Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Funny story

Greg apparently forgot to put out clean towels for his visiting mother, so she, being the industrious sort, went rummaging through our linen closet. I assume. I've no real evidence that she did so, and am not about to ask.

When I came home, she greeted me from the futon and Waffles greeted me from three feet in the air, and Greg called out from the bedroom. I made my way down the hall to the bathroom, to brush my teeth, and noticed, hanging on the towel rack, a very special kind of face towel, one Greg has owned since before I met him, and has had some occasion to use since after I met him.

The towel was positioned in just the right way to reveal the embroidered words along one edge of the cloth: CUM RAG.

This, coupled with her casual admission from the night before about how Greg had woken her up by "sliding Waffles between my legs," is causing me not a little bit of Freudian anxiety.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Where the Wild Things...something something

There was a mother and her three young kids sitting behind us at 'Where the Wild Things Are' Sunday afternoon. A proper Upper West Side mother, dressed just so, with her three kids groomed and fed--but not too fed--and similarly just-so dressed. The kids ranged in ages from maybe four to eight. The mother ranged in ages from 30 to 40, depending on her doctor and work-out regimen.

"When will the movie start?" the youngest kid, of indeterminate sex, whined, balancing a small cup of ice water on one knee, which was drawn up to his or her chin.

"When your father gets here," the mother said. She was turned away from the child, tending to the 8 year old, who had spilled granola into his lap. The mother was picking the pieces of granola off of the kid's clothing and returning them to the container the kid was clutching in one hand.

I wasn't sure if she was being glib or if the kids' father was the projectionist, or if she actually hoped to impress upon the children a sense of the father's godlike power. When will the movie begin? When your father says so, and fuck the 300 other people in this theater who expect it to begin at 4:30.

And yet, just as I heard the kids behind us shout out, "Daddy!" the previews began.

The kids didn't last the entire movie. Three minutes in, despite their mother's continued and spirited attempts to narrate EVERY FUCKING SECOND of the movie to them, the kids began to echo each other: "Can we go? I want to go. When will this be over?"

The kids left 10 minutes before the end. I heard the family pull out and head for the exit (and felt them, as well, since each family member made it a solemn duty to bump against the back of my seat). If the parents had left when the kids asked to leave--at the beginning of the movie--Greg and I would've been spared the constant motherly narration, and the needling questions from her three perfect snowflake children. The father, demonstrably God of the Multiplex, said nothing at all.

"Why is he jumping on the bed?" one of the kids asked.

"Because he's angry at his sister. It's a bad thing to jump on the bed."

"But why is he mad?"

"Because. Look at his wet feet on the bed. That's just awful. Shame on him."

A little later, after the first sighting of the Wild Things: "That wasn't scary. Mom, you said it'd be scary. I wasn't scared. Were you scared, Mom? Why is that one breaking all the houses?"

At one point, a cube of ice sailed over the back of my chair and hit me on the top of the head, bounced, and ricocheted off Greg's glasses. Greg looked at me, and I tightened my grip on his hand, and then we... continued watching the movie. Said nothing. We did not turn around to glare, or to accept an apology. Kids--sometimes ice comes out of them.

I liked the movie. Greg didn't. Greg's reasons are his own, so he's welcome to share them in his own way, but the reason I liked the movie is because it was like a Bergman film for children: depressing, ponderous, beautiful, and full of whimsical scenes that quickly became malevolent. A silent God. Whatever. The film was a children's version of "Wild Strawberries."

Wait, no. That's not entirely right. I mean it is right, in a way, because jesus christ the film is so bleak, and, you know, say what you want about the wonders of a child's imagination, in the end the reason children have imagination is because they're fighting against the reality they'll eventually be forced to accept. But it's not right, too, because inside the movie's bleakness is an understanding that you never actually lose your imagination; you just, I don't know, use it to get overcreative with your PowerPoint slides.

There were a lot of kids at our matinee. And a lot of old people, and childless couples. The only people talking during the movie were the kids behind us, who were using their mother as a filter for the film, and she was happy to be that filter, never once tiring of her own narration, her own interpretation, feeding it to her kids like a mother bird barfing up digested berries to her baby birds. And, as I said, they were gone 10 minutes til the end, after one final, "I wanna go, can't we go." Maybe because the father needed to switch the projection off and rewind the reels.

But the kids who remained? The lot of them in their seats? When the credits began to roll, those kids started howling like wild things. I howled too. Lots of adults did, Greg included. Love the movie or hate it, it's still fun to have an excuse to howl in public.

Oh. "...and it was still hot" remains the best ending to any book ever, of all time.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a White Bronco!

