In the Clearing, A Clowny Figure

Millions of years ago – when dinosaurs roamed the earth and ethnic teens used curling irons in futile attempts to model their hairstyles after the not at all ethnic Farrah Fawcett’s feathery coif – I saw an article in the practically unproofread local paper about a rally for George Wallace. Not the comedian. The photograph depicted a wheelchair-bound Governor Wallace surrounded by a crowd of supporters. Next to him, Tammy Wynette crooned “Stand By Your Man.” Whenever I think of this distasteful moment in the history of American hatred, I am pleased to recall the song’s tender rendition behind chicken wire in “The Blues Brothers.” There! So much for *that.*

We live in a time of creeping and insidious hatred. Your oppressors – stop arguing with me, you *have* oppressors; wanna talk about your credit card-issuing Evil Overlords? – want you to live fearfully, obediently and in isolation. TV news begins every night with a storyline that ends with, “Could your neighbors be [insert latest shocking behavior humans have actually been displaying since the dawn of time] with your [insert children, pets, fine washables; whatever victim scares you most]?” Maybe you didn’t even notice for a while that you wonder what your friends are up to, what Mom and Dad did before the population was under constant surveillance, and that Fox News and Homeland Security want you to believe every busted fuse in your basement panelbox is the work of crafty al-Qaeda.

Yeah, yeah. Malarkey. We have a problem.

I am telling you right now: I can’t take credit for this idea, but I don’t remember where I saw it first. When I find the source of it, I will credit the brains most abundant. It’s this: it’s time for a giant, sustained game of Political Point&Laugh.

When Bill O’Reilly says something inflammatory or breezes past the facts, burst out laughing.

When our President says Social Security is doomed (DOOMED!), grab your sides and guffaw.

When Dick Cheney says…anything, giggle like Gidget.

See, their whole schtick is being taken seriously. When you’re interpreting Bush’s latest budget request as a real kneeslapper, it’s suddenly very, very easy to see behind the Wizard’s curtain. Remove your own fear and you will see clearly. We have a revolution to conduct, and the first up against the wall are the hate- and fearmongers.

Now, laugh! And pass it on.

And No Further

See, this is my mother’s doing. One of my little projects has been collecting CD versions of records my parents had because some of those records were really good, and they’ve aged well, musically. Also: there’s no feeling quite like smiling as my co-workers make requests I fully intend to ignore while Harry Nilsson croons, “You’re breaking my heart/you’re tearing it apart/so fuck you.” For my birthday, Mom gave me Elton John’s “Caribou,” which I loved with my whole black heart but hadn’t heard during a Republican administration. It is just fantastic to rediscover a record you loved as a teenager, as I did last Tuesday night.

You’ve heard the expression “seeing the light.” I had no idea it could be taken literally, or that it’s not a metaphor one should consider in a Drug Free School Zone. Song 1 of “Caribou” was playing, and I was mumbling along, thinking about nothing in particular when I heard the words, probably for the first time since it was played to death on the radio in the seventies. I had a sudden, overwhelming revelation: ‘Oh. My. God. I get it! I have been too nice. I bent and broke myself to accommodate other people’s demands. I was pleasant to people who deserved public beatings! There’s no room in my life for jealousy. There’s no separating me from my friends, half of whom are my exes. I amputated the most interesting parts of my Self! No wonder I ended up on the couch watching TV and with no idea of what to do with me. Well, that’s enough, and I’ll never do it again. The bitch IS back.’ I was filled with this blinding, unstoppable joy. Nighttime Hamilton Street went white before my eyes, and I was so happy I almost drove off the road.

A few days later, Mom called. I can’t recount an entire verbatim phone call with my mother because you’d tear your eyeballs out with pliers and knowing that, I could be held liable if you did. She wanted to know what it would take to get me to a baby shower. I hate them, everything about them. Hate the preciousness, hate sandwiches with crusts cut off, hate women in packs – they’re like wolves with crystal punch bowls. Everyone knows I send a present and retreat to a defensible position with a liquor license. This’ll be different, she says near the conversation’s half-hour mark.

Mom: Your sisters are all excited. It’ll be like an afternoon tea…
Tata: It’d take an awful lot of gin for me to sit through this.
Mom: We could get you a flask. It’d fit nicely in those lunchboxes of yours.
Tata: There’d be no room for the elephant gun.
Mom: I think that’d be nice. Don’t tell your sisters. I’ll buy you some really good gin and with your propensity for…uh…
Tata: Drinking straight from the martini shaker in the presence of three or more women? You realize it’s pretty bent trying to lure me to a baby shower with booze, right?
Mom: Yes, of course! It’ll be like any other party you go to, only with gifts. And no strippers.
Tata: I’m not going, Mom.
Mom: Okay, we’ll talk about this later.

Mamie says the proper thing for me to do is to let her drive and fill a TV tray with teacups full of gin and lemon slices. Forensic experts can’t resist a lemon-scented teaspoon stabbing but that’s not really the reason I brought it up. The point is even after I remembered I was the Creamy Nougat Center of the Universe and not everyone was entitled to a nibble I was still reluctant to tell the deserving to friggin’ bite me.

Over at Running Scared this week, Mike tried to persuade us that some anti-abortion advocates had the same goals we on the left have, and we can trust them. For a variety of reasons, I will never fall for that bullshit. Let’s glance at history.

US reproductive rights history timeline.

Timeline for funding cuts based on administrations’ ideology.

The opposition’s timeline sure does feature more events. Let’s call them losses for our side.

