On Herschel, On Moishe, On Shlomo*

Ginger scones.
Presents (mostly for the baby, because: cute).
Frost-cicles on all the trees.
Walking the dog.
Naptime, sort of.
Tea with honey.
Dreams of tropical seashores.
House of Thai.

Happy Xmas!

*these were Hanukkah Harry's reindeer, when he took over for Santa one year. SNL, circa Jon Lovitz.


Hacienda de Zesty, or "I've Got Moxie!"

We had a gas station snack pack yesterday, an off-brand peanut/pretzel/etc. mix that was "Zesty Ranch" flavored. It wasn't very good, but it was worth it for one thing: in Spanish, it was "Hacienda de Zesty" flavored! When I live in a house that deserves a name, that is what I will call it.

The reason for going to this particular gas station, aside from the obvious refueling opportunity, is because they search far and wide for delicious oddball beverages. (Disclaimer: I have not yet actually been, but was picked up yesterday by my husband who had purchased some) I was excited to find a local source for Moxie, which I have long enjoyed but rarely find. I've even been to the Moxie festival in Lisbon Falls, Maine! (thanks to a good friend with a cabin nearby) I was surprised that it came in a plastic 20-oz bottle (has it become more mainstream than I thought? rarely a good sign), but when I cracked the cap and that smell wafted out, it was delightful. Actually drinking it was somewhat disappointing - it seemed too sweet and a bit flat. Maybe it had been sitting too long, maybe they've changed the formula (could high-fructose corn syrup be the culprit?), or maybe my memory has clouded the reality...

What I know is that I associated the same odd deliciousness found in Moxie with bitters and Chinotto (an Italian soda) - also things I like that most people don't (or not without a good deal of alcohol, anyway). Another reason to love the magical internet: while it might have been more fun to go on an expedition and try and find out what's in those drinks, it was far easier and quicker to hit the google. Gentian root, that's what. Hurrah for that! Also for the chinotto, which is a citrus fruit. Not sure how those flavors overlap, but now I kind of want to try growing them...

Ok. There's my involved ramble for the day. It's lunch, which means it's time once more to crack that cap because, hey: I've got Moxie!



As November approached, I said to myself, Self! You'll be home with lots of time, looking for things to do. What a good opportunity to actually commit to National Blog Posting Month, known to those in the know as NaBloPoMo. It's pretty simple: you post to your blog every day. Much easier than NaNoWriMo, wherein you must write a novel in a month. Heck, the posts don't have to be long, or interesting, or even words. A lovely way to get into the habit of posting more. Good on you! Ah, but in reality? Not so much. In fact, not even one post. And now it's December.

But! I had a baby, so that's cool. And now I'm doing all the things you do with a baby, to wit: gazing in wonder, whipping out the boob, talking in ways I swore I never would, singing nonsense songs, occasionally freaking out at the responsibility I have for this tiny being, leaking milk, not sleeping enough, taking pictures, agonizing over our ridiculous consumer society, wondering what he's going to be like in 10 or 20 years, snuggling.

It's pretty great.

So hopefully I will actually start posting more, and not always about the baby. Rock on.


The Government Ate My Baby

After initial unconcern, then schools closing because the outbreak of swine flu was so bad, my doctor wants me to get the vaccine, and finally got some in, after weeks of not knowing when/if she would. This is good, yes? But we live in a place where people routinely do not vaccinate their children (something like 12 times the national average for exemption requests at school - which, among other things, led to a recent outbreak of whooping cough. Whooping cough! Pertussis! Who knew it even still existed, outside of Victorian novels? Cheese and Rice. [that's how fearful Mormons avoid using the lord's name in vain - say it out loud, you'll see]) and therefore have been sending around all kinds of info about how the vaccine is going to damage my unborn child. (who the doctors think is most at risk if he actually gets the flu, which is not unlikely these days) Except. Except!

They are spouting incorrect information. (specifically in this case about certain ingredients that are not actually in the H1N1 vaccine) And it really irritates me. And the internet doesn't help, with all the crazies out there going on about how bad for you things are, and how untested, and so forth. The problem is that they aren't always wrong, but it's sort of boy-who-cried-wolf, and then it's hard to know what to actually trust, but my gut does not point me in the direction of the people who write IN ALL CAPS and clearly have a limited understanding of the English language and an attachment to government conspiracy.

