a little more comfortably and deeply in the armchair of home.

I mention Paige because my abandonment tonight of you, my gentle readers, is the result of a confluence of consequences of her departure.

The first of these is that I was able to unpack some of my books from storage. I haven't been living without books, mind you. When I moved to Orcas, I chose out maybe 30 books that I thought I might need or want to read while I was on the island and took those with me. (Yes, it is possible to need a certain book.) I did this when I was in college, as well, when I knew space was limited. I think I was the only freshman in college who could write an entire analysis paper on Greek mythology without ever hitting the library. Every book in that bibliography was part of the personal library that I had foreseen I would need. Anyway, I took about 30 books with me and added to that collection slightly as a result of working at a used book store and at the community re-use facility. Actually, I'm pretty proud of the restraint that I showed in not accumulating books that I really didn't need just because they were cheap and available.

Especially now that I see some of the dross that I have added to the gold of my personal library in the life I lived before Orcas. When Paige left two bookcases and an entire room of space, I went to my parents' house and chose a trunk-full of boxes randomly from the legion of boxes marked only, "books." Sometimes, "books - teacher" or "music books." I did grab two of the teacher boxes because my best friend, Susan, is doing her student teaching in high school English and I just happen to own most of the high school English canon to loan to her. But the other boxes were entirely random.

And I must say, I'm a little disappointed in my previous self. I guess I'm a little bit of a book collector. The books that I unpacked can fall into eight categories: books-I-will-read-again-every-couple-of-years; books-I-read-once-and-was-intrigued-enough-to-keep-them-in-case-I-ever-found-anyone-perfect-to-give-them-to; books-that-I-would-have-a-hard-time-finding-again-if-I-needed-it-as-cheaply-as-I-bought-this-particular-copy; books-every-self-respecting-science-fiction-nerd-should-have-on-her-bookshelf; books-written-or-edited-by-Isaac-Asimov (not the same as the previous category); books-I-really-should-read-one-of-these-days; the aforementioned books-I-might-need-for-lesson-plan-one-day; and Walden Two by B.F. Skinner. The part where I'm disappointed in myself is the part where about 10% of the books that I unpacked don't actually fit into one of those categories and are just taking up space because I bought them at a used book store for $.50 and now the used book stores won't buy them back. I should just throw those out but I'm too weak to do it.

On a side note, I also unpacked some of my old yearbooks and since I am dating a man that I went to college with but never met until recently, of course I looked him up. Ewww. Matt-the-man instills much more confidence in the heart of a woman that he's not going to slip something in her drink than Matt-the-frat-boy. All the hair in the world wouldn't convince me to choose that younger Matt. Let's thank God for the unlikely evasion of each other in a graduating class of only 350 from the years of 1995-1999.

However, back to the books. Among the first category were several Lord Peter books, which are the only mystery novels I will read and I have read most of them two or three times already in the last ten years. Hooray, Dorothy Sayers! I hav been pining for Lord Peter and Harriet Vane probably because of this new romance. Steven Gould's Blind Waves makes the short list of books and I read that a couple of weeks ago since I always have a couple of it on my book shelf. It is the perfect blend of romance, adventure and science fiction for a girl like me. The first time I read it, I absolutely fell in love with the relationship of the two protagonists and was delighted to find out in the afterward that they had been based upon Lord and Lady Whimsey. Of course! But ever since reading it again, I've been pining for the real thing and only had a copy of The Five Red Herrings, which must have been a concept novel because the transliteration of the dialect of some rural British Isle renders it almost completely unreadable. So, when I unpacked Strong Poison, which is the novel in which Lord Peter first meets Harriet Vane, the peace that my soul was already feeling because Paige moved out deepened, like added cushions into the space between my body and the arms of the chair. I've read that on the train the last couple of days and figured I'd finish it tonight before going on to do something constructive.

However, this is where the second consequence of Paige's leaving comes into view. Although I made chocolate chip cookies a few days ago, I ran out of milk after that first day. So, wanting cookies but having nothing to wash down their super-sweetness (I used milk chocolate chips), I made a pot of oolong tea. Did you hear that? I made a pot of tea! I have not made a pot of tea in a year because neither of the teapots that live in this apartment were ever clean. She used them in rotation, letting the dregs of one pot get cloudy and collect a film of oil from the deglazing of pans while using the other like a chain smoker, adding new hot water and new tea bags to the dregs as they cooled before she would accidentally let the active pot go unattended for a few hours because she actually left the house and then, upon returning, she would decide that the active pot deserved some time to form its own film (as if that were an inalienable right of teapots) and washed the pot with older dregs out, disposing of the week-old tea bags that had been floatingf laccidly in the liquid.

So, with a pot of tea, homemade cookies and the discovery that the second book of Lord Peter and Ms. Vane's courtship was also on bookshelf, you lose. I will not entertain you tonight with stories from my life. Really. You can't twist my arm.