Friday, January 28, 2011

"Friday Night Frolic" - Punching Holes In Your Heart


As if it were a flapjack.
Holing pincers, perforate
the bailing muscle.
Narrow chasms nicked
like a crescent moon.
Flapped spigot leaks
dinted crimson tears,
that dissipate
amongst the blistering grid.

But bleeding hearts heal. Especially with the Avett Brothers.

They let go. Do they ever.

And move on.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Internet source unknown
Per Murr, I’ve been eating prolific amounts of oatmeal and yogurt on a daily basis, so when my week’s supply ran out today, I had to hoof it to the market before the crowd surged. At 1:00pm, the snow had just begun to fall—the commencement of yet another winter storm—and the great milk and bread rush would, no doubt, soon be in full tilt.

I’m no Chionophobic, quite the contrary, however I loath the inevitable confluence of panic-stricken personages at the grocery, so I don’t ordinarily food shop pre-blizzard. But dammit, I needed more than milk and bread. I needed oatmeal. And yogurt. I had a real emergency.

So there I was at Dave’s, where parking was miraculously still available. It seemed people had actually pre-prepared for this one. How lucky. I tucked my reusable bags under my arm and sashayed (yes, that's right, sashayed—I am a snow goddess, I am Khione herself, lady of mountain gales, I sleep in frozen vapor, ask hubby, he controls the thermostat) my way inside. And while there, at Dave’s, why not throw a few veggies in the cart for good measure? Oh, and the salmon was on sale; as were the blueberries (remarkably!). I was enjoying myself so much that I poured myself a cup of coffee and spent a little time with the cheese.

Over at the deli a small crowd was forming, the ticket dispenser wildly whirling, numbered-pink-paper-slips fluttering to the floor. The market was swelling, and I realized I’d have to pick up my pace before I melted. (Make no mistake; one must execute extreme finesse under such occasion.)

So, favoring perimeter shopping, I circumvented the deli—it’s much healthier, anyway—and made my way to the picked-clean milk section. All of this, mind you, in a matter of fifteen minutes, or so it seemed. A few yogurts lay sideways in the cold case, and I grabbed the last of them.

I pushed my small cart around the final corner, down the aisle, toward the cash registers, whereupon... to great alarm... there, I did see: an overflowing stream of basket-pushing buggers at check-out.  I began to melt. I did. I was flushed. I tugged at my scarf. I needed to get back out in the frost, in the snow, onto God's white earth. Fhark! I had spent too much time with the cheese! (Which is the very problem to begin with.)

Getty Images
Just then—as I was about to evaporate into an ocean of hysteria—I found a hole. Right there, in the other lane. Other people saw it, too, but no one was making a move. I looked about at agitated shoppers, wondering if jumping in the hole was a good idea. I paused, spied around once more, lowered my head, darted through the line and into the little culvert. I was there, right at the register, and I hadn't even cutoff anyone! Honest. It was as if the stream had parted its rising tide, and waved me through the watershed. Though some shoppers looked at me with envy, none dared cross the divide, and so I felt immediate relief.

Bags were packed tight, and I glided outside—the air so chilly, such solace—sashaying my way back to the chariot, where I gathered the reins, and headed, victoriously, into the valley of glaciers...

...without the oatmeal.

And school is closed tomorrow...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Figure Of Speech

Antimetabole—a figure of speech: 

"Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country". 

I was only a few months old when John F. Kennedy spoke these words, but they've stayed with me, and my generation, for a lifetime. Speaking of the evils of the world, terrorism, and looming annihilation during an inordinately turbulent time, JFK delivered his address with eloquence and astonishing optimism. 

The above excerpt is likely the most remembered and oft quoted part of Kennedy's pivotal Inaugural Address. However, sacrifice is not what most of us want to hear about right now. Seems like we've been doing it for too long. We're ready for our country to start doing for us. 

But Kennedy's speech wasn't purely rhetoric, he was referring to centralized government, with the intent being to empower people—he was telling us, the new generation, not the government, to take it upon ourselves to rid the country and the world of man's common enemies.

A couple of days ago, Nance wrote this on her blog (regarding gun control):  "Significant issues will disappear only if we allow them to." She couldn't be more right.

"So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate." ~ JFK

Tonight, in Washingtonat the Kennedy Center for the Performing Artsas part of The Presidency of John F. Kennedy: A 50th Anniversary Celebration, cellist Yo-Yo Ma will perform a tribute to the Pablo Casals Concert in the Kennedy White House (which was given after a state dinner by the famous Spanish cellist, Casals, in 1961). It is sure to be a stunning performance.

"Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans..." 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Anatomy Of A Blog Post by an Unreliable Narrator



After a busy weekend of travel, post-holiday family gatherings, and lots of bubbly, I return to a box brimming with mail and good news. A while back, I mentioned that I believe writing comes with a certain responsibility. Turns out, in the blogosphere, there is an undertaking I hadn't contemplated. I've seen them on sidebars, or twinkling on posts, a little recognition from fellow bloggers known as: Blog Awards.

Over the weekend, I received not one, not two, but three awards (really! no kidding) from two very kind and generous bloggers; and it is now upon me to pass the same along to other deserved bloggers. Before I do, there are some prerequisites/responsibilities (for real) that go hand-in-hand with receipt of these honors; which include, among other things, writing something meaty about oneself. The big reveal. Whoa...  well, you can kind of get the gist of it here. And maybe below...

Introduction and Acknowledgement

Let me begin this Monday's post with a tall-glass bubbly toast to Ms. Barbarba L. of Notes From The Second Half who received and passed along to me the above Life Is Good Award, and The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award.

And another sparkly toast to Ms. June with the luscious locks, from Aging Gratefully for receiving and passing along to me the Stylish Blogger Award.

Thanks so much, ladies for this nod, and a nod back at ya. Well Done.

Part I - The Rules and The Two Award Winner 

In the case of the Life Is Good, and The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award, from Barbara the requirements are:
1. Thank and link back to the person that gave the award;
2. Answer the 10 survey* questions;
3. Pass the award along to other bloggers whom you think are fantastic 
(as many as you'd like); and,
4. Contact the bloggers you have chosen to let them know about the award.

Random Photo Break

*The Survey Questions (I'm listing them and answering them below - but don't include my answers as part of the requirements unless you are me and I am you. And I don't mean to make light of thisall three awards are an honor bestowed by serious bloggers who I faithfully follow—but I have, what you call, survey issues):

1.   If you blog anonymously, are you happy doing this?  If you aren't anonymous, do you wish you started out anonymously, so that you could be anonymous now?   Answer: I didn't blog anonymously at first, but now I half do, and I don't know if I shall again. In short, I have an identity issue. It's not a crisis, sometimes I just don't know who I am and how I want to blog.
2.   Describe an incident that shows your inner stubborn side. Answer: Absolutely not. I refuse to.
3.   What do you see when you really look at yourself in the mirror? Answer: I try very hard to never really look at myself. Why in the world would anyone want to do that?
4.   What is your favorite summer cold drink?  Answer: Wine. Always wine. Hot, cold, lukewarm, red, blue, green or white. Wine.
5.   When you take time for yourself, what do you do? Answer: Is this supposed to be a G-rated Q&A?   No, yes? Really? I absolutely won't answer this one either.
6.   Is there something that you still want to accomplish in your life? Answer: Holy cow, what don't I want to accomplish? I mean I still haven't jumped out of an airplane, or walked a tight-rope, or mounted a bull (at least not that I remember). 

7.   When you attended school, were you the class clown, the class overachiever, the shy person or always ditching? Answer: I don't remember attending school. Kidding, I do, I just don't want to remember attending school.
8.   If you close your eyes and want to visualize a very poignant moment in your life, what would you see? 
Answer: Seeing my babies for the very first time. This, followed by a blurry streak of denial, refusal, absentmindedness, insanity and wine. All, utterly poignant.
9.   Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog, or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people and events? Answer: Both. But this is not always the case. Sometimes it's difficult to differentiate between the two. But whether I'm writing about me or others it is usually obvious if it's fact or fiction. Sometimes it's neither, and sometimes it's impossible to tell.

10. If you had the choice to sit down and read a book or talk on the phone, which would you do and why? Answer: It depends who the person is at the other end of the line, or the book I want to read. Sometimes I like to do both of them at the same time. Neither the caller nor the book would be the wiser.

And the Winner is....    Ms. Lin Ann of Vittles and Committals!!! (Applause.) (Now get up - standing ovation.) Lin Ann is a newbie foodie blogger, and my bestie friend. Check her out. She's gets around, people. In her garden, I mean. Sheesh. Where are your minds today?

