And Come Down, And Put Your Heart In This Fight

General Hospital is working my very last nerve – not in the way you’d think, either. (If you’re not a soap fan, stick with me for a minute; you will be rewarded with yummy, candy-like logic.) I have two problems you could call wimmin trouble.

Alexis
Alexis the District Attorney gave up a baby when she was 16 and discovered mere months ago that Port Charles’ favorite gun moll Sam is her long-lost daughter, which required Alexis to decide fully grown Sam shouldn’t form a new monogram with unbearably hot mobster Jason. If you flip past your ABC affiliate during the day, you can see these three characters reciting the day’s dialogue sestina, the one constant being the list of words <a href="http://www.nj.com/newsflash/international/index.ssf?/base/international-17/115697666671200.xml&storylist=international&thispage=2
“>recycled five episodes a week: safe, protect, danger, daughter, and stay away. Granted, I have controlling-Mommy issues to beat the band, but Alexis’ controlling-Mommy behavior was unbearable from the beginning. After Alexis developed cancer, her urge to order the lives of others makes me want to incite mob violence. There is just something creepy about the Mommy who cuts you off from the object of your desire, no matter what nonsense she’s spouting. Soap opera mommies do it all the time but in this case, the added creep-factor is that tasty Jason agrees and acquiesces to Alexis’ wishes. Eeeeeeeewwww.

Lulu’s Pregnant
Luke and Laura’s unwanted 18-year-old daughter turned up preggers, half the town knows and you can bet your boots everyone will shout the words options, baby, choices, adoption and abortion but no one gets an abortion on the soaps. Soap fans are generally a very conservative bunch, which you can tell like the time in Times Square because other than the 18-year-old, nobody says the word abortion without curling a lip. I was just about at the end of my rope with this bullshit when Lulu’s older brother Lucky, hopped up on hillbilly heroin, grabbed a phone out of her hand and told her she wasn’t getting an abortion. This paternalistic treatment of another adult character, sibling relationship or no, is so far beyond the bounds of decency I considered turning off GH for good.

This is not harmless. The only one who understands an abortion is a safe, legal, private medical procedure is the teenager, while the characters around Lulu spout crap about injunctions and forcing her to have a baby. Do you know what tolerating this leads to?

Douchebaggery, Of the Strictly Figurative Kind
…this guy, a complete stranger, deciding what medical care you can receive. Not you, you adult, you. Not your doctor, who presumably went to medical school for a long time and has an ethical obligation to help you. No. This friendly little article describes a man who will decide whether your medical needs should and will cause you shame. You don’t have to be a woman to find this concept threatening. Go ahead. Give it a good think.

The reason this paternalistic crackpot gets to treat you this way in 2006 is that since 1980, our reproductive and privacy rights have been eroding steadily. The public discourse is euphemistic crap because nothing is more dangerous than saying the words I’ve had an abortion, and under the same circumstances I’d do it again. Women can’t discuss abortion seriously in mainstream politics in the twenty-first century, which gives license to crackpots, who think their opinions about someone else somehow matter.

Most people have simple desires where pharmacists are concerned:
1. Must be able to count.
2. Must notice when chemicals will interact badly.
3. Must mind own business.

If you can’t manage any one of those things, applicants to pharmacy school should consider a field where you can’t fuck up the lives of people for miles around. I hear Home Depot is hiring.

All of this is important – especially my soap opera pet peeves – but pales by comparison with this. Please just read it, because if it stands, there is nothing left of America but dust and crumbs, and waiting for it to be your turn. I can’t add anything to what either of them says. It can happen here. It is.

With Eyes You’ve Not Used Yet

Telegiornale RAI is on in my living room. This is humbling fun for my brain, since I don’t speak Italian. I can eavesdrop a little, which is what I’m doing with the news. The carabinieri are very busy all over the peninsula, some parents locked up children in Palermo, and the soccer players are unfailingly hot. I hear words I recognize but it takes me too long to remember what they mean. Those exciting moving pictures in the background offer exciting context clues, as in: Oh. The soccer players are unfailingly hot. Italy’s endless supply of hot soccer players is one of its most endearing natural resources – that, and delightful places a girl can stow her boning knife.


