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Classy

I went to a trade show in New York this weekend and rode up on the Amtrak, using a free upgrade coupon to worm my way into first class on the Acela Express. Thus, I had the disadvantage of riding amongst the privileged. The businessman immediately behind me spent the entire trip yowling into his mobile phone, soliciting donations for a black-tie dinner he was organizing to honor somebody or other; he yowled the same joke about Madonna twenty-eight times, accompanied twenty-eight times by the same hiccoughing laugh. Across the aisle, a dumpy little man repeated over and over again to his dumpy little wife that he “actually think[s] Al Gore would have been a better President” in incredulous tones that suggested that this was only just now occurring to him, four years into our national nightmare. The wife ignored him in favor of a sickly sweet mobile phone conversation, which she ended only to turn to him and announce how much she hated the woman to whom she had been speaking. The attendants in the car seemed to like me because I was quiet and polite: both referred to me as “young man,” which was the only saving grace of that nightmarish journey.

I happily rode back in coach.

Speaking of unearned privilege, if there are people out there who don’t think that Dr. Phil is one of the most hateful creatures ever to ooze from the primordial muck of daytime television, I don’t know them. On my trip to New York, I saw his new book advertised on billboards and posters. It’s called Family First, although the first thing you see when you look at the cover is not a family but his own sycophantic image. Dr. Phil has one of those faces that make my head hurt to study, as if none of its component pieces quite fits with any of the others: the effect, in photographs, is an eerie three-dimensional hovering of his features, rather like those optical-illusion checkerboards that convince the eye it sees a floating sphere. This is because he has not been fully trained at mimicking human emotion, and his attempt at a smile, for example, involves only his teeth and none of the other customary ingredients.

At the train station, I also saw the tabloid magazine covers featuring the sordid tale of Brad and Jen and Angelina. I don’t believe a word of this soap opera, which millions of Americans follow, slack-jawed, instead of paying attention to the multi-trillion-dollar swindle their so-called leaders are pulling with the war in Iraq and with their attempts to privatize Social Security. I am convinced that that celebrities like this are paid by the government to portray themselves in a “meta” drama in which ordinary people lose themselves in the same way I used to read comic books to escape from the world. Brad and Jen and Angelina are transformed by taxpayer-funded People magazine into iconic figures, heroes and villainesses, whose only power is to distract the public from the things that they can do to actually improve their lives and to thwart the evildoers who are actively screwing them over.
Although I suspect that if the public actually did manage to elevate themselves to the level of their desires, they, themselves, would transform into the next Brad and Jen and Angelina, stealing brief moments away from their cyclonic melodramas to express to People magazine their jaded desires to live a simple, unexamined life. I suppose I could live with being Matt Damon, but I would have to be a Matt Damon with heightened standards. No more sleeping with Ben Affleck, and no more riding in first class.

In the end, some things just aren’t worth the trouble.

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The Blogblabber Strikes Again!

At long last, Rob started a web log!

I wasn’t supposed to know about it, but of course I did. The only secret he has ever successfully kept from me (including the ones he doesn’t know I know about) was my surprise birthday party last month, and I had the last laugh there because no one knew how old I turned.

My husband’s web log is called Lord of the Crumbs, which is a nickname I bestowed upon him when I noticed that Goblin was always snuffling around his shirt after he ate. I encourage you to read it and bookmark it because he is a beautiful and interesting person who writes beautiful and interesting things.

This being the case, one would think I would be featured more, but most of his entries to date are memories of his life before I entered the picture. You are free to interpret this any way you choose.

Check it out . . .

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Any Excuse for a Theme Song

The results of the test are back, and Goblin’s cancer was worse than we had hoped. There is a three-grade system of severity: “one” being the most common and least dangerous and “three” being really quite bad.

Goblin’s diagnosis was grade two.

Apparently, it makes a difference that the edges of the excised tumor were “clean,” meaning that the cancerous cells had not spread within the rather large patch of skin that was removed from her side. Still, according to the vet and my Internet sources, recurrence is quite possible, even likely. I will never rest easily again.

The good news for Goblin is that she gets a dietary overhaul, with cancer-fighting yummies like flaxseed oil and organic cottage cheese thrown in. Quite chipper after her successful surgery, she has been running around the house yelling, “Daddy says I’m in grade two!” and demanding a new lunchbox with the Powerpuff Girls on it. I tried to tell her that the Powerpuff Girls are so three years ago, but she is relentless.

