Saturday, December 27, 2008

Honey, I'm Home.

We picked up Cooper yesterday. Actually, we'd need a crane to pick up Cooper, but we fetched her home yesterday. We were expecting someone a little shy and nervous about strangers, but what we got was a big affectionate moose who jumped in our car and plopped herself in the back seat before we even got to introduce ourselves.

She's big. Eighty pounds and still filling out, and her head can almost rest on the countertops, which makes feeding the cats interesting. The "bed" we bought her now looks more like a throw pillow, but somehow she manages to curl up like a corkscrew and fit herself on it.

She's met all the cats and only got her nose scratched once (but that may be because only one of them has claws). She likes them ... they aren't sure about her yet, but at least they don't loathe her, which is more than I can say for some dogs. She's completely non-threatening, even though she's the size of small pony. Sage is still a bit reticent, and Cooper looks a little too interested in the ducks for comfort, but she understands the notion of "sit" and "stay" and "no!" so we'll see how that goes.

I bought her some edible Nylabone chewies thinking that she could gnaw on them for awhile, but they only lasted about 30 seconds. Perhaps something in the cow leg department might last longer?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Home for the Holidays

Ev and I are getting each other a Christmas present after all.

It involves a Christmas Eve shopping trip to Rural King and a four hour drive to St. Louis and back to pick it up, and her name is Cooper ... and, of course, there's a story behind her.

Cooper is a seven year old female weimaraner who was surrendered to a rescue organization a year ago and placed in bad foster care. A different rescue organization got her in August ... hairless and nearly starved to death with a large hematoma on one ear ... and put her in veterinary care. After a month with a vet she was placed back in foster care, where she's bounced around a bit waiting to be adopted. She's gained her weight back, had her ear operated on and is trying to grow back her hair. We found her on the WonderWeimsRescue website last weekend and applied to adopt her. I got the official notification yesterday that she can come home with us.

We're going today to buy her a dog bed and some bowls and toys, and we'll drive to Missouri on Friday to fetch her home.

This is how we acquire pets, and these are the kinds of pets we acquire.

Our elderly dog, Sage, was adopted from the Humane Society when she was a year old. She'd been adopted and abandoned three times before I got her and she'd been beaten so much that she was hand-shy and had become a destructive chewer. She didn't chew up underwear, she chewed up upholstered furniture and berber area rugs. It took six months to cure her and turn her into a wonderful dog.

Cuppy, the one-eyed cat, was purchased from a breeder when she was "retired" from a breeding program. She was infected with Feline Herpesvirus and had a chronic upper respiratory infection. The FHV eventually led to corneal ulcers and the loss of her eye, and requires us to clean up copious amounts of cat snot, but she's worth it.

Melon Kiwi was a greasy gray and black kitten living under a truck in the parking lot of the local barbecue joint when Ev found him, bloated with worms. He grew up to be the handsomest and fluffiest black and white cat in the world, and Ev's soul mate.

Brian and Slipper were the products of the unplanned teen pregnancy of Carrie's cat, Princess Sophia, who started out life as a runty and boneless kitten found in a box in the PetCo parking lot. Brian isn't very bright, probably owing to some lack of oxygen during his traumatic birth, but he's our world-class string game guy and we love the tuxedo boys to pieces.

Mrs Underfoot was an outdoor cat who was abandoned when her people moved away and became the neighborhood cat. She was living on mice and birds and the kindness of strangers when Ev's ex-husband brought her to us the summer before last and asked if she could live in our yard. She moved indoors last winter after six months of coaxing ... and an ice storm.

When Ev and the kids talk about the pets they've had in the past, they all have stories. They were snatched from a sack of puppies tossed in a pond, picked up on the side of the road, plucked out of a litter of feral kittens living in a basement or under a shed or saved from some other bad fate. My first dog was a black lab dropped out of a truck that sped off from a local lake on a busy weekend ... my first cat was found wandering across a busy street in downtown Phoenix.

And now there'll be Cooper. She'll come to us already getting on in years, with patchy hair and a food allergy. She'll be wary and unsure of us. The cats will hiss at her and Sage will be afraid of being pounced on. She'll probably chew up something and she might chase the ducks. But she'll be home, and she'll turn into a good dog, and life in Nowhere, IL will be the best thing that's ever happened to her, just like it's the best thing that's ever happened to the rest of us.

The fact that it will happen at Christmas will make a great story for years to come, and we're all about the stories!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Meaning of Christmas?

It's less than a week before Christmas, and I don't care. Not in that depressed way that people don't-care-because-they-might-as-well-be-dead-because-it-doesn't-matter-anyway. I don't care because...well...I don't have to. Our kids are grown. We have no money. The kids have no money. So instead we've decided to have a nice family holiday with good food...sort of Thanksgiving, Part Two.

It feels tremendously liberating. I'm not a Christmas person anyway...I'm an Atheist, so the Jesus part doesn't speak to me. I hate shopping, so the consumerism just pisses me off. Oh...and I loathe Christmas music. The only part of it I really like is the food and family, decorations with twinkly lights, and the smell of pine trees and a roast cooking.

I've been talking with friends and coworkers, and there seems to be a consensus brewing that Christmas isn't fun anymore. I don't know if it was ever fun for adults, really. Did our parents stress about the money too? I remember going to Chicago with my mother to see the Christmas display in the window of Marshall Field, but I don't remember the money part. I wonder if my parents put their heads together and tried to decide which bills to put off or which credit cards to max out in order to buy us Six Finger cap pistols and Easy Bake ovens.

My childhood family managed to fuck up holidays in much the same way we managed to fuck up every other event, so this is yet another place where I have only the vaguest idea of what "normal" people do. And I'm somewhat suspicious about the existence of normal people anyway. Who are the mythic functional families that provide the counterpoint to our dysfunctional ones? No one I know. Maybe there's an undiscovered pocket of emotionally healthy people who can enjoy their holidays without angst...I'd like to meet them. Maybe sit at their feet and learn their secrets.

So this year we get to have the parts I like without the parts I don't like. That'll make me happy, but I worry a little a little about everyone else. It's one thing to say we want our Christmas to look like this, but another thing to actually live it. I've had 45 years to hone my dislike of Christmas to a razor's edge. I sort of understand that the rest of the world may not feel like I do about it. I love my family more than anything in the world, so...I worry. A little.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ice Storm '08.3

The weather forecast is for a massive ice storm today. Our local news program, which scrambles around to find any actual news to report ("Three car wreck on Rt. 3! Glass broken! Film at 10.), has long ago settled on being the Weather Catastrophe Channel. Their favorite kind of news is forecasting upcoming weather catastrophes, but in a pinch, they'll relive weather catastrophes from the past. Lori and I love the segments where they interview people who lived through news-making weather in bygone years.

"What was it like, the ice storm of '08?"
" was cold. Real cold. Mama din't come out da house for near a week."
"Does your mother plan to leave the house in the face of this storm?"
"Naw. We got a freezer fulla squirrels. We can hunker down for nigh on a month."

So now the Weather Catastrophe Channel is forecasting our first ice storm of the season. Lori had to go to East Bumfuck, IL to see patients who won't actually show up, since there's an ice storm and they're elderly folks who can't see. They didn't make it this long by being stupid. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together knows that if there's an inch of ice on the roads...stay home.

Except for Lori's boss. He's going to get to East Bumfuck from Evansville, Indiana in his 4 wheel drive Tundrapalooza SUV with the roll bars, fog lights, studded tires, GPS, and the cow catcher on the front. And he wants Lori and Pamela to meet him there.

I feel like Christopher Columbus' gay lover (Hello? Didn't you notice the tights?), waiting for Chris to discover something (maybe East Bumfuck?) and get the hell back home for a cup of hot cocoa and a change of tights.

If Lori and Pamela end up in a ditch because Dr. Testosterone wants to test the limits of his lunar lander SUV in inclement weather, be forewarned. Somebody's Hoosier ass will be kicked. Don't make me plant a Yak Trak up your ass, Big Guy. I'm a mother...I'm scary when I'm mad. Just ask the kids.

