Monday, October 31, 2005
Sunday, October 30, 2005
What is there to say about this perfect film?
Audrey Hepburn is just the most luminous creature ever. Let me be Will Ferrell as James Lipton for a moment, leaning forward in my chair with my greasy comb-over and making up a new word to describe her:
She really is. She's an elegant, glowing, absolutely enchanting girl with an impossibly tiny waist and the most beautiful posture any movie actress has ever had. I can't imagine any screen siren today who could make me believe she is a princess. I believed Audrey Hepburn was a princess. She's swellegant and then some.
That tiny crooked tooth she has just makes her more perfect. Has there ever been a more beaming smile in all cinematic history? I would pay to watch this woman stand in a doorway. She is beyond the reach of any of my usual feminist critique.
And then there's Gregory Peck. I'm glad I was alone when this flick came on so that others would be spared my "oh my Gods" every time he appeared in a close-up. I'm thinking, "Lord help me... am I actually older now than he was when he made this film?" Because when I watch Gregory, I'm squirmy-stomached little girl dreaming of my first kiss.
Speaking of which, I love that Peck and Hepburn -- about 15 years apart -- manage a passionate embrace without wolfing each other's faces. A lost art in today's Hollywood.
William Wyler's direction is totally crisp, charming, well-paced, carefully choreographed yet endearingly clutzy, and sweet, sweet, sweet.
And -- quelle surprise! -- Eddie Arnold is just plain hot as the comic banana-best friend-boho photographer.
Now I'm going to call Sister of PeaceBang and talk like Audrey Hepburn all night, 'cause we can both do a mad accurate impression.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Calgon, Take Me Away
Daily Kos On George Lakoff
Unlike most liberals, I think Lakoff is important but not persuasive. I find his assumptions to be arrogant in that way that conservatives often accuse liberals of being arrogant, and this time I agree with them.
So anyway, I keep reading other liberal critique of Lakoff, and I found this today:
I read it quickly but I find it interesting, and recommend it to those of you who may feel that "Don't Think of An Elephant" provides the ultimate blueprint for liberal political success in the next elections.
Training for Faith
People tried to be respectful but when I initially described our theological pluralism, their faces were studies in bewilderment. A religion where everyone is free to search for truth and meaning? A religious tradition that welcomes atheists and makes no effort to convert them? Whaaaat? (When someone asked the inevitable question, "But why would an atheist want to go to CHURCH?" I replied, "I don't have time to try to answer that," earning chuckles from the few liberal Christians in the room who are acquainted with UUism.)
I tried to steer the conversation away from feeling I should offer apology for Unitarian Universalism's mere existence and into a place where I could get feedback from the group, who are a lovely and earnest people (and who represent six different nations).
At the end of my presentation, a Baptist peer offered this: "I get the image of training wheels. Is Unitarian Universalism a sort of training ground for faith? After they begin with your church, do they then leave you?"
I was so furious I could not answer beyond a "No, they don't leave." His question was specifically asked in the context of covenant process, as in "After you all develop a non-Theist covenant together, do they take off in droves, hungry for the Living Word?"
I mean, of course some of our people leave. I've been hollering about that for years and years -- especially about how our children leave in droves because we give them nothing substantive within the great wilderness of FREEDOM.
His inquiry deserves a fuller answer, though, and I'm finally getting calm enough to give it.
No, L., they don't leave our congregations. In fact, quite the opposite. They have left YOUR congregations to come to Unitarian Universalism. They are not riding the training wheels of faith. They have taken OFF the training wheels of the creedal, doctrinal faith traditions that would seek to fill their heads with proscriptions, superstitions and unproven certainties, and now they're riding free and upright.
Friday, October 28, 2005
I Thought I Had It
I don't know if it's because I had to resort to using soy milk for one cup of the two cups of milk called for (I only had one cup of cow milk in the fridge) or if Macintosh apples are a bit too mushy, but I have before me a plate of the CLOSEST I have ever come to a really excellent apple crisp. I think the oats were a bit stale, too. We are SO CLOSE, though.
Back to the test kitchens, I guess. But not tonight. I feel so crummy I'm surprised I had the energy to even peel 8 apples.
This will make a great breakfast for the next, oh, 18 or so days.
From the PeaceBang Situation Room
I'm not naive. I know that the kids in the Big Sandbox play nasty, and that such shenanigans are not limited to one party or another. However, this is so much more sinister. This one has the blood of 2,000 American soldiers on it, and the blood of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis. This isn't just, "Nya nya, you wouldn't play our game, so we told everyone you kissed Suzy!" This is "We will not countenance another version of the truth than ours getting out into the public, and we will punish you for putting yours out there."
