Thursday, May 31, 2007

all the benefits of marriage

Just for you guys . . .


Video tip-off from Gay Men Rule.

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666

Greg Palast's new book, Armed Madhouse, discusses what may be the real reason behind the invasion of Iraq. The decline in Iraqi output due to the chaos of war has resulted in a tripling of oil company profits. More to read, weep, rend and gnash over this morning at OpEd News.

"The rise in the price of oil after the first three years of the [Iraq] war boosted the value of the reserves of ExxonMobil Oil alone by just over $666 billion," Palast wrote. What's more, Chevron Oil, "where [Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice had served as a director, gained a quarter trillion dollars in value."

You'd think the 666 alone would be enough to send the wingnuts shrieking off into an end-of-world death spiral. A consortium of oil companies working together to control oil prices would be an illegal act; that same consortium of oil companies buying politicians to manipulate us into war is a different matter. As much as I despise Bush and his band of thugs, and as much as I hate this war, I am revolted by my own tendency to think in conspiracies. It's getting harder and harder to avoid it, though. Just because I don't want to believe in a conspiracy, doesn't mean there isn't one.

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50 years in iraq

Our leader wants us in Iraq on a permanent basis, just like the 50 years we've been in Korea. I guess it will take that long to drain the oilfields. Read it and weep. Or gnash your teeth, rend garments. Whatever.

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i fell in love with vidal sassoon

Last night's Shear Genius was genius. But the best thing about it was seeing Vidal Sassoon who was entirely charming. Check out his website devoted to helping the people of New Orleans recover. Vidal = Angel. Who knew?

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addict

I was 13 years old when I developed a severe cough that lingered for months. Doctor-prescribed Tussionex did something beyond alleviating the cough, it changed my outlook, made me feel calm, peaceful, happy. I took it long after the cough went away, courtesy of that innocent doctor and a c. 1970 infinitely refillable prescription for narcotics.

I found other things over the next couple of years: diet pills, barbiturates, sedatives and pain pills of all kinds. By 9th grade, my school-oriented good citizen friends had vanished and I was running with a rough bunch of kids from the other side of town, and a whole bunch of adults whose sole goal on any given day was to get enough dope to get through.

"To get enough dope to get through" sounds so desperate and that wasn't how I saw them, at least not at the time. To me, a good little Lutheran girl from the right side of town, with all the advantages one could hope for except a mother, they looked glamorous and thrillingly outlaw, with an anti-establishment, anti-everything approach to life that was like nothing I'd ever experienced.

It was in 9th grade that I went to a party where people were shooting up. It shocked me. I watched a man sitting on the floor of the bathroom, blood everywhere, desperate to find a vein. He was trying to hit in his feet, his ankles, hands, arms, and it went on for hours. It sickened me and I just wanted to get out of that place, away form those people, back to my clean, wholesome life.

A few weeks later I was back. I'd watch the folks sitting around the table, 10-12, maybe more, using the same needle, shooting speed mostly. I got the nickname of "little doctor" because I could get veins for people when they couldn't, could find injectable sites where it seemed none existed.

We went on road trips in search of crystal meth. When the drug was plentiful, the party was on and spirits were high. When it ran out, of course, there was nothing but despair and a craving to find more of the only reason for living. White crosses would do, in sufficient quantity, but crystal was the magic. The manufacture of crystal was different then. There weren't meth cooks on every corner, stirring up a pot of speed with a box of Sudafed and some lye. There were three that I knew of in Oklahoma, another in Wichita. They were all flat out insane, extremely well armed, living in homes fortified with weapons of all kinds.

I did things I would never in my right mind have done, ever. In my right mind, even contemplating living the way I did for those years is repulsive and sickens me. I look back on those wasted years from 9th to 12th grades, the people I looked up to ~ always the biggest dopers, dealers, thieves ~ and I wonder how I could have gone so entirely off the rails.

By 12th grade, my dependency on drugs was frightening. Given a choice between my big three addictions, a bottle of vodka, a Krispy Kreme and a gram of meth, I'll take the meth every time. Crystal is a wonder drug and it is deadly and that doesn't diminish its appeal once you've done it for any length of time. I am grateful I survived it, those insane years, and still I crave that feeling of invincibility, of euphoria, intensity. The reality of it led to violence and debauch, but that first rush is as seductive as anything I've ever experienced.

I gave up the dope when I moved to Houston. That was part of the reason for the move, to get away from my people, from the dealers, from the old used up junkies who gave me drugs because they thought I was sweet. I took up drinking every day, thinking nothing of it. My problem was with dope, not alcohol. I drank a lot before Houston, but speed was my thing and alcohol seemed like nothing.

As I've written before, it kicked my ass, completely, absolutely, 100%, this lesser drug of alcohol. I can count on one hand the number of times I did dope after the age of 18. Daily drinking will do that for you, break a drug habit in just a few weeks.

When I hit the doors of AA for the first time in 1980, I was disgusted. I didn't want to be a part of those old guys in those rooms. I was pissed off, way too young to be a drunk, and there wasn't anyone else my age in the meetings I went to. I wanted to go to NA where the addicts were. Figured I could, based on my history. But the deputies were sitting in the parking lots of the churches where NA met. While that again raised the outlaw appeal of the addict, I was still drinking and couldn't afford an encounter with law enforcement.

I figure that Power I connected with after years in the fellowship had me under surveillance even then, guiding and directing my life at that point. I stuck with AA until AA started to change me. The old men who took care of me those first few years ~ showing me the truth of my alcoholism, showing me, too, the transformative power of the love one drunk has for another ~ they carried me through. It was in AA I reclaimed the decency I was brought up with, was able to clear away the significant wreckage of my past, to make amends to those I'd harmed. Those 12 steps changed me from the inside out, permanently.

I will always be grateful I ended up where I did. I'm grateful, too, to have had the experiences I've had. I am still attracted to the outlaws, to the seamier side of life. With 24 years of sobriety, with a wonderful life, a healthy, happy outlook, I don't live there anymore. I have no desire to, not really, and so much of it disgusts me. Still, the words of Savoy Brown will come to mind periodically and haunt me a few days at a time, no matter how wholesome and healthy my life becomes. I cannot explain the appeal, but it's there.

Some of ‘em wise men, some of ‘em fools
But I need a little something to keep my cool
I sleep with the sun and I rise with the moon
And I feel alright with my needle and spoon
I feel alright with my needle and spoon


It's like phantom limb syndrome, only with doper's life, gone forever but still there, hiding out, sending out the occasional frisson of desire.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

wtf? FDA blocks food safety testing

The Food & Drug Administration ~ the agency charged with ensuring our food and medications are safe ~ is blocking a Kansas meat company's efforts to ensure its product is free of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease).

Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well.

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former head of china's FDA sentenced to death

Seems a little harsh, as the charges were corruption and accepting bribes. I guess it wouldn't seem harsh to the folks whose kids died from ethylene glycol poisoning.

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fun stuff

snippets of rural life

In the absence of any decent coffee within a 50 mile radius of Blackwell, Oklahoma, I was forced to use the canned Starbucks ickiness to feed my habit and ward off headache, runny nose, irritability.

I made a number of runs to the Honk-N-Holler (not really, but it used to be that) to stock up. Tulsa's a friendly place, but nothing like Blackwell and Tonkawa. These folks rise to a level of friendliness unmatched anywhere.

Exiting the first store in Tonkawa, I was greeted by a late middle-aged man who practically shouted "Helloooo there miss, how are you this morning? Let me just help you there with that door, you doin' okay? Great. Glad to hear it. You take care, now. Have a real good day." I drove past the gas pumps and three folks filling their cars with $3.39/gallon gasoline smiled and waved at me.

My early afternoon run took me to a shop in Blackwell. As I got out of my car in front of the building, the clerk standing outside said "Hey, now, how you doin' there? I'll bet that little car is fun to drive, is it? Do you like it? Listen, Melinda's just inside, she'll help you with anything you need, I just had to sneak out here for a quick smoke, but I'll be right back in there. Nice car, ma'am."

Every car passed on the roads to and from Blackwell did the farmer wave: with hand draped over the top of the steering wheel, the hand just rises up, gives a quick back-and-forth jig, and the driver nods a greeting. By the time I'd made the 20 mile trip between Blackwell and Ponca the second time, I was waving just like the rest of the farmers, smiling, nodding, my hand wagging back and forth.

At the Oto tribal store, I met three people on my way to the Starbucks stash and was greeted with "Hey there honey, how you doin'?" and "Good afternoon, you doin' alright?" and "Howdy, missy," this last from a gentleman wearing dramatically embellished cowboy boots that rose to his knees, tight, tight jeans which nicely displayed his (ample) package, and jingly spurs.

