October 3, 2012 § Leave a comment
Did Mittens win? I kept trying to watch the debate “objectively,” which I think I’m somewhat more able to do now than in the past, and while I was as disappointed as everyone else that Obama didn’t nail Mitt even when he had huge openings, Mitt came across as a slick salesman. I could see someone thinking that he might have the managerial skills to get the economy going but at the same time not being able to believe a word he’s saying. Obama didn’t fight. There’s no question about that, and it’s frustrating, but I think it will play better with women than with men.
Barry’s just not capable of looking at his opponent and saying, “You’re lying.” He almost did, a few times—had a wry comment about one of Mitt’s endless inconsistencies—but he always ran right over it, not pausing, not emphasizing. He should use humor more, since he’ll never be comfortable with in-your-face anger.
I don’t think it matters, though. It was necessary for Romney to have some kind of win or the pundits would start dissing Obama for no reason at all, just out of boredom. This sets Mittens up to fall again. His hallucinatory denials will work well in TV ads split screen with him saying just the opposite. What I’m mostly curious about is how this “win” will loosen Mitt up into making another serious gaffe. I expect that to be the ultimate result of the debate—he’ll become too aggressive and too confident. The Onion has a funny piece about Romney coming from a long line of Presidential losers and, privileged as he may be, I think he’s better as a challenger than as the putative winner. We’ll see.
I also think many people don’t process debates as win or lose. They hear things that matter to them, or don’t hear things that matter, and the rest is irrelevant. They can agree that someone won, without that affecting their opinion–and I’m talking about undecided voters. Romney was Ronald Reagan Barbie and I felt a fleeting affection for him, as one does for those undignified dolls…and that’s winning?
That said, I don’t think Romney has a killer instinct. He’s just a bright boy, did his prep and is a smooth liar. He’s convinced himself that lying has no moral weight. It’s interesting because I do think he has a moral code. I’m just not sure what it consists of.
Autumn Begins in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio
In the Shreve High football stadium,
I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,
And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes.
All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.
Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other’s bodies.
August 14, 2011 § Leave a comment
I’ve been in Florida four days, and today was the first time I managed to make it to the beach during the brief period the sun was out. We splashed in the blue water, and I felt almost normal—and came out covered with baby jellyfish stings. They don’t hurt too much, but aren’t pleasant. I’m marinating in vinegar now, thinking of all the work I have to do, and the sadness comes and goes. Am I emerging from this depression, or is this merely a pause? Is the Zoloft working? Or is it what I decided yesterday…which I’m not going to tell you….
Okay. New topic: the Republican debate. Even I, in my romantic bathos, admit that this was more despair inducing than my personal life. Rank stupidity in high places used to be a good source of jokes, but it’s just not funny anymore. As for Obama; I’m suffering buyer’s remorse, big time. Hilary: I’m sorry! You were right! Maybe she wouldn’t have been terribly effective—the subhuman viciousness of the Republicans is not Obama’s doing—but she wouldn’t have been so craven. We could have cheered her on as the ship sank. The sword and sorcery novels I read all have a point where some character says: “All that’s left for him is a good death.” This concept is pretty much confined to fiction in modern America, a place where doctors blackmail bedridden, pain-wracked terminal patients into having more invasive tests so that “your children will know what cancers they’re genetically prone to.” Yes, this is happening to the mother of a friend of mine.
Charles said to me, “We need to get living wills,” and I replied, “It’s not really necessary yet. We each know the other would choose to die—”
“As soon as possible?”
“Non. If we’re terminal, paralyzed, brain-damaged, or after more than a week in the hospital.”
“Or when the money runs out,” he said.
“If the money runs out, I’ll die in a worthy cause (see above), and you can go live in the nudist colony on your Social Security.”
“No; I’ll go with you.”
“But what about the cats?”
“I’ll work until I’m 90,” he said with a sigh.
We both will. But for the country, sinking into a ruin we won’t get out of in my lifetime, I do wish we had a noble captain on the bridge, fighting with a sword, a battle-axe, and wizard lightning. But this is a small time, small-minded, shortsighted—one of those historical periods when the writers skitter about like spiders, no place to anchor their webs, which collapse anyway under the weight of the death-bred flies…
(I was being metaphorical. In literal mode, The New Yorker ran a story this week about insect-eating, which includes a recipe for maggot seviche, using maggots obtained from corpses. Yes, we live in a damned era, but isn’t that taking it just a little too far?)