In the immortal words of my son, "I tried anger management, but I had to stop going because it made me angry."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I hab a co'd

I never used to get colds. I have one now, though, and it's a doozy. Coughing, sneezing, stuffy head, runny nose, sore throat and that weird feeling like your eyeballs might melt. And I can't even enjoy it, because we're about to have weather. The midwestern kind you need to be aware of and plan for. This is a most inopportune time to be sickie-poo.

There's a big angry arctic front bearing down on Nowhere, Illinois (I blame Chicago and Rod Blagojevich for this, by the way). Starting tonight, and lasting through Wednesday, we're expecting freezing rain, ice, sleet, howling winds, ice again, more sleet ... repeat as necessary. Ev is working this weekend so this means that today I need to be battening down the hatches. My "to do" list includes filling the utility room with firewood, making sure we've laid in enough cat food, dog food and duck food (the 50 pound bag of corn is in my trunk), securing the severely depressed ducks in their dome and spreading more dry straw for them, stocking up on coffee and cigarettes in case we can't leave the house for a couple of days, and doing a zillion things that require me to be out of my jammies, off the couch and out in the cold, windy world.

I don't wanna.

I hafta.

The days are wicked short, and since I slept until noon (thank you, Nyquil) I have about three hours to get it all done before it's dark again.

So much for a gay lifestyle of irresponsible wanton hedonism.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

New and Improved!

Dear Mr. O'Cedar:

There is nothing new and improved about a mop. It's a sponge on a stick. The only thing "new" about it is that this year's sponge doesn't fit on last year's stick, forcing me to purchase a whole new sponge on a whole new stick, for which I won't be able to buy a replacement sponge the next time I need one. This is not an improvement.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Lori and I joined Facebook this week, which means several things. Firstly, it means that we've been finding our old friends and acquaintances and reconnecting. Secondly, it takes up solidly out of the "pathetic old dinosaurs" category, and into "trendy and shallow"...which is a much more amusing place to be. Lastly, it means that any of you who are on Facebook and don't friend us? You suck ass. I mean that. Just stay away from my humble little blog. Go read something like Pandagon or some other popular blog where they don't need friends.

Now that we're on Facebook we've made some interesting reconnections. Lori friended (and then unfriended) a guy she used to go to high school with who's now an unrepentant bible-thumping homophobe. Oh...and she unfriended Paula Poundstone after Paula's automated update shook her down for cash. Lori's pretty ruthless that way. She refused to bail out GM also.

Paula and General Motors? Don't come to Nowhere looking for a handout. It ain't happening.

Lori tracked down one ex that still likes her and one that doesn't. My two long term lesbian exes include a deeply closeted woman who'll never appear in public somewhere where she might be caught being gay (like Facebook), and one who is happily technologically-impaired. Not much likelihood of bumping into either of them on the Internets. But I did meet up with her son, and he turned into a man when I wasn't looking. I guess they do that.

Since it's my day off and I've got a cold, I'm extra low on ambition. I took a nap on the floor in front of the fireplace with Cuppy, ran the granddog out in the field, and learned to navigate Facebook. Now I'm prepared. Friends, quasi-friends, pseudo-friends, and frenemies...bring it on. I know how to send Mistletoe and fishes now. I'm ready.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Two Mules for Sister Sarah

Q: What does Sarah Palin hate worse than Democrats?

A: Illinois Democrats.

Sarah is so last week.
In the finest tradition of Chicago politics, we're having our own little Turkey Massacree in three part harmony here in the Land of Lincoln, and I'm afraid Sarah's been kicked off the front page by an Illinois Democrat again.

Sarah, step aside for the new leader of the Governor's To Watch Out For pack. You may have cool glasses and Naughty Monkey pumps, but Rod has those beady sunken eyes ... that sneery non-existant upper lip ... that prodigious cappilosity! (He looks a little bit like Alvin the Chipmunk, doesn't he?)

You can see Russia from your house, but I can hear the ink drying on the drawing boards of political cartoonists all over the globe from mine.

Thank heaven we can finally be done with all those puerile "gosh darnit"s and "you betcha"s, also too. With Rod you get pure unadulterated gutter profanity ... and no damn winking! President-Elect Obama doesn't want to play ball and fork over an ambassadorship, a cabinet position or the high paid chairmanship of a specious non-profit organization? "Fuck him!" A seat in the Senate? It ain't just a chair, it's a "fucking golden thing and you don't fucking give it away for nothing." If Blagojevich's phone had a cuss-o-meter the needle would redline.

I don't ever want to hear about Sarah Palin's abuse of power again, either, also. She's a total lightweight.

The Governor of Alaska got one teensy-weensy little public servant fired. The Governor of Illinois tried to blackmail the entire Tribune company into firing every journalist who ever wrote anything negative about him. Now that's some firin'.

Palin's pedestrian little per-diem ripoff? Peanuts. Rod won't even entertain a guest in the Governor's office for less than half a mil.

So head's up, Alaska. Your Governor may be a goof-ball, but our Governor can kick your Governor's ass in the National Embarassment sweepstakes!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Dead Guy

Last night Lori and I drove to Evansville, IN, 3 hours east of here, for her annual Christmas party. We would have been right on time, except we got a little doubt due to faulty intelligence. The directions were crappy, I swear.

But we made it,. We ate the free food, drank the free beer, won the table's centerpiece, and bugged out at a respectable hour. We decided to share $40 of her Christmas bonus with the riverboat casino in Evansville, and did what we always do...dinked around on the penny slots until 3 a.m.

At 3 we looked at our watches, cashed in our $20 ticket, cursed ourselves for staying out so late, and headed for the car.

This would be an opportunity to mention that the Casino Aztar in Evansville is HUGE. And we were tired. So we wandered a little looking for the car.

"I thought we parked on level 2."
"So did I. Maybe not."

We checked level 2. Nada. Level 1? Nope. Level 3? uh-uh.

So we put our heads together, finally remembered where we parked.. in the very, very back corner of level two. We got off the elevator and made the trek across the cold parking lot in. And it was cold - really cold - like 18 degrees.

As we approached the car, I saw something in the passenger seat. I was a little bit ahead of Lori and I looked in the driver's side window...there was a guy in the passenger seat of our car.

He was a big guy; his eyes were closed and he was slumped forward with his hands in the om position, in a long sleeve t-shirt with no coat. I said, "There's a man in our car."

Lori said, "What??"

"There's a man in our car. Look."

Lori bent down, looked in the window, and smacked it really hard with the palm of her hand. It made a lot of noise, but he didn't move. We looked at each other over the top of the car, and I sent Lori back in to the casino to find a security guard. I stayed by the car to keep an eye on it. He didn't look like he was going anywhere, but I was thinking that if he did, I'd want to know.

So I stood a few yards behind the car, looking at him through the back window, and speculated about why he was in our car. Was he drunk and got into the wrong car? Did he lose the rent playing poker and kill himself? Did someone else kill him and leave him there? Did he pass out and freeze to death?

The question uppermost in my mind however...was there going to be anything gross in our car?

I was trying to remember how to do CPR if I needed to. 5 and 1? 10 and 2? Maybe he'd be so dead I wouldn't have to remember. Please, please...don't have splattered your brains all over our car. Please. I sort of envisioned being stuck in Evansville, our car a crime scene, calling our family for a ride home.

"Uh, Rob? We're in Evansville and there's a dead guy in our car. The police need to keep it for a while...can you come get us? "

Rob's a nice guy, but really...I'll bet he's getting tired of rescuing us from our weird disasters.

By this time my ears were freezing and I was wondering where Lori was. I started edging back towards the door, keeping an eye on the car, until finally she came out with a security guy. Apparently the security guard she had approached had to interrogate her for a few minutes before doing anything. Was she sure it was her car? Was the guy someone she knew?

No and no. He finally called another security guy...the parking lot security guy. Lori and the security guy walked towards me while she explained to him that we'd come out of the casino to find a large, unresponsive man in the passenger seat of our car. Thy approached the car and the security guy tapped on the window and said, "Hey, buddy?" Nothing. The guy never moved.He opened the door, put a hand on the guy's shoulder and shook him gently. Nothing.

The cop started shaking him harder and harder, saying, "Buddy? Hey buddy? Can you hear me?" No response.