I'm getting the vaccine today. So there. Just needed to vent a bit.


My Uterus Ripens

There's just something about that expression that tickles me. As I've reached the "any day now, or else another few weeks" point of pregnancy, I decided to actually flip through some of the books on birthing that have been filling up a shelf, given to us and ignored for all these months. Having done so, I concluded that it would have been fine not to look at them, for the most part. Got some amusement out of visualizing strawberry mists to float on (don't really think that's going to happen, but you never know). Can't even remember the other funny bits. But I will say that - as common wisdom around here goes - Ina May's Guide to Childbirth is the one to read, if you're going to read one. She's got a good attitude, lots of experience, a nice combination of common sense, humor, appreciation for modern medicine, and trust in a woman's body. She talks about how men would brag if they had a body part that could do what our girly bits do, and I have these great images of men shooting pool, drinking beer, and claiming "Mine dilated to 13 centimeters, dude!"

That idea - that our bodies are built for this and know what to do - is the most helpful birth prep for me. It's something I can believe in and hang on to and has moved me beyond the "very small hole" anxiety of the early days. Heck, I'm even aiming for orgasmic! If I can't have dolphins, I can at least hope for that.

On another note entirely, Glee may be my new favorite show. It has some unnecessary side plots (the wife with the fake pregnancy) but on the whole is pretty damn entertaining. Except I got that irritating Beyonce song stuck in my head after the last episode I saw (we're watching them online, and therefore are behind a few weeks). I can't quite put my finger on why I dislike it so much, but something just doesn't work for me about that whole "If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it" bit. I'm sure some clever feminist has a well-articulated argument about possession and objectification and all that jazz, so I'll just get on her bandwagon, wherever she is. You go, girl!

This whole television-on-the-internet thing has totally ruined my self-righteousness about not having a TV. And I missed World Poetry Day, and meant to post some choice rhymes. Even if they didn't actually rhyme. Another time.

Ok, back to the daily lounging about and feeling uncomfortable. :)


Gay Pride March Of The Penguins

A side effect of not teaching this semester is that I just missed Banned Books Week, the ALA's celebration of the freedom to read. It was last week, and when I'm in class, I always do something about it with the kids. We look at lists of books that have been challenged or banned and discuss why and read some of them and talk about what they think is appropriate or not, and so on. It's pretty great.

While I'm not advocating reading Stephen King's _It_ to your five-year-old (though I read it probably far too young, in fifth grade, and had nightmares and called it one of my favorite books for years afterwards), or the Penthouse Forum to your grade-schooler (they'll discover it soon enough on their own anyway), I'm pretty strongly against the kind of censorship that book banning is all about. Especially when it's led by the religious nutjobs who think they should be the moral arbiters of our society.

Case in point: The most frequently challenged book in 2008 was _And Tango Makes Three_, a children's book based on a true story about two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo who hatched an egg and raised a baby. It's totally adorable. It won all kinds of best book awards. It is not going to make your child - who will love this story, because penguins! Yay! - grow up any gayer than they otherwise would.

Other than the ridiculous challenges to kids' books (Bridge to Terabithia, The Giver, Goosebumps, In The Night Kitchen, Where's Waldo, Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret, to name a very few), the ones that really irritate me are the challenges to the "classics" (including Catcher in The Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catch-22, Lord of the Flies, Gone With The Wind, Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Of Mice and Men, etc). For one reason or another, these books are considered some of the very best written - you can argue with the literary merits if you like, but to ban them? Why don't we want to raise a generation that thinks, that grapples with issues they may not agree with, that takes on the complications of being human?

So go out and read a banned book, and tell people all about it. Score one for the Queer Penguin Alliance!


I [blank], Therefore I Am

Descartes was sitting in a cafe one afternoon, enjoying a croissant and people-watching. A waiter came over and asked him if he'd like anything else; he replied, "I think not," and disappeared.

I'm having a bit of existential angst these days, as the school year is rolling and I'm sitting at home, growing a baby. Lots of time for reflection, amidst the sleeping and eating.* I've realized that teaching isn't just what I do, but it's part of who I am, and though I can't imagine being that veteran teacher who's been at the same school for 30 years, I also can't imagine not teaching at all. I read the paper and want to cut out an article to bring to class. I learn a fun fact and want to tell the kids. I hear a joke and think of them. And - it's really nice not to have to do the work right now.