Thursday, all of America was distracted by a bright, shiny object. For two hours, every major news source followed the slow progress of a homemade blimp, and reported with very little skepticism about the 6 year old boy riding within it, and America watched. And what did we watch? A shiny balloon. A balloon with, we were told, a boy inside of it.

Sure, the reporters told us, it wasn't a certainty that the boy was inside the balloon. But here's the balloon anyway, shutting down airspace and hurtling through the atmosphere. Schrodinger's cat type stuff--we can't see inside, so there's no way to know for sure, but look at the shiny object, and visualize the poor 6 year old child inside of it.

Apparently, no one bothered to look--really look--for the boy, who was hiding in a box in the attic of his Fort Collins, CO, home as if performing an abridged version of The Diary of Anne Frank, minus Nazis. No, the boy needed to be in the balloon, because who wants to spend an afternoon staring raptly at television images of a balloon floating through space, no matter how interesting Wolf Blitzer makes it seem, unless there is a precocious 6 year old inside of it?

I don't really fault the parents for the absurdity of this Thursday afternoon. I mean sure, having a dirigible in your back yard is irresponsible parenting, at best, but most parents do equally irresponsible things (my parents used to throw me in a trunk and drive me to drive-thru movies, just to avoid paying my admission, for example), and most of those things are not nearly as (frankly) cool as building and maintaining a flying apparatus, then storing it the back yard.

And I don't really fault the emergency response team. They did their job. They followed the shiny object, they secured the shiny object, they prepared to rescue the imaginary child inside the shiny object. Task-oriented. That's what emergency response teams should be. Critical thinking should be limited to the task, and not to the media circus surrounding that task.

Some blame rests with the investigative team, all of whom interviewed the only eyewitnesses to the launch of the 6-year-old-boyless balloon. Falcon Heene's older brothers. The elder brothers all insisted, time and again, and with unanimous consistency, that little Falcon had been inside the balloon when it slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of ratings gold. But apparently it didn't occur to those investigators to thoroughly search the Heene residence.

Most of the blame for the Day America Stopped Working and Watched a Balloon, As if Suddenly Everyone Understood American Beauty, rests with the media. The media, which are so concerned with mini-narratives and storytelling that they are incapable of actual reporting. The media, ratings-starved and secretly hoping for another Jon-Benet, another Columbine, another OJ. The media, which should have taken a moment to reflect on this:

If a 6 year old kid is flying around in a helium-filled balloon for 2.5 hours, he's dead from asphyxiation. It is therefore morbid and perverse to hype the flight of a balloon carrying a 6 year old dead boy, and show unlimited coverage of what amounts to the child's airborne coffin.

But! It didn't occur to the media that the kid, if aboard the mini-zeppelin, would be stone dead within an hour from asphyxiation since HELIUM ISN'T OXYGEN. Or at least it didn't occur to the journalists at 9 News out of Colorado, which was the feed most networks relied on for their breathless "OMG It's a little boy soaring above the earth" coverage. It occurred to me. It probably occurred to a lot of passive watchers of the potential tragedy. But to the intrepid journalists of 9 News, too busy shaping the 'narrative' of the story to be bothered with the facts of it, not one of them seemed to consider the difference between a kid surrounded by oxygen and a kid surrounded by helium.

Around the second hour of 9 News' determined coverage of a childless balloon's progress across a small swath of Colorado, producers apparently had the bright idea to call in an expert of some sort, to give the on-air talent someone other than each other to jaw at. The expert--maybe he was a doctor? A physicist? A balloon-animal clown? I don't know! I should work for 9 News!--casually mentioned that if the child was in the balloon, and if he was not in a compartment separate from the helium of the balloon, he most likely would be dead. The expert dropped this little nugget of mortal clarity while answering one journalist's question about the kid's chances of hypothermia (the journalists had spent most of the balloon's flight discussing the prospect of little Falcon's body being deep-frozen); when the expert brought up the more likely, obvious scenario of asphyxiation, the journalists looked as if it had been they, and not Falcon, who'd been hit by sub-zero blasts of air.

I'm not kidding. The most obvious fact of the whole situation, and not one journalist had thought of it. The expert mentioned "asphyxiation," and you could quite literally see the on-air talent go cold. One of the anchors even said, hastily, "We'll be cutting away when the balloon lands, because we don't want to show a dead child live on the air." At no point in the previous hour had that statement been made (to my knowledge, anyway. And it was a frequent refrain from that point onward:"We'll cut away. Respect for the family. You don't want to see a dead kid, do you?").

