Tuesday, November 30, 2004

It Was Five Years Ago Today: An Oral History

On November 30, 1999, right after our last childless Thanksgiving, the WTO protests hit Seattle. RW was working part-time back then, so she went downtown. [I went to work because I had some deadline that in retrospect seems totally unimportant.]

Here's what she remembers, as transcribed by me:

In the very very beginning, I knew about the protests but I didn't pay much attention; this cause sounded dry as toast. But my grandmother, who reads lefty rags, asked me to find out about the WTO protests for her. I printed out a ream of paper for her from the Internet and mailed it to her in Wyoming. The more I read on the internet, the more incensed I got. She wanted to come protest, but wasn't well enough at the time, so I thought maybe I should go protest for her.

I took the bus down to Seattle Center, and getting on the bus were many people in bright clothing, with signs saying many different things, and there was a festive air, like Folklife, but more so. I saw my favorite video-store clerk and her mom, and all kinds of people.

We all poured off the bus at Seattle Center and went in to the rally, and it was a lot like most rallies except that they were all in one place, like some weird dream: there were all the job protecionists and labor unions, and all the tree huggers, and they were all around us, and all on the same side, at the same rally. This is really unusual in the West, where unions and truckers and loggers are ususally going head-to-head with enviornkmentalists. And it wasn't just them: it was the crazy agricultural people from France, and just everyone!

We poured into the street, and that was the most amazing part, because the people just kept pouring and pouring and pouring. We were supposed to go downtown and circle back, but there were so many people that by the time I left the stadium, and I was not at the back, the first people were already returning, and the police were rerouting them.

It was very peaceful and joyous. There was singing and dancing, giant puppets, and mostly just a zillion people out there in their rainbow colors, with their homemade signs, giant puppets... we flowed all the way through downtown. Later I read the newspapers whining about how the city was shut down for the day, and I thought "phah! a quarter-inch of snow does the same thing. And this was such a beautiful event."

Around 3:00 I was down at 6th and Pike, by the Nike store. I had seen ONE smashed window on the way, I think it was McDonald's. It was no worse than I'd seen on an empty Sunday in Seattle. When I got to the Nike building there were some young men on top of it trying to take the letters of the Nike sign down, but mostly there were a lot of people trying to get the young men down, trying to get them to stop doing that, and some pointed discussions about how Nike was a symbol of corporate greed, but dismantling signs didn't help anything.

I had to go, so I didn't see what happened a little later. I couldn't tell how violent the crowd really got, how much the media exaggerated it, which I suspected to be a lot. I do know that there was very little coverage of the 60,000 peaceful people. I was really appalled by the local press and TV, who did notihng but whine about how people wanted to go shopping at Nordstrom's. I spent a lot of time on the Internet reading out-of-town papers.

I went home and called the Fair Trade Organizing office, and said "What can I do? I can put some people up. Send me some people!" And they said, "Well, a British folk rock band just walked in, do you want them?" I said "Sure, if they don't mind sleeping in our attic." And that's how we met Seize the Day. They stayed for 2 or 3 days. I couldn't believe my luck that they were the ones we got.

Seize the Day disapproved of planes because they waste too much fossil fuel, but they overcame that to come and protest. They were far more polititally aware than I, since I tend to live off the news world. They had a very funny spoof of Monsanto that they acted out.

The next day was in some ways even more amazing. Clinton was coming to town, to speak to the WTO. Seattle City Countil had had the lack of foresight to host the WTO spread out all over town, so there was no way to cordon it off. Rumor had it that Clinton's people yelled at the governor, who yelled at the mayor, who put 24 policemen on every corner. I called the Fair Trade Office to ask what I could do, and they said: "You can come down and help at this workshop, but the city has stopped all the busses from entering downtown, so you'll have to walk through downtown. And the police is stopping everyone who isn't wearing business clothes, and not letting them walk through downtown."

I put on my most boring tan overcoat, that I only wore to interviews for jobs I didn't want, turned the collar up, and wore a Walkman. I managed to squeeze past the 24 police on every corner who were stopping anyone wearing any bright colors. Apparently it was illegal to wear bright colors downtown that day. The police were armed with pellet guns and tear gas, and had gas masks. The city's website newly declared that it was illegal for private citizens to own gas masks. I saw it on the Web that day. It was December 1st, the day that Belfast declared peace, and Seattle looked like Belfast.

About halfway through downtown, I heard shooting, went closer to witness what was going on, and saw clouds a few blocks away, of what I took to be tear gas. I knew that I might be about two weeks pregnant, and decided I had better head back out, because I was afraid I would miscarry.

But a block or two later the clouds caught up with me. The police were letting off gas down by the Pike Place Market, I found out later. I was at least four blocks away, maybe as much as ten, but the cloud blew up the street and my eyes started stinging. I was right next to the Fair Trade Office so I ducked in there. They were bathing people's eyes who'd been in the tear gas down by the Market, and they were putting ice on bruises from the rubber bullets. Later I found out the police had run out of the "nicer" tear gas, and were bringing in the extra-strong stuff from the militiamen in Montana.

That night I went home. Theo from Seize the Day had been down by the Market and said a police patrol had chased the small group of peaceful protesters he was in, for several blocks, until cornering them in the Pike Place Market, gassing them at close range. [elswhere notes: The Seize the Day folks, being proper Brits, liked tea. The first night we made them herbal, at their request. The second night, after the incidents RW is relating here, I asked Theo if he wanted herbal tea and he rasped, "God, no! The *real* stuff!"]

I remember that Theo and Shannon and I scanned the local TV news that night to see if there was any coverage of what he'd been through, but the "Live on the spot" reporters hadn't gone within blocks of the Market.