Today, I found a copy of the eviction complaint – whatever you call it – taped to my front door. When this is all over, I’m going back to the yoga studio to work the venom out of my Chi before I bite someone. Not in a good way.

On Monday, Siobhan picked me up and we drove through the Lincoln Tunnel, around the park and down Park Avenue to the Neue Gallery. Because we live in New Jersey and cultivate very different personal space desires than people who take subways everywhere, we parked across the street and found ourselves mildly in conflict with the gallery’s narrow hallways and people on line to get into the four-star cafe. Far fewer were interested in seeing art than being seen with biscotti, which struck us as a huge waste of time. We found the elevator and went to the second floor.

We’d come to see Gustav Klimt’s Adele.

It’s a popular exhibit, and we arrived on a Monday, when other galleries are closed. There were people standing around art out of habit, which is sad in a city full of bright ideas. I was particularly excited by inventive German flatware, though I can’t remember from which school. I didn’t have the presence of mind to pick up a pamphlet. Ah well. But there are still things to say, and two paintings of Adele, each of which is about the same size as me. One is mesmerizing and confusing and churns up the emotions. The other is made of gold, doesn’t photograph well and stops your heart. In both cases, the paintings themselves could give you a headache from all the thoughts you’re trying to think at once. In both cases, a whole separate study of how exhibit attendees behave seeing these paintings might be interesting. I expected people to get down on their knees. I swear I checked for drool. In the next room, Siobhan and I found benches and sat down back to back. Then we shifted in quarter turns. On one wall: sketches of Adele. Immediately adjacent: erotic sketches by another artist. On the far wall: sketches and paintings by Egon Schiele, whose madness and passion I love – though I’d never seen his work before. He was an abstraction before, a lesson, a rumor. I have begun to miss him.

Upstairs, we found rooms devoted to Bauhaus, German Expressionist and another school I can’t remember, and I should. One small Kandinsky made me feel warm all over, and it seemed especially charming to find a portrait of Kandinsky two frames over. Siobhan’s favorite room featured a few of Mies van der Rohe’s spare, airy furniture designs. I liked that people had obviously lived with and used them. The thing about seeing them now is they’ve been endlessly imitated, and it takes effort to consider the designs in their times and places when I could force myself into any craptacular Route 22 furniture retailer and see fifth-generation bastard children of the originals.

After a few hours, climbing in the car and driving home was a great idea.

Update: I always feel like Robert Stack narrating Unsolved Mysteries when I type that. Perhaps I’m developing a trenchocoat fetish. Anyway: Siobhan informs me that I misjudged.

Siobhan: Just read PIC – you’re wrong. My favorite room was the one with the disturbing nudes by Otto Dix. More to think about, there.
Tata: Yeah, like how many times you turn down a drink at Otto’s house before he whacks you with something. Ooh! I forgot about that tiny photographic portrait gallery with the weird half-lighting. We thought someone left a closet unlocked, remember?
Siobhan: You thought all the artists were wearing ties until we saw Klimt in a dashiki he probably painted himself. It matched the gold Adele.
Tata: Adele kind of blended into the chair she was sitting on. Maybe we were looking at truly innovative reupholstery.
Siobhan: They were wearing throw pillows with sleeves?
Tata: You’re absolutely panting for me to make a frisky design joke about Gropius, aren’t you?

I Wish You Were A Beer

In August every year, my job becomes very intense and stays that way until winter break, when I keel over and seethe with wassail-soaked hostility until just after New Year’s, when I have about two weeks to do all the things I put aside for four months because they didn’t concern money. Two weeks are not many. Then a new cycle of Find The Money starts in a fury that ends in early July.

This year, the work started a few weeks early. I expect to blog lightly for the next month. Please bear with me. My love is true! There’s a lot to talk about; life is very eventful. The eviction hearing thing is next Wednesday and I’m just freaked out enough that I sleep even less than usual. So I’m going to sign off and polish my nails a shimmering jet black. I may be frantic, but my manicure will still be fabulous.