When they mentioned hypothermia in that first hour, the reporters seemed disingenuous, as if they knew it wasn't a possibility but wanted to play with the idea just to keep the audience concerned and watching. Until the expert said 'asphyxiation, the journalists (anchors, on-air talent, whatever) had been presenting a tragedy-deferred type story, where the denouement would be on the ground, cut and dried: if the balloon crashes, the boy is dead and you have a sad story; if it lands safely, the boy will pop out in tears but alive and you'll have a happy story. At no point did it occur to the journalists that the story was already over, and they'd been reporting on a floating grave.

Once the balloon landed and it was revealed that no one was inside (and, btw, they did NOT cut away, as promised, but doggedly followed the visuals as the rescue team secured the balloon), a new narrative twist emerged: the boy had fallen from the balloon before anyone had started tracking it. The "Little Falcon died before we had a chance to figure it out" narrative went on for a while.

A grid search began. Interviews began. The media dug deep, found out the Heene family'd been on "Wife Swap," and "Storm Chasers." Found out this fact, found out that fact, dug up everyone who'd ever known the family, put them in front of a camera. Pushed and pushed the possibility of Falcon being dead long before the media ever got hold of the story, as if deflecting the responsibility of there even being a story. As Vonnegut would say: No damn cat, no damn cradle. No damn kid, no damn story--unless he was dead before we got here. So watch this interview with the psychic mom from 'Wife Swap.'

And the kid was, all the while, in the attic of the family home, not too far from all the cameras and the reporters and the investigators and the interviewees.

The story, as small as it was, turns out to be this: A young boy did something he thought he'd be punished for (set loose his father's weird UFO-shaped helium balloon), and hid in the attic to avoid punishment.

But what really happened was this: a desperate media turned their collective backs on the simple story, and went bold, creating elaborate fictions out of a bright, shiny object.

And of course America--me included--followed the bright shiny object because that's what Americans have been taught to do. We know the story is always in an attic in a box, terrified of discovery, but we're so used to looking at White Broncos that we'll follow the bright shiny object every time. Then hate ourselves after.

Hey, how's Afghanistan going? Who cares--Iraq is much brighter.

Monday, October 12, 2009

At a loss for anything else to write about...

It's chilly outside. Not cold, but I've been breaking out the jackets and shoes lately, so summer's over, and we're into fall. Whenever I think of fall, I think of a scene from Hannah and Her Sisters (really): Barbara Hershey standing on a wooden pier, wearing a thick coat. The reason I think about this image is because, in the movie, "time has passed," and what was going on in the first half of the movie is several months past, and things have changed, and events have happened, and the audience is expected to catch up. Barbara Hershey, standing above water on waterlogged pier planks, hugging her coat, conveys perfectly how "time has passed." There's even a helpful wind blowing through her hair, which allows the audience to visualize the progression of time.

I think I associate fall with time-progression because when we get to fall, we're also approaching the event-horizon of my birth. I was born in December. Fall can only lead to one thing, and that's my birthday. Which means I'm older, which means I'm nudging up to death. Another year older--what have I done?

Truth is, I haven't done a lot. I've given money to various political campaigns, I've got opinions, I've been to various entertainments, I've had cultural close encounters, I've visited with friends and family. Nothing no one else hasn't done. Read some books. Gay-married Greg. Acquired a dog. Taken long walks through domesticated parks. Forgotten to do this thing, neglected to do that thing. And leaves are now falling, and the sun goes down a lot earlier.

If you'd asked me 10 years ago what I'd like to say about my life, you'd've gotten a different answer than if you asked me today. 10 years ago, I'd've told you I wanted a best seller, a Pulitzer, an Oscar-winning adaptation, and to be the bane of high school students forced to read my work. Faulkner. Schwartz. Salinger. Hell, Updike. Then me.

Not what I want now. I still want to write, and do write, and will always write, because that's what I do--I write when I can. Like now. This is writing. It's not Writing, but it's writing, small w, and not likely to end up on a 16 year old's reading list--but who knows, since this is the Internet, and who the fuck knows what will become vital and what won't once the Internet generation takes over the hallowed Ivory Tower. Tucker Max might be the next Virginia Woolf. The Onion might be the next Jonathan Swift. Matt Drudge might, god help us, be the next Alexis de Tocqueville. Writing. Who knows what's worth a second look? It's all so arbitrary.

Here's the point: It was a nice summer for me. Not great, but nice. 10 years ago, I didn't think I'd have Greg, and I didn't think I'd be in a position to worry about someone other than myself. 10 years ago, I was a self-contained, self-obsessed dingus with no future. Now, though? 10 years later?

