HR 550 – It Matters

Hi, there, Tami, the One True, here. I’ve been asked by Tata to put up a guest post for the increasingly popular blogswarm about HR550, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act. She has asked me to cross-post my take on it because she is – and ) quote – “small and covered with fur”. So, without further ado, I submit my posting about Verified Voting and the Voter Confidence petition.

If we can’t feel confident that our votes are counted, and counted correctly, can we really feel that we have a voice in our own government? If we aren’t sure that our votes go to the people we intend them to go to, them who is our representative democracy really representing? The answer is “not the individual voters”.

That’s why HR 550 is important. There’s a petition out there on Rush Holt’s web site to support HR 550. What is the bill all about? Some highlights, from the site:

The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act (H.R. 550) will:

* Mandate a voter verified paper ballot for every vote cast in every federal election, nationwide; because the voter verified paper record is the only one verified by the voters themselves, rather than by the machines, it will serve as the vote of record in any case of inconsistency with electronic records;
* Protect the accessibility requirements of the Help America Vote Act for voters with disabilities;
* Require random, unannounced, hand-count audits of actual election results in every state, and in each county, for every Federal election;
* Prohibit the use of undisclosed software and wireless and concealed communications devices and internet connections in voting machines;
* Provide Federal funding to pay for implementation of voter verified paper balloting; and
* Require full implementation by 2006

Other bloggers are posting about this important issue today. I’ll update the list as I find more. Feel free to read any one of them for more information and opinion.

Blanton’s and Ashton’s
The Center of NJ Life
Scrutiny Hooligans
Did I say that out loud?
The Opinion Mill
Xpatriated Texan
A Mockingbird’s Medley
Skippy the Bush Kangaroo
Daily Kos (registered Daily Kos people, please recommend this diary)
Pam’s House Blend
Shakespeare’s Sister
Brilliant at Breakfast

Read up, and please, sign the petition.

If It’s All I Ever Do This Is Your Song

Tom’s and Mom’s choir has two concerts this weekend. I transcribe the flyer. Getting out and taking in some fine seasonal music does a body good. Support the arts, mofos.

Philomusica and Dennis Boyle, Music Director, present

A Winter’s Gift
Music from 2 Young Geniuses

Regina Coeli, K.276
Vesperae solennes de confessore, K.339

Mass in C major (Opus 48)

with chorus, orchestra and soloists

December 3, 8 p.m.
December 4, 4 p.m.

St. Bartholomew Church, East Brunswick, NJ
tickets and information: (888) 744-5668

Adults $18
Seniors and students $16
Children under 13 $9

Remember the horror that was Flashdance, and Jennifer Beale’s little monologue about going to classical concerts? She says something like, “And then Daddy, who somehow never turns up in this story even though I’m supposed to be just old enough to get a second set of teeth, said, ‘If you close your eyes you can see the music.'” Horribly, this is the elegant truth for a lot of people, including me. I close my eyes and see shapes and forms and dancers and think of Martha Graham in those odd jersey tubes that made it to off the rack in the eighties. Sometimes I knit, draw pictures or shoot spitballs at irate teens because I’m so mature. When my brother, sisters, respective spouses and kids pack a pew and lightning fails to strike we have an excellent time. Once all of us did the wave. For us, choir concerts are serious business and wild fun.

Join us and see the music yourself.

I Got Six! That’s All There Is!

Over a week ago, we talked about this over the phone.

Siobhan: For my birthday, I want to go to the movies, then have dinner out.
Tata: So exciting! What would you like to see?
Siobhan: Harry Potter, even though I’m planning to see it this weekend.
Tata: Okay, and where would you like to go to dinner?
Siobhan: A bar where they bring us snacks, we can talk and eventually have dinner.
Tata: Any place in particular?
Siobhan: Yes. One place means we can talk to each other. If we all go to separate places, we’re merely harassing strangers until the cops come.
Tata: We should smuggle booze into the theater like we used to for school assemblies. I’ll never forget those seventh grade health films I can’t remember.

Siobhan picks me up early. We meet Dom in the theater parking lot and a herd of Siobhan’s friends inside. It’s a good thing we came early because the kid behind the counter takes no less than 16 minutes to assemble three popcorns and three sodas. Siobhan picks a row where we all sit together. I save a seat for Gary. It’s been a long time since he and I were in the same room. Just before the lights dim a little for previews, Gary edges along the row and sits next to me. I’m next to Siobhan. We are more than a dozen people.

