Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

Scary Fridge

I took this photograph while on a walk
in Meredith, New Hampshire, in 1995.
I didn't look inside.

I have the stuff to make magnets out of it. One of these days, I'm going to sell them.

Monday, October 30, 2006


Robyn gave us an assignment. I didn’t want to do it; I don’t like assignments. I haven’t done it exactly, but these are some photos that are home to me.


This is on the bridge on the way to my favorite beach.


Leaves turning—I used to climb this tree when I was little.
I couldn’t climb very high.

Early Winter

Winter came early one year.
I snapped this outside my current apartment.

Lifeguard chair

I occupied this chair for a summer.
I hated the job, but I love the way the sky looks against
the water and the trees.


White Mountains, New Hampshire.

Laundry in Boston

I snapped this photo in the North End of Boston one summer day when I was feeling sad.
It made me feel better.

El Greco

El Greco Cropped

An important art discovery was made this past weekend. At long last, the painting by El Greco, “Christ Healing the Bling,” has been shown in Massachusetts. Apparently Christ didn’t just heal the blind. He healed that which blinded the blind to begin with.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Blogger Be Damned

I have no idea what is causing the meltdown on my blog, but I am not pleased. Nope. Not pleased a bit. I thought switching over to beta would help, but I think it made matters worse. Sorry for the troubles.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Travels with Fluff: Vacation Photos Starring a Tub of Fluff (Part IV: Fluffy in Memphis)

Fluffy in Memphis

Welcome Back to Travels with Fluff!

New to Travels with Fluff? Check out the previous posts.
London and the Opal Coast of France (for one day, to get some wine)
Dispatch from the What the Fluff? Festival in Union Square, Somerville
New York City

Don’t forget to take the Fluff Quiz at the bottom of this post. Answers to the previous Fluff Quiz posted too!

One of my oldest and dearest friends lives in Memphis, Tennessee. She works at St. Jude’s Hospital, the world’s best hospital for pediatric oncology (yes, one of my best friends is a saint). For ten years, she nagged me to come and visit her, and until last winter, I never did. The good Yankee I am, I assumed that any non-coastal state was a backwater and kept trying to convince her to meet me someplace else for a mini-break. She finally wore me down.

I am happy to say that I was wrong. In one liver-straining weekend, I took in the sights and vibe of Memphis, and I have to say that Midtown Memphis is actually a very funky little enclave in what is otherwise a backwater (I did go to Mississippi and Arkansas for about five minutes apiece, and I wasn’t impressed).

Sadly, we didn’t go to Graceland. I’m not a big Elvis fan (except Fat Elvis—some of that stuff slays me), and the cheapest tour was somewhere around $50. Plus, it was out of the way of all the drinking establishments we needed to hit.

Please note that any and all daylight pictures were taken by someone with a mind-bending hangover and that the evening shots were taken by someone who should not have been operating a camera (traumatic photos have been edited out).

Fluff at Boscos

Fluff at Boscos, a regional brewery

Fluff at Joe's Liquors

Fluff at Joe’s Liquors, aka Sputnik

Fluff on Beale Street

Fluff on Beale Street

Bad picture of Fluff on Beale Street

Bad photo of the lights on Beale Street

Fluff at Naughty Place

This place used to be a brothel

Fluff Sun Studio II

Fluff at Sun Studio

Fluff Sun Studio

Fluff on the side of the Sun Studio building



Fluff Trolley Car

Fluff and the Memphis Trolley

Fluff and Elvis on Velvet

Fuzzy picture of Fluff and Elvis on velvet

Fluff's True Love

Fluff found true love

Fluff on Bench and the Mississippi

Fluff on a bench along the banks of the mighty Mississippi

Fluff Quiz the Third!
Oh dear, I know so very little about Memphis. This one might be a bit short.

Remember, if you cheat, you are only cheating yourself. Not knowing squat about Fluff is nothing to be ashamed of.

1. What is the shelf life of Fluff?
2. Dusty Springfield is best known for “Son of a Preacher Man,” recorded with the Memphis Sound. The song, however, was originally written for someone else. Who turned “Preacher Man” down? Huge-ass hint: She later recorded it.
3. Name two people who recorded at Sun Studio. I don’t want anyone telling me that my quizzes are too hard.
4. Fluffy fell in love with Aqua Net in Memphis and has been heartbroken ever since. Have you ever felt this way? Discuss.

Answers to Fluff Quiz the Second!
Dive wins this round, however, because Dive also disrespected baseball, James gets to share billing. Kudos for creativity go to Super C, whose answer to the OMFUG extra credit nearly made me wee.

1. Is Fluff kosher?
Yes, Fluff is kosher. I don’t understand this, as I don’t believe it’s really food, but according to the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, it fits the bill.
2. Is Fluff a Boston Red Sox fan or a New York Yankees fan? Why?
Fluff is a Red Sox fan because Fluff is from Massachusetts (it’s made in Lynn, Lynn, the city of sin and was invented in Somerville). Fluff is therefore constinutionally incapable of having anything but disgust for all things New York Yankees.
3. Which Monty Python member is responsible for Spamalot?
Eric Idle, bless his twisted heart.
4. Ian McDiarmid played Teddy in the Broadway revival of Brian Friel’s Faith Healer. Who did he play in Return of the Jedi?
He played the Emperor. This was a bit of a trick question, as he was also Palpatine in the newer movies. But those movies were crap, and so I am sticking to the original three.
5. Alas, it appears as though the legendary rock club CBGB’s really is headed for memory lane this time. What does CBGB stand for?
Ironically enough, CBGB stands for Country Bluegrass, and Blues. the club closed earlier this month.
Extra Credit: What does OMFUG stand for? Hint: It ain’t dirty.
OMFUG stands for Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers. Music as food, I like that. RIP, CBGB OMFUG.

In the next installment, Fluff goes to Italia.

