What People Say

Some people say Laas Vegas, some people say Lahs Vegas, and some people say Lost Wages. “Vegas” is a fertile valley. “Wages” is money for work.

I am in Los Angeles.

Don’t you just want to walk up to Hillary Duff and say, “Hillary Duff, you are so over”?


My Magical Bird

This is my second post for the day. Scroll down to read about some other stuff.

When I was very young-inspired by the cartoon in which the Brady Kids lived in a treehouse with a magical bird and had formed their own pop band-I organized my Star Wars action figures into their own pop band (sans the magical bird).

There were actually two rival pop bands: the Rebels had one and the Empire had one. The Rebels dedicated all of their songs to Yoda (I wrote these, wickedly stealing ideas from my church’s folk group); the Empire’s songs were relatively generic, as neither Darth Vader nor, later, Emperor Palpatine seemed as if they would appreciate a rousing anthem to their evil. At a time when both my pacifism and my homosexuality were budding, I suppose I felt that musical competitions were as valid an antagonistic medium as blowing each other into smithereens.

If my parents ever wondered what in the world I was doing shut up in my room all that time, I’m sad to say that this is it.


Boyfriends. Lemons. Shovels. Pigs.

I am developing a crush on someone who is not my boyfriend, but only because he reminds me of my boyfriend. He is prissier than my boyfriend (as my boyfriend felt compelled to point out). I do not find prissiness attractive, but I did not write the Book of Love.

Also, he is not a real person.

Sometimes, I just don’t know what to do. Like, what do you do if someone who is important to you wants to betray everything you believe in just because she thinks that someone else looks like a squeezed-lemon face? I think Sigourney Weaver looks like a shovel face but I still go to see her movies. Except for that one.

Faces don’t matter.

There is a headline on the Internet that reads: Angry Man Puts 17 Pigs in His Yard. I am angry a lot, but I didn’t know that was an option.

The world should come with an instruction book.


Lesbians and Winners

Jen and her girlfriend Karen came over on Saturday. They brought their daughter/dog, an ancient and beautiful Boston terrier named Maggie, to play with Goblin.

Goblin’s initial snappishness gave way to a few tentative butt sniffs.

At one point in the visit, I suggested that, as my guests were lesbians (the human guests anyway . . . the jury is still out on Maggie), we all gather ’round and have a sing-along to the one song I know on the guitar: “Center Stage” by the Indigo Girls. This was a joke, naturally, but Karen questioned my intent.

Did I think, she asked, just because they were lesbians that they should like the stereotypically lesbian band the Indigo Girls?

Then she ripped off her flannel shirt and beat me with a shovel.

Okay, that’s another joke. She was wearing a tee shirt. Ha ha.

I love Jen and Karen and Maggie.

Update: The entry I wrote in last week’s competition, as most of you guessed, was the third. Therefore, I don’t owe no one nuttin. And I am the true winner because you like me, you really like me! Or, at least, you can recognize me in a crowd. Please join me in thanking Faustus for writing the first entry and Cara for writing the second. Either one of them could take over being me any day, as far as I’m concerned.


Enough Is Enough

Voting for Blogalike continues until Monday. Scroll down!

Things you probably shouldn’t say while I’m walking Goblin:

1) Who’s taking who for a walk? Ha ha.

2) Hey, it’s that dog from that commercial! What’s his name? Baxter! C’mere, Baxter!

3) Awww, a Boston terrier! I had a Boston terrier, but he was stolen by a guy with a machete. I’m serious! I drove up to Allentown to visit my sister last Christmas, and that’s when it happened. I was walking down the street. You know, I had a few drinks, smoked some weed. Was feeling good. Then this guy comes outta nowhere. I loved that dog, too. I have a substance abuse problem, and that dog stood by me through it all.

I mean really, people. How many times do I have to hear the same things, over and over?


Blogalike Competition: Vote Today!

Here are the rules: Two of these entries were written by other people, one of them was written by me. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to identify the one I wrote (use the comments section).

If the author of one of the artificial blog entries gets the most votes, he or she will receive a prize and instant celebrity.

If the entry I wrote gets the most votes, I get the eternal satisfaction of knowing I can never be replaced.
Remember, you’re voting for the one you think I wrote, not the one you like the best. These will undoubtedly not correspond. And let’s keep things civilized and limit it to one vote per person.
Hmm . . . there are no convicted felons around here, are there?