I have no comment about the ninnies from the New York Times.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
It's time to get out the Thanksgiving Binder, a serious compilation of gravy-spattered recipes from my first years hosting Thanksgiving in the parsonage. I make it sound like it was eons ago when this is actually only my 4th time playing Pearl Mesta of the South Shore.
I'm thrilled to know that I'll have a full house of out-of-towners, who can keep each other entertained while I go into that Zen state of massive cooking and baking. And no, I don't need any help in the kitchen, thank you. You can help with the cleaning up, though, with my gratitude.
I do turkey, dressing, a gorgeous cranberry sauce donated by a devoted congregant, Mom's cole slaw, mashed taters, bread and butter, and some vegetable like turnips or brussel sprouts. To be honest, I've not been happy with the veggie dish yet. Any suggestions? Just not the yams with marshmallows thing. Maybe just a simple roasted root vegetables dish?
Also, what do you do when you have a few more people than can fit around your dining room table? Do you do a "baby table" and just let the chips fall where they may as far as who winds up at it? Do you put out name cards at place settings? Set up an extra table in the parlor and eat buffet style?
You all were such deep, real help with the sermon I thought you'd like to tackle the Thanksgiving situation.
As I stood wringing my hands and watching the bird, others gathered around, similarly distraught and useless. Should we scoop it up and try to bring it somewhere to be treated? But scoop it with what, and put it into what container and where could we find treatment for a wild bird?
As we stood with our stricken faces and our helpless strategizing, a young man approached the circle. He assessed the situation in ten or so seconds: suffering bird, pathetic human beings. He walked over a few steps to a big municipal garbage can, picked it up, and with a pained expression on his face, smashed the bird under the garbage can.
The others in the circle were flabbergasted. And yet no one had any words of condemnation for the young man, who was obviously quite miserable about his choice, and who walked away in the most depressed imaginable posture with hands in pockets. How could we argue with his unilaterial act of annhilation? Would it have been better to meander endlessly around our limited options while the bird suffered? Was smashing the bird dead the most merciful course of action?
I have considered that scenario many times since it happened. I still don't have clear answers for questions like, "when does the democratic process do more harm than good?" and "was that kid exerting violent power or tender mercy?" and "should we have berated him for not even saying what he planned to do?" among others. But now I know, because I read Wally Nut's blog,
that this young man may just have been a Boy Scout at one point in his life.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Never Say No To Your Traveling Self. All hail, La Reina Cobre!
I'll tell you later.
Monday, October 24, 2005
Saturday, October 22, 2005
When I wonder why I tolerate unfriendly Bostonians, the atrocious traffic, the lack of joie de vivre here and the long, austere winters, all I have to do is live through another autumn to understand it all.
My New England ghosts talk to me in the autumn. They live in the stillness, the blazing foliage, the dry chill, the first frost, the empty, wind-swept beach. They are serious ghosts, and beautiful, and they draw me with a spirit that meets and matches my own melancholic nature, full of the awareness of mortality but deeply loving the world nevertheless. When I take my first crunch of Macintosh apple, they hang over my right shoulder and smile, and remember. They love the subdued festival that is a pumpkin on the front porch. That's their idea of a party. They wrap around me in my cozy bed as I read by candlelight, the cat snuggled by my side while the mice get cold enough outside to plan an invasion. I hear them sighing in the opening of the chimney flue. They pad around the empty parsonage at night, fussing around cracks in the floors and windows and checking locks. They like me to make cornbread, even though I never eat it.
I don't really know what my ghosts are saying or what they want from me, I just know that they want me here.
They keep me company in invisibility.
Back to the Flickr photo page
Friday, October 21, 2005
Must Have Been a Slow Day
So he calls to let me know, then sends an e-mail, and I miss the cats by like one second.
I am ready to throw myself under a train so he sends me a photo of what he thinks is one of the cats eating kibble but by accident attaches a photo with no cat in it at all. To which I respond with great desperation, "WHERE'S THE CAT?"
So he amends his error by attaching a photo with a really live spotted cat eating kibble, rear view, very cute. And the world is a joyful place again.
And this, my friends, is how UU bloggers spend slow days.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
PeaceBang Shamelessly Plugs Her New Group
"Sweet the Sound," a musical project focusing on American sacred "roots"music (bluegrass, gospel, old time country, shape note, etc.) will perform at the Village Church on Saturday night, November 19, at 7:30pm.
