Wednesday, November 28, 2007

It's a Beautiful Day in this Neighborhood

I dropped Flip and his computer at the Apple store to visit a genius, my all-time favorite job title, at the Genius Bar.

They had no record of his reservation despite having sent us an email confirmation, so he'll have to package it up and return tomorrow.

I picked him up and as we walked to the car....

KaBAMMMMM!

"Oh, look, a Mercedes hit a Jaguar."

For some reason, this struck me as hysterically funny. We continued down the street laughing, loaded Flip's computer into the backseat, and headed for home.

A block away, a Ferrari, red, whipped around the corner and slammed into a Maserati, silver.

KaBAMMMMM!!!

It was getting monotonous already.

Mr. Maserati jumped out of his car and confronted Mr. Ferrari by the throat. I noted that nobody was hurt except for the $thousand or so it would take to fix the dent and drove home counting my blessings, one of which is that I drive a mere Toyota.

Nobody hits Toyotas. They're not good enough.

Later, I headed out again because my cousin who lives near the Canadian border in Maine wrote that she was unable to find latke mix in the local stores. I called to ask her how many boxes she wanted since I had seen it here, although I've never bought any, and went off to be her purchasing agent.

My checker was an elderly Chinese woman with a heavy accent. She lovingly picked up one of my latke boxes and said, "I wen buy matzoh now."

I smiled agreeably, and she continued, "Is hard find Jewish food California."

I wouldn't know. I smiled again.

There was something marvelously surreal about bonding with a Chinese Jewish lady when I am barely Jewish enough to appreciate the name of Andy Kaufman's wonderful character on "Taxi," Latke Gravis, which means, literally, "Fatal potato pancake."

There were no accidents in the parking lot at Safeway.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Whole Truth and Nothing But


Chani at Thailand Gal, one of the people I most admire, has posted this quiz on her blog today. It consists of 35 questions that were originally published in Vanity Fair, and is entitled "Answer as though you are not afraid."

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Understanding my life's purpose and knowing that I am living it.

2. What is your greatest fear?

Not leaving works of art behind when I die, (besides my children.)

3. Which living person do you most admire?

Anyone who is kind, generous, compassionate and loving to all, not just to selected friends and family members

4. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

impatience

5. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Cruelty

6. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Conformity

7. On what occasion do you lie?

To avoid hurting feelings. I try hard not to lie out of fear and assumed guilt, as I used to.

8. What do you dislike most about your appearance?

Just that I'm visibly aging. And I dislike that this bothers me as it is inconsistent with my belief that people can be beautiful at any age.

9. What is your greatest regret?

Poor judgments I have made because I lacked the self-confidence to know that I deserved better

10. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My family

11. Which talent would you most like to have?

Writing great books that enrich the lives of those who read them

12. What is your current state of mind?

I feel as if I'm waiting for something, but I'm not sure what it is.

13. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would be a better listener.

14. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Surviving so many dangerous events and unhealthy relationships that I wonder if I am really a cat, and if so, how many of my nine lives I have left.

15. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

I would like to return as a fully-realized person who is always able to help others in the ways they most need.

16. What is your most treasured possession?

The card that accompanied this year's Mother's Day flowers which said, "Thanks for being our mom. Don't ever stop."

17. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Being trapped in a body from which I am unable to express my thoughts to others

18. Where would you like to live?

Living in happy circumstances matters more than geographical location. I have lived in many places and put down roots to some degree in all of them because it is my nature.

19. What is your most marked characteristic?

Inquisitiveness

20. Who are your favorite writers?

Too many to mention, also, it depends on my mood.

21. Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

The first was Sidney Carton in "Tale of Two Cities." Later, Maggie Tolliver in "The Mill on the Floss" and Jo in "Little Women," Janie in "Their Eyes Were Watching God." Sayuri in "Memoirs of a Geisha." Mama Day in "Mama Day." Lara in "Doctor Zhivago," Rachel in "Moloka'i," Ellen in "Ellen Foster," Vianne Rocher in "Chocolat," Abel in "House Made of Dawn." Jack Burns in "Until I Find You," Lily in "the Secret Life of Bees," Cal in "East of Eden"

22. Who are your heroes in real life?

Those who manage to overcome obstacles and to become their best selves

23. What is it that you most dislike?

Dishonesty and indifference

24. What is your motto?

Live every day as if it were your last.