We didn't see this, but we heard later from friends that the police went up to Capitol Hill and just chased people down the streets who had nothing to do with the protests. We know from the press that they arrested a reporter for covering them, and they arrested a City Councilman basically for driving while Black. This is the city that has bicycle cops; they're usually pretty polite. But we saw the side of what they look like when they're freaked out, when they're getting pressure from above, when they bring in a lot of ringers from out of town, and when their communication structure breaks down.

But the third day, we were back to the pleasant bicycle cops, because Clinton had gone. They were still on every corner, but only half as many. Fair Trade had organized *another* march, to protest the events of the previous day, as well as some other planned rallies. The police waved us along as we marched through Downtown. They still had their sticks, but all their gas masks were gone. Apparently, a Presidential visit suspends the right to freedom of assembly. And this was a Democratic President, too, and before 9/11.

Within a day or so the law that made civilian gas masks illegal had vanished from the city web site.

What I will never forget from it was the beauty of those 60,000 people from all over the world, from wildly different points of view, united against the common foe of global capitalists unaccaountable to and untouchable by the laws of any nation.

I was reminded of something I learned in my childhood from my radical parents, that the press kowtow to the status quo. It was sobering to see how fragile Constitutional rights were, at the whims of a President. And it gave me hope to see how the Internet could be used for grassroots progressive political organizing. This was the first time we'd seen it on a major scale.

And I'm kind of proud to think that Mermaid Girl was there in embryo, even though I didn't know for sure that she was there until a couple of weeks later. I hope that it shapes her life.

[elswhere adds: I'm also very grateful that RW was smart enough to run away from the tear gas. I don't know if I would have thought of it. We found out later that some of the protesters did have miscarriages. I think of it sometimes when Mermaid Girl is running around and sassing us, so strong and smart and here.]

Monday, November 29, 2004

Head Explosion Update

Many thanks to everyone who's sent concerns and advice about my mysterious exploding-head syndrome. Here's what happened today:

1. Head begins to explode right in the middle of a middle-school class. The teacher is with the class, and is one of those who's been following the saga in the staff room, so when I tell her what's up, she's all, "Go. Now." "Right, I'm going, I'll just pull this book for--" "Go." "Right. Going."

2. Grab coat and bag, swallow two benadryl on the way out, sign out with front desk person who also knows about this. Gabble something about next class due in half an hour; she says she'll call the teacher and cancel for me, and shoos me out the door.

3. Head for the hospital with lab prescription from the new allergist clutched in my sweaty hand.

4. Negotiate drive to hospital as exploding-head symptoms vie with benadryl side-effects for the "Most likely to cause elswhere to get pulled over while driving" award.

5. Find hospital, cleverly sidestepping freeway-bound traffic snarl.

6. Find parking, which appears to be free if you're there for less than an hour. Whee-hee! Despite battle raging in my addled body, am still able to find joy in these little things.

7. Find blood lab after only one wrong turn up and down hospital corridors.

8. Fill out paperwork. Have difficulty remembering address and phone number, what with all the exploding and antihistamining going on.

9. However, I have no trouble remembering that I have to ask the lab tech to let me lie down while she draws my blood. (You only have to faint once while getting your blood drawn to not ever want to have it happen again.)

10. Close eyes determinedly while blood is drawn for what seems like about half an hour.

11. Emerge from room to see lab tech neatly labeling four or five large vials filled with my blood. Am amazed that I have any left in veins. Have to sit down.

12. Obtain urine sample. Wonder if this is easier for guys.

13. Ask lab tech when I'll hear about results. She says probably a week to ten days. Doesn't that seem like a long time? I think it seems like a long time.

14. Call work to find out exactly how urgent today's staff meeting is. Am told by boss to "go home and go to bed."

15. I have always been a good rule-follower. When I wake up, it's dark and time to pick up Mermaid Girl from preschool.

I'll keep you all posted when I hear more...


Tonight in the bath I asked Mermaid Girl to do something, I don't even remember what:

MG: No, because I am the boss.

Me: You're the boss??

MG: Yes, I am the boss. And you are just a poor old servant.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Out of the manger and into the fire

Several weeks ago, RW's aunt, who lives a couple hours north of Seattle, invited us to a family gathering the Saturday after Thanksgiving, along with RW's cousin & family from Vancouver, and another cousin who lives in Alaska and who(m? whatever) we were to take back to Seattle with us so she could catch a plane the next morning.

Needless to say, we signed up for this whole family-gathering thing before C. invited us to the sumtuous Oregonian coastal vacation house.

The result? We drove for nine hours yesterday. Nine. Hours. Seven hours from the Oregon Coast to northern Washington State, and then two hours back to Seattle after dinner with Alaskan cousin in tow. RW drove all of it. She is a rock star.

We did stop for more oysters in Southern WA and put them in the fridge! O happy, happy me.

Mermaid Girl was a trouper. She sang, napped, drew, snacked, discussed important issues with the many dolls she'd arranged around herself.

On the way home after dinner, I sat in the back with her so RW and her cousin could talk. And the following discussion ensued:

Me: *noticing that MG is finally starting to get bored* Why don't you ask me any question you want, and I'll answer it?

MG: Where did Christmas come from?

Me: Blah blah winter dark thousands of years even before Christmas people always blah blah lights sweet-smelling green things remind us that the sun will come back and plants will grow.

MG: But where did Christmas come from?