I like friendly. I do it myself. These folks were being nice because that's what they do. It was an ethnically diverse bunch, these friendly folks, and that warmed my heart as well. Rural American isn't all bad, and I saw enough bumper stickers (example: "Your spirituality inspires me, your religion scares me") to give me hope that our innate decency and concern for others may be the thing that saves us all in the end.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

complete asshat rants on fired gay translators

Our government should be crawling on its hands and knees to retrieve all of the gay Arabic language translators who've been discharged. It's insane. If you can stomach it, you can watch this revolting asshat ranting about "social experimentation" on CNN. It's worth watching just to see the smug wingnut put in his place by a fetching military man.

And more from MSNBC:
“The military is placing homophobia well ahead of national security,” said Steve Ralls, spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a nonprofit group that advocates for the rights of gay military members. “It’s rather appalling that in the weeks leading up to 9/11 messages were coming in, waiting to be translated ... and at the same time they were firing people who could’ve done that job.”

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stakeout success, part II

For a moment, they just stared at us. Karen and I were eyeballing the older woman, assessing height, weight, age. She looked to be in her late '70s, early '80s, a beautiful woman with snow white hair, smooth complexion, sparkling blue eyes. She was the first to smile, looking at me and saying "I know you, you're Audrey's baby girl."

It was not my mother, this beautiful woman in the cemetary, but it was my mother's stepsister, my aunt, whom I've not seen since the 1960s. The woman with her was my cousin, and the gentleman her husband. They were delighted to see us and we spent over an hour talking and laughing and hugging each other.

It was wonderful to hear them talk about my grandfather and how much they loved him. They were leaving these flowers on my grandmother's grave for Curtis long before he died. It was wonderful to hear them discuss his fierce protectiveness over his five children, how he divorced a woman who mistreated them while he was out on a run. This was comforting, because we've often wondered if he had any idea what my mother suffered at the hands of that bastard in Medicine Lodge. I am certain now that he did not know, that he would never have left her in that house if he'd had any idea.

Curtis told them that May loved purple, so the blossoms were always selected with that thought in mind. They told us how much they adored my mother, spoke of her sweet personality, her kindness, her love for her kids, her sharp wit and intelligence. Of course we talked about her disappearance, and the shock of it, how unexpected, how certain they were that she had to be dead, or she could never have left "those little girls."

They told us they had often thought of us over the years and that, in combination with a few other incidents from this weekend, started me thinking about the depth and persistence of people and their attachments to one another. Karen and I discussed at length how we are oddly unattached, how we seem to be able to leave friendships and acquaintances with little thought after the leaving is done. Was it abandonment that created this ability to simply unplug and disconnect? It's impossible to know, but when I hear of two people I'd not thought of in 40 years telling me they had long wondered how I was doing, it's an eye opener.

The same thing happened with one of my mother's dear friends, a next door neighbor I've written about before. Dot was thrilled to see us out for breakfast Sunday morning, grabbing me and hugging me repeatedly, telling her friend that I was "Audrey's precious little girl." She told me with tears in her eyes that she missed us terribly and thought of us often. I have thought of Dot since May Day of this year, when I wrote a post about leaving flowers on the doors of neighbors. But I can't say I've thought of her in the last 32 years since I moved from home and left Elmwood behind.

At church, my sister was accosted by several people who assured her they had been missing her, she who has not lived in that town since 1972. I find it so strange, almost as if I've been living on the surface of a life that has depths of which I've been unaware. How many people are out there who think of "Audrey's baby girl" and wonder how she's doing these days? I have no friends left from grade school, from high school, college. It feels like I'm leaving a wake of relationships, connections, lost loves, all trailing behind me as I sail through this life. The really strange thing, and Karen agrees, is that we don't feel anything missing. Maybe we are more disconnected than we know, even from ourselves? It doesn't feel that way, it feels self sufficient and independent and appreciative of time spent in solitude. Lots to think about. In solitude. Heh.

But back to the newfound aunt and cousin: we've exchanged addresses and will keep in touch. I made a short film of all of us discussing the events leading to our reunion. I am humbled by the thought of people so caring that they would continue adorning the graves of people related by marriage alone almost 40 years after death. My "new" aunt, Miss Dorothy, is a belle and our belle hearts connected on a different level. I admired her superb French manicure and we discussed how badly our hair was blowing about in the damp wind. I will go visit her, because I would like to spend more time with her, find out about her life and more about my mother.

So it was grand and exciting and we were immensely relieved we didn't have to sit another day. We have new kin and I am not disappointed because I never truly imagined my mother could be alive after all these years. It was an exceptional weekend, an exceptional experience. Perhaps I'll figure out something about myself, about this strange ability to just walk away from people and places. Maybe I'll talk it over with my newfound aunt, a woman who clearly knows much about attachment, when I go see her at home later this summer. Oh, and next year, I'll be at the cemetary placing flowers on the graves of my grandparents, honoring the memory of these good people, reconnecting with a past that was lost to me.

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killer soda pop

I don't drink it, but my husband is a fiend. Damn, nothing's safe anymore.

stakeout success, part I

I spent most of Saturday sitting in the car with my sister, watching folks come and go from the cemetary. We had a lovely time visiting without pressure or intrusion. My sister and I have, in recent years, developed a marvelous friendship that's a joy for both of us.

Sunday, I set out on my own while Karen and Michelle went to church with my parents. Aside from there not being any decent coffee in the entire Kay County area, it was a grand morning spent sitting in my car in the rain, listening to old disco, then the monks chanting, a little Vivaldi, some Aretha, Talking Heads, a track or two of Benny Goodman. Between showers, I cracked the windows and the sunroof and experienced one of those sensory-inspired nostalgic time travels back to my uncle's enormous red barn on the plains of western Kansas. The barn was built by my two grandfathers and was as perfect and lovely as two precise, disciplined German men could make it. It was ornamented with gingerbread trim and was one of the tallest things west of Dodge City.

It seems I spent half my childhood in the hayloft, though that's in no way true. It's just that the memories of that sweet-scented barn were such a constant: the mysteries of the swallows nesting, the mud daubers' nests, the barn owls, bats hanging from the rafters, the horses stirring below while we played in the hay, the odd longing I felt looking west out of the upper door to a blank landscape of nothing but fields and prairie grass and a setting sun. That longing was a sweet sensation, almost an ache, and it's one of my earliest memories. I felt it Sunday morning as the scent of rain and plowed fields and freshly cut grass combined to take me back to that hayloft. It's a funny feeling and it seems to be an absolute awareness of the sweetness of the moment, the preciousness of this life, of being alive in a world full of possibilities.

I had a fabulous time in my own company and then with my sister, with Daddy and Pat dropping by to visit. Sunday rolled along, raining, raining, sister and I chatting, watching the occasional car pull up and park next to the tombstones of my grandparents. Many, many false alarms, as folks would park there, exit their vehicles, then cross the road. I had put some roses on their graves early Sunday morning, but by 4:00 or so we were ready to give up. The rain had drastically reduced the steady traffic typical for this time of year, and we assumed whoever was bringing flowers would have a little age on them, thus unlikely to set forth in the rain.

At 4:15 a car rounded the curve where we were parked, two middle-aged folks in front, a white-haired woman in the back. They stopped right by the graves of my grandparents and the male driver got out, rounded the car and looked at their graves. He opened the front car door and helped out a woman about his age, then the back door to assist an elderly woman as she stepped out.

They all three began circling the graves of Curtis and May, looking at them, pointing, obviously discussing something. The man went back to the car, pulled out a handful of hydrangeas, separating the bunch into two bouquets. They were dark blue, almost purple, and Daddy had told us the flowers were purple and there was always one bunch on each headstone.

Karen grabbed my wrist and said "is that her, is that mom?" We jumped out of the car and began a quick trot toward these strangers, three of them, now bent over the graves of my grandparents, placing the bunches of hydrangeas. As we approached, they all looked up at once and I said "those are my grandparents, are you related to them?"

It's 9:26 am and I must work, so will continue this story later this evening. Thank you so much, all of you, for your good wishes. This story has a happy outcome."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

proud gay papa flamingoes

More on Fernando and Carlos, plus baby pictures. Who can resist?

Looking again, I see that baby's got some biiiiiig feet. Something to smile about. Okay, really now, 'bye.

'bye

Off to the cemetary to do my duty on stakeout. I think I might have had a break in the crankiness that's afflicted me the last couple of days. Hope you all have a great long weekend.

Friday, May 25, 2007

no. fat. idols.

Fat girls, back in the closet. Who do you think you are, parading around up there? Know. Your. Place. Just go home.

AIDS and bill clinton and crixi

In response to Joe's post on Bill Clinton's success in raising funds to provide low cost AIDS drugs to 3d world countries, one of my favorite JMG commenters, Crixi van Cheek, responded with this:

It was the Thursday before Election Day 1992. I had dragged my tired wasting ass onto a PATH train to go over to Jersey City Hall. Bill Clinton, it was rumored, was going to give a speach specifically on AIDS! No other candidate, and in fact, no President had even said the word AIDS. Except for GHW Bush and that lizard in pearls, who referred to "AIDS Babies, the truly innocent victims" as if to infer the rest of us were somehow guilty. Anyhoo...there I was, anxious for some hope, any hope. I wore a long borrowed trench coat, cuz the damn IV I had came with a horrendous over the shoulder pump. I chunky, happy girl of the kind that naturally can identify a queer in need such as I was, befriended me and moved me to the front of the rope line.

