Thursday, April 26, 2007

Dog Prayers

I got home from Miami this afternoon. I had spent a couple of days at a law conference with my partner A in Miami, and of course you have to ask the question, why would anyone willingly spend time at a law conference if they did not have to, and the answer would be, because it's a free trip to Miami, stupid. A free trip to Miami, if it's not in July or August, is worth all of the talk of case facts and arguments over the finer points of the law. My partner had to deliver several seminars on just these topics, while I lounged beside the pool. Since A is a government lawyer, and not one of those highly paid defense lawyers, the perks are few and far between, so I don't have many chances to play the wife of leisure. I had to endure an evening of lawyer talk at a fabulous resort, but I also got the chance to take my wife out to dinner in South Beach, where we sat under palm trees far away from the stress of DC, and ate warm chocolate chip cookies with mint chocolate chip ice cream for dessert.

Not a bad trade.

During my stay in Miami, I got a phone call from friend Jules from Australia. She has recently relocated to Seattle, which is a hell of a lot closer than Melbourne. I don't know about you, but I always meet some fabulous people when I travel, and I always wish that I will keep these friends for a lifetime. I was particularly fond of my friends from Down Under, since I had spent nearly three months there, and practically gone native in that time. As the years went by, and e-mails became fewer and farther between, I gave up the hope that I would ever meet up with my mates from the other hemisphere. But Jules is here, and a trip to Seattle is entirely do-able and so my hope of keeping contact with friends from far-away places is not so far-fetched.

I got home around two, and immediately sorted through the mail, and cleaned out the fridge. I was only gone for three days, but it is a habit of mine to clean the fridge when I get home from travel, because in the past I have often had some unpleasant surprises when returning from vacation, such as getting up in the morning after a red-eye flight and pouring some really foul smelling milk into my Frosted Flakes and shoveling a huge spoonfull into my mouth before my olfactory glands were fully functioning. My first act upon arriving home was to discard all dairy products, and then go to the Safeway for something edible. It was surprising to me that even in my short absence, there were so many nasty things in the fridge. There were a couple of cartons of milk, and more than a few plastic wrapped packets that looked like my science experiments from high school. And even though one of those Saran Wrapped Wonders might have held the cure for cancer, I bravely chucked them into the kitchen trash, not wanting to take the risk of food poisoning, and the unpleasant prospect of having the heaves when I had to work in the morning.

I opened a beer and dialed my friend Jules in Seattle. She was after all of these years, just exactly as I had left her in Sydney, funny, happy, and completely real, which is the thing that I love and miss about all of my friends in Australia. She had arrived in the US a few weeks ago, and was anxiously awaiting the arrival of her stuff. We spent a bit of time catching up, and planning to meet up in Seattle in August. During the conversation, I learned that Jules' longtime companion, Doof the Amazing Oz Dog had gone missing on the farm and missed the trip to Seattle. Jules was on the verge of something very un-Australian, crying, and it distressed me in the extreme. I got off the phone with Jules, booked a flight to Seattle in August, and did something very out of character.

Okay, I have never admitted to believing in a god, but I have recently taken to carrying a rosary. It's a Catholic thing, and I'm not sure why, I'm still skeptical about the existence of a Devine Being, but I figure, these days, we mortals can use all the help we can get. My rosary popped out of my suitcase tangled in a few knots, and I almost stepped on it on my way to clean out the fridge. After hearing my friend Jules and her distress about Doof, I picked up the rosary, and said a few quick prayers for the lost canine. I have no idea if the prayers helped at all, but I get this feeling that Doof never wanted to go to Seattle, and is chasing some hot gurl dog in the woods, rather than sit at a Starbucks on a leash.

Doof is waiting for Jules at home, just like I waited for her here.

And everything is right in the universe.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Involuntary Jerk of My Liberal Knee

I came home from work tonight and my partner informed me that Cindy Sheehan had been arrested by the Capital police just before the State of the Union address. I wondered what the charges might have been, was she disturbing the peace, was she naked? It turns out that she was an invited guest and she was carted away on some charges that have yet to be announced. I wondered aloud if we are living in a police state? I know that sounds like some radical idea, but I'm curious, what were the charges?

