Friday, September 30, 2005

Lazy blog entry

A joke from my sister, who no longer keeps a blog so I'll post it instead. It made me laugh anyway.

Donald Rumsfeld is giving the President his daily briefing. He concludes by saying: "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed."

"OH NO!" the President exclaims. "That's terrible!"

His staff sits stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the President sits, head in hands.

Finally, the President looks up and asks, "How many is a brazillion?"

Thursday, September 29, 2005

So very tired

I promised myself I would CRANK out the work today, because I kinda need to, but my 12-mile run last night - the final "long run" before my half-marathon ten days from now - totally kicked my ass. My previous long run was 10 miles, so I was a little surprised yesterday when I ran out of gas after nine very pleasant miles. It just wasn't my day, I guess. That happens.

I spent the evening wimpering pathetically while my husband brought me food, took over the impossibly exhausting job of driving the tv remote, and made me repeat over and over "I did it! I did run 12 miles." And then I would commence with the whining: "But the last three miles were unbelievably, painfully miserable. I'm doing the bare minimum training plan, I won't be ready. I haven't trained on any hills, and Victoria isn't that flat. I can't do anything more to improve my fitness level in ten days. Wah wah WAH." He'd patiently listen, and then he'd make me repeat again: "I ran 12 miles."

The thought of adding one more mile to yesterday seems inconceivable, but Enrico keeps telling me, "DON'T think about that. If you think about that for ten more days you'll make yourself crazy. You'll do fine." He's such a good egg. Of course he's run a full marathon so this is bush league for him.

Tonight I have to get all dressed up and go to a fancy fundraiser, where I will dine with a very fun group of women. I hope I can stay awake and fully appreciate their charming company. I hope I can squeeze my aching feet into my black suede pumps.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Ok, let's move on from my dogs now...

...and take a random trip down memory lane.

The first night of our girls' weekend, we had a lovely dinner at J's house, during the course of which I made a joke about her incredibly lethal chopping knives, and how if I was going to chop off my finger, or have any other accident for that matter, at least I would be doing it in the company of a doctor and an ICU nurse, which was reassuring.

"Oh no-no-no," said J, "You and I already did that scene. Once was enough." It's true. And it's related to why I'm running the half-marathon.

Several years ago I was in Denver on business while J was still doing her residency there, and I stayed on to visit her. She was working nights at the time, so I had a couple days to kill before she was free to play. One morning as she was sleeping, I walked to a nearby shopping mall. I wanted to buy some shoes.

There was construction underway inside the mall and they had put up temporary plywood walls to keep shoppers out of the work area. Kind of a safety wall. Except that one section of the safety wall was a little too long and heavy for its support posts, and as I was walking past it came loose, curling toward me in slow-motion as I moved almost but not completely out of the way. When the deafening clatter stopped, my right foot was pinned underneath the not-so-safe safety wall.

A security guard who looked about 16 years old rushed up as I eased my foot out gingerly. It hurt like hell. "Are you ok?" he asked anxiously.

"No, I'm not *#&@)(ing ok!" I said. (I am not known for the the most decorous language under duress.) There was much scurrying around, and a lady from the Aveda store offered me some Calming Tea, and the mall manager came out with the sort of expression that people get when they realize a lawsuit is looming, and finally I said - just put me in a cab to my friend's house. She's a doctor. She'll know which hospital to take me to.

Now, as the cab dropped me at J's house, and as I hop...hop...hoppped up the sidewalk to her door on my one good foot, a car accident occurred right behind me. A car screeched and slammed into a tree. I did not hear, see, or notice this accident in any way, despite the fact that it happened 20 feet away, because I was (a) intensely focused on the difficult task of hop...hop...hopping up the sidewalk and (b) probably in shock.

But the accident woke J up with a start from her deep sleep, so as I hopped into the apartment she sensed something amiss and said:
"Flora? Are you ok?"
"No, I'm not. A wall fell on me."
"Did the car hit the wall?"
I had no idea what she was talking about. "No, it was at the mall."
Pause...."The car hit the mall? I don't understand."
"What car?"
"The one that hit the wall!"