Turns out the chunky girl was some sort of State Assemby person. But there we stood, the both of us, tears running down our eyes dumbfounded that this man stood there for a good long time and spoke about his personal losses to the disease and his commitment to stopping AIDS. Not only did he actually SAY the word AIDS, he had personal experience. His friends had died too. He had made deathbed promises to them. He had some of the same experiences I had.

At the end of the speach, there was a rope line of handshakes and thank you's....the cameras were turned away at his request, since he recognized that the stigma of AIDS was still a threat to those of us in the audience struggling with HIV. As he was shaking the hand of a woman to my right he looked at the campaign pins I put on the lapel of that borrowed trench coat.

One said "Lesbians and Gays for Clinton/Gore" the other "Veterans for Clinton" . Clinton, eying them both, said "I am counting on your Votes" plural addressing both issues. I responded with " Governor, you have my vote, but I am afraid it might be the last vote I cast for a president, I have AIDS." He stopped directly in front of me, he gently nudged and intrusive camera away, he held my hand in both of his massive mits and looked me directly in the eyes and said " Let me make myself clear, if you give me your vote on Tuesday I will do everything in my power to make sure you are here for my second term and beyond. You have my word."

The very fact that I am typing this comment in 2007 with a couple a hundred T-Cells compliments of a government subsidized medical program that restored my health during his administration is testiment to the fact that he kept his word. He will forever have my gratitude, not only for the treatments that would never have come to be had he not been elected, but for the simple kindness he expressed in under 30 seconds. He may be flawed, but he is a great man nonetheless.

Crixi Van Cheek | 05.25.07 - 11:16 am | #


Crixi's words broke the gloomy cloud I've been under with tears that haven't stopped yet. I will always love Bill Clinton for his humanity and for his compassion; he is a decent human being, flawed like the rest of us, but at the core, a good man. And I love my mysterious Crixi to pieces.

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boo hoo hoo, john boehner

John Boehner's tearful plea to congress to pass the Iraq supplemental funding bill indicates he remains grossly uninformed about 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq. As his own emperor admitted:

In August, 2006, when President Bush was explaining how the 9/11 attacks inspired his "freedom agenda," Cox News reporter Ken Herman of Cox News, interrupted to ask what Iraq had to do with 9/11. And the president set things straight once and for all.

"The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East," said Bush.

"What did Iraq have to do with it?" asked Herman.

"What did Iraq have to do with what?" responded a confused Bush.

"The attack on the World Trade Center," explained Herman.

"Nothing," admitted Bush, who went on to say that "nobody has suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack."

For emphasis, Bush repeated, "Nobody's ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq."


In response to Boehner's absurd and tearful plea, "when are we going to stand up and take them on? When are we going to defeat 'em? Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you, if we don't do it now, and if we don't have the courage to defeat this enemy, we will long, long regret it." Boo hoo hoo, Mr. Boehner, you idiot.

Listening to this jackass, I can only ask of the people of this country who care about democracy, who care about our soldiers dying every day in a pointless, fruitless, devastating war, when are we going to have the courage to defeat this enemy, this shameless, conscienceless band of idiots occupying Congress and the White House.

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avaaz.org ~ we're all that's left

this fucking war

I can't bear it. I can't imagine how the families of our armed forces feel. A year? And we still can't save lives with a mine resistant vehicle, or even get one cheap piece of equipment that might save a soldier's life?

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stakeout: progress notes

The stakeout continues, the happy news being that the cemetary is only open from 8 am to 5 pm, thus no need to arrive at dawn and leave after dark. That's assuming, of course, that my 89 year old mother wouldn't leap the fence after dark to leave flowers on the grave, thus eluding capture.

It's been great fun receiving updates throughout the day from my sister. Of course I recognize her cell number on caller ID at the shop, so I'm able to answer the phone with plaintive little whines along the line of "Mom?? MOMMY?? Where have you been, why did you leave us?" I don't know why it makes us laugh so hard, but it does. Somewhere in there is the healing effect of a shared dark humor in the face of tragedy.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

need some gay flamingoes

or something to brighten up this day. Can't shake this sense of doom and hopelessness.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

okay

From DailyKos . . .

Buck up. We still haven't completely lost this Iraq supplemental battle. And if we do, instead of crying and taking your ball home, resolve to fight even harder. We owe it to our troops in Iraq, to our families, to our neighbors, to ourselves.

We have a lot of deadwood to get rid of in DC -- both Democratic and Republican. We have to combat the lies of the right wing noise machine and its allies in the traditional media. We have to build an electoral machine that can go toe-to-toe against the GOP's machine and win -- even when Republicans aren't shooting themselves in the foot.

This movement is about fighting for what we believe in, doing the hard work to transform both our party and our nation. It won't happen at once. We'll have to do this incrementally one issue fight and one election cycle at a time.

Deep breath, shoulder shake, whap on the head. Okay. Onward.

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fernando and carlos

Finally, a baby of their own. I am sure the new little one will thrive under the care of its two daddies.

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we need a 535 more like him

stakeout

Thirty seven years after my mother vanished from the face of the earth, my sisters and I will be staking out the cemetary in Blackwell, Oklahoma. It's the place where my grandparents are buried, May and Curtis, and flowers have mysteriously appeared on their graves as long as anyone can remember.

My niece, who is mildly obsessed with my mother's disappearance, the only grandchild born before she vanished, is convinced it is her, Miss Audrey, making her way to the cemetary to remember her parents every year.

According to a cousin, the flowers are always there well before Memorial Day and no one has any idea who puts them there. May has been dead since the influenza epidemic of 1918; her death is the reason why my mother and her siblings were sent to live with the beast who abused them. Curtis had to continue his work as a trainman, which kept him away from home for days at a time. He couldn't know that May's sister's husband was a pedophile of the worst kind, a violent, twisted man. These things weren't news in 1920 and if they were known, they weren't discussed.

So is it my mother appearing at the cemetary, flowers in hand, to honor her parents? Is it even possible that she could still be alive and able at 89? Given her state of mind before she left ~ unmedicated bipolar with almost catatonic depressive episodes ~ it is really inconceivable.

Still, there's that hope forever tugging at my heart, a wish to finally find out what happened, what truly prompted her disappearance beyond our belief that her despair was ultimately too much to bear. Where has she been? How has she been? Did she ever find relief from her tortured past? Ever any comfort for her wounded spirit? I just wish I could tell her that it's okay, that I understand, that I love her still. I would like to let her know that it broke my heart, her disappearance, and that it was hard, of course, but that I survived and thrived and that I love my life.

I'm doing my part for the stakeout on Friday and Saturday. I might possibly drop dead in my tracks if I looked up to see my mother walking among the headstones after a 37 year absence. The news from the crew on stakeout this morning is that the flowers aren't there yet. They're in good spirits and filled with a kind of hope that is precious, no matter the outcome.

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no hope at all

To say that I am heartbroken and disappointed doesn't even come close to what I am feeling about the selling out of our soldiers and the American people. I will not, however, sit out the next election, as I am hearing so many discussing this morning. That is not the way to reclaim our country, we must continue to make our voices heard.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

jello salad days

Tony at EvilGanome touched me with his post about country people and dinner and jello salads. I miss simpler times, though I love my life today. Since I'm back to avoiding work today (I worked all week last week), I looked up my mother's recipe for Cottage Cheese Salad in the First Lutheran Women's Guild book of Our Favorite Recipes. This is one of those fundraiser cookbooks and it's full of recipes from the good Lutheran women I remember from childhood: Grandma Wolf, Mrs. Dorothea Gutzman, Mrs. Gonterman, my grandmother, my mother, all of those grand church ladies.

In the front of the book is a dedication: This book is dedicated to the Modern Home. In our home today, as always, life is centered around our kitchens. It is with this thought in mind that we, The Sponsors, have compiled these recipes. Some of them are treasured old family recipes. Some are brand new, but every single one reflects the love of good cooking that is so very strong in this country of ours.

Cottage Cheese Salad from Miss Audrey
2 pkg lime jello + 1 T sugar
2 c. hot water
Mix above ingredients and let cool 15 minutes. Add in order given:
1 carton country style cottage cheese (small curd)
5 marshmallows, cut up
1 c. mayonnaise
1 tall can Pet milk
2 apples, chopped
1 c. chopped nuts
1 c. crushed pineapple

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talking 'bout my generation

Tank in Montreal has the most fabulous YouTube video of seniors jamming in a recording studio. It's divine and precious and funny and affirming. If you're anywhere near 40 or 50 or older, it's a must see. Wonderful.

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just call me butch

Oh my, does this piss me off.

Women who display what many regard as traditional male traits - such as assertiveness, independence and ambition - are more often the targets of sexual harassment than "feminine" women. . ."

assertiveness? independence? ambition? fuck.