Me: Well. *biting bullet, reminding self of promise--already broken several times--that I will always be honest with my child* A long time ago, there was a woman named Mary. And she had a husband named Joseph. And she had a baby growing in her tummy. And it was getting ready to come out. And they had to move for some reason [*I'm Jewish, I forget exactly why*], and they tried to stay in an inn, that's like a hotel, and there wasn't any room, so the hotelkeeper said they could stay in the manger, that's like the stable, where the animals were, and sleep on the straw. Do you think that would be very comfortable?

MG: No!

Me: Right. But they stayed there anyway. And that's where the baby was born, that night, and they were very happy about it. But here's the thing: You know how a woman can't grow a baby by herself, she has to have a speck from a man?

MG: Yeah.

Me: Well, a lot of people believe that Joseph had never had a chance to give a speck to Mary. And so, a lot of people believe that the speck came from God, and that baby was really God's kid, and that's why they believe that baby's birthday is special and made the holiday called Christmas to celebrate it.

MG: *entranced* I believe that! I believe that speck came from God!

Me: *in a blind panic, forgetting the promise I also made to myself that I'll never tell my kid what she can think or feel* You can't believe that! You're Jewish! Jewish people don't believe that speck came from God, only Christians do! And Mama and I decided that you'd be Jewish! We believe the speck came from, um, Joseph really! Or someone! But not God! When you're grown up, you can believe whatever you want, but for now you, um, you can't!

MG: *getting pissed* But I do think that! I do believe that! I'm a Christian!

Me: *sputtering* But... but... if you're a Christian, you can't have Chanukah, and candles, and...and...chocolate gelt!

The chocolate gelt did it, I think; also, RW chimed in that she doesn't believe that story either, even though she's not Jewish.

Then I went on to fulfil MG's requests to describe the origin of Chanukah [even though, come to think of it, I don't exactly believe that story either] and also, God help me, Thanksgiving. She didn't accept my harvest festival explanation, having gathered by this point that holidays come from actual, or at least apocryphal, events. So I spilled the story about the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, with many qualifiers about how I wasn't sure if this was exactly how it had happened, and how afterwards when lots of Europeans came they were very mean to the Native Americans in many ways and so Thanksgiving was actually a very sad day for most Indians now and not a happy holiday at all, even though we, um, sort of celebrate it anyway by thinking of things we're thankful for. But we're sad with the Native Americans. But thankful. But sad.

I left out the part about genocide per se. Also the reputed connection with Sukkot, a Jewish harvest holiday she learned about in Hebrew school. But it was pretty exhausting anyway. Somewhere in there we went back to Christmas, and RW reminded me that Jesus was actually born in March and the Christians moved the holiday back to December to take advantage of the solstice/holiday-of-lights thing. So I threw that in, too.

By then it was hours past Mermaid Girl's bedtime and she was starting to babble (I was obviously already babbling), so I was spared having to explain other exciting holidays, like Yom HaShoah (though I kind of covered that already a few months ago, with similar lack of panache). Or Easter.

For now.

Friday, November 26, 2004

A post from the coast

Just because I can.

The sea is roaring outside. In the daytime we can see it from the big picture windows. RW is on bedtime duty and she and Mermaid Girl are in the van, where we've been sleeping. I get to stay up with the grownups and hang out in the living room. This vacation house has everything: a gas fire that looks like a real fire, a Jacuzzi bath, a big TV, and... dialup Internet access!

RW's friend C invited us here, partly so Mermaid Girl and her daughter could play together, and between her friend A. and her babysitter and us, there are three laptops in the house.

I forgot that sound that dialup makes, that whrr whrr staticstaticstatic click that says: you're connected, here's the universe! I salivate at the sound of that sound.

There's an indoor pool at the main resort house up the street; the Mermaid's been swimming three times today. And RW, that compulsive information-gatherer, found out about a restaurant in town with $2.50 appetizers at happy hour. RW and I and C and A all went to try it out tonight while the babysitter watched the kids.

Now my brain is dulled by fried oysters and onion rings and clam chowder and vacation sloth; I have no snappy anecdotes.

So, hi out there. Happy happy. See you back in wireless-land.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Because I am obsessive, and because it is my blog

Wrapping up a few loose ends before we head down the coast in Twinkie tomorrow:

1) Went to the allergist today. Nice guy, also has a 4-year-old daughter, but she was born in September so they're going to wait another year before starting her in kindergarten. She's smart, well of course they think she's smart, *chuckle*, but kind of reserved in social situations, so this will probably be better for her... oh, my weird allergic reactions? Huh. He doesn't know.

The upshot is, next time I have an outbreak I'm supposed to rush to the nearest hospital and get a blood sample taken within an hour. This will work out fine as long as I don't have a class scheduled, i.e. if it happens on a Tuesday or Friday afternoon. Since no one has any idea what brings it on, or when, there's no way to predict when it will happen. Excitement abounds.

2) Send RedHeadDread some good wishes--she's trying to deal with a sticky holiday-related situation at her daughter's preschool. Her post on the topic inspired me to address it with the 4th graders I saw today, and they blew me away with their insights on stereotypes, including their thoughts on their own stereotypes of Native Americans. There is hope after all, maybe. I am--in the most general, least celebrating-a-genocide way possible--thankful for that.

3) Maybe I am taking this get-the-family-blogging thing too far. (I expect this one to have a mainly family readership, not necessarily to be of interest to blog connisseurs. All words guaranteed authentic; I'm just the typist.)

My question: why did she title it "Happy Orange Hour" and then choose the pink template?

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Speaking of Lesbian Fiction

This was something my friends in college would say whenever we wanted to change the subject. i.e.:

Friend A: Blah, blah, blah, have to write a paper, yucky weather, blah blah.
Friend B: Speaking of lesbian fiction, want to go into Philly this weekend?