25. Favorite Journey?

Life

26. What do you value most in your friends?
Loyalty and compassion

27. Which words or phrases do you must overuse?

Nasty words directed at the wall between my apartment and the one next door

28. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Robin Hood

29. What is your greatest extravagance?

Books

30. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

My family of birth: A greater ability to feel and express love
My present family: Only proximity. I would love to live near all my children.

31. What is your favorite occupation?

Writer.

32. What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Wisdom

33. What is the quality you most like in a man?

Wisdom

34. How would you like to die?

At a very advanced age but still healthy, mentally and physically, surrounded by my loved ones

35. If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be?

A better-realized version of my present entity, one who would be able to fully utilize her talents and make better life choices.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Gulls Just Wanna Have Fun



The post-coital noise level next door drove me to seek solace at the waterfront, feeding several partial loaves of bread to seagulls and pigeons.

I was happily ensconced in seagull heaven when two young girls of about 12 and 15 came up to me and ordered me to stop feeding the seagulls.

ORDERED ME TO STOP.

"Why?" I asked as I pitched a really sweet long shot at a gull who swooped and snatched it on the upswing.

"They become aggressive," they said. I kept flinging large crumbs to my winged friends.

These girls, who were both bigger than I, were standing much too close to me. The older one grabbed my bag of bread, and I realized that they were serious.

She flung it over the seawall and I caught it just in time, nearly taking flight myself onto the boulders in the water below.

"Go," I told them tersely. "What gives you the right to take something from a person you don't even know?"

They chanted in unison, "You shouldn't feed seagulls. They become aggressive. It's bad to feed seagulls. BAD PEOPLE feed seagulls."

I kept throwing out my bread. There were about 40 gulls and half as many pigeons surrounding me. I was their holy grail.

"STOP FEEDING THE SEAGULLS!!" they shouted. "STOP NOW!"

"Sorry, girls, I like feeding them," I said.

They kept telling me that I was a bad person, that seagulls became aggressive, at which point, the birds, whipped into a feeding frenzy, beat their wings and screeched for my attention.

Aggressive? I would prefer "hopeful." Or even "forceful."

I love seagulls.

The younger girl began running around the seawall, yelling "Shoo!" at the birds. I asked her to stop. She smugly screamed her "too aggressive" litany. These girls were clearly brainwashed. They had the fervor of religious zealots. Bornagain bird haters. The Anti-Gull.

I had never seen anything like it.

They were practically foaming at the mouth. I considered whether I had ever had a rabies shot in case they bit me.

They kept chasing my birds away. I told them, "You don't have to feed them, but don't spoil it for those who do."

"Why do you feed them?" the older girl asked.

"Because I like to."

"You're a really bad person," she said.

Then the Mother Load lode came along. She was a huge battle ax of a dame who would have looked quite natural in a mustache.

"They're so BIG," she exclaimed. "Biggest seagulls I've ever seen."

"Because she's been feeding them all day," sneered the younger girl venomously.

The mother also scolded me and assured me that she had seen seagulls so aggressive that they took bread right out of people's hands. Kind of like her daughters.

"Thank you for your advice," I told her, still tossing crumbs. I had lots of bread and I intended to use it.

"I'm a sailor so I know what I'm talking about," she said as she swaggered away. She gave me one last scathing look of disgust.

I'm still trying to reconcile their apparent fear of aggression with their own aggressiveness. I cannot imagine why these people thought it acceptable to criticize and insult a perfect stranger and if I were not a big fan of St. Francis of Assisi, I would have directed my friends to poop on their heads and peck their eyes out.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Snatch Me Baldheaded


Flip has often remarked that I am at war with the material world.

I prefer to say that I am not mechanically inclined. Fixated on the physical aspects of life, like door jambs, which have always had it in for me, curbs on occasion and low-hanging objects that go bump on my head.