Oh shit, I thought. Dead. Damn it. This is going to be really inconvenient. "Does he look dead?", I asked.
"No, he's drooling, and his eyelids are fluttering.", said the cop.
Lori said, "Don't make him puke, okay? And please tell my he didn't piss in my car."

The cop continued shaking him and yelling in his ear. Finally the guy's eyes slid opened. The cop said, "What are you doing?" And the guy said, "Waiting for you."

He was clearly shitfaced drunk, but he hopped out of the car with surprising agility considering it's so low and he's so big. And drunk. He was mumbling incoherently, and the cop was holding his arm, asking him questions.. Where's your car? Do you have a car? I thought "Holy fuck. You're not going to let him drive, are you?" The cop asked if we wanted to have him arrested and we said no, we just wanted to go home. He led him away by the elbow, and we got in the car which reeked of beer, but thankfully, not of urine or vomit.

Lori said, "On the bright side, I'm not sleepy anymore."

Later, when we were laughing about what a good story this would be, she said, "You know, this stuff only happens to us. We're magnets for this kind of weird stuff. And this stuff never happened before I met you. It must be you that attracts it. And who's going to believe it? Bikers, dwarfs, strange drunk guys in our car...people will think we make this stuff up."

But no. You people know us. You know it's true, don't you. It's just another day in Nowhere with Kwach and Ev.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Shopping, the Kwach and Ev Way

We've been in negotiation for the last few days with a woman selling an antique wood burning stove on Craiglist. It's been absurdly difficult; at one point Lori had to use me as a surrogate because the negotiations fell through. Geneva Accords? Feh! Nothing! Those pussies should try bargaining with an antique seller via e-mail.

However, last night, in my firmest mommy font, I put my foot down. It's now or never, Woodstove Lady. Put up or shut up.

She crumbled like the streusel on yesterday's apple pie.

So this morning we got up at the crack of 8 o'clock and headed for Barnhart, MO with out little truck to pick this up:

It's in decent shape...needs a few repairs, but overall sound. It's got pretty green and cream enamel and six burners, a wood box and a couple of warmers up top. It's exactly what we wanted. In fact, Lori saw it's twin in an antique shop a few years ago, and we've been visiting it ever since.

So we hit the road, me driving and Lori in charge of the radio and sorting the two weeks accumulation of junk mail that always collects on the seat next to me. I stop at the mailbox every day on my way to work, and I'm pretty good about taking the real mail in when I get home, but I tend to leave the sale fliers and credit card ads in the truck.

Lori was reading the Bed, Bath & Beyond flier, which was loaded with expensive, useless crap. I mean loaded. They had a battery powered soap dispenser, an automatic towel warmer, a cool and warm wind blower for your feet, and an automatic device to press your pants on the a pants clamp, sort of.

We got into a conversation about what kinds of people would actually buy this stuff. Could you imagine walking into someone's house and seeing their heated foot blower, pants flattener, and electronic hands-free soap dispenser in use? No. That's the kind of crap people give to their Dads when they still haven't got a gift and it's Christmas Eve at 8 p.m. We don't own any of that kind of stuff. In fact, any of that stuff that we used to own broke long ago and has joined their crap-gift sistren and brethren in the rapidly overfilling county landfill. Now we pretty much own stuff we use.

So we drove up to Barnhart, looked at the stove and listened to the nice man lie about it for a little while. He was having trouble with the lying though, since he was being pestered from the moment we pulled into the driveway by Meghan, a small child who was the spiritual twin of our eponymous Hunter (Don't Take Your Guns To Town, Hunter). Rather than the pleading requests for "a few minutes to talk to the people, Honey," Meghan really needed to be dragged out to the yard by the elbow and threatened with a horrible death unless she shut the hell up right now and let Daddy finish selling the stove so they could eat next week.

We finished up our business over the background noise of Meghan's ceaseless demands, decided that we could fix the defects in the stove, and handed the nice man $300. He helped us take it apart and load it in the truck, made a perfunctory effort to sell us more crap, and we headed for home.

But you know us...home is not a linear process. We decided to take old Route 61 instead of I-55 and go through some of those old town with antique shops. We stopped in St. Mary's, MO at their big antique store, found some accessories for the stove, and discovered the secret truth about commerce: nothing is ever new.

The antique store carried a variety of cast iron pants flatteners (and some plug-in varieties) as well as several wood-powered foot warmers and a manual soap dispenser in an easy to use bar form. Handy!

We left there and continued down Rte. 61 through some of the brilliantly named small towns of South East Missouri: Lithium, Herculeneum, Festus, and Whispering Hills. We figured Lithium is where you go when the Hills start whispering about you specifically.

When we drive, we talk. A lot. About anything, no matter how stupid. So with that in mind, we drove into Jackson and admired it's large stately courthouse, marred only by it's green copper dome. Lori said, no...that was fine, it was just it's patina.

We decided that Patina would make a fine name, as would Levitra, Januvia, and Boniva. We actually knew a poor kid who's mother had named him Courvoisier. She should be shot.

By the time we got home, we'd driven 230 miles and peed in some of the finer gas stations in Southeast MO. This was our route:

We can drive 200 miles without leaving the county (we hit every little gravel road and roadside marker and highway fatality shrine in a 30
mile radius. Who knew there was such entertainment riches in our little county??), So the distance was nothing. But this time we actually left the state, and turned a 4 hour errand into a 9 hour social critique. That's a good day!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Live, from Nowhere, It's Thanksgiving!

I want to start by saying that the thing I'm most grateful for in my life is Ev. One of the reasons I'm so grateful for her is that she has given me the space and the encouragement to peel away a lot of surface gunk and be more honestly who I am, and she doesn't love me less for it ... she loves me more. That's a completely foreign idea to me, and it's taken me awhile to really believe it, but I like it ... a lot.

The most recent layer of gunk to be peeled away has to do with the Performance Art that was Thanksgiving in my family. All holidays, really, but Thanksgiving is where it really shone in all it's sick and twisted glory, because there were no gifts or other distractions ... it was all about the formidable force known as Mother.

Last week I finally confessed my dirty little secret ... I hate Thanksgiving. It fills me with performance anxiety and I turn into a kitchen nazi. In my mind it's eight hours of cooking, followed by 15 minutes of eating, followed by two hours of cleaning it up. I wake up pre-stressed about that last minute rush to get the potatoes mashed, the gravy made and the rolls out of the oven so everything comes to the table warm and together. I'm annoyed when the kids eat everything on the relish tray before dinner. I'm just not lovable on Thanksgiving.

Ev and her kids do Thanksgiving easily and they love it. Obviously they didn't get the memo that Thanksgiving is not supposed to be fun. They cook at a leisurely pace, they don't care when they eat, they don't worry about whether every little thing is perfect and they goof around together on Thanksgiving. My mother would be appalled.

My mother did Thanksgiving like she did everything else ... perfectly ... and she did it mostly alone, while entertaining the audience in her kitchen. No one helped cook because no one else did it "right" (except my dad, who was in charge of mashing the potatoes because she'd taught him how). This allowed her to take all the credit and also complain afterward that no one helped.

The only Thanksgiving dinner she missed cooking was the year my sister was born ... on Thanksgiving day. You can bet your ass if she'd been born the day before, or the day after, my mother would have cooked dinner. She shone brightest under extremes of hardship. This was epitomized the year she prepared and served Thanksgiving dinner for twelve, in her robe and pajamas, one week after a radical mastectomy. And it was perfect.

Not only can I not meet her standards, I don't even want to. And it's the "not wanting to" that makes me feel guilty. It's one thing to try and fail, because at least you tried. It's another thing entirely to not bother to try. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I heard that in my life. So, for me, to sit here on the couch not lifting a finger while the minutes tick by is fraught with anxiety.

But I'm determined that this is going to be the Thanksgiving when I beat that demon. Ev and her kids are going to do Thanksgiving at Carrie's house this year and my only job is to show up and eat ... and I'm going to do it that way if it kills me.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I've Got a Plan

I haven't had much to say lately for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I haven't had anything to say. Literally. I'm just sort of shocked by the world. I'm thrilled beyond words that Obama won the election, even though I know he's inherited an ungodly mess that will take decades to straighten out and will almost certainly make him the political scapegoat for the upcoming unpleasantness.