Oh, we were so witty.

A few days ago Robin at The Other Mother asked for readers' favorite lesbian novels. I couldn't limit myself to just one, so I made a list. And I annotated it because I'm a lunatic. So here it is, divided into categories for easier perusing, but in no particular order except the last one:


Aquamarine, by Carol Anshaw
Three possible lives for one woman, all stemming from one fateful moment when she was eighteen. What I love about this is the "alternate selves" concept; who hasn't wondered about that ghost self who stayed in your hometown/lit out for the territories/didn't go out on that second date/took that job?

Cecile, by Ruthann Robson
Not really a novel, but a series of short stories about a woman, her partner, and their son, Colby, as they move from Florida to the Bay Area to New York. Wry, funny, dark, and bitter.

On Strike Against God, by Joanna Russ
I found this book by chance when I was in college and was hooked by its passion and rapier wit. Joanna Russ mostly writes science fiction, but this is a sharp, smart, and probably autobiographical coming-out story from the '70's lesbian-feminist era

the Cook and the Carpenter, by June Arnold
Another oldie but goodie, set on a lesbian-feminist commune. The characters fall in love, break up, create theater, fight racism, and try to take over a building. Quite moving about politics and the potential for change, but not doctrinaire. If you've ever been in any kind of collective or political group, there are scenes here that will make you laugh and cringe simultaneously. Extra bonus: gender-neutral pronouns used throughout (except at the end, deliberately). Long out of print, alas.

Alma Rose, by Edith Forbes
A thing of quiet beauty, like its heroine. Pat Lloyd is a loner in a small town in the West, whose life is changed when Alma the truck driver sweeps her off her feet. But this is not your standard girl-meets-girl romance; what Pat does after Alma leaves her transforms her, and her whole town, even more.


Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters
Sarah Waters started writing novels after finishing a graduate thesis on lesbian historical fiction, and she's got the genre down. This Wilkie-Collins-esque thriller has it all: love, lust, revenge, twisted family histories, insanity, and plot twists so convoluted that by the end I wasn't entirely sure what had happened, but I didn't care, it was so good.

Accomodation Offered, by Anna Livia
Anna Livia is the best writer you've never heard of. Really, she's brill [as they say in her native country]. She's written a ton of great books that are mostly next-to-impossible to find in the States. This one is my favorite, about three women sharing a London flat: one is an academic coming out of a bad breakup, one is a bus conductor who likes going to the laundromat, and one is from South Africa and is going crazy. Literally. Two of them hook up but I'm not telling you which ones.

The Passion, by Jeanette Winterson
For a while in the late '80's and early '90's this was the book to be seen reading in a cafe if you had pretensions to being a Young Literary Lesbian. (Um, maybe that was just me. And this woman I saw ostentatiously reading it at the Wildrose once.) Anyway, it's got gorgeous, lush writing, and a couple of love stories full of passion, betrayal, and regret. And Napoleon. And it's set in Venice. And it's a polemic against war as well as a love story. And it's short! Oh, just read it already.

The Dyke and the Dybbuk, by Ellen Galford
Rainbow Rosenbloom, London lesbian cinemaphile and taxi driver, meets Kokos, centuries-old demon of Jewish legend. With a setup like that, what's not to like?

Young Adult This is gonna have to be its own separate post someday. I have to sleep sometime, ya know.

Books I Like By People I Know

The Terrible Girls, by Rebecca Brown
I will quote from the back-cover blurbs because they're better than anything I could come up with: "haunting parables of betrayal and love"; "sharply, spookily written, fierce and intelligent"; "a powerful account of erotic love". Darker than most stuff I read but with occasional flashes of humor. NB: Rebecca Brown is a kickass writing teacher, too.

Love Like Gumbo, by Nancy Rawles
Grace Broussard is ready to fly from the nest, but is her sprawling, exasperating, idiosyncratic Los Angeles Creole family ready to let her? A rich stew that will make you hungry for gumbo.

The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories, by Alisa Surkis and Monica Nolan
This book cracks me up. It's not a novel at all, but a collection of short stories parodying various, um tropes [hey, ma, look! Fancy literary-analysis word!] of mainstream lesbian fiction, each set in a different era. There's one set in WWI, and a Depression one ("Oreola thought about the raisin that each of the children had found in their Christmas stockings this past year.."), and, my favorite, "The Chosen Horse," set among the immigrants of New York's Lower East Side (with an intelligent cart horse who saves the day). My friend Monica co-wrote it. She has always been this funny; it's a little scary.

Special Honorary Mention for a Book By a Guy

Random Acts of Senseless Violence, by Jack Womack
A dystopic look at the near future (as of 1993) through the eyes and diary of Lola Hart. At the outset Lola is a relatively happy 12-year-old girl who lives with her literary, professional, harried-but-loving parents and little sister on Manhattan's upper east side. By the end, her city and her world have deteriorated beyond recognition, and she's a feral street punk, stealing and running with a gang to keep herself and her mom alive. Oh, and she likes girls. This male author nails an adolescent girl's voice and perspective so uncannily that I was spooked. I especially love the way Lola's written language transforms as she loses her sheltered innocence.

My Very Favorite

Girls, Visions, and Everything, by Sarah Schulman
Sometimes you find a book that's a kind of literary touchstone for a period in your life. Girls, Visions, and Everything is like that for me. My oldest friend and I used to call each other up just to read pertinent chapters aloud. A lot of it is personal: Sarah Schulman captures the lurch and swell and roar of my favorite city in the world, during an era that I just missed. The heroine, Lila Futuransky, lives a version of life that I thought for a while I would have. (My real year or two in New York was quite different, of course.) In her mind, she's Sal Paradise in a lesbian On The Road, but her road is the city, with its old friends, new lovers, activist gardeners, junkie neighbors, crazy performance artists, and most of all, always, girls doing cheap theater for love.