Part II - The Rules and The One Award Winner (but you deserve two)

In the case of the Stylish Blogger Award from Miss June at Aging Gratefully, the requirements are:

1.  Write a post about the award including a link back to the donor;

2.  Share seven things about myself; 

3.  Pass it on to fifteen seven one blogger I've recently discovered.
Ya, I broke the rules, reducing the pass-along to one,  but feel free to bestow the award to whomever you please...

So, about the seven things in #2 above:  (Must I play by the book?) Since self-disclosure is like self-flagellation, I'm going to refer you to Part I above to satisfy #2 here. And I'll give you this:

And the Winner is... Dennice at Fringe. (Applause) (More standing ovations.) If you take a peek at her blog, you'll understand why. Go. See Dennice. She's fabulous, and she is creating some fabulous artisan wear.


This is all true. Every word of it. And I am not often an unreliable narrator. Only when it suits me. I am now permitted to place the awards on my sidebar. Really. You'll see them there. 

Thank you to my fellow bloggers for these thoughtful awards. To the recipients: kudos to you. You can both grab your awards in the Frontispiece. 

Gosh we bloggers work for our awards. ;)

Friday, January 21, 2011

"Friday Night Frolic" - Going Home

It's snowing again, and the wind stirs the crystal confection into dramatic peaks against the sliding glass door, like the thick froth of the steamed milk in my cappuccino, only colder. I don't know why, but all this wintry weather and snow drifting makes me think of the ocean and its undulating waves. Peaceful, calm. Perhaps it's just longing for a warmer atmosphere (even though I do love the winter).

Which brings me to the movie, Local Hero (1983). I don't mean to push soundtracks hereafter all it's Friday night, and this is a Frolic, your supposed to be out whooping it up, shaking your derrière—but with this weather keeping me (and the kids) hemmed in at home, movies are on the forefront. There's only so much homework and projects and reading one can do. 

So I return to Local Hero, which is another one of those films in which the soundtrack (Mark Knopfler—need I say more?) outsold the film. The movie's instrumental theme song, Going Home (as well as the other scores), is a stunning, emotional and mellifluous piece of work by Knopfler. In this case, however, the movie is every bit as good as the soundtrack. This film is a favorite of mine, it speaks to humanity in the simplest way. Its premise: big Corporate trying to swallow up small, Scottish coastal town for its own gain. But what follows is extraordinary, in a very ordinary way. Ordinary characters doing ordinary things. With all this ordinariness it may seem not worth your while. But it is. The film is pointed, quirky and endearing. The humor, subtle, dry and wry. And Knopfler's accompanying music makes it hard to keep the eyes dry.

I won't give it all away, in the event you haven't seen it. I'll say only that it's about change, how our experienceswhich need not be profound—change and transform us. And it has one of the sweetest bar scenes of all time ("I'll make a good Gordon, Gordon"). I've watched this story often over the years, and each time I discover within it something new.

Here, the profusely charming Victor breaking hearts:

This gem of a move and Knopfler's orchestration are so worth Going Home for.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Happy Birthday Mother—My Anti-Tiger Mom

Today my mother is 76 years old. I'm not so sure she'd be happy that I'm revealing this, but hey, it's her birthday, so Happy Birthday Mom. Now the whole world knows how old you are. I know you don't read my blog (it's OK, neither do your progenythe five otherslove you guys), don't have a computer, and I just spoke with you over the phone; but after I put the receiver back in its cradle, I started contemplating a few things, and perhaps I should just call you back, only at the moment I'm in the mood for a write.

I'm not going to get all gushy here, but what's on my mind is this, Mother:

I'm glad you didn't parent like Amy Chua. Not that I have anything against Amy, I think she's pretty cool, in fact, for spilling her guts in her memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. She doesn't profess to have the answers, she admits her mistakes, and reveals some ugly truths about herself. I don't know too many parents who would confess to calling their children garbage. This is not bravado, it is bravery.

You sure had your moments, though, forcing me to practice pianoand, as an eight your old, hike up the hill on my own, with the $2.00 fee in my pocket, for lessons that put me to sleep; but after three years of torture you let me give it up when you realized it was hopeless (now I wish I hadn't quit).

I wanted to be in the streets playing Kick the Can, not running scales at the keyboard. I wanted to learn lessons my way, and you let me. Sometimes the neighbors called, complaining about how (brother) Chris and I had been climbing trellised grapevines, and precious cherry trees, picking them bare, and jumping from roof to roof through the neighborhood (you could do this in the city) with our goods, hollering like monkeys. You remained calm, and told me that you thought fence and garage climbing might not be a good idea. You said I might get hurt, and neighbors didn't take kindly to it. (Imagine this happening today with everyone so obsessed about liability.)