We go to dinner parties and meet new people and ask, "What do you do?" but we mean, "Who are you?" I know there's a degree of luxury in those things overlapping, and that for many (most?) people a job is just a job, a way to make a living so that they can get on with who they really are. Johnny Paycheck sings their tune ("Take This Job and Shove It"). But most folks I hang out with are lucky enough to do something they want to do, and find fulfilling. So now that there's this empty space where that used to be, I'm floundering a bit.

I know that in 6 weeks or so, I'll be glad for the time off, and it will be hard to go back. In some ways, this is a good crossroads for thinking about change: is there something else I want to do? Are there things I've given up on, branches on the alternate timeline of my life that I could climb out on now? Well, it's too late to be a ballerina, but maybe this is the perfect time to start writing for real. Or...I don't know - but it does sort of seem like an opportunity. I teach, I am a teacher, and I love it (and it's not perfect, of course), but I don't want to get stuck doing something just because it's what I've always done.

I feel like I should break out into an Andrew Lloyd Webber song, a not-quite-operatic baring of my soul that will somehow resolve all my problems with a long-held high note. (heh - I spelled his name wrong at first, as Weber - the legendary creator of the Phantom of the BBQ, Jesus Christ SuperGrill... George Foreman ain't got nothin' on him!) This kind of brushes the edge of that whole "just a mom" issue. Except I'm not even a mom yet. I'm just...at home. With lots of time that I know I should savor because soon my life will change dramatically and I'll look back on these days fondly blah blah blah. Or I should be frantically sewing baby blankets and researching breast pumps.

I've been thinking about this a lot and I'm not really sure I captured what I wanted to say, or even really know what I want to say about it, but I wanted to put something out there. Now that it's down, I can go back to contemplating my navel and working on filling in the blank. Or, you know, take the dog out, pick some veggies from the garden, and enjoy the afternoon.

*my life these days is nicely summed up by a poster in the children's bookstore downtown: Snack. Nap. Read.


Sartorial Determinism

So I've finally started tackling the baby stuff that has been showing up on our doorstep and getting tossed unceremoniously into our loft to be ignored over the last several months. We certainly appreciate all the hand-me-downs, but weren't quite ready to face them. Now...well, it's becoming more and more real that a couple months from now the squirming critter will be on the outside, my spleen will be once more unmolested, and we better get organized! At least a little bit.

But really? This is what people think we want our baby to wear? Actually, there's plenty of neutral or neutral-enough stuff in the mix, plain colors and stripes and vaguely cartoonish ducks. But I don't think I can put my kid in a McBaby onesie - oh yes, the Ronald has moved beyond special sauce, working on subliminally turning the next generation into a loyal consumer. He's not alone - Disney and Looney Tunes and every other registered TM seems to make an appearance. And even if we avoid the blatant brand whoring, he's going to be imprinted with baseballs and trucks and all things blue, because he's a boy! and that's the American way.

Let's not even get into "made in China" here. At least this stuff is being reused. There's nothing like having a baby to set up a wrestling match with your principles. Is it organic? Local? Sustainably made? Free of negative cultural messages? Or toxic chemicals? Although it really seems like the primary question for the people that make this stuff is: Is it cute?!

(it's like those awful motel comforters and wallpaper - it's hard to believe somebody was actually paid to come up with those designs)(because if it doesn't say "baby" on the front, people won't be sure that's what it is?)(though I admit to slightly melting over a couple of the fuzzier outfits)

Apparently I'm not any better with baby clothes than I am with my own. I don't have that mysterious feminine shopping gene. I have a somewhat embarrassing pile of stuff that I can't even identify. But one thing I know for sure: I do not need a giant pumpkin costume for my kid.


To Snip Or Not To Snip

Hamlet didn't have his priorities straight. Then again, he wasn't expecting a baby boy, and probably the question of circumcision wouldn't have come up for him anyway. I guess I'm making some assumptions about 16th century Europe. Except for Shylock, of course, but then we'd be mixing our Shakespearean metaphors. All of which is entirely beside the point.

