Friday, September 30, 2005

Rant For a Dark Day


Ugh! It’s a dark day today. I’ve a feeling this is going to be our first taste of the winter rains. It’s one of those days when it never fully achieves daylight. Mid-afternoon, and I still have lights on all over the house just trying to keep the darkness at bay.

A day like this brings to mind America’s current political climate. Dark, ugly, depressing… I can’t seem to muster any excitement about Tom DeLay finally being indicted, or Bill Frist being under investigation, or the release of Judith Miller pushing the Rove/Libby/Plame affair back into the foreground. Or even the political car wreck of the hurricane Katrina response. The principals, along with right-wing media all over the country, simply wave their flags all the more feverishly and scream that the corruption, conniving, and just plain incompetence of the Republican elite are merely "political attacks" by their enemies. And the American people continue to swallow this hogwash by the (oil) tanker-truckload.

And I don’t see the Democratic party presenting itself as the solution, the calm voice of reason, in any of this. To my eyes, the Democrats either come off as needlessly piling on after the hit (**flag** Personal Foul!!) or petrified to just take the lead and go, in case no one follows. I guess they haven’t noticed that no one is following anyway… I just grind my teeth, shake my head and wonder what they are waiting for.

And the American people…what is our excuse? How many times do we have to hear Mr. Bush whine the word "terr’ist" when pontificating about the Iraq War (which does not now and never did have anything to do with the war on terror…) while conveniently forgetting to mention that we have not yet, nor have we even come close, to apprehending the actual perpetrators of the terrorist attack on our soil? Why is it that we sit and shrug our shoulders when the Republican National Committee sends out a memo calling for the"Daschel-ization" of the new Democratic Congressional leadership, but we cry out "Hey, no fair!" when Tom DeLay bawls about being persecuted by his political enemies? Why do we clutch our breasts in horror that the opposition party would dare "politicize a disaster" like Hurricane Katrina, but we slapped our hands over our hearts or snappily saluted our Commander-in-Chief when he and his administration did exactly that with the September 11th Terrorist Attacks?

Our intrepid president and his administration sit in their ivory tower and conspire to fully complete their agenda which has elevated Business, wealth, and the worship of the almighty dollar as the power that runs this country and will keep it running (so we all owe it our unfailing allegiance.) The thing at which they work the hardest, the task to which the most man-hours of the Bush Administration are dedicated, I’m convinced, is maintaining and increasing the divide between their "friends" and their "enemies." Making it all about winners and losers. Making it about backing the President and the Republican Party, because no one wants to be a loser. Blinding the American electorate with the emotional frenzy of the fight, so that they fail to see how they’re being manipulated. The real horror of all this is, how well it has worked so far.

Dark days, dismal days…no spark or glowing ember to flock around and fan to full brilliance, to drive the darkness back, to keep it at bay. The only way to maintain any sanity at all is to know that, without an iota of help from any human agency, Spring always comes around again eventually.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Mothers, Children, Childlessness and Legacies

Years ago, we had a dog, a bitch actually, named Nikki. "Nik the Dog." We let her have one litter of pups before we had her spayed…someone told us that was the thing to do. She got pregnant, got big as a house, and dutifully gave birth, depositing the first whelp in the middle of the basement floor. And then she looked at those strange, wriggly little creatures that had issued forth from her own body as if she had absolutely no idea what to do with them. She reminded me, for all the world, of my own mother.

Mom never talked much about her childhood. I don’t think it was a great time for her. Even though she was younger by almost a decade than her two brothers, the only daughter and the "baby" of the family, she was not petted, spoiled, or coddled. Or even particularly parented, except by those selfsame older brothers who were drafted to mind the inconvenient tag-a-long. Her dad was ill, and her mother hired out as a housekeeper to keep food on the table. Mom was a latch-key kid decades before there were latch-key kids. Which may explain why she never developed a knack for parenting. Any female animal can bear offspring, but nurturing those progeny—being a mother—is not necessarily instinctive. It’s a learned behavior. And when you spend most of your childhood raising yourself, whom do you use as a role model?