Today, I caught a large section of my own hair in the vacuum cleaner while leaning over to vacuum under a low table. I have long pieces of hair fluttering down my back well below the point it presently grows to. And while I am grateful that this shocking hair loss is not due to chemotherapy or hereditary alopecia, the idea of being partially bald on one side does not enchant me.

I have always been materially challenged. When I was 13, I was lying on the floor under a telephone table chatting with friends when I yanked the cord, bringing the heavy, 50's instrument down on my head, which bled profusely. My mother heard me yell, told the two boys I was talking to that "Susan just dropped the phone on her head," and hung up.

All the years of my childhood, she watched me run into walls like the Helen Keller doll, even though I had excellent eyesight and was, my mother admitted grudgingly but with some wonder, so graceful. She was unable to comprehend how a person who moved gracefully, which by all accounts I did and do, could initiate so many collisions with stationary objects.

It's part of my mystique.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Seven Ways I'm Weird (7)

The delightful and glorious Claudia at On a Limb with Claudia has tagged me with a meme that requires me to tell you seven random or weird facts about myself.


1. When I was ten, I was a Quiz Kid on a show that was broadcast from Rockefeller Plaza in NYC. Every contestant was an "expert" on something. My specialties were grand opera and dogs.

My favorite part was sliding in the lobby on shiny floors which had giant black and white checkerboard squares while my mother begged me to act like a lady. Then I would go upstairs and answer questions.

2. In high school, I hated sit ups and my gym partner, Terri, was terrified of heights so we quietly changed places halfway through our exercises. Terri did her sit ups and then mine while I climbed the ropes for both of us.

The gym teacher never noticed.

3. I lived in an unheated house in Vermont for a year with my daughter, two ponies, a wolf, a dog, a cat and a rabbit. I made a wood stove out of a galvanized garbage can and chopped wood every morning. When the pipes froze in late September, my daughter and I visited a hot tub in Montpelier every day so we could shower, then hauled a dozen plastic gallon jugs with a rope harness three miles up the mountain to our house by foot because our car couldn't navigate the ice.

When we left Vermont, I pulled a loaded two-horse trailer with an old Plymouth Duster to Florida, camped in the Ocala National Forest through two hurricanes, then continued to Western North Carolina, where we lived for several years.

4. At 16, my best friend and I tried to cross Long Island Sound in a rowboat. About halfway to Connecticut, she lost her oar and we were unable to row with only one. A Coast Guard helicopter found us drifting long after dark and sent a boat to rescue us.

5. In my late teens, I regularly bought Ebony Magazine and took it on the subway, hoping to pass for Black. I always felt vaguely uncomfortable being White, as if there had been a mistake which I didn't know how to rectify.

6. When I was 17, I was home alone when a young woman knocked on the door. She said that she was from an orphanage and the orphan who sold the most magazine subscriptions would get a scholarship and a chance at a better life. I sat her at our kitchen table and gave her a veritable feast of everything in the refrigerator, and ordered a dozen magazine subscriptions in my parents' names.

A week later, her picture was in the paper. She and her male accomplice had murdered another young woman in my town and burglarized her home. She was not a 17 year old orphan but a 28 year old serial killer, and I have always wondered if the meal I gave her saved my life.

7. I once stole something. It was a Peruvian wall hanging, which adorns the wall behind my computer now. I hid it for years because I was convinced that the police were looking for me, and it made me so sick to my soul that I never stole anything again.

When my ex-husband happened upon it years later, I told him that I had gotten it "for a very good price."

I have done this meme before as variously ten,nine and eight weird things about myself. I did them at different times and there is some repetition, but I think this one is all new stuff.

I'm betting that after this, there is nothing left that anyone wants to know about me.

I am not going to assign this to anyone specific as there have been so many versions of it in the blogosphere, but if you yearn to do it, please, please do. And let me know!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Misery Loves Company


I curled up fetally on the bed in mid-afternoon because there was a kangaroo inside my head, kicking me to death from the inside. I moaned a few times and asked Flip if he could squeeze out a tear or two, even if he didn't mean it, for me.

I get disgustingly maudlin when I'm sick.

