That River Twisting Through A Dusty

Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic:

I will say one thing about journalists collectively: we will never, ever change people’s minds about the media except by practicing good journalism. So arguing – and even apologizing – is kind of useless and counterproductive.

I still think that some journalists were right to be skeptical of the doubters at the time. I think that some journalists were correct to question how they arrived at the beliefs they arrived at.

I believe I can be of assistance here.

Speaking for myself, it was simple to conclude that the Bush junta was lying about something.

First, I listened. I listened to the words and how they were strung together. I listened to who was talking and what was being said. I listened to a lot of spokespersons saying the same things over and over, knowing that people who try to persuade are doing something completely different than people describing facts. Salesmen and sociopaths persuade.

Second, I thought over what I’d heard. This is a crucial step in the process of forming an opinion, often overlooked. I mulled over not just what was said but what wasn’t. I considered what it would mean if what I heard were true, and what it would mean if it weren’t. I pondered what would be the possible actions, probable outcomes and who might benefit from them. I thought over what I was intended to conclude and why anyone would want me to conclude that. I even wondered why someone seemed so desperate for me to agree and fall in line. That, to me, is usually a tip off that someone’s getting his or her prevarication on.

Then, because I had the luxury of distance, time and no pressure, I did some further mullin’, ponderin’ and considerin’. It further helped that after 9/11, I didn’t piss my pants, develop a pathological fear of olive skin or take a paycheck from a conservative source, so I was free to surmise without ideological interference or goosebumps. I listeneded and I thinked. Then I decided the Bush people were lying.

Funny: during that entire presidency, this process never failed me.

Cross-posted at Brilliant @ Breakfast.

Instead You Moved Away

Lovely Drusy, she of the glistening fur and loving disposition, yawns on a sunny afternoon, then naps. Thunk!

When I walk through the office with my helmet, bicycle seat and basket, co-workers who haven’t seen this ask, “Ta, did you just mug an undergrad?” While that would be amusing, I haven’t. Mostly. Today, the head of a different department on a cigarette break asked if I bicycle to work for necessity or fun. He meant did I get a DUI or plump up unpleasantly – or did I actually like it? I laughed. I actually like it. He asked a lot of questions. He seemed genuinely interested in the idea of bicycling to work. Not for himself, though: he lives ten miles from the library and has lungs like an octogenarian. Just generally interested. He also said the thing everyone says when they see me on a bicycle.

Dude: You have excellent posture.

In point of fact, I do. I also have abundant cleavage so if I did not have excellent posture every time I rode off a curb I’d risk a black eye. It’s polite of him to notice. Anyway, the more I thought about his questions as I rode away, the more I had to say about bicycling. You should at least pretend to be surprised.

In my two mile ride, there are five pretty dangerous spots, two of which will someday be covered with cut flowers and homemade crosses when some cyclist gets the tartare treatment. Pete and I last night worked out a detour I tried out this morning around another intersection so badly designed young lawyers should set up lawn chairs and tap their watches. These intersections are bad if you’re on foot, annoying in a car and positively life-threatening on a bike. People of all sorts walk across the bridge, but cyclists are usually students and Hispanic men; the people who aren’t finishing the bridge construction aggravating the arthritis of perambulating Jews give even less of a good goddamn about poor people on Schwinns skidding up a hill on gravel in oncoming traffic. Frankly, Siobhan’s got my lawyer in her five and if she doesn’t hear from me by 7:30 a.m., they plan for happy hour in the ICU.

The local gendarmerie is rumored to be very hostile toward bicyclists riding the sidewalks. I was specifically warned to steer clear, as tickets and frisking are a possibility. Last night – I don’t know if you heard – we had a badass electrical storm and this morning, debris lay everywhere. I rode down a small side street and found my path blocked by a huge fallen tree, upended sidewalk and jagged branches everywhere. Fortunately, I know the paths and malls; I wasn’t even late for work. It was even kind of exciting.

Despite all this, I really love bicycling to work. When I started walking to work in 2006, I also went whole months between visits to the gas station. I felt better being outdoors and getting some exercise before and after work, and spending the time alone improved the time I had to spend with – you know – people. Bicycling is even better. I recommend it completely, especially if you hate your office or have high blood pressure. I do not recommend bicycling if your wife has just taken out an unusually large life insurance policy. Because you know.

I have a thousand other things to say that’ll wait but I absolutely can’t wait to tell you this. Pete and I were driving to the Cape and I was taking pictures of my giant, thrashing hair. Just before the Bourne Bridge, I saw something I didn’t understand through the trees. I said to my brain, “Brain, you are full of crazy.” My brain was having none of it. “I am about to have a last laugh you will long remember,” said my brain. “Har har,” I laughed. Me? Remember? Then without my noticing, my hands picked up the camera again, turned it on and pointed it to that thing I was seeing and refusing to see through the trees.