(Wellesley Hills, MA)
The project takes its name from the lyrics of "Amazing Grace," perhaps "the most famous song in American sacred music, known and loved well beyond the bounds of Christianity," says the project's Musical Director, Matthew Myer Boulton. (Boulton is also Professor of Worship at AndoverNewton Theological School, and Associate Pastor of Hope Church in Jamaica Plain.) Since the success of the film soundtracks for "Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?" and "Cold Mountain," Boulton says, there has been a resurgence ofinterest in old American sacred music. "Sweet the Sound is about rediscovering some of the great songs in American Christian traditions, songs that have stood the test of time,and go right to the heart of human experience," says Neil Helme, a singer, stand-up bass player, and founding member of the project."All in a row," he says, "we'll play an African-American spiritual, a Hank Williams tune, a vibrant gospel song, and a shape note hymn from1846. It's an American gumbo."
The project also writes and performs original material, influenced by these old classics. The "Sweet the Sound" concert will be an evening of great music,fellowship for all ages, and a chance to "sing with the ancestors," asBoulton puts it. And what's more, it's free! So mark your calendars -and invite a friend or two!
PeaceBang says, "I went to my first rehearsal last week and I can confidently say, it's a whole passel o' fun!"
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Where Do Old Heart Throbs Go?
He still looks great, no?
I remember seeing Rex on Broadway in "The Pirates of Penzance" in the late 80's. He was cute but I only had eyes for Treat Williams as the Pirate King.
What a fun show. It's one of the few I've done twice and would happily do again. It's just a big piece of candy set to music.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
I Love Movie Spoilers!
So my new favorite website is going to be www.themoviespoiler.com.
What's more relaxing on a Sunday afternoon after an insanely hectic church day than to read this kind of thing?
"Seconds later we see Caroline and Violet starting to wake up at the same time. Caroline gets to her feet and walks over to Violet. She bends down and takes one of Violets thin cigars and smokes it. Luke comes in and goes up to Caroline. We see Violet's body on the floor and she is shaking in fear. I'll explain this right here. Mama was in Violet's body the whole time, and Caroline was switched into Violet's old body. The whole time, Luke was really Papa Justify and Luke was actually in Ben's body the whole time."
Now I don't have to rent "The Skeleton Key," whose screenplay I suspected badly mangled the basic tenets of Voodoo (and Hoodoo), and now I'm sure does.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
T-Man Sam Rides Again
His great big giant artistic brain inspired him to create an enormous pisanki, which is a Ukranian Easter Egg for you non-Bohunks out there. T-Man is of Ukie heritage and I am of Czech heritage and when he found out I knew what a pisanki was we knew we were fated for life. So he is, at this very moment apparently, soaking and bending wood and stuff and hot gluing it into place. Or he's welding it. Or maybe whittling it. I really don't know, as it was impossible to follow his explanation and I can't imagine you make WOOD BEAMS into an egg shape in the first place. But he's the genius, not I, and I'm telling you this, dear readers, to say that sometimes you meet really wonderful people through the blogging world.
Good luck, T-Man. May the pisanki vision make itself manifest through you. Just don't hurt yourself with the power tools.
Friday, October 14, 2005
Miss Otis Regrets
"My opinion of President Summers is less than fond. I attended the HDS Convocation in 2004 and was treated to the sight of our eminent preacher, the Rev. Dr. Peter Gomes, giving a brilliant address while Larry Summers sat slouched down in his chair with his legs sprawled apart in the fashion of an irritated frat boy. He couldn't have communicated 'I don't want to be here; this isn't important' more clearly had he had a placard around his neck bearing the message in ink.
I have no desire to attend any Harvard functions that feature Dr. Summers, but thanks for asking."
By BEN BRANTLEY
Published: October 14, 2005
Here are instructions for transforming yourself into a Jewish matriarch in provincial Russia in 1905, inspired by Rosie O'Donnell's performance in "Fiddler on the Roof" at the Minskoff Theater. Feel free to try this at home.
1. Plant yourself on the floor as if you were an oak.
2. Puff out your chest.
3. Place the palm of your left hand on the back of your left hip.And, voilà!, you have instant Golde, the wife of Tevye, the philosopher-milkman in the musical adaptation of Sholom Aleichem's stories of shtetl life in the twilight of imperial Russia. Just strike that commanding maternal pose and all other essential elements of character will soon arrive naturally. It might help if you prayed a little, too.That would seem to be Ms. O'Donnell's approach to a role previously played by Randy Graff and Andrea Martin in David Leveaux's elegant but empty revival of this much-loved show by Joseph Stein, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. Alas, a pose and a prayer prove to be not quite enough to allow Ms. O'Donnell - the comedian, television personality, theatrical producer, sometime actress and confessional blogger - to make us believe that she is someone other than who she so famously is.
Her accent trots the globe, through countries real and imagined. It is variously Irish, Yiddish, Long Island-ish and, for big dramatic moments, crisp and round in the style of introduction-to-theater students.