The police in DC who show up to a crime scene 45 minutes after the crime happens were pretty swift to respond to the activist in the Halls of Congress. What sort of nation do we live in? We arrest the mother of a soldier who gave his life for his nation, and let the liar address the nation for forty minutes? Who is the criminal in this scenario? The man who lied to a nation, or the mother who lost her son? One is in jail, and the other free to commit more crimes.

What has happened to American Justice?

Monday, January 30, 2006

When You Can't Laugh

There are times when my favorite remedy for depression is inapropriate. Funerals, are really bad times for laughter, although at mine, I hope someone remembers something funny that I said. When every branch of government falls into the hands of conservative influence, I can't really think of a joke that might be funny enough to stop me from feeling like weeping.

The lack of courage of the Democratic Party in voting to close the debate on Judge Alito is making me feel that I might never laugh again.

I can always make the joke about having perfect birth control, I'll never have to face an unwanted pregnancy. But for me, a child would not be an undue burden, I have all of the tools necessary to provide for a child, a good job, a stable partner, and good home, and great health insurance. My niece does not have those things yet. She's in her twenties, she's got a lot of things going for her, great education, a great job, but what if the man who provides the swimmer for that unborn child doesn't want to hang around to help with the actual life of the child? Women have so little control over the biological events in their lives, allowing them the big Veto seems just like common sense. While there are laws that are sometimes enforced to make men pay child support, there is no law stopping him from leaving his family to boink a twenty year old. An umbilical cord ties a woman to a child, but there is nothing to bind a man to his offspring.

Other things about the Alito confirmation that are not funny pertain to wierd laws about executive power in the government. I'm not a lawyer, but I totally get the reasons for separating Church and State, and having separate branches of government. There is no reason to have all three branches of government fall into the hands of men who have already proven themselves unable to even marshall the vast resources of government to save a person from drowning on the rooftop of a home in a state where poverty defines life and death. We are handing over the last branch of government to an Administration that lied to get us into a war, and was not even competant enough to win the illegal war.

Basically, we're fucked.

If you're hoping as I am that the Democrats will take back the House and Senate in November 2006, I'm here to tell you don't waste your energy. The Democrats just handed over your basic civil liberties to the Republicans without so much as a filibuster. Are the Democrats in on the great power give away? Did the people you support just give away your remaining rights as an individual?

This isn't the most horrible moment in American history. But it might just be the last chance we ever have for self determination.

The Road To Hell

The road to hell is paved with.....a lot of really fun stuff. Since I am hellbound by the unfortunate circumstances of being born a lesbian, I figure the trip out to be worth eternal damnation. I have always been the black sheep, I was the first in the family to get kicked out of Catholic school, the first to get a tattoo, the first to smoke pot, and the only gay member of the family. Before I was married, I chased women energetically. Even in business, I'm referred to as the creative one. My partner A, is the complete opposite. She is completely by the book. She doesn't drink, she never smoked anything you couldn't purchase legally. She's highly educated, she has an important job, and she teaches at an Ivy League Law school. She pays her bills on time, she makes the bed in the morning, she returns videos on time, and she even pays her parking tickets. She drinks Decaf. She's a model citizen. Why she married me is a puzzle I may never solve, but I am smart enough not to question my good fortune. She does however have this one vice. She loves to gamble. Gambling was the one vice that I never acquired. There were never any casinos in Chicago, and I was much more interested in women or loud music anyway. The first time I ever saw a slot machine was with A. We took this romantic trip to some quaint town in southern Illinois. We stayed at this lovely B&B with a wood burning fireplace, and a massive hot tub. The next day when we came up for air, we strolled into town, and there on the banks of the river, was this old-fashioned river boat. We walked up the ramp and boarded the old vessel, and there was this huge party going on. It was all of these old ladies sitting at slot machines, some of them in between two machines, feeding quarters in as fast as their short arms would move. They were amazingly dextrous, dropping quarters, pulling the lever, the hand eye coordination was remarkable. And they were chain smoking. It was noisy and I could barely hear A over the sounds of bells ringing and coins dropping. She was steering towards a machine called "Lucky Horseshoes". She pulled out a twenty and fed it right into the machine. She began pulling the lever at lightning speed, and almost immediately pulled another twenty from her pocket to put into the machine. I looked on horrified thinking of the children starving in India and suggested we get lunch. She gave me another twenty, and asked me to get her a Scotch and water.

