Saturday, November 14, 2015

Not everything in Santa Fe is beautiful.

Santa Fe has a past. It's a past of diversity and beauty and magic. But it's also a past of colonialism and racism. Of course, I knew that when I came here. I even knew that there was a Civil War battle nearby in Glorieta.

But here's something I didn't know: Santa Fe was the site of a Japanese internment camp from 1942 to 1946, where 4,555 men were imprisoned without due process.

Today -- two days after Veterans Day -- I visited the monument at the site, dedicated in 2002. If most of us have forgotten about this despicable piece of history, it was clear from the flowers and origami cranes left behind that the memory is still fresh for some.

I write this in the hours following the infuriating, devastating attacks in Paris. So far, it looks like it was the work of ISIS or Al Qaeda.

Fear, anger, and the desire for revenge are natural. I'm feeling all of those things right now. But I hope that, as a nation, we don't allow those feelings to translate to policy.

The plaque at the Santa Fe camp ends with the following sentence:


Here are some of the photos I took today.

Tonight, I pray for peace, wisdom, and restraint.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Lazy-Ass Librarian Tuesday: Moms Try To Guess If It’s A Dog Toy Or Sex Toy

Now I'm mad.

Someone poisoned my dog Forrest. He will probably recover, thanks to good veterinary care, a cool grand in diagnostics, and a near future of frequent blood tests and medication.

The vet said it had to be a large dose to do so much damage, so it didn't just casually blow into my patio. Somebody had to put it there. I live in a gated condo community, so whoever did this apparently belongs here. How comforting.

These are mostly rentals, and we're in the hood. So it's not terribly surprising that various annoying things have landed in my little portal since I moved in. I found the bits of trash, the tail end of a joint, and a couple of weeks ago, a very gross, very used condom. I found those.

Forrest found the rat poison.

Now, I don't know if whoever threw this shit over the fence meant to hurt Forrest in particular. And frankly, I don't care. Forrest still bled internally and went into shock. He still suffered terribly. And he's still not out of danger.

So whoever did this, I really hate the motherfucker


Friday, October 16, 2015

The Jason Debacle of 1999

Halloween! Ghosts and ghouls. Parties. Costumes!

I'm not good with costumes.

When I was a kid, I dressed up as a weeping willow one year, complete with long, long strings of knotted green crepe paper to represent flowing branches. But instead, people thought I was the Creature from the Black  Lagoon. You would think the bird's nest on top of my head would have been a clue. Philistines.

The next time I wore a Halloween costume was at a gay sober dance in 1999. It was my first dance as a single woman, my first dance as an out lesbian, and, in fact, my first dance. What would I wear? What message did I want to send?

Well, I went as the Crash Test Dummy. It looked exactly like this, only without the steering wheel:

As my friend James said afterwards, "Could you have chosen anything less sexual?" Considering I looked like Jason in a hazmat suit, I'd have to answer in the negative.

I haven't worn a costume since.

So anyway, there's this dance on Halloween. Dances are hard for me, even harder than other social events, but I'm determined to go. Life begins where your comfort zone ends, right?.

There's just one problem: The invitation says to come in disguise. Oy.

Not wanting to repeat the Jason Debacle of 1999, I got on eBay and started looking for a costume. What should I wear? What kind of message do I want to send?

At least I have a starting point this time: It has to be sexier than a crash test dummy. That eliminates Mrs. Potato Head. And Elmo. And probably a weeping willow.

I can't wear anything short, or clingy, or braless, because I'm pretty sure I can't lose 60 pounds by October 31. That disposes of 99.2% of the costumes remaining.

And nothing that just plain annoys me. That eliminates Disney characters and anything with antennae.

So what's left? Well, let's see. I'm down to Pirate Wench, Renaissance Wench, or Oktoberfest Wench.

Except... High heels are out of the question, because I'm a complete klutz. Is it possible for wenchiness to co-exist with flats?  

It's starting to look like I'm going as Librarian with Cleavage and Sensible Shoes.

In a disguise. Somehow.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The abortion thing.

Dyed-in-the-wool, old-school feminists aren't supposed to be ambivalent about abortion. But, you see, I am, so I've never taken a position on this important issue.

Now it's time.