Previous Posts
London and the Opal Coast of France (for one day, to get some wine
Dispatch from the What the Fluff? Festival in Union Square, Somerville
New York City

My Life Is a Country Song

Shit. Double Shit.

The front pipe on my car just fell off. It’s been going for months, so this is no big shock, but, still, SHIT! It’s going to cost something to the tune of $1,000 to fix. Do I have this kind of scratch lying around? Nope. I mean, I can do it, but it’s going to be hard. Really, really hard.


At least it fell off at home, so I wasn’t left stranded on the road. And I have a good mechanic, who will only do that which is necessary to fix it. But damnit, I really didn’t need this right now.

Just exactly how did my life become a country song?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

On Idealism and Compromise

The comments to my last post and Dr. James’s excellent post on Keith Olbermann’s blistering indictment of the Bush Administration’s assault on democracy and freedom have inspired me to finally get this down. While James and I are coming from different perspectives where faith is concerned (and I suspect we disagree on a few issues), I couldn’t agree with him more about the importance of this election. I encourage you to check out his post and to watch the video link.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about idealism and compromise. I’m an idealist struggling not to succumb to the cynicism that plagues so many of us as we grow older and learn that the world is not easily changed. Unfortunately for idealists, we cannot get everything that we hope for. This is hard to accept, but I have learned that we must be very careful not to use this disappointment as an excuse to abandon the good fight altogether.

Like many American liberals, I believe that the Democratic Party has abandoned its ideals in the name of winning elections. They seem unwilling to come right out and say that they support social services, that they support the rights of the poor, that they support the rich paying their fair share, that they support workers’ rights, that they support environmental protections, that they support women’s rights (including abortion), that they support equal rights for gay people. This unwillingness to take such stands, unpopular as some of them might be, have left the party with nothing real to say.

In 2000 I looked at Al Gore, and because he appeared to have turned his back on the principles I held dear, I didn’t vote for him. I lived in New Hampshire, a state heartbreakingly close to going blue that year, and I voted for Ralph Nader because Gore didn’t live up to my ideals. While the Green vote was not enough to have tipped the state blue (therefore rendering the debacle in Florida unnecessary), the general dissatisfaction with the Democratic party by lefties like me certainly did influence the outcome. I will regret my vote for the rest of my life.

Yes, the Democrats are the wishy-washy party, as Dive so aptly puts it. No matter how wishy-washy they are, however, they are not the Republicans. Make no mistake about who this party is and who it represents. This is not the Party of Lincoln. It isn’t even the party of Eisenhower. Sensing an opportunity to seize the votes of southerners who traditionally voted Democratic but who opposed the civil rights movement, the Republicans made a cold, calculated alliance with racists. Ronald Reagan did not kick of his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the site of the brutal murder of civil rights workers, because the weather was nice there that time of year. He sent a clear signal that the Party of Lincoln had undergone a fundamental shift. Don’t like civil rights? Vote Republican.

And, speaking of fundamentals, the Republicans also got into bed with the Christian fundamentalists, inviting the likes of Jerry Fawell and his Moral Majority into the fold (Southern Baptist Convention? Founded to defend slavery). The Gospel according to Fawell is that Jesus hates uppity women, science, and gay people, and that until these forces are eradicated from this nation that God will turn his back on it. He preached that America was founded by Christians as a Christian nation, despite all evidence to the contrary. And Christians, especially southern Christians, heeded the call of Fawell and those who followed him, and flocked to the Republican party in droves. As we saw in 2004, this powerful Values block delivered for the Republicans in a way that I hope woke the rest of the country up.

We can see the fruits of this unholy union. An illegal war of choice that many on the religious right see as a religious crusade. The destruction of the ideals upon which this country was founded. A movement to fight equal rights instead of advancing them. A culture of corruption and hate.

The Democrats, afraid to be who they are, have backed away from some of their ideals. They’ve gotten into bed with business interests in order to get money to be in politics. They are a tremendous disappointment on so many levels. But they did not get into bed with racists and religious fundamentalists. They would not have brought our country to the brink of losing everything we hold dear as a free and democratic people.

Even if the only difference between the two parties is that the Democrats are not the Republicans, that’s good enough for me this time. The Democrats do not live up to my expectations, but I now know that a Gore administration would not have been the same as the Bush regime.

I can’t take back my idealistic vote six years ago. But I can cast a better, wiser compromise vote this time. I’m voting for the Democrats.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Well, shockingly enough, all is nice and quiet here this evening. I don’t know what my landlord said to those people, but I haven’t heard boo from them since I got home. I’m sitting here, listening (quietly, of course) to the early BBC recordings of Jacqueline du Pré, having just finished Jennifer Egan’s The Keep (can’t recommend it—had some promise, but crossed the International Cheese Line). I made some delicious soup earlier this evening while listening to Nick Drake’s first album (also quietly). My floor didn’t shake; no one yelled. In short, I am feeling much, much better. If I can get through tomorrow morning without having my bed go all Exorcist on me, I’ll consider the problem dealt with.

Also, I am once again a citizen of the wonderful world of online dating. One site I was on hadn't deleted my profile when I cancelled my account, so that was easy enough to do. The other required me to fill out another questionnaire. That activity, alas, took up my writing juices for this evening.

Because I’m feeling guilty for all this self-absorbed drivel I’ve been writing lately, I’ll leave you all with this. In two weeks’ time, we should know if this country is worth the effort to try to save it or not. Oh please, oh please, oh please.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Rant: On the Neighbors from HELL!

Hate is a strong word. It’s a word I don’t like to use with regards to people, but I have to say it: I hate my neighbors. Hate them. Hate them. HATE THEM!

A little background is in order. I live in a nice, quiet town. In fact, sometimes I think this place is too sleepy. When I moved to the top floor of this old house, it was a nice, quiet house. There was no one on the second floor, and a quiet (if a little rough around the edges) family living on the first floor. My landlord promised me that when the second floor apartment was renovated that he would rent to a single person or a professional couple, as he wanted to keep the building nice and quiet. That apartment is fairly small—really more like a one bedroom with an office and no common space to speak of—so I thought that I was all set.