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friends

My friend Mick was just released from prison. I've known Mick for 15 years and about two years ago he went nuts, got drunk, went on a multi-state run of crazy behavior which included exposing himself to his wife's employer (who had mistreated Debra in Mick's mind) and peeing on her shoes, thus the sexual battery charges. He's out and I'm hoping he can stay sober.

Curtis is still locked up, my friend who went mad on crack after a couple of years of sobriety. The Board of Education did not approve and he lost his teaching job, wife, kid. He went nuts and barricaded himself in a motel room, ended up surrounded by cops and SWAT, TV cameras. He made a swan dive over the railing onto a parked car before he was dragged off in handcuffs.

Geo's dad died, and he divorced, both events triggering (or giving him an excuse for) a flat out hell for leather drunk which resulted in his arrest for assault. Geoff's the sweetest guy when he's sober. I met him as he was completing his master's and starting his own business. He's funny enough to do standup for a living.

These are three of my favorite men, sweethearts every one of them. Add some dope, some alcohol, and they are transformed into the kind of guys I read about in the paper, who show up on COPS or the evening news. Do you know any people like this? Folks you love to pieces who just can't get it together?

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Monday, May 21, 2007

strawberry shortcake

is there anything more divine? For years I've made the shortcake recipe on the Bisquick box. It turns out a slightly sweetened crispy top and bottom biscuit-textured shortbread, about perfect in my view. Martha assures me I should make actual shortbread, which I adore. What do you use?

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

how i learned to love a dog, part I

May 19, 2002, my husband tells me he has a terrible pain in his chest, right side. Feels like a muscle pull, maybe, but he spends the night sleeping upright. It feels better that way. The next day it's worse and the next night he sleeps leaning forward over a pillow so he can breathe.

Mike is really sick, has been for two years, but so much worse since October. His weight has dropped to 124 pounds; he's skeletal. His blood sugar's completely out of control and the pain from chronic pancreatitis is constant. Despite all of this, his gastroenterologist started him on Interferon and Ribavirin for Hepatitis C. It's the Hep C that's killing him, making a ruin of every organ in his belly, working out from the liver so scarred from cirrhosis that it's hard and barely working.

His pancreas is nearly calcified, the veins leading into the liver are enlarged and he has portal hypertension, a dangerous complication of cirrhosis. He's swollen with ascites, fluid building up in his abdomen. The spleen is huge and tender and he has gastric varices that are leaking slowly, keeping him anemic and weak and very tired. His platelets are extremely low, making the treatment for hepatitis a great risk. He sees his doc twice a week and has his blood checked weekly. He gets transfusions regularly, but they never help for long.

I mix his Interferon shots every Tuesday, following the instructions precisely, allowing the medication to settle and all of the bubbles to fade away. The drug makes him feel horrible, but he feels horrible anyway. He sleeps for days after the shot, but he sleeps all the time anyway. He can't eat, he's miserable, he's dying. I'm sure of it, that he's dying. I mix his drug every Tuesday. I give him the Ribavirin every day. I check his blood, give him his insulin. Sometimes I knock him out with Ambien if he's in terrible pain and nothing's working. I put him to sleep, I don't know what to do to help so I put him to sleep.

I try to put him to sleep when this pain won't go away, the one in his chest. It grows worse. He sleeps most of the day Tuesday after a terrible night, but wakes up around 6 pm and he can barely breathe. I want him to go to the hospital, he doesn't want to. He's been there a couple of weeks already this year, but the pain's worse, he can't breathe, and he relents.

I give him the shot first, though. The 12th shot of Interferon in this six month course he has to take for Hepatitis C, the result of a surgery in 1982 or maybe the result of snorting coke through a rolled up $20 passed around the table, who knows and what does it matter in the end? One method of acquiring this nightmare of a disease makes him an innocent victim and thus more worthy of sympathy. The other makes him a participant in his own destruction and makes his disease a shameful thing. Innocent or not innocent, he never signed on for this slow death, who would ever sign up for this, this horror?

We're at the hospital and the pain is excruciating. He has a high tolerance for pain, this man of mine. He's already on meds for chronic pancreatitis, now shots of morphine in the ER but they're not working, the pain just gets worse. X-rays, a CT, and a worried doc telling us there's a big shadowy thing on the right side of his chest. He's admitted by 3 a.m. and we spend the next 10 hours in a room with no information, with him fading in and out, he's out of his head, struggling for breath even on oxygen.

He's whisked away to the pulmonary lab at 2 p.m. and more tests. My childhood friend, now one half of Mike's ace medical team, holds his hand through the procedure of having his chest punctured to draw out the fluid from a pleural effusion. Suddenly he's back, he's coherent, alert. Still in pain, but he's back as the result of finally being able to breathe. He looks at me and I can see him. He sees me and knows me and I feel a rush of relief.

Brad tells me what's going on and says that this should help as long as it's not an empyema. Empyema, what the hell is that? It's a big clotted solid mass of infectious crap accumulating in the chest. Not to worry, though, it's something we rarely see and usually just in street people and folks without medical care. We haven't had one in the hospital in over a year. We'll do a chest tube to drain and he'll be fine, he's already better.

Children in white coats come to his room to puncture his chest and attach a pump to drain his chest of fluid. All is well, everyone's cheerful, his daughter stays for a bit while I run home to feed the cat, shower, change clothes. We have had angels from AA at the hospital all day, just there, praying, letting me know they care. At home I find a cooler with food and cards stuck in the door and flowers. It's a comfort to be loved when I'm scared out of my mind.

I'm back at the hospital in an hour, encouraged, hopeful. Mike's smiling, says the chest tube hurts, but he feels a lot better. There haven't been any nurses come by in hours. He needs a pain pill and is worried about sleeping. No nurse. Where are the nurses?

Another 90 minutes and still no nurse, though plenty of promises. He's seeming more agitated and restless. I give him his regular pain pill from the bottle in my purse and he asks for an Ambien so he can sleep. I go to look for a nurse because he doesn't look good. Nothing's coming out of the chest tube and he's not looking good. When I try to talk to him, he's not making any sense. The nurses promises to come. I go back to the room and wait.

This goes on and on and on. Two techs come and check his vital signs. I am watching him, knowing something's wrong. I ring for the nurse and an aide comes, looks at him, says he's just agitated because of the pain and it's almost time for more pain meds, don't worry. It goes on and on and on. I don't know what to do and I don't know if I am crazy, but he looks wrong, he's mumbling and moving around on the bed, when he opens his eyes he has this crazy unfocused look. I try to get him to hear me, to see me, and he doesn't. Something is wrong. Where is the fucking nurse?

Again I go to the desk, now I am agitated and crazy because no one is listening to me. I find the nurse in a side room bent over a chart. It's 2 a.m. and I finally convince her to come look at him. Just look at him. I run back to his room and stand in the door to be sure she's coming. She's dawdling along, it feels like a fuck you to my concern.

She walks in and I'm telling her again this is wrong, there's something wrong and she lifts his eyelid and whirls around and runs to the nurse's station. She runs back. Runs. This bitch I couldn't get to come to the room for hours is running. She has a pulse oximeter and she snaps it on his finger and it reads 50. Fifty. His blood oxygen level is 50.

She yells something over the intercom and suddenly the room is full of people and someone puts a tube down his throat and someone's squeezing a bag and I hear heartrate 196 and someone's on the phone with the doctor and I am standing in the corner watching all of this and thinking even if he lives I have just lost my baby. He will never be the same because I've sat by his bed thinking something was wrong and not knowing and trying to get help but did I try hard enough? and his blood oxygen has been half of what it should be, half, and I have done nothing, I have let this happen. If he lives this has ruined his brain, it's been hours, he is gone and I love him and he's gone and I let it happen, I watched it happen, I sat right here and watched.

Something clenches up in my chest and I feel as if I can't breathe and they take him away to ICU and I ask one of the nurses if he will be okay and she looks away and says I don't know, there's no way to tell, I'm sorry. The clenched thing in my chest shatters and I can't quit crying now and it will never stop, these tears, because I let this happen. I watched.

More to come in "how i learned to love a dog, part 2."

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read it and throw up

More on China's dangerous food export industry from the WaPo.

So pervasive is the U.S. hunger for cheap imports, experts said, that the executive branch itself has repeatedly rebuffed proposals by agency scientists to impose even modest new safety rules for foreign foods.

Unbelievable. I would never buy another thing from China if the country of origin were disclosed, but the basic ingredients can wend through several countries before ending up here on a grocery store shelf.

Would you pay more for food if you could be certain it was safe; if you could be certain it was manufactured here? I'll take our rat droppings and moth wings any day over what's coming out of China.

Friday, May 18, 2007

eating

So the eating thing is good and it's bad, it's marvelous and it's terrifying. I feel my tummy and think "I'm losing weight," and I remember the times I've been fooled into thinking so while I've steadily gained.