"It would have to be a matter of life or death. If you were dying, I would cry," he said.

"Man, you strike a hard bargain," I said. "Presbyterians got no soul."

I am normally the stoic one around here; he is the whiner. Everything I know about whining I learned from Flip.

Here is how many times I have sneezed today: 4,579,563. 4. 5...

It seemed a good time to make a last feeble attempt to cram a lifetime of unfulfilled wishes into what was undoubtedly my last few days. Hours, maybe. I really hate that I've left so much 'til the last minute.

I told Flip of my lifelong desire to be given a surprise birthday party. I suggested that my next one would be a good place to start.

He said, "You could die on your birthday. That would be a surprise."

Bad move on his part as his birthday was last month, and he didn't die. Yet.

We are no longer speaking. Which he may not have noticed since I have laryngitis and can't speak. I just hope he realizes that if I could, I wouldn't. Not to him, anyway.

When I was five, I had the only birthday party of my childhood. Arlene Davin from down the street was not invited as she was six years older, my brother’s age, but she came anyway and demanded a piece of cake for her mother, the shut-in. She grabbed a knife and took half of my birthday cake, which was beautiful.

My mother had ordered it from George’s Bakery and it had sugary white icing with pink roses and crushed, toasted almonds smooshed all around the sides. There were no leftovers. I had hoped to live off that cake for months. I couldn’t understand why my mother didn’t protect it.

Sometimes I accompanied my mother to a chicken store next to the bakery where they did their own butchering. The floor was thickly covered with sawdust, which I kicked around to entertain myself while my mother interviewed dead chickens for our dinner.

Here's what I have eaten today:

Healthy Choice Chicken Noodle Soup, one can
Red Oval Stoned Wheat Thins, one box
One orange
One banana
Cough drops of every flavor known to woman. (My last cold was in January. This link will explain about the cough drops.)


I am wearing my red flannel pajamas, the only ones I have. My traditional sick gear. By an incredible coincidence, Crankster at Cranky Old Bastard has awarded me the Blog Most Likely To Inspire Pajamas Award. Or something.

He envisions me in something black and dark green with red sequins. Slinky, naturally. Of silk.

Trust me, there is nothing slinky about my old red flannels which get hauled out, moth holes and all, as soon as a cold reaches life-threatening proportions, my fever soars like an eagle, and I am called upon to debate whether I want to be buried or burned.

The CEO of The Morning Meeting has also awarded me the pajama award. There must be something in the air. (Germs.) Wow. Two pairs of pajamas, just when I need them most. Thanks, guys.

I think the idea is to figure out what kind of pajamas would be appropriate for other bloggers.

Chani at Thailand Gal - that's easy. Her pj's would be Thai silk with contrasting scarf over one shoulder, tucked out of reach of the Farang Satay.

Claudia at On a Limb With Claudia would wear her Wonder Woman togs, which I suspect she wears under her street clothes anyway to avoid changing in phone booths.

Josie at C'est La Vie would retire dressed as Botticelli's "Venus on the Half Shell." And she'd look damn good in it, too.

Eslocura at Eslocura's Asylum would wear baby doll pajamas in wine silk with matching ashtray for that ubiquitous cigar.

And David of Witnessing Am I, lucky dog, as the only man at the slumber party, would be in maroon-lined black silk smoking jacket, Gatsby elegant, worn with gray sweats from Gap.

If I don't survive the night, it's been great and I will haunt miss you all.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I Wonder What Cats Eat in Italy

It has come to my attention that cats do not commit suicide like humans and lemmings. They go to The Court of Last Resort instead.

Flip decided to discipline Truffle-the-Cat, who has learned to ring her own dinner bell by rattling knobs on furniture when she's hungry. She does it increasingly loud and fast if ignored. I think she's brilliant, if annoying, and this performance always makes me laugh.

He covered the preferred knobs with a big pillow and stated that there needs to be a time in which nothing happens before we feed her.

I assured him that she would be most impressed with this little lesson in patience.

She flicked her eyes at the pillow as impersonally as a flyswatter kills a fly, then hightailed it to me without missing a beat because she knows that I control the kitchen while Flip merely has privileges.