You let me go to sleepovers, and watch TV (a little), and get grades less than an Aalthough I know you didn't like it when I did. You let me spend Saturdays at the Y jumping on trampolines and gliding along the balance beam, playing basketball, and making bright key chains with gimp. You allowed me to take my wooden sled, unsupervised, to Banana Hill, where Chris, Tony and I, and the rest of the local clan, would fly down the snowy, narrow knoll and straight into the brook (its best you weren't there).

You let me produce reams of my own crayon-colored newspaper, and peddle it door-to-door. You let me fry Barbie's blond locks into an afro with my hair dryer. You let your wee ones crack your entire collection of Hummels while we tossed footballs in the dining room. Why you ever kept those figurines on open shelves...

You let me work out problems with friends, or teachers, on my own, and you never hovered. You never wanted to be friends with my friends, or organize socials. You didn't care if you weren't my friend. (I'll bet you'd never friend my Facebook friends.) You never scheduled a play date for me, but you let me run out the door, or take a bus to the mall or the beach. You never meddled in my social affairs, eavesdropped, or read my diary (or did you?!).

You let me rebel, but watched me closely, and listened quietly to my adolescent diatribes. You let me have knock-down drag-out  fights with my siblings. You let me drink and smoke cigarettes behind your back (or did you honestly not know this?). You let me get sulky and crabby and bossy, but you put me on my knees in the corner when I went a little too far. Sometimes you even swatted at me with the spatula.

You even let me say I hate you more than once, and never said it back. God, I don't know how you did this, because you never, ever deserved that.

But we had curfews, the six of us, we had the education first talks, had to study hard and pull in good grades, although that didn't always happen. We had to get to bed at a decent hour. We couldn't date until we were sixteen, and weren't allowed to wear makeup to school. We had to work for our own spending money, and we had to walk or bike to a friends house if we wanted to see them, no matter how far away they lived. We had to wash a ton of dishes, vacuum the floor, wipe down chairs, and dust the windows' louvered shutters. And that was just one-tenth of the chores—wasn't it?

You let us turn the backyard into a mud hole digging to China, and paint the metal swing-set Jackson Pollock (you want to check out that link, it's fun) style, with psychedelic colors. You let us use your kitchen gadgets, pots and pans, and clothing, and pretty much anything we desired, as props for impromptu summer theatre-in-the-yard. Dad hammered together an ice rink for winter skating behind the house, and you always had hot cocoa at the table for us when we piled back in, drenched and cold.

None of this is to say that you were indifferent, or unconcerned, or unavailable. You knew precisely what we needed, and were more present for us than I could ever hope to be with my babes. You were home most of the time, returning to work only when the last little one went to high school. You didn't have a fancy career, weren't flamboyant or super cool, but you were the mom my friends most admiredbeautiful, elegant, gracious, warm and optimistic—it's still that way, you know.

Anyway Mother, I'm glad you weren't a Tiger Mom. Even though none of your grown children may ever win a Nobel Prize or shuttle into space, they didn't turn out all that bad. We all went to college, we all got good jobs, we're all healthy and productive beings, raising fine children of our own. We all cherish our family more than anything in the world.

And you're no wimp, Mom. You knew that some things had to be learned in the streets. Even if they were pretty tough lessons. You knew the value of painful and embarrassing moments, and failure as priceless. You knew a thing or two about building character. Still do.

You are the amazing Anti-Tiger Mom. I didn't want to be like you back then. I can only hope to be now.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Austerity And The Art of Writing

There isn't a wisp of wind, and the snow spills briskly to the earth like flour sifted through a sieve; a pearly confection pasting the earth as thickly as the powdered sugar with which my daughter dusts her pancakes. She likes them that way. No maple syrup or jam. Just the sweet powder. Her densely sugared wheat cakes dehydrate so quickly that she has to cut them with a knife, whereas my cakes are sopped extravagantly with syrup, and better eaten with a spoon.

But the snow eventually turns to a steady drizzle, and our street begins to resemble the remains of our breakfast, a path cut clear down the center of the course, and sorrel, gritty granules dredged to the side. A muddy mess of slush and slop, and everyone scraping hard to clean it up.