But, like my dog, Mom dutifully procreated. Not, I think, because it was what she had dreamed of doing all her life, but because it was what you did. She always said that she and Dad planned to have four children (which, being #5, always rankled me a little.) They were so pleased with my oldest sister, and they were such a cute little post-war family. Joyce was almost three years old when my next sister was born. Pretty good planning! But then, they just seemed to lose control. Twenty-six months later, came number three. Ooops…just sixteen months between number three and number four. And, speaking of "oops," two years later the "complete" family added a seventh member. I can’t get my arms around the idea that my parents enjoyed sex so much that, despite practicing that ever-so-reliable method of baby-boom birth control—the "rhythm method"—they just couldn’t contain themselves, and got caught coloring outside the lines that many times. We were a houseful, and way more, I think, than my mother ever realized she had signed up for. She probably could have stopped at two, or maybe even one, and been a much happier and more successful parent. Rather than the harried, bedraggled, overweight, overwhelmed housewife she became. When the last of the brood was packed safely off to school, Mom divorced the house and went to work. By the time I was nine, she was working full-time, and never looked back.

It’s no wonder, then, that I don’t have a maternal bone in my body. I am my mother’s child, even though there could not be two more opposite personalities on the face of the earth. Luckily for me, and for any children I might have produced under the duress of societal pressure, women of my generation could, and often did, choose to remain childless. Still, my childlessness is more an accident of nature than an act of will. I was married at twenty-one, and stopped taking my pills at twenty-five, ready to give myself over to whatever happened, but not terribly enthusiastic about it. Pregnancy did NOT happen, and, we soon found out, was not likely to happen without a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and money. It didn’t make much sense to brave that road, to get to a destination about which I was, at best, ambivalent. Nature wisely took the decision out of my hands.

Like any childless woman of my age, I sometimes look back and wonder if I made the right decision. But really, I wonder for all the wrong reasons. I don’t feel the ache of empty arms and womb. I selfishly ponder who will care for me when I am old…who will remember me when I die…who will get my "stuff," such as it is, when I no longer need it. At times, when I see women my age enjoying the fruits of their labors of love—watching with mixed emotions as their precious chicks try their wings and fly from the nest—I get the feeling that I missed out on a very important aspect of life. But then I realize that, in all probability, based on my own upbringing, I would have been a rotten parent. I can’t help but think that my, "If it happens, it happens," attitude would not have stood me in very good stead for bringing up children in these insane times. It was an experience best left untried…because you can’t give them back if you figure out halfway through that you really aren’t any good at it.

So I am challenged to create my legacy some other way, since the "normal" way was sensiblydenied me. I may write, weave, sculpt or build something that will outlive me by some decades. I may say or do something that lives on in the hearts and minds of somebody…anybody…for many years after I go. Or I may fade into oblivion, like a leaf drifting to the forest floor, crumbling to dust and becoming silent fodder for the next generation of living things. Better to have that to look forward to, than to have forged more links in a long chain of damaged, struggling human beings. At least I’ll feel I’ve left the world no worse than I found it.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

HB Coming To Terms

Seven hundred thirty-one days ago (that’s two years, including a leap-day), "Coming to Terms…" sprang forth from my keyboard to the AOL ether-waves. Well, maybe "sprang" isn’t exactly the word. More like clotted, chugged, and coughed. In those early days, posting entries presented challenges—both electronic and verbal—that are now the stuff of distant memory. For the first few weeks, the words sputtered like rusty water from a long-disused faucet. It took hours to compose a satisfactory work, hit the "save" button, and then run smack into that "2500-word-limit" brick wall. Or hit the "save" button and have the words disappear into cyber-limbo, never to be seen again…

I got my first comment on my third entry. I learned how to post pictures. I learned how to post BIG pictures. I posted my first political entry. All those little baby steps we all remember with fondness…

I soon realized I had become part of a community of diverse people, all suffering from the common malady of wanting, or needing, to write. People who loved "journal land" to death, hyped the community to the point of burn-out and disappeared. People who bitched, moaned and grumbled about AOL and finally sailed off for brighter shores. People who found that they really couldn’t handle the strain of putting themselves out there for others to read and comment on, and flickered out like dying flames. People who wrote fiction designed to mock our general gullibility. People who immediately got hooked (raising my hand) on the experience, and just kept plugging away, no matter who read (or didn’t.)