I guess we’ll just take things one day at a time.

And I think that will look a little something like this:

This is it. (This is it.)
This is life, the one you get,
So go and have a ball.

This is it. (This is it.)
Straight ahead, and rest assured,
You can’t be sure at all.

So while you’re here, enjoy the view.
Keep on doing what you do.
Hold on tight, we’ll muddle through
One day at a time.
(One day at a time.)

So up on your feet!
(Up on your feet!)
Somewhere there’s music playing.
Don’t you worry none,
We’ll just take it like it comes.

One day at a time. (One day at a time.)
One day at a time.
One day at a time.

Note: Today, I am also guest-blogging for Faggoty-Ass Faggot, if you want to read something moderately more cheerful.

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Strife on the Subatomic Level

Did I ever tell you this? I used to be afraid to chop vegetables because I was convinced I would accidentally split an atom and destroy the city.

Or do you ever worry that particular pairs of molecules are best friends, and that one ill-fated slice of a tomato might separate them forever? Maybe they’re even married, or they are second-class molecules that have had to make do with a commitment ceremony. That would be so tragic. Sometimes, when I slice a tomato, I try to eat the whole thing so those poor subatomic companions might be reunited in the end: they have until they hit the water purification plant to find each other again.

It doesn’t just have to be tomatoes, though. I would imagine that two molecules in any kind of fresh fruit or vegetable could form a special bond.

In processed food, though, I hear it’s every molecule for itself.

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Sooner or Later

Yesterday, consumed with guilt for even a small amount of time away from Goblin, I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things. On my way out, the employee assigned to keeping the carts organized came up to retrieve the one I had been using. “You have a nice day,” he said as he rolled it away from me.

“Well, you, too!” I called after him, masquerading as someone cheerful. “See you later!”

See you later.

Why the hell did I say that? Am I really going to see him later? Maybe, although I wouldn’t recognize him again if be bit me on the face. (On the other hand, if he did bite me on the face, I might recognize him the time after that.) I guess sometimes people just say things.

Update: My therapist would say I’m being too hard on myself, I think. I did say that I would see him later, after all, which is quite likely considering I go to that grocery store twice a week. I did not say, “Recognize you later,” which is a different ball of wax.

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Routine

It’s been a normal enough day. I’m getting stuff done . . . slowly. Goblin gets borne on a pillow from room to room, like a maharaja on a litter. What else is new?

I just wanted to post a quick thanks to everyone who has been commenting, emailing, calling, and sending us good thoughts and prayers. I am deeply touched. Goblin is taking it all in stride, but what else do you expect from a maharaja?

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Maniacal Me

It’s late, and Goblin’s downstairs sleeping. I hope she’s asleep and not dead. Whenever I’m not looking at her—or whenever I am looking at her and her eyes are closed—I’m convinced that she is dead. Yes, I’m neurotic. If you wanted sane, what the hell are you doing here?

I’ve been overwhelmed with both the need to clean something and an all-consuming lethargy that makes me want to sleep for a month. I can feel these two impulses duking it out in my weary body. Today, I compromised and spruced up the links from my web log. (Yeah, those links there in the right column.) I went through all of the blog links and made sure they were still active, and if they were active, I made sure they were still linked to mine. If the answer to either of those questions was “no,” the link got the axe. That felt good. I did send pointed emails to a couple of people who should be linked to me but due to a tragic error in judgment are not, and I kept a couple of links to kind souls who have recently posted nice comments here but do not link to me. But if your web log is linked to mine and mine is not linked to yours due to a tragic oversight, please let me know. And if you would like to exchange links with me, also let me know. I am essentially a link whore.

In addition to the blog links, I also added and organized the links in all of the other sections. Check ’em out.

But back to me and Goblin . . . we’re both okay for the moment. I have a jungle of work to plow through this week and a tradeshow to attend this weekend. How I’m going to do all of this while monitoring my little recuperating Boston terrier is beyond me at the moment, but I’m quite sure I won’t be looking away from her for very long.

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How Do You Spell Relief?

She’s home and seems to be doing all right-save for some blood seepage from the wound, which I am assured is normal. I think she was much more traumatized by her unwilling presence in the office of the veterinarian, whom she hates with hurricane fury, than the actual surgery. I, myself, was slightly traumatized when the vet and his assistant, even after having their hands inside her body, referred to her as “Little Guy.”