Some Place So High Above This Wall


Just under a year ago, a co-worker whose son has participated in Air Force rescue and recovery missions, asked my opinion of what was happening in New Orleans. At that moment, the levees had already broken, people were trapped and drowning. It was all quite unbelievable that our federal government, which until that time had a rather er reassuring manner of swooping in at times of crisis to minimize loss of life, did absolutely nothing. Didn’t seem to notice disaster was happening. Didn’t care. Did nothing.


My co-worker, also unable to believe what she was seeing on the news, was hoping for assurance from me – like I’m the Voice of Reason. It was the summer of 2005, when people were using the words treason and dissent interchangeably, and I don’t like to discuss politics in the office. This time, I broke my little rule. I told her what we were seeing on television was not a massive rescue being slowly organized, and it would take time. No, we were seeing the administration’s true colors: avarice, corruption, cowardice and a mind-blowing lack of human empathy.

The co-worker, whose life experience is greater than mine, spoke rather sharply about how rescues must be coordinated and they take time to mount and launch. I understood her problem. She believed in the willingness of soldiers, sailors, doctors and pilots to show up, face down the situation and save the endangered. If they weren’t there, they must’ve been on their way. There must be a reason for the delay.

This charming faith in the heroic people who do these dangerous and dirty missions for us is precisely the thing blinding people who shout “Support the Troops!” like those words mean anything, and I say they’re meaningless because nobody says boo when Bush cuts funding for the Veterans Administration. My co-worker turned on her heel and walked away, but as events unfolded calamitously, as attitudes were revealed in actions and inaction, she didn’t raise the subject again.

It has often been the cold comfort of those out of political fashion that no one four-year or eight-year presidency can so change the bureaucracy that it cannot be changed back, and even so, the middle class would remain largely unaffected. My co-worker was struggling with the idea that life in America had truly changed, and that she could not trust the government to act as it always had. I felt bad for her, knowing the people were willing but our leaders were not.

All the World Is, All I Am

All day, a delicate mist has fallen over the parched and browning greenery, reviving trees, lawns and late summer blooms. This morning, I could not tell from inside the apartment whether that mist would feel gentle on the skin, but I laced up my sneakers, strapped the beach bag across my back and went out. Within two blocks, I was thrilled to feel this mist on my face and arms. The cool scent of flora drinking in the moisture it has craved is a sweet thing, and my heart sang. Then I turned the corner of South Second and Benner, where the scent on the breeze changed.

Thursday, I woke to the sound of helicopters overhead, which has become a sign that something dreadful is happening. Months ago, a firefighter in my home town died on a day I awoke to the sound of helicopters, and just over a week ago, helicopters overhead signified a bar I used to frequent burned down, taking half a neighborhood with it. The other day, when I heard the helicopters again, my heart sank. The Conservative Temple in Highland Park was on fire. The Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) and I got married there eighteen years ago. The temple is arguably the heart of this town, even as there are several other synagogues within walking distance.

Fires have different smells that tell the nose important things. A wood fire cannot conceal the scent of what kinds of wood are burning. An electrical fire has a powdery, metallic smell. A house fire combines the smells of burning wood and fabric with the acrid smells of melting plastics and metals. You know the smell of a house fire. I was in New York for a Supersuckers/Zeke show in late September, 2001. The cab driver took us as far south as the police barricades and said, “Now you get out and walk.” We weren’t near our destination. We said, “Walk?” He pointed: this way, that way, this way, over there, you’ll be fine. Everything was covered in a fine dust, and there were bits of paper everywhere. The dust required no explanation but the paper lying everywhere and floating on the breeze was startling. The paper we shuffled through had been sitting on someone’s desk, in someone’s files, when the Towers came down. Then we turned a corner and the smell of September 11th hit my friends and me like a baseball bat across the face: the housefire smell, intense and one might say loud, with the horrible additions of burned chemicals and a certain excruciating smell one might with reticence recognize as flesh-like. Heaven help me, I stopped in my tracks and turned to face it. I inhaled everything on the wind. A breath. Tragic history in fragrant waves. When I exhaled, I said, “Go in peace, sad spirits.” I said, “Goddamnit, I need a beer.”