And so we went around for a few minutes, having our addled, Who's-On-First conversation, until we established what was going on. J looked at my foot. "Do you think anything is broken?" I asked. "It's starting to really hurt a lot now."

"Hell if I know," she said, "I'm a gynecologist. Let's get you to the emergency room."

While we waited at the hospital, I remember J on the phone, trying to get somebody to cover her shift that night, and saying over and over, "My friend from out of town had a freak accident." I remember trying to tell her I'd be fine on my own, and she said "Babe, you are going to be on crutches, and really good drugs. That is not a combination that should go unsupervised."

And then they gave me the really, really good drugs, and did some x-rays, and left me out in a hallway by myself, which J thought was scandalous but I wasn't caring a whole lot any more. I remember J saying, "I just met with the radiologist and looked at your films. You have so many broken bones in that foot, it's even obvious to a gynecologist."

So she took care of me (she was right about the drug-crutches combo), and helped me bathe, and helped me get copies of all my medical records to take back to Seattle, and got me to the airport, where the nice check-in lady asked me, with the glow in her eye that everyone in Denver had when they asked this question: "How did you break your foot?" Because, I was in Colorado, where it was just assmed that broken bones happen as a result of busting a really cool snowboarding move that made it all worthwhile.

"A wall fell on me at the Cherry Creek Mall," I said, for the umpteenth time by then.

Stunned silence. "Let me see if I can get you upgraded to first class, hon." 'Cause, dude? Breaking your foot without busting a righteous snowboarding move? That's just tragic.

Anyway, the broken foot is the reason I got out of the running habit. Which I'm finally rectifying with this half-marathon scheme. So between the marathon, and the girlfriend weekend, it seemed timely to take this particular trip down memory lane. The moral of the story: If a wall's going to fall on you, it's not a bad idea to have a gynecologist around.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Addendum, or, The Amazing Aventures of Monkey-Face Dog

Well, apparently the vet finally found the perfect pharmacological cocktail, because Nelly is practically break-dancing around the house. No sign of post-anesthesia psychosis. She's resting comfortably, having just snapped a tasty bug snack out of the air with lightning-quick reflexes.

As I was checking her out, the vet assistant said, "Your dog..." [I cringed, at the ominous tone...what had she done? gnawed on another dog? eaten a cat?]..."your dog...was unbearably cute when she came out from anesthesia. Nelly is a very sweet girl."

I sighed. "Yeah," I said, "she does that."

When Nelly was two, she was hit by a car, and was critically injured. She had a tear in her lung, internal bleeding, and a gash on her head. When Enrico left her at the emergency vet, they basically told him not to hold out too much hope. The next morning, we had to transport her to the critical care hospital, driving her across town in time for them to tap her chest before the tear in her lungs would fill her chest with air, suffocating her to death in my arms in the car.

That morning when we picked her up at the emergency clinic, the vet listed everything that was wrong with her. She told us she'd done some extra x-rays for her own peace of mind, at at no cost to us. "Clinically, I should be giving you a very somber prognosis, given her condition." she said. "But somehow, my gut is telling me she won't die. I mean...well, look at her!"

They brought her out. She was shaved all over, her breathing was labored, and her head was stapled together like Frankendog. But she was wagging her tail and her eyes were bright. Broken and in great pain, she had that spunky look. The look that we now refer to as her Inner Bad-Ass.

And when they gave us her chart to take on to the next vet, with its detailed and jargon-filled narrative of her care throughout the night, we saw that amidst the vital statistics and medication dosages, amidst documented efforts to stabilize her tattered lungs and stop her bleeding - was this sentence, tossed in every now and then: "Very sweet girl!"

So we laugh that she has been clinically, officially diagnosed as a Very Sweet Girl. When I'm at my wit's end about her neuroses and obsessive habits, when she seems like such a fragile little diva, I remember that fierce inner bad-ass, determined to live against the odds, and to look damn cute doing it.