After the three-hour movie, we beat a hasty retreat to the ladies’ room. Outside the restroom, a pack of men and listless children wait like Mom’s flight’s just arrived at JFK. Exiting the facility takes a concerted effort and near-military precision. When we arrive at the bar, our plan goes to hell. We can’t sit together, we can’t move around and we can’t all talk to one another. We divide up into two parties. Siobhan’s cousin Dominique’s name is very similar to mine so we studiously avoid sitting next to one another to further avoid looking like a matched set. Dom’s sitting at the next table. Anytime someone shouts, “Dom!” everyone looks around wildly. Miraculously, no one spits stuffed mushroom.

Siobhan: …so I turned Harry Potter into my own private drinking game.
Dominique: What? When?
Siobhan: That movie we just saw. Everytime someone mentioned poly potion I took a swig of rum.
Ginny: You did what?
Siobhan: Poly potion! Bottoms up! I called Gary and told him to bring a bunch of airplane bottles.
Tata: I didn’t know we were going to do that! It was really fun!
Siobhan: You didn’t know? It was your idea.
Tata: I have lots of ideas. Who can tell if they’re good or bad?
Siobhan: That’s what we have me for!
Ginny: You smuggled rum into the movies?
Tata: I poured mine into my diet soda.
Dominique: You were drinking in a kids’ movie?
Tata: When the lights went up two hours into the movie I thought they were gonna throw us out!
Ginny: When the lights went up…
Siobhan: You were there! Remember when the lights came up and the movie was still playing? The lights are on a two-hour timer during the three-hour movie. We thought they were going to toss us out!
Tata: Or give us detention. I thought that, too!

We’re too old to be bad girls. In fact, now that Miss Sasha’s married, I should search catalogues for fishnet stockings in toddler sizes. Does Kenneth Cole make hip flasks and little old lady fedoras? I hope so.

I still wanna be anarchy.

Excuse Me But Can I Be You For A While?

For me, the year 2005 has been one of grinding fatigue and dogged steps toward a new home and a new life. You know what? I’m tired. I spent the today sleeping late, preparing food, eating food, sleeping some more, stuffing old papers into garbage bags, preparing food, eating food, sleeping some more, eating some more, and talking to Siobhan on the phone. Thousands of years ago, I went to poetry boot camp in Provincetown for a week. We ate light vegetarian, went to bed early, walked in the dunes, worked art with great discipline and concentrated on ignoring almost any other stimulus. I need that now, for about a month. So I took Monday off and plan to spend it in my #1 and #2 favorite Hells on Earth: the DMV and the university’s parking department, after I miraculously get the attention of New Jersey Cure, the insurance company that is supposed to be my reward for an excellent driving record but has turned out to be what even atheists might term a punishment from God.

I should just kill myself now, but let’s change the subject, shall we?

The family store is a big help on the hunt for December holiday gifts. My sisters’ and their mom’s fantastic taste and imagination merchandise-wise have been a big help with gifts. I hope to make a decent list and pick up a few interesting presies in the next few weeks. My budget is as tight as ever for Christmas, Hanukkah and Yule. Because I don’t anticipate ever having more money than I do now, my New Year’s resolution is to make more friends in religions without December gift-giving events.

I’m not complaining. I’m setting up a question: If you have ten friends, $100 and none of Georg’s fabulous talents, how do you give them presents you didn’t get from a gumball machine?

What’s your bright idea, dahhhhhhhhhhhling? I want to hear any and all.

Sable On Blonde

Often we run around looking for validation in the form of other people who agree with us. Note the high school popularity contest aspects of the blogosphere.

Blogger 1: [Insert opinion here.]
Blogger 2: That’s just fucked up.
Blogger 3: I couldn’t agree more. With…whose blog gets more hits?
Blogger 4: I love that complete stranger and bask in his/her reflected glow.
Blogger 5: I couldn’t agree less. I am contrary!
Blogger 6: Shut up, dork!
Blogger 7: Girl cooties!
Blogger 8: If I say “cocksucker” do I sound tough and not at all homophobic?

A lot of blogs cite one another’s posts and call it a day. This is kind of a big, dull circle-jerk but it has the obvious effect of circulating one story in a matter of days. It’s a game of Telephone in writing, where sometimes a reporter’s or columnist’s words get to the end of the line intact. Hoorah! Our password or phrase? “White phosphorus used on Iraqi civilian populations in violation of international law.” Bonus!