Entry One
The most stressful thing about living in Baltimore for Goblin is that she can no longer go to Central Park and play with her friends, the squirrels. She misses Pashmina most particularly. In Baltimore, we have no Central Park. One would think that we might have squirrels anyway, but one would be wrong. We have a singular squirrel, who very occasionally runs up or down the tree in our backyard. Goblin spends hours at the screen door, her ears standing at attention, her little body quivering in anticipation of the arrival of the squirrel, whose name she does not know yet.

There are many days on which that anticipation is not fulfilled.

The most stressful thing about living in Baltimore for me is my fear that the crazy people who lined my path in New York will realize I have left and follow me. They will arrive on my doorstep expecting me to welcome them. I will be paralyzed by terror and let them into my house, and then all hell will break loose. I do not want all hell to break loose. And so I spend hours at the door, my ears standing at attention, my little body quivering in anticipation of the arrival of a crazy person, whose name I do not know yet. There are many days on which that anticipation is not fulfilled.

Entry Two
Yesterday the darling Donna Beth came over for cocktails and conversation. She complimented Rob and me on our impeccable taste, which we’ve come to expect by now, but we were able to blush modestly nonetheless. She did threaten to turn us in to local authorities if we don’t make the place ten percent quainter by August. It seems there are local statutes governing that sort of thing. I am shaking in my shoes.

I’m thinking of changing Goblin’s name to Arugula Picard, Drill Team Captain, but I fear that such a promotion might swell her little head.

Entry Three
Yesterday, Goblin and I encountered a crazy person. We knew he was a crazy person because he was wearing black socks and white shoes. “I like your little dog,” he told me. “Usually little dogs bite my feet right away, but this one didn’t.” This was damning with faint praise as far as Goblin and I were concerned.

On the way home, we saw a black cat sitting alone in the middle of a circle of white paper plates, as if a black magic ceremony had gone dreadfully wrong.


Stock Tip: Invest in Jackboots

Last week, Whoopi Goldberg was fired from her position as SlimFast spokesperson. It seems that her comments about die fuhrer—I mean the president—generated excessive controversy. Posing as a disgruntled customer (I would never drink SlimFast anyway, as it is clearly composed of noxious chemicals), I emailed them and received a bland reply.

This week, Linda Ronstadt was fired and escorted from the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas for remarking to her audience that they should see Fahrenheit 9/11, the anti-Bush film that should be required viewing for all Americans. Ms. Ronstadt was treated like a common criminal for espousing her opinion (an opinion that half the people in this country happen to share), but the Nazis—I mean, audience members—who practically rioted when she did so, throwing their coctails at the stage and running out into the lobby and destroying hotel property, were instantly pardoned.

Today, I learned that the Human Rights Campaign, the gay and lesbian organization, “uninvited” comedian Margaret Cho from headlining their event during the Democratic Convention because they feared the controversy it might generate. In my letter to them resigning my membership and “uninviting” them from sending me any more solicitations, I reminded them that they are a controversial organization. I expect a bland reply.

Think about it: no one was ever fired for criticizing Bill Clinton. Quite the contrary.

If George Bush is elected in November, that will be all she wrote for democracy in America.


Regarding Various Things

Some things that are hard for some people are easy for others. When the person who has it easy does something for the person who doesn’t, it is a strange sensation. On the one hand, the beneficiary feels eternally grateful and more than slightly mortified; but for the other person, it’s no big deal, really. She was probably glad she could help.
Moving right along, I was going to post the “Blogalike” entries I got earlier this week, but I was holding out for emails from people who said they would send them and didn’t because they clearly enjoy toying with my fragile emotions. As it is, I have two delightful submissions and will be posting these on Friday; if you want to get something in before then, you’re welcome.

Who will walk away with the gift certificate? Possibly no one, as I’m investigating the possibility of issuing one from, instead. La la la.


My Street Is a Hotbed of Activity

Today, Rob bribed me into going to the video store to rent the first season of “Six Feet Under.” The bribe was a dinner of turkey meatloaf with crusty biscuit topping and mashed cauliflower. Yum! Before I left, I snuck into the kitchen and stole a handful of the crusty biscuit-topping dough, remolding the remainder to look as if nothing was missing. (I’m tricky that way.) But in my haste to escape from the scene of the crime, I neglected to run upstairs to grab my glasses.