Favorite quote from GV&E, and my motto for many years:
"When your heart is breaking, write it down. When a relationship ends, what do you have? You have nothing. But if you write it down, you have material. That's the best a girl can hope for in these troubled times."

Saturday, November 20, 2004

I Think My Kid's Been Watching Too Many Videos

The Background:

I lit a fire in our woodstove last night. Big treat for all. Also our gas furnace appears to be broken, and even here in the mild Northwest it gets a wee bit nippy in the house these days without some source of heat.

Unfortunately, we didn't have much kindling, and only one log. I kept poking the fire and dropping more newspaper in, in hopes of keeping it alive, but it never worked up to a cozy blaze, and was constantly threatening to go out altogether.

The Dialogue:

Me, noticing it's getting on to bedtime and also trying to keep Mermaid Girl warm for as long as possible:

Why don't you run to your room and get your pajamas so you can put them on in here?

MG, glancing anxiously at the woodstove:

Can you pause the fire until I get back?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

My head has been exploding at random times

The first time was about three weeks ago. It was completely unexpected. I'd just finished lunch (an innocuous organic frozen Indian dinner, microwaved in the staff room) and was sitting quietly at my desk, deleting some of the 1700 emails in my in-box, when the overheated feeling that had been gradually creeping up on me passed some kind of tipping point and I had the distinct sense that my ears and cheeks were on fire. I looked in a mirror (we have bunch of them, cute little Seuss-y things from Ikea) and saw that my face had turned roughly the shade of a stop sign. By this time I was well and truly panicked, and ran to the clinic to get two ice packs, as the burning, prickly sensation had now definitely passed from "uncomfortable" into "oh my god my face is on fire! Can't work! Can't do anything! Help! Help!" Ran back to the staff room with an ice pack on each cheek to see if anyone still there had any advice.

Advice ranged from "maybe you should call your doctor" to "get to the emergency room! Now! Right away! Before your throat closes up and you go into anaphylactic shock!" My bright idea was to take an antihistamine, but no one could find any. Finally we came up with a couple of Benadryl. I took them and sat in the clinic holding my ice packs until the whole itchy-burning-redness thing calmed down, which it did about 20 minutes later.

I called the frozen organic dinner people, not to complain, just to check if anyone else had had something like that happen, and they confirmed that there was no MSG in the dinner, and clucked and were very sympathetic and nice about it and sent me some free coupons. I called my GP and my dermatologist and left messages, and they both called back and essentially said "Huh. Weird. But you're okay now? Well, let us know if it happens again. And carry Benadryl around."

It happened again the next day. Right after lunch. This time lunch was homemade French onion soup with croutons and Swiss cheese. (I made it, I was very proud of myself for actually cooking, but see where it got me!) This time I jumped up as soon as I felt it start--a kind of tight, itchy sensation around the ears and eyebrows--and took two Benadryl, and those little pink numbers pounded it down before it got to the ice-pack stage.

Theories abounded: I was allergic to the staff room. To the microwave. To some unidentified spice that was present in both lunches. To some medication or other. To cheese. To soy. I did controlled experiments over the next several days: sitting in the staff room without eating; eating something unheated; microwaving something that I'd had at home the day before; eating cheese; eating soy. I made a doctor's appointment; she listened to my symptoms and said, "Huh. That's weird. Let me know if it happens again and I'll refer you to an allergist." My co-workers began to perk up every time I came in for lunch, anticipating more excitement. Nada.

About a week later, I took Mermaid Girl out for dinner at the Dragon Restaurant, a cheapo steam-table Chinese joint that we both love and RW hates. I was just starting in on my General Tso's Chicken and Sezhuan Tofu when Mermaid Girl announced she had to pee. Fine. We went to the bathroom together. She's just starting to be able to go into the stall by herself, so she promptly locked herself in and took her sweet time. I heard vague rustling noises. A shoe dropped to the floor. I nagged her to get out. She insisted she wasn't done.

Then... I felt it start again. That burning feeling. That rising panic. "Out!" I howled. "You have to get OUT! NOW! WE HAVE TO LEAVE RIGHT AWAY!" Because of course I didn't have any Benadryl with me, and I was afraid that if it got too bad I wouldn't be able to drive us home.

Mermaid Girl whined. She complained. She dragged her feet and cried that I was bossy and mean and she wasn't even DONE yet, as I rubbed her hands together under the faucet and dragged her out of there, and asked for a to-go container (unable even in that extremity to let yummy Chinese food go to waste), and shoved her into her booster seat. I drove home on side streets, just in case I was too wigged out to be safe with other cars.

When we got home I took two bennies and explained a little more coherently about what was going on, and apologized for scaring her (because of course she was scared), but noted that sometimes there is an emergency, like a fire drill, and I have to be bossy to keep us safe. She finished her sesame chicken, I called the restaurant to check about ingredients (no MSG, again) and things were basically okay.

Then, nothing for over a week. Even after we went to the Dragon restaurant again (for takeout, this time).

Then three episodes this week, all at work, two of them hours away from any food ingestion at all. The latest one was yesterday and was so bad that even with two Benadryl it took over an hour for the redness to fade completely, and I was spaced out from the antihistamine for the rest of the afternoon and did a rotten job with my classes.