What? I walked up to the bar and demanded to see the manager to find out what he had done with my sensible wife. The manager was busy helping two elderly ladies carry these huge buckets of quarters to this huge change counter. I returned to A with her Scotch and water, and heard her shouting, "Double Diamonds! F-ing Cool!"

OMIGOD! My wife just said the F word. In PUBLIC! And loud! She grabbed the scotch out of my hand and handed me another twenty and pointed me to the machine at the bar. Where were these twenties coming from? The Devil? Wasn?t it a sin to gamble when there were so many hungry children in Africa? And what about the little old ladies chain smoking and carrying on? I began to say the Hail Mary, and A looked over at me like I had lost my mind. She accused me of jinxing her, and insisted that I have a beer and chill.

Look, you don't ever have to twist my arm to drink a beer, even on the road to hell.

I have since come to regard my wife's affection for gambling as a sign of human weakness much like my love of tobacco and beer. In fact, we just returned from a day trip to Atlantic City (her Christmas present from me, are we surely going to hell, like tomorrow?). She still sends me to the bar to get her a Scotch, and then gives me a couple of twenties to play the penny machines and drink beer. But slot machines have changed a bit, maybe to appeal more to those like me who will soon be little old ladies with time on their hands. I found this penny slot machine called Pharaoh?s Gold. If you won, the machine played that old Bangles song, "Walk Like An Egyptian". It lit up, and the mummies climbed out of the tombs and did the Egyptian dance. I had so much fun, I put $80 of my own money into it, and lost it. At 3 in the morning, A had to come and look for me, I was doing the dance on my little slot machine chair and ready for bed.

I'm already going to hell, it's been pre-determined. My partner A. is perfect, and she needs a bit of help on the way down. I figure her road to hell will be a bit more fun on the way down, and for me, if A chooses eternity with me, no matter where we end up, it will be heaven.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Respect Your Elders

People older than me have taught me many things. Just about every important thing I've ever learned, I think I learned from someone older than me, someone who'd already been there. Important things, I mean things like manners, patience, how to fold your slacks so that you get that nice crease in the middle. I've always been respectful of old people, until just recently.

I manage a specialty foods store, not like a supermarket, but more like an import store. We have a lot of things that you can't get anywhere else, and a lot of food that comes from small artisan type producers. If you're looking for a Hershey bar, we won't have it. If you want fine Belgium chocolate, we can help you. My store is located in a neighborhood that is very mixed, we have a lot of diplomats, we have some really wealthy people from Foxhall road, and we have a large population of elderly folks who have lived in the neighborhood for years. Our prices are not cheap, but our food is high end. The elderly population finds it easy to shop at my store because they can walk there with no problem. Many of them were probably upper middle income earners when they had jobs, but now have seen everything from toilet paper to prescription drugs rise in price, while the steady Social Security check remains the same. I can understand why they might be a little cranky. I mean here they have lived by the rules, worked hard all of their lives, and in retirement when everything is supposed to be easy, they are wrapping the remnants of meals, four green beans, a slice of turkey, half a dinner roll in tin foil to put in the freezer and save for the end of the month when the checking account gets empty and there's nothing to eat. I'd be cranky, wouldn't you?

My Mom saves everything that she leaves on her plate and wraps it in foil. When the family gets together, we have a pot luck sort of dinner. There are six of us offspring, and most of my sisters are straight, and they married these guys who eat a lot. When the foil packets come out of the oven, and we all grab for the food, I often eye my sibling's plates to see if they got more roasted potatoes than I did, because in my packet there are only two. We sometimes trade packets, I'm not very fond of green beans, and my sister Mary won't eat beef. We are always very appreciative of Mom's cooking, we eat everything on our plates in like two minutes. After Mom falls asleep, we hit the late night drive up window at Taco Bell.

So I'm not insensitive to the challenges that confront my elderly customers. But one of our customer service people, Norma, has cultivated this following of high maintenance old people. There are five or six not very mobile, really old women who have to have us shop for them, and then deliver the groceries. When these women call, I give them to Norma, and she spends hours on the phone taking the orders. Norma is about the kindest person I have ever worked with, she talks to the ladies about the chemotherapy they are having, what sort of drugs they are taking, side effects, yada yada. She is so good with these people, that the building could be on fire, and she would stay on the phone until someone yanked her physically from her desk. She knows what kind of ice cream they like. If kindness gets you anything in the afterlife, Norma will have everything. But in this life, Norma gets eight hour days of complaining women who have no one to talk to.