I made pasta tonight. This should not be taken lightly, because I make some of the best pasta on the planet, despite the fact that I am not Italian. (Nobody's perfect.)

Truffle was fed canned chicken, of which she is an enthusiastic consumer, a half hour before we sat down to dinner, but immediately began her tired old usual performance, the one in which she pathetically arranges herself in my line of vision looking miserable. Even hungry, when we both know that is not the case.

For Truffle, it is not really about the food, but about being included. She is big on breaking bread with her pride, kibitzing over the bloody carcass and perhaps licking blood off each other's whiskers.

Her feelings are hurt if she is not fed at precisely the moment we eat, even if she is already stuffed to bursting.

It gets old.

She cannot be reasoned with. She is 17 years old and has the social requirements of an antebellum Southern lady. She despises rudeness, and I am guilty of extreme rudeness every time I ignore her pitiful countenance and feed myself.

So I put a little capellini in her bowl, with a small topping of my excellent sauce. From my own plate. I cut it into tiny pieces since she knows nothing about twisting pasta with a fork. That pesky thumb thing again.

I beamed at her encouragingly.

She strolled across the room as casually as possible when you have four legs and a tail, and delicately sniffed her bowl.

She turned her head toward the table, utterly appalled, and made eye contact with me, incredulous that we could eat anything that had no chicken, tuna or mackerel in it. And even more incredulous that I expected her to eat it, too.

She pointed her tail toward the ceiling and with as much dignity as she could muster with a swaying belly, sailed out of the kitchen.

I know I will pay for this fleeting pleasure later, when I am sleeping and she creeps up and lounges on my head, pulling every single hair that grows there.

Meanwhile, back at the blog, Pool at My Reflecting Pool has given me a "Be The Blog" award. I'm not sure how to be a blog, but I guess I could learn.

She says, "This badge is for bloggers who make their blog their own, stay with it, interact with their readers, and have fun!"

Well, thank you, Pool! If not for my readers, I would have stopped blogging long ago.

I started to compile a list of people to give it to and realized that to do so would imply that all the others I read don't do those things. You all do, and are far too numerous to mention. So while I am grateful to Pool for honoring me, I will raise a glass here to every one of you, including Pool, who interact with me and share your wonderful selves in post after post.

Here's to all of us in our delightful and varied community that grows bigger and more inclusive every day! I am so very happy to know you and consider you my friends.

You really must come over for pasta, hold the cat food, soon.

Six Meme

The Individual Voice from her blog of the same name has tagged me with a meme of guilty sixes.

Six has always been my favorite number. I won't say my "lucky number" because it hasn't panned out yet, but still, I like it. I was born in the sixth month, and my birth day is divisible by six. I prefer rounded numbers and letters to angular ones. And then, of course, "guilty" is the name of my blog so I have a lot of stored-up guilt.

SIX GUILTY PLEASURES NO ONE WOULD SUSPECT ME OF HAVING

1. Blogging addictively. Although I'm sure that other bloggers would and do suspect me of this, real life people probably have no idea as I am able to fake normalcy fairly well.
2. Kidnapping abused dogs and finding them better homes
3. Believing that if I only had chocolate cake, everything would be better
4. Being a sticker bush when I am treated as if my needs don't matter
5. Not automatically respecting authority, and in fact, usually distrusting it. My respect has to be earned.
6. Trying to cuss creatively when I feel the need to express myself derisively


SIX GUILTY PLEASURES I WISH I HAD THE COURAGE TO INDULGE

1. Hang gliding
2. Submitting my writing to a publisher
3. Returning to acting
4. Stowing away on a boat to the South Pacific
5. Racing horses
6. Standing up for myself, no matter who I need to confront

SIX PLEASURES I ONCE CONSIDERED GUILTY BUT HAVE EITHER ABANDONED OR MADE PEACE WITH

1. Moving around a lot. I am the kind of person who moves to a place because I can't afford to vacation there. This is probably not optimal.
2. Stealing flowers from public places. I abandoned this one when I grew a conscience.
3. Buying more books and plants than anybody really needs, constantly and without remorse
4. Photographing fathers interacting tenderly with their young daughters
5. Giving stink eye to people who blow smoke in my direction, especially from cigars, and cretins who don't clean up after their dogs
6. Morning coffee to the extent that I get headaches if I don't have any