And the unpleasantness will certainly be unpleasant. As we've been told repeatedly over the last few weeks, it'll get worse before it gets better.

Worse before it gets better? For whom? Not for Bear-Stearns, or AIG, or Citigroup. At the merest hint of "worse" got better! Huh! If it was that easy to make "worse" into "better", why not do it for the rest of us, too?

So here we sit in a house we like, on property we love, waiting for the other shoe to fall. Not even because our own personal worse-ness is coming home to roost, but because our landlord's financial house of cards is collapsing, and we're going down with it.

He's a nice guy with a wallet problem...he can't close it. So for the last couple of years he's run up a fortune in consumer debt, bought an enormous mansion on a hill surrounded by five bucolic acres with a subprime balloon mortgage, and generally lived above his means in the way typical Americans have been living above their means for the last 30 years. Unfortunately, now he's been downsized out of a job, since no one can afford high-end motorcycles in a credit crunch. The balloon mortgage has ballooned, the creditors would like some money please, and the mansion's on the block.

Which would all be fine, except that in the event that someone actually buys that overpriced white elephant, guess where landlord plans to live? As he succinctly put it on Sunday, "Well...we've got to live somewhere."

You guessed it: somewhere is here, in our modest little Nowhere, IL. And as far as I know, he's not planning to live penitently in the wicker room at the end of the hall, contemplating his financial shortsightedness and determined not to let his stupidity screw up our lives. I'm pretty sure that he's planning to live in the whole house, which will make it uncomfortably snug for our families.

Plus, they're slobs...and that'll piss off Lori to no end.

So it appears that we'll be moving sometime in the next year or so. Besides the fact that this will be a pain in the ass for us, it is a pretty good snapshot of the economy. Even if you're not the one that's leveraged up to the eyeballs, you may end up being the one to pay the price.

So I'm putting together a package to present to the White House for a bailout of my family. I'm tentatively planning to ask for the government to guarantee 90% of our debts, plus shore up our shaky housing situation to avoid undermining our confidence in the market. In exchange, I'll forego my executive compensation package that I was planning to give myself from the kid's savings, and instead take an undisclosed lump sum buyout from the Treasury Department.

I want you taxpayers to understand how hard it is for me to accept this government handout, but it's the right thing to do to get me back on my feet. I also want to assure you all that the lessons of these hard times haven't been lost on us. Our next house of cards will be built with the face cards instead of the cards with numbers on them. Additionally, we plan to rearrange the deck chairs, and put lipstick on the pig. I feel confident that that will prevent any future problems with our cash flow. Thank you.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Can I vote on YOUR family?

Yesterday afternoon I had a surprise visit from Ev's son, who dropped by to see his sister and stayed long enough to climb up on a ladder in the chilly wind and tack down the tarp on the duck dome for me while I ran to town for a heat lamp to keep them warm. When I got home, he and his sisters were sitting around the living room laughing and discussing Katie's college plans. She's a National Merit Scholar (in case we haven't already mentioned that) and she's being courted by so many colleges and universities that we're hard pressed to find any mail for us in our cram-packed mailbox every day. She recently won the local VFW scholarship for her video essay on patriotism.

We're proud of our kids. As Ev has mentioned before, Carrie is an Executive Chef at the age of 23. Robbie, at 21, is trying to decide between an engineering degree and some entrepreneurial endeavors that interest him. Katie is planning to earn a mathematics degree. My son is moving here to go to college at SIU and get an art degree.

Why am I telling you all that? Because I feel it's my duty to point out that lesbians are perfectly capable of raising healthy, well-adjusted, successful children. In fact, lesbians are perfectly capable of being healthy, well-adjusted and successful human beings.

I feel that it's important to point that out, because, according to Dan Savage's op-ed in the NYTimes today, there are a whole lot of people in a whole lot of places who'd like to have you think otherwise. And, should they be successful in that endeavor, children like ours may go the way of the Dodo.

Most ominous, once “pro-family” groups start arguing that gay couples are unfit to raise children we might adopt, how long before they argue that we’re unfit to raise those we’ve already adopted? If lesbian couples are unfit to care for foster children, are they fit to care for their own biological children?

The loss in California last week was heartbreaking. But what may be coming next is terrifying.

Mustang Bobby, over at Shakesville, has a post up today about the trial in Miami-Dade County that's going on right now to determine whether gay couples should be allowed to adopt children. I'll quote just this part of his excellent post:

Rekers and Schumm argued that lawmakers were justified in excluding gay people from adoption because research shows that they are at greater risk of developing a host of impairments that can harm children, such as mental illness, alcohol or drug abuse, and the virus that causes AIDS.

Schumm testified that, based on research involving 2,847 children, the children of gay men and lesbians are far more likely to also become gay -- about 19 percent of children raised by gay parents, compared with 4 percent of children with straight parents.

Schumm said he was also concerned by a study that said that 47 percent of gay teenagers had seriously considered suicide, and that 36 percent had attempted it. ''If a child is gay, lesbian or bisexual, this is, in some sense, a life-threatening issue,'' he said.

Gay men and lesbians have two to four times the likelihood of suffering from major depression, anxiety or substance abuse, based on several national studies, Rekers testified. Gay men, he said, are four times more likely than straight men to attempt suicide.

It appears, according to Mr. Schumm's study, that Ev and I are failing our children miserably. Not one of them is gay.

I do believe that more children are likely to come out in families where "the gay" is acceptable, but not because it's contagious. It's just easier to be who you are in a non-repressive atmosphere, in a nurturing and accepting family. Mr. Schumm doesn't go on to say what happens to children raised in repressive and unaccepting families, but look around. Who are "the gay" and how did they get here, and how recently have gay families been out and visible? Speaking as the child of a "traditional" family, that's where the majority of gay people who are now old enough to be engaged in the raising of children came from.

I'd also like to point out to Mr. Schumm that it's not "the gay" that causes suicidal depression. It's being marginalized, demonized, harassed, picketed, legislated against, being denied civil rights, being unprotected by hate crimes legislation and being used by people like you to advance narrow-minded bigotry in the name of religion. You, Mr. Schumm, are guilty of both the mental and spiritual abuse of children, and quite possibly physical abuse by keeping them from the very nurturing they need, which makes you the one who is a danger to their well being.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

God! I Used to be Fun!

I worked with a phlebotomist today that I used to know when I worked here the last time. She's normally a morning shifter so I hardly ever bump into her, but today she's covering our shift. We used to pal around a lot, so when we were talking today and she was asking me if I remember this or that, I had to have The Talk about the head injury with her.

I said, "Marty, I have only the very vaguest recollection of working here. I remembered that I liked you, but I can't remember why. In between go-rounds with this hospital I got hit in the head and I have enormous swathes of memory missing, including the years I worked here."

Luckily, she wasn't offended. But she did proceed to regale me with an hour's worth of stories about what a wild child I was back then. Who knew that a person's face could get this red without having an actual stroke? I was a lot more fun then, and apparently I raised ho-baggery from an art to a science.

It's good to have a mission in life. Mine was apparently to sleep with every woman in Southern Illinois who showed even the slightest interest in a shallow, meaningless lesbian tryst. I wonder if any of that recruiting ever stuck? Maybe I flipped legions of women and don't know it. Or...maybe not. :-)

It's funny to have other people own more of my history that I own myself. Maybe she made it all up.

New and Improved Nowhere, IL - Now with More Cussin'!

What with the "mom troubles," the duck sex and the election, we've managed to increase our Cuss-o-Meter rating by a whopping 7% since last count! We've made it into the top 5% of known potty-mouthed bloggers. I think it might have been the duck sex and "fuck you, Solomon Brown" that put us over.

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou - Free Dating Site

In other news, the sun came out today and is rumored to be planning to stay out for the next few days. This doesn't make it any warmer, but it does give the mud a fighting chance to dry up. Since the lack of cloud cover means less heat retention and colder nights, I'm going to have to "go to town" today and buy a heat lamp for the duck dome before we drop down into the 20's tonight, and spend some time on the ladder banging more staples into the tarp over their roof. The wind has been playing hell with it the past few days.