It's all making me feel a little gloomy. Or maybe that's the lack of sleep. Or maybe it's the fact that I put on an extra ten this morning and I can't budge from my seat. Really, what it is, is that austerity sucks. And because it really, really sucks, I won't be taking a writing class this semester, thereby causing a bit of consternation (how will I stay focused?), and worse, thereby missing an opportunity to take a last workshop with Thomas Cobbword being that he's retiring from his teaching gig (or is it maybe that I'm retiring from my student gig?). But I don't wish to proliferate or perpetuate rumor. Word being, nothing more.

I've taken a lot of writing workshops, but I have to say, none better than the one taught by the affable and unassuming Dr. Cobb. Aside from the fact that the man is genius, Dr. Cobb gave me a gift that I sorely needed: a little faith in myself. To be clear, I once had faith, but it was long lost on daily grind and housekeeping, on a barren stretch of colorless convention. Dr. Cobb doesn't know this, but with his guidance and kindness, my wayward faith was restored. He taught me about McGuffin, and reminded me to read Carver and  Gardner and Bukowski. Without his encouragementsubtle, at that, I may even have misread it, in fact, perhaps just a jolly delusionI probably would have buried my little chimera (I've so many), certainly wouldn't have dared to blog (not that I should). I wouldn't have had the courage.

My rock-n-roll-n-trippin fifth grade teacher, Mr Sawyer, was the only other teacher (aside from my father, who also taught English) who ever encouraged me to write, and I never properly thanked him for it. I don't know if he's still alive, or if he's living somewhere in the hills of New York, but a thank you has always been in my heart, Mr. Sawyer.

And while I can, a warm thank you to Dr. Cobb, for helping me clean up my slop, and straighten my spine. Happy travels, or happy whatever-it-is-you-plan-to-do-with-all-that-free-time. Who knows, maybe I'm entirely wrong. Maybe I'm feeling all sad and forlorn for naught, and I'll be seeing you 'round campus whenever I can afford to get my pancake-enriched ass back there. In any event, I'll miss you this semester. I'll be thinking of that class. But I'll keep writing. I'll plod along, I damn well will.

The power of a teacher. They can sure widen, and brighten, the landscape.

Friday, January 14, 2011

"Friday Night Frolic" - Let's Jam

Here comes the weekend...

She was out in the night, every weekend, to mitigate the pain. Ameliorated by stentorian rock, booze, smokes and contortionist, non-stop dancing. In the mid-eighties, in her mid-twenties, this is what she did. (Pretty much all her twenties, in fact.)  This is what you should do when you're young, she believed. (Or was she told?). To shake it off.

Burning the midnight oil at work, she at the same time was in, what she called, her 'hate men' phase, an overwritten chapter, having had her heart battered more than oncethe last with a narcissistic psychologist who messed with her head (how does that make you feel, my screwing around?) while claiming he was nothing more than an innocent man. Men were nothing more than misogynistic jerks, she thought, and she began to tease and torment them, play them for fools, venturing to scrape away their ego. She vowed never to be taken as the fool again, never to commit, never to marry. Never.

She had left New York for Boston and thought it too provincial at first, and perhaps it was. She cut her hair short and asymmetrical, found her own apartment (several actuallyI've changed my address, she often had to explain), and shopped at Salvation Army where she bought dusty, used rebel outfits for fun.

Hopping the T at Cleveland circle, imagining she was down in the tube station in a bigger, more exciting city, she scrambled to punkdom at the Rat in Kenmore Square, or to Spit at the foot of the Green Monster, or anywhere else she could go head-banging in the city.  Once in a while, when the lawyer friend, the veritable boy about town, called upon her (sometimes, in the middle of the night in the middle of the week—though this couldn't be right as all the clubs shut their doors by two sharp), she grabbed a cab to Cambridge where they met in a murky, below-ground Central Square club, a black box, where anonymity awaited, where they thrashed in mad gyrations, threw themselves in the crowd, into a whirling sea of leather-garbed, metal-studded, spike-haired opaqueness.

Long hours of Westlaw, depositions, constitutional this, statutory that, endless paperwork and billable hours, were left back at the stuffy three-story, four-named firm on the corner of Beacon and Tremont. Speeding up was their way to slow down. They didn't talk litigationabout the guy who was paralyzed from the neck down while having his hair cut. Who would have known the steel nail of a high powered stud gun would penetrate a shared wall and the nape of his neck. The man in the corner shop, the gun manufacture, the construction company, the insurers, the whole goddamn world, was being sued. Though none of it would remedy the father's incapacity to ever embrace his young children again, living in a private hell.