There was a time when this decision would have been made for us, and probably still would be in many places, but instead, it's a choice we have to make. My initial instincts are to say yes, snip it off, because that's the cultural norm I grew up with. Every penis I've had the pleasure to know has been snipped. (was that too much information?) It's been true enough of even casual acquaintances (skinny dipping and so on) that I've noticed the few turtlenecks in the crowd as standing out. But that's starting to shift - in fact, I'd say most of the little boys running around our current neighborhood, who do often run around naked, are not snipped. I'm less sure about the adults, though not at all shy about asking. So now we actually have to think about it.

The problem is that even a dip into internet research reveals people on both sides who are totally nuts, and totally convinced you are going to RUIN YOUR CHILD FOREVER if you make the wrong choice. It's a bit harder to find actual rational info on this. When I talk to people I know about their choices, it's not much more useful - they're not crazy dogmatic about it, for the most part, but don't really add anything helpful to either side. Yes, there's potential that it can reduce the risk of disease, but if you teach the kid to wash well, it's not such a problem. Yes, it's potentially unnecessary surgery, but with fairly low risk. Nobody really knows about sexual sensitivity - although one guy pointed out that he could not have handled any more of that in his teenage years! Some folks say leave it alone and let the kid decide - but how many boys or men do you know that would actually choose to let someone near them with a sharp knife? I'm not even going to get into the arguments about birth trauma and related issues from suppressed painful experiences as a newborn.

Turns out this is quite a hot-button topic, though. One interesting angle I hadn't considered until I recently read a few articles/posts/etc. related circumcision to Gardasil and our double standards for boys and girls when it comes to sex. Apparently the CDC is considering recommending circumcision as an HIV preventative. When Gardasil appeared on the scene, a vaccine for girls that helps prevent HPV (which can cause cervical cancer) the moral majority came out in force against it, claiming it would encourage promiscuity. Not once have I come across that argument about boys and le snip. There's not an exact parallel here, but it whiffs of the old slut/stud dichotomy.

Also related: for those who don't want wrinkles, there's a new injection out there for you made of baby foreskins! You can fill in your own jokes on this one.

Speaking of foreskin jokes (because really, what better topic is there? there's that one about the rabbi and the wallet that becomes a suitcase...) - I'm reminded of an old SNL fake ad for a fancy car that showed how smooth the ride was by having a mohel perform a circumcision in the back seat while driving over a bumpy road. And this is why I love the internet - I just took a detour and found the clip on hulu, which I'd link to if I knew how, but if you search for SNL fake ad royal deluxe circumcision - you, too, can enjoy that fine viewing experience.

All of which is to say, I'm still kind of where I was to start: let's do it, because it's what we know, and it looks funny otherwise. I'm helped along by a friend who shared Dan Savage's take on the matter: "Cut cock tastes better." Words of wisdom, y'all.


50 Bands I've Seen Live

(from a Facebook tag - but I'd rather post it here)
(I think there are supposed to be some rules about this, but I don't know what they are, so oh well)
(these are in chronological/associative order - meaning I'll plug in ones I'm reminded of as I go along)
(shall we move on from the parenthetical notes now, into the meat of it?)

My first concert! I was...12? 13? Only allowed to go because my brother and mother would be there too:

1. Extreme - the real reason I wanted to go, but we missed most of it because of traffic and parking issues. "More Than Words" can still bring a flutter to my aging heart.
2. Cinderella
3. David Lee Roth - he rode in on an enormous penis. I mean, microphone.

It's hard to be a young music fan. At least it was for me, though I was luckier than many. But I missed out on some shows I would have really liked because I was too young for the clubs and then too cool, once they got popular enough to play big venues. :) Red Hot Chili Peppers are the prime example.

Other shows in the high school era, mostly at the old 9:30 club. Again under the protection of my older brother at first. And my elbows, and a sports bra. Most of these shows involved mosh pits and stage diving, which was fun for me because I was little enough to be passed around and around and around.

4. Lucy Brown - recently rediscovered on YouTube, with joy, since my tapes got stolen years ago when my car was broken into in New Orleans. Then the NO PD (ha!), completely unhelpful with the theft, tracked me down in Boston and sent me a parking ticket.
5. The Toasters - pretty sure I've seen them more than once
6. Reverend Horton Heat - them too - Jimbo was pretty badass standing on his upright bass
7. Checkered Cabs
8. Skavoovie
9. Let's Go Bowling
10. The Skatalites
? - you may be noticing a ska theme at this point, and I know I saw a bunch of shows, but sadly cannot actually remember the details of who/when/where... I know I saw other shows in DC, too, but again, they are lost in the mists of teenage time. Not alcohol though, I was straight edge through all that.