Afraid to weigh, afraid not to weigh. One month into this deal and it still feels like truth and freedom, but it's just scary as hell to give up my dieting life. Having done so with some success these last few weeks, I am surprised to find that there's energy for other things. I've revamped work so I can work less, accomplish more. I'm working out more, enjoying it like I used to, as if the pressure's off. Finally got through all of the business paperwork that was taking up the dining room table. Mike and I are going for long walks in the evening. I feel peaceful, content. Is this living? Feels like it. In between the scared, it feels like heaven.

skinny

My big old cat, Mo, is getting skinny. He began wasting away while we were at the beach a month ago. A trip to vet told us nothing beyond the fact that there's nothing blocking his innards and he "has the bloodwork of a kitten." Mo, formerly Big Mo, my 18 pound cat, now down to a mere 13 pounds. At 15 years, I know he's on borrowed time but the prospect of losing him is not a happy one.

dummy

His wife got colon cancer at 52. After the initial treatment, spots on her liver. She asked him to stay with her for the year it took her to die. He turned up at my shop yesterday to tell me about her funeral, this woman I knew hardly at all. Our connection was that I sold her some furniture 3-4 years ago. He's having a hard time, funeral's Monday. Has to get to Oklahoma City to pick up an insurance check. No money for gas, "is there something I could do for you around here to make some money? Will you come out and look at the antiques and see if you want to buy some? I'll be moving to Albuquerque, have to get rid of it all."

I am stunned by his loss, imagining myself in his position, remembering the wretched years I spent taking care of Mike, not knowing if he was going to live or die. I don't have any work for him at the shop. He looks exhausted, red eyed, a little scruffy, with that odor little boys get when they play hard out in the sun. I write him a check to get him to Oklahoma City and back, tell him he can do some things around the house in return. He thanks me profusely and tells me he'll be at the house at 9:30 a.m. sharp, he needs to stay busy so as not to think.

It's 12:20 p.m. Friday. I am a dummy once again, offering help that wasn't really asked for, not really (but that is, after all, the essence of good manipulation), but feeling an obligation because of my own blessings, the richness of my life, my great good fortune. This affliction of imagining myself in someone else's shoes feels like a curse at times. Then I remember the gratitude I feel in being able to do something for someone else, in being able to help. I feel blessed with the recognition that it is only the grace of the Spirit that allows me to sit in my home on a Friday morning, drinking coffee, listening to my husband talking to the puppies, feeling the sense of peace and contentment that comes from being healthy, happy and whole, from being in love and loving back.

I don't have that drive any longer, that urge to manipulate and con another human being, and for that I am grateful. It's worth quite a bit just to recognize that this morning. No doubt I will continue to be a dummy with the handouts. It always feels right at the time and I'm never in control of the outcome, even when one is planned; I do remember that as I'm making out the check, counting out the cash.

I'll think of it as a good fortune tax, a tithe as penance for my own bad old days of using people and thinking nothing of it. It's funny to me, too, that I am always surprised. The happy soul in me would rather think more of people than less, practice hope rather than cynicism, even if just for a bit. I swear off for a while, bypassing the many opportunities literally on every corner, and then I dive back in. I will remain a sucker with a checkbook, ready for the next sad sack with a tale of woe. Boo hoo, boo hoo? There, there now. I've got money for you.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

hearts and penises

Little pink hearts throwing out little pink and white penises. Sweet, yes? So much of sex in the garden. It seems the Creator had a one track mind.

shocked nearly to death

by the elimination of Tabitha and the leprechaun. More on my guilty pleasure here, where the brilliant Project Gay Boys discuss Shear Genius. No more smugness from me on the television front. I admit I'm addicted to Bravo's 9:00 Wednesday offering whether it's Project Runway, Top Chef or Shear Genius. Or maybe it's just the brilliant dissection by Tom and Lorenzo at Project:Gay and Project Rungay. Gotta love some boys whose "about us" is "Two fabulously glamorous fags judging things harshly." A moment's fabulous distraction in these bleak and gloomy times.

full blown instant relapse

On this nondieting thing. Absolutely stunning in its intensity and fueled by contact with a friend who's in the same liquid diet program I was in two years ago. She left and I went into a frenzy writing down every morsel of food I'd eaten during the day, planning how I was going to burn up 500-800 calories at the gym, what to eat tomorrow, how much I could lose by whenever, when should I weigh, have I gained weight and on and on and on. This madness is so deeply ingrained it may never go away. I crave dieting like I crave chocolate.

the destruction of american democracy

Say what you will about Al Gore, he strikes me as one of the most statesmanlike, intelligent and educated of our public figures these days. In a Time Magazine excerpt from his new book, he discusses what is happening to our democracy and the transition of the "well-informed citizenry" into the "well-amused audience."

Radio, the Internet, movies, cell phones, iPods, computers, instant messaging, video games and personal digital assistants all now vie for our attention—but it is television that still dominates the flow of information. According to an authoritative global study, Americans now watch television an average of 4 hours and 35 minutes every day—90 minutes more than the world average. When you assume eight hours of work a day, six to eight hours of sleep and a couple of hours to bathe, dress, eat and commute, that is almost three-quarters of all the discretionary time the average American has.

In the world of television, the massive flows of information are largely in only one direction, which makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation. Individuals receive, but they cannot send. They hear, but they do not speak. The "well-informed citizenry" is in danger of becoming the "well-amused audience."


And then, offering a little hope:

The democratization of knowledge by the print medium brought the Enlightenment. Now, broadband interconnection is supporting decentralized processes that reinvigorate democracy. We can see it happening before our eyes: As a society, we are getting smarter. Networked democracy is taking hold. You can feel it. We the people—as Lincoln put it, "even we here"—are collectively still the key to the survival of America's democracy.

if there aren't even any guard trucks for kansas

How the hell will we deal with this if the time comes? One more reason to despise the lying sociopath who got us into this disaster in iraq.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

to hell in a hand cart

Willym at Willy or Won't He inspired me to start planning the next trip and took me to a fabulous museum in Dresden with his beautiful words. The photo of the portly gentleman being trundled off to Hell by the devil, a feisty terrier nipping at his heels, is enchanting. And . . . well, never mind. Go see for yourself.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

ack! ack!!

Natural peanut butter! *gasp* @#*choke*!# How the hell do people eat this stuff?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

i did

Seven years ago in my back garden with 106 of our dearest friends and family in attendance, my sweetheart and I married after eight years of shacking up. I never wanted to marry, ever. I frequently expressed the belief that the best way to be together would be to live next door to one another, a duplex kind of arrangement where each party would have his or her own space and time spent together would be like a comfortable kind of dating.

Marriage felt to me like a transfer of property: "who gives this woman," all of that. Mike wondered whether, after eight years, it might mess up a good thing. He was married for 17 years before. My longest running relationship was five years and I cheated most of that time. We talked to the preacher of Mt. Zion Baptist Church where our AA home group met just in case we decided to go ahead. We wanted a real preacher and we're both lapsed, but the legendary Rev. G. Calvin McCutcheon stepped up to the plate for his AA kids. We backed off. We discussed. We backed off.

We did it anyway, mainly because a series of losses over a period of three months left his family bereft and all of us were soul sick after a suicide and then a three month death watch in ICU. His mother said "Daddy's dying wish was to see you two married before God." My parents said nothing but I knew, I knew. They're devout and believe in doing things the right way. They would not intrude, but they would be pleased. His mother's whining felt like a burr under my tail and riled up the contrary wild thing who lives within me. I hashed it over and over in my mind, trying to reconcile who I am in my heart and soul with being married and what that might mean. I sent out invitations.

We had said for a long time we were going to get married, even set a date twice. Over the years, I noticed that it takes more to get married than just announcing intentions. Our intentions were true, but our follow up was lacking. We timed the invitations to reach our friends on Monday and Tuesday so we could delight in their shock at meeting Tuesday night. We planned breakfast in the garden for 110.

The date approached and we fell into a kind of inertia. I had 1400 plants I'd grown under lights yet to put out in the garden. We wanted the roses to be in full bloom, the foxgloves to be standing at attention. I dug and planted, Mike queried "what do you think, honey?" I was swept up and rescued by Miss Pam, Michael and Vonchelle. My dear AA friends, one divine lesbian, one fabulous gay man and one angry black woman, came to my rescue and took over everything food-related. The planned breakfast in the garden suddenly turned into a splendid affair.

The date approached. Our friends kept us surrounded, constantly dropping by, calling, almost as if they were afraid we'd change our minds. Saturday, May 13 dawned cool and crisp and beautiful, a rarity for Tulsa, where May brings hot weather.

It was a glorious morning. The roses were perfect, the foxgloves waving in the slight breeze, there were flowers everywhere. And then there were people everywhere and the inimitable Tommy Crook playing jazz from the deck and the preacher arriving with his entourage and my parents standing up with me and Mike with his mother and our dear friend Ralph standing in for Mike's dad.

I was barefoot in a blue dress under pink roses in the arbor guarding entry to the vegetable garden. My honey took my hand and smiled and there were tears and there was applause and music and sunshine and sweet scents and it was absolutely glorious, absolutely.

