The Need, The Need

Received an email from the American Red Cross. Of course, if I had two nickels to rub together, I’d give up both, and if I could donate blood I’d do it. Even with iron supplements, I don’t meet their minimums.


2004 has been a record year for responding to disasters,

large and small. From floods and residential fires…to

hurricanes that devastated entire communities throughout the

southeast U.S….and now preparing to support through our

International Response Fund, relief efforts for the

catastrophic earthquake and tsunamis that struck Southeast


Because of the public’s generous support the American Red

Cross has been able to respond immediately…

But we continue to need your support in the coming months as

we provide relief for victims of local, national and

international disasters.

Additionally, donations from you and other generous

supporters will assure that we meet the demand of collecting

and supplying more than 6 million units of blood for over

3,000 hospitals around the country. Provide classes to

nearly 12 million people annually including CPR, First Aid

and other life saving skills…while keeping military

families around the globe connected. And, prevent 1.2

million measles–related deaths by vaccinating 200 million

children in Africa by the end of 2005.

Your contribution means we can continue to provide these

vital services. Please make a contribution today…and

provide hope and relief for tomorrow. Thank you.

American Red Cross

Together, we can save a life.


Sometimes, I feel small and covered with fur.

Speak Freely, For A Price

What Bizarro World are we living in where we should take Howard Stern’s problems to heart? It’s ours. In our crappy world, Stern has become the Voice of Reason vis-a-vis free speech (I’m not a fan and personally find him repulsive.) His problems are our problems. Fortunately for him, his solution is to abandon broadcast radio for the satellite service. Unfortunately for us, that means we’re surrendering the airwaves to the Bush-appointed, fine-happy theocons one network at a time.

When I’m home alone, I cope with being annoyed or frustrated by getting on my little Sharper Image stepper contraption. Paulie gave me this gadget last year when knee pain put me in physical therapy for months, and if I didn’t keep it up, I was going to end up incapacitated again. Anyway, it’s good for when I’m in one of those moods, and nothing makes me cranky like every little thing our president and his appointees do. The result: four more years are going to give me very well-toned knees.

Don’t Just Stand There, Do Something

The developing earthquake/tsunami situation in Asia and West Africa upset me so thoroughly I turned off the news. One of my relatives reminded me that we don’t have the luxury of ignoring these events. So, in full humility, I offer this list of relief agencies.

Center for International Disaster Information

Common sense and experience.


American Council on Voluntary International Action

Let them advise you on what you personally have to offer victims everywhere.


Includes a maps section that turns news reports into shocking recognitions

This is a UN branch. Perhaps you harbor ill feelings from that they-were-right-our-administration-was-wrong practical-joke-thing; now would be a good time to get over that. The UN is the agency you want in motion and on the job. Help the UN do what it does best.

As of half an hour ago, I couldn’t get into the Red Cross/Red Crescent site. Hopefully, it was flooded with donors. I don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence but I will say the Red Crescent is the branch of this agency that’d be most active in Asia and East Africa.

Mercy Corps is also awfully good.

The common theme in the requests for aid is money because shipping *stuff* that isn’t necessarily the right stuff is expensive. The web sites will detail which agencies assume what responsibilities in natural disaster, and how the money’s spent.

Go forth, and mitigate suffering.


Though the heat’s on, I’m shivering. How am I going to shower?

On Christmas Day, I knocked on some doors and asked a few neighbors if they knew where the older gentleman lived, but the building was very quiet, and I didn’t find him. Feeling like a complete failure I packed up and went to Mom’s, which is a whole other story I couldn’t tell in public without swift retribution, but I *can* say the wild-eyed knife-waving was really hilarious. Anyway, when I finally got home, a grocery bag hung from my doorknob. The bag contained two multi-pack things of ramen noodles. Ordinarily, I would regard a random grocery bag dangling from a doorknob as an excellent prank, especially if I were doing the random shopping and dangling, but in this case, I took it as a sign that the older gentleman had finally been able to walk to a bodega and buy himself food, and that all was now well.