You may as well know, I had an abortion when I was nineteen. My fiancee and I were about to go to college, me on a prestigious scholarship.

We were very much in love. I got birth control, but I wasn't very careful, and that's how it happened. Now I had to make an impossible choice.

And oh, boy, everyone had an opinion. My fiancee pressured me to have an abortion. My dad also insisted on an abortion. My stepfather said just the opposite. Funny how all the strong opinions came from men. Funny how this has only just occurred to me.

There was only one person who asked what I wanted, and that was my mother. She told me she would support whatever decision I made. I'm forever grateful to her for that. It was a breath of fresh air -- one last, deep breath before I suffocated.

In the end I had the abortion because my fiancee wanted me to, and I didn't want to lose him. At the clinic, the women were kind and conscientious. When they asked if I was really sure, I told them I was. How could they know I was lying? I cried before, and I cried after. The next day we moved ourselves to college, lugging boxes up the dormitory stairs.

How I longed for my fiancee to say "Let's have a baby! Let's make a family!" Instead he said, "We have to erase this mistake." I remember calling abortion clinics. Asking my dad for money. Making sure I converted to Judaism before the abortion, because the child follows the mother's religion. It makes no sense now, but it seemed important at the time.

Did it turn out all right? It did, in the long run, but it came at a high price: many years of guilt, grief, and dread that I might never get pregnant again. It wasn't until we finally had our daughter that I could even consider forgiving myself. The fact is, I made the best decision I knew how to make at the time, and finally, after many years, I have no regrets.

Let me be very clear: The lesson here isn't that abortion is wrong. The lesson is that it was wrong for me.

I wanted something good to come out of the darkness. So that first semester, in speech class, I gave a speech about birth control. I described each type, complete with props. I explained the pros and cons of each kind, and how to use them. And I explained why I was giving this speech. Not easy for a shy introvert.

Among my visual aids were condoms I got from the student health center, and I was mortified when they turned out to be hot pink. On the day of my speech, I gulped, tore open a condom in front of the class, and proceeded to demonstrate the proper way to put one on. I went well over my time limit, forfeiting a better grade because, goddamn it, this was really important. Who knows if it helped anybody. I'm not even sure it helped me.

This isn't the story you're supposed to tell if you're pro-choice, but it's the only one I've got.  Inherent in the concept of choice is the freedom to make the wrong one.

I can imagine only one thing that would be worse than the choice I made, and that's being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.

I want every young woman to have the right to choose her best path. And so, despite my experience, I am pro-choice.

I am ambivalent about abortion because I believe that a fetus becomes sentient before birth. It's not a person, but it is sentient, and at some point is capable of feeling pain. A fetus may not be person, but it's not just a blob of jelly either. It deserves some level of respect and compassion.

But never, ever more respect and compassion than we give the mother when the time comes for her to make that terrible choice.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Total lunar eclipse, 2015

The moon came back. I knew it would, but seeing that sliver of white on the other side felt both grand and comforting. I started watching at 8pm, shortly before the last light disappeared into the Earth's shadow. I watched for about an hour and a half, until I saw, unmistakably, light bulging from the side, as if it was bursting out of a vessel too small to contain it. By that time, the darkness wasn't a shadow anymore.  There was, clearly, a non-earthly object passing in front of the moon.

An eclipse goes much more slowly than a sunset -- that was a bit of a surprise. I don't think I've ever had the patience to watch an eclipse for so long. But then, I've never had such a good seat for the event.

To be honest, I was ready to go back inside much sooner than I did. But as I watched the moon from behind the coyote fence that surrounds my patio, listening to dishes clinking in a neighbor's sink, I thought about those who watched from this spot 1,200 years ago. It must have been an extraordinary experience. What would they have felt, sitting, watching for hours in silence? Did they know the moon would reappear? Surely some didn't. I felt compelled to wait it out with the Anasazi, to see the thing through, and so I stayed until the moon burst out once again.

Wish I'd taken this.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

On guilt

I wasn't supposed to have the money, but there it was, thanks to my brother. My father was not pleased at my brother's act of sedition, and he made sure I knew it, but there wasn't a whole lot he could do about it. I bought the cheapest, most reliable, paid-for car I could find, and the money was gone. But before I thanked my brother, he had a stroke. Now he has to re-learn how to speak. I have thanked him, but much is yet unsaid. 