And so I was married, something I never wanted to do, but married to my soulmate, my sweetheart, the man I will love forever. I mourned the passing of a different view of myself just a little. I took a deep breath and thought this act might finally have made me feel like an adult. Then I exhaled and realized that I was still myself, still me, not swallowed up or consumed or possessed.

It was the most beautiful day, the most beautiful wedding. Seven years ago today, I did. Married. It still blows me away.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

hero jack russell

I'm sure everyone has heard about little George, the Jack Russell who "rescued" five children from attack by a pair of pit bulls. Along with everyone else, I am pleased that the children were unharmed and saddened that feisty, brave George lost his life.

I've just wondered all week, though, if any other Jack Russell owners have been thinking what I've been thinking; that is, that the saving of the kids was just a fortunate accident.

George the Jack Russell was out and about unsupervised. Sensible Jack owners will think "oh noooooooo!" He was foolishly left off leash, the pit bulls were big dogs, and likely a bit belligerent. I have no doubt George perceived their intended aggression toward the kids, but here's what George was thinking: "Oh no you did not just come into my territory. Who do you think you are? Pit bulls? Whatever. You mangy ass punks are going down."

And so the fight and the happy byproduct of saving some kids and the sad end result of a fearsome, immense, stout-hearted, ferocious grizzly all wrapped up in a teensy little Jack Russell suit taking on two pit bulls, having the fight of his life, kicking pit bull ass all the way to the end.

I am smiling as I think of feisty Jack Russells everywhere. No other dog like them, these fearless, intelligent little terriers. I've told the story of George to my own small Jack, Bill, and our half Jack, Betty. Brave George and his purple heart will become a legend to aspire to for JRTs everywhere.


As small terriers will forever after, Bill and Betty reenact George's brave fight.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

1931 nude art deco statue? Southtown theater?

Oh help me! I neeeeeed her . . . I knew I should never have looked at eBay. I swore off a year ago. But I. Need. This. Seven Foot. Goddess. There's even a photo of her standing in place in the theater. I have just the place for her. Stop me before I evidence the crazed "materiality" of my devil tarot card!

come here, let me fork you

with my tail. Good heavens, visiting Tony this morning, I took his little fun test to find out my tarot card. Test yourself, I need some company here in Hades.

I just read this again and please. Materiality? Oh wait, there's the addiction thing. Oh shoot, abandon, wild behavior. Well then. But really, out of all of my wholesome, sweet little answers (yes, I like to read!) I end up this way.


You are The Devil


Materiality. Material Force. Material temptation; sometimes obsession


The Devil is often a great card for business success; hard work and ambition.


Perhaps the most misunderstood of all the major arcana, the Devil is not really "Satan" at all, but Pan the half-goat nature god and/or Dionysius. These are gods of pleasure and abandon, of wild behavior and unbridled desires. This is a card about ambitions; it is also synonymous with temptation and addiction. On the flip side, however, the card can be a warning to someone who is too restrained, someone who never allows themselves to get passionate or messy or wild - or ambitious. This, too, is a form of enslavement. As a person, the Devil can stand for a man of money or erotic power, aggressive, controlling, or just persuasive. This is not to say a bad man, but certainly a powerful man who is hard to resist. The important thing is to remember that any chain is freely worn. In most cases, you are enslaved only because you allow it.


What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

vacation denied

You do not get to take two months off from the work of getting your country on its feet while American soldiers are dying there every day and the American people are paying for this disastrous civil war.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

another conversation

Husband to self: I am unhappy with myself today, feeling a little annoyed that I've accomplished nothing of late. I am lazy. Where is my wife? Ah, there she is.

Husband to wife: What are you doing. Are you ever going back to work? You need to get something done today.*

Gentlemen: Explain this to me, please. What is it with y'all that you get irritable with yourselves and lash out at your devoted, loving, perfect, exemplary, charming wives? What is this thing? Is it something genetic? Is it located on that extra trio of extremities y'all have? Is it the triune nature of those bits of flesh that cause you to believe in your own divinity? It seems that something occurs which causes the central character of the trinity to migrate toward the noggin. Explanation, please. A longsuffering (at least two hours of dickheadedness) wife awaits.

*And I actually have been working of late, which is why it makes me want to whack him.

stealing

She's a little Yorkshire Terrier and she's often out of her yard. Such a tiny thing, she slips easily through the gaps in the fence. She's bright eyed and friendly. Not my kind of dog, necessarily, as I'm drawn to the larger, more rough and tumble terriers, but feisty and sweet and full of life.

Walking our two terriers in the rain yesterday afternoon, I caught a flash of movement in the shrubs of a house several doors down from the yorkie's. I looked again and there she was, running hell for leather from back yard to back yard, scratching at the fences, trying to dig under them. She was drenched, her silky hair running with water.

Mike took our two leashes and I ran after her. She was so frantic it took a few minutes for her to see me and to realize I was calling her. When she did, she ran to me and jumped into my arms (she is not an 8" Super Terrier, I was bent over, but still). She was trembling and looking around in fear and yes, I am one to anthropomorphize dogs, but this dog truly was frantic and afraid. She was. I was afraid for her. She was running around within two doors of the house where a vicious pit bull killed a cat six weeks ago.

I walked her back to her home and pounded on the door. I know the woman works nights, so it took a while to wake her up. "Oh, I didn't know she was outside!" And then she took this wet, terrified little dog, who was lost in the rain and couldn't find her way home, and I thought to myself I am going to steal that dog.

the most radical thing

I've written before about Anne LaMott, one of my favorite writers. I've treasured her words in the essay "My Secret Body" since I first came across them, but always with a kind of sadness because I knew I could never do what she did. I would read this essay over and over, always thinking lucky Anne, she's living in God's grace." I never thought I'd be able to say "me too." But you know what? Me too.

This is the story of how, at the age of 33, I learned to feed myself.

To begin with, here's what I did until then: I ate, starved, binged, purged, grew fat, grew thin, grew fat, grew thin, binged, purged, dieted, was good, was bad, grew fat, grew thin, grew thinner...

I had lots of secrets about me and my food and my body. It was very scary and obsessive, the way it must feel for someone secretly and entirely illiterate. . . In July 1977, when I was 23, my father was diagnosed with brain cancer, and one week later, I discovered bulimia. I felt like I'd discovered the secret life, and I learned how to do it more effectively by reading articles in women's magazines on how to stop doing it. I barfed, but preferred laxatives. It was heaven. I lost weight....

I would try to be good, in the Puritanical sense, which meant denying my appetites. Resisting temptation meant I was good -- strong, counter-animal. But the jungle drums would start beating again....

Luckily I was still drinking at the time. Then all of a sudden I wasn't. I quit in 1986. I had all these sober people helping me, and I told them almost every crime and secret I had, because I believed what they said, that we are as sick as our secrets. But I couldn't tell anyone that I couldn't stop binging and purging, being on a diet, being good, getting thin, being bad, getting fat....

Finally, one day in l987, I called a woman named Rita Groszmann, who was listed in the Yellow Pages as a specialist in eating disorders. I told her what was going on, and that I had no money, and she said to come in anyway, because she was afraid I was going to die. So I went in the next day, and have not been bulimic since. That's not the miracle, though. The miracle is that I haven't dieted, either....

But she said that I had some choices. They were ridiculous choices. She proposed some, and I thought, this is the angriest person I've ever met. I'll give you a couple of examples. If I was feeling lonely and overwhelmed and about to binge, I could call someone up and ask them if they wanted to meet me for a movie. "Yeah," I said, "right." Or here's another good one: If I was feeling very other, very sad and scared and overwhelmed, I could invite someone over for a more or less regular meal, and then see if he or she felt like going for a walk. It is only because I was raised to be Politeness Person that I did not laugh at her. It was like someone detoxing off heroin, itching to shoot up, being told to take up macramé. Something to do with those nervous fingers!...

To make a long story ever so slightly shorter, she finally asked me what it felt like when I was hungry, and I could not answer. I asked her to explain what it felt like when she was hungry, and she described a sensation in her stomach of emptiness, an awareness of appetite. So for the next week, my assignment was to notice what it felt like when I was hungry. It was so strange. I was once again the world's oldest toddler....

So I'd feel the scratchy emptiness in my belly, and I'd mention to myself that I seemed hungry. And then I'd ask myself, in a deeply maternal way, what I felt like eating. "Well, actually, I feel like some Cheetos," I might say. So I'd go and buy some Cheetos, and put some in a bowl, and eat them. God! It was so amazing. Then I'd check in with myself: "Do you want some more?" I'd ask. "No," I'd say. "But don't throw them out."...

I had been throwing food out, and wetting it in the sink, since I was 14; since I'd been on a diet. Every time I broke down and ate forbidden foods, I threw out and wet what was uneaten, because of course each time I was about to start over and be good again. "I'm hungry," I'd say to myself. "I'd like some frosting." "OK." "And some Cheetos." So I'd have some frosting and some Cheetos, for breakfast. I'd eat for a while. Then I'd check in with myself, kindly: "More?" "Not now," I'd say. "But don't wet them. I might want more later."

