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.

Words of the Wise

I’m a big word geek. I love the words. Give me a really good dictionary – because there are also crappy dictionaries – and don’t talk to me for half an hour. When I discovered online dictionaries will send subscribers a new definition daily, I subscribed to two in English, and my cousin in Guatemala found one in Italian. It’s fun fun fun for me me me.

One of these services is A.Word.A.Day from a woman named Anu Garg, who is witty. Her stories fascinate me. At the end of every communique she includes a quote (or is it ‘quotation’? I still have so much to learn) from an observant person with a big brain. Today’s was so beautiful.

During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.

-George Orwell, writer (1903-1950)

I should write her another shameless fangirl letter. In a time when mean morons rule the world, people working toward spreading the Smart Stuff should be amply rewarded with love.

Putting That Money Where Your Mouth Isn’t

There’s an email forward-whatsis going around about what wounded U.S. soldiers want for the holidays:

Yellow ribbons tied around trees and red, white and blue stickers on the backs SUVs saying “Support our Troops” are things that make civilians feel good but do nothing for the men and women actually in uniform.

So please consider the following:

The number ONE request at Walter Reed hospital is phone cards. The government doesn’t pay long distance phone charges and these wounded soldiers are rationing their calls home.

Many will be there throughout the holidays. Really support our troops — Send phone cards of any amount to:

Medical Family Assistance Center

Walter Reed Medical Center

6900 Georgia Avenue, NW

Building 2, Third Floor, Room 3E01

Washington, DC 20307-5001

They say they need an “endless” supply of these — any amount even $5 is greatly appreciated.


For $5.37 and an envelope, you can do a kind thing for someone in an unpleasant situation. Now, if only the government would do the same for veterans instead of punishing them for being injured, we could look the enlisting in the eye.

The Personal Is the Political

It’s an old feminist maxim I didn’t grasp at first, but now I do, and with all ten digits. I trust your intelligence enough that I’m not going to explain it to you. Suffice it to say we’re not in a freshman Women’s Studies course, getting excited about the idea that Mom *and* Dad handle the housework together (and we should all be mortified that in December 2004, this idea can be news to anybody). I’m interested at the moment in my own internal conflicts about austerity and materialism, independence and security, and the three-day headache in my left eye that makes me wonder if I should overreact and call the doctor rather than stuff myself full of sinus medicine.

What do I want? After a month of thinking about it, I still don’t know. I expect to know, since I always knew before what I wanted: to write well. That was fine for the presumed first half of my life. I’ve written well; now I’m lucky I can still type. Details aside, what do I want to do?

Scores of Perception

Trout’s brother’s architectural firm in Seattle doesn’t pay undue attention to its hold music. Someone brings in a CD, presses Play, and for a day or two, the music plays when someone calls. Usually, not much is said. The week the CD playing was whale songs was different, however; sometimes the whales sing, sometimes they blow bubbles, and sometimes those bubbles sound like farts.

This drew some comment.