If you want to do this meme, you're tagged. No pressure. But if you do, please let me know so I won't miss it.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Slouching Towards Compassion


Today is the anniversary of my father's death forty-two years ago, and for forty-two years I have struggled to come to an understanding of him and especially, his frequently unsupportive treatment of me. In a post I wrote on this date last year, I tried to explore some memorable aspects of his dramatic personality.

His favoritism of my older brother is legendary in our family, and while much of it was doubtless gender-related, I punished myself further by believing that my brother must be more worthy of our father's love and respect than I. We will never know if he grew up to be a more confident adult because of his early and continuous nurturing, or whether it was simply in his stars.

I think it matters more that we have both survived our lives so far and try to be the best we can than whether one of us had a head start. Any other view is absurd at this point, but it occurs to me that none of us is immune to snobbishness of one kind or another. It's easy to feel condescending toward those who seem not to have suffered as much as we have. It isn't so much a competitive thing, but we tend to believe that people who have had easier lives are incapable of understanding real suffering.

When such unwelcome (and unworthy) thoughts about others invade my consciousness, I remind myself that it's not their fault they haven't suffered. Isn't our main goal a suffering-free world, after all? We don't get to pick and choose who gets that.

We all have our own karma, and there is no worldly explanation for why everything seems to come easily to some people while others never quite manage to have their needs met.

Since truth is where we stand to look at a thing, we can't ever know the suffering in another's heart. A perfect life, seen from afar, is an inaccurate perception at best.


Everyone experiences suffering sooner or later. This provides endless opportunities to practice kindness and compassion, for there would be no other reason for us to witness it.

That said, it probably is harder to come to a place of real compassion from a privileged life than from one of hardship. We have to know how suffering feels before we can recognize it in others. We can't always avoid pain, but we can choose how to respond to it. We can become bitter, envious and stingy with both material things and affection, or we can grow compassion.

Like charity, compassion begins at home. When we are unable to love ourselves, it is impossible to open our hearts and minds to others.

Too many of us have been taught that we must always place others ahead of us, that humility demands we put ourselves down so we will not become immodest or self-important. Perhaps we were trained in these behaviors so our parents could control us more easily. They were the ultimate authority, and we learned early in life that it was easier to go with the program, which does not, however, serve us well as adults.

Perhaps the hardest thing to achieve is a state of balance. Taking care of others while also tending to our own needs. It's a cliche that we cannot give from an empty well, yet we all lead busy lives with many responsibilities and commitments. It's inevitable that someone will be short-changed, and that someone is usually ourselves. It is not possible to maintain such a pace forever, though, and eventually we begin to feel neglected. We turn to others to give us what we need, but they are also overextended and have little to give.

This vicious cycle must be broken because it leads to nothing but wheel spinning and resentment as we begin to measure out what we give to others and what they give us in return, hardly a breeding ground for compassion. Or even worse, we tell people of our sacrifices on their behalf, which completely negates the gift and leaves its recipient feeling terrible and used.

When I was in the Social Work field, some of my colleagues liked to shout their own praises from the rooftops. They seemed to have chosen such work to assuage their own fears that they were not good enough and constantly needed to prove their worth.

Mother Teresa was too busy ministering to her flocks to worry about her efforts being noticed.

Contemplating my father's life and death today, I am struck by the fact that perhaps he taught me my most important lesson: "If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?" (Rabbi Hillel, born around 65 BCE; many of the teachings attributed to Jesus were in fact borrowed from him.)

Such a complicated business, this compassion, a goal that is never quite achieved. Our work is never done. But is there really a better way to spend our lives than in cultivating it?


“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”
-Dalai Lama-

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

¡ Ya Vote´!


There was a Mayoral election today in San Francisco. The incumbent, who attempted to make gay marriage legal and admitted to having an affair with his campaign manager's wife, is up against a field of thirteen with names like Chicken, Grasshopper, and Billy Bob, who must be on loan from Tennessee.

I like our Mayor. I think he's a hot stud good guy, and agreed with his stand on gay marriage because I also don't believe that love can or should be legislated.

One of the candidates, an Indy journalist blogger, refused to turn over his tapes of a protest last summer. In a First Amendment showdown, he was jailed on civil contempt charges.

This city can always be counted on as a testing ground for political beliefs.

Another challenger qualified for public financing of his campaign. Since political candidates are not required to refund unused campaign contributions, this has given me an idea: Maybe next time, I'll run for Mayor, too.

We'll need to figure out what I stand for by then. Are you with me? Who's a player?

There was a porta-stall in front of the polling place, which could have been confusing. Visions of Mr. Magoo danced like sugar plums in my head. For some city offices, there was only one candidate, yet we were importuned to vote for a second and third choice, all of whom must be different. It was Communist Russia deja vu, where people were allowed to vote for or against a single candidate.

The best part of the process was feeding our oversized ballots into a big purring machine, a page at a time, and being rewarded with a sticker that says "I voted" in Spanish, English and Chinese.

On the way home, we stopped for espresso and croissants at a coffee shop presided over by an Asian St. Pauli Girl. Va-VOOM. Flip, of course, claimed not to notice the immense welcoming globes bulging out of the barista's tiny apron as she bent over him repeatedly while delivering our order.

I claimed that if his eyesight is that bad, he needs a white cane and a seeing eye dog. Braille lessons. Maybe a horticulture class with emphasis on seedless watermelons.

I tipped her especially well because they can't have been cheap, especially if she bought them by the yard.

I Have Given My Life to Laundry


I decided to try a launderette nearer to home than the one I've been going to. I was delighted that I was the only customer in the place.

After I had used up both my quarter rolls, I tried to get change of a ten dollar bill in the change machine, but it wouldn't work even though my bill was almost mint-crisp with no dogeared corners.

The place had a dry-cleaning plant in the back, so I went to the window and tried to get someone's attention. It took awhile because the attendant was on a smoke break and didn't want to be bothered.

I explained the problem, and she asked if I was doing laundry there. (They don't make change for mere interlopers.) I said that I was. She grudgingly dragged out a rusty can that looked as if it should hold bait, and started piling quarters on the counter. I wouldn't have believed it possible to count money in a hostile manner.

She clearly hated me with the hate of many generations. Every one of her ancestors was present and hating me through her. She was an ICBM of hatred, beamed directly at my heart.

I thanked her for the change. She scowled at me in response and muttered something I didn't understand. Which was probably just as well.

The front door was open and a Nor'easter was whipping through the place. I was wearing a thin sweater and had wet hair. It was freezing, so I got up and closed the door.


A man who also worked there immediately came out from behind the counter and yanked it open.

It was hard to turn the pages of my book because my fingers were stiff and turning blue. I asked him if it was all right to shut the door.

He screamed at me in mostly unintelligible syllables, the gist of which was that it was stuffy in the back so the front door had to remain open. I doubted that because there was a door open in the back and the temperature was subarctic, so when he returned to the back area, I closed the door again.

He barreled out of his den of iniquity, swearing at me in Chinese, and opened it again. He was waving his arms menacingly, and to make matters worse, I had already spent more money than the overpriced place I usually go to because the dryers were set so low. I was covered in goose bumps.

I do not have a natural affinity for servility, and the idea of actually rewarding such gratuitous nastiness with even more money was untenable.

I loaded up my still-wet laundry, piled it into my three baskets, and drove to the usual place which seemed to be bathed in a golden light.

Why had I never noticed this before? The door was firmly closed, and the warmth of the dryers melted my icy bones like an embrace.

I lugged in a huge stack of magazines to donate, which I hadn't wanted to leave at the other place.

The owner, an elderly Chinese man named Ben, came in to collect his quarters and gave me a sweet-scented flower from his garden.

"I hoped you would be here," he said.

With one act of kindness, he erased my bad experience from the other place.

It seems that love really is stronger than hate. Who knew?

Friday, November 02, 2007