And so I carry on, firing my political salvos interspersed with the observations of a hippie-turned yuppie-turned reluctant entrepreneur, being dragged kicking and screaming into middle age. Thanks to all of you who come to visit, particularly these, who have been my friends almost from the beginning: Mary (Alphawoman's blog), Kat (Walk With Me), Cynthia (Sorting the Pieces), Christina (My Journey With Multiple Sclerosis), Karen (Jukebox Woman), Lisa (Wearin' My Heart on my Sleeve) and Gigi (Lotus Martinis)  Taking nothing away from my "younger" (in journal land) friends (you know who you are...)  I just wanted to acknowledge and thank these ladies for hanging in there with me for so long. 

It's been fun, hasn't it?

P.S. In honor of this momentous occasion, I have officially shortened the name of this journal.  It shall, from this day forward, be known as "Coming to Terms..."

Monday, September 19, 2005

A Political Admonishment

This was a totally unproductive weekend, in more ways than one. I didn’t accomplish one thing on my mental "To-Do" list. And I got treated to a grass-roots demonstration of what is wrong with the Democratic Party.

Husband and I attended our town’s little annual festival for a couple of hours Saturday morning. The requisite food, craft, and local business/organization booths were lined up on either side of the street on a two-block stretch of "down town." Near the end of our stroll through the festival, we came across the "Columbia County Democratic Party" booth. It was manned by one sixty-ish, white-haired gentleman who looked like (and later confessed that he was indeed) an accountant. Now, I have nothing at all against accountants…my father was one. Appearance, and the nature of one’s day-job, do not necessarily disqualify one from having the passion and the knowledge to stand behind a table and be the community outreach for the second most powerful political party in the country. But, honestly, they couldn’t have found a less personable, less knowledgeable, less charismatic guy for the job if the Republicans had paid them. And maybe they did.

The whole reason we chanced an encounter with Mr. Democratic Milquetoast to begin with is a supreme annoyance: Husband had signed up at the Democrats’ booth at the County Fair, hoping to be contacted as a volunteer. And had not heard peep one from anyone in the two months since. So we stopped by the booth on Saturday so husband could re-apply to volunteer. Sort of, "Helloooo, is anybody home???" Obviously, the Democrats are making an all-out effort to win hearts and votes out here in Columbia County, Oregon.

To be fair, our congressman is a Democrat, as is our Governor and one of our senators. And Oregon’s Republican senator is actually a respectable guy. So maybe the Democratic Party at large considers us already safely in the fold, and is not expending a whole lot of energy in our direction. This is a huge mistake, and I will tell you why.

The story of my own little family (husband and I) is a great example. In 1984, we were still dutiful little Pentecostal Christians when we picked up roots, left our cozy little fellowship in suburban Chicago, and moved to Oregon. Even though we were immersed in the conservative Christian culture, I could never reconcile my liberal politics with what they preached from the pulpit…so I just stayed away from that aspect of the whole experience. I remained a "closet liberal." And I HATED Ronald Reagan. But I digress…

Come time to register to vote…wife, who had been a registered Independent in Illinois, opted to register as a Democrat. Following the reasoning that the only way to oust the current regime was to vote all Democrat, all the time. And I was truly convinced that the Democratic Party much more closely reflected my personal ideology. Husband, on the other hand, who also had been a registered Independent back in the fatherland, registered as a Republican. Maybe he truly thought that the Republicans were "God’s party." I don’t know. So, for the next twelve years, our votes cancelled each other out.

I guess Bill Clinton is responsible for turning my husband around. Not just Clinton’s capabilities as president, but his victimization by a rabid Republican Party determined to overturn the will of the voters by hook or by crook. The last four years of Clinton’s presidency got husband looking somewhere besides the divisive Republicans for leadership. The first four years of the Bush II regime sent him high-tailing it to the Democrats. Score one back-door victory for the donkeys.