This simple gesture did not mitigate my feelings of failure – really, isn’t it all about me? – because if the crisis of the previous day had continued, I was still the person at fault. (I’m having trouble with verb-time here; happiness comes and goes but guilt is *forever*.) In the moment it can be difficult to determine one’s actual place in the story. I need a name tag that reads: Hi, I’m Tata, and I’ll be your Plot Device.

Three Things I Pray

Yes, I’ve invoked Godspell. I hope we’re all recovering nicely from the shock of suddenly remembered bellbottoms.

Yesterday, just after 8 a.m., an elderly man of my acquaintance knocked at my door. I used to be his bartender sometimes, so I know he has no family. We live in the same building. He asked if I had “a can of beans or something” because it’d been so cold out he couldn’t walk over to the store and he had nothing to eat. I started pulling cans out of my cabinets, just because that was what he asked for, but decided that was ridiculous. I’d spent the night before cooking pots of the braised chicken that is my family’s ethnic identity on a plate. Instead of canned soup, I gave him a plump chicken breast and some vegetables. He never answered me when I asked if he had a way to heat it, but he went away with some very kind words.

On the one hand, I was horrified that I didn’t know which apartment was his, and that I had never found a way to ask if he wanted anything before I went grocery shopping. I could have been clever about this and asked the super before now, so I felt rather horrified that I hadn’t realized this gentleman needed help. On the other hand, I was very glad he felt he could come to me and did.

All in all, it was a remarkable experience. I can’t imagine how I’m going to find him today without just knocking on doors downstairs until someone points me in the right direction. I don’t want to bother anybody – in real life, I’m very shy. I mean, it’s Christmas Day, and the stores are closed. What’s he going to eat if I don’t work up the nerve to find him?

Pointy, Bitey, Sharp Sharp Sharp

The news has relentlessly publicized the terrible struggle of fundamentalist churches to pressure retailers to specify precisely *whose* birthday we’re all supposed to be stockpiling gifts for. Strangely, retailers seem to care. I’m not sure I follow the connection – PLEASE don’t bother writing as I’m sure my confusion is more comfortable than my certainty would be – between holiday wage slaves being forced to congratulate consumers on hitting the pushy-religion jackpot and Pauline Christian doctrine, which tells its followers to live frugally. The whole thing just seems like a schoolyard bully stealing smaller kids’ lunch money. This makes me want to send out a simple communique, like a newspaper correction.

Attention, Fundamentalist Christians:

You are not an oppressed minority in the United States.

Hope this helps,

– This comes, by the way, from a middle-aged woman with the Jesus Christ Superstar angels tattooed across her back. It just seems so simple: I am free to believe as I feel, and so are you, and so is everyone else. And worship is personal. It does not belong at the mall.


You know, I can see you. While it’s adorable that you shower me with persistent attention, we’re never going to date. You might as well head to MySpace and find someone who enjoys your panty-sniffing obsession.

The Un-Usual Suspects

Johnny’s stream of consciousness overflows the banks, flooding the tiny town and killing thousands, oh the humanity:

Dream I have more and more now that I’m going back to school. Every day is the same. I get to high school, though in the dream I’m in my forties, at nine, and I’ve already missed homeroom and my first class and I go to the office to try to get them to look up my schedule and tell me where and what my first class is, was, and they tell me, but I can’t retain the information and I end up wandering through the halls, peeking through windows into rooms, and I see not high school kids but grade school kids being taught by the habit-wearing harpies of my childhood, or I find the class and it’s final exam day and everybody has turned in their exams and I’m magnanimously given five minutes to make up for a year and it’s hopeless. At least this time through school I don’t have that parted-in-the-middle-feathered-back-on-the-sides disco homo haircut. That makes it less of a nightmare. But then I tell you this every time I email you. Don’t mind me.