As I walked through the blurry world, licking the yummy biscuit dough off my fingers, I noted a commotion on the street. A teenager riding his bike on the far end of my block suddenly toppled over onto the pavement. Good heavens, I thought, prepared to rush to his aid. He was up again in an instant, riding toward me, and he fell again! He is really quite clumsy, I thought, prepared to rush to his aid. Then someone said, “One more time,” and the teenager, unhurt, stood up again and toppled over on cue. Only then did I notice the young woman with the camcorder recording every stumble for her brilliant and meaningful student film. On the way back from the video store, I didn’t bat an eye when I saw them running the actor over with a car.

Then something really tragic happened: despite my blurry vision, I noticed that our new neighbors had put a flower box in their window and had put out new planters filled with lovely blooms! Before this, Rob and I had been the only ones on the block with a pretty flower box! These new people think they can outshine us with their little homey touches, but they’re wrong. Rob and I have planters with scraggly, half-dead evergreens left over from the previous owners of the house. Based on the irrefutable logic that ugly things shouldn’t be allowed to live, I have been wanting to hack them to pieces and get rid of them, but Rob wouldn’t let me. But obviously the stakes have risen.

I’m going to wait until Rob goes out of town later this week and then pay those students to run the scraggly evergreens over with their car.


Crash Curse

Crash was in town? Curses! And whether that’s a good or a bad curse depends upon your feelings about zombies. I never give zombies a second thought, but they are never far from Crash’s fearful mind. Unfortunately, just in time for his visit to Baltimore, someone (perhaps the dreaded Goblin Foo Uvula!) unleashed the dreaded Curse of the Zombie upon this fair city. Or possibly just on my household. Either way, I was simultaneously so busy and so exhausted that I transformed into the undead. Yes, the undead! Lurching from place to place, activity to activity, I cannot help but feel that was not very good company, as much as I enjoyed myself.

The pies of resistance was a mojito party Rob and I whipped together for Crash and a few of his Baltimore blogging friends. Zenchick, Jwer and Cara were some of the luminaries who graced us with their presence.

My impression is that a delightful time was had by all . . . even the zombies.



You will note that when I described Friday night, I wisely left out all reference to black-cherry crepes, brown recluses, stereo speakers, and other debaucheries.


The Boys and the Booze (and the Girls and the Boston terriers)

Maybe I should change Goblin’s name to Hazel Crackernut, Domestic Servant.

Last night, Rob and I had dinner with the incomparable Jen, who also lives in Baltimore, also blogs, and also has a Boston terrier. We discussed getting her little creature together with Hazel Crackernut, a meeting that would undoubtedly end in bloodshed, heartache, and enough stories to dine out upon for a millennium.

I do fully intend to live for an entire millennium, and so does Hazel née Goblin.

In other news, we are in a tizzy here (a tizzy, I tell you!) preparing for the weekend visit of Crash, who arrives portentously in the midst of Artscape. Artscape, for those of you who have no idea, is a large festival that occurs yearly in Baltimore directly outside my front door. This is mainly an excuse for people to close the streets to traffic, drink too much booze, and make an ungodly racket; at least two of these are favorite hobbies of dear Crash, and I am quite certain he can be persuaded as to the third.

Holy smokes, when did I get so social? Someone call an ambulance.



I have mosquito bites. I normally don’t get them. Mosquitoes avoid me like the plague, possibly because I don’t have any blood. But the mosquitoes in my backyard are tenacious and evil; their wish, their grand plan, is to inflict bumps and itchiness whether or not they receive a sweet, juicy reward. They are Baltimore mosquitoes. If they were only slightly larger, they would break into my car and not take anything.

Yesterday, as I spray-painted furniture on the deck, I was continually dive-bombed. Occasionally, if I saw it in time, an offending mosquito would get a face full of black spray, but it would just fly off, laughing: they were black already and would not have to face the other bugs after making a dramatic lifestyle change. It wasn’t as if they were suddenly pink or yellow. Their friends might even admire their shiny new coats. It was a win-win situation for those mosquitoes.

I can’t think of the last time I had a win-win situation.

Update: I have an idea that came to me this morning when I was half-asleep. I had just had a dream about an extended wait in my doctor’s waiting room; I kept waking up at the end of it and drifting off again only to have the exact same dream. Do you know how many times I sat in my doctor’s waiting room this morning before I even got out of bed? She didn’t even have Highlights magazine!