I need to split some more of the wood on the woodpile, too.

A woman's work is never done.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mud Season Again

Ev used to tell me that there are three seasons in Southern Illinois ... winter, summer and mud. It's not true. There are actually four seasons:


Warm Mud


Cold Mud

This would be Cold Mud season. It's been raining for days and the temperature has been steadily falling. Today dawned cold and drizzly and progressed to cloudy, gray and windy with a high of about 38 degrees. The world outside is a miasma of thick, schmucky, mud dotted with big puddles and covered over with a growing mat of wet, fallen leaves that were pretty two weeks ago but are now a layer of soggy mulch. They say we could get snow flurries tonight, but I just want stuff to stop falling out of the sky.

This is a season you can only truly appreciate if you've lived in the Midwest. God knows, I had no idea when I was an Arizonan, bitching about the 90 degree temperatures while all my friends east of the Mississippi were chillin' in front of their fireplaces.

Now I understand. The fireplace is not there for ambience.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Playing with Fire

I have a cat who plays with fire.

Being mostly hairless she suffers from a certain vulnerability to the cold which makes her somewhat fearless in approaching sources of heat. As winter creeps up on us here in the great north-south east-midwest (and the cost of LP gas keeps furnace derived heat a longed for but as yet unattained luxury), we have once again begun creating the nightly conflagrations in the living room fireplace to which the cat is drawn like -- well -- a hairless cat to the flame.

So great is the cat's love of fire that I've seen her put her tiny paws on the sizzling hot fire screen as if she were praying to the god of fire and offering her little body as a sacrifice, that she might curl up in the embers if only she could. Her deep longing to experience the fullness of the heat within the magic cave of the fireplace seems to overcome whatever instinct she should have, as a small animal, to avoid immolation.

Her lusty devotion to fire finally came to its inevitable disastrous result last week. While sitting on the hearth, rotating like a chicken on a rotisserie, she flipped the tip of her tail into the fireplace and left it there. In the few seconds it took for the "ahhhhhhhhh, warm!" message to travel up her tail, spread hotly along her little spine and reach, in screaming decibels, the ganglia of her walnut-sized brain, she burned the shit out of her tail. She has carried it in a gingerly fashion since then. As I watch her relationship to the fireplace now, it appears that even a hairless old cat with a walnut-sized brain can learn. She avoids the hearth now, content to remain on the carpet in front of it. She has learned that, while fire can be your comforting friend, a cat must not underestimate its potential for harm. One must keep a safe distance. Heat is one thing and self-immolation is quite another.

People do not seem to learn this kind of lesson as quickly as a hairless old cat with a walnut-sized brain.

One would think that, having been burned by the fire of religious zealotry on more than one historic occasion, human beings would have learned that religion, like fire, is best kept at a safe working distance. While it might feel wonderful to come close to it and curl up in the warmth of its message, its best not to lay one's tail in the molten heart of it.

We should have learned that with the lesson of the Crusades -- 300 years of Holy Wars, during which soldiers and laypersons "took up the cross" in a bloody march across Europe to rid the world of evil in the form of Muslims, Jews, Slavs, Mongols, Prussians, Greek Orthodox Christians, pagans and heretics.

We should have learned it during the Spanish Inquisition -- 400 years of heterodoxy, during which priests sought to root out heresy by torturing and murdering some 50,000 Jews, Muslims, Protestants, bigamists, homosexuals, sodomites, Freemasons, blasphemers and heretics, including (but not limited to) witches.

We should have learned it in the late 1600's when 60,000 people in Europe were murdered for the crime of "witchcraft" -- or in our own country, when our Puritan ancestors established the rule of theocracy in Massachusetts that led to the witch hunts in Salem, Ipswich, Boston, Andover and Charlestown.

We should have learned it every time religion has been co-opted by zealots to persecute and demonize other human beings, but apparently we haven't. We still approach religion like a warm fire in the fireplace, forgetting that it can also decimate a forest or destroy a city ... or burn your tail.

Proposition 8 is merely another go-round. It's hate and fear and demonization wrapped in the cloak of godliness, and just like the Crusades and the Inquisition and the witch trials ... and the Taliban and the Holocaust and a hundred other examples of zealotry showing its true face ... it is narrow-minded fear-mongering craziness.

Spirituality is a good thing. Faith-based persecution and religious craziness are not.

Pull your tails out of the fire.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

It's a great week for America. Probably one of the five great weeks. Against all odds, President Elect Barack Obama is going to the White House in a few short weeks.

I've tried not to write this post, but it refuses to go away quietly. My absolute elation on Tuesday night gave way very quickly to shock and sorrow, and over the next couple of days -- as story after story spilled across the airwaves and teh internets about the historical importance of this election and the message it sends to the world about the dream of American democracy and the culmination of our national Civil Rights struggle -- I got angry. I had almost talked myself down for the hundredth time when I woke up this morning and read this.

I reference this post on CNN in which 18-year-old Solomon Brown explains his vote to write discrimination into the California State Constitution thusly:

The war in Iraq and the economy were the main issues Brown, 18, a first-time voter, said he considered in choosing a president. But when the time came to vote on the "one man and one woman" issue, he followed his moral beliefs and voted in support of California's Proposition 8. He said he isn't at all surprised that many voters did the same.

"They did that because of religion," Brown said of voters. "They wanted change for the country but weren't going to change their religion."

He had no qualms about voting for Obama, either, and adds that his choice wasn't related to race. But he worries what moral beliefs will be taught in coming years.

"I don't want a man and a man to be married," Brown said. "When I have kids, I don't want them to see that."

Still, he says he doesn't hate gay people and has several gay friends. He emphasizes that he dislikes the fact that people are gay, but not the individuals themselves.

"I can't be prejudiced against them, with me being an African-American," Brown said. "That would be hypocritical in my eyes."

Against the backdrop of the election of Barack Obama -- the mixed-race child of a single mother born in the immediate aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement -- we have Arizona, California, Florida and Arkansas writing discrimination into their Constitutions and being heavily supported in that effort by black voters, and I'm angry.

Civil Rights in this country did not come easily, and did not come without hard work and risk and often loss of life on the part of people who were not black. It was not accomplished in a racial vacuum. It was not accomplished by black people alone against the larger society. White students rode those Freedom buses and sat at those lunch counters alongside black students. White women defied their husbands and their communities to drive black citizens during the bus boycotts and work with black women to create the integrated YWCA. White men defied the Klan to fight for black voting rights.

Men, women and children who were not black stood up and said that wrong is wrong, even if the wrong wasn't being done directly to them. They understood. as I understand, that discrimination and marginalization of any group of Americans is bad for all Americans, and bad for humanity at large. They understood that the circumstances of your birth should not be a limiting factor in your right to be a free and equal partner in this country.

What I would like to say to young Mr. Solomon Brown is "you're welcome." Thanks to people you never knew, you grew up not having to live in fear for your life if you looked a white woman in the eye. You didn't have to drink from a water fountain marked "Colored" or sit at the back of the bus unless you wanted to. You never had to sit in the Colored section at the diner, if you were even allowed in. Thanks to people who were not black and did not have to fight for your Civil Rights, you can even fall in love and marry outside of your race in a "non-traditional marriage" if you choose to do so, without fear of reprisal or worry that you and your bride will be murdered for it.

James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner weren't so lucky. Matthew Shepard and Harvey Milk weren't so lucky.

Homosexuals are the last minority in America who can be legally discriminated against in hiring and housing. We are the last minority in America who can be openly ridiculed and for whom there are no standards of political correctness or protection from hate crimes. We are the last minority who are not allowed to be legally married or adopt children. On television and in movies we are the new Steppin' Fetchit and Amos 'n Andy. Gay is the new Nigger.

What I would like to tell Mr. Solomon Brown is that I'm proud of the work that was done by people like me to tear down the walls of legally sanctioned discrimination, and point out that he owes to people like me the very fact that he was able to exercise that hard-won freedom and the power of his vote to rebuild that wall and put people like me behind it.

If Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were to give his "I Have a Dream" speech today -- that awe-inspiring speech which included these wonderful passages -- it might end something like this [editing mine]:

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

Many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Unless you're gay.