I, on the other hand, as someone who turned to the Democrats twenty years ago looking for a party that represented and advocated my personal ideals, have been nothing but supremely frustrated over the past five years. The 2000 election was highway robbery, and the 2004 election was a grossly unfunny joke. The Bush Administration, with its core constituency consisting of war hawks, blind nationalists, right-wing Christians, and quivering cowards willing to trade civil rights for "security", have taken this country, I am convinced, to the edge of the abyss. Anyone, besides Bush’s big-business beneficiaries, who can say that they or our nation are better off now than they were five years ago, is living in some kind of brain-washed Neverland. And what is the Democratic Party doing about this? Have they formulated a cohesive plan? Have they searched the party for charismatic leaders that can carry their message to disillusioned Americans? Do they HAVE a message for disillusioned Americans? Have they done anything besides stand at polar opposites, feet planted firmly like, well—donkeys, against anything and everything even remotely associated with the Republican Party, just because?

Which brings me to why the complacent Democrats had best not ignore areas like little Columbia County, Oregon, where they feel secure. They need to reach out to folks like ME. The erstwhile party faithful who have been totally turned off by "politics as usual" in this country, and who are most likely to bolt if a new party or independent comes along that speaks to what we believe. Those of us who have come to realize that backing the opposite horse to the one we hate has not brought us political victory, and is not even giving us the satisfaction of feeling we have made the right moral choice. If we have to be on the losing side, we at least want to lose with someone we really believe in, with a platform and a plan that speaks to our ideals. The place, undoubtedly, where the Ralph Nader backers have been for the last two elections. I used to have nothing but disdain for Nader fans. Now, I am beginning to see their point.

Let this be a warning and a wake-up call to the Democratic Party. You cannot afford to assume. You cannot afford to let us "idealists" trickle away. Speak to our ideals, ensure our loyalty. Inspire us to vote for you, because it’s increasingly likely that a vote against the current regime will not necessarily fall in the Democrats’ column. You need to stop the bleeding.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

A Saturday Afternoon in September

Here I am, decrepit (electronic) notebook in my lap, sitting on my back deck, with the low-dipping sun stinging my eyes through the bamboo blind that is supposed to block it. The slight breeze is just a bit chilly, so I bade my husband go upstairs and retrieve my down throw. Between that small blanket, my too-big, bulky blue sweater (a holdover from my pre-diet days, but I had grown so attached to it I couldn’t send it off to Goodwill with the rest of my "fat" clothes), and a glass of "Three-buck Chuck" Cabernet, I am warm and cozy. Husband is twenty feet to my left, beyond the (closed) patio door, reclining on the family room sofa, watching Oregon Duck football. You could eat the contentment in the atmosphere surrounding our home with a spoon.

I love to sit outside this time of year. All the plants that I toiled over in the spring, and fretted over as they suffered through the hot, arid months of the summer, are at their peak now. Through the marvels of modern technology—drip irrigation on timers—they have not only survived the brutal sun, but flourished; in spite of the fact that, for the most part, I have been an "absentee gardener" for most of the last six weeks. My hanging fuchsias spread three feet wide, and nearly as long. My dahlias have triumphed over the slug infestation and are sending forth dozens of bright firecracker blossoms. The bright burgundy and green coleus tower over their planter-mates. My "chocolate mint" scented geranium, tenderly wintered over from last year, is threatening once again to completely dominate its corner of the deck. And my current favorite plant—purple fountain grass, which I planted in boxes in both the front and back gardens—is sending up spike after spike of soft, nodding seed-heads.

For anyone who read my private journal last year, wherein I lamented the demise of the beautiful screen of poplar trees murdered by my new neighbor, here is a funny little tidbit. (I suppose it wouldn’t be too funny, if I hadn’t loved those trees so much, and mourned so at their passing.) Poplar trees have widespread and very shallow roots. And, apparently, one of the ways they reproduce is by throwing off "suckers." Baby trees that come up from the roots of the parent. When my lovely neighbor axed that beautiful row of trees, the instinct of the plant was to rise again. Deprived of those dozen or so twenty-foot-tall trees, all the energy of the roots was poured into producing suckers. And they are everyhwere. All over Mr. Neighbor’s back yard…he mows them like grass. And also in MY yard, as far as 25 to 30 feet from the original trees. (They are even coming up between the boards of my deck L .) I pull most of them like weeds. But I have chosen to nurture a half-dozen of them in strategic places. They are already as tall as I am. God willing, in four or five years, I will have my own poplar screen, teeming with goldfinches and other birds in the summer, and politely dropping their leaves to allow the south-anchored sun to pass through in the winter. For free! Doesn’t nature give us the most unexpected and generous gifts?