The left political blogs in particular are full of the bravura and outrage of a group out of power for five years and unable to effect change. On the one hand, this shelters the left from any responsibility for the pilfering of the Treasury. On the other, the Democrats – the de facto Vichy opposition that a la Biden couldn’t sell out its electorate fast or often enough – have long since surrendered any pretense of courage or vision. This is a painful time to be a human being hopeful that justice will prevail on earth, that the worth of all human beings will become self-evident, that compassion and wisdom may be one and the same in our time. Our best defense is laughter at ourselves; our best weapon against rage and depression is a firm punchline. In my email today came:

Insanity – a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world. -RD Laing, psychiatrist and author (1927-1989)

This week, Jesus’ General bowed to the blues. It’s not easy to keep firing off letters of encouragement to our worst-behaved citizens while wishing someone would follow up with a swift indictment. The General rebounded almost right away, but the comments tell even a casual observer a few interesting things:

1. A lot of people are so demoralized the current political situation moves them to tears;
2. The General’s Point&Laugh technique has been used by his readers to teach their acquaintances to connect the dots;
3. Nobody wants to be the weakest link or the one who first says, “I can’t take it anymore.”

Finding out that you’re not the only person considering putting your head in the oven is reassuring. Validation is validation:

Blogger 1: War is stinky. Have you seen my new Ford Excoriator?
Blogger 2: I like trees, animals and the great outdoors but environmentalists are evil fashion victims!
Blogger 3: I’m middle class, no matter how stifling my credit card debt.
Blogger 4: Keep your laws off women’s bodies! Notify me of my wife’s abortion!
Blogger 5: Peace, love and understanding to all. Please search me and violate my rights!

We’re conflicted. It’s easy to see why. Even the dullest bulb in the package can see that a time is coming when our lives and America itself will change drastically. With oil running out, our lives will change. Change can be great when we are the authors of it, but change that happens to us is terrifying. In another few years, life as we know it will be substantially different. I could be up all night worrying about this if liquor stores weren’t open holidays.

But listen: it’s Thanksgiving. More than most holidays we celebrate, Thanksgiving is the holiday that celebrates a desperate, no-holds-barred fight to the death for religious freedom. Some people misinterpret this struggle as one for Jesus but they’re – excuse me – dead wrong. Not a little bit wrong. Wrong. The people who persecuted the Pilgrims thought they had Jesus on their side, too. Believe it or not, this same story recurs over and over in history and nobody fucking learns from it. So you’re full of green bean casserole, taking a momentary break from your search for validation. What is the meaning of this day? Your people have come to a country where, in theory, you get to worship any deity you want in nearly any way you want that doesn’t hurt other people. Much. And if you choose not to worship a deity, good for you.

Besides a gut and a turkey coma, Thanksgiving should remind you that a whole lot of people thought religious freedom was worth starving, freezing, fighting off rightfully perturbed indigenous persons and burying each other for. Lately, a whole lot of people are saying to you it’s their way or the highway. Isn’t it time we grab hold of the cultural narrative and tell the Jerry Fallwells, the Pat Robertsons, the James Dodsons and the Fred Phelpses to go to Religious Persecutionland, back to the cold, dark little holes they came from? Back to Hell?

Happy Thanksgiving. Don’t take any crap, my darling.

Like the Black of the Blackest Ocean

After a few months, I wondered why my hip flexors and hamstrings were stiffer than I expected. It didn’t make sense. Every day, I stretched my legs out to the sides in smooth, well-earned splits and lay my chest and face down on the floor. Thirty years after I took the first steps in pristine ballet slippers, I knew to take long, deep breaths and relax into the stretch. Then I could sit up and resume conversation. When I lived with Ned, it took months to realize I was dreaming this every night. Every day, I thought I’d already done that stretch. It seemed so real. My dreams are often so vivid I have to check with Siobhan.

Tata: Did we eat sushi with a six-foot, dickey-wearing rabbit?
Siobhan: No, but we once went drinking with a poll-taker in a chicken suit.
Tata: Funny, I still feel full…
Siobhan: Oh! And there was that birthday party at Jose Tejas when we hired a seven-foot banana-gram for Uncle Crease and she ran across the dining room, shouting his name. People dropped their vibrating pagers when the two tallest people in the room were a dead-ringer for Rasputin and a former Rockette.
Tata: They were dancing like a cornfield in a tornado. I remember that! But no bunny?
Siobhan: Was I talking backwards, maybe? Drinking in reverse? Telling everyone to eat me?
Tata: …Yeah…
Siobhan: You were dreaming Christmas with your family and if I were you, I’d count throw pillows.