Anyway, here’s the idea: a “Blogalike” contest. Anyone who wants to enter can email me a “blog entry” that tries to imitate my style. I suppose, since I sometimes switch styles, it just has to seem like something I would write myself. The event(s) it describes do not have to be real, but you have to write as if you were me.

I’ll post all of the fake blog entries along with a real one that I wrote. Then people can vote on which is the real one. If yours gets the most votes, I will send you an gift certificate. If mine does, I will bask in the knowledge that no one can out-me me.

If you have a blog of your own, please steal this idea because it will be fun. Encourage others to steal it, too. I could go down in history as the person who started a cool meme.

What do you know, a win-win situation!

Send me your entry by this Sunday (email link below, click on my name). If I get a dismal turn-out, I will save face by erasing this message and pretending I never wrote it.


Rest in Peace

Note: This is my second post for the day.

The world is coming to an end. From the Associated Press:

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Isabel Sanford, best known as “Weezie” or Louise Jefferson on the sitcom “The Jeffersons,” has died of natural causes, her publicist said Monday. She was 86.

Sanford had been hospitalized since July 4 and died Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with her daughter Pamela Ruff at her side, longtime friend, publicist and manager Brad Lemack said.

Her health waned after she underwent preventive surgery on a neck artery 10 months ago, Lemack said. He did not release a specific cause of death.

Sanford made her feature film debut in the classic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” before co-starring with Sherman Hemsley for more than 10 years in CBS’s “The Jeffersons,” a spin-off of the popular series “All in the Family,” in which she also appeared.

In 1981, Sanford became the first black woman to receive an Emmy for Best Actress in a Comedy Series.

She had recently appeared on “The Simpsons” and in commercial campaigns for Denny’s restaurants and retailer Old Navy.

In addition to her daughter, Sanford is survived by two sons, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Funeral services will be private but a public memorial service is planned, Lemack said.

So . . . Ronald Reagan gets endless television tributes, a state funeral, and every flag in the country at half mast. Isabel Sanford, who surely affected more lifes positively, gets a ten-sentence press release.

There is no justice.


Wild Oats: Priceless

Yesterday, Rob and I attended a Quaker Meeting of Friends. Go ahead and silently insert your little joke about oats or Chandler. But make sure it is indeed silent; Quakers are big on silence. Meeting occurs in a large, unadorned room furnished with simple wooden pews. One enters, disturbing no one, and sits silently, eyes closed, and prays or meditates for an hour. Sometimes, individual Friends are moved to speak about spiritual issues, and the others meditate on what was said or are occasionally moved to respond out loud. Quakers do not believe in ceremony, religious hierarchy, or (apparently) air conditioning. These are distractions from individual communication with god. Rob’s and my experience was quiet, dignified, peaceful, welcoming, and slightly humid.

We will go again.

I am in debt something fierce. This morning, I was awakened at eight-thirty by a call from a credit card company that takes a dim view of not receiving their monthly tithe. That was the card that was declined on Saturday at Restoration Hardware when I attempted to buy bathroom towels embroidered with tasteful bumblebees and some small tables for the backyard patio. It’s expensive to outfit a house, even with just the basics; coming from a one-room Manhattan apartment didn’t give us much of a starting point. Straight people who have reached Rob’s and my level of commitment can get married and be inundated with gifts by all of society. Not that I at all think that the expectation of gifts is a good thing, but it would certainly have left me with less left to buy for myself.

And buy I do: sheets, rugs, chairs, tables, machines for the kitchen. Um . . . light bulbs. The Quakers believe in modesty and simplicity, and that sounds like about what I need right now.

That and a stunning new rug from the Pottery Barn.



Evil colony.
Spider mites chewing, chewing.
My poor ficus tree!


Collecting for Calvin Klein

David and Rob dragged a fifty-pound bag full of quarters, pennies, nickels, and dimes into the Safeway. Some New Zealand dollars and British pounds had also snuck in there, as well as a few brassy American dollars with the caricature of Pocahantas. At the generic Coinstar machine, these two gorgeous, brilliant, successful men fed the money in slowly to avoid jamming the sorter: it would be just their luck to break it somehow and lose the year’s worth of accumulated change.

Just then, three young boys appeared out of nowhere! Enthralled with the number of coins, they watched the counter tick ever upwards. “I’ve never seen that much money in my life!” the biggest of them exclaimed, his eyes alight with joy or greed. “Please, sir, may I have a quarter?”