Now comes the anxious wait as the tumor is analyzed for the severity of the cancer. We will know by the end of the week whether it is unlikely to recur or whether it may have spread throughout her body.

Last night, Rob and I sat Goblin down for a family heart-to-heart. We told her what was going to happen today, that we loved her very much, and that we would always take care of her and protect her. She gave this information thoughtful consideration, looked us seriously in the eyes, and emitted a fart powerful enough to extinguish the sun.

And that, I suppose, was that.

Continuing gratitude from our family for all of your expressions of support and good energy.

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Tense

Thank you, everyone, for your support. Please send whatever prayers and good thoughts you may have for Goblin’s speedy and complete recovery during her operation Monday morning, which will start a little after ten, Eastern time.

We’re having a quiet weekend, but I don’t think Goblin is quite aware of what is in store for her tomorrow. I, on the other hand, am secretly a basket case.*


* Or perhaps not so secretly.

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Yellow Alert

I’m trying not to be overly dramatic, but Goblin Foo was just diagnosed with skin cancer. It is apparently not the worst kind a dog can get, but as any cancer would be, it is of serious concern. She has surgery scheduled for first thing Monday morning, and if all goes well, she will be home by Monday night.

If you have any prayers or good thoughts to share, we could definitely use them.

Update: I’m sure there will be an outpouring of concern, as Goblin is an important part of all of our lives, but we aren’t taking calls or callers right now. We have a quiet weekend planned.

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I Doth Protest Not Enough

Oh no no no no no! Contrary to your wildest hopes and dreams, I am not going to let today go by without expressing my profound dismay at the second illegal coronation of the monster called Dubya. Out of hope for some solidarity, I walked downtown to a local protest but left feeling even more hopeless than ever. Amid anemic street theater and speech after speech about putting power in the hands of the people, I realized that I have heard all of this before. “Power to the people” has been a leftist catchphrase for forty years, but every protest I attend has less power and fewer people to claim it.

There is a great deal of debate regarding the utility of public protest. In my opinion, this should be the greatest weapon in our arsenal: it should energize the participants, capture the interest of passers-by, and terrify the opposition. Instead, the art of protest has degenerated into a bunch of crazy-looking people standing around with outdated signs, holding side conversations through the inevitable posturing speeches.

I’m reading a marketing book that advises a business to polish to a high shine all of its “points of contact” with the public. This, after all, is where people who have had no experience with your organization receive their first impressions and are educated about what you stand for in by what you say, how you say it, and how much attention you give to the details. As much as I appreciate the impulse of the grass roots to “do something,” I humbly suggest that the first thing they do is polish their message, work on their delivery, and come up with something more meaningful to do than standing around, listening to the organizers preach their forty-year-old homilies to the choir.

That said, here are some photos I took:

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Kiss Me, Kates

Yesterday, I told my acupuncturist that winter used to be my favorite season, but that I was getting more sensitive to the cold as I aged.

“Age?” she asked incredulously. “You?”*

Katherine Hancock Porter is the best acupuncturist in the universe.

Speaking of the universe . . . last night, in all my acupuncturist-certified youthful splendor, I met the best Star Trek captain who ever flew to the stars. First, Kate Mulgrew gave the performance of a lifetime as Katherine Hepburn in “Tea at Five.” Then she came out to a special reception in which she shook my hand and I complimented her on her fabulous shoes.

Oh, my little potato buds, they were fabulous. And so was she.

I love Katherine Hancock Porter and Kate Mulgrew.

 

* Note well that I had already paid her at that point, so she was not trying to cozen out a check.

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By Any Other Name, Part MCMXCVI

What if I changed Goblin’s name to Wilhelmina Snarfblatt, MCSE-certified IT Professional?

Then I would have to throw her out into the cold because Microsoft software is ugly and evil, and I cannot abide things that are ugly.

Evil, I can take or leave.

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“It looks like the backstroke.”

I have customer service on the brain these days, which is why I feel like taking a flamethrower to Best Buy. Every time I venture in, I feel as if I have appeared on Bizarro World: nothing is where it should be, nothing does what it is supposed to, nobody knows anything about anything, and nothing makes the slightest amount of sense. One wall is dedicated to customer-service awards they have bestowed upon themselves; the actual customers are queued in the mile-long returns line, grumbling about how they will never set foot in the store again. Poor Crash, visiting from New York, got snared in my revenge fantasies. Everyone says America has transformed into a service economy, but nobody in America knows anything about service. It’s an English word, and it does not mean “grunting in monosyllables about the extended warranty plan.”