Once Upon A Time…
I Hear America Singing
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand
singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or
at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of
the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
August 1, 2009 § 4 Comments
My attitude toward the arrest of Henry Louis Gates is simple: the cop was wrong, and Gates overplayed it. The situation was more complex than Crowley being a racist. My take is that Crowley is guilty of racial profiling (like most of us) and that he has a very thin skin when it comes to being accused of it. When The Daily Show’s “senior black correspondent,” Larry Wilmore, did a bit on how thrilled Gates was to be in spotlight for being arrested-while-black, I laughed. Gates is a prima donna. (Yes, I know: this is not illegal.)
I didn’t feel the need to add my two cents to this story until I read Bob Herbert’s column in The Times today, headlined Anger has its Place. Columnists don’t make up their own headlines—if they did, this one would be considerably more forceful. Herbert is very angry and disgusted with the response to the story. He writes, “Most whites do not want to hear about racial problems, and President Obama would rather walk through fire than spend his time dealing with them.”
I was taken aback by that. Allowing for hyperbole, I think he’s right. Still, my feeling about this as been one of cautious agreement with the President: there’s so much to be done, this is a crazy country with a lot of racists in it, including large numbers of people who seem to have no idea that they’re racists, and simply doing his job well might be the best thing he can do for black America. And of course a part of me thinks: he’s not only the President of black America. If he loses support and becomes ineffectual because of morally correct, passionate statements about race, what’s in it for me?
Yet I respect Bob Herbert and it makes me sad that his feelings for Obama have soured. It worries me. It reminds me of my own anger about Obama’s caution in other areas—anger that I have heard from lots of Obama supporters in recent weeks. What I don’t want to happen is for people to let their disappointment with the President get in the way of keeping up the pressure on the White House and Congress.
I knew going in that Obama was emotionally conservative, a conciliator, that his color and charisma blinded people to his very evident politics. It blinded them in different ways, depending on whether they were Democrats or Republicans, Conservative or Liberal, sentimental idealists or rabid right-wing loonies. That was inevitable. Race is a hot button and charisma circumvents reason. I hated Reagan more than Nixon because he was charismatic: to me it was anti-charisma, disgust-making. And I remember very clearly seeing Bill Clinton on TV for the first time, in a debate with other primary candidates, and knowing he would win because he was so charming and slick (and smart). I was both charmed by him and scornful of others, equally enthralled, for thinking they were responding to his honest passion. If he’d been a conservative Republican, I would have hated him for it. As it was I didn’t fight my attraction, but felt a little dirty.
When Obama was elected and I was excited in that swoony way so many of us were, a radical friend of mine expressed contempt for my “fantasy” that Obama would be any different from other politicians. I didn’t think he would be, actually. But I thought a Democrat in the White House, elected on a platform of change, and a black man elected President were both such good things that a little tipsiness sparked by his personal magnetism was okay. If Clarence Thomas had been elected President—to give a shudder-making example—I would have been horrified but also kind of fascinated and thrilled.
So I find myself ambivalent. Not about the election—I’m still glad we have Obama instead of Clinton (forget McCain). But am I still an Obama supporter or simply someone who will vote for him next time?
Not long ago, I was walking down Bleecker Street after dark, and passed through a group of black teenagers coming out of a subway station. One hit me (deliberately) on the shoulder as he went by—not very hard, but hard enough to be called a blow, not a touch. I turned and yelled, “Fuck you, asshole!” Then another kid, a girl, hit me as she went by. I wanted to keep shouting and swearing but decided that since there were 15 or 16 of them, I should let it go.
Lately, it has occurred to me that there are parallels to the Gates-Crowley incident. Here were black kids acting in a culturally stereotypical way, as the white cop did with Gates, and I reacted with a level of anger that could have gotten me hurt. Yet the reason I expressed my anger at all is that I’m not afraid of groups of black teenagers per se. I see teenagers and I think children. I remember myself as a teenager: full of swagger and attitude, nonviolent. I know that they come in multiples because teenagers love being part of a group.
I don’t think Skip Gates was afraid of the cop either. He was angry and aggrieved and felt safe in venting his anger. And for the most part he was safe. Because of who he was, and because of what the Cambridge police force is, his arrest didn’t stick.
Lots of people have expressed surprise that someone as intelligent and worldly as Skip Gates could be so “stupid” as to yell at a cop. They could say the same about me yelling insults at a group of teenagers who had already made it clear they felt like picking on someone. But it seems to me being smart means knowing when you can express your righteous anger and get away with it, and how far you can go. I didn’t run after the kids and punch one, and Gates didn’t say, “I’m going to fucking kill you for this, man.” We’re not that stupid.
“When angry, count to four. When very angry, swear.”
“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.”
February 4, 2009 § 1 Comment
I’m getting seriously tired of these Republicans. From that wimp Gingrey who apologized on the air to Rush Limbaugh because, for one moment, he acted like he was actually in Washington to do his job, to McCain thinking he didn’t lose yet—I want to say one thing: America, love it or leave it! You can be in Iceland in six hours!