Waiting and working

Nelly is at the vet's today, getting her teeth cleaned. I know, that probably sounds like overkill, but turns out dogs and cats suffer from tartar and gingivitis just like us, and their teeth rot and have to be pulled, and that's worse than just cleaning them in the first place. It doesn't have to be done every year or anything - a couple cleanings per lifetime is sufficient.

However, teeth-cleaning does require general anesthesia, and in keeping with her generally high-maintenance personality, Nelly does VERY VERY badly on general anesthesia. After she comes out of it, she spends a full 48 hours in a state that I would describe as "inconsolable distress," and the vet describes more succinctly as "psychosis." In comparison, when Toby has to go under the happy gas he just stumbles around like a funny drunk for a couple of hours afterwards, and then he's fine.

But not Nelly, no. So the vet is once again jiggering with the pharmacalogical cocktail in search of something easier on Nelly's system. Her latest theory is maybe opiates cause the psychosis, so she's omitting the opiates. But the one other time Nelly got her teeth cleaned, she was in the hospital five days later with an infection in her pancreas. Throw in the fact that she's nearly 9 years old, and I have some anxiety about this whole decision and what it's going to do to her furry little body. I'll be happy to get her home and get a sense of what we're in for this time around.

Toby, meanwhile, is shockingly unconcerned about his sister's absence, as you can see. I should probably take a page from his book.

The only boy allowed on girls' weekend

He was sworn to silence, of course.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Back in the world

Wow, I'm back and I didn't get much sleep over the weekend and I'm crazy busy today, so I don't have time to report back on the trip. It was great fun, although of course the two-year-old moffit ruled our world. Did I mention how we didn't get much sleep? The weather was beautiful though. The moffit's favorite thing was breaking down the campsite, which was cool, because that's usually my least favorite part so she gave it a fresh new twist.

For now, I will just say two things.

One: My nurse friend passed her test. She's now a certified critical care something something nurse. Yay her!

Two: Quote of the weekend:
"What's that all over her nose?"
"A mixture of chex mix and snot."

Friday, September 23, 2005


One of my afore-mentioned girlfriends has to take a big test this afternoon before we can hop the ferry, so I just want to put out some good vibes for her. She's an intensive care nurse at Harborview, our regional trauma center, and she's taking some kind of special certification exam. I just want to point out that if a disaster hits here, she will be one of those "essential personnel" who spends days at the hospital doing heroic work under impossible conditions, like the nurses in New Orleans who spent a week hand-venting patients surrounded by a soup of toxic goo. She doesn't think of herself as heroic - not having been actually put to this kind of test - but I sure do. Because she does the job, knowing that it's always a possibility.

Off to do, you know, girl stuff

This afternoon I'm leaving on a long-planned get-away weekend with my two girlfriends who live around here whom I've known since the age of 12. It's going to be a rockin' good time. It's in celebration of our collective 39th birthday year.

We plan to go camping, which should be quite an adventure with a two-year-old in tow. I'm sure there will be chocolate. You're never, ever too old for a slumber party in a tent with your girlfriends and a whack of chocolate.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Great Diva of Spoiled Selectiveness

A friend of mine and I are considering formally going into business together. She's actually more than just a friend - we are the old married couple of professional relationships. Over more than a decade, she's been the boss of me, I've been the boss of her, we've been partners and colleagues. We know each others' strengths and Achilles heels, and are long past being too shy to point them out. We've had hideous disagreements, yet still like each other real well; we've had successes that brought us praise and much fun. On a good day we can finish each others' sentences. We have similar standards of quality, yet complementary ways of looking at things. If there's anyone I could envision going into business with, it's her. I'll call her Zena.

