Friday, March 24, 2006

la guerra

We are a fairly bilingual-resistant culture. The media rarely presents dual language messaging in spite of the significant and growing numbers Hispanic citizens. Predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods may see some billboards in Spanish, but mainstream newspaper, radio and television remain firmly segregated from their brown counterparts.

So, when I saw an advertisement in both languages on the front webpage of an online newspaper, I was pleased. Then I realized this well-designed, bilingual ad was for the US Army.

I understand that the way into the room is sometimes through a side door. Integrating the military almost 60 years ago gave Blacks one more bit of leverage in the fight for civil rights. But one of the most conservative branches of government has jumped onto the bilingual bandwagon because its numbers are down and, forgive the liberal cliché, because it needs fodder for its war machine.

We need to acknowledge and learn to be a better bilingual society. Some people think that the tactics of "los militares" is a first step, regardless of the motivation. Maybe. But I still think it stinks.

Monday, March 20, 2006

outlook

In this case, I am actually referring to the (hiss) Microsoft product...but in a generic sort of way. Outlook is the ubiquitous corporate email and scheduling standard. Like many such programs, it provides single click access to your calendar and a laundry list of customizable features.

Whenever I begin to forget why I chose the worker bee tier on the corporate organization chart (or what I affectionately like to call, The Circle Jerk Goes Rectangular) I click on my Outlook calendar and bask in the pristine, sandy beach of the No Meetings Resort. No meetings. Or very, very few. That's the price I pay for passing on the higher salary/bigger office perks of being a manager. What a deal. I get to do what I like to do and don't have to sit around in corporate meetings that bore and irritate the everloving shit out of me. It's a healthy reminder of a conscious choice.

The other Outlookish benefit is the Rules feature. Sort of like call blocking or screening but much more specific. I wish to god I had this power in my personal life. For instance, you currently can block calls from a pesky acquaintance or screen a loquacious relative but you can't specify a situational exception—the call would come through if the topic was, let's say, a death in the family or hey, a tornado is heading your way. Anyway, with Outlook, you can make a rule to move group-addressed emails from a nuisance co-worker right into your crap folder. However, if you are working on a project with said nuisance, any email specifically addressed to you will come through without a hitch. Perhaps you have a friend 3 degrees removed who insists on sending you one of the cursed three "j" emails (junk, jesus, jokes), you could specify a schlock topic that would hit your "j" filter and clatter to the ground unseen.

And don't get me started on the real life needs for an an equivalent to the escape key, delete key and undo function. You know you have reached the no-return level of computer nerdiness when you are pouring seasoning into your pasta sauce, the perforated seasoning lid falls off and a decent sauce is instantly oregano-poisoned...and your first thought is "Control-Z, Control-Z, dammit!"

Saturday, March 18, 2006

maternal quandry

My daughter is moving toward being a vegan. I welcome this when I consider the alternative to structuring one's life that hyper-christianity offers. I like to joke that I'm an evangelical canivore but this is not to say that I am uninformed on nutritional issues. Knowing that red meat is unhealthy, however, has not eclipsed my shameless love for good steak. Which isn't to say that diet is responsible for the distance I feel between my dear child and me. It's just a good metaphor for our relationship.

I had hoped that adulthood would find us better friends. I hoped that the comparatively short period of conflict we experienced during her college years would have mostly mended. While it doesn't wreck me as it once did, this gulf between us, it does make me sad and wary of reaching out. It's about erosion for me. About not understanding how our conversations became debating minefields (I exaggerate, but the essence is true for me). How tired I feel knowing that almost anything I say from compliment to opinion is going to be dismissed or refuted.

She would probably disagree.

P.S. After a thinking about all this, all I have to add is that she is wonderful and I miss her. It doesn't make sense because when she's here I'm not at ease...but that's just how being a mother can warp a woman.

death

Rebecca Ann Miller 1958-1980
26 years ago today, my sister-in-law was killed in a car accident. We were both 21 years old at that time. Becky's death changed my life in a number of profound and subtle ways. Not the least of which is the textbook way a peer's death forces you to deal with your own mortality. I also learned a lot about the duality of her life: the good little girl image portrayed for family and church juxtaposed against the more daring vamp she was in her other, hidden life. I can't even speculate which was the "true" person or which personality was just a reflection of the world around her. My fascination was with living in two worlds. Something I had never done and moreover, felt incapable of doing. I felt both superior to and envious of the life she led.