I suppose I could have summed up all of this with these few words ...

Fuck you, Solomon Brown.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Live Election Results

You can watch the results here as they come in, courtesy of MSNBC. The widget updates every two minutes and the first polls will be closing in just under an hour.

I've promised God I'll go to church if this works out.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fucking Ducks!

The ducks have been interesting lately, so I thought I'd take a break from politics and post a Duck Update:

They've been mating like crazy for the past few weeks -- and there's a reason they call sex "canoodling." [Click here and you'll see what I mean.] For a couple of weeks the drakes were fighting over the hens, but they seem to have settled down and paired up now. I can't remember if I posted that two of the ducks were killed by a predator awhile back, but we only have one black cayuga now. She's the most prolific egg layer, and the boys all seem quite enamored of her.

We've been collecting lots of eggs ... 2 to 4 a day. The cayuga lays huge tan eggs, often double-yolked. One of the rouens lays very pretty green eggs, one of the rouens lays small brown eggs and one rouen lays strange little round eggs that the cayuga sneers at. One of the rouen hens was really struggling with the egg thing. She was laying "skin eggs" every day ... no shell, just a thick membrane around them. Mostly we'd find them torn open, but we did find one intact one plopped on the ground by the wading pool. It was like a weird water balloon. She seems to be over it now. I think that tiny green egg might be hers (see photo).

They've been working on making a community nest and laying all their eggs in it for a couple of weeks now. We collect the eggs every morning and they refill it. This week they started balking about leaving it in the morning, so we made the executive decision to not collect the eggs for a few days and see what happens. We left three the first day, and the next day there were two more and the nest was covered over with straw and feathers.

Last night the ducks scared the hell out of me. They always make one last victory lap around the house about a half hour before sunset and then go in the duck dome whether I'm here to put them to bed or not. If I happen to miss sunsent and go out there after dark to give them food and water they're already asleep in the dome. Last night they never came home. It got to be sunset and I went looking for them, quacking and calling them, and I couldn't find them anywhere. I looked down by the pond and didn't see them there, either.

When Ev came home she came in and woke me up and said, "The ducks are in the pond and there's something huge in the water with them, swimming and splashing. It sounds like a whale." I thought to myself, "Oh, please. A whale??" and got out of bed. We went down there with a puny little penlight. I couldn't see a thing, but we could hear the ducks muttering and swimming. Then the splashing started. Loud, huge splashing that threw water up far enough to see it in the dark. "Jesus!" I said, "It IS a fucking whale!"

We went around the back side of the pond in the dark and finally got a slight glimpse of them. There were only four, swimming and quacking. Ev saw some eyes in the woods and decided it was either a dog or a coyote prowling around in the dark and shooed it off. It was very dark and very scary. Ev thought maybe the dog or whatever it was had been in the water catching them, so we returned to the house and she went back out with a lantern. When she came back the next time she said, "Damnit, I think it's huge snapping turtles. I can only find five ducks."

Snapping turtles kill ducks. I have a very slight fatalistic streak of abject pessimism, so I immediately decided the whole flock would be dead by morning and made a solemn vow to swear off keeping barnyard animals forever, then sat on the couch and chainsmoked.

At that point Ev got in her truck, drove it through our yard and into the neighbor's yard, around his barn and down to the edge of the pond with her brights on. (The neighbor must think we're insane tromping around quacking at his pond in the dark and driving through his field at midnight.) When she came back she said, "They're all there. Three of them were asleep in the weeds and I woke them up with my lights. The splashing was the ducks. They're diving and flapping and going bottom-up for stuff in the pond. They won't come out for nothin'."

This morning they were back in our yard, wet and bedraggled and eating bugs like nothing had happened, but there were only seven of them instead of eight. I checked the duck dome just in case and, sure enough, there was a hen on the nest and she wasn't budging. She took off about an hour later for the pond and now there are seven eggs.

According to the duck experts, they won't start sitting on the eggs until there's a clutch (usually about 8-10) and when they do start sitting they only sit for an hour a couple of times a day at first. Toward the end of the 28 day hatching cycle they'll stay on the eggs all the time except for an hour or so to eat and swim. I'm not sure what happens when the nest is "full." I don't know if the other hens keep on slipping eggs into the nest until they have a mountain of eggs, or if they'll take turns sitting on them, or if they'll drop the extra eggs somewhere else.

This will be a "wait and see" proposition. I think I'll mark the eggs that are in there now and start counting days. No telling if any of them will actually hatch, but there's been ample canoodling going on to fertilize them and Ev has already declared her intention to "eat the children." Some of them, if they hatch, will be cayuga and rouen cross-breeds. Should be interesting looking. I won't let her eat those.

Anyone with poultry experience is more than welcome to start giving out advice at this point!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Secret

Ev's youngest daughter and I went to the Obama Rally in St. Louis yesterday with 100,000 or so of our closest friends. It was a phenomenal, uplifting, hopeful, joy-filled day and it brought me, temporarily, out of the funk I've been in for the past week.

I wanted to post about all the great things that happened yesterday and the three generations of women we met and had dinner with afterward, but today I got some bad news that plunged me right back into the funk, and now I'm thinking about the difference in how people play the hand life deals them, and how much we are all in control of the quality of our lives, even if we have no control over some of their circumstances.

This is Leon Brown. Someone should write a book about him.

I met him at the rally yesterday and spent a few hours standing next to him exchanging pleasantries and listening to his stories. He's one of sixteen children born and raised in Mississippi in the 1930's. He's spent his life working in various service industries ... hotels, airports, driving limosines, etc. He says he doesn't really know why people seem to be drawn to him, but he's had his picture taken with a veritable Who's Who of famous people, from MLK and Medgar Evers to Bob Hope and Stan "The Man" Musial (who gave him an autographed baseball) and he keeps them all in a scrapbook (except the ball, of course).

I can tell him why. In fact, I did. It's his attitude juxtaposed with the harsh reality of the times in which he's lived and the history he's seen. He's friendly, he's happy, he's upbeat and outgoing and he looks for the positive in things. Standing for five hours was hard on a lot of people, but he said, "I'm 71 years old, and I could have gotten a chair over there in the senior citizen area, but I'm in good shape. I can stand and wait to see Mr. Obama."

Leon Brown was in Memphis when MLK was shot, but he doesn't dwell on that. He talks about the thrill of meeting him and being in his hotel room. He doesn't talk about the tragedy of Medger Evers' assassination; he talks about having his picture taken with him. He never mentioned the hardships of living in the south under Jim Crow; he talked about how good he looked in those fancy hotel uniforms and how much he loved giving the ladies a snappy British salute. I asked him if he ever thought that he'd be standing with 100,000 people of all races at a rally for the first black president and he smiled and said, "Well, I wasn't sure, but I always hoped it would happen."

Before we left the rally, he wrote down his address and phone number and asked me if I'd please send him a copy of his picture at the rally so he could put it in his scrapbook. Then he gave me a big hug and a whiskery kiss on the cheek, thus cementing my crush on Mr. Leon Brown of St. Louis, MO.

Today, fresh from the exhiliration of being surrounded by hopeful people of all ages, races and socio-economic strata, I got the phone call I've been dreading from my son.

He had called me a week ago to tell me that his dad -- my ex-husband -- was in ICU at a neurologic hospital. A wasted life of alcoholism and drug addiction had finally culminated in a cerebral hemorrhage and a cascade of strokes over the weekend, and because he has a long history of passing out in drunken stupors, no one thought to check on him for a couple of days. By the time they did, he'd been in a coma for a day and a half. He underwent surgery on Tuesday morning to stop the bleeding and he's been on life support since then. The call today was to tell me that the doctors say there's too much brain damage for him to have any quality of life even if he wakes up, which he won't. Now they just have to wait for his sister to get there before they remove life support.

I'm left wondering how it is that some people can throw their perfectly good lives away and never find joy or peace or anything in life worth living for, and others can find the silver lining in a life of hardship that could easily have made them bitter and discouraged.

Mr. Brown told me yesterday that the secret to his long life, his health and his happiness is that he loves life and he loves people. He hugs strangers and smiles at everyone and always tells the people he loves that he loves them. He never takes a day for granted.