I have an allergist appointment for next Tuesday. I've never been allergic to anything in my life before and have no idea what this is. It is the weirdest thing, and more than a little scary.

At least none of the episodes has involved anaphylactic shock. And I don't appear to be allergic to Chinese food. I don't think I could stand that.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

More Grousing.

But not about the Internet this time. Because I do feel the love. (Nine comments! And only a couple of them were from me. You read me, you really read me! ;-)

Maybe it's the weather, or the sticky work situation that I stepped into last week and sort of got in trouble for (and about which I'm not going to be specific, because I know the meaning of this word), or the looming Holidays, which come to think of it always make me crabby. But things have not been so good lately.

The other day, in despair at my ever-growing To-Do lists, one at work, one at home, and the corresponding twin piles of papers on either side of my commute, I wailed to RW, "Don't you get tired of all those things you have to do? Just one after another??"

And she looked at me quizzically and said, "But that's just what life is. Doing things."

Me: *incoherent whining sound*

RW: "Think of it this way: isn't it better than having nothing to do?"

Me: "No! Because then I could read, and e-mail people, and just do what I want!"

RW: "You'd get bored."

Now, those responses from my partner in life seem to me to miss the point so fundamentally that I'm not even sure that we were having the same conversation.

But then, she is a truly productive person, someone who is happiest when she has five or six projects going and is checking off her progress on all of them, and I am a person who, when you get right down to it, would rather be lying on a couch reading, and ideally eating Godiva chocolates, than just about anything else. I would have to do that for a long, long time before I got bored. And then I think I could be revived by an hour or so sitting on the porch swing and talking on the phone with an old friend. That's about as productive as I like to get, given the option.

Meanwhile, Mermaid Girl's old clothes are not being mailed out to our friends with younger kids, and neither are the photos from this summer, and my room is a mess, and I'm running out of clothes, and the sink is full of dishes, and I have about four work projects I'm behind on.

And Bush is still President, and Christmas is coming with attendant interfaith-family angst, and the rain it raineth every day.

On the bright side, there was a rainbow, a big one, right over the parking lot when I left work today.

And I have started reading kids' and YA books again, after a long dry spell. Four or five just in the past week. It feels good. Invigorating. Like jogging around the lake would probably feel, if I liked that kind of thing.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Skip the whining at the beginning; the rest is a love letter

Hey, where is everybody?

No one's posting, no one's commenting, and, if my stat counter doesn't lie, practically no one's reading.

No, I take that back: Jo is posting; Jo is indefatigable. And Kate is posting, and is Kate chopped liver? No! And Suzanne is not only posting but also being so incredibly productive that I feel guilty and slothful just reading about it.

But I'm a big hypocrite, because I wasn't even online all weekend. I was off the grid, on the road, out there on the edge of the prairie continent, riding around and camping out in Twinkie!

Yep, we took the Vanagon out for a test-drive. RW's been driving her to work for weeks now, but we hadn't really used Twinkie for her intended purpose, that is, as a home-away-from-home. We thought we'd better try camping close to home, for one night, just to make sure everything works.

And boy, does it work. Mermaid Girl kept saying "It's like we get to take our house on a trip with us!" And that truly is how it feels. On the way home we missed the ferry and had to wait around for about an hour before the next one came, and it was cold and rainy out, but it didn't feel like we were stuck in the car, because we were in our van. We could move around, sit on the floor, change clothes, get something to eat. And this afternoon, when RW took Mermaid Girl to a playground we'd happened on, I lay down in the back and took a nap, all comfy.

You know what my favorite part is? The fridge. I mean, it's nice to have a stove, and the pop-top bed is very cool and also surprisingly comfortable, but a fridge! In the car! That is just the best. We put Mermaid Girl's milk in it, so we didn't have the usual worry about running out and her having a meltdown from lack of protein; we put hot dogs in it and had them for dinner; we put cheese and turkey slices and all kinds of stuff in it, and whenever we wanted, we had food. Not bits of car-food snacks, but real food. And we could cook it whenever we wanted, too.

RW has the van all stocked now, with dishes and cutlery and bedding and all kinds of things. At any moment, we could say "let's go on a trip!" and pull together a few clothes, and just...go. None of the running around packing and forgetting things that is our usual routine before any trip longer then a few hours; instead, it will be insta-vacation, even in the dead of winter (it doesn't get too cold here, and just boiling water or making popcorn on the stove heats up the whole van amazingly quickly).

Some things we discovered we'd like to have in the van:

*Ketchup and mustard (Hot dogs are not so good without them)
*A deck of cards
*The spare copy of Rise Up Singing (you can tell RW and I were meant for each other because we each had a copy already when we got together).
*A little clock in the back, so I can tell what time it is when I wake up in the gray morning light having to pee
*Extra AA batteries

It was a little cramped last night, when I was trying to make dinner and Mermaid Girl was giddy and wild and I was worried about her getting too close to the stove. And there was the waking-up-in-the-wee-hours-and-not-wanting-to-open-the-door-lest-I-wake-the-whole-family problem. But overall, Twinkie is practically perfect.

All three of us are in love. With our car. We must really be Americans, after all.

Saturday, November 13, 2004


One reason I'm glad we have a cat: a cat would never, ever do this.

--Story heard on my very favorite news source.

(What, you're surprised I'm an NPR junkie?)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Men are from Haloscan, Women are from Blogger

Suzanne, you are right. I am so busted. Here it is, almost a week after this appeal, and I still have two kinds of comments cluttering up my posts. What a slacker!

Ironically, my call for votes on Haloscan vs. Blogger netted me more response, even discounting my two seed-the-pot starter comments, than any other post on this blog. My sincere thanks to everyone who voted. You're all part of the democratic process, and can be proud of upholding the tradition that made this country great.