Oh! One of my favorite shows ever, at WUST radio hall, before it became the new 9:30.

11. Bad Brains
12. Living Colour

Hmm. I guess that takes me to the college years, though I feel like I might have to do some research to flesh out the earlier bits.

13. The Testostertones
14. Ska King Crab
15. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - who I remember liking on tape, but after the concert, repeatedly referred to as the "Jon Spencer Ass Explosion"
16. Fishbone
17. Maceo Parker - these last three were at one show - kind of an odd mix, no?
18. Ani DiFranco
19. God Street Wine - at Toad's Place, because Matt was kind of an insane stalker fan
20. Dar Williams - a Wes alum, she played at her 10th reunion, which was my graduation year, and again this year, at my 10th and her 20th.

Wow. I can't even remember who played at Spring Fling each year, or what other school bands I liked. Again with the research. So...moving on, post-college:

20. The Buttery Lords - crackers with soul. oh so creamy.
21. Willie Nelson - at the Colorado State Fair, and again years later at the Sandia Casino

Shows I worked in Denver and Boulder, at various venues, including the Fillmore, the spanking new Pepsi Center, Macky Auditorium. Lots of fun stories from those days. Not least because I was one of a few women in a mostly macho world, of the tattooed or old-fashioned variety.

22. Hootie and the Blowfish - though I didn't actually see much of the show, and was never a big fan. But Hootie himself (Darius Rucker) came out afterwards and shook our hands and thanked us. Classy.
23. Reba McEntire - whose show I worked again in Boston, a year later
24. Montgomery Gentry
25. Alan Jackson - I discovered, to my surprise, that I actually quite like country music. And western. :)
26. Celine Dion - I liked listening to their crew speak in Quebecois French
27. Corey Hart - who really does wear sunglasses at night
28. Kiss - really, what can I say? Fabulous! And there was a great car outside, a VW bug with a giant Gene Simmons tongue running down the top. He's kind of a shlub with no makeup or costume. But boy howdy, do they put on a good show.
29. Ted Nugent - yes he did shoot a flaming arrow through his guitar onstage
30. Skid Row, but just barely - dinner made us late, and we only caught the last song - these last two opened for Kiss
31. Bruce Springsteen - nice juxtaposition - they played after Kiss, who came with many trucks of props and costumes and giant sets and so forth, but this was a bare stage and just hours of great music
32. Limp Bizkit
33. Primus
34. Bette Midler
35. Kid Rock
36. Backstreet Boys - it was Halloween, and the tween girl shrieks were scarier than any monster

okay, I know there's more, so there's clearly going to be an update to this list. An aside: one of my favorite shows to work, though not a band, was when WCW (wrestling!) came through. I'd be listening on the headset to them swearing when the pre-rigged cage didn't come apart at the right time...got to meet Hulk Hogan...help set some serious pyro...and though it's all an act, they take some serious hits, and the blood is real. Also: The Little Mermaid on Ice was very sweet. "Everything's better, down where it's wetter, take it from me!"

Shows I worked in the Boston area, at various venues:
37. Gipsy Kings
38. Jimmy Buffett
39. Britney Spears
40. N'Sync - who asked to be rolled onto stage in laundry carts so nobody would see them, and who brought a tanning bed along on tour.
41. Boston Pops - which was a fun show to set up, on Nantucket, but because of it I missed Ozzfest.
42. Roberta Flack - who took on the Fugees with a sense of humor when she sang "Killing Me Softly"

again with the bad memory, except I do remember driving home from Foxboro Stadium on empty roads at 3 am with the country music station on loud (yes, they listen to country in New England) and hearing Kenny Chesney's "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" for the first time. What's not to love?