David, his generous soul shining like the floodlamps at a football stadium, or perhaps a baseball stadium (both of these are brighter than the sun, and it really doesn’t matter which), handed him a quarter. The boy vanished for a moment and reappeared with a can of soda. David’s generous soul, unaware that its contribution would be wasted on fizzy black poison, contemplated destroying the boy on the spot, using its natural radiation to reduce him to his component molecules or make his face peel off like Mr. Spock’s in The Wrath of Kahn when he saved the ship from the Genesis effect.

Further conflict arose when the coin machine rejected the foreign money and David distributed it amongst the children. Delightful cries of “He got two dollars and I only got ten cents!” filled David’s ears. Rob looked handsome and unperturbed as he redeemed the coin receipt at the management office for cold, hard cash. Actually, the coins were colder and harder than the cash ever was, but we shall proceed with the metaphor as there was no barrelhead present.

Two hundred eighty dollars.

Clutching their fortune, the two gorgeous, brilliant, successful men went to the store and bought designer sheets. The little boys were never heard from again.


Domesticity, Do-mes-ticity

Welcome to Baltimore and a life of ceaseless puttering. That’s what we do. Rob putters in the garden, pulling up weeds and planting new plants that look exactly like the weeds that were there first. I suppose the definition of a weed is something that you don’t plant intentionally, but once it’s been there a while, people assume it belongs. At the neighborhood Fourth of July block party, some people—I don’t know who they were—claimed that the tree in our back yard, the largest tree on the block, started out as a weed. This is not difficult to believe given that it is of no discernable species, but why are on-purpose things are better than accidental things? Our tree is beautiful. (I have to say that, lest it get angry and fall on the house, crushing us all.) Yes, beautiful. So beautiful. Nice tree. Weeds are people, too.

I putter in the basement, painting chairs. First I paint them dark grey, almost black, and then I paint them light green, almost yellow. Then, I don’t know what. One day, they will all be painted and I won’t know what to do with myself; luckily, that day appears to be far off. It takes almost an hour to paint one chair with one coat of paint, grey or green. I’ve listened to all the “Judge Judys” on TiVo from around the corner and down the stairs. Today, I moved on to “Airline,” a program that highlights the antics of people who get drunk in airport bars and then get thrown off of their flights and then complain about it indignantly. There are also would-be passengers who wander in after their flight leaves and complain about it indignantly. Sometimes they threaten to sue, in which case, one assumes, they will end up on “Judge Judy.” Television is so self-perpetuating. If I ever get on it, I will be immortal.

Or, I could just decide not to die until the chairs are painted, in which case, I’ll live forever and a day. But everything hinges on the hope that the beautiful weed tree does not fall on the house and crush Rob and me and the chairs.

Nice, nice tree.



This is my second post for the day. Scroll down to read about fear.

These are serious times at the Hippo. I want to be lighthearted and carefree, but I create and respond to excess drama. I want to be zen-like and calm, but my mind generates chaos.

I’m thinking about my brother Mike, whom I’ve hurt, and who has hurt me. I have four younger brothers, and in the pandemonium of our upbringing, my highest aspiration was to be an only child. Later, when I could appreciate him more, I would amend that to a wish that my parents had discovered birth control after my next-youngest brother was born.

That would have left me and Mike.

Mike is my younger brother, but there are ways in which I was always jealous of him. In the angst-soaked days of my adolescence, he was the athletic, adventurous one to whom people naturally gravitated: the natural choice for my parents’ favorite. Later, as my priorities changed, I realized he was also the worldliest and most easy-going of us all. He has a good time wherever he is, he has patience for humanity in general, and at least one of my boyfriends made a point of telling me how physically attractive he found my next-youngest brother.

In other words, Mike is the antiDavid; contrary to what one might expect, and despite some pretty terrible fights while we were growing up, as adults we have always been good friends. Outside of a cramped house, my jealousy transformed into real admiration, and he must have seen something redeeming in me, as well. Perhaps I’m the one who helped inspire him to be so accepting of people who are different from him. I took him to his first gay club, an experience he fled not because he was getting hit on (he was), but because he has a pathological fear of dancing. We also came of voting age at the same time and voted for Bill Clinton together, celebrating together when he won the presidency in 1992 (I was disenchanted with Clinton by 1996 but voted for him again anyway). At the polls in the local elementary school, Mike asked for my opinions on the issues and voted accordingly, trusting correctly that I would never steer him wrong.