Well, I wasn’t. For the last two years, I have lived above the family from the bad place. It started with cat shit in the hallway and loud, drunken domestic disputes, and it hasn’t let up since. Here’s a little litany:

  • Last Christmas, the husband broke into my apartment and stole my liquor (something he denies, and I can’t officially accuse him of, as I have no hard evidence other than that the nice people who used to live below me [before second floor demons got to them enough that they moved] said that they saw a bottle that matched my description by the guy’s truck).
  • When I was getting my cable internet connection fixed a few months ago (necessitated by the fact that they were stealing my cable), the wife screamed her bloody head off at me and the workmen before slamming the door so hard that it left a crack.
  • The cops have been here several times for domestic disputes.
  • The wife didn’t like the woman who moved in on the first floor after the nice people left, so she called social services on her, saying that she was an abusive parent. Of course, they lost their own kids for a few months after a lovely little drunken dispute.
  • When they had a problem with the way I disposed of the occasional pizza box (next to the dumpster, as everyone has done, because they don’t fit into the garbage bags), they shoved it under my car instead of using their fucking words to say that they’d like a change.
  • The hallway now sports the tackiest “décor” of all time. I’m embarrassed to bring people home.
  • The apartment comes with one parking spot. They have two regular vehicles, a super-sized truck that hasn’t run for months, and, up until two months ago, the world’s biggest station wagon. They also have ATVs for the kids and motorcycles. At least the station wagon shat the bed and their second car is now a compact car. Of course, the woman also brings home the work truck sometimes as well.
  • Their kids use the driveway like it’s their own personal playground, leaving bikes and jumps all over the place. Not to mention that they play kickball and such next to my car (which has a few dings in it that no one has ever fessed up to). Sometimes I come home to an ATV fest.

          All of this, however unpleasant it was, I could take. I can’t take their fucking stereo system a moment longer. The guy got new speakers, speakers with kickass bass. Speakers that make my apartment shake (remember the bit about this being an old house?). Speakers that I have asked them to turn down countless times, including just two days ago, after my coffee cup nearly fell off the table. Speakers that woke me up at 6:30 this morning.

          Unlike the way they deal with their problems, I actually use my words. I went down there this morning and knocked on their door. They didn’t answer. I knocked harder, informing them that they had woken me up and to PLEASE stop it. They acted as though I’d crossed the line. I was asking too much not to have my bed shake like the bloody Exorcist, apparently. This afternoon I came home to a note telling me that I had no right to ask them to turn down their stereo, as their day begins at 6:00. They have a right to live, they told me.

          I just called my powerless landlord who hates them too (they haven’t exactly been all that great with the rent payments). Honestly, I’m a little bit worried about my safety. Part of the reason why I’m writing this little rant is because if anything happens to me in the next couple of days, I want someone to know that I was concerned.

          I have to get out of here. I love this apartment (charming does not begin to cover it). This is my home, the first place that has been all mine in my adult life. But I just can’t take it anymore.

          Fucking skankball neighbors from hell. I hate them.

          Sunday, October 22, 2006


          It had been nearly a year since I’d been there, long enough to be surprised by the changes and surprised by what I had never noticed. On my way to the parking lot, I saw a hulking new building made to look old on the hill next to the Blue Mermaid. Surprised, I drove on to the lot, pulled into a spot, cut the engine, and got out of the car.

          Walking down Congress Street on this beautiful fall Sunday, I noticed just how dingy Portsmouth still is, despite all the cutesy renovations. The buildings on the end are depressing flat and cheerless, like shopping centers from the seventies. That’s what they were; I guess I had just grown used to them. I walked toward the Friendly Toast, the best greasy spoon in the universe. On my way, I noticed that Bailey Works was gone. So too apparently was Stuart Shane’s and with it, the displays of horrid women's eveningwear (the bad men's suits were still in the window). I’d never set foot in Stuart Shane’s, still, the thought of its no longer being there made me sad.

          Second Time Around, a small chain of upscale resale shops in Boston, had opened a shop where Tonic had been. Nahcotta, a newish art gallery/living space shop, was still there. I spotted the owner inside, a woman I had known rather well, but I decided not to go in and say hello. Punk kids were huddled in the doorway of Stuart Shane’s. Some things don’t change, though I had no idea who these punk kids were. They look young enough to possibly be the children of punk rockers. Passing them, I stepped inside the Toast. Oh yes, the smell. Sweet grease. It sounds disgusting, and it is, but having gone without this breakfast for so long, I felt like I was home.

          Funny how I’d wanted to be alone with my thoughts and my book, and I’d gone to the one place where I know more people than in the town where I grew up. The hostess smiled at me, and I smiled back. I knew her vaguely but didn’t feel like engaging in small talk, so I just sat down at the table in the window. I looked around the red room with an exposed ceiling, decorated with some of the worst art and kitsch ever produced. I was happy to be there. Glancing over at the kitchen, I saw that a waiter I’d known still works here. His beard is gray now. He didn’t see me. I didn’t wave.

          A svelte young lad bearing a strong resemblance to David Bowie (though he dressed to try to hide it) brought me water and asked me what I’d like in a voice so quiet I had to ask him to repeat himself. I ordered the Basic Breakfast with cinnamon toast, even though it was well past one. The best thing about the Toast is that breakfast is always being served, and the breakfast is always good. After I’d ordered, I took out my book and read half-heartedly. I looked out the window at the building across the street, up to the window where my office had once been. Looking back down at the street, I saw a friend’s ex walking by with their daughter. She’s grown. She’s probably in the first grade.

          True to horrendous service form at the Toast, my breakfast arrived a long time after I’d ordered. It was, alas, not as good as it had always been. The huge slab of homemade cinnamon toast was overdone, and the homefries underdone. Normally there’s more food on the plate than anyone could eat in a year, but this time the portion was something approaching normal. However, the food was still greasy, and still a hell of a lot better than anything I’d had in the past year. I ate. The waiter I know walked by and said hello, and we chatted before he had to go to another table. David Bowie brought me more coffee, I drank it, paid the bill, and left.