Miscellaneous shows I've seen since, or maybe in between, as I begin to remember other shows I saw earlier:
43. Olodum
44. Ozomatli - in Santa Fe and, oddly enough, at the Jackson County Fair, where I was sadly too pregnant to dance much. Such a good live show.
45. Hot Club of Cowtown
46. Blue Oyster Cult
47. John Kay of Steppenwolf
48. Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks
49. Bela Fleck and the Flecktones
50. Van Morrison
(hey! I made it to 50 without any help!)
51. Ashleigh MacIsaac
52. The Chieftains
53. Michelle Shocked
54. Devil Makes Three
55. Les Claypool
56. Son Volt
57. Cowboy Junkies
58. One Horse Shy
59. Flat Five String Band
60. The Rogue Suspects

Whew. I'm kind of exhausted from doing this. Lots of memories, and frustrating almost-memories. I'll be back with an update after doing a little research, though!


ok, I'm just going to throw down a list - thanks to those who helped me remember - still probably not complete, but better:

311, Uncle Trouble, Jethro Tull, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, John Fogerty, Kool and the Gang, Staind, Lyle Lovett, Soul Deacons, Brave Combo, G Love, French Funk Federation, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Tornado Riders, March Fourth, Medeski Martin & Wood, Michael Franti & Spearhead, and Bat Makumba.

The end.


Things In The Garage

Or, Categories For Clutter: a list poem

Things that cut
Things that make holes
Things that hit other things
Things that clean
Things that are pointy
Things made to stick other things together
Things made to take other things apart
Things that make you go "hmm"
Things that fill holes
Things related to painting
Things that will kill you
Things that will help you reach taller things
Things that somebody, somewhere, might want
Things that play music, with the help of a carefully balanced box of screws
Things to do with caulk
Things that used to not be junk
Things that tell stories
Things that make you laugh
Things designed to keep you safe


Mucous Plug

I bet that gave you a delicious image, eh? So we've started going to childbirth classes, which just highlights for me what an odd direction our culture has taken, ever further away from the basics of life and death and community. In the class of about 20 people, only 3 (all women) had ever been present at a birth - which the teacher said was more than usual. All (men, too) had seen a video, except for us - we've been studiously avoiding them. But the time has come to start facing the reality. I've known the general mechanics of how this will go for a long time, but it's the details that matter now. And hoo boy, are there some gory details!

It's like the difference between looking at the instructional diagram in the textbook and actually dissecting that pig in high school biology. The images don't match up, and finding the right bits was always tricky. So we learned about things like the mucous plug, which conveniently blocks up the cervix to keep infection out. But at some point, hours or days or weeks before birth, it falls out - called the "show", even though in reality it is a hunk of slimy bloody snot-like stuff. Yum!

And the actual birth? The part where you see the head emerging from that now-slightly-larger hole? Totally horrifying. Oh, yes, I'm sure it's magical too, no, really, but - totally horrifying. Lots of slime and screaming and hairiness. Can't wait. Not going to start hitting up youtube for more videos. And why would you want to be that woman, shown in all your glory to birthing classes round the country? Why would you want to record the experience on video at all? Are you gonna show your kids someday? Why would you do that to them? I'm all for keeping a journal and sharing that way, but come on now.

This is not going to make me like oysters any better, either.



And the living is easy...

Hammock. Popsicles. Books.

Garden growing like crazy, and smelling delicious.

Puppy chasing ducks at the lake.


What's not to love?


Princess Power

So there's a new Disney princess coming to town, and everybody's talking because she will be their first black princess. Welcome to the modern melting pot, Walt. So there's all this brouhaha about whether or not she's upholding negative stereotypes or is a positive role model who can be a shining beacon for little girls of color everywhere...

Well, I'm not actually that invested in the race issue, but it brought up an old peeve of mine, regarding those darling princesses, and Disney in general. It's that whole gender thing. Why do all those girls have an impossible hourglass figure, which they tend to show off in fairly revealing outfits? Why do they always rely on a man to come to their rescue? Do we really want our girls growing up thinking that a kiss from Prince Charming is going to solve all their problems?! (a prince they've never met, by the way, who often kisses them on first sight and often while they are unconscious...) And what about the mothers - they're always dead and their replacements are always vile. Aging in Disneyland seems to mean turning wicked and warty - where are the elder wise women to look up to?

So we basically have this constantly repeated message that beautiful is good and ugly is evil. And by "beautiful" we only mean one thing, regardless of skin color: perky boobs, tiny waist, rounded hips, flowing locks. And make sure you are somewhat hopeless without the help of a hunk - even if you're a little bit kick-ass, you can't do it all alone! I admit I haven't really been in the Disney loop lately, so maybe there's a whole slew of riot grrl princesses with spiky hair that come in all shapes and sizes and don't ever need a man, or maybe they even do some saving of their own, or hell, even love another woman! But I haven't seen them.