Her relationship with the notes and keys of a song is similarly fluid.In the scene where Tevye (Harvey Fierstein) frightens his wife by describing an ominous dream, Ms. O'Donnell puts her hands to her pinchable cheeks and emanates a series of high-pitched o's, bringing to mind a distressed dolphin. Whether center stage or on the sidelines, she can be relied upon to react with italicized gestures and facial expressions to what everyone else is saying.Ms. O'Donnell, who has previously appeared on Broadway as a tough teenager in "Grease" and the Cat in the Hat in "Seussical," executes all this with a cheerful confidence that is unfortunately not infectious. A stalwart promoter of Broadway when she was a television talk show host, Ms. O'Donnell does seem to be enjoying herself.But as is usual with her stage performances, she suggests a jill-of-all-trades who thought she might as well try her hand at acting, too. The overall impression brings to mind what might happen if the lead in a high school production fell ill and the director turned to the most popular and reliable girl in the senior class (who is already the captain of the field hockey team, the debating society and the pep club) to fill in.It would be nice to report that Ms. O'Donnell's cheerleading persona brings new energy to this production. But the show's effectiveness relies so much on full emotional conviction by its cast and audience that a kibitzing performance like this one creates only distance.So it is up to Mr. Fierstein, the famously throaty actor (and multiple Tony winner) who took over the starring role from Alfred Molina nine months ago, to fill the vacuum. He does this by stepping up the vocal mannerisms (even more than when I last saw him), embellishing every third or fourth syllable, spoken or sung, with ornamental slides and runs, often at the expense of intelligibility. Not since Mercedes McCambridge dubbed the part of the demon in "The Exorcist" has there been such a vocally baroque performance.A warning to those of delicate hearing: the show is now so overmiked that when Mr. Fierstein exercises his nasal tones, your eardrums go into shock. When Ms. O'Donnell tries to match him in stridency in the duet "Do You Love Me?," you may find yourself longing for a more aurally soothing environment, like the runway of a busy airport.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
When Elizabeth picked me up from the airport on Monday she brought a thermos of broccoli soup with her, and some home-made muffins. It almost made me cry. The last real thing I had had to eat was an amazingly good barbecue briscuit sandwich in the Dallas Airport, like ten hours earlier.
Yes, we use food too much for comfort, but it's a kind of comfort that works sometimes.
I am going for a massage tomorrow for the simple reason that my jaw is clenched so tight I can feel my shoulders creeping up toward my ears in response. I did a lot of stretching this morning but unexpected ministerial obligations prevented me getting to the gym.
I just had no idea this trip would be so exhausting.
It's 8:30 pm and I might just call it quits for the day. My sermon sucketh mightily but you know what? I have a Board retreat all day Saturday followed by a church potluck (for which I should cook something, but won't -- if I can't feed myself I sure can't feed anyone else). The sermon is honest, passionate, as coherent as I can be right now, and it will have to do.
I will undoubtedly pick at it tomorrow but I have decided that grocery shopping is my #1 priority, followed by a swim.
Cajun Delicacy, Courtesy of My Louisiana Colleague
Do you dare me to make this for Thanksgiving?
I am wickedly tempted.
Why did I know that there would be some "Precious Moments"-oriented sentimental Christianity thing along with this artwork (or should I say, "artwork").
The e-mail containing dozens of shots of these sugary tots started, "Look at the talent that God gave this amazing artist."
Meanwhile, I just want to carry these to the next pro-choice activist gathering I attend. When I pull them out, pop them in and crunch down, I have a feeling even the most pro-Planned Parenthood person would be alarmed.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
You can make a donation to their musician's support fund on the site, too.
If you never had a chance to see the Preservation Hall Jazz Band play in New Orleans, I'm sorry you missed them. If you love Dixieland jazz, you'll love their recordings.
Keep Givin' Til It Feels Good!!
If any of you are wondering where to send dollars or donations, I'd like to direct you one more time to this earlier post:
I would also like to encourage any of you with cash wealth and philanthropic instincts to consider a contribution to:
Scotlandville Middle School
9147 Elm Grove Garden Drive
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70807
phone contact: Iris
or to :
Mayfair Elementary School
9880 Hyacinth Road
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70810
(sorry, no phone contact)
Both of these schools are serving entirely evacuee student AND teacher populations. They are doing okay for supplies right now but they need money for bigger items that they need to order: filing cabinets, shelves, furniture. They are located in abandoned schools so they're lucky to have the buildings but they need a LOT of basic furnishings.
For those with philanthropic instincts but smaller budgets, I believe that both the schools are hoping to collect autumn jackets for the children. It doesn't get very cold in Baton Rouge but it certainly gets chilly. Phone or write the contact people for more information, as these needs change quickly as people respond.