          More building shockers. I knew they’d taken down the decrepit camera store, the one with a vintage sign that somehow defined the square. What I didn’t know was that it was replaced by yet another fake-old complex. The local bookshop, RiverRun, had reopened there, and there was also a new bakery. The church was being renovated. Ganesh Imports had left. I was really hoping that Choozy Shoes was still there, because that shop was what led me to Portsmouth to begin with. It was. Oh hurrah. Some of the best shoes I’ve ever bought, the kind of shoes people stop me in the street to admire, came from there. Unfortunately I didn’t see anything that caught my fancy. I looked at everything again, just to be sure that it wasn’t my mood that was keeping me from festive shoes. It wasn’t. Sigh…

          I left and continued toward the square, noticing everything that wasn’t there anymore. No Atlantic Video (it had been long gone since before I left town), though I saw the old manager walking down the street. The parking lot behind Eagle Camera was also gone, and I could see the condo complex in the background. The Starbucks still was there. I knew that, but it still surprised me that it could continue to limp along, despite the competition from Breaking New Grounds, now located in the old Brioche spot. Breaking New Grounds had customers galore sitting around the tables, enjoying the sunshine. Starbucks had a couple of tourists. I kept going. The tacky Hallmark place is still there, for some reason that comforted me. Lovell, where I had worked part-time was still there, but I didn’t know the woman keeping the shop.

          I rounded the corner and noticed that Ganesh had moved into the old Breaking New Grounds spot. That surprised me. The location is prime real estate, one of the quaint, truly older buildings in town, but it seemed as though the place should have been reserved for food. One of the stores across the street had changed hands. The RiverRun bookstore sign was still where the old store had been, tucked in the back of an old building. The move to the fake-old location must have been recent. Most of the rest of the street was still the same.

          I kept walking, crossed the street and went into Macro Polo, local purveyors of new kitsch. I wandered around there for a while, noticing that nothing really new was there. That also made me feel better. I left and went into Odd, a little shop featuring handmade crochet items and vintage tackiness. I don’t know the woman who runs it personally, but I had read that she knew Eliot Smith back before he was famous and before he was a drug addict. Was she still sad, I wondered. She was on the phone to her uncle (I wasn’t listening, but I caught the Uncle ___ at the end of the call). Wandering past the counter, I noticed some puffy Michael Jackson stickers from the Thriller era. I have the same ones in my dusty sticker collection tucked away in my parents’ attic. I touched them. Still puffy. There was a pair of funky old dance shoes that caught my eye. Cheap enough to be worth getting, but alas, also too big. Some older punk kids walked in, one of them was pregnant. They started talking rather loudly, so I left.

          I crossed, giving the tourist who was blocking the sidewalk with his car a dirty look, and took the little side street. The Thai place was still there, and the décor could still really use some help. The depressing federal building loomed over me as I passed the fabric store and the horrid Mexican place (frequented by preppy drunken college students).

          As I neared the intersection, I took a deep breath, yes, the Press Room, the best bar in town, was still there. I thought about getting a pint, but decided that I didn’t want to be stuck in town for an hour. Wait, is Kilim, the funky coffee house run by the pervy Turkish guy, gone? Yes. It was gone, the space newly painted. I didn’t go there all that often (the guy really was pervy—he’d look down your shirt in the mirror behind the counter while he fixed your drink—and he wasn’t all that pleasant either), but I couldn’t believe that it hadn’t survived the latest stage in the yuppification of downtown Portsmouth. So the yuppies can’t have any funk?

          I had to get out of there, so I walked the rest of the way down Ceres Street in a huff. Wait, Lucky 7s miraculously still existed. The very hip older woman who runs the place was listening to Prince and crafting away when I stepped inside the shop. Oh, joy. I wanted to buy something just to say good for you for living through this, but alas, some of it is just too pricey (probably how she stays in business—if the stuff was cheap, the yuppies wouldn’t have it). So I chatted with her (the only person I really talked to that day) before I left to wander back to my car.

          On my way, I went into RiverRun to see if they had the latest George Saunders book (they didn’t). I picked up a copy of the Wire there and noticed that the lead article was on architecture—I wondered what it would say. One last stop in Bull Moose Music. ITunes must be doing a number on this place, I thought, but I admired the fact that they were trying to get rarities in there. I just didn’t have the heart to flip through them, however, and it was time to go. I made my way back to my car and left the back way through town.

          Friday, October 20, 2006

          The Friday Song and Other Nonsense

          The Friday Song

          It’s a gray day here in New England, the kind of day made for blankets, reading, movies, and hot chocolate. Alas, I’m here in the office, attempting to engage in productive labor. Not going so well, that, so I thought that I would teach you my “Friday Song.” I am going to sing the “Friday Song” despite the weather and my general state of mind. Please join me.

          The “Friday Song” does not have a proper tune (I have many talents—singing is not one of them), but it is a catchy little sing-song-y ditty that goes like this:

          To-day is Fri-day
          I am so hap-py
          It is the week-end
          I get to go play

          [Now you list your plans for the weekend. Here are mine:
          I’m on the look-out
          For sex-y shoes
          I’ll spend the rest
          The way I choose]

          I hope you sing along!

          Other Nonsense

          On Spam
          Like everyone else, I get tons of spam these days. I feel like writing these spammers and telling them that since I don’t have the body part they are offering to enhance that they could at least tempt me with something useful. Some spam, however, is memorable. I thought I'd share.

          Best Subject Line Ever: Wary Knitting Needle
          I picture the spammy message saying something like this: Slipping past the previous stitch, the needle paused. Just stop the clicking for a moment so I can think! What happens next? Knit? Purl? What to do, what to do, what to do? Think fast! The wary knitting needle sized up the next stitch. It could be the last.