One morning at six am, I answered the phone and a woman rasped, "Can I ssspeak to Nooorma..aaaa?"

I said, "Norma isn't here, can I help you with something?"

There was silence on the other end. I hung up the phone and made myself an espresso.

The phone rang again. A frail voice clinging to life said,"Doctor Micheals?"

I got a little freaked out, and said, "One moment please." and then I put her on hold.

I ran over to Linda who was setting up the coffee bar. "Linda, I think it's Mrs. Wheeler, one of Norma's ladies. I think she's dying! She's asking for Doctor Micheals. Should I send an ambulance?"

"Well where does she live?" Linda looked at me like I was crazy.

"I don't know, down the street somewhere in one of those old lady apartment buildings."

"How you gonna send an ambulance if you don't know where she lives?"

I quickly ran back to the phone, and shouted, "Mrs. Wheeler? What's your address? Mrs. Wheeler! Hello?"

Mrs Wheeler was gone. I put her on hold as she took her last breath. I killed her.

For months after, I wouldn't answer the phone. The rest of Norma's ladies still call on a regular basis. Today Mrs. East called and ordered a slew of groceries to be delivered. Norma spent 40 minutes on the phone getting her order and listening to complaints about bodily functions and imminent death. Mrs. East is a little forgetful because her doctors are tired of her complaining, and so they have prescribed heavy doses of pain killers and narcotics. We delivered the groceries, and Mrs. East called back screaming that she hadn't ordered any groceries, why were they delivered? She had forgotten that she placed the order. I passed the call to Norma. I went into my office to answer some e-mails, and I heard Norma yelling into the phone, "You now, you're not the only person in the universe who's sick! How'd you like to live in Africa and die from a mosquito bite? You think you're sick? We had this lady die last month WHILE SHE WAS ON HOLD!"


The phone rang a second later. it rang and rang and rang, and finally, I had to pick it up. It was Mrs. East. She wanted to speak to the manager.

"Okay, I'll try to find her." I put her on hold.

I couldn't find Norma.

I picked up the phone, and in the best receptionist voice I could muster, I said, "She's in a meeting. Can I take your number and have her call you?"


The phone rang again. I let it ring like twenty times. I finally picked it up, and Mrs West shouted,

"I want to speak to the MANAGER!"

"One moment please."

I put her on hold for so long, that I'm sure she forgot who she was speaking to. She might still actually be sitting there now, at one in the morning, asleep with the phone dangling from her hand.

We're all gonna be there someday, old, maybe alone, maybe a little crazy. Maybe we'll have to save those four green beans and two roasted potatoes from the beginning of the month when we had money in the bank. My elders always taught me that kindness doesn't cost you anything. And it's true up to a point. I'm good to my mother, I don't call her as often as I should, but when I do, I make her laugh. I try to buy her dinner, but when she insists on cooking, I eat the packets of frozen food and thank her for making me dinner. I listen to her bitch about her ankle, and the ants in the kitchen. When she starts telling me that George Bush is a great president, I listen for a few minutes until I can't take it anymore.

And then I put her on hold.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Last Supper

LThe last night in Florence, we had dinner at our favorite restaurant. What was special about this place was not so much that the food was exquisite, and the service prompt, but when we dined there, we felt welcome. In the last 4 years, I've been to Europe four times, and each time I go, I feel a little more anxious, a little less inclined to tell people where I'm from. This trip, I even considered buying a T-shirt with a big maple leaf on the front, so that no one would think I was an American. It's not like I'm ashamed of my country, I'm just not too proud of what we've become in recent years. In particular, I was really sensitive about our lack of concern for our own citizens in the recent disaster in the Gulf, and that the world had witnessed it on CNN. In the other Gulf, I was ashamed at our invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the shame of looting and torture. I figure that as a citizen of this country, I must shoulder the blame for these things, even though I am powerless to stop them, and I reason that some of the rude looks I get when I'm traveling are justified. I still travel, because it's my passion, I love to experience cultures and history, oh and I also love the food.