I ate frosting and Cheetos for weeks. Also, cookies that a local bakery made with M&M's instead of chocolate chips. I'd buy half a dozen and keep them on the kitchen counter. It was terrifying. It was like knowing there were snakes in my kitchen. I'd eat a little, stop when I was no longer hungry. "Want one more cookie?" I'd ask. "No, thanks," I'd say. "But I might want one later. Don't wet them."

I never wet another bag of cookies. One day I woke up and discovered that I also felt like having some oranges, then rice, then sautéed bell peppers. Maybe also some days the random pound of M&M's. But from then on I was always able to at least keep whatever I ate down -- or, rather, in my case, up. I went from feeling like a Diane Arbus character, seen through that lens of her self-contempt, to someone filmed by a friendly cousin, someone who gently noted the concentration on my face as I washed a colander of tiny new potatoes; each potato holy, each action tender.

Over these years, my body has not gotten firmer. Just the opposite in fact. But when I feel fattest and flabbiest and most repulsive, I try to remember that gravity speaks; also, that no one needs that plastic body perfection from women of age and substance. Also, that I do not live in my thighs or in my droopy butt. I live in joy and motion and cover-ups.

I live in the nourishment of food and the sun and the warmth of the people who love me. I tell you, it feels like a small miracle, to have learned to eat, to taste and love what slips down my throat, padding me, filling me up, and it is the most radical thing I've ever done."


Anne LaMott's entire beautiful essay on getting better is here, at Salon.com.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

speed eating

This strange nondieting process I'm involved in has made me aware of so many things related to food, how I think about it or don't, how I use it or don't. It is truly eye opening, but the thing I've really been noticing the last few days is how fast I eat when not paying attention.

Noticing is a big part of this deal, as in the suggestion to "notice" and "not judge" what you're eating and why. Example: If I were to find myself chowing down on a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough, it's suggested (nothing is mandatory) I make every effort to silence the thuggish drill sergeant who resides in my head. Instead, I'd comment to myself something like this: "Isn't it interesting that I'm eating a gigantic bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough when I'm already stuffed with that huge dinner." I'm happy that I haven't had to "notice" any of these things, maybe I'm still in a pink cloud phase, but the concept interests me as it's unlike anything I've ever even considered before.

But this speed eating thing is the real shocker. As background, I really, really feel an urge to read when I eat. It's a means of distracting from what I'm eating, how much, definitely, but it's also another pleasure for which there's never enough time. It's an old habit, too, one I developed as a child, hiding out from the sadness in my family.

I'm not reading as I try this eat what you want, intuitive, whatever the heck it's called eating thing. It's suggested that we not distract from the food. So I'm sitting and eating only. Paying attention. Actually tasting the food I have in my mouth. And that is what is so strange. I have found that when I really take the time to taste it, not just tossing it through the air in my mouth and down the dark passage, it's an entirely different experience.

Did y'all know this? Am I the last person on earth to realize that we really have to chew food to taste it? I hate the picture this paints. It hardly seems proper to be wolfing down one's food (but at least they're tiny bites, just fast and airborne). I think I've eaten half the food in my life without it ever touching my tongue. Here's another shocker: small amounts of good food are quite satisfying when I really taste them. I feel like an infant. I also feel really, really happy about this.

tell me again what's wrong with government regulation?

Another appalling story out of wholly unregulated, purely profit-motivated China.

Monday, May 07, 2007

water

In my warehouse. Sigh. Sweep, suck, squeegee, sweep, suck, squeegee, sweep, suck, squeegee. Of those three, only one sounds like any fun. Why do we like old buildings? Anti-rain dances and desert-like thoughts appreciated.

dream

Wouldn't it be heaven? That's me on the walk, my servants on their knees. From the very feisty I Need More Cowbell. A dream indeed.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

groceries

It's not that I don't eat the wrong things, understand, but that they are never allowed to brazenly go into my grocery basket, because that would somehow make me aware of them on a different level and would show the world that I am not trying.

I have to secretly acquire the things I actually eat while at the drugstore for some legitimate reason. I must skim them off the shelves as I pass through the quik stop on my way to the bottled spring water. Wrong things aren't allowed in my shopping basket. This eliminates whole aisles at the grocery store and makes shopping a breeze.

What's not allowed: cream cheese, bagels, jam, peanut butter, white potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, avocados, bananas, whole milk, 2% milk, cereal, bread, sugar, flour, mixes of any kind, cream, hot dogs, ice cream, frozen anything, chicken with skin, lunch meats, braunschweiger, boudain, rice, pasta, beans, butter, full fat cottage cheese, flavored yogurt, chips, saltines, ritz, any cracker of any kind, any cookie of any kind, any cake, pie, anything sweet, anything starchy, nothing with white flour or corn syrup or sugar higher than fifth on the ingredient list, barbecue, ketchup, barbecue sauce, chili, syrups, biscuits, croissants, fruit juices, corn on the cob, creamed corn, grits, hominy, peas.

What's allowed: skim milk, skinless chicken, leanest ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes, citrus fruits and berries, low fat cottage cheese, spinach, cabbage, peppers, vinegar, low fat salad dressing, celery, frozen mixed vegetables.

I stay hungry when I eat what's allowed. I usually don't. I feel guilty when I don't, shameful, as if I've done something wrong, unseemly, unacceptable. This conflict between what I think I should eat, what I actually do eat, and what meets the standards of my internal diet policewoman is exhausting. It's also expensive and it's a waste of a life to live in this craziness.

I've had over a week free of the kind of food obessed lunacy that has plagued me most of my life. I've had weeks before, that's nothing new. But the silence in my head is unprecedented. I may be kidding myself once again, but the experience of this quieting of the obsession is pretty remarkable.

I went to the store tonight and no aisle was off limits. I'm not yet brave enough to bring peanut butter into the house, but there are bagels and cream cheese and much of the rest in my kitchen right now and they are silent. They're not speaking to me, I'm not obsessing about them. Is it possible that food and I can coexist in peace? I'm hopeful.

goodbye greensburg

As a child, I spent summers on a lake outside of Medicine Lodge, Kansas. It was called 99 Springs and was a private club with 100 members and half that many cabins scattered around the lake, most of which dated back to the '20s. My mother grew up on that lake and lived there in the '20s and '30s when there was a dance pavillion built out over the water. Big bands from Wichita and Kansas City and Denver would stop in and play as they traveled from one booking to the next.

It wasn't a fancy place, but I loved it and still do. It was so beautiful, nestled in the flint hills of western Kansas, spring fed and surrounded by immense cottonwoods. Summers spent at 99 Springs had a positive impact on my childhood and the experience of growing up in that place we called "the cabin" grounds me more than any other.

So my heart broke a little to read that Greensburg, Kansas, a short distance from our lake at 99 Springs, was wiped out by a tornado. Greensburg lies between the cabin and Dodge City, where the majority of my kin still reside. Greensburg was the destination for summer outings, for picnics next to the World's Largest Hand Dug Well! and the incredible Pallasite Meteorite! It was a pretty place of small, tidy homes, a grand main street that held its charm despite the modernization that afflicted nearly all small communities in the '60s.

On the western plains of Kansas, one has to look a long while before finding anything of note. The horizon must be the flattest on earth, trees are evidence of farm houses or the occasional rare trickling spring. The only variation in the landscape is found in the colored coats of the cattle and the soft green of winter wheat.

From the news reports, 95% of Greensburg is gone. I can't imagine it. That sweet little town of good Kansas people completely destroyed. We live here ~ tornado alley ~ with an uneasy awareness of the power of those funnel clouds and the humbling knowledge there's not a thing we can do about them. I always wonder why it couldn't have just gone around? Kansas is practically empty out there. Why run right over the town?

In my home town, the tornadoes invariably wiped out Blackwell, 20 miles away, and skipped right over Ponca City. We'd watch them swirling overhead with amazement, then hear on the news that Blackwell got hit again. Strange things and fascinating, until they kill people and destroy whole towns. It's a sad day and my heart goes out to the people of Greensburg.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

we should all look like models

shouldn't we?

conversation

Part of the process of implementing the recovery in It's Not About Food is to pay attention to real hunger, to find that elusive sensation of being full, and possibly of most importance, to eat what you want to eat.

This is, of course, anathema to me, a career dieter. I am trying, though, and I'm liking the results. So this was the morning's conversation between Dieting Me and Recovering Me:

Recovering Me: I think that's real hunger there. What to have for breakfast?

Dieting Me: There are those 200 calorie protein shakes, how about one of those.

RM: I don't know, what about some raisin toast?

DM: TOAST??? Bread?? Are you kidding????

RM: Nope, raisin toast sounds good. Maybe a piece of fruit, cup of milk. It's whole wheat raisin, if that makes you feel better.