And then there is the apartment. It's on the low end of average, but it's not cheap. With a condo still to sell in Atlanta, it's going to be a squeeze. Still, it's safe and pleasant, and they're willing to take me, my 50-pound dog, and my shitty credit with only a hundred-dollar deposit. There's a cheaper place to rent, but the landlady has already proved to be a liar, and she wants a fortune up front. Just how do you tell the difference between wants and needs?

I'm looking at my hands as I type, dismayed by the fat, aging fingers in front of me. The rest of me is even worse. I can't look, and I can't look away. I wonder if my kid is embarrassed by our photos together. Of course she must be, and I want to hide.

And yet, speaking of embarrassment, this embarrassment of riches. A dream job in a city of artists and dreamers. If I had done every single thing in my life right, I would be lucky to be exactly where I am now. But I've gotten much of it so terribly wrong. The guy down the street is working his ass off, making ten bucks an hour and trying to raise two sons. I just bought a new car.

Yet failing to enjoy all of this, well, it just seems like that would be even worse than failing to earn it.

So I get in my car, put her in gear, and turn up the radio. I've named her, and I say her name. I tell myself there's still time to earn these gifts.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day: In which I muse domestic.

About a year ago, my ex-girlfriend asked me to make dinner. Manwich, to be specific. (To me, this is cooking, but apparently that's not a universal opinion.)

Anyway, I took the frozen veggie crumbles out of the freezer, opened the bag, and dumped it into the pan, just as I had been instructed. But how to break up that big lump of frozen crumbles in the middle of the pan? It was like a big rock. Stabbing it with a fork didn't seem like a good idea because it could scratch the Teflon.

So I did the only logical thing: I took a hammer out of the drawer and I slammed it into the veggie crumbles. It made a terrific noise, and crumbles went flying. Oh, and I was immediately banished from the kitchen.

Which might explain why the prospect of a potluck makes me blanch. Me trying to cook, well, it's just plain contraindicated.

There was a time when I tried to cook. I really did. I even made dinner from scratch. And for guests! It worked okay if I could just cook one dish. Or if I didn't have to figure out if the meat was completely cooked. Or if I could just serve cookies for dinner, because that I can do, although the cookies will be gone before the guests arrive. But man, did it stress me out. Frankly, I'm mystified by people who love to cook.

But lesbians have potlucks, so what's a lesbian to do?

Well, you can imagine my excitement when the folks from "As Seen On TV" came out with Quick and Easy Dump Dinners.

For the uninitiated, a dump dinner is where you just dump the ingredients in a pan and stick it in the oven. You don't even have to stir. I saw the commercials. And my ex made a dump cobbler once and it was delicious.

I'm a sucker for anything that's "Seen On TV." Or hawked at grocery-store demonstrations. I love my ginsu knives!

Could Quick and Easy Dump Dinners make me the life of the potluck? It certainly showed promise. So when it went on sale at Kroger -- five bucks! -- I was ready. After all, who could resist Cathy Mitchell's smiling face on the cover? With "Delicious Family Sized Dinners in Minutes!" And over 250 recipes! Say, this could work!

But then I sat down to choose my first kickass dump-dinner-potluck recipe. And what did I find?

Verbs. Lots and lots of verbs.

Now, I'm pretty sure you're only allowed to have one verb in a dump-dinner recipe book, and that verb is dump. And maybe pour. Dump and pour. Two verbs. That's all you get.

But here's what I have to do if I want to make the Best Ever Roasted Chicken:
Carefully separate the skin from the meat of the chicken. Brush the bottom with a quarter of the dressing. Tuck the wings under the breast and put the chicken on a roasting pan, breast side up. Brush 1/2 cup of the dressing under the skin and all around the outside of the chicken....
Are you kidding me? I was better off with the Manwich.

Which brings me, alas, to a third verb, the one I'll have to use for the next potluck.  Buy. It'll have to do until Cathy Mitchell writes a real dump-dinner cookbook.

So come on, Cathy, get with the program already. You've got work to do.

Dedicated to my mother, who was a pretty good cook, but once forgot to put the pineapple in the pineapple upside-down cake.