There are times when life is just so good, it almost brings tears to my eyes.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Coming Season

Nighttime is growing inexorably longer again, dark hands dragging down the dawn, minute by minute, and pushing the dusk ahead. At this time in my life, longer nights shouldn’t be a welcome thought; they are already tediously lengthened by restive, sleepless hours spent throwing the covers off, and then burrowing back into them twenty minutes later. Yet, autumn has always been a time of awakening for me, much like Spring is for most other people. Something about the angle of the sun, the first tinges of red and yellow appearing among summer-parched leaves, brings a flash of surprise (Yikes! Is summer over already?) and then an itchiness to DO something. Over the years, the turning of the calendar to the month of September has inspired me to plunge head-first into home remodeling, community college classes, major landscaping projects…I seem to accomplish way more during Autumn than I do any other time of year.

I used to think my late-year awakening was a conditioned response. After all, like most humans in this society, I spent thirteen of the first eighteen Septembers of my life embarking upon the life-altering adventure of a new school year. To this day, when the earth-tone plaids, turtlenecks and boots begin to take center-stage in the catalogs and department stores, I’m drawn to them like a lemming to a cliff…until I realize I’m not going anywhere that I will need those lovely trappings...

You would think in the thirty-three intervening years, the "back to school" instinct would have faded. Maybe it has. Maybe my autumn restlessness is due to an even more primal instinct. In the natural world, hibernating animals are at their busiest this time of year—spending every waking hour searching for and consuming anything and everything that will keep them going during the long, somnolent winter days. Perhaps I’m just feathering my nest…preparing my cave for the necessary dormancy of winter. Thankfully, I’m not experiencing the hyperphagia—the irresistible drive to eat anything I can get my paws on. Then again, chocolate, bread, potatoes, and large chunks of red meat are looking awfully good to me these days…as I resignedly inhale my salad and Diet Pepsi.

Whatever the reason, or for no good reason at all, I love Autumn. I welcome it with arms wide, and a hammer, broom, or shovel in my hands. By the time the winter rainssettle in, I’ll have tired myself out enough to be content to sit in front of the fire with a down blanket, a cat, and a book in my lap.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Some facts and figures from MY life:

  • My husband and I now pay almost $5000 annually for health insurance. That’s what WE pay. God knows how much husband’s employer pays. And this is Kaiser health insurance. Traditionally one of the worst HMO’s around. Remember the story a while back about the surgeon in Australia who was finally removed from service due to gross negligence? Like, that he sewed people up and their wounds reopened and their guts fell out? This guy worked for Kaiser in Portland for twelve years.
  • Yesterday, my husband finally saw his Kaiser optometrist for his "10-day follow-up" appointment. The original appointment was May 6. Do the math.
  • This past spring, we purchased the most expensive vehicle we have ever owned. We paid over $20,000 for it. And it is five years old. If it wasn’t for the fact that my business is making the payments, we wouldn’t have bought it at all.
  • Yesterday, a house down the street from us that is exactly the same model as ours, went on the market for almost $100,000 more than we paid for our house a little over four years ago. That is almost a 50% increase over 52 months.
  • Gasoline costs nearly $3 a gallon. An increase of slightly over $1.00 (or 50%) over a year ago. Diesel fuel, which is what my business vehicle runs on, is OVER $3 a gallon. (In southern Oregon, it was going for $3.50 a gallon. Two weeks ago. God knows where it’s at by now.)
  • Grocery prices, including the wholesale groceries I buy for my business, have risen at least 10% over the last six months, and will continue to rise along with the price of gasoline.

My husband grosses over $75,000 a year. Kick in another couple of thousand in income from my little business. Okay. Eighty grand a year. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Especially considering that, ten years ago, we were grossing less than $50,000. Shouldn’t we be on easy street? Or at least circling the neighborhood?  (Instead of the drain?)

For the last three years, come time for husband’s annual performance review and raise, he has been limited to a 3% "costof living" raise. (And happy to receive that, as the company he works for is struggling to find its footing in the import-flooded textile market.) But obviously, with costs rising as meteorically as they are, a 3% increase doesn’t even keep us treading water. We’re being swept backwards, and none too slowly, by the current of rising costs.