She shook it off with Sam Adams and sticky, cement floors. A beat surrender.

She liked the chaotic rawness of punk rock, the circus of it all, the release, even though she was already too old for it. She listened to the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Iggy Pop and the Ramones, and especially these boys:

The Jam. That was entertainment. That was her escape. Where all was forgotten.

She went dotty for the Jam's sexy, mop-haired Paul Weller, his anti-complacency, anti-establishment codeeven though she suited up daily for the office, and the Jam had disbanded, the punk rock scene quietly fading. And perhaps that was the gift, the sign, a message to move on.

So she broke her vow. Married, had babies and moved to the burbs, where culture was Saturday morning soccer and PTA meetings, and heatwave summers at the club, screaming kids racing around the pool and mother's staring at the burning sky, thinking it a bore. Such contempt and disdain for it all, for each other. Years of dirty diapers and Gerber jars and sleepless nights passed.

She shook it off with bottles of Pinot Noir or Chardonnay.

And then she found that even Weller had grown up.

Though cynical and always feeling the world had too many brown-nosers and social climbers, too many miserable lawyers, and disaffected mommies living in sallow cultural wasteland, she discovered in the burbs there were still fine people and families, there were safe streets and decent schools, and it wasn't entirely vapid. For the kids, she even joined the club (the bitterest pill)—though begrudgingly, half-heartedly, pacing along the periphery of its boundaries, lounging in long, woven chairs and hiding behind books.

Shaking it off with Chekhov and Beckett.

And as her children grew, she became more forgiving, accepting that everyone had their good and bad moments, dark and light intermingled; the world, not unlike herself, was just a spectrum of ever changing moods...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"God Damn It - You've Got To Be Kind"

So says Kurt Vonnegut to the babies. 

These past few days my heart's been bled dry, my mind near numbed by Saturday's massacre in Tuscon, AZ. I've no relation to any of the victims, but yet, I do. I feel immense kinship toward them, and I'm sporadically driven to tears. One does not need to be intimately involved to feel the impact. We all grieve this loss. We grieve for the families of those killed and injured, the little girl, who could have been mine, at any supermarket, in any state. We grieve the loss of civil days and civil discourse. We are reminded not only of the fragility of life, but how staggeringly dangerous this world is; how insanely violent and destructive humans may be. The utter randomness of things.

But was this event entirely random? Could it not have been prevented? What kind of steps will we, as individuals and a country, take to prevent these senseless (and too numerous) tragedies from occurring? Is there nothing we can do? I'm afraid of the answer, because I fear that this slaughtering will bare little consequence, will not move this nation, its people, to change. 

As details of the story unfold, the twenty-two year old gunman is described as mentally ill, a ticking time bomb whose motive remains unclear. The shooter most likely would have perpetrated violence no matter the reason. He's the same guy who shot up Columbine High School, bombed Oklahoma City's Alfred P. Murrah building, riddled Virginia Tech's campus with lead. He needs no motive.

But one cannot deny that political (or otherwise) vitriol is fuel for fire. All hate mongering is, and vitriol in any form is nothing short of this. Still, in the aftermath of last weekend's tragedy, the rhetoric continues—partisans denying blame, flinging accusations; using the event to discredit each other. However, whether the assassination attempt and killings are politicized is beside the point. It happened, as this kind of wickedness inevitably does with many a loose cannon. It would have happened in or outside of this particular framework.

The point, quite simply, is that there is too much ugliness in the world; so much so, that we ought to behave in such a manner as to diminish as much odiousness as possible. We ought to act more civilized. We ought not tolerate vitriol from our elected officials, our national representatives who speak for our country, are our face and voice, the embodiment of who we are as a nation. You and me. 

Can you imagine what people think when they see bullseyes painted on a map of the USA, and are told by a former governor—a celebrity and hero to some—that the areas (and their politicians) marked by a bullseye are targeted, prepare to lock and load? Some may think nothing. Some may laugh. Some of us are so desensitized that we don't flinch when we see the graphics or hear this kind of rhetoric. Some are in denial, think our words and actions have no effect. But others, others are appalled. Others are concerned and angry, because they understand how this conversation, these actions, divisive declarations, chip and fray and corrode the moral, ethical elements of this nation, and of each other.