A note: if the phone company says that lines are down "due to the hurricane," just try again in a few minutes. My experience is that the recording is random and does not reflect accurate outages.
Thank you for your generosity. Fellow bloggers, it would be much appreciated if you might consider linking to this post.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
What You Can Photograph
I left my heart in Baton Rouge. It was hard to leave just as I was getting a sense of how to get around and how to help a little bit.
Outside of Broux Bridge
So We Bought A Lot of Hot Sauce
I don't want to give you the impression that we were in Louisiana sight-seeing. Saturday was the only day we took off. I shouldn't have, as I was only in town for the one week, but Volunteer Steve had been working like a dawg for weeks and he needed a fun day. He was a simply awesome social worker from Long Beach, California who had moved to Baton Rouge for a month to help out. What a guy.
Lake Martin, Lousiana
After having an iced latte in Broux Bridge (!) and visiting the Tabasco factory, we drove around this gorgeous lake, or rather Volunteer Steve drove and I hung out the passenger side window trying to spot alligators. I was very committed to seeing some gators on my trip, for which people teased me. They kept insisting I should just ORDER some for an appetizer. They say they taste like chicken. Ha ha. But they really do, apparently.
We never saw any gators but after we pulled up to the lake to watch this guy fishing I heard a tremendous snorting, whoofing kind of sound and I knew it could only be one thing.
Steve said no, maybe bullfrogs, but honey, that was no bullfrog. I asked someone later what gators sound like and sure enough, that's what they sound like: kind of like what you'd get if you mixed a pig with a dog and made them breathe real hard through a straw.
Home From Baton Rouge
(You can blame my grammar and incoherence today on sleep deprivation)
I awoke yesterday at 4:50 a.m., drove to the Baton Rouge airport, returned my car and boarded the 8:30 flight.
I arrived in Dallas/Fort Worth at 10:30 and grabbed a sandwich to take on my 10:45 a.m. flight.
I heard that our flight was delayed and sat around for half an hour.
The flight was delayed again. We all groaned.
Finally, we were told at noon to board the plane but warned that, due to WEATHER in Boston we might have to sit on the plane for a bit.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is nothing like sitting on the tarmac for four bloody hours in an enclosed, un-air conditioned plane to make you realize -- if you hadn't already realized -- how lucky you generally are.
At 4 pm we finally left for Boston and arrived at about 9:00 p.m. Eastern time.
Why the big delay? Not weather 'tall, my dears. Just the radar system down, or some such thing with air traffic control. The flight attendants told me that all the air traffic controls in the entire country are outdated and need to be replaced, and we're all in for many more similarly obnoxious delays in air travel.
Not that the $3.00 snack box wasn't delicious, with that salty Slim Jim-related item and the busted Lorna Doone's. Just what a hungry traveler needs; even more comforting than the bacteria-encrusted pillows the airlines USED to hand out, years ago when they had some money.
Air traffic control systems. Just another casualty of the Bush Administration's brilliant economic plan to destroy the infrastructure of America while inflicting "democracy" on Iraq and putting more money into the pockets of his filthy, stinking rich buddies.
I'm late for class.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Baton Rouge, Lousiana, Saturday, October 8
The waters rose very fast and I drowned, and as I died, I thought, "That was all I could do. And I am not dying alone."
I awoke gasping for breath.
I meet people every day here who have lost loved ones to drowning. Joshua, one of the two chief church volunteer leaders at Allen Chapel, is grieving his cousins and their family -- three children, I believe, who drowned in New Orleans.
Last night I bought some items at the Body Shop. I asked the salesgirl if she knew where a certain restaurant is but she smilingly replied that she did not, as she's from out of town. "Oh," I asked, "Where you from?" Without losing her smile, and with a touch of pride she replied,
"I am from New Orleans."
The New Orleanians I have met are all resolutely high-chinned. They do not want pity; they always say that they are counting their blessings and they are so glad to be here. They smile, so I smile back with dry eyes and wish them a very good day and take care.
Let me ask the pastors out there to think about something:
If the population of your town or city suddenly doubled with evacuees from a monumental natural disaster, what do you think your church's mission would be in that time? What is your church for?
Would you welcome people in to sleep on your pews and to camp out in your kitchen and Sunday School rooms?
Would you serve as a distribution center for donations pouring in from all over the country?
Would you clothe the naked and feed the hungry? How about displaced prisoners? Would you shelter them, too? Do they deserve a roof over their heads, or do they not?
How many committees, if any, would you need to form to discuss these decisions? How long would those meetings be before decisions could be made?
Does your church have a covenant, is it explicit, and how would it hold together if unwashed, traumatized, homeless and hopeless thousands were in need of your hospitality?
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Katrina Relief Donations Ideas, October 6th
I just came back from Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church in Baton Rouge.