Anyway, Zena and I haven't done anything to formalize this - we haven't even boned up on the different legal structures available to us for forming a joint business - Limited Partnership? Corporation? But we got an inquiry recently about a gig, from someone specifically interested in hiring us together. And after considerable thoughtful discussion, we decided to politely decline. Partly, this was because the timeline is tough with the gigs that we each independently have right now. But also, we decided that this job would be a Big Energy Suck. Our intuition told us that the work would literally suck life energy from us. They're great people and a great organization and a great project - it's nothing like that...(she says, mindful of the perils of blogging about work - as Dooce says, Be Ye Not So Stupid!). But we thought, well - if we're going to do this, let's at least try to go for work that will make us jump out of bed each day with enthusiasm. You don't get what you don't try for.

I can't help thinking - how naive and spoiled is that of me, that I want work that makes me jump out of bed each day with enthusiasm? That I'm willing to turn down good work with good people for a good wage because I'm holding out for more? Am I crazy?

Zena agrees that if we're both starving a year from now, we may need to revisit our standards. But for now, we're partners in craziness. We're still looking for a name - perhaps the Great Diva Consultants Who Only Occasionally Condescend To Accept Actual Work Associates, Inc, A Limited Partnership. Very Limited.

'Tis what the Internet were always made for

One of our MANY faithful readers recently sent us this link, to the "premier online repository for pictures of dogs in bee costumes." Because only the premier repository of dogs dressed as bees is worthy of Miscellaneous Shellfish.

Go ahead, check it out. You know you want to.

Monday, September 19, 2005

By golly, I really DO belong among these people

Yesterday at church it was the first Sunday back for the "new church year." The church year follows the school year because they have simply accepted the fact that this is the Pacific Northwest and even the most spiritual of people are gonna pretty much spend their weekends hiking and kayaking. So they scale it way back for the summer. I went a few times during the summer, and it was nice - quiet, meditative. This week when I went back, I was almost put off by all the hustle and bustle in the place.

Now, this is only my second year as a Unitarian, so I was pretty pleased when the minister started his preachin' and informed us that he planned to expound on the principal principles of Unitarian Universalism, which he'd had a chance to revisit in a new way while off on a retreat at a Trappist monastary in rural Oregon (probably hiking and kayaking like the rest of us). I was pleased because Unitarian Universalism prides itself on being a tolerant faith, based on the belief that revelation of truth is continuous, and we all experience it uniquely. No creeds, no dogma. So even though it's a centuries-old faith tradition, it can seem pretty mushy, what with the Christians and the deists and the humanists and the naturalist-pantheists, all respecting each others' modes of revelation all the damn time.

I certainly didn't mind a little clarification to start out the new year. And lo and behold, if he didn't preach about the Creative Force of the Universe! There's a great creative force which is greater than us and precedes us, and we do not control it; we have free will only to try to obstruct it, or try to align ourselves with it.

Apparently in his opinion - which any Unitarian Universalist is free to disagree with, vehemently - belief in a Creative Force of the Universe is one of the principal priniples of Universalist Unitarianism. Who knew. I guess it makes sense, given that Darwin was a Unitarian.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The healing power of the iPod, and other updates

Today I went on my 10-mile run - three weeks to the half-marathon! - and finally had my iPod ready to roll. I had gone through about 20 CDs and cherry-picked some of my favorite songs, all up-tempo ones suitable for running.

So I had both the iPod and my brain for company, which seemed like a good plan. I was brooding a bit about the state of the world. I had almost decided to fly myself to Baton Rouge for a week in early October, once my current work gigs are up, to help the animal rescue organizations down there. Thousands of animals will be kept there for weeks, to give owners time to find them, creating a monumental load of grunt work watering, feeding and cleaning. Enrico thinks this is a fine idea, although he pointed out I'll be in private investigator school by then. We'll see. Meanwhile, a friend told me she's facing a gut-wrenching choice, the kind of choice that our current government considers to be clear-cut in a way that I consider to be heartless and misguided, and my heart is heavy for her.