Maybe this is not the time to complain about this. Maybe I should be counting my blessings, in view of the hardships that Katrina victims are facing. And in view of the horror that the people of Iraq wake up to every day.

But these are the facts of MY world. These are the challenges that make it that much harder for my hot-flash-wracked brain to turn off in the middle of the night. I lived through the Carter Administration. I lived through the days of double-digit inflation and a 20%-plus prime rate. We bought our first house during those years. And bought two brand new vehicles. And were able to afford the payments, on the salaries of a K-Mart department manager and a kitchen manager at a family restaurant. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index has not shown more than a 3.5% annual increase for any of the last ten years.  But husband and I are going backwards on three times what our gross income was twenty-five years ago.

It’s obvious that the government's "Consumer Price Index" numbers have absolutely nothing to do with what is happening in the real world. Once they "factor out" seasonal fluctuations or volatile commodities, what they have left are these fantasy numbers designed to make it look like the economy is chugging along smoothly and everything is hunky-dory. Theoretically, this is done in order to avoid exacerbating a negative situation by causing a panic. Okay…I can buy that. But when these useless numbers are used to calculate "cost of living" raises, everywhere from Social Security, to the military, to government workers, to the private sector, they are doing us an immense disservice. In short, if they have to publish bullshit numbers, why publish any at all?

Iraq and Katrina aside, what is the Bush Administration doing to address any of this? Cutting taxes. I have news for you, Mr. Bush…you could completely eliminate what my husband and I paid in federal income tax last year, and it would not cover what we have to pay out annually to keep crappy health insurance coverage. So, you have compromised your own agenda in the Middle East, and short-changed the domestic coffers enough to produce the anemic disaster relief effort for which you are now receiving so much (well-deserved) flack…for what? I, and millions of other "Average Jo(sephine)" citizens, are not enjoying any great windfall produced by your largesse.

If this isn’t a hellish mess… If this doesn’t get the American people seriously thinking about "regime change" here on our own shores, I don’t know what will.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


I’ve been tagged!!

I’m probably the last human being in journal land to play this game…but Gayla tagged me, so I must play:

7 Things I Plan To Do Before I Die
1. Stop being petrified by the fact that I WILL die. (Scares the crap out of me…)
2. Spend at least a month in Great Britain (preferably an entire year…)
3. Become debt-free (if I have to win the freakin’ lottery to do it…)
4. Write something that will endure at least a decade or two after I go (Grafitti?)
5. Paint my bedroom (I bought the paint three years ago…)
6. Refurbish my loom, or get a new one, and start weaving again.
7. Make my business a success (almost there…. )

7 Things I Can Do
1. Roll my tongue into a tube shape, like a straw. (This is genetic. Some people cannot do this. Something you always wanted to know…)
2. Count to ten in four languages. (Woo-hoo!)
3. Back up a twenty-foot trailer in a straight line (almost…)
4. Walk through a nursery and identify 90% of the plants without looking at the little tags. (most by their botanical names…)
5. Touch type (one of the few useful skills I learned in high school…)
6. Shop! (given unlimited funds, I’m sure I could out-shop Paris Hilton…)
7. Make change (without punching the "amount tendered" into the cash register.)

7 Things I Can't Do
1. Eat liver. (Of any kind. Just…yuck!)
2. See in the dark, anymore. (It drives me crazy.)
3. Back up a twenty-foot trailer around a corner (very nearly climbed a tree with it the last time I tried…)
4. Squash spiders or most other bugs (I keep thinking, how would I like it if someone did that to ME?)
5. Sew. (I SOOO suck at this particular Suzy Homemaker skill…)
6. Pay extra on my car or mortgage payments. (I always intend to, and never do…)
7. Read without my glasses (this also drives me crazy. The old eyes really are crapping out…)

7 Things That Attract Me To The Opposite Sex
1. Buff upper-body. (Gymnasts’ bodies make me swoon…)
2. Height, apparently (my husband is ten inches taller than me.)
3. Gentleness (Gentility?)
4. Cleft chins, dimples (husband has these, but they’re hidden by the beard…)
5. Spectacles. (My dad wore glasses. Almost every guy I dated or had a crush on, and the guy I married, did too. Go figure.)
6. Intelligence (I could never have married a guy who was not my intellectual equal. One guy was the biggest sweetheart, but not too bright. Ultimately, I would have eaten him alive…)
7. The fact that they could see beauty in ME (there has only been the one…)