They are hosting 67 individuals there right now, including lots of children, in a NON Red Cross, impromptu shelter. People are geting placed from there into some kind of housing, or being re-located. They need
housewares: silverware, dish towels, toasters, blenders, etc.
CLEANING SUPPLIES (for those returning to New Orleans, especially)
for setting up new house.
There are new evacuees coming in because FEMA is going to stop paying for hotel and motel rooms, so they're looking at another big raft of folks coming in soon.
Not only this, but they are connected as a distribution center to several other AME churches that have, all told about 350 evacuees staying in their buildings.
I noticed a nice, shiny church across the street from Allen Chapel that was empty and shiny. For shame.
Mrs. Belinda Washington is running things at Allen Chapel and coordinating with the other churches, and she is just saving lives. She is saving lives every day.
I personally think she should run FEMA, and possibly this country.
For her residents, you may assemble personal hygiene kits containing: toothpaste and brush, soap, deoderant, Tampax, razors and shaving creme, and a washrag. They would be so grateful. Some children's packages would also be thoughtful and appreciated.
Please do not send clothes, as they have all they need at this time.
6175 Scenic Highway
Baton Rouge, LA 70807
Baton Rouge, October 6, 2005
Except that when I got to Dallas and lined up for my flight, I was called aside by a flight attendant who mangled my name over the PA system. The equivalent would be something like, "Miss Pays-Bing?" And it wasn't a Southern accent thing, just an "I can't read" thing. I warily approached the desk with my luggage.
"Due to weight restrictions, Miss Pays-Bing, we're going to have to deny your boarding pass."
I'm not lying.
"Well," I said. "I've been working out three times a week and really trying to cut down on portion sizes but I don't think I can do anything else right now."
She didn't get it, or didn't think it was funny. As it turns out, Expedia.com had generated the little demonic message all on its own and completely not in concert with American Airlines, which had expected me on the earlier flight. And because I had "changed my flight," I was being penalized by being bumped off this later one. They were loaded up with supplies for Katrina relief and the plane was just too heavy.
I pitched a quiet, polite fit, explaining the I had NOT changed my flight, and producing the e-mail from Expedia [spit].com. They eventually allowed me to board, and I got on and settled in. After the flight had achieved that silent expectation of departure, with all passengers in their seats and all the carry-on luggage squished in the overhead bins, the same flight attendant came on board. She called out, in a piercing version of Fat Person's Nightmare, "Miss PAYSBING?? I'm sorry, we've exceeded our weight restriction. Please come with me."
As I toiled down the aisle with my bag, I called out, "Is anyone in advertising on this flight? Don't you think this would make a great Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers commercial?" People chuckled in sympathetic solidarity.
But here's the thing: there is an obesity epidemic in America and that's not funny, even to me. I'm glad the media is starting to report on the race and class dimensions of the epidemic, because it's an unmistakable factor, Hello.
I did finally get to Baton Rouge (with a $200 American Airline voucher tucked into my wallet for future travel) and what I am finding in the relief work is that much of what's needed is super plus size clothing for folks. Yesterday we got a call from a shelter in need of size 48 pants for a man. The church just did a successful drive for plus-size bras for evacuee women. Also yesterday, three palletts of boxes containing 1200 or so cotton leggings from Junonia, a manufacturer of plus-size sports clothes for women, arrived for the church. They were distributed to shelters last night. I am going to call Junonia today to pimp for some shirts.
I've been out to several restaurants so far and they serve Hush Puppies at every meal (I like to call them Heart Attack Puppies). It is Fried Food Land here. A Whole Foods went in recently and a Louisianan joked that they'll like the sushi fine as long as they can bread and fry it.
So Baton Rouge is just lovely, mostly. Aside from the fact that everywhere you go there is a sense of dread and loss, and the words on everybody's lips are "emergency services" and "Ninth Ward" and "don't know next" and "oh my God," you would never know a hurricane had come through. People are charming. The guys at Enterprise upgraded my car to a swell P.T. Cruiser, and the girl at McDonald's called me "lady ma'am." Everyone asks where you're from and warmly thanks you for coming. The other volunteers at the church are funny and hard-working and welcomed me right in. I am staying with a really smart, lovely evolutionary biologist in her nice apartment.
But last night, when I went into the outrageous third world country known as the River Center and passed through the armed military security detail and first saw the thousands and thousands of cots, I was finally confronted with the physical evidence of what's really happening here, and what I had been hearing about all day. This crisis is going to change the history of America. The scope of the thing is unbelievable. Once you start hearing the stories, you realize what it means to havre a whole vibrant city displaced, in the Diaspora.