At the corner of South Third and Benner sits the temple. It runs the length of the block and caution tape dangles from every door handle and railing along South Third Avenue. The tape looks tired. Thursday evening, on my way to the family store, I saw police cars everywhere and people standing in the streets, just staring at the charred temple. On my way home, most of the people were gone but the Eyewitness News van had set up shop on South Third Avenue. Today, of course, everyone was gone.

On this block and for a block or two in each direction, the air smells like a house fire – sort of. There’s also another strong smell. Ever handle an old roll of cheap masking tape? Something about it changes over time, and it begins to smell a bit like smoke, but a peculiar smoke with a slight hint of plastic and brown sugar cure. One step off the curb and the smell is gone. I turn around to see if I imagined it, but there it stands: the temple, tired caution tape, a sad figure in a small town.

That Doesn’t Make You Jesus

Just for fun, consider the extent and limit of your ability to observe. Before you pronounce yourself the Sherlock Holmes of your social set, imagine what I can only imagine with great difficulty: that I am not the Center of the Universe. I know! It’s a giant leap into space and back, but – just for this moment – imagine that something or someone else might be the Center of the Universe. Well, if there’s room in your brain for that crazy idea, there’s no end to your wild imagination. Let’s don our leopard-print space suits and go! I’m your Dr. Watson.

One
My co-worker was born and raised outside Boston. She has two grown children and five grandchildren. Her brother is in an adult community. Emily has perfect posture, her health is good and her recall must be nearly perfect, because her special talent is to catalogue the life events of the people around her and organize the connections between them. Emily remembers hearing my grandmother talk in Edith’s beauty shop about her little granddaughters doing ballet. Emily lives with a strict class hierarchy in her head and an almost magical ability to smile and say nothing overt. Her desk is never messy. Her clothing is this season’s. Unless you look closely at her rapid, economical movements and the clipped way she keeps her hands close to her sides, you might not observe that Emily was a stewardess in the 1960s based in New York City and has flown all over the world. Recently, she said to me, “Baghdad was a beautiful city, but I didn’t love Teheran.” Her manners are proper New England. In ten years, I have never heard her raise her voice.

What might be the ironic bane of her existence?

Two
I am wearing beige slacks, a spring green cardigan, green sandals, copper toenail polish, make up. My hair is a dark, healthy red. My raincoat is giant floral in cartoon colors, mostly pink and orange. The first person I meet at the door is Daria’s peculiar mother-in-law, with whom I recently did not have an interstate conflagration. As I walk into Daria’s house for Tyler’s, Tyler Too’s, Sandy’s, Tony’s and Sandro’s birthday party, Dad is sitting on a chair near the buffet table, which is a surprise. Daria has hired a babysitter because twenty children are expected at this party. Dad hasn’t been speaking to me since I accidentally spilled what the whole family knew and was keeping secret, though I didn’t know I was supposed to keep my trap shut, when I asked my fifteen-year-old sister, “So, how’s the whoring and the drinking working our for ya?” I was joking. It was a class trip and the kids snuck out in Paris and drank wine. Who wouldn’t? More important: who hasn’t?

Who spends an hour and a half sitting next to me in the living room?

Three
The drive to Daria’s house is over an hour from my apartment. I am listening to CSNY’s Helpless and burst into tears. Because I am both uncommonly beautiful and uncommonly vain, I finally stifle myself and do not crash my car, though I do miss a turn and drive miles out of my way. Because I am also brilliant, I figure out where I am and improvise a route to Daria’s house.

What is so tragic that after a year I still dab stray eyeliner?

Let’s review.

One
The ironic bane of Emily’s existence is that her children also love to travel, which means two of her grandchildren live in Alaska and three recently returned from a year in New Zealand. When the plane landed, I said, “Thank Vishnu, I can stop wondering how Emily’s mother used to complain.”

Two
Despite the fact that we hate one another, Daria’s mother-in-law sat next to me and tried to make conversation. I gave it a shot, then resorted to pretending she was an NFL mascot.

Three
Must I choose one horrible, unnecessary tragedy?