7 Things I Say Most Often
1. F***ety-f***in’-bugger-f*** (a misquote of a Hugh Grant line from Four Weddings and a Funeral. A VERY satisfactory string of curses…)
2. "Go poop." (to the dog. She actually understands this and will do so. Most of the time…)
3. "Get DOWN!" (to whichever cat is currently perched on the counter, on the dining room table, on top of the fridge…)
4. "God f***in’ damn it!" (I never said I didn’t have a foul mouth…)

5. "I love you (too.)" (to the hubs. At least a couple times a day…)
6. "Don’t even think about it." (to anyone who might be considering pissing me off…)
7. "TMI! TMI!" (to anyone regaling me with a story to which I would rather not be privy…)

7 Celebrity Crushes (in no order)
1. Richard Gere (At least I have ONE age-appropriate crush…)
2. Gregory Peck (The ultimate combination of intensity and GREAT looks…)
3. Yul Brynner (the "Shall We Dance?" scene in The King and I gets me every time…)

4. Robert Redford (what can I say? "whoa… whoa… whoa… whoa… SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!")
5. Patrick Stewart (the intrepid Captain Picard… "Make it so!")
6. Rob Lowe (I fell for his character in West Wing…kinda makes me feel like a pedophile, though…)
7. James Earl Jones (the voice…I could listen to him read the phone book…)

Disaster and the Media

The last two weeks have been so odd. The drama of one of the biggest disasters ever to hit the continental United States has been unfolding while I have been, for the most part, away from all media…print, television, internet. Yet, even the limited contact I have had with the outside world has made it obvious that something huge is going on in this country. Or is it?

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate that the New Orleans hurricane/flood is a disaster of biblical proportions. Three hundred years of ignoring the elephant in the backyard, and inexcusably sluggish disaster relief response from a federal agency headed by inexperienced cronies of our good ole boy president, spelled certain doom for the region when the unthinkable actually transpired. The resulting catastrophe has been heart-wrenching, frustrating, frightening, awe-inspiring…running the gamut of human emotion. That roller coaster of sensation which our national media excels at exploiting. And so it has.

I remember the media coverage of 9/11. I recall being transfixed, for days, by the images played over and over and over again on nearly every one of the 150 television channels piped into my home by my satellite TV service. It was addictive…the ultimate gripping TV serial, but it was real life. Sort of. Once immersed in it, I couldn’t tear myself away. I lived and breathed the demise of the twin towers, over and over, like some nightmarish acid flashback. And the talking heads who hashed, re-hashed, triple- and quadruple-hashed every miniscule aspect of the story. Fabricated some, and embellished others, after the real news had been talked and analyzed to death. Such are the fruits of the twenty-first century 24-hour news cycle.

Tapping into journal land on those few hit-and-run excursions I could manage between August 26 and today, I saw that same scenario played out in the lives of many j-landers. They were saturated with the media coverage of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans and contiguous areas of the Gulf Coast. Appalled, grief-stricken, indignant, shocked…they hung on every word, every image presented to them by our valiant national news media. To the point where people began popping more zanax, or throwing back another shot or two of Jack Daniels, just to be able to sleep at night with the images of destruction, despair and outrage that filled their heads and their hearts.

So I have to ask…how much is enough? At what point does responsible news reporting become media exploitation? Given the 24-hour news cycle, it seems that point would be reached damned early on in any crisis, and anything above and beyond that point is gratuitous. Why does an image have to be aired, a sound byte need to be repeated, every fifteen minutes from dawn to dusk? It could be argued, I suppose, that the 24-hour news gurus are aiming at catching people who tune in to the news at whatever hour of the day or night. Possible. But the more frequent by-product of the all-out media blitz is that hapless citizens get caught up in the drama, and end up subjecting themselves to the almost subliminal effect of the constant barrage of re-run information. They flounder in the tide of old, repetitive news trying to access the carefully controlled trickle of fresh facts. Or inadvertently swallow toxic doses of the ad nauseum dissection of old facts when new ones fail to present themselves within a convenient time frame.