Here, I'll admit this: I've spent worlds enough and time sabotaging my own life. Some people call it "self-destructive" but I like to call it "the painful way to self-discovery." And the painful way to self-discovery is a series of choices, which are usually bad, and are mostly selfish, and leads to a process of elimination where-in it is discovered what is actually important, and what is not. What's important: My relationship with Greg, paying rent, and the things I enjoy. What is not important: Being read by high school kids after my death, because most high school kids can't read. Important: Saying what I want to say. Not important: Saying what I should say in the unlikely event that someone is listening.

This summer was nice. It's gone now, but this summer was a sweet one. Now I'm standing on waterlogged planks, staring out at the ocean, hugging my sweater while the new cold wind nudges against my hair, which I am thrilled I still have. The end of the year is closing in, and my birthday is circling. No one, not even the rain, etc etc. And years have passed since I've seen Hannah and Her Sisters, and Barbara Hershey stepping out onto that pier, but I still remember the visual:

Bleak day. The camera lingers on the absence as the water laps at the wood of the pier. Desolation. In steps LEE [played by Barbara Hershey], wearing warm boots and a coat. She looks off into the distance, where there is nothing, and feels the slightly biting hint-of-winter wind nibbling at her. Soundtrack: Concerto For Two Violins & Orchestra, Bach. Voice-over:


Monday, October 5, 2009

Another Chapter from Going Rouge

Chapters two and three of Palin's new book are rather dull, unless you like field guides for dressing a moose. I'm assuming she's drawing on some sort of weird Melville inspiration here, because she goes on for pages and pages about how to slice and cure meat, tan hides, and, at one point, the various uses of whale blubber.

Anyway, chapter four gets into the recent presidential campaign, and her first meeting with John McCain. She coyly skirts the issue of her pregnancy, however.

Chapter 4.

He was an old man who ran alone on the Republican ticket in the United States, and he had gone nearly three months without a bump in the polls. That’s how John McCain was introduced to me. I’d never heard of him before, then suddenly he was all I was hearing about.

In Alaska, I was up there governing so much I never really had time for politics. It’s not like I didn’t know what was going on--not at all!--but who has the time to pick over who’s running for what higher office when you’ve got government subsidies to spend? Plus, I was distracted by my pregnancy.

When I got pregnant, I didn’t notice it. People have criticized me for not making my pregnancy known, but the truth is, until I went to that conference in Texas to give my keynote speech, I didn’t know myself--I thought the pains were from that terrible foreign food I’d been eating in Texas. All those nachos and tacos can take a terrible toll on the system of someone used to seal meat and wolf burgers, which are much more delicate and natural.

My water broke just as I was about to take the stage at the Republican Governor’s Energy Conference in Dallas. Todd looked down at my wet shoes, then up at me, and said, “Honey, did you just pee?” I shrugged, unable to answer. It shocked me just as much as it shocked him, and I began to wonder if perhaps those sharp pains I’d been feeling all day were something other than refried bean gas.

It was then that I considered, for one brief moment, a terrible choice. Here I was in a state where no one really knew me. I could slip out of the hotel and down the street to one of the bodegas and get rid of what I now knew was inside of me. No one would know, and a nice Mexican family would have a strapping young white child to use as a bargaining tool should they want to become legal residents of America. I said a quick prayer to Jesus, grabbed a fresh dress from the suitcase, and said firmly to Todd, “I have a speech to give. Then we’ll deal with my incontinence.”

Some time later, John McCain was asking me to be his running mate.

The thing about John McCain is, he’s old. Which is fine, of course, but I’m a very youthful person used to jogging and fishing and swimming and hunting, and I don’t do very well when I’m forced to sit still in a stuffy room that smells of moth balls and stale gin, talking idly about strategy and policy. I work much better while in motion. You’d think my vitality and flightiness would have accentuated Mr. McCain’s weaknesses, making us the perfect pair of candidates to run for president. His experience, his caution, his ability to sit for hours at a time without movement, combined with my boundless energy seemed like a perfect fit. Sadly, it wasn’t.

The first time I met him, I met him alone. No Todd. No Cindy. No press. No advisers. No one. Just John, and just me, one on one. He came in secret to Alaska, and asked me one question: “Do you know the capital of North Carolina?”

“Sure,” I replied.

After a pause, he said, “....yes...?”

“Well, of course I know the capital of North Carolina. It’s the city with the capital building in it.” I winked, then made a click noise with my lips.