Wednesday night was D-Day. Perhaps I made too big a deal of what happened: I ran home and wrote it down because I couldn’t articulate anything out loud. Writing is how I think, but I could barely think, flabbergasted by what I saw as a betrayal of my core ideals of truth, justice, peace, logic, and life. He probably felt the same, that I would react the way I did when he went out of his way to articulate his social liberalism, his support of gay rights and other causes we have in common.

Mike is a photojournalist and a damned good one. He witnessed the collapse of the World Trade Center and was left with impressions I can’t begin to imagine. Perhaps this and his faith in the news media he works for have made him more susceptible to the Big Lie. Such speculation on my part would infuriate him, but I’m grasping at straws, trying to make sense of something that I simply can’t accept.

The one thing I’ve tried to make clear is that it was not the ideas that horrified me so. People have the right to think what they want (although the world would be a much better place of they drew conclusions based upon actual facts). No, my reaction was to the person who espoused those ideas . . . someone I love and always had (and still have) a tremendously high opinion of. Though I stand by what I wrote as an accurate record of my feelings, I realize I didn’t provide a picture of the full human being. I’m sorry that people who have as a group been persecuted beyond endurance for the past few years didn’t have a more perfect description on which to comment and express their very understandable frustration.


“Shoulding” all over Me

One of my most closely held secrets, speaking of secrets, is that I used to ghostwrite self-help books and audios for a living. Oh, yes. If you ever required any more evidence that an entire field is a scam, you need only consider that these roadmaps to everlasting happiness are being churned out by people whose lives are utter disasters.

But old habits die hard, and I sometimes find myself falling back into certain patterns of thought left over from that time, patterns I find myself compelled to share here with my captive audience.

Bwah ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Okay, so there are three categories of things:

1. Things we want to have or do

2. Things we need to have or do

3. Things we think we should have or do

I suppose there could be a catch-all fourth category of things we neither want, need, or feel obligated by, but let’s not muddy the waters. Of the three listed, only the first two are really important, and yet it strikes me that most people spend most of their time on the third.

Things we want, things we need, things we think we should:

1. Joy

2. Prudence

3. Fear

I’m reminded of phone numbers. As a designer, it’s sometimes appropriate for me to find new ways of presenting the same old information. One way I used to do this was to replace the hyphens between the digits of a phone number with periods:

555.555.5555, instead of 555-555-5555

A few of my clients liked this, but most didn’t. It wasn’t a strong resistance, but they preferred the familiar dashes. Fine. People are allowed to have preferences, and comfort with familiarity does not necessarily rise to the level of fear of the different or unknown.

More recently, I decided that a much cleaner and more elegant solution was to eliminate the punctuation entirely:
555 555 5555

Now, doesn’t that look pretty and perfectly legible? If you saw that, especially accompanied by the word “telephone,” as it always is, would you not instantly comprehend it?

Oh, dear reader, you should hear the howls of indignation and terror that arise when I present designs with telephone numbers in that format. You would think Osama bin Laden had grabbed a Macintosh and started churning out business cards. Not because it’s ugly, but because phone numbers “should” always have hyphens! That’s just the way it is! What if their customers didn’t understand that was a phone number? Don’t I know what chaos will absolutely reign, the very fabric of our society torn asunder?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Fear is a powerful motivator.

I’m afraid of things, but punctuation is not among them. I’m afraid of bugs, collapsing bridges, disease, and that the Chimperor will somehow wrangle a second term in the White House and complete his destruction of this country. You know . . . reasonable things.

But I think, most of all, I’m afraid of becoming the sort of person who does things because I should do them, because they’ve always been done and always will be, amen. Oh, and having to be a self-help writer again.


For Everything, There Is a Season

A time for a whirlwind trip to New York City to clean out my old apartment and put my things in storage. The movers were delightful, but this didn’t stop the panic from seizing my heart and mind. I just can’t face them for some reason. In the end, I had to leave Rob to supervise while I caught my breath at Starbucks, imbibing the potent medicine known as the chocolate chunk cookie.