I wish my son could have had a dad like Leon Brown.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Can't We Just Vote, Already??

I have one thing to tell John McCain, and one thing to ask him:

1. You are not "my friend" so stop addressing me that way in that weird voice.

2. You constantly say, "My friends, I know how." If you know how to shore up the economy, provide healthcare to all Americans, catch Osama bin Laden, turn the country around, clean up Washington and develop althernative energy, then why the fuck haven't you done any of it? You've had 26 years in Washington already!

I'm officially burned out. Let's just vote, damnit.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Going to College

I don't know if I've already talked about this, but you know...I've been hit on the head. And you all have actual lives of your own, so you don't need to remember the details of mine anyway...

We are at the juxtaposition of several milestone events in our life. Katie, our last child, just turned 18 and she'll be going to college next year. Sage, our old red Chow dog, is 11. She's severely arthritic and in declining health. Katie and Sage have a love for the ages, and Katie has declared her intention to take Sage with her when she goes away to college, even though Sage is unlikely to live much longer than Katie's first semester or two.

Also, Lori is anticipatorily bereft at the death of Cuppy, our one-eyed phlegm-fastic Devon Rex cat. She's unable to even consider the possibility of that day, and has instead decided that Cuppy too will be going away to college with Katie. "Going to college with Katie" has become our euphemism for death. Someday Lori and I will be going to college with Katie, and we're determined not to leave our lives in such a fucked up mess as my mother is leaving hers for me.

Yesterday we discussed the implications of the day when my mother Goes to College With we'll either have to get into that house and sort through the mountains of crap, or just burn the place to the ground. Lori told me about her grandmother who started giving away the things she valued most at the end of her life, so they would end up in the hands of the person who would also value them most after her death. I love that idea. I love the idea that towards the end of your life you can set down the anchor of physical possessions that trap you into a particular way of living, and walk your last few steps unburdened. I love the idea of coming into the world with nothing except potential greatness, and going out with nothing except memories of a life well-lived. In between, we're all free to choose how we define those things for ourselves.

To me, there's not much that's more irritating than adults who are still processing the minutia of their childhood well in their adulthood. At some point we have to look at our parents, acknowledge that, despite their flaws, they did the best they could with the tools they had, and forgive both them and ourselves.

I have, I think, mostly stored my childhood away peacefully. I'm pretty happy with who I am today; I'm proud of my own kids, and I think I mostly did a good job raising them; and I love my life with Lori more than I've ever loved any time in my life before. So what I want to say to my mother is that this is her chance to stand in the doorway of her life. Look at it from the outside and acknowledge your successes and failures and your impact on the world. Pat yourself on the back for the things you did right and forgive yourself for the things you did wrong.

Then look at it from the inside. Remember all the times you made yourself be brave, the times you went out of your way for someone, the times you were able to dig deeper and persevere longer than you ever thought you could. Celebrate your strengths, and the strengths you've passed on to your children.

Then get rid of all that shit. It won't protect you from death. Get rid of that fucking paperweight of a motor home, the broken lawn furniture, the rusty bicycles, the mountains of magazines... Let it all go. It's all going into a dumpster as soon as the ambulance pulls down the driveway and starts you on your journey to college with Katie. Amassing more mountains of useless crap at the end of your life will not make you live longer, nor will it improve your legacy among the people who knew you best. You'll never be able to make a fortress of possessions around you that will be strong enough to cheat death.

Like so many of the object lessons of my life, this one comes from the "If I can't be a good role-model, at least I can be a horrible warning" school of thought: The only person we're ever in competition with in life is us. It won't do anyone any good to get one more lick in at the end. Put down your possessions, tell the people you care about how much you love them, and how much you've enjoyed having them in your life. And then forgive yourself. You did the best you could.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends

Here's where I'm at these days:

I've been a suck-ass blogger. Instead, I've been manhandling (womanhandling?) my mother's living situation into something that might make it possible for her to survive the winter. Unfortunately, that also puts us both into "the system". I'm becoming a connoisseur of social workers, bureaucrats, political appointees, and lackeys of every stripe. As much as I tell myself that my tax dollars pay their salaries, when I say "Jump!" they say, "Of course. But first, we'll need you to fill out these 90 forms, and provide 100 kind of unattainable documentation. Then there will be a series of interviews determining your eligibility to request a jump. You'll receive a letter in the mail in 6 to 8 weeks, outlining your rights and responsibilities with regard to your jumping request. If you fail to sign and return the documents included within 72 hours, it will invalidate your jumping request and you will be considered ineligible to petition for another jump for 12 months. Have a nice day."

Or my other favorite: "I know it says on the door that we're the Department of Jumping, but we just collect the requests and record the actuarial data. Actual requests for jumping are processed at our office in Springfield. A caseworker has been assigned to evaluate your mother's jumping status, however unless you have documentation that states that your mother is dead now or plans to become dead in the next 3-5 business days, we can't begin to process her request for at least six months, as there are many more qualified people ahead of her who have already died. Have a nice day."

I, who hates the phone more than just about anything (except my mother, who stubbornly refuses to join the ranks of the dead no matter how much I encourage her), have been on the phone a lot lately. Rep. David Phelps' personal assistant is my new best friend. If I survive the next 6 months I plan to offer her sexual favors in exchange for favorable legislation on the Elder Self-Neglect bill.

So friends, fellow bloggers, and lurkers hoping for lurid descriptions of hot girl-on-girl action (and you know who you are), prepare for a winter of hand-wringing angst intermixed with explosive filial frustration. Or a tragic gun accident, perhaps a novice deer hunter mistaking a tiny-headed elderly woman for a 12 point buck. A daughter can dream, can't she?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Brian's Song

Once again, I've wandered away and left the blog alone and neglected. If Lori didn't drop by and feed it occasionally it would have starved long ago. Lately I've been busy, and I've been saying pretty much what I'm inclined to say on a couple of message boards that we are active in, so I'm pretty much tapped out when it comes time for blogging.

But the other day I was explaining our cat Brian and his magnificent athletic abilities and my daughter recommended I post his story here.

Brian's Song

We have a cat, Brian, who is not very bright. He had a little oxygen deprivation problem at birth and you can tell he's a few bricks short. He spends a large part of his day staring blankly into space with an empty look in his glazed eyes. Brian's favorite thing in the world is when Katie dangles a shoelace over his head and then flicks it up into the air. Brian will just up to the top of the doorframes to grab that shoelace, and he'll jump for it all day long. As long, in fact, as someone is willing to stand there flicking a shoelace. We call that the String Game, and although all the cats will play it for a while, none play it as well or as long as Brian. We think Brian doesn't have many options for upward mobility in his life, but he is the undisputed master of the String Game. So K*tie and I have Brian's String Game career pretty much mapped out for him.

Brian will enroll in a high school with a respected String Game program. Even though he's not very bright, the athletic department will provide him with tutors to keep him eligible for his spot on the Varsity String Game team. If he can get his ACTs over 18 by taking the test over and over and over, he can get into a Division I school on a String Game scholarship...maybe Notre Dame or Florida or Michigan...somewhere where he can get some national exposure.

Since he'll only squeak in on academic probation, he'll have to redshirt his freshman year, but that'll give him a chance to practice with the team and "fill out", which means take a higher dose of steroids.

Brian's sophomore season is his breakout season, and he takes his school to the String Game National Bowl Title. Of course, Brian flunks all his classes and is about to lose his scholarship, but that's okay because he's going to turn pro at the end of the year.

Brian signs with an agent and makes himself eligible for the draft. He gets chosen in the first round of the String Game draft by an expansion team that plans to build their franchise around him. He'll be making $15 million his rookie season, in spite of the fact that he can neither read nor write nor ever hope to live independently. He hires someone to fill his kibble bowl, and he has a team of people to clean his litter box and replace the light bulbs in the lamps he knocks over.

Over the next five seasons, Brian makes over $200 million and goes to the Pro Bowl of String every year. Then he blows out a paw making a routine leap in practice one day, and his String career is over.