So I was brooding a bit as I started my run, and then the iPod came on with My World by Ray Charles (I don't appreciate the fact some people just can't see It's hurting you and me It's world, your world, our world, one world) and the classic rendition of The Weight from The Band's Last Waltz.* So two miles into the run, I had tears running down my face. Still maintaining my robotically consistent pace, but overcome with frustration and sadness at the state of the world. Fortunately, thank the Goddess, just as I was at risk of curling up in fetal position under a picnic shelter, the next song up was Vogue by Madonna (no entirely male divinity would think to send Madonna as solice in a moment of despair). And then came Fat Man in the Bathtub and Man of Constant Sorrow, and by then I was thinking, hey, whatever my woes, I'm better off than the fat man in the bathtub with the blues and the man of constant sorrow.

So, the iPod is a hit.

Meanwhile, on the home front, Toby tried unsuccessfully to chew a hole in his haunch where a flea bite was bothering him, so I tended his wound, and Enrico tried unsuccessfully to chop off half his thumb while cooking dinner, so I tended his wound too, and in the background I could hear Nelly trying to lick the Bailey's Irish Cream out of the glass I left on the coffee table. So hey, compared to my two accident-prone boys (which Enrico assures me is a redundancy), and my liquor-slurping, Valium-popping girl dog, I just may be the most stable member of our household. Which is pretty funny when you think about it.

* Crazy chester followed me, and he caught me in the fog.
He said, "i will fix your rack, if you'll take jack, my dog."
I said, "wait a minute, chester, you know i'm a peaceful man."
He said, "that's okay, boy, won't you feed him when you can."

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Miscellaneous shellfish

Yes, I did get accepted to private investigator school. I still have to get my registration to secure a place, which is first-come, first-served.

I did a 9 mile run on Saturday - in pouring rain and driving wind, no less - so all systems still look good for the half-marathon. We haven't found a dog-sitter yet for that weekend, though, which means Enrico might not be able to come cheer us on, which would make me very sad. Without him I probably wouldn't have done my last two long runs, but he's just such a good cheerleader!

We bought an iPod! It's more complicated to get it working than I expected.

Monday, September 12, 2005


I was listening to This American Life yesterday on NPR, which was (of course) about Hurricane Katrina, and they had the most amazing, detailed accounts from people who were stuck in New Orleans. Including a woman who stayed because her mother was a nurse at the hospital, and therefore required to stay as "essential personnel." They ended up at the notorious Convention Center, where, she said, for four days trucks with water drove by them without stopping, soldiers and police prevented them from leaving, and they were made to line up every few hours, in the sun - old people, babies, quickly dehydrating - for buses that never came.

Finally, she said, people concluded that the plan was to keep them there and kill them. Rumors started that the authorities were planning to intentionally breach levies and drown everyone there, and make it look like an accident. At first, the woman was dubious that this could be the case; it sounded crazy, paranoid. But after a while, she said, it was the only explanation that made sense. Why else would trucks continue to drive past with water, without stopping? Why else wouldn't people be allowed to leave and find their own way out of the city? Why else would soldiers be toying with the crowd through the endless line-up exercises, if not to keep people busy and distracted? It seemed like the only rational explanation.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Bleach, bandanas, a good wrench, and a bad Chardonnay

Yesterday, I suddenly decided that I needed to complete our disaster/emergency kits. I had started on them a couple years ago, right after I quit my job, but when I realized how much it was going to cost to buy all that stuff that we hopefully will never use, I kind of let it drop. Not only will you probably never use it, but much of it will expire and have to be thrown out and replaced with more stuff you never use. I was more interested in spending our single income on my new kitchen floor, and a coat of paint for the fence, and replacing the broken window in the den.

But after all the hurricane coverage I thought, oh good heavens - a couple hundred bucks for emergency supplies is going to seem like the BEST investment in the world if the Big One hits. An even better investment than our homeowners insurance, which of course doesn't cover earthquakes, since that's something that might actually happen to us some day. Hey, insurance companies aren't stupid.

Plus, my friend Megan mentioned that she just updated her kits, and realized this was a really good time to do it. Watching all those dislocated people on the TV made her think of things that aren't on the standard Preparedness Lists, but which would really, really make life more comfortable. Like, Chapstick. And sunscreen. And a bottle of bad generic Chardonnay leftover from a party, which we were never going to drink under normal circumstances, but hey, after two days of living in our back yard, it might taste pretty damn good. And, thus - a corkscrew.