Many of Becky's belongings, particularly those from her wilder side (that were distasteful and disturbing for her religious parents to see) came to me. And fueled the awakening that had already begun in me...that following all the rules may not, in fact, lead to joy. That my life was out of balance and the controlled side of me was ruling to the detriment of the passionate side. A simple idea, but for a devout Mormon girl struggling with salvation and damnation, it was like being knocked to the ground by a lineman.

When I examine the significant events on the path of my life, the timeframe of profound change is usually fuzzy—occurring over the course of years, with an accumulation of experiences factored in. Some however, are more easily pinpointed: "here is where the road forked and this is the path I took." Becky's death marked just that kind of crystalline change.

Since that time, of course, there have been many deaths. Not the least of these was her brother, my ex-husband, who died almost four years ago of a brain tumor. I feel the need to qualify that my life with Barbara is rich and full of joy, but that doesn't mean that I don't feel his absence—at times with inexplicable acuteness. Our relationship was, like most youthful, terminated marriages: a patchwork of love and hate. Then there was the loss of Karl, one of our dearest friends, who died of AIDS at the ripe old age of 34. He followed Bill, Raymond and Rob. Janet had MS, Barbara had breast cancer, Tom was killed on the highway during a particularly bad storm, and on and on.

mortality and irony
There has been some morbid jocularity at work over the
tragic and ironic death of Miss Deaf Texas. She was text-messaging while walking close to the train tracks and didn't hear the train. That snow plow thing in front is wider than she expected, evidently. Of course, it's not funny for a young girl to lose her life. But the tragedy precipitates the incredulous response, what the hell was a deaf girl doing so close the train tracks? Isn't that one of the first things you learn when you're born with this kind of disability?
Don't position yourself anywhere where the ability to hear is a deciding factor in your survival. My son is color blind, so he won't be working on the bomb squad (the green wire or the red wire? it's all gray to him...). Everything is so clear in hindsight.

Okay. But this, the Darwin Awards, the speculation that Becky would have probably lived had she been wearing her seatbelt, Karl might be alive if he'd insisted on safe sex...underscores our collective insecurity. If we can clearly point out the foolishness of the another's demise, we might be able to cheat Death for a little while longer. Regular check-ups, whole grains, burglar bars, airbags, avoiding dark alleys and intravenous drugs, using condoms and taking martial arts classes are our arsenal.


But, of course, this comfort is shattered every time a perfectly healthy, cautious, sane human being is plucked from our midst. Like the
school teacher in Culver City, California who was walking her little brood of students when two quarreling motorists lost control of their car and jumped the sidewalk.

I have no final conclusion (pun unintended but cheerfully welcomed). I vacillate between the fear of losing my loved ones to realizing that it's all a crapshoot. Mostly, I just want to be as truthful as I can be. And when I go, if there is any irony in my exit, I damn well expect all of you to laugh. Because I sure as hell would.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

miscellanea

Words
The pen is mightier than the sword. The anagram of sword is words. Words can wound and words can heal but weapons are pretty much designed to destroy. Yet, as much as violence disturbs me, in certain circumstances, the knowledge that there's a sword behind the words (a mugging victim's mace or kick-boxing skills, for trite example) does indeed add to their power. Or am I blinded by Uma Thurman's ridiculously gorgeous moves in Kill Bill?

Sick of the sound of my own voice
I wish I could replace the need to talk with writing. Both help sort out the cacaphony of information and turmoil and contradictions of everyday life. But talking...talking needs a listener, a conversational partner. And has the potential immediate vulnerability that writing does not have. You may be turned away by the reader but you don't have to deal with that at the same moment you are poking at your exposed underbelly and trying to figure out from whence the pain emanates.

Do shitty things unto others and you will be shat upon?
Do all wrongs committed lead to some negative? They say that human progress, "righteous" wars, etc., must involve some carnage, some casualties. In our personal lives it seems, it would be better to stop using this excuse and consider that most hateful acts return to us. Everyday in the news, I read about someone who used, abused, cheated or destroyed someone else for their own pleasures/goals/plans of world domination. Over and over I hear the observer people say, how could anyone do that? How do you marry for money? How can you kill civilians in war and just write it off? How do you sleep at night when your deceptions have cost hundreds of people their life's savings? It must be distance. The ability to distance ourselves from the results of our greed or weakness. And that is a human trait. Goddammit, I need to stop reading the paper.