John shivered, and his skin grew bright red--the American blush strikes again! All men go rouge for me at some point--and he half-extended his hand to me. “Ms. Palin,” John said, his voice low and trembling, “I would be honored if you’d accept my invitation to join me on the campaign trail.”

Without hesitating, I asked, “In what capacity? Unless I’m capacitated, I can’t accept your offer.”

He grimaced, and pulled his hand away for a moment. Brightened again, as if he’d just gotten a joke. “Oh, I get it. Nice turn of phrase, little lady. You’d be capacitated into the role of my vice president.”

I accepted. Without hesitancy. Later, I looked up what it was exactly a vice president was expected to do. You know, our great founding fathers, in their infallible wisdom, had seen fit to not assign a specific role for the vice president of the United States. It was left up to me to decide, because the founding fathers understood the necessity of flexibility and vagueness in all things political. All other offices of government are given tediously-explained rules and regulations, but the vice president has only one defined task: ruling over Congress. Everything else was open--I could do as I pleased, and began to wonder why anyone would run for president when clearly vice president was where all the real power was.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Going Rouge: An American Life

Got an advance copy of Sarah Palin's stunningly coherent autobio yesterday. Here's the first chapter.

The press has reported falsely, by the way, that the title is Going Rogue. Shouldn't surprise you that the press got it wrong, because they never get ANY facts straight when it comes to Ms. Palin.

Going Rouge: An American Life

Chapter 1.

To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born. I can prove it. Birth certificates, particularly long-form birth certificates, are a handy thing to have, and I have one. It says plainly, that I was most definitely born in Sandpoint, Idaho, to Sarah (my mother) and Charles (my father) Heath (their last names, which I proudly took). All of my relatives are American. We were all born in the US, so I am an American, and this is my American life.

You know, people who aren’t born American are unfortunate souls. In my travels, and when looking out of my kitchen window at the land beyond, I can see into the eyes of the foreign people, and there’s nothing in those eyes but sadness and yearning. When I speak to people in other countries, they hang on my every word, waiting for me to tell them how wonderful they are, perhaps, or that everything is okay even though they’re not from Alaska. Or Idaho. Or any of the states comprising real America.

I recently went to Taiwan, I think, and was struck by the despair of the Chinese people who want desperately to be American, but can’t be because their government is Chinese. I said to the people, “It’s okay. Not all of us can be as lucky as me. America needs you to make our stuff. You serve a purpose.” A timid young man in the third row raised his hand and spoke in the native tongue--the Chinese have a beautiful language! It’s so full of vowels!--which the interpreter interpreted for me: “But lovely Sarah, if we can’t be American, we at least want to have you as our leader.”

Obviously, I was flattered. Who wouldn’t want to be king of China? And his statement roused the crowd. Cheers! Chants! I waved down at them from my balcony, and, through the interpreter, assured them that while I’d be a benevolent king, I could never forsake my own country. “I’ll support you in the only way I know how,” I said. “I’ll continue shopping at Wal-Mart.”

I met Todd at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is an important way of American life, and most of the significant events in my life have happened there, including the conception of my first child, and the birth of my second. Yes, we named Track after the lighting section of Wal-Mart where he was spawned. Bristol was born in the meat department, so you can guess what we named her after!

As I was saying, I met Todd at Wal-Mart, in Wasilla, and it was love at first sight. He was buying shells for his Winchester Model 70 Stealth II, and I was picking up some milk. He stood behind me in the cashier line, and made a remark about my buttocks and quarters. I giggled, and remarked on the size of his shells. “You must have a big gun,” I said. He blushed.

Blushing is a distinctly American thing. People in other countries lack the right complexion necessary to blush, except for Europeans, who lack the ability to be embarrassed and therefore simply never blush at all. Instead, Europeans get flushed, like after sex or before a socialist vote. To be American is to be blushing in a line at Wal-Mart. And that was me, standing there with my milk, staring at Todd’s strong hands cradling 100 rifle shells, mulling over the prospect of a quarter bouncing off my rear end. Who could resist? I gave him my number, and we had our first date not long after.

Oh, it was so romantic, you know, the way he took me to a movie (Beethoven’s 5th!) and then to the Dairy Queen for one of those vanilla cones dipped in chocolate (I think it’s called the Obama now, but back then, it was called a Dipped Cone). Dippy things are so American! We Americans love dips.

Sometimes, when I’m eating cheese dip on my front porch, I see the poor people of Russia lined up along their near-by coast, staring at me. Such longing! If only I could be their king too. King of the world! I’d bring dips and blushes and Wal-Mart to everyone, and we could all be Americans, and have an American life!

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