Okay. Let's look at the results and pretend we're writing a graduate thesis about it:
(Argh! Run! Run for the hills!)

The overall, red-state/blue-state total comes to: 7 for Blogger, 3 for Haloscan. That's a pretty clear statement on the part of the voluminous Booland fan base, even if you subtract Jack the Blogger's on-the-fence vote. (I'm not counting verbal feedback, i.e. Renaissance Woman's rhetorical inquiry as to why on Earth anyone would care.)

Upon analyzing the totals in more detail, however, I noticed a clear trend: All the decisive votes for Blogger were from women, while all three of the Haloscan votes were from our friends of the male persuasion. Moreover, the Blogger voters supported their position with arguments that Blogger comments are better for me, the blogger, in terms of portability, ease of retrieval, and user-friendliness, and with comparisons with their own experience as blog proprietors. That is, they imagined themselves in my position, and thought about what would be best for me.

It's harder to generalize about the Haloscan voters' reasoning, since there was such a small sample size. I was going to go out on a limb and say that the male voters considered the situation from a commenter's point of view, rather than from the blogger's (in other words, they thought only of themselves! The cads!) but then I realized that only The Zero Boss actually did that, and his comment could be construed as constructive advice for me, the blogger, on the theory that people post comments partly to generate more traffic for their own blogs, so if I want more comments (and who doesn't?) I'd be well-advised to make that easier for my commenters.

To complicate things further, I've developed a grudging fondness for that little pop-up window. But I can't get over the gone-in-four-months thing.

I thought about keeping them both, in the spirit of gender-inclusiveness (and major indecisiveness). But that would disrupt the flow of a comment thread. I did notice that for the past couple of weeks people tend to add comments to whichever thread is already started, regardless of whether they prefer one or the other.

So, in conclusion, it looks like I'll be getting rid of Haloscan. But not tonight; tonight I have to go to sleep. (Maybe sleep will work that little pompous-writing bug out of my system.) And not before I try to save the Haloscan comments in some way. Because I'm a woman who can't throw anything out, just like my mom.

Thank you all, and good night.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

How Baby Poop Can Save the World

Scene: The car, tonight, on the way home from Pajama Story time at the library.

Mermaid Girl, in a pensive mood, weighs in on the election:

MG: I wish I could throw diapers at George Bush. Don't you wish that too?

Me, trying to model sweet reason: *deep sigh* I don't think so, bun.

MG: Why not?

Me: I don't know how that would help things. I don't think it would make him change his mind about the things that matter to me. He doesn't seem like a person who changes his mind very easily.

MG: Well, then, I wish I could throw lots of babies in poopy diapers at him.

Me: What would that do?

MG: He would be so busy with the babies that they'd have to get someone else to be President!

Me, determined, apparently, to be a party-pooper [all puns purely coincidental]: The only problem is, then the Vice President-- his helper-- would be in charge. And he's just as bad.

MG: Then we should throw poopy diaper babies at him and his helper, and they'd both be too busy with the babies, and someone else would be in charge of the country!

She might be onto something. What's not to like about the image of a distraught Bush and Cheney surrounded by an odiferous sea of crying babies?

I have to admit, it does my heart good just to think about it.

Thanks to RW, who contributed a few choice adjectives and actually told me to stop folding laundry so I could post this.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Spoilers Ahead. Sort of.

I don't know if you've seen "Mulholland Drive" or not. I don't want to spoil it for you. But it might not even matter if I do because OH MY GOD IT IS SO CREEPY. SO CREEPY. I am so freaked out. I haven't been this freaked out by a movie for a long time. I heard about it when it first came out a few years ago, it sounded too scary to watch on a big screen but I thought I could stand seeing the DVD. But that meant I brought it into MY OWN HOME. I can barely even sit on the couch we sat on to watch it. Too scary.

We rented it Saturday night, when Mermaid Girl was at her preschool's Parent's Night Out. And then, because is is so hard to figure out what's going on and everything changes in the last 45 minutes of the movie so that you have to understand the first two-thirds in a whole different way, we watched the first half again last night. And I couldn't get to sleep for hours. I was going to watch the second half again tonight, but RW was out at some performance and after I put Mermaid Girl to bed (and I could barely stand the moment when she turned the light out, she likes to make a big production out of turning the big light out and then letting it be really dark for a few moments before she switches the nightlight on and I almost screamed tonight, it was terrifying, I couldn't get out of there and into the bright bright kitchen fast enough) the house just seemed so... empty. And I couldn't let all those scary people and camera angles and that uncanny music back into it.

The funny thing is that it's RW who's usually the movie wimp and doesn't like anything with violence in it. But she wasn't nearly as creeped out as I was.

It caught me with its smartness and uncanniness and the riddle of it. I can't watch it again. I can't. I can barely even stand to have it in the house. But I can't let it go. I want to watch that party scene again, to figure out what part's real, and the scene in the club, to see what clues there are there. And I want to figure out what's up with the aunt. And I need to figure out what happens with the blue box. Someone said the blue box shows up again in the last third of the movie and I want to see if that's true. And I really should look hard at the scene where they break into the apartment; I was too scared to watch it the first time. I want to look for the ashtray.

Just writing about it is giving me the cold shivers.

But he made it so intriguing. Why did he do that? Why?

Good thing I found this. Or I would never even understand as much as I do.*

But... do I really understand anything? Do any of us?

Oh, good night. Going to look for something frothy to read.