Active off
I've finished Natalie Angier's Beauty of the Beastly. It did not disappoint. She writes about certain genes, chromosomes, etc. being "turned off," which explains why some traits, diseases or abnormalities do or don't occur. But it's not like a switch. Or a roadblock. In some cases, another component (protein, enzyme, etc.) actively keeps things in the off position. Not unlike the famed finger in the dike, the raison d'etre of something in the cell is to supress something else. Active off. It's fascinating. I've started her book Woman; An Intimate Geography. It both challenges and confirms theories and notions that I've mused about for most of my adult life. It also confirms what Common Sense continues to scream out loud: Truth is fluid and new information does and should cause us to reexamine what we "know." Science and religion are in the business of explaining shit. Science just makes more sense.

What the Bleep
What the Bleep Do We Know? keeps creeping back into my consciousness. Attitude. Unmined power. Possibilities.

Big Boobs obsession migrates to the farmyard
We bought some chicken breasts the other day. Supersized, it seems. Made me want to peek under the skin for implants. A little freakish. And one wonders, are the thighs growing at same rate? Or do we have these poultry porn stars pushing their pecs around the farmyard like mammarian bulldozers?

Holy Communion Cannibal Miracle
In preparing for my menopause party, I did some research on saints and the whole bleeding heart thing...because, well, I love a theme. The shit that floated to the surface is amazing. Here are just two tidbits about the holy communion wafer miraculously transformed into flesh. I can't keep the phrase "Savor your Savior" from running through my head.

http://www.marypages.com/NajuKorea.htm
Holy literal eucharist
http://dsanford.com/miraclehost.html
and again: Welcome to the Burning & Bleeding Host of Betania, Venezuela website.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

menopaulooza

I had a menopause party for myself last week. It was one of my all-time favorite parties.

There was an altar complete with hand-dipped candles (red, por supuesto) and one noble flaming tampon candle
(Tampons are, in fact, all wick, so they burn like motherfuckers.)—all thanks to Justine, the traveling candlemaker. St. Dymphna and St. Barbara were prominently displayed (Patron Saint of Nervous Disorders and the Patron Saint of Ammunitions just go hand-in-hand) surrounded by fertility foods and other offerings. Flanking each side of the center candle were kotex pad boxes from the 80's that I, um, lifted from a company that hadn't updated their decor in 25 years either.

Lori mixed the music ("change" and "hot" themes were amply covered) and the drinks. She created a new drink in my honor: Enita's Estrogen Elixir. I was touched and drank many glasses to show my appreciation. Mary made marzipan uteri party favors that looked and tasted great. Eileen made me a menopause headdress that still sits on the gargoyle in the livingroom. Red feathers proud, pantiliner cap cradling its head and tampon fringe intact. Cyndi and Lola found congratulations cards that were oddly menopausal-appropriate...very impressive. So many of my favorite people in one room. Everyone ate, drank and made merry. Three of my male friends braved the double-x concentration and showed up. Those are real men, people. I was delighted, to say the least.
We had red uterus/fallopian balloon "animals" scattered about, with small white balloon "ova," bobbing farewell to egg production. On the wall near the door was mounted a very old, steel Kotex dispenser. In use when pads cost a nickel and you didn't mind that they were mattress-like because you were so grateful that you didn't have to wear that awful belt anymore...yes, adhesive pads! Loaded into the working box were more party favors–each attendee had to insert a nickel, turn the lever and out popped their prize (a box containing their own tampon candle and chocolate eggs, of course).

I'm only sorry I didn't get to the vulva napkin-folding or have time to make signs of the endless, ridiculous puns in my head:

Welcome to Enita’s Uterine Retirement Fiesta!Welcome to Enita’s Early Menopause Celebration!
Welcome to Sister Enita’s Blessed Infertility Carnival!
Welcome to Enita’s-I’m-Giving-Up-Eggs-for-Lent Mardi Gras!
Welcome to Enita’s “Farewell to Dot” Festival!
Hook ‘em Horns! (see invitation below)
Ova No Va
Fertility Obituary:
1972—2005
37 years of loyal service
Only 2 Occupants
More than 350 trial runs
The invitation: