Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Secret Fairy Society

The Secret Fairy Society Newsletter

(click image to enlarge for reading!)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

If a Tree Falls.....

If a blog is posted on the web and nobody reads it, does it matter? I have been mulling this question for awhile. Writing a blog is a bit of a paradox. It satisfies the writing urge, but you never really know…

Blogs provide a temporary therapeutic outlet for writers. If you have the urge to write and a correspondent need to GET IT OUT THERE, hitting the PUBLISH button is immensely, albeit only momentarily, satisfying. There! You think to yourself, I have PUBLISHED my blog post! The operative word in that statement is PUBLISH.

Moby Dick serves as the ultimate writer’s metaphor. Once you make the decision to put stuff down on paper (or into Microsoft Word) you can’t deny you have the urge to publish something, ANYTHING! But, like Ahab in Moby Dick, you ride alone on the vast ocean of the written word, hoping to spear a periodical that will accept the submission you sent six months ago. It isn’t easy, however. They dare you to write enough stories to BE ABLE to publish something. You have to have a stable of stories because, for the most part you can’t send your story to any other periodical because they don’t accept simultaneous submissions.

Let's say you have written five really good, polished, finished stories. This means you can only send it to five publications. Each publication takes a minimum of three months, usually six to reject you. Can you see where I am going here? You will be 86 before you can make the rounds of a modest list of publications. Your heirs will receive your final rejection notice or if you are really lucky, they will receive 10 complementary copies of the publication and the honor of telling everyone their dead mother’s short story will be published in the next issue.

You begin to develop a criminal mind. Yes, criminal. You say to yourself, “How will they know this is a simultaneous submission? What are the chances of all ten literary magazines accepting this story?” And so, you defy the carefully bolded submission guideline, that looks and sounds sinister “No Simultaneous Submissions….” You begin to dissemble…deceitfulness enters your writing habit.

Blogging is like being a shopaholic. You receive a momentary rush when you boldly PUBLISH what you have written. It feels like buying a new chatzka for the house. It comes perfectly packaged; the bag the shop owner places it in is crisp and new. Once you return home with your darling purchase you take the item out of the bag, which you carefully save as a reminder of the chatzka shop. You flit about the house, placing the chatzka here and there, you step back, you admire it, you feel a rush of contentment and tell yourself it is enough. Like Yahweh on the seventh day, you can rest. You have enough and you don’t need to ever buy another thing.

And then a week goes by and then a month. The rush is gone. Something is missing inside, you need something fun to happen , you are low, maybe you burned your oatmeal that morning or had to pump gas and the nozzle dribbled on your best pair of shoes so you smell like gas all day. What can you do? SHOP!!! Yes! You tell yourself “I’ll just look around, that’s all!” And the whole cycle starts over again.

Blogging is like that. Only instead of shopping, you write something. You bold the parts you want to emphasize, you lean back and make sure it looks fine on the screen, you move bits around with the mouse, you cut and paste. Finally, like Goldilocks, it looks JUUUUUSTTTT RIGGGHHHHTTT and you PUBLISH it. I just love that part, the PUBLISH part….can you tell?

But then, time goes by. You have a bad day. What to do? Write! Yes! Write something, work on that short story that has been rejected, add a creep or a big hearted prostitute! That will get their attention! That will make them want to accept your simultaneous submission, besides, since you added the creep and the prostitute, it isn’t simultaneous anymore! What if you change the first sentence! Make it “pop” as they say.

But you end up doodling around because you just don’t like to write creeps and prostitutes and you decide instead to comment on the immediate present, Maybe you have read something somewhere that makes you feel crazy like some wacky judge who just released a serial sex offender. You type a few hundred lovely words! You turn it into a blog post, you hit the publish button… You feel as if you have accomplished something…

But, if you publish a blog on the web and nobody reads it, does it exist?

Google philosophy! Google has all the answers. It is the giant chatzka emporium to the world. It has an immediate answer for every burning question. You click the best looking link and it makes you feel better because you find a long list of “ISM's.” You are browsing in the ultimate chatzka store and you end up buying into the ism that puts everything in perspective:

MODEL REALISM -a philosophy propounded by David Lewis, that possible worlds are as real as the actual world.

So the answer is, if you publish a blog on the web and no one reads it, it doesn’t matter because it’s your own little possible world!

Monday, November 19, 2007

More Joni

Although this isn't the same song, Joni is certainly timely at this time of year because

"It's coming on Christmas
They're cutting down trees.
They're putting up reindeer,
Singing songs of joy and peace..."

Friday, November 9, 2007

Friday, November 2, 2007

Story From The Writing Life

Last night I had the most delicious experience. I listened as someone read to me out loud. Well, to me and a room of 75 other people, but it felt extremely intimate and I was completely bowled over.

I had the privilege of being invited to a book launch. (It is so cool to be able to write that.)

“What did you do last night, Dody?”
“Oh, I just attended Quinn Dalton’s book launch, that’s all…”

But – That’s NOT all. It was more than just a venue for a special author to share her newest collection of stories. It was like discovering the joy of reading all over again. It was like homemade vanilla custard being poured over dessert. It was like chocolate melting in your mouth. It was like inhaling a bunch of freshly cut lilacs. It was smooth and sultry and inviting.

Can you tell I haven’t had any new experiences lately? In this harsh, old, jaded world we live in it is hard to actually experience something new; something from the virginal perspective. But last night felt just like that.

Quinn Dalton is a terrific writer. I have had the pleasure and the honor of taking a writing class with her in the role of instructor, mentor, and guide. She happens to be a terrific teacher. But writing is her passion and her new collection of stories, Stories From the After Life,” is pure Quinn; full of unvarnished characters with big hearts and quirky thoughts and imperceptible Mona Lisa smiles. Quinn’s stories have a rhythm like smooth jazz and last night she lived up to that description.

Reading her story titled “Jimmy the Brain and the Beautiful Aideen,” while the group Dawn Chorus coolly jammed in the background, Quinn showed the room full of admirers just how you fold one art form into another. The four musicians seemed to sense exactly what was necessary to provide a seamless musical backdrop for Quinn’s story about the beautiful yet wise older woman, infatuated young man and the awkward social misfit.

I can’t help thinking how unfortunate it is that more people don’t choose to experience the joys of the short story. There was a time when you could find them in every magazine. Yet, as the numbers of readers in America dwindle; so too are the opportunities for talented short story writers becoming harder to find. Trust me. H-A-R-D.

But last night was a latte kind of night. It left me with just enough froth on my mind to savor the experience hours after I returned home. It invigorated the writer inside of me and gave me hope. It also gave me something new to dream, that maybe someday I can read one of my stories out loud to the strains of perfectly pitched music. Like seeing live theatre, last night showed me just how provocative the art of short stories can be. Thanks Quinn, for an exhilarating experience.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Gather Ye Assets While Ye May

I have worked where I work for 25 years now. This milestone has caused me to look over my shoulder, so to speak, and wonder where the heck the time has gone. I know that it has been 25 years because I have a plaque which attests to this fact. I am an official member of the Quarter Century Club. They gave me a burrito breakfast to seal the deal and I chose a single diamond necklace as my “gift” for all my years of dedicated service. I could have chosen a camera, video recorder, luggage… the list goes on and on. But I chose the diamond because when I am dead, I want my ancestors to know that the fable about the tortoise and the hare is brilliant and I am a living example. And so I say: to all you future descendants, here’s the diamond to prove it…”

I suppose we all either boil down to being hares or tortoises. As it turns out, I am a tortoise. This comes as a bit of shock to me, (and it may to you, too) as I have always considered myself to be a bunny-like kind of gal. I loved the scene in Legally Blonde where she shows up at the party in her pink satin bunny suit. I also love this same scene in Bridgett Jones. This would be me. Curling my hair, donning fishnets to display my inner bunny (she is in there somewhere competing with my inner 50’s housewife.) I am prone to hop to attention and I think of myself more as a cute female Disney rabbit, kind of like Thumper’s girl friend bunny, than as a Disney turtle. Plus, I have always been drawn to angora. In fact, I still own a pale lavender angora sweater I bought in 1981 from a darling boutique in Portland, Oregon.

So, discovering that I am actually a tortoise was somewhat unnerving. But the truth of the matter is, like that great Aesop story, I have been plodding along, one foot in front of the other for 25 years now and it is only recently that I have discovered how eminently sensible this has turned out to be.

While other women that I have encountered along the way have sprinted ahead of me to become “VP’s” or Private Bankers or Executive Directors for trendy non-profits, leaving for greener pastures, or just grazing from job to job, I have poked along in my position, hesitant to give up my sure thing, my good deal, occasionally taking tests for a little extra money here or a bigger bonus there. I have heaved big sighs and quietly hung on to my health insurance. (I know that this is a main theme for this blog, but I promise to explain this obsession someday. It’s all wound up in my Jane Austen fixation and commitment to personal responsibility.) I have also saved incrementally in boring monthly payroll deductions for retirement. I continue to drearily engage in dollar cost averaging and dutifully increase my 401-K contribution by at least 1 percent after I receive my raise each year.

Nope. No fancy titles for me. I just know every in and out of the wacky brokerage world. Big Yawn. I can, however, effectively wiggle my way through the eye of the needle know as “LEGAL”. Or, at least anticipate what they will say before they say it and save at least two weeks of wrangling and agony. It doesn’t make great cocktail party blather, I mean, no one would probably care to hear about how FAST I managed to divide Dr. Whozit”s mother’s estate before the end of the year, (like, really fast, like, December 29th, when the cutoff was December 10th or something) or the clever way I found the lost money of someone’s addlepated Aunt Esther hidden in a bizarre account at a Bank America in California. Nor do they give a hoot about just how high I was able to finagle the bid of XYZ shares for Mr. Soandso’s Employee Stock Option. It was like a high wire act. It was impressive. I felt like I was playing intergalactic mind games with the unseen trader standing somewhere on the trading floor of the NYSE. All I could see on the screen was the ask blinking up and becoming my bid each time… BWA HA HA!

At one point, it felt like all my careful saving and dutiful attention to security was a bunch of nothing, but I recently came across my 401-k statement from 1991 and OH-MY-GOD, what they say about slow and steady is the dog-gone truth! This is the day that it dawned on me, I AM A TORTOISE.

When I started, the Dow Jones stood at about 860. From there it has only gone up. But things can be pretty if-ey in the world of brokerage firms. It’s a tough business no matter how you slice it. Brokers come and brokers go. Mostly, they go. Twenty five years ago, when I was hired as an assistant to stock brokers, I was only on the job for one week before I realized stock brokers made great money. At the time it seemed like a winning strategy. You earned commission if your client bought a stock and also if your client sold a stock. Even if they lost money!! WOW! Who thought of that? It’s brilliant! But the more I watched, the more I realized how hard it was. First you had to find the people WITH the stocks. To gather assets, that is. That is what they call it, asset gathering.

For years, I pictured all the lovely, white males I work with dressed in blue gingham dresses, and red hooded capes, wearing a wig of blonde ringlets. I imagined them skipping through a dark, green forest of stocks, bonds and cash equivalents, a wicker basket slung over their arm, gathering assets. Mostly, they would run into lions and tigers and bears, but all it took was the occasional bull guarding a pot of gold to set them up for life. The caveat: finding the gold is tough. Really, really tough. I knew right away, 25 years ago, I wasn’t up to it.

I once worked for a woman. She was bold as brass. I heard her telling all her little old lady clients in no uncertain terms, “NO! ALMA! You absolutely can NOT buy a beach house!!! I am going to buy that hospital bond instead. If you want your grandchildren to swim, put a pool in your backyard!”

I would have said to Alma, “OH, GOODY! Can I help you decorate the beach house?” No, I was never meant to be an asset gatherer.

So, I stayed put. Just being a top notch assistant. Knowing the business as well as they did, able to be the best damn Girl Friday anyone could ever ask for; but nothing to brag about. No names to drop. No fifteen minutes of anything but, “Oh, look! The market is up 100!”

Recently, one of those rabbit women who passed me by 15 years ago title-wise commented that she wished she had been more like me; just a good, capable assistant with a wad in her 401-K and solid steady job. Sure, she’s been an Asst VP and a VP and Executive Director… but she is also currently on straight commission in that dark forest of stocks, bonds and cash equivalents, with no pots of gold in sight.

Slow and steady might not be flashy or impressive. But it pays the bills and wins the race. Plus, I think even Walt Disney girl turtles have lovely, long, curly eyelashes and are pretty darn cute.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

To Utopia and Back Again…

The problem with Utopia is the impossibility of it ever becoming a permanent state. Luckily, I am privileged enough to be a sometimes traveler to the mystical world, the delicious idea known as Utopia.

We (hubby and I) just returned from a four day stay at my family cottage in Northern Wisconsin. The North Woods. Up North. Way Up. We went to learn the ropes, so to speak, on how to close up for the winter the fragile little house known to all in my family as The Cottage.

With the help of my family, including an Uncle, Aunt, Cousins (1st, 2nd and 4th,) husbands of cousins and children of husbands of cousins, we managed to suck every last dead bug out of the place. This was the King Tut Tomb of dead bugs. Our “to do” list was longer than the amount of time we had to accomplish everything, but as Gen. Douglas MacArthur said on March 11, 1942: “I shall return!”

How, you may ask, does this “working vacation” translate into Utopia? For starters, the information vacuum. In other words, there is no information, except that which can be gleaned from conversation sitting around a dinner table. Ah! The lost art of long, family dinners or the quiet discussion between two people who have been married 25+ years as they sit in two ancient rockers facing the fire, as opposed to listening to the talking heads facing a T.V. It is easy to list the characteristics of this particular Utopia; the woods, the clear cold mornings and evenings, the mist on the lake in the morning. No roaring boats; sublime, simply sublime.

Except for the late night crackle of distant radio stations, you can’t find much information. In fact, we kind of felt like we were in the Twilight Zone, since the clearest station we could locate on the dial only seemed to be playing old Phillip Marlow Mystery Radio Programs from the 40’s. This seemed to be a distant Canadian radio station and for the hour or two we were able to rock in front of the fire and listen, I felt like a time traveler. I could easily imagine that the same show could have been heard over the airwaves by a relative or unknown tourist staying at the cottage when it served as a resort all those many years ago. It was comforting, like receiving a postcard from the cosmos.

The good, hard physical work served as anthropological research of sorts into the past. It is no wonder (according to my Uncle) my great, greats (grandfathers, uncles, ancestors, ancients, etc.) were able to pour pure bacon fat over their pancakes each morning. Chopping wood, scrubbing floors, and sweeping the roof will burn up inordinate amounts of such ingested fuel. No, we didn’t pour bacon fat on OUR pancakes, nor do I suggest that this is a taste temptation I would recommend to anyone except the dog. I guess we have evolved somewhat, but still… you can understand why they were able to consume such… such… or, maybe not. Okay, let’s move on from bacon fat.

It is hard to leave Utopia. For a millisecond, your brain starts to churn with fantastic plans on how you can stay forever. You think how being a waitress in a homey cafĂ© and writing in between shifts sounds kind of fun. Or, how about applying to become the church secretary at the darling Episcopal Church? Think about the fun you would have designing the bulletin each week! It would be far less stressful than sweating bullets as you rapidly enter short puts on the SPX. And then reality kicks in, the gas starts to sputter in the cottage’s wall heater and the truths of modern day survival start to intrude. Things like: the job you have worked at for a quarter of a century to provide health insurance for your family, the college loans lurking like a lump of dough stuck in your throat, the house, the bills, the animals…

Suddenly, your mind whirling like the baton of a 50’s beauty queen, it hits you. You don’t need to figure out a way to stay in Utopia, because you are already there! Like Dorothy in Kansas, you have had the key to Utopia the entire time! This mini Utopia, this cottage in the woods, you realize, is merely a small sliver of the giant pie that is your Utopian American Life. Utopia is all around you! It is the job God threw in your path, complete with health insurance as well as proof that trickle down economics works, at least for you. Or, the healthy child you have raised, complete with good grades and the smarts to tough it out at a college reputed to have a tougher homework load than Harvard. College loans? Pffhtgt… nothing! A mere trifle! A substitute for a shiny car, a good choice and again possible only because of the job you have held on to for 25 years. Then there’s the husband you can't so without, who keeps all the edges neat and tidy, glue man, sticky boy, call him what you want, he is integral to holding the whole ball of wax together.

Of course, there is also your mom, the little bird, who has loved every word that ever came out of your mouth or off your pen forever. And finally, your beautiful girls, older sis, Uncle and Aunt, Cousins (1st, 2nd, 4th) and the husbands of your cousins and the children of the husbands of your cousins but most especially your little sister who ranks up there with the saints… In other words, UTOPIA.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

What Would I Pay For All I want?

I just spent the day driving my mom half way to Augusta, Ga. I always meet my bestest sister in the middle of nowhere, South Carolina. Once there, (the middle of NOWERE) we make the hand off: that is she gets mom and I drive back home again, alone. Mom hasn’t been back to Augusta in a while and the visit will be good for her spirits.

It’s funny, but every time I do this, I always feel a little blue. Sort of like I have just seen my kid off to summer camp or the first day of kindergarten. It’s so true, we trade places with our parents......

I switched on NPR for company and listened to American Weekend. I love NPR except for the bias. They do the best job of human interest stories and if they could just leave out the political jabs, it truly would be a National Public Radio. Today, however, I just let it all roll over me. For some reason, I was feeling big spirited and overwhelmingly American. I listened to a marvelous story about the original indigenous meanings behind place names. Words like Connecticut and Illinois and Chicago and I felt fortunate to be a part of this vast expanse we call America. (Strange and slightly prophetic, Chicago essentially means big stinky place, was it karma that pre-ordained the stock yards?)

Anyway, during the next story they were discussing Radio Head’s decision to allow the download of their newest CD. Apparently, this past week, Radio Head made the decision to leave it up to their fans to pay whatever they think their music is worth. This gives new meaning to having a free market society.

But this eventually segued into the following question: What would a favorite song be worth to you in treasure, in dollars and cents? What, the hosts pondered, would you be willing to pay for your favorite song? What if it meant the difference between hearing the song or never hearing it again?

The host named Desiree made the startlingly beautiful statement that essentially, songs are only as good as the memories they are wrapped in. How true that is! The segment focused on the really moving stories of various listeners, each telling a story about the value they attach to their favorite song. American Weekend posited: how much you would pay for your favorite song, what is that memory worth to you? Would you be willing to purchase it, like a rare painting?

For me, it has to be All I Want by Joni Mitchell on her Blue Album. I inherited my Blue Album from my brother. He was killed when he was eighteen and I ended up with his albums. I remember his girlfriend telling me he would have wanted it that way. At the time, it felt solemn and deliberate; like the reading of a will in a Dickens novel. He had been listening to Joni Mitchell for about a year before he died and somehow the bequest felt spiritual to me in a way I have never felt since. Inheriting a person’s record album is sort of like retaining the key to their soul.

I submerged myself in this album for months after he died. I can still sing every song in order, side one and then side two. I am almost fifty years old and the songs still manage to shape my emotional landscape. When I am down, I still wish I had a river I could skate away on and if I love you, you are in my blood like holy wine, tastes so bitter and so sweet…In fact, I could drink a case of you…

Blue and All I want connect me to my brother like a strand of spider silk across eternity.

My first download from itunes was All I Want. It seemed inconceivable to me to start with anything else. It only cost 99 cents. But I am sure I would pay more if it came down to it. I suppose you could say I have already spent at least $18 on this song. When I couldn’t play the album anymore, I bought the CD. I made certian my daughter knew about Joni Mitchell and Blue. It is a touchstone; a shard of light breaking from underneath the door of my psyche.

How much is your favorite song worth? What memory does it enshrine? Think about it and be transported back to that moment…

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

My Grandma Was A CEO

This post might get me in trouble. But the way I see it, 3000 years from now, when they are resurrecting hard drives and dissecting our culture, blog posts like this one will throw them off a bit. This blog post will be like the Stele of Mer neptah, the Egyptian tablet that happens to contain the only mention of Israel in the entire history of Egypt. It’s not enough to prove anything that was supposed to have happened in the Old Testament, but it’s a bone that keeps the home fires burning. So here goes…

One of my favorite things to do when we drop our sweet daughter, little buzz, off at school in Massachusetts is to people watch. This tourist part of our trip has a Safari like feel to it. It is such a gorgeous location and I watch with fascination the aging hippies ambling down the streets of Amherst with the same enjoyment I suppose one must feel when watching a gazelle heading down to a pond for a drink on the Serengeti Plane.

Another favorite activity of mine is to collect all the local magazines and entertainment guides. I can’t wait to read the articles about what a nasty, horrid little woman Laura Bush is or the ones about how they will have to shut down the local swimming pool for lack of funds unless they gee, raise taxes instead. Most especially, I love the ads.

The very best ads are in the publication called Women’s Times. Yep. It’s just for women. You know, it features articles titled “The Power of Us” which is about “fifteen women coming together, sharing their diverse experiences and goals.” Or “Speaking like a CEO” where we learn, “A leader is the one who can communicate, motivate and inspire others to do the work of an organization.”

Okay. I get it. They are learning how to be my grandmother. Oh? What’s that you say? This is something that only the recently empowered feminists of the past 40 years or so have learned? I don’t think so…

I have figured out the secret of this publication, Women’s Times. It is a bi polar periodical. Yes, I said bi polar. Why? Well after all the empowering stuff like Fashioning Your Image, Resilient Women, Bless Your Stress, we get down to the nitty gritty. We learn that all is not right in the world of Women’s Times.

The Professional Development Directory reveals that in order to Bless Your Stress, you have to employ a Life Coach. At first, I was confused. A Life Coach? Doesn’t a coach design the plays? Yell from the sidelines? Okay, let’s take Fashioning Your Image as an example of how this must work:

“Not the GREEN, Choose the blue, Go with red, POWER to YOU!!!”

Apparently, in 12 sessions your coach will identify your “most pressing goals, (cleaner closets, time for yoga) Create sound strategies (California closets, Yoga while they are being installed by a male former CEO) but most importantly, “construct an active plan to stretch you from your current reality to your desired outcome.” WHAT?!? Okay, what happened to speaking like a CEO? Sounds to me like the Life Coach is communicating what needs to be done here. I thought the goal was to communicate like a leader, not to be lead. I mean, what good is life if you aren’t motivating the rest of the world 24 / 7?

The ads reveal all the answers to life's little bugaboos. If the Life Coach doesn’t work, there are dozens of psychotherapists you can call to discuss career and job decisions, aging, parenting, and naturally, divorce.

Or, you can NETWORK with a group of gals who seek “economic equity, healthcare and equal rights for all women through political advocacy and education.” WHERE THE HECK IS THE CEO LADY? Can’t they get her to talk to these people who are denying this stuff to these ladies up in Massachusetts? I thought Massachusetts was progressive? We have all that stuff down here in North Carolina. What is going on up there?

Say you don’t want a coach (maybe you aren’t economically empowered enough to pay for the 12 sessions,) but you still want to accomplish all this stuff on your own. Well, you can look in the calendar section and find plenty of activities that will achieve the desired results. You can attend a lecture on Family Guilt OR you can go to the Feminist Philosophy Conference.

There is also the ubiquitous Feng Sui designer, acupuncture lady, yoga, yoga, yoga and yoga. When in doubt, do yoga. I personally was drawn to “Writing Through the Chakras” and thank god, once you are finished with that divorce there is a lecture on “Coming Out After Marriage… Oh! and childbirth doulas, postpartum doulas, massage doulas, and naturally, midwives.

How have women made it this far? Without coaches, I mean? I, personally, do not have a coach. I have some family guilt, but I am working through it by knitting extra long sweaters. My feminist philosophy is “Be kind and smell good.”

God forbid if I ever talk like a CEO, they speak jabberwocky. I know, I work for a large Corporation and have to watch all the training videos. I also have economic equality, (I swung a great deal with the team I am on, after taking all the prerequisite tests and whatnot) I have always had great healthcare (I know I know, don’t get on me about healthcare, but part of the reason I work is to have healthcare, if I can do it, so can a lot of other people, do you think I WANT to do option transactions all day?) And guess what, I have achieved political advocacy through education, it is called R-E-A-D-I-N-G; lots and lots of reading.

I am a one woman show. TOOT! That’s me, blowing my horn!!!

So now, when they dust off my hard drive and find my blog in 5007, I will confound all the research that said women in 2007 were wimps who couldn’t do anything on their own except whine!!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Phenomenal !!!

Yesterday was a busy day. I wanted to write about my visceral response to Ahmadinejad’s speech at Columbia University and the U.N. I wanted to comment on how it feels to be experiencing the supposed end of the Post WWII Era. Reading through various blogs and newspaper websites, I worked hard at rounding up plenty of weighty material to use in support of my own general theme which is ‘Blech!’ (said with a shoulder shiver and a long drawn out emphasis on the ch at the end of blech, you know, lots of phlem rattling…) I was in a serious frame of mind and wanted to add my voice to the blogosphere’s din of condemnation and overall horror and disgust.

But, as that famous optimist, Scarlett O’Hara was wont to say, “Tomorrow is another day!” So, when I woke up this morning I decided that instead of retyping portions of the factual evidence proving Ahmadinejad is danger to society of worrisome proportions and off his nut in general, I want to focus instead on what Iran is missing out on, specifically, GAYS.

No gay people, you say, little Mamoud? Too bad. I have been thinking all night about a world without gay people and I realize that here is just one more reason I wouldn’t want to live in Iran; a country, where, this phenomenon has not yet occurred. It made me reflect on all my own experiences with gay people, and I was struck by the sheer amount of pleasure my life would be lacking if they had never existed.

I met my husband while on a mock date with my dance partner from my summer stock days in Estes Park, Colorado, immediately following my graduation from college. My dance partner’s name was Scott. He was definitely gay. He was also the best dancer on the planet. You could say he was phenomenal dancer. I, however, was not such a good dancer. Luckily, you would have never known it if you had seem me dance with Scott. Oh my, the way he twirled me around to the strains of “Macarthur Park” (this was, after all, 1979 the disco era!) and Donna Summers’, “Last Dance!” I had never danced like that before or since!

Often, we went on ‘mock dates’ following our show each night. There was a nice little pub down the road from the lodge where we were performing six days a week and we spent nearly every late night there.

Once seated, we would have a few drinks, and discuss various good looking males sitting at the bar. To our delight, we found, we were attracted to the same type! Once we had reached the desired state of happiness, we would take to the dance floor. Each evening, when the dance contest was held, we would do all of our dance routines from the show; blow everyone away and win. We had an unfair advantage, but hey, we were young and carefree!

One night, my future husband happened into the pub and caught that evening’s dance contest. There we were, whirling and twirling. My husband asked me to dance and the rest is history; the ultimate result being the existence of our beautiful and smart daughter. Without Scott’s smooth ability to lead me around the dance floor, Dan and I would have never met. No, I hate to think of a world where the phenomenon of Scott never existed.

Years later, when I was taking voice lessons for fun, the director of the music academy I was attending for my lessons, popped his head in to the studio I was singing in and asked me if I would join his church choir. Feeling flattered I joined, naturally. I became a part of the brief Camelot that was Ivan’s (that was his name, Ivan) excellent church choir.

Ivan was so talented. He had a DM in organ performance, everyone raved about the phenomenal way he play Widor’s Toccata in D. Butt he also played the violin like an angel and was the best choral conductor I have ever had the privilege of performing under. Choir rehearsals were the highlight of my week. I couldn’t wait for Wednesday night. Not only did we work on challenging music (this is where I first sang Vivaldi’s Gloria, Faure’s Requiem and learned about John Rutter) but we had FUN. Ivan was witty and handsome and charming and … gay. We laughed our way through choir rehearsal, and I can guarantee most of us hated to see it end each Wednesday night.

When he announced to us that he was dying from AIDS, we wept and couldn’t rehearse, until he told us we were partially the reason he had survived as long as he had. The choir ultimately became part of the large group of care givers who tenderly ministered to him as he left this world. I was privileged to hold his hand and wipe his brow. I like to think he now plays 1st chair with the angels. A light went out in the world when Ivan died. There is a blank place to this day. Thank goodness God saw fit to lend us Ivan for awhile.

These are only two examples of what gay people mean in the world. I feel sorry for the country of Ahmadinejad. What a barren, joyless place it must be - lacking people like Scott and Ivan. Mr. Ahmadinejad is wicked for supposing these people can’t contribute to society. He is wicked to deny their existence. He is wicked to reduce them to the definition of mere phenomena.

Which brings me to this: Mr. Ahmadinejad is a dangerous, tiresome, pompous little stick figure of a man. Part of the reason I have always voted Republican is to keep meanies like Ahmadinejad far away, stuck in their rigid, barren, gayless, wacky world of flying 12th Imams. There is also the phenomenon of the single issue voter. I might be one of those single issue people... So be it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Voting With My Inner Betty Crocker

I have not been able to get very excited about the race for president. Those of you who know me well can appreciate how odd this is. The problem is, no one “jars my pickles” as my 10th grade French teacher, Mr. DeFore, would say.

But yesterday, as I was skipping merrily through my favorite blogs, I saw off to the right side of the screen this wonderful retro circa 1950 coffee cup ad that said, “Wake UP America! VOTE FOR FRED, and smell the coffee!” It was so, well, the only way to put it is, it was so ME!!! It might as well have said, “Wake up DODY!”

I have been convinced for most of my forty…, most of my years on earth, that I am a re-incarnated housewife from the late 1940’s or early 1950’s. I watch old black and white films and feel as if, like the sirens of old, they are calling to me. There is a niggling feeling in the furthest reaches of my brain that tells me I watched these films in the Roxy Theatre back in the good old days of the Depression and World War II.

I still cook from the 1950’s version of the Betty Crocker cookbook. I own an original. I love the quirky pictures of Baked Alaska and Pineapple Upside Down Cake. I serve my family Lemon Sponge Pudding with Soft Custard at Christmas. No one makes soft custard anymore, with the possible exception of Martha Stewart, and if she is making soft custard, it has probably been updated with cilantro.

But I digress. Seeing Fred’s clever ad (which certainly plays off of Ronald Reagan’s Morning in America theme) I felt a faint stirring of interest. I wouldn’t call it commitment but I started to imagine an excel spreadsheet in my head to help me organize the candidates. In my mind, I put a gold star by Fred’s name simply for his logo. Logo’s are important. We are a logo society. We love to label ourselves with quick, clever clues telling who we are. Just check out Facebook if you want an example.

So- Fred’s ad tells me that he understands my inner 50’s housewife. You see, I have to confess, it is my inner 50’s housewife that can’t get excited about some of the other guys and here’s why:

Rudy – It’s not Rudy I have trouble with, IT’S Judith! This is probably very catty (remember, this is my inner 50’s housewife) I have a problem with all people over the age of 40 who remarry in the same wedding attire firsties are hitching up in. I think this should be a rule. Only newbies get a train. But what really sends me clues about Judy is the fact that she wore a crown when she and Rudy were wed. This tells me two things: A. She is tacky. B. She wants to be the queen. And how does one become the queen here in the USA? She marries the president. I think this is pushy. I don’t want Judy to be queen. Plus, I read recently that her purse gets to sit in a seat by itself on airplanes. This is pretentious and weird.

Mitt – I am not sure about Mitt. He looks exactly like a Ken doll. Not the original Ken dolls who quickly became bald because their peach fuzz hair wore off from the sweaty palms of enthusiastic six year olds, but the molded plastic haired Ken dolls of the seventies. He has shifted some of his core believes a little too quickly for my way of thinking. I know that you can change your mind about abortion and such, but a gradual 25 year shift is more believable than a lightening bolt hitting you just as you are filing your papers to run for president while you simultaneously close the door of the governors office in what might arguably be the most liberal state in the union!

John McCain – I think he is getting too old. My inner 50’s housewife thinks he should be fly fishing in Montana. I know that sounds like discrimination, but I need to know with absolute certainty his brain cells aren’t going POOF! at an abnormally high rate. I have always secretly liked him. He is a tough guy who will probably irritatingly straddle the fence on most social issues but he will make sure the meanies don’t get us. I am all for meanie deterrence. The meanies really cause me to worry; and not so much for me, for my descendants. I am sure in 1922 most 65 year old Jewish couples had never dreamt what the meanies would end up doing to them in 1937. This is my primary talking point when I blather on about security. It is the long range stuff that worries me. I want my daughter to have grandchildren.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I'm feeling ya, Moses

I have been writing a paper this week for my class “Who Wrote the Bible?” Our first paper is supposed to be a summary of the first few books of the Old Testament, ending with 2 Kings. Our paper is not supposed to focus on interpretation. This is, after all, a graduate class at a large public university, not a “Bible” class.

We have been asked to identify any themes, especially an obvious overriding theme. We are also supposed to pay close attention to the geographic references.

I have never read the Bible on my own before. I started the New Testament last year and found it very, well, very interesting in a tricky sort of way. The Old Testament isn’t nearly as tricky.

Basically, the theme is obedience. They throw a lot of meaningful numbers around, 7’s and 12’s and 40’s, but the message is, be good, stick to these principles and everything will be hunky dory.

This has made me consider the Republicans. It could be just the effects of finishing up 2 Kings and all those BAD, BAD kings but I can’t get the parallels out of my mind. I keep experiencing Elijah like visions of the deportation of vast swaths of Republicans from Congress back to the lands from whence they came. Sure, there have been some good guys who have tried to pull the fiscally misbehaving bad boys back to reality, but mostly, everyone has just gone along with the big spenders. Frankly, it’s just more fun!

As I read about one bad king after another, the exact phraseology is “and he did not that which was right in the sight of the LORD his God,” it really gets annoying. One after the other after another insists on doing that which is not right. I felt like I was reading about Mark Foley, David Vitter and Larry Craig! Geez!

I couldn’t help myself, but it just feels like the walls of the temple are beginning to shake and all because (the way I see it) Ted Stevens wanted his bridge to nowhere (I guess so he could drive off on his way back to Alaska when they FIRE him) Tom Delay just had to have his K Street project and fat old Denny Hastert had to back it all up, oink oink. If there is one thing I am, it is honest. I call a spade a spade and there have been some duzzies!

Unfortunately, just like Moses being denied entry into the promised land, the rest of us rational conservative types are going to have to be punished for the behavior of a few out of control power charged wackos and that really irks me as I prepare to slink off into what I am sure is the coming exile.

I just hope it doesn’t last for 40 years and that God decides to go with no more than the number 7 when deciding our punishment…Unless I live to be old in Abraham years, (135 or so) a forty year wilderness will leave it up to my descendants to save the USA from politically correct suicide. By then, it might be too late…

Saturday, September 15, 2007


My husband and I recently drove our daughter to college for the third time. She is beginning her junior year at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. This ritual has become a favorite one for us. We purposely drive the scenic route even though, according to Mapquest, it is about 2 hours longer. I am not sure this is actually so. I prefer to think that it all comes out in the wash, since traveling up 95 would expose us to traffic jams and other delays.

We travel instead on Interstate 81. Yes, yes, I know, there are a lot of trucks on 81. Truck Alley I suppose you could call it. But it really isn’t too bad and for interstate driving this is a beautiful trip. Once we hit Binghamton, NY we switch to Interstate 88 – this is a breath taking ride! I think it is the most enchanting bit of interstate I have ever driven. Pastoral and quintessentially American, it rivals the Switchbacks in Montana and Wyoming. Where the Switchbacks are bold and daring, I- 88 between Binghamton and Albany is the epitome of Norman Rockwell.

The first time I drove up to Massachusetts, we were conducting our tour of colleges during our daughter’s senior year in high school. We did this in the fall, smack dab in the middle of “peak” season for fall colors. I am originally from Illinois, and while fall is my favorite season in North Carolina, I was transported by the dejavu I felt upon seeing the vibrancy of the leaves as they turned on the trees in Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts.

The area of South Hadley, which includes the charming townships of Amherst and Northampton, looks just like a movie set. I refer you to Hocus Pocus and the Witches of Eastwick for visual clues.

We always stay at the Quality Inn in Hadley, MA, because it is pet friendly. Happily, we never leave home without our conversational Bassett hound, Taffy Apple Sweetness, and as it turns out, choosing this hotel was a crucial part of the karma we experienced when Sweet Child of Mine (SCOM) made her decision to attend Mount Holyoke.

This serendipity was made manifest most particularly because of the route we stumbled upon when trying to locate the college. We ended up using state road 47 between Hadley and South Hadley. The first time we were in Hadley, we had no idea where we were going, so we just followed the arrows: South Hadley - 4

This is about an eight mile stretch of the most glorious, winding, picturesque road in the country! You travel through a valley dotted with houses dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, not to mention charming farms that put me in mind of the illustrations from my childhood Golden Books. Think: Rebecca of Sunny Brook Farm. I couldn’t stop sighing rapturously. Had we chosen to turn right, instead of left, we would have driven through the classic drek of American stripmalls and Target shopping centers.

Rounding the final curve on 47, you come upon Mount Holyoke and all its loveliness. Okay, I know MHC is probably a bastion of liberalism, but my daughter tells me that she does hear both sides of an issue in most if not all of her classes and so far, no one with three heads and green toes spewing garbage has tried to indoctrinate her. She is, from all appearances (and from reading many of her papers) receiving an incredible education.

That is not to say the area isn’t decidedly left of center or progressive in sentiment. One of our favorite places to eat is in Amherst. It is a Deli called the Black Lamb or Sheep or something like. They sell “Republican Party” Cookies. The ingredients for these cookies are listed as being “full of fruits and nuts.” Naturally, being us, we bought several (fruits and nuts are healthy, nez pa?)and enjoyed them thoroughly, proving that ingesting anything made from Republicans is wholesome and very good for you!

I suppose this is long enough. I guess the message is, VISIT NEW ENGLAND. It’s a lovely area – a national treasure.



Words to Live By

" desiring what is perfectly good, even when we don't quite know what it is and cannot do what we would, we are part of the divine power against evil - widening the skirts of light and making the struggle with darkness narrower."

Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot) Middlemarch

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