*Though I take issue with the article's reference to "All that sex." Okay, the chemistry was pretty intense, but there were maybe two sex scenes, and they were short, and not that explicit as such things go. I think when male reviewers see lesbi@n s3x onscreen it makes their brains go blank and they can't think of anything else. Because girls! Two of them! Making out! Yikes! Time slows. The next half-hour or so of the movie is blotted out. Because girls! Two of them! etc.

My Mom is a Big Copycat

When my mom was visiting a month ago, I told her about this blog. My excuse was that I'd better explain why I was disappearing to work on the computer for hours at a time. But really I can't keep a secret-- or rather, I can keep other people's secrets, but I'm lousy at keeping my own.

I have to say she was extremely gracious about it, even when I wrote a post which did not exactly cast her in a flattering light.

But now she has gotten her revenge.

Yes, my mom has a blog.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Another chance to vote!

I've spent the past couple of hours drowning my election-related sorrows in the Internet, surfing around and reading and commenting. Also, incidentally, procrastinating on both the bills my NaNoWriMo novel [Hey, it's procrastination multitasking!]. I'm now several thousand words behind schedule already. I guess I could blame the election but really I'm afraid I've picked the wrong topic and it won't go anywhere.

Like Suzanne, I'm even more disturbed by the 11 anti-gay-marriage bans passed than about the Presidential election. We knew it would be close. And doing a little activism before the election made me feel slightly less hopeless. Like exercising makes you less tired, I guess.

But that's not why I've called you all here today!

See, here's the thing: someone has actually offered me the help I pleaded for a while ago with the Haloscan crisis. But I don't know whether to take it.

To recap: about 10 days ago, I did a wild, impetuous thing: I added Haloscan comments to this blog. Then I discovered that Haloscan did some stuff I didn't like, like disappearing comments after four months. Also, they don't send me a nice little e-mail when someone comments, the way Blogger does. Thanks to some helpful tips from the Haloscan forums, I was able to make my Blogger comments re-appear, but by then several lovely folks had used the Haloscan feature and I started to have second thoughts.

So now I have two kinds of comments. I don't like this. It's confusing. I like seeing my comments in one neat list.

And now someone has kindly e-mailed me, offering to help me take the HaloScan code off my blog template [I couldn't figure out how because I am an HTML goober].

So here's the question: should I do it? Or should I go cold turkey on Blogger comments and throw my lot in with HaloScan?

I leave it up to you, my ever-growing [now in the double digits! Woohoo! Thanks lesbian moms and comment-repliers and BlogExplosion!] readership. Just leave a comment below. If you use "Blogger Comments," I'll count your vote towards... Blogger comments. A comment in just plain "Comments" is a vote for Haloscan.

Here is a short voting guide with the advantages of each:

Blogger Comments:


*Your deathless prose will stay on this blog forever.
*You, the commenter, can be anonymous if you wish.
*Your comment can be as long as you want.
*No ads.
*I'll automatically get an e-mail so I know you commented, even on an old post.
*[Updated] As Jen points out below, they're transferable in case I ever get my act together and move to my own domain.


*They're a pain to use if you don't have a Blogger account.
*[Updated] As The Zero Boss points out below, they're less likely to generate traffic back to the commenter's blog, since they only link to the Blogger profile.

Haloscan Comments:


*Pop up in a cute little window.
*You, the commenter, can link directly to your site and/or e-mail without opening a Blogger account.
*Maybe there are other advantages that I don't know about?
*Mir has them, which makes them cool.


*Are "archived" after four months. [What does that mean?!? Could I still read them?]
*Include ads.
*You can't comment anonymously.
*1,000-character limit on comment length.
*I don't get an e-mail notification, so I might miss a comment on an old post.

Now get out there and vote! Let your voice be heard! Don't make me knock on your door with my clipboard!

I'll check back this weekend and do something about the whole mess.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The Long View

A little distraction to keep me from biting my nails while waiting for the results to come in:

This afternoon I left work on the dot of four so I could vote (busy but no long lines, and a paper-and-pen ballot that reminded me of standardized tests) and pick up Mermaid Girl early at day care as a special treat. We were having pizza! for dinner and I figured she'd be out the door right away for that.

I figured so wrong. She was eating snack and refused to leave, so engrossed was she in a discussion amongst her friends, a thoughtful and articulate bunch I'll call Hermione, Ginger, and Katherine. I pulled up a tiny little chair and listened for a while.

Hermione (little button of a 3-1/2-year-old, in flowered headband):
My grandma lives in California. But it will be floating away soon, so I won't get to see her for a long time.

California? Floating away?

Katherine (5-year-old Senior Dragonfly and resident know-it-all):
Yes. California will be breaking off from the rest of the country and floating into the ocean. In a couple of weeks.

[General nods all around the snack table, unaccompanied by much concern on anyone's part for the fate of Hermione's poor grandma.]

How do you all know this?

Ginger (4-1/2, a nerdy sweetie with a perpetual runny nose):
It's in a book about the earth. I'll get it for you! Because I want you to understand.
[Scurries off to the Book Corner for written proof.]

There follows some geological discussion about earthquakes, which I feel bound to emphasize hardly ever happen (Katherine: "No, there are little earthquakes happening all the time."), and the theory of continental drift, with which they are all apparently familiar, before the conversation wends back to California:

You know, it's true that California may eventually break off and float away, but I don't think it's going to happen very soon. Not for a long, long time.

Mermaid Girl, helpfully:
Yeah, probably not till after all of us preschoolers are dead!

*Sigh* after tonight, California may wish it could float away...

Or maybe not. The night is young. Ptui, Ptui, Ptui*.

*Spitting three times-- the lovely Jewish version of knocking on wood