Another thing that surfaces in the background of my free-floating mind when I dream these moments is something that I guess I understand now as a fuck you to authority but at the time I couldn’t make head nor tail of. We had a janitor, back when you could call them a janitor, named Dave. The nuns would tell us not to do it if they saw us, but when they looked away, we gave Dave the peace sign, and he gave it back to us. Very exciting. Damn, we were cool. Anyways, Sister Nebulous or some one of them came into the classroom, flustered more than we had seen her even when Jack Kennedy got shot. Dave had refused to clean up this mess and she’d had to do it herself. Someone had shit and then wiped the shit all over the walls of the boys’ bathroom. She just wanted us to know how dirty it was and how shocked. It being Catholic school, she wanted the culprit to confess before God and then subsequently confess to her so she could exact her vengeance, but we never found out who the shit wiper was. During the parts of the dream when I’m suddenly back in grade school, it reappears there, in the back of my mind, wondering why someone would do a thing like that. What the point would be. I almost wish I had been enough of a rebel that young to wonder if I had repressed the memory of doing it myself, but I was always too persnickety with my hygiene to suspect myself, although because I was the only long-haired-hippie-freaky person in the school, I mean, besides my brothers, I think they probably did suspect me. Unfortunately there was no DNA testing back then. I could have been exonerated. Like OJ.


Nothing like truth, justice and a squeaky-clean conscience.

It’s Just This Easy

On CN8, a strange and wonderful sight called The Hampshire Family Fund. A group of about forty people related by blood and marriage decided Christmas had become a nightmarish consumerfest, and they further decided they’d rather quit it than continue. Now, I’m not vouching for the efficacy of this charity, but anyone can see they have a great idea: involve everyone, including children, take the money you’d spend on stuff no one needs and donate it to a charity that really needs it. The thing is you can do this by yourself or collectively. Here’s the URL:

Don’t send them money. Use their model and create your own good works fund.

Red Wine and White Winter

When I woke up this morning, I thought ‘My apartment has no degrees.’ It was about zero outside, and the heat seemed to be off. You know it’s cold when you’ve slapped the snooze bar and you can’t wait, you have to get up and move around. I often say that *the* best reason to live in New Jersey is that our weather seldom attacks. This morning, when my car doors were frozen shut, I wasn’t preaching the gospel according to the Board of Tourism.

I live in a big building in a small city. The company that runs this slum – don’t argue with me, this is a warehouse for the working poor – also manages the luxurious apartment building on Buccleuch Park, and the more modern building less than a mile up Easton Avenue. The facilities are very differently maintained. The luxury apartments are clean, spacious and very beautiful, which I’ve seen for myself. The super of my building pretty much has a hammer and a rusty wrench. The pipes in my building are a wreck. My own hammer sits next to the industrial toilet in the bathroom because half the time depressing the handle doesn’t do the trick. No, you whack the bolt on top of the plumbing like it’s a midway attraction and hope you hit the jackpot. Sometimes there’s no heat because the boiler broke. Sometimes the laundry room is so dirty you wonder how clothes are supposed to get clean. These are facts of urban live, no matter how insignificant the urb, but facts of life for the poor everywhere, if the poor live this well. Yes, in the Big Picture, I realize that I am very fortunate to have a home, a job, a car, medical care. I’m certain my neighbors are not all as fortunate.

My toes are cold. FoodNetwork ran a thing recently where John Cleese went all over the place tasting wine. In the course of the traveling and tasting, it came up that the “room temperature” at which we serve red wine has changed somewhat. Rooms are now around – I think – 72 degrees. The “room temperature” red wine likes is in the low sixties. All our rooms used to be cooler.

Short, Back and Sides

It’s Sunday, of course. My vet just called about Larry (the little black cat bent on stealing your soul) and the medication. It’s not often a person without small children hears the question, “Is he drooling?” Why, no. No, he’s not, but thank you for asking. The cat is very clever. Until a few days ago, he slept wherever he was cozy, which was handy when I wanted to sneak up and squirt medicine down his throat. Picture this scenario:

Larry (dreaming of stealing your soul): ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

Tata: Pounce!

This was followed by ten minutes of apologies on my part and dirty looks on his. A few days ago, Larry took to sleeping under a side table, behind the futon or on the back of the couch. This means when he’s sitting around, being chatty in the way people who don’t actually talk are, I sneak off to the kitchen without changing the subject and come back with his medicines and an eye dropper. If the occupants of this apartment were two people and one cat, one person could subdue the cat and the other could play Annie Oakley with the antibiotics; since we’re one person and one cat, he has me outnumbered. He’s a more strategic thinker than I am, and he’s a cat.