What does Obama have up his sleeve? Is he letting the Repubs dig their own grave? (Now there’s a shovel-ready project if there ever was one.) By being so nice…a little stern with the Wall street guys but giving the Senators cookies…letting them think they can work him over, let them bring on their bully boys, their would-be Cheneys…then watch as the I’m-mad-as-hell-and-I-just-can’t-take-it-anymore citizens run amok and dispatch the lot of them with everything we’ve learned from watching MSNBC’s Lockdown?
Actually, I don’t watch Lockdown, but I have caught a glimpse or two.
Not much happening here. Lovely lunch with my friend Maddy, and before that a brisk walk in the pretty cold sparkly winter day, a stop at the French bakery (where I bought cake because it was Maddy’s birthday) and the conversation went like this:
Me –I don’t know what I want yet.
Baker –That’s okay, it’s good to just get out of the cold.
Me –It’s not that bad out now. It’s sunny.
Baker –It’s dark when I get to work; it’s dark when I go home.
Me –Well, at least it smells good in here.
Baker –I can’t smell anything anymore unless it’s nasty or it’s women’s perfume.
Me –Um, which of these two [cakes] is better?
Baker – I don’t know; I don’t like chocolate…
For those of you who get hot thinking of resurrecting extinct animals, here’s one for you. George Mitchell could take it with him as a negotiating aid. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/04/titanoboa-cerrejonensis-2_n_163943.html
January 23, 2009 § Leave a comment
I’m beginning to think what MSNBC needs is an astrology pundit show (in the slot after Rachel, we don’t need Keith twice) so all the intricate parsing of the day’s events could be livened up with discussions of what Mercury retrograde will do to the President’s Blackberry and what effect the coming eclipse (Jan 26; you have to be in African, Antarctica or Australia to see it) will have on our alpha Leo. Here’s my prediction, for what it’s worth: Obama won’t get 100 days to prove himself, much less the couple of years the press has been nattering about, but more like a week and a half. Already he’s closed Gitmo and bombed Pakistan. If he can cut taxes, pass universal health care, outfit Air Force One with solar panels and get the girls their puppy before the end of the month, the country will sigh and start shopping for valentines.
So, okay, the stimulus bill, what’s supposed to save the banks, our jobs, savings and houses: that little thing. The early draft sounds like those sex guides that define foreplay as caressing all the erogenous zones (there are so many more than you thought!) repeatedly—and never once mention what might be called the art of it: narrative, strategy, precision. I know Congress is out of its depth. Brains aren’t passed out at the door. They just want to make us and their donors and the lobbyists and the President happy, and not be made fun of on TV. They’re not potted plants, as Tom Lantos once said. (Not Axelrod—he said that the cabinet members aren’t potted plants). All I can say is, Can you help the girls find their dog?
Philip expressed his pleasure with my post yesterday about respecting his (and others’) privacy. It kind of makes me want to upload a picture of his dick. But dick pix are everywhere, and his isn’t two pronged like a kangaroo, nor bullet proof like Obama’/s inauguration suit. (http://blog.wired.com/gadgets/2009/01/president-oba-1.html) It’s just mostly perfect, like the private parts of every man I’ve ever slept with who might be reading this blog, but of course more perfect than most.
(As for Charles, he’s spoken for himself, most eloquently, in a recent comment. He knows how perfect he is.)
January 19, 2009 § Leave a comment
Philip is still sleeping, after getting up very early for therapy then coming back to bed, so I’m quietly drinking my coffee and watching the muted TV. Obamania without sound. The crawlies tell me what ‘service’ Barack and Michelle are performing today, and I can’t help but think they deserve to sleep late and take it easy. But that’s why being President never appealed to me. Bush took 77 vacations. I wonder if Barack will manage 7.
We were having a desultory conversation about which fate we would wish on our criminal soon to be ex President and when Philip suggested being eaten by a mountain lion it seemed exactly right. I had to think about why. After all, there are lots of nasty ways to go. I think it’s because mountain lions are our indigenous predator, as American as buffalo, resurgent and unafraid. Because all wildlife was at risk from GW. And because while in the normal course of things one can’t imagine a mountain lion devouring an entire adult, Bush seems so lightweight now, such a shadow of a man, that I can picture him eaten to the last whisker and button, disappeared inside the lion without even a tummy bulge marring the sleek feline shape. “We couldn’t let anyone kill the lion,” I said. “No,” said Philip.”We’d put its head on a coin.” When he said that, I had such a vivid image of the coin; now it exists, even if all by itself in its own universe. And, of course, here.