Today is the 42nd anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, of which I am acutely conscious because it is also the 42nd birthday of Miss Sasha’s father. When my dad thinks of him, Dad says, “Yeah…I know why sobriety is a virtue.” To be honest, John Kennedy figures into my dreams – not the way Jon Stewart does, or for that matter John Cleese. Sometimes, John Kennedy sits down next to me on the edge of pier and tells me he thought about the shark-infested waters off the Cape after PT109 sank and he swam from island to island in the shark-infested South Pacific. He was terrified but there was no other way to save his men. I tell him Marilyn died before I was born, and yet I miss her like sweet air after a storm. He knows, he says, as the sun warms his tanned shoulders. He will never be much older than I am now.

Sometimes, he sets himself down next to me, all backache and nightsweat. Even so, he says pain is just another fact of life, like rough skin and loneliness. I tell him he’s ten years too late with advice like that. He says he used to talk to Bobby in the kitchen when neither could sleep. The last thing anyone needs is my brother and four sisters and me hogging White House mint-chocolate chip at four any morning – not to mention no fresh fruit would be left behind.

So I know he’s a dream. I mean, plainly: he’s been dead since I was nine months old. When his son’s plane went into the Long Island Sound, I gasped for breath for days while divers scoured the ocean floor an inch at a time. I think those nights, John Jr. sat with me, talking about being tall, paper quality and hair care products. He didn’t know his father much better than I did until then. Their meeting at my place was hard on all three of us.

I’d comment further but some things should be private, even if they’re made up by my subsconscious to shout at me about my own life.

In the crates on Sunday, I found photographs of the time Ned, Robert, Laurie and I found watermain construction on the Lower East Side. I suppose it was 1999. We climbed in and on giant concrete tubes. A policeman cheerily volunteered to pretend he was arresting Ned. Ned and I both had luxurious hairstyles. Robert, one of my oldest friends, looks every inch a study in teutonic black leather style. Monday morning, he called at what would have been an alarming hour in L.A. except that he was in New York, recruiting for a party this Saturday. He says he’s been dreaming about me again. I didn’t know, but I’m not surprised.

I wonder if he’s met John-John.

Like the Deserts Miss the Rain

This morning, I awoke suddenly. The upstairs neighbors were having completely successful sex in the room directly above my bed and I opened my eyes during the energetic butt-slapping, heart-pounding, plaster-peeling, furniture-wrecking, neighbor-waking, pet-perturbing “Who’s your daddy?” ten-minute portion of our program. I think.

I had to get up anyway.

Yesterday, Paulie Gonzalez started cleaning out the storage unit and last night, he brought a truckful of my things to the apartment. I had just winnowed the post-move still-boxed stuff heap down to about five boxes but now there’s enough Rubbermaid Roughneck Storage Boxes piled in the living room to consider it a questionable remodeling job. There’s a whole box of Johnny’s letters to me, manuscripts, postcards and playbills. We were prodigious corespondents from the time he went off to college in 1980 until we both got email in the mid-1990s. Another box holds Christmas lights, my motorcycle helmet, my rollerblade pads, helmet and skates. If I ever want a concussion I’m fully equipped to get one. My grandmother’s drapes fill two containers, old grant applications and supporting documentation fill two more containers. These things don’t bother me; in fact, I missed some of them terribly. I’m not sure how much of this I need anymore but I suspect a ruthless cleaning will see most of the paperwork hurled into the dumpster outside – though not the letters, postcards and manuscripts. They stay.

In 1995 and 1996, I was involved in a huge collaborative art project that ate my life. Don’t get me wrong: the work was good, and well worth any sacrifice, in my opinion. In the process though I lost almost everything, then fell into a deep, life-threatening depression, during which medication wiped my memory clean. It is a miracle I survived – or not. I was actively trying to kill myself so we know I’m crappy at it. Anyway, everything about my life came to a point at an arts festival in September, 1996. Five crates of props, scripts and crafts projects from that festival sit in my living room now. I should demand someone remove the cheese grater jabbed in my lungs. I would rather chew off my own feet than try staging that art project again but throwing away the props…I don’t know if I could do it.