A time to go to the bank and deal with logistics. Deposit some checks, withdraw some cash, and change the mailing address for my balance statements. As I waited, a hunched old man tottered in the door, passed the long line without so much as a glance, and latched on to the next available teller. Everyone looked annoyed, but no one said anything since he seemed as frail as mist . . . until he learned he would be charged for a cashier’s check. Then he pulled himself up straight and strong and bellowed in a voice that almost shattered the bulletproof glass: “You want I should pay five dollars for you to give me my own money?!?! Five dollars?!?!?! You’re all criminals, I tell you! Criminals!” The criminals didn’t look ashamed in the least. They’d heard it all before.

A time to play Dungeons and Dragons. What do you do when you find out you’re surrounded by geeks? Break out the twenty-sided dice and get ready to sell your soul to the devil. My character’s name was Spotsylvania Jones, M.A., a half-elf thief of neutral-chaotic alignment. (This means I expended a great deal of time rifling through the pockets of dead monsters.) Rob was the Dungeon Master, and a grand time was had by all, but it was a secret grand time. Everyone kept saying, “Don’t tell anyone we’re doing this,” but no one actually expects the Upside-down Hippopotamus’s lips not to sink ships . . . except to prolong the mystery of exactly what Spotsylvania Jones’s Master’s degree is in.



It started with a pizza. On my way out to my brother’s apartment earlier tonight, I encountered a pizza. Did I mention the pizza? It was splattered across the windshield of my car. Yes, a pizza. I threw it away. The wipers made a greasy mess of my visibility.

A pizza.

I went to help my brother with some computer issues and to meet with him and his fiancé about designing their wedding invitations. Apparently, I volunteered to do this and instantly forgot, but I don’t mind. I like to design . . . unless the person I’m designing for is a force of chaos, and unlike most brides-to-be, Cate doesn’t strike me as a force of chaos.

You’ll be glad to know that the computer stuff went better than I had any right to expect; the disaster was redistributed to another part of the evening.



Uh oh . . . politics!

Yes, that’s right. Under the impression that my brother, a lifelong Democrat who has traveled all over the world, might have something intelligent to say about it, I asked him if he had yet seen Fahrenheit 9/11. This was how it started. Well, I mean, it started with a pizza. But this was the evil that the pizza foretold.

For a period of time, my brother transmogrified into a Fox News anchorperson, or perhaps the White House Press Secretary. Actually, it was worse . . . he repeated misinformation and propaganda that even Fox News and the White House gave up trying to pass off as legitimate months ago. When I tried to cite studies and the fact-finding of the world press to support my own point of view, he dismissed this as the ranting of deluded America-haters and included me among them.

Ann Coulter couldn’t have said it better.

Horrified, I realized that my voice was rising and that I was becoming more and more shrill. This wasn’t just an argument about politics, this was an outright rejection of intellect and common sense by the one person I had thought I could count on to possess both. I felt so utterly betrayed on every level that—I must confess—I walked away from the table and left the establishment without another word.

My brother is one of three people in the world who can make me feel (and thus act) crazy when I’m making perfect sense, a tactic that will always lead to my undoing. If further evidence that the Apocalypse is coming is required, we need only look to this complete evaporation of my gentility. I ran to my car, drove away in a puff of smoke, and cried all the way home. Not just cried, but wailed as if it were the end of the world.

It is.

(And to think, pizza had always been so good to me.)
Update: My brother has emailed me and gently suggested that I apologize for my behavior. Rude. Immature. Defensive.

I am, I suppose, all of these and more.

I wonder what it was like in Germany in the 1930s. Lies were spoken, over and over and over, became so unavoidable and pervasive that they started to make sense even to good people. What else could they do? It was either accept it or go crazy. The Fatherland protects us from a terrible evil. Only the Fatherland can be trusted. It was the same in Chile under Pinochet and in Afghanistan under the Taliban and in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. It’s the same today in countries we count among our greatest allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

The world doesn’t make sense. Off of television, there isn’t a good guy and a bad guy. Sometimes it seems as if aren’t any good guys at all, just bad guys wearing white hats.

My brother believes what he wants to believe, the only belief that the structure of our entire corporatist, fascist society allows for.

I’m sick of fighting. I want to believe it, too. I want so desperately to believe it. But I can’t.

Because it’s not true.

“Politics shouldn’t divide families or incite rudeness.” In sane times, as the World’s Chief Proponent of Etiquette, I would be the one blasting this from the rooftops. But these are anything but sane times. We are in Germany in the nineteen thirties.

There is pizza on my windshield.

Stop the world, I want to get off.