I went through the whole day today without turning on the television, tuning in the radio, or clicking on any of the news links as I navigated past the AOL Welcome Screen to get to the journals I wanted to read. I just did not want to hear (read) it. I felt that, while being nearly disconnected from the world during this crisis, I have heard and seen just enough to give me the information I need: Something very bad happened, and there are people out there suffering because of it. The best and only thing I can do with that information is to let it spur me to some kind of action…let it inspire me to reach out and give what I can, help where I can, comfort when I can. I don’t want to let in enough of the hyper-coverage of the disaster to inspire impotent, destructive emotions…anger, hatred, impatience, outrage. Where can I really go with those emotions? What could I expect them to do besides burn a painful hole in my soul…a hole that would sap my energy to accomplish anything positive? Like stepping out to help the victims. Like bridging a political gap in order to work for a common goal. Hands that are occupied holding up pointing fingers are not available for lending toward the work that needs to be done.

I only wish our shamelessly profit-driven national media would get it. Get that they are not helping…that they are, in fact, daily adding fuel to the fires of animosity; jamming crowbars into the cracks in our national unity, and yanking with all their might. And for what? A few more points in the Nielsen’s? Another million in advertising revenue? One more feather in the cap of an industry-leading news director? For this, they are pushing our nation to the edge of the abyss.

I suspect that, somewhere in the middle of the last century, the technology available to spread news caught up to our ability to absorb it. In that golden wink-of-an-eye in history, good hard news, with a minimum of added crap, was readily available to most anyone in a civilized society. In the "olden days," when news traveled only as fast as a horse, a boat, or a walking man could manage, it became distorted, embellished, and contaminated by the time it was disbursed as far as it could go. These days, news doesn’t happen fast enough to fill all the ticks of the 24-hour news cycle. And, in the down-time, facts get…distorted, embellished, and contaminated. How far have we really come? And where do we go from here?

Monday, September 5, 2005



From an article in today’s New York Times, written by Robert D. McFadden:

"The administration's problems in the crisis seemed to crystallize in a dramatic appearance on the NBC program "Meet the Press" by Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish near New Orleans. Sobbing, he told of an emergency management official receiving phone calls from his mother, who, trapped in a nursing home, pleaded day after day for rescue. Assured by federal officials, the man promised her repeatedly that help was on the way.

"Every day she called him and said, "Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?' " Mr. Broussard said. "And he said, 'Yeah, Mama, somebody's coming to get you.' Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday. And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night.’"

Hurricane Katrina was indeed what the insurance companies refer to as "an act of God." But it was one that came with at least a couple days’ warning. A couple of days…obviously not nearly enough time to evacuate or organize relief efforts for a city of 500,000 souls. The storm herself killed…how many? We don’t know. And the slow response by federal relief agencies killed…how many more? Again, we don’t know. Those lives, those people who too quickly become numbing, nameless statistics on our television screens and on the front pages of our newspapers—each one, somebody’s mama, or baby, or sister, or neighbor… How many would have been saved by even an adequate response by relief teams? If it was the body of your loved one cooking on a median strip or floating in the shell of a wrecked nursing home, would you not want someone held accountable?

The Bush administration did not cause hurricane Katrina. And it IS a travesty to politicize the horrendous suffering of the victims of this monstrous storm. Then again, Mr. Bush rose to dizzying heights at the pinnacle of his administration by politicizing the hell out of 9/11. You’d best believe HE would be making political hay out of Katrina if the government’s response had been anything approaching adequate. So allI have to add to that particular firestorm is, "What goes around, comes around."

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Where/I might/Get eaten by a ....

Didn’t (get eaten…); but we have definitely been out in the back of beyond for the last few days. My usual form of recreation is shopping. Traded that in for running around the state of Oregon burning up diesel fuel at $3.00+ per gallon. Every time we stopped for gas, it was twenty cents a gallon more than we paid for it in the last place. Our destination (Crater Lake, Klamath Falls—in south central Oregon) turned out to have the highest gas prices in the state. Yay. So, it’s not like we saved a single sou by being out in the sticks away from the shopping malls...

BIL will be in town for another five days, so I probably won’t have time to compose a decent post before we wave goodbye at PDX on Friday. And God knows how long it will take me to recover from fifteen days of entertaining out-of-town family. Just wanted to check in and let you all know I’m still out here somewhere…