Last night, we saw House of the Flying Daggers, which is a stunningly gorgeous movie starring stunningly gorgeous people. Not a frame of the film goes by that is not stunningly gorgeous. There is a stalk of bamboo that is more attractive than Matt Damon, but don’t tell him I said so because he gets awfully jealous. The Chinese are going to take over the world because they are intensely detail-oriented, they take pride in everything they do, and there are a billion of them. There are only two hundred fifty million Americans, and not one of us can figure out why we need extended warranty plans. Why are we paying stores extra to take back shoddy merchandise when it is already overpriced?

When the Chinese come for us, all they will find are two hundred fifty million dusty skellingtons propped up in the Best Buy returns line.

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Purls of Wisdom

People come and go so quickly around here. And by “people,” I mean me. New York, Baltimore: it’s enough to give you whiplash.

New York was fabulous, as usual. It’s lovely to see old friends. Some of you might not realize this, but Beetriss still lives in New York. Beetriss is the grand vizier of Goblin’s interstate empire. No one has ever seen Beetriss, but she very often does the most appalling things. Goblin herself would never dream of doing those things. Goblin is a lady.

So is Faustus, who taught me how to knit.

The lesson took place at a midtown Starbucks, where we claimed a central table and whipped out our balls of yarn amidst the suited wheeler-dealers and the genuine New York Crazies™. Luckily, Faustus is a patient teacher. Knitting for most people is chance to relax or occupy their hands while they focus their minds on something else; knitting for me is a chance to freeze up in anxious consternation and berate myself intensely over the most insignificant of errors. Faustus thinks the point of knitting is to create something, but he is incorrect. The point of knitting (like the point of everything else) is to do something perfectly on the first try. If one cannot manage this, one is doomed to rip out his two rows of work and begin anew as many times as it takes, all while cursing up a storm. Later, in a darkened room, one may curl on the floor with is body tangled in an unraveled skein of yarn and weep inconsolably for all of the knitting projects that will go forever uncreated because he is a fumble-fingered loser who will never amount to anything!

(You should have seen what happened when I took up guitar.)

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I Spy with My Little Eye

I was so ready for two thousand four to be over that I started writing two thousand five on checks last September. Now, in the actual two thousand five, the world seems the same. I am different, though: more focused, more productive. I owe it, mostly, to the little green book, which (I am convinced) climbs onto my pillow and whispers things into my ear at night.

Secret things.

Last night, I slept for the first time in our new New York apartment. It is small and unfamiliar, but at the same time cozy and absolutely right. This morning, Rob and I took Goblin down to Carl Schurz Park by the East River. It was the first time I had ever been there, and I was actually rather in awe of it, not because of the majestic mayor’s mansion or the fancy landscaping but because it was the setting for my favorite book ever written: Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh. As Goblin prowled in search of squirrels to conquer, I imagined Harriet strolling the paths with Ole Golly or sitting, alone and mortified, on a bench as the Spy Catchers’ Club paraded by waving a pair of purple socks.

Harriet was me, I thought . . . or who I would be if I had grown up a privileged eleven-year-old girl on the Upper East Side instead of a middle-class boy in the Maryland suburbs.

And yet, I’m here now, on the Upper East Side; not so privileged, but still, I hope, as curious about what makes the world work, fascinated by what makes people do the things they do.

Someone in the apartment upstairs is singing off-key.

The little green book is in my messenger bag, waiting to creep out in the dark of night and clamber up onto the bed.

It is two thousand five.

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Little Green

I had a fruit cup for dinner.

Technically, my diet allows for (and recommends) a great deal more, but who has the time? I have plans to make and people to see.

My only official New Year’s resolution was to write down a daily to-do list in a little green book, then accomplish each of the items on the list on the appropriate day. These activities would encompass both common errands and tasks from some of the larger goals I have set for myself, like working on my business, exercising, and writing my novel.

The little green book has assumed control over my life, sending me hither and yon on any number of adventures. Today, the little green book told me to drive to the vet and pick up some pills for Goblin, so I did. The little green book approved. Yesterday, I was commanded to get a haircut, and who was I to argue? I have already accomplished more this year than I did in the past three years combined, so the little green book must know what it’s talking about.

One time, I asked the little green book what would happen if I didn’t perform an activity on the day it was scheduled. The little green book gave me such a little green look that I haven’t dared ask that question again. The new corollary to my New Year’s resolution is not to make the little green book angry.