Watching the hurricane aftermath also brought to mind some additional things I would want for the dogs. Like, a muzzle for Nelly, in case we ever have to transport her around a lot of other dogs in a freaked-out state. And doggie sedatives.

I'm not quite done, but I'm getting close. Our years of backpacking have provided some creative tricks for rustic, lightweight living. All told I think it'll cost about $300 - which makes me think again about all the people left behind in New Orleans. If you don't have money to evacuate, you're certainly not going to have money to drop on an emergency kit you may never use. Somebody ought to be thinking about that here in Seattle.

And just to encourage you - here is our home kit list to get you started...additional suggestions welcome. (We don't have kids, and of course that adds another whole layer of things.) Also, our local Red Cross has a nice section on their Web site about emergency preparedness and supplies, and I'll bet lots of Red Cross chapters have this info too. Here's a link to Seattle.

  • Clothes, shelter and warmth: Blanket, tarp, heavy-duty plastic dropcloths; shoes, socks, shirt, pants, hat and gloves for each of us; camp towels; sunglasses; rain ponchos.
  • Nourishment: Water, Gatorade, food bars, nuts, tuna, canned fruit, Emergen-C, protein powder, plastic dishes & bowls.
  • Cleanliness and sanitation: Bleach, iodine tablets (for drinking water purification), antiseptic towelettes, rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, vinyl gloves, dust masks, plastic bucket with lid, garbag bags, ziplock bags.
  • Toiletries: Toilet paper, bar soap, all-purpose liquid soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, lotion, sunscreen, lip balm, femine supplies, ponytail holders.
  • First aid and medication: Well-stocked first aid kit, Pepto, antacids, immodium, benadryl, ibuprofin, poison control kit (ipicac & carbon), saline eye wash.
  • Basic stuff: Batter-powered radio, flashlights, extra batteries, extra flashlight bulbs, candles, matches, laminated city map, paper & pens, army knife, whistle, rope, duct tape, rubber bands.
  • Tools: Leather work gloves, hammer, crowbar, wrench, pliers, screwdriver, folding hand saw, shovel.
  • Dogs: Leashes, harnesses, muzzle, doggie sedatives, protective booties, dog food, canine first aid manual.
  • Paper: Copies of important documents, copies of dog licenses and shot records, extra cash.
  • Underrated handy items: Bandanas (can be used as hairnet, hankerchief, washcloth, dish towel...lightweight, quick-drying, very handy); carabiners (handy for stringing, hanging and securing things).
  • Luxury items: Solar shower, deck of cards, bottle of wine, corkscrew, rawhide chewies.

Friday, September 09, 2005

There but for the grace of the doggie gods

I don't know how much longer it will be up, but - the Humane Society's home page has a short video clip of a dog being rescued in New Orleans, and the dog looks exactly like my dog Nelly. Right down to the silly floppy ears and the oversized paws, holding on tight to the rescuer. It made me cry. (It's a pretty happy rescue, the dog looks fit and healthy and relieved.)

When you give to disaster relief, don't forget the animals.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Zen and the art of flossing

I don't know why I'm blogging about this, it is sure to expose me as the not-entirely-stable person that I am. But, whatever.

A couple weeks ago, I was flossing my teeth, and I suddenly thought about this woman I know who's in her late sixties and is one of those incredibly lively, lifelong-learner type people who you suspect just might turn her house over to the grandkids and join the Peace Corps at the age of 80. She once commented to me that she gets her teeth cleaned four times a year - paying for two annual teeth-cleanings herself, since her insurance company only covers two - because "after a certain age, you just can't afford to take your teeth for granted."

So this conversation popped into my head as I was flossing my teeth one evening, and in that peculiar way that my brain sometimes associates and combines the WEIRDEST things, I also thought about the concept of a "gratitude journal," which I don't keep but I know people who do (like Oprah, whom I don't actually know, but she mentions it occasionally in her magazine). The idea of a gratitude journal is that each evening before you turn in, you write down at least one thing that you're grateful for from that day, because even on the worst day it's good to be reminded of what's good in your life. Supposedly, it makes you a better person.