          Best Overall Messages: Stock tips from Jesus
          I get a lot of these.

          Strange News
          Best Article Title I've Seen in Ages:
          Vicar's Knicker Run Rescues Town
          I picture this vicar rather like the vicar in the film version of A Room with a View. He has a knowing wink, and you know that he’s had a few pervy thoughts, but he’s still a loveable geezer, and he means well. And saying vicar and knicker together is just fun.

          Thursday, October 19, 2006

          Will the Republicans Lose Control of Congress? (Oh please, oh please, oh please)

          Enough about me and my boring life already! Let’s talk about something even more messed up: Congress.

          The burning question: Will the Republicans lose control of Congress in three weeks' time? I used the phrase Republicans lose because I don’t think that the Democrats will actually win control of Congress, as winning generally implies having a strategy and principles and such.

          As much as I would like the Democrats to come up with something to say, to embrace ideals of the party instead of trying to distance themselves from them in the name of winning elections, their current inaction just might pay off. Barring electoral shenanigans (certainly possible) or some kind of last-minute Karl Rove dirty trick, I think the Republicans have shown themselves for who they really are, and the American people just might decide that they’ve had enough.

          In 1994 the Republicans took the House in the name of morality (ultimate enemies: Roe v. Wade and gay people) and fiscal responsibility (ultimate enemies: poor women and school children). Less government!

          Well, after twelve years, we’ve seen Republican morality in the form of bribes, a sex scandal of their own, and racism. We’ve seen Republican fiscal responsibility in the form of a record-breaking deficit, tax breaks for the energy industry (do these companies seriously need tax breaks when the CEOs make more money in a week than most people will see in their lifetime?), and favors to the pharmaceutical companies in the name of prescriptions for seniors. And less government? Ha! We have a sprawling intelligence bureaucracy. In the name of security, Congress voted to inspect your library record.

          Not to mention that mess we made in the Middle East and its implications for our reputation abroad. This Congress just voted on a bill that sanctioned torture and the suspension of Habeas Corpus. The Geneva Conventions? Not really necessary, Republicans said. We need to win the War on Terror. Thing is, even W. said that the violence over there looks a wee bit like Vietnam. It looks as though the guy who got W. installed in office, James Baker, thinks that victory in Iraq is impossible.

          With your friends saying stuff like that, who needs Democratic strategy to lose elections?

          Oh, and this little thing in North Korea.

          Gay marriage! the Republicans cry. Don’t forget the gay marriage!

          Here’s to hoping that Americans have finally realized that there are real enemies to freedom and democracy—Republicans.

          Tuesday, October 17, 2006

          After the Cyber-Bleeding

          I don’t intend to turn this forum into a chronicle of my breakup, but I figured that since I pretty much bled all over cyberspace, I’d post an update as to how I’m doing.

          First, a word of thanks. In going through this, I've learned just how much people care about me. Even people I’ve never met expressed empathy and support. I believe that positive thoughts have the power to heal, and I am grateful for all of the good energy sent my way.

          I accept that our relationship is over. I don’t want him back. I haven’t maniacally checked my e-mail, and I’m not waiting for the phone to ring (ha!). Most of the time, accepting that a relationship is over is the hardest thing for me. Perhaps the one positive thing that I can say for my ex-boyfriend’s appalling method of breaking up with me is that it killed the love I had for him. It’s done.

          I’m satisfied that I did my best to be open, loving, and supportive. From the moment I met him, I knew that I was taking a big chance in loving someone so different from me. Still I loved him deeply, and I know that in his way he loved me too. I gave him a really big chance after he begged me not to leave him when he really let me down once. Part of me is kicking myself, but I’m glad that I was forgiving. I was open and unguarded, and I think that is a beautiful thing to be able to say.

          Here's a rambling list of my life since last Wednesday at three pm.

          I went to a party and didn’t bring down the room.

          I put the things that remind me of him in a drawer to look at another day.

          I deleted his phone number.

          I’ve smoked too many cigarettes.

          I went to Vermont with my family and had a good time. I took pictures of ridiculous toys and thought about nostalgia. I don’t want to go back.

          The phrase “to cry as if your heart would break” has new meaning for me. My heart is broken. Something in me has died, and I’m grieving. It hurts. Bad.

          I drank too much wine last night and listened to sad music. That’s the first time I did that since the breakup, and I do not feel compelled to do it again. Most of the time, I do this for a long time.

          I got caught reading cheesy self-help at a bookstore.

          I was pleased to learn that I have already been doing most of the things that the cheesy self-help book recommended.

          He’s back online dating. Seeing that really hurt.

          I wrote a closure letter that I’ll never send.

          I’m looking for a drop-dead sexy pair of heels.

          I’m still interested in my friend’s lives.

          I checked out a hot guy in the supermarket yesterday.

          I had a deliciously lazy Sunday morning of the variety that would have driven Ex-Boyfriend nuts.

          I stayed out of the mall and chain stores (exception: the bookstore, but only because the local place doesn’t carry such crap). Ex-Boyfriend loves to shop. I don’t.

          I loaded up the iPod he gave me last month for my birthday with Led Zeppelin songs. He hates Led Zeppelin.

          I’m no longer with someone who said that Edward Abbey was a phony before ever reading him. Ex-Boyfriend is a member of the Green Party, and he’s never heard of Edward Abbey.

          I thought about going back online to get a date, but decided that even if it was just casual that it would be better for me to get myself back together before inflicting myself on the world.

          I don’t like Richard Ashcroft, and I think that the Verve was a third-rate band with one decent song. Now I don’t have to feel guilty about it.

          I have cracked up saying that I know people on two continents who would kick Ex-Boyfriend’s ass. That won’t be necessary, but thank you anyway.

          I’ve learned the phases “wedgie list,” “ass-hat,” and Futhermucker.”

          I made a hilarious Freudian slip (banana flambé—see story below, if you’d like).

          I know what I’m going to be talking about in therapy on Thursday. My therapist is worth her weight in gold for all the help she’s given me in becoming a stronger person.