I love pink. I think being a girl means all kinds of things, and that frilly and strong can go hand in hand. I'm not against love or fairy tales, but the image Disney holds up just pisses me off. It's time to bring fantasy a little closer to reality.


Slow Food for the Brain

I just read an article about how Newsweek is reinventing itself to fit in this age of instant information - who wants a magazine that brings you news once a week, when it's already old? Me, that's who. Well, not so much that I want Newsweek, but I don't really feel like I need to know everything five seconds after it happens. I'm perfectly happy reading only the Sunday Times (and I share a subscription with 3 neighbors, so I don't even get to it all on Sunday!) for my news updates. Complemented by the occasional NPR hit, if I'm in the car at the right time. And the stuff that is really important gets through somehow.

You know how cities are starting to do things like car-free Sundays? Maybe we should do cellphone-free days, too. Or rather, internet-free days. (I think I'm one of the few people left whose phone is only a phone, just like that proverbial cigar)* I mean, I love the internet, it's magical, but it's nice to take a rest from it all sometimes.

Information overload, y'all. Break the cord.

*ok, now I have an image of a city full of people walking around with penises, typing messages into them, holding them up to their ears as they yak away...oh Sigmund, where are you now?!


Interior Renovation

Hello! I don't know what Miss Manners would say about blurting this out on the internets (though apparently there is a whole consumer category of sickeningly cute cards I could send), but yes: I am growing a baby! In my tummy. And it is getting to the point where it is weird not to be able to mention it in passing, but in this day of reconnecting with faraway friends, it is also weird to figure out how to tell people I don't normally talk to. And so, even though I am not totally enamored of Facebook, it became the path of least resistance. (which, somehow, a very small opening in my anatomy will become for a several-pound baby?!)

The little critter, thus far unsexed, is due on November 3 - Election Day. The primary vision I have for this event is the scene in Spaceballs where the alien rips out of that guy's stomach and tap dances his way along the countertop of the diner... I realize this is not actually how it's going to go; I have a basic understanding of biology (though let me tell you I avoid the videos - people will gush over the beautiful images and invite me to watch and suddenly I have a lot of hair to wash and toenails to clip) but it is still something of a mystery to me how it all works out.

I've had a relatively good time of it so far, able to go about my daily life, thankful for my days off, and apparently glossing over the nights, when I usually feel really crappy. Sort of like having the flu all the time. Really? Women used to do this 10 or 15 times in a row? Thank you, Margaret Sanger! Though I mock the whole "blossoming womanhood" part of this, and am not likely to be the earth mother I once thought I would be, it was pretty amazing to actually see this little being inside of me, looking surprisingly human already.

Everyone tells us how exciting this is, so I guess we're excited - and also a bit terrified. Not sure at all what is going to happen to our lives this fall, but hoping that in a general way we will just continue to live like we always do. Obviously things will be different, but it's not like we'll never travel again or be able to do the things we like. We hope. Don't disillusion us with your tales of baby madness and misery, please! Just tell us how wonderful it is, that it's the best decision ever, and we are going to fall in love.

The adventure continues.



I went through a phase recently of being obsessed with growing sprouts in a jar. So easy! How did I not know about this before? Cheaper, and fresher, and fabulouser than buying them. And so easy! Did I already say that? Ok: you need a jar with a mesh lid. You can make one or buy one (I bought one for $3). There are fancy sprout people that sell fancy sprout accoutrements which if you get very excited you might want, but are really unnecessary to get you going.

1. Put a spoonful of sprout seeds or lentils or whatever seed-y things in the jar and soak overnight.
2. Pour out water through handy mesh lid. Rinse with fresh water. Drain. Leave at an angle so it can continue to drain.
3. Repeat that evening, and each morning and evening for the next few days.
4. Watch as they grow! It's like magic. Depending on the sprout, it will take 3-6 days to be delicious.
5. Eat! Marvel at the crispness. Nature's goodness, direct to you. By you.

I'm sure I must have planted potato or avocado or something in second grade, I mean that's the kind of science kids do, but somehow the magic of it did not quite grab me back then. Now? It is absurdly exciting to check on the sprouts every day. Or hour. I'm almost tempted to sit and watch them, they grow that fast. I want to take pictures and make a flip book.