Is it just me, or is Obama getting handsomer? Maybe I needed time off thinking about other things (Christmas, suicide) to fully appreciate him. Or maybe they just didn’t choose the right musicians–Garth Brooks and Beyonce just can’t match his star power. Only Herbie Hancock and Stevie Wonder came close. What we really needed was Ray Charles, back from Heaven for a visit. No, I’m not even going to imagine Ray Charles in Heaven. Somebody funnier than me would have to do a skit.
How anachronistic we will seem in 20 years! To have ever lived in a time when a black President seemed impossible.
December 20, 2008 § Leave a comment
On TV last night, Pat Buchanan said Afghanistan was where empires go to die. Obama made promises we can’t keep. I think we have the answer in Bernie Madoff. A name change, a little cosmetic surgery, and we could send him over to swindle the poppy growers out of their wealth, along with the Saudis, the Syrians and a few others. No money, no weapons. No weapons, no influence.Obama has shown a taste and ability for subtle political machination. If he can work with Rick Warren, why not Bernie Madoff? Lots of laid off financial sector professionals who could play the Jack Nicholson part from The Last Detail, escorting and keeping an eye on the slippery ‘family man.’ And the money harvested could bail out the bailout, removing some part of a zero from the national debt. Meanwhile the auto industry, in thanks for its rescue, would send every registered voter a $2000 voucher toward a new (hybrid) car, redeemable in 2012; AIG would provide free health insurance to artists and the unemployed; and Citibank, Chase and the rest would send us more credit card offers…0 % for the lifetime of the loan, guaranteed to last longer than your lifetime, and to be cancelled upon your death. The god of money and death, Pluto, in his guise as a planet, entered Capricorn on Nov. 26, for the first time since the American Revolution. According to astrologers, this means dramatic change in the direction of hard work , hard times, necessity and playing by the rules. You knew that already? Yeah, but you didn’t know it was Pluto, did you? Cold little bastard. Having a number of important planets in Capricorn, I’m supposed to feel an inner gladness at the triumph of the reality-based community, and in fact I do. I’ll pull myself out of trouble, I will. I’ll make my own fortune, yessir. It’s growing dark out, this evening before the winter solstice, Satchmo is singing “(I’ll be glad when you’re dead)You Rascal You,” on an LP Philip found today in the Spence-Chapin thrift shop, and I’m ruining my stomach lining with coffee to have the wit to write anything at all after a night of cabernet, fettucine with venison, ceasar salad and christmas cookies, sambuca, espresso, bourbon, rum and cigarettes. Not really as bad as it sounds; I’m not hungover, merely languid. This is the best way to be while contemplating 16 years of Pluto in Capricorn, the Taskmaster. This morning we went out to the Crawford Doyle bookstore and Maison de Chocolat and in both places Philip said, “Get whatever you want.” He hadn’t bought me any Christmas presents yet. It was one of those moments—I could almost feel my child self widening her eyes in wonder: a bookstore! A candy store! Get whatever you want! It reminded me of a story about my father, told by my cousins to my sister. They were little children, in the local candy store, with maybe a few nickels to spend, or maybe nothing and this handsome man in a suit comes in and tells them they can have whatever they want. Whatever they want. (That probably did not refer to quantity, however.) He buys them all candy and disappears. Later, at home, the stranger is at the dinner table and they discover he’s their uncle, whom they’ve never met before. That’s my daddy alright. Charmed strangers all to hell. He could be like that with us too, sometimes. Anyway, this bookstore, Crawford Doyle on 81st and Madison, is not the same store but is in the same location as the bookstore I went to several times a week in the two years we lived on 79th st, when I was 11 and 12. I bought my first adult (as in non-children’s)books there and also my first ‘adult’ books. Actualy I didn’t buy the ‘adult’ books because it would only have embarassed both me and the kindly bookseller if I had tried. I stole them.Two or three, maybe four. Two I remember vividly. They were utterly perverted, even by today’s standards, but also, somehow, sweet. I don’t think anyone could write like that now. I wasn’t frightened or put off by the revelation of the male sexual imagination (greedy and without boundary) but rather consoled. These guys were way ahead of me, and I was happy to be their student. Every afternoon after school, I read under the covers, masturbated and ate chocolates . Pounds of chocolates. Many orgasms. —Now Philip interrupts me to tell me Ring Lardner’s rewrite of the lyrics of “Night and Day”: “Night and day/under the bark of me/oh such a load of microbes making a park of me”—as I was saying, it was not that bookstore but almost that bookstore and not Fanny Farmer but Maison de Chocolat–and given free rein, I was restrained, 3 slim books, a quarter pound of chocolate covered ginger, a few truffles…and I think I need some of that chocolate now. Chocolate and kisses.