The fact that this particular dialogue has been accepted doesn't mean it should continue. It needs to end. And I've one thing to say to these politicians: You may have the liberty to exercise Free Speech, toxic political rhetoric, under the First Amendment, but you have the Free Will to not do so. Choose wisely, please. 

I cry as I write this, I cry when I see the quizzical expressions on my children's faces, when they beg for answers where there are none. None. I want to offer them the same advice Kurt gave to babies, I want to say, Just be kind, damn it. No matter how much it pains you, be kind. It won't fix the evils of the world, but at least you'll know you played no part in them.

A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people. 
~ Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, January 8, 2011


I watched my thirteen year old son leave the house this afternoon with a semi-automatic NightProwler SA rifle swung over his shoulder, and a Stinger P36 pistol stuffed in his pocket, and I felt rather, shall we say, muddygrappling with an uneasiness, somberness. After all, I had made the purchase. Me, the one who'd always been philosophically opposed to firearms in the house, and especially in my son's hands. And while Max's weapons are not real guns (well, actually they are real guns), as they are of the AirSoft variety, I still didn't feel quite right about his mission.

These guns are supposed to be toys, a caricature of the real thing, yet they have the potential to harm. They are modern day versions of the BB gun, only, unlike the BB (with some minor exceptions), the point of games played with the AirSoft includefor the most partother boys as target. Max claims that the ammo, 6mm pellets, doesn't hurt a bit. (You mean that red welt didn't bother you one smack?!) I tried not to think about him getting sprayed, or loading the magazine, as I watched him gingerly bound down the snow-covered road.

Yes, I bought this gun for my son. Me. The neurotic mother (I wasn't always this way). But it was not an easy purchase. About a week before Christmas, I still could not bring myself to buy an AirSoft—safety concerns overwhelming me. I knew, though, that Max had been out with his friends, had borrowed guns, had already ducked behind woodland trees and scrub, shot at targets, other kids, battled in semi-pretend warfare. But he wanted an AirSoft of his own—so that he could freely engage with his friends. I had said No for the past two years. Two years. That's a lot of Nos.

Those two years ago, when Max first asked for an AirSoft gun, I did my research, poked online and found that most dads considered them harmless, thought they were great. Moms even found them safe. I nearly felt betrayed by this, having trouble digging up an argument to support my polar opposite beliefsuntil I found an article from a California Police Department warning parents that if a gun looks real, whether a toy or not, they must respond in kind. I even found this Special Public Safety Notice from the Salem County Prosecutor's Office. It's all I needed to place an immediate moratorium on even the thought of guns.

But only a few days before Christmas, my husband put it to me this way: Look, what's the worse of two evils, an AirSoft or an XBox? At least the AirSoft will get him outside with his friends.

Are you kidding, I replied, these are our only options? Indeed, the two items were the only items on Max's Christmas list.

So I did it. I held my breath and went straight to the Hunting department at Dick's Sporting Goods. A young man behind the counter was too eager to assist me. You don't understand, I said, I don't want to make this purchase. Give me a gun that doesn't look like a gun. Give me a gun that won't hurt a fly. Give me a gun my son would hate.

We worked it all out, the young man and I, and I left with the camouflaged NightProwler, biodegradable pellets, camouflaged gloves, a full face mask, hard plastic goggles, a padded hat, a bright orange vest, and targets (as in paper targets).

Christmas morning was bittersweet. Max was ecstatic. I felt... well yes, muddy. But after the present was opened, after Max had fondled and stroked and admired the hardware enough, after it had all been expended, splayed out on the floor, I read him the riot act—told him he'd be taking a gun safety class, listed caveats, blah, blah, blah (the blah blah part most likely being all he heard).

Today he went into combat without the benefit of the gun safety class. But we'll get to it. Soon. He's read the manual, though, he's keeping the safety on, safely storing the guns. Yet I don't feel like it's quite enough. I keep searching for evidence. I want him to know that there's always a horror story.

This evening, I read another, more ominous article, warning parents to not view these types of guns as harmless toys, that they in fact had the potential to seriously injure, even kill. I thought about my teen years, and the Jaycee shooting classes I took with my brother. I thought about the competitions. I thought about the day, not so many years ago, I went sporting clays with my girlfriends. I thought about how surprisingly good I was at it—how I actually enjoyed it.

Oh Hell, I need to let go of it, don't I? I guess I have. Sort of. He's out there in the brush isn't he? But I still don't like it.

Friday, January 7, 2011

"Friday Night Frolic" - Rock The Boat

Talking about my generation...