So these two random ideas - gratitude journals and appreciating your teeth - combined in my head and I found myself trying to think of one thing that I'm grateful for as I flossed between each pair of teeth. And it's kind of become a habit. This means coming up with roughly 30 things to be grateful for each night. Sometimes, when I'm drawing a blank, I cheat a little and repeat myself (I'm really really grateful that other people think the President is a butthead), or I state my gratitude for every single member of my family separately instead of as a group. I always express gratitude for my teeth.

Lately, though, it's been pretty easy. I am grateful that I was able to do laundry today. I am grateful for potable water. I am grateful that I was not forced to abandon my dogs to a horrible death. I am grateful for warm food. I am grateful that I know where my family members are right now. I am grateful for shoes.

And of course, I am grateful for my teeth.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

On another subject

I just finished reading The Time Traveler's Wife by Audry Niffenegger, and it was like LITERARY CRACK. I just couldn't put it down. The complex construction of the narrative, the vivid characters, the sharp dialog...

I've had a story in my own head for several years now, trying to get out, and I just can't seem to write it. It has multiple story lines that come together, multiple central characters whose voices are important, and even though I've outlined the whole thing and researched stuff, whenever I sit down to try to write the story it comes out sounding like I'm telling my girlfriend a story over coffee. "So there was this woman? And she had these kids hanging out across the street from her house? So one day she comes home from work and...blah blah BLAH." Niffenegger's book has me in awe, the way she tells the story is so complicated and yet flows so well.

Plus, there's a line in there that I'm sure totally describes me. "It's as if she's gone into a room in her mind and is in there, knitting or something." I asked Enrico if this is how he experiences me sometimes, and he got that look on his face that husbands get when you ask them things like "which of these skirts makes me look less fat?"

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Happy Birthday Pig Boy!

Enrico joins me in the 39th year! Happy, happy birthday, my love.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

A little less angry now, or at least in good company

I'm relieved to see that I'm not - really, really not - the only one who's been angry. It takes the edge of the anger. I saw a friend yesterday who said she had, like me, been glued to the news coverage. "I feel like I have an obligation to see it, as a human being," she said, "and at the same time I feel angry and paralyzed in my ability to do anything about it, so I keep looking and trying to think of something, anything I could do." That's exactly how I feel. Also like me, she has a partner who responds differently to this sort of thing - if they can't do anything meaningful about it, they can't stand to keep watching the coverage. Which is also a perfectly understandable response. My friend and I agreed we could process with each other any time, and would let each other know if we thought of anything substantive that could be done.

Meanwhile, I find myself with interesting bedfellows.

"If we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?" Newt Gingrich, of all people. One of the primary jobs of the new Department of Homeland Security was to ensure the US can prepare for and respond to enormous urban disasters, including taking the lead in coordinating different levels of government. What have they been doing for the past four years?

"If and when they do (rebuild) – I assume they will – they have to find a different way to do it. It’s ridiculous to put a half-million people’s lives in jeopardy. Dennis Hastert, amid a firestorm of criticism, pointing out that New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen and shouldn't be rebuilt as another disaster waiting to happen again. I love New Orleans, I've visited several times, but not only was it inherently precarious, it is now a toxic waste site. I know Hastert's timing was bad, but I hope sensible questions will be asked about what comes next.

Conservative pundit David Brooks, on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer last night: "Sitting up there on the airplane and looking out the window was terrible. And the three days of doing nothing, really, on Bush was terrible. As you know, I support his politics quite often. Looking at him today earlier, I found myself...this is how Mark Shields must feel looking at him. I'm angry at the guy." Any moment of empathy that brings greater understanding is a good thing.

