Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Grave Balance

"My first thought on the running mate question is that to balance his ticket, Barack Obama should pick a really old white general. Therefore, he should pick Dwight Eisenhower. John McCain, on the other hand, needs to pick someone younger than himself. Therefore, he also should pick Dwight Eisenhower."

From "The Running Mate Choice" by David Brooks, NYTimes Online, 5/27/08

Sunday, May 25, 2008

In Memoriam—For My Weekend

Ten a.m. and 68 outside at. My windows are closed. Heat pumps down from above. So far, it is 77 degrees inside, and soon it will reach 79. I type at my computer. If the hair on the back of my head were longer, I would wring it out. Bead of sweat form on my arms. More of them moisten my T-shirt. It is Sunday morning of Memorial Day Weekend, and the fourth day of enduring a curse.

The curse began Thursday morning, when, near-naked, eyes barely open and arms dowsing for coffee, I stepped in a fresh hairball outside my bedroom door. Generally, I blame everything on Ziv, my occasional roommate (and frankly, I think he could suffer hairballs—if you know what I mean). But although he’s in town for a video shoot, I knew it was likely the cats—one of them.

After cleaning my foot and the carpet, I began work. I got a call. The Memorial Day cookout was now off because someone in Virginia was in emotional breakdown. Friends will be friends, and these friends changed plans, packed the car, and were already headed cross-country for a rescue.

OK, I’d have more time to write—and to procrastinate. I could rent a Rug Doctor! The carpeting needed it bad, and no hired service can bring things back to oyster like The Doctor and me. And with temperatures up, air conditioning would dry things in a snap.

Friday, after an abbreviated workday, I headed out to my car to go pick up a machine. Behind the bushes by the front door, the Bosnian’s she-cat was nesting with 4 brand new kittens—again. She manages at least 2 litters a year, and my attempts to convince the neighbors to have her spayed result only in their loss of comprehension of English. The neighborhood has already filled with feral cats.

As I opened my car door, I heard Nedad on the far side of their house bludgeoning catalytic converters. The platinum inside them has topped a gazillion dollars an ounce, and ever since I inadvertently greated him pleasantly, he thinks I’ve gone soft. Clearly, his scrap metal operation is migrating back to his house--again. Mental note: Call Code Officer Johnson.

I returned with the machine, and pulled furniture to one end of the rooms. The plush saxony will dry overnight in the conditioned air, and then I’ll move it all and clean the rest of the carpet. But as The Doctor begins steaming, a violent storm front passes through. Humidity skyrockets as temperatures crash. The air conditioning shivers into retirement. Carpeting won’t dry.

Here I sit. Day two—three if you count Friday night--the house a recently pitched ship, contents crashed to one side. In a moment of bipolar inspiration, I institute the program of heating and a/c. The compressor disturbs the peace. Long-sleeves passersby turn their heads. I step out to fetch the morning paper, and Bosnians stare at me as if I’m the one who is crazy.

It is already a very long weekend.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Foreign Behavior

Cheney Surfaces in EU.
‘European Union’ Redefined.


Today's headlines 20 June, 2008
'Big Brother' database plan for every e-mail and call
An EU anti-terror directive is to lead to the storing of each phone call, e-mail and internet visit made by the public

Scientists get green light for human-animal embryos
Scientists will be allowed to create hybrids by fertilising an animal egg with human sperm after key vote in Commons

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My Mind's a Blank

Iconic college textbooks from the 1970s imagined and offered last Sunday in the article, “Lexicographical Longing” by Virginia Heffernan in the New York Times Magazine:

Speculum of the Other Woman
Reading Black, Reading Feminist
Sexuality in the Field of Vision

No comment from me.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Just minutes ago, I stood in front of the toaster oven cleaning out the crap. I had had to do something. Half an hour before, the 3-year buildup of goo and gunk, a well-established stalagmite in the bottom of the thing, caught fire as I attempted to re-heat a fried-chicken thigh left from last night’s pig-fest. (I’ve lost 40 pounds since January, so I was allowed the lapse.)

As I pulled a strip of grease-glued Reynolds Wrap from the crumb tray, the foil stuck to my hand. I pulled it off, and stared at the residue coating my hand. Which solvent would remove the amber mess—and leave some skin intact?

CNN blared in the next room. Breaking News! Bob Barr announced his run for President!

My excitement was not political. (OK, my secondary excitement was political—John McCain would lose votes!) My real excitement was that one of the characters in my new memoir would be thrust back into the national spotlight—just as he was in danger of sinking from our national consciousness forever.

Politicians Gingrich and Carter, as well then-Congressman “Cooter” (previously the star of the TV show The Dukes of Hazzard), also figured in my story. But it was Bob Barr—local District Attorney at the time, later elected to Congress where he led the Republican stampede for Clinton’s impeachment—whom I needed to stay in the news. During my manic rampage in 1990, I had turned to him to investigate my parents for attempted murder of me. (Yeah, I know, but my parents’ notes support this.)

Can’t wait to write the scene!


"The thing you are looking for is the thing you are looking with."