So it's a new year and I'm feeling a little nostalgic. Over the holidays I saw Pirate Radio (a/k/a 'The Boat That Rocked' in the UK). Kenneth Branagh and Philip Seymour Hoffman were pure dope. And writer/director Richard Curtis (Bridget Jones, Mr. Bean, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually) deserved more praise for this film than given, as it has some brilliant moments, though the music ultimately usurps all else.

How could it not? 

This, the music of my striped-shirt and plaid-pant youth:

Can you imagine: Rock and Roll banned? Ever? Impossible to believe.

Absent, regrettably, on this soundtrack are the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. Yet, I could still listen to this all day. And all of the night. I may just skip a light fandango.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Signs Of The Time (Around Town)

I ask myself that everyday. What's my purpose here? Where was I going? How do I get there? What was it I was doing? Gah, I forgot the market list! As if I really need to be reminded of my thought process on a billboard. Though it appears I do.

Driving or walking around town can be pretty humorous when you have funny neighbors and equally entertaining signage. Some neighbors love to expound pertinent newsor gossipwhile others live in caves. The signage, however, always keeps us informed.

For instance, I didn't realize that this town still had farmers (I thought, in fact, that almost every square inch of this formerly rural area had been developedsuch are our zoning laws) until I saw this:

Can you imagine my surprise? And on Industrial Drive, no less.

I know I've driven by this a thousand times, but something about it struck me today:

What do you think this curve could have possibly done to be so labeled? Talk about a scarlet letter. It's got lots of letters to tell us how awful it is.

Perhaps that bad curb was why this sign went up a few years back:

Every time I pass this sign, I half expect to roll through some kind of vortex that forces all moving objects to operate in slow motion; whereupon, such objects are released after the 0.5 miles odyssey and instantaneously propelled forward, turbo charged. I call this sign "Flux". It's my life in a nutshell.

And then there's this, that gives me vertigo every time I look at it (so I try not to):

Geesh. I don't know what the hell to do here.

And I feel sorry for this driveway, and wonder if it was born this way or involved in some terrible accident:

(I know, I  just couldn't resist. Go ahead, slap my hand.)

And then, today for the very first time, I saw this:

Holy cow, there are still farms in town! Hallelujah. Actually, this is right by Franklin Farm. A nice little slice of heaven. And those farmers do good work.

And this:

Hallelujah again. Yes we can! Can what remains a mystery.

The below sign has been around for a while. I never really read the fine print, and I see now that I've been missing some rather critical information.

I wish I had had this phone number sooner. I've so many questions... like, what if I have some even numbers in my odd numbered house?

And our town's pièce de résistance:

I'm tongue-tied. No, actually I'm not. I'd be very interested to know who the graphic designer is for this piece of work. I need some help with my website. I'll bet she charges a fortune.

At least one neighbor had the good sense to dress up her sign for the holidays:

And for Heaven's sake, who the heck is throwing their poop bags down the drains?! Shame, shame.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tinsel and Tin

Oh, is it Wednesday already? Cripes, Wednesday is actually almost a thing of the past. Not only is it late Wednesday, but it's boxing time, too. By this I don't mean shopping, or the thing those lugheads do in the ring. It's boxing time, as in time to box the tinsel. Remember tinsel? (Is that stuff still legal?) Remember when we used to fling those weightless, metallic fettuccine-length strands all over the Christmas tree? Limp, glimmering icicles drooped in big clumps at various levels around the balsam fir. Then handmade ornaments, painted wood Santas, and origami geese were tucked in every crevice. The big-bulbed tree lights, multicolored and backed by tin reflectors, were turned on with much pomp and circum-stance, Christmas music blaring from the Hi-Fi.

There is no tinsel or tin to take from my tree. None to box. But every once in a while, Mother will haul certain vintage items out of attic storage. I want to tell her how amazing she is for keeping all this stuff, but I don't want to encourage her. Stuff. She keeps it all. Everything. I want to say, Look Mom, you know the only place you can find this Stuff now is in your attic or on Etsy? Sometimes, she'll bring something by the house, asking if I want to keep it (like my elementary school report cards, worn high school jackets, and coupon books—good for one dish washing, redeem for best behavior—that I made for her when I was eight). And of course, I must. So now my basement is starting to look like her attic. And here I am trying to purge, declutter.

But I don't mind.

I love this Stuff. I think I'll get me a warm cup of tea and go boxing now.