And, from more liberal and like-minded sources...Clarence Page, on the same show: "And somehow, somebody forgot that one hundred thousand to two hundred thousand people would not have cars, would not have easy access to transportation, would be sick, elderly, infirm." Just a metaphor for the bigger problems in so many ways. The things that are chronically, stubbornly, wilfully forgotten.

"This disaster was all but scripted; why wasn't the response?" LA Times editorial. This was one of the best predicted and most studied disasters - what would happen in the event of a truly surprising disaster? I think of that question particularly as I sit on one of the biggest potential earthquake zones in the country, where our eventual disaster is also pretty well scripted.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Just so you know, this is an angry tirade

I rarely watch television news, but this morning as I was getting ready to go out I turned on the cable news and heard the singer Harry Connick Jr., of all people, at the New Orleans convention center, nearly in tears, describing dying babies and elderly people and pleading for help for the thousands of people receiving no water, no food, no protection while they waited for transportation out.

When I got home eight hours later, I turned on the tv again - to see CNN interviewing the head of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, who claimed that he was "only just hearing" about the appalling conditions at the convention center, which had apparently only gotten worse during the day. How the hell could he be "only hearing about it" now when I had heard about it hours ago just by turning on my television? If I know, and Harry Connick Jr. knows, for god's sake, how on earth can the country's top emergency relief official not know?

Reporters on the scene gave furious, frustrated reports. They'd seen none of the relief that government officials swore was already on the ground. People's children and grandparents were dying around them. It's true that there was criminal predation going on, they said, but look at the majority of people: Thousands who had followed instructions, gone where they were told, and were sitting desperately but peacefully waiting for help. Does it really look like lawlessness is preventing help from arriving, they asked? How can it be criminal looting to pick out whatever water and food can be found in the ruins, after waiting for four days in vain for help to arrive? The head of FEMA flat-out blamed the situation on people who refused to evacuate. How, asked the anchor, can you blame people who had no car, no money, no way out, and were provided no public transportation?

The reporters were angry, and so was I. For the first time in a long time, I felt proud of the press.

And I'm incredibly, indescribably angry at our government. Yes, this was a disaster of mammoth proportions, and relief in these circumstances will never get to people as fast as they want. I understand that once the bowl of New Orleans filled up with water, it was inevitably an engineering nightmare, and perhaps an impossibility, to empty it out again.

But people need to lose their jobs over this, the disaster relief and "homeland security" jobs that they, as high-rolling campaign donors, were apparently completely unequipped and unqualified to perform. And why is the president having lunch with the chair of the Federal Reserve Board to talk about gas prices and economic inconvenience for oil companies and airlines and middle-class people like me, instead of telling somebody to air lift some water bottles and police officers to those people at the convention center who'd been on the television all day long begging for help? Shouldn't we all feel discomfort at seeing a city's poorest and weakest citizens suffering like this, while being blamed by our highest government officials for their own fate and tarred one and all with the label of criminal, looter, anarchist? Are we ever going to face the fact that thousands of reservists from Louisiana and Mississippi could have been helping out, but were unavailable due to their service in the pointless Iraqi war - where the U.S. presence did nothing whatsoever prevent the stampeding death of 800 civilians en route to a religious festival? Our actions in Iraq have brought misery to the Iraqi people, and have now hindered our ability alleviate misery here at home. I know the jury is still out on the connection between global warming and hurricane ferocity; but it seems to me that global warming still seems likely to cause way more death and destruction than terrorism. Are we ever, ever going to revisit how we're choosing to invest our resources between these two threats?

I know it sounds weird, but what really gets to me is the people with their dogs. People who didn't evacuate because they didn't want to leave their dogs behind, or people risked their lives to save dogs and now face losing them because buses and shelters won't take animals. I know I'm one of those doting dog owners, but seriously, anybody who has lived side by side with an animal as your friend and companion, who trusts you and counts on you - could you leave them, terrified and confused, to face a horrible death alone?

The whole thing breaks my heart. I hope some real soul-searching will come out of it about the choices we make, the people we give important jobs to, the way we want to live our lives on the planet, the misery of fellow creatures that we prefer not to look at but sometimes can't ignore.