Ernest Holmes

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Good Thief

At ten o’clock last night, a cacophony of voices blasted through my window as I sat writing. Moments later, roommate Ziv, just arrived from Alabama for a video shoot, burst through the front door. “Call the cops! Call the cops! Someone stole the motorcycle!”

In the driveway next door, 15 of my Bosnian neighbors were running a Chinese Fire Drill (without benefit of the car, or in this case, motorcycle), shouting for someone—anyone—to call the cops. Actually, it was only a moped—the moped their grade-school kids use to buzz legal walkers and drivers on the local streets. Inside, Chicken Little squawked the same cry, visualizing, in his dismembered head, his Hi-Def video camera—the one that cost more than the original price of my house—was being stolen as well. All of them incapable of picking up a damn phone, I made the call.

Outside, as they waited for the cops, the fire drill continued. I shut all the windows so I could hear myself think, and then snapped on the air conditioning. The droning compressor is 20 years old, and for the last 12 years, I’ve fretted as the warm season approached. Please, just cool for one more year! It worked! The pandemonium was blocked, and air slowly cooled the house. Ziv, having recovered his phone skills, began alerting friends of his camera's narrow escape.

This morning peace had returned. Nedad brought me an ice-cold bottle of Corona as a token of thanks—a huge improvement. The last he bore gifts, he gave me a promotional calendar from the Hong Kong King Buffet (printed off-register) and a pop-top can of imitation strawberry auto air freshener. As he handed me the bottle, I saw his five-o’clock shadow. It had crept from the backs of his fingers to the bottom of his short-sleeved shirt. (See last post.)

Over all, I made out like a bandit: free beer, disappearance of neighborhood-scourge moped, and successful test of the air conditioning with no time for attack of angst. Oh blessed thief, when will you return?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Constitutional Light

My Bosnian neighbors had their annual, spring body-waxing the other day—the men that is. The men between 11 and 35 years of age. Older than that, and they just don’t seem to care. Without my glasses, it appears they’ve gone through more body-lightening than Michael Jackson.

Yesterday, shirtless and glistening, they shot hoops in the drive next door as the wood fire in the back yard burned down to the proper mix: flames and embers. Another Bosnian holiday! Can’t keep track of all their holidays, but the smell of wood smoke alerts me to the arrival of each one.

The Bosnian butcher sent the usual pair. White soda-jerk uniforms--paper hats atop their heads. They rumbled up in an ancient, white panel truck to deliver the “baby sheep”—skinned, dressed, and bound hands and feet to a pole. (Occasionally they deliver a goat.)

There are 3 houses within 2 blocks of me filled with one giant, extended Bosnian family. They add color to the neighborhood and make the rest of us (and we’re a racially and ethnically mixed lot) look paler than boring.

Two years ago, in a single batch, they all became citizens. Ran around the neighborhood waiving spanking new US passports. And even though the rest of us have to call the cops when they feast well past midnight out beneath the stars, and even after the time I had to sic the law on Nedad after he started a home-based, metal-salvage business right next door (packed the yard with rusting engines, exhaust systems, and—inexplicably—upright vacuum cleaners), when they celebrate, I get a rush. Even if our country’s founding principles seem so difficult to glimpse in American political life today, they are still the shining light to so many from beyond our borders.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Rear View

Drive your car with your hands on the rear-view mirror, and you hit a lot of obstacles. In which time zone do we focus as we attempt to move forward in life?

Monday, May 5, 2008


Student: If your house was on fire, what would be the one thing you would


Jean Cocteau: The fire.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Vacuuming Stephen King

Deeply into reading the actual “on writing” part of Stephen King’s On Writing, and sucking the text right off the pages. Only a light tracery--gray pictographs--remains on the pages. This book, unlike his fiction (not to my taste), is as true and insightful as everyone has claimed--about life as much as writing.

First, his ideas--character-driven stories, limited descriptions, honesty, honesty! and so much more--resonate with what I at least attempted to achieve in my first book (within the nonfiction context). Second, he is pulling me out of what I have come to see as my ongoing road-blocking dilemma: being stuck plotting the new book to a fixed ending. That is to say, that I have a philosophy I have been trying to preach and prove. But that's not life—and it is certainly not my life when I’m honest. Honesty! Witness my just completed, weeklong, depression/anxiety fit that hit hardest when I attempted to write. Driven instead to wrink-wrink obsessing on Roomaticus Maximus instead of working on my manuscript.

Truth is, I must write my story of dealing with bipolar disorder like the suspense novel life actually is--and I must trust. Trust the ending to reveal itself, whether it is the ending I think I want and will reach, or not. After all, embedded in this disorder is the tease of never really knowing what is real and what is not. I don’t mean hallucination, but that subtle thing we perceive in the world and must always be interpreting in order to navigate the waters.

I end here with a bit more of King and his devil-may-care attitude and refusal to apologize for it or himself. Well, maybe he does occasionally apologize, but really, he’s like that Key West waitress of my long-ago-days who would pout, look you in the eye, and exclaim, “Read these lips!” as she tapped the toe of her little red fuck-me pump. Two descriptions King quotes from other people’s writing— “Darker than a carload of assholes.” (George Higgins) and (Raymond Chandler) “I lit a cigarette that tasted like a plumber’s handkerchief.”

Been there, done that.