          I’m not kicking myself trying to figure out what I did wrong.

          I don’t feel a need for revenge, hilarious Freudian slips aside. The consequences of his actions in the world will be his own reward. For his sake, I hope that he gets some help. He’s hurt, and he hurt me terribly, but he is also a beautiful and unique person.

          This isn’t about him anymore. This is about me.

          I am going to be OK.

          Banana Flambé

          So, earlier today my boss sent me a blank e-mail message by mistake. Upon realizing her booboo, she sent an actual message. Feeling a bit punchy, I replied, “Dang. I was using all of my psychic powers, and I thought you had sent a recipe for banana flambé.”

          My boss came out of her office and asked pointedly, “Is there any particular reason why you are thinking about bananas and fire these days?” Given my recent breakup woes, I didn’t see what she meant for a beat longer than normal. Oh dear. Hysterical laughter ensued. I’ve been singing “Bananas on FIRE!” to the tune of Morrissey’s “Hairdresser on Fire” in my head ever since.

          Sunday, October 15, 2006

          Nostalgia: Do You Really Want to Go Back?


          Function: noun
          1. the state of being homesick
          2. a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition; also :something that evokes nostalgia
          —Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary

          Americans seem to be obsessed with nostalgia, with getting back to some mythical time where things just worked. Those of a rightwing persuasion want to get back to a time when Americans had values. Women were women and men were men, right? Children were the center of the universe, and they respected their elders. Those of the left often lionize the sixties, a time when everything mattered, when change was possible.

          Whether from the right or the left, many adults say that things were better when they were kids, that things were different then. I can see reasons for why we hold the past in such misty regard. Things do suck right now. We do seem lost, and it is comforting to think that there was a time when we knew what to do.

          I ask you, though, do you really want to go back? Here are some photos from my family’s annual trip to Weston, Vermont, a town that survives on nostalgia. I think you’ll agree that while the past is an amusing place to visit, you don’t want to live there.

          Chunked Pork Chunked Beef

          This was considered food


          Mmm… So was this “Vermont-Style” dish

          Monkey and Jack in the Boxes

          These popular toys alone explain why so many Americans are in therapy

          Bowling Bunnies

          Children may have known their place in the past,
          but they also bowled over bunnies for fun

          Spooky Room

          Do you really want to inhabit the past?
          Doesn't it look just a little spooky?

          Top photo: The ruins of an old convenience store. Every year, I look forward to seeing how the decay’s advanced. Here’s a photo of the whole building.

          Old Store

          Thursday, October 12, 2006

          On the Uses and Misuses of E-Mail

          E-mail has revolutionized communication. It has exponentially increased workplace interaction; decisions can be made in moments, and forwards keep the workers entertained. People keep in touch with quick little greetings and stories of the day's happenings. E-mail is a wonderful thing, and many of us have no idea where we’d be without it.

          E-mail, however, can get you into trouble. Misunderstandings abound, and what was meant as a joke or a heartfelt sentiment can be interpreted as a snarky mean thing to say. Friendships are strained; lovers quarrel. Happens all the time. This is why e-mail is best reserved for light, quick communication. Potentially sensitive topics are best avoided.

          Thus, e-mail is not to be used to break up with someone you’ve been dating for months. Someone you’ve told you love. Someone you’ve said that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with. E-mail messages lack the element of timing (you may have written it at one in the morning, but your break-up-ee could read the break-up e-mail at work, in the middle of a busy day, and have to leave in tears). E-mail messages are one-sided communications, and the other person cannot respond in the moment. No matter how much anguish you express, no matter how many nice things you say, it's still a fucking electronic message bouncing around in cyberspace. Break-up e-mails are a cowardly, selfish, fuckass horrid way to say goodbye to someone you once loved, especially when you never communicated in person that there were problems. There’s no closure for the other person, there’s no nothing. Except rage and disbelief that someone the person loved could be so cold.

          If it ever occurs to you, dear reader, to break off a significant relationship via the information superhighway, please think carefully. Your ex will only think of you as a spineless, cowardly, useless, self-absorbed, fuckhead bastard piece of shit. And those are the nice words.

          Buck up. Be an adult. Show some respect, if not for the person, then for the memory of what you had. For God's sake, at least use the fucking telephone.

          Monday, October 09, 2006

          Travels with Fluff: Vacation Photos Starring a Tub of Fluff (Part III: New York City)

          Fluff Times Square

          Welcome Back to Travels with Fluff!

          New to Travels with Fluff? Check out the previous posts.
          London and the Opal Coast of France (for one day, to get some wine)
          Dispatch from the What the Fluff? Festival in Union Square, Somerville

          Don’t forget to take the Fluff Quiz at the bottom of this post. Answers to the previous Fluff Quiz posted too!

          Fluff has taken a few bites out of the Big Apple in the last year and a half or so, as I’ve gone to see a few plays and went to an art opening. Before this, I hadn’t really checked out New York before, claiming that it held no charm for me. I’m not really sure what caused this, but I’m glad I got over my weirdo self, because New York rocks. Here are a few pictures of our travels there thatFluff wanted to share with you.

          Fluff Spamalot

          Fluff Spamalot

          Fluff at Spamalot, March 16, 2005 (last dress rehersal). Scored autographs from David Hyde Pierce and Hank Azaria. Missed Tim Curry by that much (Damn!)

          Fluff in Line for tickets

          Fluff at the Booth Theater. Waiting in line for half-priced tickets to Faith Healer. Incredible Play

          Fluff at Radio City

          Fluff at Radio City Music Hall (the day it poured)

          Fluff at the NYT

          Fluff at the New York Times

          Fluff NY public library

          Fluff at the New York Public Library

          Fluff Empire State

          Fluff at the Empire State Building

          Fluff and the Chrysler Building

          Fluff at the Chrysler Building

          Fluff View from Central Park

          Fluff Enjoying the View from Central Park

          Fluff Little Italy

          Fluff in Little Italy

          Fluff Brunch II

          Fluff at Great Brunch Spot in Union Square

          Fluff Brunch

          Fluff at Amazing Brunch Spot in Tribeca

          Fluff at Carnegie Deli

          Fluff at the Carnegie Deli

          Fluff at Fluffy's

          Fluff at Fluffy's

          Fluff at CBGB

          Fluff at CBGB's (soon to be RIP)

          Fluff Quiz the Second!
          It’s that time again. Remember, if you cheat, you are only cheating yourself. Answers to the first quiz appear below.