In my favorite restaurant, we were greeted like old friends in spite of the two years of separation, regardless of the two different languages and cultures. I was even given a recipe of the house special, Gnudi, a spinach and ricotta dumpling unlike anything I've tasted anywhere. Somewhere after dessert, the staff took me back in the kitchen where they gave me a hands on demo on how to prepare the lovely little things. Soon after I proudly emerged from the kitchen with my tiny little spinach dumpling on my plate, the bottle of Lemoncello was placed on the table. We partied hard, we of different cultures, different languages, both countries guilty of poor judgment and war crimes, one country that will be able to just pull up and leave, the other mired in a disaster of it's own making.

It was the perfect ending to a perfect trip. And I will miss Italy and my friends. My hope is that the regular people who feel powerless to stop the mistakes of those who have power will prevail, and the citizens of all the world will be able to share the beauty of all cultures over a great meal and a chilled bottle of Lemoncello.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Food For The Soul

As one who continues to search for spirituality, I find a lot of comfort in the things of the body, rather than the things of the soul. Maybe that's my problem. My thinking is, "If it Tastes Good, Eat It", and I seldom worry about fat grams until the dessert is already winding it's way through my digestive system.

This dessert is only available in one restaurant in Florence. It's called Panna Cotta. You can find variations in just about every restaurant in Tuscany, but to experience the mouth watering Divine sensation of Panna Cotta at it's supreme excellence, you have to go to I'Toscono on Via Guelfa in Florence. There is no other dessert like it.

And the waitresses are totally hot.

My Italian Paradise

Have you ever traveled to a place too beautiful for words? Cinque Terra is like that, the feeling you get from entering these five lovely towns is one of unreality, like you had walked onto a movie set. I'm not talented enough in my writing skills to describe the beauty of Cinque Terra, for that maybe poetry is appropriate. I'm just here to say that if you ever get the chance to see Cinque Terra, take it, it is one of the most lovely places in all of creation.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Loose Thread, or Butch By Default

In heterosexual relationships, there are usually two partners, although I have heard of relationships with more than two partners, most straight people I know have either a husband, or a wife. Since this is reality to them, this is how they often define alternative relationships. I have often been asked by well meaning straight people, "Which one of you is, uhmm, the man?" I then feel as if it is my duty to lesbians everywhere to educate these well meaning straight people and tell them that in a lesbian relationship there is no man. For breeders, this is a hard concept to swallow, (oops, that was completely unintended) because the very fabric of society is built around the idea of Penis Power. But fabric, like penises can become completely unwound with just a slight tug on a loose thread, and all of a sudden, there you are, not bound by marriage to some asshole who expects you to take the kids to school in the morning because you make less money than he does, but sitting in a pile of loose yarn, examining the truths that once bound you, and realizing that they have become with just a slight bit of pressure, just a pile of garbage that you should sweep up.

The penis is completely unnecessary. This is the thread that unravels society. Pull on it if you dare.

Without men, of course, there are naturally tasks that men traditionally do that need to be taken up by women. Who changes the tire? Who takes out the trash? Who steps on the spider crawling across the living room floor? In lesbian relationships, it is usually the butch. In my own relationship, it has been decidedly difficult to determine which one of us is butch. We both wear make-up. I have a purse, and A does not. I wear heels, and A does not. I know how to change a tire, A. does not. A. knows about things like duvet covers and I don't. I can cook, and A. can't. It's not really a competition, because knowing how to change a tire and knowing how to cook do not really constitute victory. Victory is defined as a happy relationship, no matter what your skills are. Skills contribute to partnership, skills are good. Still the question remains, who takes out the trash? Obviously, we both are skilled enough to do the job. In almost every relationship, trash duty falls to the butch.

So how can you tell who is the butch? If you are both kind of gurlie, then I have a fool proof way to determine who gets trash duty. It's a simple question.

Which one of you is more likely to pee outdoors?

Me personally, I don't care. If you have to pee, then you have to pee. It doesn't matter to me whether or not there is a designated place, I can't just hold it indefinitely, pee, once manufactured, must be expelled. I prefer a clean and sanitary restroom, but if one is not available, then expell it, I will. A, my partner has developed the skill of being able to hold it for miles until we drive by the Hyatt Regency, and have to stop for dinner, even though we're not hungry. It usually costs me $120 to stop to use the restroom and have dinner. Not only is it expensive, but now I am the designated butch, and not only do I have to cook, I have to take out the trash.

But hey, doesn't that give me a free pass to lay around and watch basketball on the weekends?