At the dining room table at the Cape, I asked if anyone else had seen the giraffe. Everyone dropped a fork. What giraffe? The giraffe at the foot of Bourne Bridge. Where? On what side? On the other side. Where? At the foot of the bridge. I thought I was hallucinating it but then I took a picture. You have a picture of the giraffe? Yeah, I have a picture, maybe two. When I took the picture the sun was in the wrong place so I couldn’t tell if I was getting it. Point. Click. Point. Click. See?

I turned around the laptop at the dinner table and they saw. And the people who cross the bridge all the time saw the giraffe they’d never seen before.

Elvis Needs Boats

Tata: Frigging Connecticut!
Daria: On 95, are you?
Tata: Freaking Connecticut!
Daria: On the way home, I saw an eight-mile backup to get onto the Cape. I’ve never seen that before.
Tata: Fecking Connecticut! New Haven oughta be carpet-bombed. And don’t get me started on the roads around Bridgeport.
Daria: Even New Yorkers are like, “These people are crazy.” How do you like the stopping for no reason whatsoever?
Tata: Not as much as I hated stopping at a McDonald’s just inside the Connecticut border. I knew something was up when I saw someone had washed the floor with the wrong greasy mop and the floor was still wet. So I made the mistake of walking into the ladies room, where people in stalls were talking and stopped when I walked in. And the two open stalls? The toilets were full. I tapped the handles: disconnected. I walked right out into the restaurant, determined not to touch anything while I waited for Pete. The floor was still wet. You know what that means?
Daria: I could puke!
Tata: When I told Pete my story, we drove across the road to Stuckey’s, where the bathroom was only moderately gross. We got fake strombolis at the one and only Sbarro that doesn’t smell like burnt tomato sauce and sat down at a reasonably clean table. I have eaten about half of my lunch when this guy in a Stuckey’s uniform walks over to the garbage can behind Pete and sticks his arm into the can to smash down the garbage. Then he straightens up the used trays. I stopped chewing. The guy walks around behind me and does the same thing where Pete can see it. I said, “Did you see that?” He said, “I really did.” I said, “And now, we are leaving.
Daria: A district manager would loooooove to see that.
Tata: I know, but what can you do when a whole town doesn’t know shit about basic hygiene?
Daria: Todd was just telling me about taking his kids to Chuck E. Cheese, which is the Land of All Things Contagious. I mean, what do you do? How do you scrub up after that?
Tata: You slather your kids in head-to-toe Purell? Yeah, so we’re never stopping there again.
Daria: Exit 93? I’ve never been there.
Tata: Howcum you just know that?
Daria: You know, people who are not you actually remember things.
Tata: Okay, so the gross isn’t just in Connecticut. On the way out of town, we stopped for bagels. Pete went around the corner to gas up the car and I went into the bagel shop. So I’m standing behind this young couple that just started sleeping together.
Daria: What? In the shop?
Tata: No, at his house. I get his newsletter. Doofus! Anyway, they order a bagel each and a cup of coffee each. The kid behind the counter seems to only exhale, and he’s wearing one glove.
Daria: One?
Tata: Yup, only one. I watch him slice two bagels in geologic time, spackle them lightly with cream cheese and eventually pour one cup of coffee. They correct him. He pours another. He handles their money and finally looks at me. Meanwhile, three people wandered into the bagel shop and are now standing behind me. One walks out.
Daria: Really? It was that long?
Tata: Absolutely. The kid’s obviously someone’s nephew. I’m almost sorry to ask him to slice three bagels, put cream cheese on all of them, and on one, slice tomato and lox, but I do. The woman behind me starts to deflate. He cuts everything crooked, he’s stingy with the cream cheese. It’s a disaster. He disappears into the kitchen and in line, we just look at each other. He comes back with a few scraps of lox. Finally, he slices a tomato with what might as well have been a spoon. By now, Pete’s waited so long he’s walking into the shop to threaten the kid, because Pete’s seen this dance number a few times already and he doesn’t care for the ending.
Daria: Oh Lord, here it comes! What’d Pete do?
Tata: Nothing, because just then the kid asked for money and handled it with both hands.
Daria: NO!
Tata: Yes.
Daria: What did you do?
Tata: I turned to the woman behind me and said, “If I were you, I’d ask for a new glove.”

You Would Like To Fly

Life Magazine, August 1944.

I travel like a hot house flower so I took today off from work. It’s been hot and sultry and sunny and cloudy and dry and humid, and after 2, I became One with the couch. This evening, rowing was like an out of body experience. Even the cats lay on the attic floor with their paws up, groaning, “Mama, you move too much.”

It’s possible I hallucinated that.

Tomorrow, I go back to work. We’re expecting the arrival of a heat wave. I’ve laid out clothes for cycling. I shall miss the couch.

The One In Rhode Island

Should you traverse the countryside on Route 95 and pass through Providence for the first time, you will career like a roller coaster car up and down and swerving here and there at breakneck speed and surrounded by other vehicles failing to observe safety cushion rules and racing nearly door to door with you and yes, that is a motherfucking blue cockaroach the size of a freight train.

If you slow down for a look, you’ll be goo on a windshield.