          1. Is Fluff kosher?
          2. Is Fluff a Boston Red Sox fan or a New York Yankees fan? Why?
          3. Which Monty Python member is responsible for Spamalot?

          4. Ian McDiarmid played Teddy in the Broadway revival of Brian Friel’s Faith Healer. Who did he play in Return of the Jedi?
          5. Alas, it appears as though the legendary rock club CBGB’s really is headed for memory lane this time. What does CBGB stand for?
          Extra Credit: What does OMFUG stand for? Hint: It ain’t dirty.

          Answers to the Fluff Quiz the First!

          James wins this round with the most correct answers. Here are the answers to the quiz.

          1. Name one common recipe calling for Fluff.
          Fudge and the Fluffernutter were the ones I came up with. It kicks ass in hot chocolate (c’mon, you know that you’ve had it). If you really want to go nuts, there’s a whole Fluff cookbook available.

          2. Name two ingredients in Fluff.
          Fluff contains corn syrup, sugar, dried egg whites, vanillin. You know it’s bad when you are relieved that there’s at least one “natural” ingredient in there, and that ingredient is sugar.

          3. To what does “Take Courage” refer?
          “Take Courage” was an add encouraging people to drink Courage beer. Now that’s inspiration.

          4. How old is the existing London Bridge?
          The existing London Bridge was completed in 1972, making it about thirty-four. The last London Bridge was purchased in 1968 by Robert P. McCulloch and reconstructed in Arizona. Rumor has it that McCulloch thought he was buying Tower Bridge.

          5. Would you go see the Rod Stewart musical? Why or why not.
          This is my answer. Your answer is your own. For the sick curiosity of it, and if I was given a free ticket and ample boozy treats, I would go. Serenading friends with “Tonight’s the Night” when they have new people in their lives is a cherished tradition. Also, in an oddly Fluff appropriate coincidence, my friends and I did Rockette kicks in the backyard to two things: Rod Stewart’s “Hot Legs” (it was the late-seventies), and to a little chant, “Peanut Butter ‘N Marshen-mellow!” (when we wanted Fluffernutters—don’t ask; I have no idea where it came from, but I know I was the first one to do it). So yes, I would go see it, but only for cheap thrills and slightly twisted nostalgia.

          In the next installment, we’ll catch up with Fluffy in Memphis.

          Previous Posts
          London and the Opal Coast of France (for one day, to get some wine)
          Dispatch from the What the Fluff? Festival in Union Square, Somerville

          Axis of Evil Update

          Country is in civil war; US troops are an occupying force and targets for Iraqi insurgents. Not a WMD in sight. Expensive and chaotic. Has caused much of the Muslim world, not to mention the rest of the world, hate us. Mission Accomplished.


          Nations on the US doody list learn that the best way to keep the US out of their country is to make bombs. No one wants to be Iraq, so they are working on weapons of mass destruction for real.

          North Korea

          “We don’t want the smoking gun to be in the form of a mushroom cloud.” Oops—we got the wrong country! North Korea has the bomb.

          Georgie, you are doing a heckuva job with the Axis of Evil. You sure did learn them not to misrespect you.

          OK, I Had to Say Something about Foley

          How America loves a good sex scandal, and we allow it to consume all of our energies. Really, people, there are better things to talk about.

          Still, it’s everywhere, and I can’t help but shake my head at the sheer hypocrisy of the Republicans (Foley sending explicit instant messages to pages was the Democrats’ fault how?). When the party that thinks that the only people who should be having sex at all are heterosexual married persons has something like this explode onto the scene, it’s really hard not to take a certain satisfaction in it. Anything that helps the Republicans lose control of Congress isn’t a terrible thing, in my book.

          Still, lest we get swept away there some issues to consider. However lewd and inappropriate Foley’s pursuit of the pages was (and it was), Foley is not a child molester. Katha Pollitt in her latest
          Nation column makes this point beautifully. Thing is, sixteen is the age of consent in Washington, D.C. (and in several other states), thereby making such activities legal (barely). Foley is far too old for these young men, certainly, but it’s not like he went after twelve-year-old boys. The way I see it, the case here is one of harassment, not of pedophilia.

          One of the things that bothered me the most about the whole Lewinsky kerfuffle was that those pushing for impeachment kept talking about Lewinsky like she was a child. She wasn’t. She was twenty-two, and a college graduate. Getting involved with Clinton might not have been the best decision she ever made, but she was old enough to make it. Now these pages are considerably younger, but let’s not forget that they had some agency here too.

          So what Foley did might be legal, but I don’t think there are too many people who would call it healthy. Here I think we can look at the way society (and, unfortunately, particularly the religious right society Foley was serving) treats homosexuals as a contributing factor to his behavior. No one can escape themselves, something Foley tragically spent his whole life trying to do because he believes that what he is is an abomination. Who he is was bound to come out, and because he could not build healthy, loving relationships out in the open, he tried to build unhealthy, damaging ones in secret. That’s sad, and unfortunately, this issue won’t make the evening news.

          So good American that I am, I’ve been watching the show and shaking my head at the Family Values Republicans, yet I am also reminded of one of the reasons why I’m a liberal in the first place. People need to be free to be who they are. It’s really as simple as that.

          Thursday, October 05, 2006

          Happy Birthday, Chester A. Arthur, Ultimate Blank Years President

          Happy Birthday, Mr. President…
          Chester A. Arthur, born this day in 1829 in Fairfield, Vermont

          When people find out that I have a Master’s in US history, they often ask “Who’s your favorite president?”