What did I do at this Red Cross shelter? I sat on cots and played with four little children who climbed all over me the moment I went over to intervene in a fight and ask how they were. The little girl, with extravagant dreds up in curlers (!) was three and asked me right away if I had any candy. The boys were five and ten years old and like any children will do, fought over the gum I gave them. Another boy slept soundly throughout the 2 hours we hung out together and I scratched Harry (they call him "Sweet Presley") and Pete's backs (I know the "WILL YOU SCRATCH MY BACK?" thing -- we do it all the time in my family, complete with the yanking the shirt up routine). The sleeping baby inched his way over throughout my hours there until his head was in my lap. His eyes were crusted shut, and he was too warm.
There was one tiny guy-- must have been a little more than two -- in a kind of leopard print suit who came over to give me a wide, sunshiny grin and show me his tummy. We played "WHOSE belly button is that?" until he got tired of giggling and wandered off to find more entertainment among the rows and rows and rows of cots. He looked like a Vegas entertainer in that suit. I wanted to eat him up.
A little Latino boy rolled by on a beensy mini-Big Wheel. Couldn't have been cuter.
I looked up at one point to see a child smack a really young, white female Red Cross volunteer square across the face, hard. Her expression of compassion and care changed not one iota as she told him he musn't hit. My little sassy card-playing lady ma'am over on the cot needed to hear the same thing. A lot. This isn't to say that the children don't seem fine. They do. They miraculously do. I'm sure they're NOT fine -- for one thing, they all need a good bath and tooth brushing -- but they seem amazingly resilient. They've been there for weeks, some of them.
A few rows over, a man slept soundly with headphones on, his prosthetic limb leaned against a pile of belongings. He lost his "nice" leg in the flood, I learned, and this one is just a long tube of metal.
And in the row next to that, Cowboy, a gorgeous black musician from New Orleans, strummed the guitar and sang the blues.
Monday, October 03, 2005
I did fine in the choking up department until I walked out of the chapel behind the cadet who was holding Marvin's ashes. I felt under control but found that my breath came in little sobs, which irritated me as the videographer was right in front of me and I thought, "Give me a break, you exploitative bastard, and point that camera somewhere else." I know my face looked like the mask of tragedy. No matter how hard I tried, it steadfastly maintained a grimace of pain. It was like facial muscle rebellion: "Hey lady, we've managed the professional 'healing-smile' thing for an hour now. Something's gotta give."
Maybe I could have the professional compassionate smile permanently etched in by a plastic surgeon, or tattooed on. My Aunt Pearl and Aunt Mae, bless their glamorous little septugenarian hearts, both have eyeliner tattooed on. Can you stand it? And I am here to say that they're both piss elegant. They slay me. I took a photo of Auntie Mae at the reception and she looks dewier and prettier than most girls look on their Sweet 16th. I know she'll never have another Marvin but I do hope some lovely older man (or younger! hey!) keeps her good company in these coming years.
You should know that it was absolutely pouring rain when we got to the chapel and that as I was giving the final prayer, the sun came out and shone through the windows. People gasped. I had somehow expected it. Not because of some miraculous sign from God but because we were in the Hudson Valley and I thought it just might happen that weather patterns would change rapidly. That timing, though, was exquisite.
When I walked slowly out of the chapel and into the sunlight and saw all of those soldiers at attention in the cemetery, I almost crumbled. But I thought to myself, "You do the God part, they do the country part. Get up on your hind legs and don't give those boys any reason to think of religious leaders as big wusses."
I did the commital without shedding a tear and then stepped back as the military took over. When the 21 gun salute went off, I jumped a bit but stayed collected. I watched the flag folding ceremony with tremendous respect: that stuff is absolutely fascinating. But when they played "Taps," I sobbed into my hankie. There was no way I could not. I was only happy that I was discreet in my sobbing, but I still heard my sister whisper to one of my cousins, "[PeaceBang's] losing it." I thought, "Good God, no matter how much dignity you try to have in life, there's always a big sister around to bust you."
And I was glad.
What I Took To Baton Rouge
I haven't taken her to the vet for two years. There, I admit it. It's not that I'm a bad Cat Mom, it's that she has such hysterical fits when she has to get in her carrier that I dread trying to stuff her in there for the 7 minute ride. Since she's an entirely indoor feline I kid myself that she can skip her annual check-up.
I know. I know. I promise to reform my ways and get her in that blasted carrier ASAP no matter how fat and bushy her tail gets, and how menacing her growl. She also yowls as though someone is torturing her. Did I mention that?
I just don't feel like going away right now, but that's neither here nor there. I just hope I can be of some help, even if it's just getting my colleague to relax for an hour over lunch. My sermon is almost done and I feel like the world's all-time moron for preaching on the subject of RESILIENCE to a Baton Rouge congregation post- Katrina. What was I thinking? I should have preached on The Book of Job or something. Truth to tell, I just didn't have time to write a new sermon so I tailored this one -- which I wrote for my own congregation's Homecoming Sunday -- for them. I just hope they don't knock me down and kick me in the head at coffee hour. I have this vision of me rolling around trying to shield my internal organs as the boots come flying, yelling, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I thought it would be inspirational! I thought it would be healing!"
My hostess tells me that the grocery stores are just about empty; she got the last loaf of bread in the store the other day. So I am bringing some items from Trader Joe's: pumpkin bread mix, cornbread mix, brownie mix (that wonderful fat free stuff you make with yogurt) and some other unperishables. Everyone can get their hands on some canola oil, water and an EGG, right? I also just think that everyone should have pumpkin bread in the autumn, even if it is 90 degrees where you are.
Everyone says to bring a surgical mask for the mold. And surgical gloves. So I'm packing those but don't really anticipate needing them.
I'll blog from Louisiana if I can find the time and the computer. I bought this fancy laptop last summer and wouldn't ya know, I'm too nervous to travel with it! I'm too scared someone will steal it and that without it, my brain will just shrivel up and stop, like Harriet the Spy's did when her parents took her notebook away.
Speaking of which, if you haven't read Harriet the Spy you're missing one of the great literary masterworks of all time. It is a bald heinous crime that they cast Rosie O'Donnell as Ole Golly in the movie, instead of the obvious and only choice, Lily Tomlin.
But I digress. Better get back to packing.
Sorry, I Can't Get Over It Yet
It just validates everything I suspected about what it was like to be a baby.
I give that kid the power salute, man. I feel you, baby.
No Experience Required
I guess it was okay for William Rehnquist, so it's gonna have to be okay for Harriet Miers.
I wish I'd known about this. I would have had my close personal friends nominate me for Chief Buffalo-Wing-Eater-Margarita-Drinker-Hot-Mediterranean-Men-Companioner. Because even though I've never held that job in a professional capacity, I feel that I could be really, really good at it.
And it would be good for America.
Sunday, October 02, 2005
PeaceBang Approaching Forty
The answer is, I look like a tired, slightly jowly, approaching-middle-age woman.
The Mac lipgloss helps some, but there it is.
I look like a woman who has slightly less time to suffer fools than she used to, and who has seen a thing or two.
Not bad. Accurate. Evidence of many good meals under the chin(s). Laugh lines around the eyes, and rumination lines around the mouth.
How interesting. I can certainly see why people seek the scalpel at this age, but what a pity to miss all the roadwork life does on your face.
Stepford Destiny's Child
Baby, I see you workin' hard
Wanna let you know that I'm proud
Wanna let you know I admire what you do
Don't know if I need to reassure you
My life would be purposeless without you
If I want it (you got it)
If I ask you (you provide it)
You inspire me to be better (ooh)
You challenge me for the better (ooh, ooh)
Sit back and let me pour out my love letter
[Beyonce]Let me help you take off your shoes
Untie your shoe strings [he can't even take off his own shoes??]
take off your cufflinks
What you wanna eat Boo, let me feed you
Let me run your bath water
Whatever you desire,
Sing you a song,
turn my game on
I'll brush your hair, help you put your do-rag on [most unintentionally funny line in the whole thing]
Wanna foot rub, want a manicure Baby,
I'm yours I wanna cater to you [chorus]
Let me cater to you
Cause baby, this is your day
Do anything for my man
Baby, you blow me away
I got your slippers, your dinner, your dessert
And so much more, anything you want
I wanna cater to you
Inspire me from the heart
Can't nothing tear us apart
You're all I want in a man
I put my life in your hands
I got your slippers, your dinner, your dessert
And so much more, anything you want I wanna cater to you
[Kelly]Baby, I'm happy you're home
Let my hold you in my arms
I just wanna take the stress away from you
Makin' sure your that I'm doing my part
Boy, is there something you need me to do
If you want (I got it)
Just say the word I (I'ma try it) [Michael says: "Basically...she is saying that she will take it up the butt"]
And whatever I'm not fulfillin'
No other woman is willing
I'm gonna fulfill you, my body and spirit I promise ya,
I keep myself up
Remain the same chick you fell in love with
I'll keep it tight, [awww!!c'mon!! TMI!!] keep my figure right
I'll keep my hair fixed, rockin' the hottest outfits
When you come home late, tap me on my shoulder
I'll roll over Baby [I just threw up a little in my mouth]
I heard you, I'm here to serve you If it's love you need, to give it is my joy
All I wanna do
Is cater to you, boy [chorus]
Wow. What an anthem to true partnership. Isn't this just what you want on your teen daughter's I-pod??