Coalitions are based on bargains. No one’s going to join your political team if there’s nothing in it for him. I said on Running Scared there’s no room for compromise with the Antis, and there isn’t. We have bargained for decades with reproductive rights opponents and the right have been chipped away to a bare and embarrassing minimum. In a time when pharmacists don’t have to dispense birth control pills, clinics burn to the ground, doctors are driven out of business or murdered, and Supreme Court is so lopsided we should have taken to the streets years ago, there is no room to ponder what you can trade for some company at the barricades. You can’t trust the Antis to want what you want, no matter whom you talk to or how you package your alliance. I’ve got two words for you: fifth column. Got it? When you consider joining up with anti-abortion activists to preserve abortion and birth control, the same thing should happen in your head as when you string together the words “gay” and “Republican”: HEY! The REPUBLICAN PARTY couldn’t HATE GAYS more without a nasty public breakup. Gay Republicans: the party is actively trying to hurt you. Get some self-respect and get out!

Finally, I think I may be tired of talking to people for whom women’s rights and reproductive rights are merely interesting to think about, especially if it’s big with the chicks. The next time I see a man on a clinic picket line I’m getting out of my car and shouting, “Get lost, you pedophilic chipmunk. The humans are busy.” If your life depends on safe and legal health care, we can talk about this further. If not, bite me.

Song For a Future Generation

Miss Sasha is getting married in May. This means everyone in the family has lost his/her mind in his/her own special way. On Sunday, Sister #1 and I came really close to an all-out brawl that didn’t happen because while we were still screaming I got my coat and left in a hurry since she’s six months pregnant and no jury in the land would convict her of stabbing me 88 times.

Prosecutor: What was she like, your “sister”?
#1: Oh, she was my sister all right, or our parents dressed two unrelated life support systems for ponytails in matching sailor suits for ten years and no freaking reason.
Prosecutor: Are you – by any chance – holding any cutlery?
#1: A shrimp fork and a rubberized baby spoon.
Prosecutor: Your homicidal rage is ADORABLE!
Judge: Case dismissed!

Miss Sasha wanted me to watch that tearjerking pabulum “The Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood” because she grew up in an atmosphere where phones were often airborne and wirecutters were an essential survival tool. Apparently this flick’s filled with familiar violence against household appliances. Whatever. Now that Sister #1 and I were at DefCon 2, several days of tense silence followed. The family was upset. This tension was felt across the land, in the fields and on innocent clearance racks. Something had to be done.

I plotted. I schemed. I considered faking my own death, like on soap operas, complete with spooky phone calls from beyond the grave.

GhostTata: Woo woo You should have listened to me woo woo…

I couldn’t call her. She was wrong. If I called her, she’d say, “See, I was right,” and we can’t have that. A few days passed while I strategized. I developed a war plan for the blitz: one fast conversation, and then we could move on to other earth-shattering events, like the bridal shower I do NOT want to talk about but I am the Mommy. What are you gonna do? Thursday morning, I was staring at the clock, thinking ‘#1 is about to take her oldest to school’ when the phone rang.


For this reason alone, you should never doubt we have the same parents. When I could finally breathe again, I put the phone back to my ear. She was still growling at an impressive volume.


We’re from Jersey. “Or what” is versatile and has many meanings in the lay vernacular; in this case it means, “Shut up and speak to me.” This struck me as so funny I had to tell her I’d planned to call later in the afternoon –


– and fire off loaded questions. Okay, so now it’s funny. And we can talk about that damn bridal shower.

As Your Attorney, I Advise You To Read This

Yes, it’s a ‘Fear and Loathing’ reference. So’s this. Captain Zeep returns from obscurity and offers this gem:

Ya know what the coolest thing is about playing vinyl records again? It’s the ‘ritual’. Yes, the ‘ritual’ that I’ve missed. There’s no ‘ritual’ with a CD…you shove it in and hit ‘play’. The record, on the other hand, has a distinct ‘ritual’. It’s the eye-squinting search through the thin, narrow jacket-sleeve edges with their sideways, faded titles to select a record….then the careful handling of the record as it’s removed from it’s sleeve…and then the Side One or Side Two? dilemma, before placing the disc on the platter and beginning the cleaning phase of the ritual…discwasher in hand, a few drops of fluid, rubbing the fluid into the brush with the butt of the bottle, carefully rotating the brush from toe to heel while the disc rotates…then the careful lowering of the tonearm til the satisfying, gentle, ‘ka-Thump’ of the stylus entering that long, continuous groove is heard.

No one records collections of songs in 20 minute blocks as an artful expression anymore. It’s more like 70 minutes of unthoughtful drivel. Gone is the beauty and artful expression of selecting two blocks of songs with a purposeful flow from outer to inner groove.

I love my records. I’m so glad I found them again.

How often do you read email and say, “Ahhhhhh, beautiful”? Today, it was twice for me, since Audrey couldn’t bear to watch snow fall though window screens:

I went out with the poets and some real live fiction writers last night…lots of laughter and whiskey and good music. the snow was relentless. Just relentless. I couldn’t bear not to be out there, appreciating its sheer effort. I waited I don’t even know how long for a subway, but I had my new iPod and copies of my poems with nice things written on them. I emerged at 2 am. it was still going. when I woke up this morning, I wanted nothing more than to get outside immediately. and an egg & cheese on an everything bagel. my first thought as I hit the sidewalk was “I’d like to bean someone with a snowball right now.” it would be wonderful if random, benevolent acts of snow violence broke out as people make their way to work. I am going to spend the rest of the morning trying to describe what the trees look like, crossing their tops over the road, piled with white.

It’s March, right? When I get little gifts like these I say, “Merry Christmas to *me*!”