Brian gets a job doing color commentary on ESPN3. His responsibilities are limited to reminiscing about his own Hall of Fame career, and being a foil for Howie Long. But his retardation becomes glaringly obvious in front of a camera, and Brian gets less and less air time.

The paw never healed right and Brian's been taking ever increasing doses of painkillers for years to get some relief. Over time, Brain descends into alcoholism and catnip addiction. He loses his job with the network, spends his time gambling on unsanctioned String Game tournaments, and eventually hits bottom: broke, addicted and alone. His high-living friends have abandoned him, moving on to the next party.

Finally, Brian gets into a 12 step program and slowly works on becoming the cat he once was. He repairs his relationship with his brother Slipper and takes a job coaching inner city cats on String Game fundamentals.But all those years of hard living have taken their toll on Brian, and he dies quietly, in his sleep, of a heart attack.

Brian was 7.

A made-for-tv movie about Brian's life has been optioned to ABC and is in pre-production. His family will memorialize Brian's inspirational story of hope and sacrifice by offering the rights to Kitty Kelley, but we'll require a $10 million advance, and a fieldhouse built in his honor at his alma mater.Kwachie and I will be promoting his image on posters and cereal boxes, and eventually as a Saturday morning cartoon and a set of limited edition commemorative litter boxes.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Jon Stewart Home-Run

I know that some of you (shout-out to the Canadians) are getting tired of our political kerfuffle, but some things are just too good not to post. If I knew how to put this video over on the sidebar and keep it playing for the next two months, I would:

Monday, September 01, 2008

Where To Start??

I feel like I should be blogging about Sarah Palin ... but I wouldn't know where to start, and so many people are doing a better job of it than I could even hope to. So, start here, with one of my new favorite bloggers:


I feel like I should be blogging about the Republican Convention and how they're using Hurricane Gustav to make themselves look like they give a good goddamn about the country, but I wouldn't know where to start, so here's a letter to God from Michael Moore that I thought was an enjoyable read:

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Dear God,

The other night, the Rev. James Dobson's ministry asked all believers to pray for a storm on Thursday night so that the Obama acceptance speech outdoors in Denver would have to be cancelled.

I see that You have answered Rev. Dobson's prayers -- except the storm You have sent to earth is not over Denver, but on its way to New Orleans! In fact, You have scheduled it to hit Louisiana at exactly the moment that George W. Bush is to deliver his speech at the Republican National Convention.

Now, heavenly Father, we all know You have a great sense of humor and impeccable timing. To send a hurricane on the third anniversary of the Katrina disaster AND right at the beginning of the Republican Convention was, at first blush, a stroke of divine irony. I don't blame You, I know You're angry that the Republicans tried to blame YOU for Katrina by calling it an "Act of God" -- when the truth was that the hurricane itself caused few casualties in New Orleans. Over a thousand people died because of the mistakes and neglect caused by humans, not You.

Some of us tried to help after Katrina hit, while Bush ate cake with McCain and twiddled his thumbs. I closed my office in New York and sent my entire staff down to New Orleans to help. I asked people on my website to contribute to the relief effort I organized -- and I ended up sending over two million dollars in donations, food, water, and supplies (collected from thousands of fans) to New Orleans while Bush's FEMA ice trucks were still driving around Maine three weeks later.

But this past Thursday night, the Washington Post reported that the Republicans had begun making plans to possibly postpone the convention. The AP had reported that there were no shelters set up in New Orleans for this storm, and that the levee repairs have not been adequate. In other words, as the great Ronald Reagan would say, "There you go again!" So the last thing John McCain and the Republicans needed was to have a split-screen on TVs across America: one side with Bush and McCain partying in St. Paul, and on the other side of the screen, live footage of their Republican administration screwing up once again while New Orleans drowns.

So, yes, You have scared the Jesus, Mary and Joseph out of them, and more than a few million of your followers tip their hats to You.

But now it appears that You haven't been having just a little fun with Bush & Co. It appears that Hurricane Gustav is truly heading to New Orleans and the Gulf coast. We hear You, O Lord, loud and clear, just as we did when Rev. Falwell said You made 9/11 happen because of all those gays and abortions. We beseech You, O Merciful One, not to punish us again as Pat Robertson said You did by giving us Katrina because of America's "wholesale slaughter of unborn children." His sentiments were echoed by other Republicans in 2005.

So this is my plea to you: Don't do this to Louisiana again. The Republicans got your message. They are scrambling and doing the best they can to get planes, trains and buses to New Orleans so that everyone can get out. They haven't sent the entire Louisiana National Guard to Iraq this time -- they are already patrolling the city streets. And, in a nod to I don't know what, Bush's head of FEMA has named a man to help manage the federal government's response. His name is W. Michael Moore. I kid you not, heavenly Father. They have sent a man with both my name AND W's to help save the Gulf Coast.

So please God, let the storm die out at sea. It's done enough damage already. If you do this one favor for me, I promise not to invoke your name again. I'll leave that to the followers of Rev. Dobson and to those gathering this week in St. Paul.

Your faithful servant and former seminarian,

Michael Moore

I should even be posting about the ducks, but I don't know where to start. Last week they started laying eggs and they're delicious. We've gotten five so far ... but we lost two ducks. Not to the egg-laying process, but to predators. Richard's drake and one of the black cayugas were taken from their pen last week and their little carcasses were left in Richard's field on the path to the pond. I'm bereft.

That's all the news from Nowhere today.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Jesse Jackson Jr. at the Democratic National Convention

Michelle was wonderful, as usual, and the video tributes to her and to Senator Kennedy were beautiful and moving, but this is the moment that gave me goosebumps.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

American Prayer

I've got nothing funny or clever to say today, but I hope you'll read along all the same.

For the past several months I've been alternately excited, worried, anxious, angry, thrilled and hopeful. Tomorrow morning we'll wake up to the start of the 2008 Democratic National Convention, and I can't even find words to express what I'm feeling about that tonight. It's like all the best Christmases of my life all jammed together and on steroids, but even better.

I've lived a lot of years, voted in a lot of elections, been supportive of a few candidates and despondent about a lot more, but I've never before felt so much "on the brink" about any political event as I do now. This is history, folks, and once again, as has happened a few times in my life, I'm very much aware that I'm witnessing the kind of historic event they put in textbooks. In my lifetime, I've paid sad witness to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others. I've been awed and inspired to watch the first footstep of a human being on the surface of the moon and now proud and privileged to be here in this moment.

There have been other memorable occasions along the way, moments that will also go into the history books, but those are the big ones for me. They're the moments when it felt to me as if America, and the world, seemed to be drawing a collective breath and focusing together on one singular event ... and those big events, for me, revolved around singular human beings.

Dave Stewart co-wrote this song with Bono, and here's part of what he had to say about this gift from two British songwriter's on the eve of a singular moment in our history:

People long for a connection -- whether it is to music, to their country, or to a big idea. Regardless of what happens in November, Senator Obama has reminded millions of people that they have the power to connect to bigger ideas. He is, in essence, the embodiment of a new anthem for change. He has continued King's narrative from what was once thought of as a dream to a reality. I find it especially relevant that Barack Obama will accept the Democratic Party Nomination for President 45 years to the day of King's "I Have a Dream" speech.
What moves me most about Dave Stewart's message is not what he says about Barack Obama, but what he says about this country, and I'm grateful beyond words that there are still people "across the pond" who hold our country in this kind of regard and see us, not solely through the lens of the past eight years:

When we were originally writing the song, Bono was crafting the words in a way that would make people think about the fact that 'America' as a concept was a truly great idea, based on the bedrock of equality. I find it more pertinent than ever to release it now; to the moment America finds itself in, daring to re-imagine itself and its place in the world.

See, that's why he's a songwriter and I'm not, so I'll let him sum up, and I'll just pass along the gift of this video to all of you:

As an Englishman, I'm not an expert in all the intricate details of American politics. But as an artist, I understand how rare it is to inspire a connection to a bigger idea or purpose. This video isn't so much an endorsement of Barack Obama as much as it is a celebration of all those who have picked up a sign, who have registered to vote and are working to make the world a better place. So as Senator Barack Obama ascends to the mountain top, let us not forget all of the others who for the past 40 years have sung anthems of change to make this moment possible.