The crate that really hurts, in an “it hurts but throwing it away would kill me” way, is the one filled with my journals. This morning, I bit my lip and cracked the lid. A few composition notebooks from high school, journals from the years after I came back from Hartford with a baby I didn’t know how to care for, from when I was married – all this covering 1977 to 1990 – these form less than half the notebooks. The majority are filled with the crazy years devoted to art and madness: 1991-1998, I think. I opened a few of them. I sound the same to me as I did at fourteen, nineteen and twenty-eight. God! I am one of those Slow Children. Where’s my sign?

A lot of my life is missing from my memory. Like the Reynolds Wrap ladies say: this leads to easy clean up. What is this tacky thing? I don’t know? Out it goes! But the journals are problematic. On some pages, I see a girl who needs a good spanking; on others, a woman who needs a good whack with a mallet. Oh look! I fall in hot, sweaty, stupefying love with a psychopath! Now, a fine-smelling man who can only have athletic sex with me in public parks! Oh snap, the brilliant, bipolar art student I love falls for a dance student and brings her to our house so I go to a Fourth of July party and meet a married mad scientist, who pursues, woos and wins me, and when his wife finds out –

That’s enough of that. I clap the lid back on the crate. I miss being Me terribly, but there’s only so much Me I can stand.

You Used To Love to Dance

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
United States House of Representatives
2371 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-0508

My dearest Nancy,

I suppose it’s my own fault for falling in love with you. You’re everything to me, Nancy, everything! Your credentials are impeccable, your children are successful. People in your way have a habit of dying tragically and leaving you a voting bloc. You’ve bewitched me with your easy elegance and lovely smile. Your incidental resemblance to Jacklyn Zeman made me cross a room once to ask you about gay and lesbian affairs, and I’ve loved you from that moment to this.

After all these years, when you look deep into my eyes and talk about the Dalai Lama, torture and and wetlands restoration, my knees still go weak. When you whisper sweetly you’ve told Bill O’Reilly to go fuck himself, I wonder how I can ever leave you – but you didn’t really tell him that, did you? With us it’s all fire and sweat and chemistry, and in the heat of the moment, I lose myself in believing we’re on the same side. We believe in the same things. When the heat cools, when I brush the hair from your eyes, sometimes I know you’re not really with me. Maybe you’ve been faking it all along.

I don’t know – have never known – why anyone would work so hard hiding what they are. I wrack my brain, in the darkest, loneliest nights, for an answer but I don’t know why you can’t be left-leaning self with me. I trace the delicate line of your shoulder as you sleep, knowing that in the pantheon of the nakedly ambitious you stand under the sign marked FIRE EXIT. Perhaps, then, it’s a sign of your growth, when you couch your words so carefully I can see through them, see all the way through them, in a way you’ve never let me see before. Though it’s heartbreaking to see the truth about us as well, I know you never meant to hurt me.

Goodbye, my darling. I’ll miss you. I think.

Princess Tata


Johnny writes from the frontier:

This new movie with Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash has me concerned. I hope it’s not going to be as unwatchable as the one with George Hamilton as Hank Williams. Or the one with Dennis Quaid as Jerry Lee Lewis. Or the one with the Bee Gees playing the Beatles. But more than that, I’m worried about my own acting career. It’s not that I’m ambitious. I’ll be happy if I go down in film history as a supporting actor in the George Thorogood story, playing one of the Destroyers. Recently, though, looking at my hairline in the mirror, I’m starting to think I should downsize my goals even further and go for the title role in the Phil Collins story. I know, it’s against all odds, but it’s a chance I’ve got to take.

Last week, his parents went out to visit Johnny and his hot veterinarian wife in the new-ish New Mexico desert digs, where Johnny’s promised me a room of my own.

Johnny: I may die.
Tata: Are your parents having sex in my bed? Because that’d be ironic.

When I was 17, his parents rounded up all Johnny’s younger brothers and stuffed them into a motor vehicle in a manner that would interest DYFS, leaving Johnny home alone. He and I and Dr. Nnud – our accomplice in many crimes with expired statutes of limitations – drank our way around a split-level suburban home. We did so many whippits that the night before his parents returned we swept the cannisters into a lawn trash bag and filled another with empty bottles. We had an excellent time watching Enter the Dragon by staring at the Bruce Lee in the middle. One night, we ate something that was a little off. The good doctor ralphed. Johnny ralphed. I couldn’t ralph. Johnny fed me Ipecac, which makes everyone ralph. I still did not ralph. I went upstairs to Johnny’s parents’ room and fell asleep on their bed.

A week later, Johnny’s mom handed me an earring. We’d cleaned the house pretty well, so I was surprised. “Where did you find this?” I asked. She smiled, “In my bed.”