DM: Hardly, wheat is poison. Look at the carbs in that breakfast, are you insane?

RM: Let's add some butter to the toast.

DM: Freaking BUTTER??? 100 calories a tablespoon???? Well . . . I guess it's okay on Atkins, but not that bread or that banana you're eyeballing. Or the milk. Oh hell, if we're going to have toast, make two slices. Two toaster slots, two slices of toast. It comes in pairs. Bread is always paired up, just like the animals in the Ark, two by two.

RM: I think I'll just toast one and see how it goes. Can have another any time I want, I think one's probably enough.

DM: If you're going to eat toast, it comes in pairs, that's all. One is not enough, it will never be enough. If you're going to eat bread it's going to set you off and you'll end up eating the whole loaf and a stick of butter too.

RM: It's okay, you can trust me. It really is going to be okay.

And maybe it is. Just for this moment, it is.

Friday, May 04, 2007

whatchareadin?

What's on your bedside table, next to the sofa, what are you reading or planning to read? In keeping with my current obsession to get over this food obsession (insert smiley face right there), I'm reading It's Not About Food, but I'm also in the middle of The Velveteen Principles and a book about meditation and stress reduction. I just finished Chili Queen, which was great and which inspired me to hunt up a little info about chili queens of San Antonio. Almost forgot, I keep Stillmeadow Seasons by the chair in my sitting room. Gladys Tabor lived with her female lover and kept a farm for years. She's a grand writer and I love the idea of her. You?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

ugly


I have packrat tendencies, always have had. I used to really like my little treasures; less so these days as I am seeking simplicity in all areas of my life. It occurred to me this afternoon that work might be a little better if my office was a little more attractive. Just a little.

The photo above is the wall to the right of my desk. My warehouse is in a complex of buildings right off Route 66 in midtown Tulsa. It doesn't look like a warehouse and it stretches nearly a block in length, though it's kind of skinny.

It is ugly, though. We wholesale antiques to a number of dealers across the country, sell some things online and to local designers. I make it very clear that we are a wholesale warehouse so I don't have to (a) dress up to go to work or (b) tidy up that which will only get messed up again once a new truckload comes in. The photo below is my phone book, a compilation of former employees, suppliers, delivery people, one accountant, two accountants, a friend now in prison (Mick ~ VIP), friends free to roam, plus the phone number of the lady living next to my building, the one whose Beagles yodel in my back window and frequently make clever escapes.



I had a pickup at the shop yesterday, a rare sale to a "homeowner" who lived nearby. Homeowner is the (jaded) dealer's term for those ninnies who flat out will not quit bidding on something at auction (usually something I crave for myself) and who drive the prices to dizzying heights and thus bring great cheer to auctioneers. This homeowner was trying to load a set of six chairs (beautiful bird's eye Queen Anne with carved knees) into her tiny little car. It was about to rain, so I threw them in the back of my pickup and we headed to her house.

I helped her carry them in because I'm nice like that, and the moment I walked in the door I knew she had a problem. Boxes stacked to the ceiling in several of the rooms. Eau de cat from overflowing litter boxes. Papers everywhere, piles of fabric, clothing, and more boxes, boxes, boxes.

I am pretty sure she's a hoarder. I am pretty sure that these chairs will go the route of the other three sets of six that were strewn about the living and dining rooms.

This is not new. I've had a couple of major buyers over the years who had serious problems. In one instance, a woman died in her Chicago apartment surrounded by so many unpacked boxes she could not move from one room to the next except on little 18" wide paths. Her estranged husband contacted me after her death to see if I'd take back the thirty eight (38!!!) large pieces of furniture I'd sent her in a six month period. I had started by sending her small treasures via FedEx and ended up sending her huge pallets of furniture which, she assured me, would be precisely what was needed to redecorate her new home.



This last photo is a typical shot of my computer: not open to email, in the midst of reading the latest Truthdig or similar. Anyway, I look around my office and I think I could spiff it up a little, maybe frame my anti-Bush propaganda and the newspaper clipping of the doc who saved my little husband's life. I could take all of those little bits of paper down from the walls, paint them. But is it worth it? I'm just not sure it's worth the effort. It's not a self esteem thing, I would be worth it, but I don't really care. I only feel like I should care when strangers come to call. When I want a change of scenery, I can just walk out the door and go home. Pretty home, no ugly issues there. What would you do with this nasty ass office? Anything? In a way it seems to fit the rough and tumble warehouse atmosphere. Maybe I need some Playboy pinups to really give it that authentic aura. Do you work in a pretty place? Would this drive you mad?

quiet

My trip to the eating disorders therapist was a disappointment. Since I have my cranky old broad pants on today, I can say that she was a child who seemed to have insufficient experience to deal with a hard core low bottom food drunk like me. Nevertheless, it inspired me to try to look at this chronic problem with new eyes.

I am rereading It's Not About the Food and praying for an open mind. I am a diet addict. It scares the shit out of me to not be actively dieting, though that is ridiculous in itself. I have gained 100 pounds while dieting every day. The key to that accomplishment is to start over every day or two. Starting over requires a last supper the night before and so it goes.

Not dieting is scary, but the interesting thing is that in trying to change the voice in my head, the shrill constancy of that bitch with the whip, I've been having moments of quiet in there. There have been moments of not thinking about food or dieting or my body or eating, weight loss, weight gain, exercise, fitness, food food food food food. One memorable day this week I went an entire afternoon without even thinking about food. That is a miracle. Could it really not be about the food? Really?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

more than you ever wanted to know

about duck dicks. "Gazing at the enormous organs, she asked herself a question that apparently no one had asked before. 'So what does the female look like?'" I'm going home now.

Oh dear: immediate access is now blocked to that grand article. If you'd like to read more about the immense corkscrew-shaped dangling gigantic duck penises, you can log in with privacyyes and blowme. Other options for signing in to this and other sites requiring registration can be found at the very useful site www.BugMeNot.com.

people with courage

topsy turvy world

A fake Texan hailing from Connecticut gets a purple heart, despite having gone AWOL on his own service commitment. Another clown, a war criminal who sold out our country with his silence, gets a Medal of Freedom. George Tenet held his tongue until he could unleash it for $4 million. God help us. Where is the shame with these people?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

sweetness

On this day commemorating Mr. Bush's announcement four years ago of "mission accomplished" in Iraq, I'm feeling a little not sweet. But it is, after all, May Day, the day when we are supposed to focus on the beauty of the world and everything in it, to take a run around the Maypole, to deliver flowers in secret to unsuspecting folks.

As a bitty girl, my sister and I would gather flowers the night before, then we'd wrap the stems in moist paper towels surrounded by waxed paper (does anyone even use waxed paper anymore? is it sold any longer?). We would fit these inside of paper doilies stapled to make a triangle-shaped basket, then a ribbon for the top. After dark we'd creep about the neighborhood leaving our small lacy baskets of flowers on doorknobs of people we especially liked.

The bubbly extrovert Dot Cowan got one every year. Mrs. Partridge, she of the chocolate candy cigarettes, used to get one but after she accused me of letting her parakeet out of its cage (it was Tammy Albright, the wench), no flowers for her. Cranky Mrs. Barnes got a flower basket in hopes of cheering her up, poor thing married to the dour Ed.

It was the Clarkes, though, who got the best basket of all every year. An elderly couple two doors down, the Clarkes maintained a back yard garden which still inspires my own efforts. It was a lush green and floral sanctuary with paths and arbors and overhanging trees. Their garden was a part of our "cat prowl," discussed in another entry in another blog:

My nighttime skulking began at the tender age of six, when my sister and I developed something we called the "cat prowl." To complete the prowl, which fast became a popular activity among our parochial school set, it was required that we sneak out the bedroom window late at night, scamper to the street then follow a route which took us past the back windows and through the gardens of a dozen of our neighbors. We were, essentially, school-age window peepers. We threw in a little moonlight dancing, a little fantasy among the hollyhocks and roses, but our greatest thrill was viewing our neighbors through their windows when they believed themselves unobserved.

Those magnificent hollyhocks and roses resided in the Clarkes' back garden and those are still two of my favorite flowers. We loved the Clarkes for their kindness and generosity and for their unknowing provision of a nighttime secret garden which affects me still. We always managed to be nearby when they claimed their morning prize on the 1st of May. Their beautiful, old, wrinkled faces would light up and in so doing, would fill our hearts with affection for these kind souls.

April flowers for May baskets. Such a sweet tradition. So long gone, as are so many sweet traditions. I wanted to write something sweet to counteract my sadness but this seems to have just made me sad in a different way. Is that part of becoming an old fuck? Thinking things were a little sweeter back in the day?

fashion

In keeping with the nostalgic tone of the day, the anti-bear David Bowie was chanting in my ears as I ran on the elliptical today. I'd like just one more 1980s night in the bars. Twenty seven years ago? Seems impossible. Something about the impassive, gum chewing big eyed guy makes me a little swoony. Mr. Bowie's somewhat affecting as well; he's really a very pretty man, especially with eyeliner.