          “Chester A. Arthur,” I reply.*

          The looks I get are priceless. Many times I get a “Who?” or a “Bah! He wasn’t a president!”

          Ah yes, ignorance about Blank Years presidents. The Blank Years is my term for those years in the late nineteenth century when no one pays a lick of attention to the presidency. See,
          United States history survey courses follow the presidency very closely through Andrew Jackson’s presidency. Things taper off a bit until Lincoln, and then courses cover Johnson and Grant, but the late nineteenth century? It takes a real trivia buff to be able to name those presidents period, let alone in order.

          When covering the late nineteenth century, survey courses focus on economic and social issues that shaped the post-Civil War United States. No one bothers with the presidents again until Teddy Roosevelt. Hence, the Blank Years. And no president exemplifies the Blank Years better than Chester A. Arthur.

          This line pretty much sums up everything known about the man I call Chet, the twenty-first president of the United States of America: Although a decent and honorable man, Chester A. Arthur was a firm believer in the spoils system. He filled posts with corrupt members of machine politics.**

          Occasionally surveys will give an expanded bio that mentions his being the Quartermaster General of the State of New York before he was named the Collector of the Port of New York, and that he was named as James Garfield’s running mate after President Hayes's attempt to oust Arthur from the Port job (who says that the spoils system doesn’t have its perks?). When Garfield was assassinated in 1881, less than a year into his term, Arthur became president. He was never elected in his own right. He was born in Vermont. He died in 1886. He had great facial hair. Yep. That’s pretty much it.

          I think it was a combination of pity and shock that no one knew more about a president than the above that endeared Chester A. Arthur to me. I like saying his name—I draw out the long “A”—Chester A. Arthur. Ah, poor Chet. It makes me laugh to think that he was president. He’s become my favorite answer to questions I don’t know the answer to. Question: Who wrote War and Peace? Answer: Chester A. Arthur. Who is your favorite president? Chester A. Arthur. Easy as pie!

          To honor my favorite Blank Years president, I have a small but growing collection of Chester A. Arthur memorabilia. That’s the kind of weirdo chick I am. I’m always on the lookout, so if you know of any Chet goods, let me know.

          Chester A. Arthur Goods

          Happy Birthday, Chet,
          hope this doesn't make you roll over in your grave

          *He isn’t, of course, but I don’t have a favorite president. I like components of several presidents, but explaining this is long and complicated, and people’s eyes glaze over, so I’ve chosen the wiseass route.

          **I'd give a citation for this, but this is the standard line absolutely everywhere (especially the “firm believer” part), and I wouldn't know where to begin.

          Wednesday, October 04, 2006

          Why Liberals Never Die

          Garrison Keillor
          You have to hand it to Garrison Keillor. He can find the bittersweet truth in just about anything.

          In “Miracle Drug of Anger,” posted today on Salon.com, he rails against the Congress for dispensing with Habeas Corpus and against the Republican party for their hypocrisy in hiding the not-so-family values activities of Congressman Foley, the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, to avoid embarrassment. It’s disgusting, and as Keillor says, it’s “time to clean some clocks.”

          Taking conservatives to task, however, has benefits beyond doing one's civic duty to keep us from slipping back into the dark ages. Keillor contends that doing so will also keep one young. Maybe my liberal zeal can explain my zit.

          Jon Stewart
          Last night Jon Stewart coined a new term to describe the Iraq war: Catastrofuck. I love Jon Stewart anyway (and am going to see him Friday night!), but last night the love grew just a bit deeper. Jon, may the Universe continue to smile upon you for you bring all of us such joy.

          Tuesday, October 03, 2006

          The Devolution of Language or Everybody Wang Chung Tonight ***Updated with Definition

          Today’s workday provided a perfect illustration of how slang evolves over time—or, perhaps in this case, devolves. My coworkers and I were chatting, and somehow the conversation turned to how to make the best grilled cheese (for the record, the perfect grilled cheese is made with white bread, real butter, and yellow American cheese and served with a side of hand-cut fries, a couple of radioactive green pickles, and a bottle of ketchup). My coworker, a very nice and very clean-cut man in his mid-fifties (think Ned Flanders, only slightly hipper), said, “We used to get this special American cheese. It had some kind of wang, and it was wrapped in plastic.”

          What now? Wang? My younger coworker and I were obviously speaking the same English here, because we just looked at each other, mouthed the words “Wang cheese? Eeeew!” and collapsed into laughter. All I could envision was a cross between some kind of disgusting social disease and a condom. The clean cut coworker said, “What? Does wang mean something different now?” Another coworker, a contemporary of the clean-cut one sighed and said, “You can’t say tool anymore either.”

          That was it. I put my iPod back on and went back to work. I was not going to discuss the devolution of wang and tool with nice clean-cut men of a certain age.

          ***A few people asked what I thought wang meant. Well, it's a slang term for a penis. urbandictionary.com gives an excellent definition. As to what cheese with wang means, well, I don't know. I don't want to know. The thought of it makes me cringe.

          Sunday, October 01, 2006

          What the Fluff? Dispatch from Fluff Festival in Union Square, Somerville

          What the Fluff T-shirt

          Fluff went to the What the Fluff? Festival in Union Square, Somerville, this weekend. Here are some photos.

          What the Fluff Festival

          Fluff enjoying the festivities

          Fluff Cooking Contest

          Cooking Contest

          Fluff with Fluff art

          Fluff with Fluff Art

          Fluff wants to win those!

          Fluff Wants One of Those!

          Fluff at the Statehouse

          Fluff Doesn't Like This Place
          Legislation has been proposed to eradicate it from public schools. Obviously this is more important than dealing with the Big Dig, healthcare, and the cost of living in this state.

          Fluff travels! Check out Travels with Fluff.
          London and the Opal Coast of France (for one day, to get some wine)
          New York City