So actually, I have to admit, I haven't made them recently - we weren't eating them quite fast enough, and then had lots and lots at once so they wouldn't go bad, and they lost a bit of their charm. Tarnished, like. But not forever! I envision sprouting again soon! I remain enamored of growing sprouts on a live-aboard boat, or tying a bag to my backpack as I hike through the woods, fresh vegetables ready to join my dehydrated meals... heck, apparently just sprouting the beans a tiny bit makes them much healthier. But this is not about healthy. This is about magic. Something from nothing. Apparent exemption from the conservation of mass. I know, I know, not really - there's all sorts of science to explain it. Shush up with that. It's magic.


April is the Cruellest Month

Just as things were warming up, it snows. I'm really over it. And I really don't have much to say tonight, but I was feeling guilty for letting this languish unattended to for so long. And hey, it's poetry month! So, a poem, one of my new favorites:

Bridal Shower

Perhaps, in a distant café,
four or five people are talking
with the four or five people
who are chatting on their cell phones this morning
in my favorite café.

And perhaps someone there,
someone like me, is watching them as they frown,
or smile, or shrug
at their invisible friends or lovers,
jabbing the air for emphasis.

And, like me, he misses the old days,
when talking to yourself
meant you were crazy,
back when being crazy was a big deal,
not just an acronym
or something you could take a pill for.

I liked it
when people who were talking to themselves
might actually have been talking to God
or an angel.
You respected people like that.

You didn't want to kill them,
as I want to kill the woman at the next table
with the little blue light on her ear
who has been telling the emptiness in front of her
about her daughter's bridal shower
in astonishing detail
for the past thirty minutes.

O person like me,
phoneless in your distant café,
I wish we could meet to discuss this,
and perhaps you would help me
murder this woman on her cell phone,

after which we could have a cup of coffee,
maybe a bagel, and talk to each other,
face to face.

--George Bilgere


Mardi Gras!

This Tuesday, she is fat. So fat, and so full of mischief. And meat. And candy and masks. Dancing. Oranges. Small man-shaped dolls on fire. Music and parades. Huzzah!

The first time I ever saw Venice was during Carnevale, and it was fabulous - added to an already magical city. We stayed out all night following the revelry. Someday I'll get to Brazil, and samba my heart out. One of my alternate timeline lives involved moving to New Orleans, living across the river in Algiers and working at Mardi Gras World, building floats for the parade.

And so people will be celebrating all over the world, one of my favorite holidays, but nobody celebrates it locally. I mean, I've got my beads on and will take some good cheer to the bars tonight - toot toot! - but it promises to be somewhat sad and lonely, as Mardi Gras celebrations go. I remember the days when the only thing keeping my shirt on was concern I might see a student's parent... maybe I'll be able to rustle up that kind of ruckus and take it to the streets. A one-woman carnival!

Tonight, anything is possible.


What If The Mightiest Word Is Love

The title is a line of Elizabeth Alexander's poem from today's Inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama. When I asked my students what they thought of it, they said the only part they remembered was "A teacher says 'Take out your pencils. Begin.'" Actually, they thought the whole event was awesome. I do too.

This is going to be one of those crystallized moments of history, the few that you always remember where you were, what you were doing, who you were with...JFK getting shot, man on the moon, 9/11... There was a sparkle in the air, even from 3000 miles away, with a somewhat choppy internet stream. This is the America I believe in, the one worth belonging to and fighting for, the one that lifts hearts and shows us a better way, the one in the dream; this is my America.

It's a perfect time to be studying US history; we just wrapped the Constitution. I can almost feel the presence of those men as they wrote the documents that define our lives. Scandalous, whoring drunks they may have been, but the Founding Fathers did something incredible (as did the women, of course, though we don't see their names!). The enormity of creating a nation - a work still in progress - is just mind-boggling. But today. Oh, President Obama. Yes, we can. I know all our problems aren't going to disappear; we aren't going to turn into magical unicorns prancing through starlight, it's not the Age of Aquarius...but for a moment, I can drop my cynical remarks and angry reactions, and just feel. Feel the joy, and hope, and redemption, and yes, love.

What else could be the mightiest word? What kind of a world can we create?


Happy New Year!

That's it, really. Hope it's a good one all around. I'm pretty darn excited for it.