Something tells me I wouldn’t like it when it’s angry.

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What Would Mrs. Garrett Do?*

I am on a diet.

But wait, you may say (as so many have). You don’t need to be on a diet! Look how skinny you are! Everyone says this in a tone of voice that implies the sort of eating disorders associated with teenaged girls. I catch them looking at me speculatively, as if the next time they see me will be on the cover of a pamphlet.

The truth is, I gained almost twenty pounds and doubled my body fat over the past three years. I attribute this to Rob’s delicious cooking, but Rob’s delicious cooking is a double-edged sword, nourishing but addictive. Go ask Alice about his homemade ice cream.

I have enough body image problems without people putting their two cents in, and it irritates me that they feel compelled toward this sort of commentary. Of course, I am not helping matters when I trumpet my dietary restrictions like a street-corner preacher. In my diet, I have cut out all sugars and sweeteners, dairy products, starches, fats (except for flax seed oil), caffeine, and alcohol. I can eat lean meat, vegetables, eggs, and fruit.

Although I often feel as if I’m living on the Wild Frontier (if the Wild Frontier had a Whole Foods in it), I must be doing something right: I’ve lost over six pounds so far and am aiming to make it a perfect ten.

If this doesn’t happen by Tuesday, there will be much consternation indeed.

 

* Mrs. Garrett was the school dietician at the Eastland School for Girls in Peekskill, New York before she opened her own gourmet food shop called Edna’s Edibles, which tragically burned to the ground. It was later (equally tragically) rebuilt into Over Our Heads, a more highbrow version of Spencer’s Gifts run by four young women with too much mousse in their hair and a young George Clooney.

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Death to the Fascist Insect

We’re back . . . and now for something completely pedantic.

A few days ago, Rob and I went to see Guerrilla, which is an engrossing documentary about the nineteen seventy-four kidnapping of Patricia Hearst by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a radical left-wing terrorist cell operating in California at that time. Although you might think my liberal sympathies would lay with a group whose initial ransom demand was that the Hearst family feed all of the needy people in California for a month (and subsequently negotiated for food distribution to a much smaller group of worthy recipients), I actually find the idea of social and/or political transformation through violence horrifying. No matter how lofty the ideals, violence and anguish will taint the results. Indeed, a riot broke out as the food was being distributed.

Much of America is a schizophrenic disaster today because, no matter what values our politicians give lip service to, we are a country that was violently created and brutally carved out of the wilderness. Resentment from the descendants of the Native Americans we killed and the Africans we enslaved and the Confederate soldiers we vanquished exists to this day, twisting obscenely the fabric of our society and mocking our national identity.

It’s painful to be an idealist because there are no answers, easy or otherwise, to problems such as this. It’s impossible for progress to come without pain. Gandhi’s nonviolent revolution didn’t leave his country in any better shape than our bloody one. Today, I had a conversation in the waiting room of the auto mechanic with a black woman who expressed a desire to move to an organic farm in middle of nowhere. Our society, she said, is too crazy and getting worse because it’s run by rich white people who have insulated themselves from the ramifications of their actions . . . even from knowledge of those ramifications. They are in denial. On her organic farm, she plans to insulate herself from the rich white people. She is in denial.

I think the only solution is for people everywhere to start realizing that it’s a small world, and we’re all stuck on it together. Everything we do affects everyone else, and vice versa. Every social or racial or religious or national group we brand as an enemy means that many more people have just branded us as an enemy. Every country we invade for no reason means more terrorists are going to come and kill us or the soldiers we have stationed there. And for every soldier who is killed, the remaining ones terrorize the population they’re supposed to be liberating that much more.

This may be simplistic and obvious, but it happens over and over again. Obvious it may be, but there is also a steep learning curve.

The kidnappers of Patty Hearst (and Patty Hearst herself, once she began to sympathize with her captors’ views) called the American government a fascist insect, a phrase that conjures the image of Mussolini or George W. Bush crouching on a blade of grass. “Death to the fascist insect!” was how they ended their transmissions: a grandiose proclamation. I have taken to calling the current administration fascist because, by definition, it pretty much is. And it’s not inconceivable that “the people” might pull themselves away from their televisions and start standing up to it.

I just hope they don’t kidnap any heiresses because, frankly, they aren’t very well suited to wearing those black berets. And machine guns are so last year.