I wish I could whisper in Hillary Clinton’s ear. I would ask her to consider getting rid of the old cronies in her campaign who are too well-versed in political mudslinging and not nearly as competent in understanding what the public really wants — and desperately needs at this point — to hear. There are too many Shaheens in politics, giving rise to too many distracting back-and-forth allegations, and there’s not nearly enough belief in a positive, economically stable, and progressive future. I’m glad Shaheen resigned, but how many more mudslingers are waiting in the wings? Please, let’s not make this a race of pointless accusations, but a race with integrity. With thousands already dead from the Iraq war, the last thing America needs are politicians who go at each other’s throats.
I don’t know why I woke up with Virgie Arthur on my mind. I wish I wouldn’t have, because far more than any other person in the Anna Nicole story, she provoked the strongest, and most undesirable, feelings in me. I tried, so hard, to see her the way she wanted to be seen — as a mother, and a grandmother, who lost two people she loved. I tried to set aside her ready-for-tabloid past of broken marriages and hurt children, and more recent television diatribes. I tried, even, to see past her shady, big-talking Texas attorney, and the legal plays to swoop custody away from a legal father, and/or to ingratiate herself in an estate to which she is not entitled.
I tried all those things and still largely failed at seeing any sort of mother I’d recognize as truly caring and well-intentioned.
I quit trying after I watched a television interview where Arthur was asked to share her fondest memory of her daughter, and stumbled. As if she was just handed a live grenade, Arthur suddenly looked nervous and nearly incoherent. Mmmmmm. Mmmmmmm. Arthur fumbled to find words, and then just said, “Well, she was stubborn.” Stubborn is not a memory, it is a trait, and the fact that Arthur didn’t have one single good memory at the ready in the aftermath of her daughter’s death struck me as. . .well, unmotherly. Even haunting.
The aneurysm, her people said, often leaves Arthur’s speech in a jumble. Yet her words were not at all indecisive when pointing the finger of blame and shame on other people, so that excuse left a lot to be desired.
So I wake up to a cold gray sky, a dog that needs to be walked, two projects that need work, a house that needs to be cleaned. . .and an unwanted image in my head. Over a cup of really lousy coffee, it hits me — my daughter will be 26 years old in just a few days. She is engaged to a wonderful man, and I will soon be the proud step-grandmother of a beautiful four year-old child who has already stolen my heart. The mother I once was — the one who was free to stop by at anytime without calling first, the one who was the center of her child’s life — will now be a different kind of mother. One who calls first, comes when invited, and who will have to stand somewhat outside the circle so that my daughter and son-in-law can build their own independent family.
I have known all of this for awhile, and have been absolutely giddy about getting to know my future grandchild, and helping plan a wedding, but I really haven’t confronted my fears about being “the outsider”. I’ll never be as outside my daughter’s life as Virgie was — we are remarkably close — but there will be a change to my place, from my daughter’s first family to extended family. It is a right and proper change, and I’m enormously happy about it, but changes aren’t always easy or without fear.
So Virgie was in my head as a source of my biggest fear — that I would be so outside my daughter’s new family that it would be like an estrangement. That will never happen, I know, not only because my daughter and I love each other infinitely, but because we are both stubborn enough to work out any problems we’d ever have.
And one of my fondest memories. . . .the day I picked her up at kindergarten and her lower lip was quivering. It took forever to get her to tell me what was wrong. Finally, she blurted out, “MaryKay said I wear my hair the same way everyday!” She sobbed, and I held her in the car. We then drove to Raley’s where we bought about $40 worth of hair ribbons, barrettes, clips, and curlers. The next day, she went to school with her hair down, curled, and with Crayola barrettes on the side. When I picked her up, I asked how school was. She shrugged and said fine. That night, I asked how she wanted her hair done the next day. “Oh, just put it in pony tails like I always wear,” she said.
“What about MaryKay?” I asked.
“Who cares what she thinks?”
“I thought you did,” I said.
“Well, that was only for a minute, mom. I don’t care about it today.”
Yep, some of my favorite memories are about her stubborness, and the fact that she has always been very much her own person, even at five years old.
The planned novel is not going well, while the unplanned non-fiction book is speeding along — which is the opposite of how I thought it would be. I followed a mentor’s advice and wrote the first three chapters of “Rain Down on Me” in the third person, which is a style I’ve only attempted a few times and don’t feel comfortable with. My first feedback from the editor was not great, but not totally negative, either. It’s my choice whether to press on in the third person, or to start over again. I’ve chosen to start over. The non-fiction work, on the other hand, is getting some very positive feedback which may be one of the reasons my fingers are flying through the project.
I don’t expect miracles or money from either endeavor. There are an excess of writers in this country, and only a handful are ever able to make their living from writing alone, and most of those are formula/genre writers. Even my favorite writers of literary fiction, like Tod Goldberg and Tobias Wolff have to hold down jobs to supplement their writing income.
However, I still dream of solitude and dedication, and of the tiny yellow house by the lake, with a big screened-in front porch, a mahogany desk and two dogs to walk along the water with me. It’s a dream I’ve had since I was nine years old, and unshakeable from my never-had memory. My landlord, Sharon, believes in visualization — of dreaming and seeing into reality the things you most want. I dream the little yellow house, I see it clearly, nearly every single day. So far, I’m no closer to materializing that dream than I was at nine, or twenty, or thirty, but no one can ever accuse me of being a quitter.
(Wouldn’t it be ironic, though, if the Dirty Rat Bastards ended up helping me?)
I freely admit to being somewhat of a misanthrope. Those feelings are born out of my almost nonstop amazement and fascination with the diverse species known as human race to which I (often even proudly) belong. It’s odd to think that I share basically the same genetic code with people who sent millions of dollars to Oral Roberts — with a madman like Hitler — with the most prolific serial killer. Strange to think, too, that Newton and Einstein shared the same basic DNA ladder with Osama Bin Laden and Charles Manson. That Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. were not that genetically far apart from John Wayne Gacy or Richard Ramirez.
I tend to think about things like this when I’m at work, watching the news, or navigating the aisles at Target Superstores — wherever there might be displays of total dumbass behavior.
At work Friday, I listened to a very embittered woman rag about everything under the sun from “trailer trash” to people with bad teeth. She thought she was funny; she wasn’t, particularly since one of the people we work with just bought a mobile home, and another one just went through the painful process of having her irreparable teeth pulled to get dentures. When I finally walked over and asked her to stop, she said, “Well, I guess some people have no sense of humor.” I looked at her. . .and wanted so badly to make a joke about about a rude, balding, dumpy woman to see if she would “get it”, but decided she wouldn’t. Some people look from the inside out, while other people look at the outside and seemingly never venture inward. She’s one of those who finds faults in others easily while never seeing her own.
At Target, I watched a very pretty, very young, very stupid mother call her misbehaving toddler a “little n–ger” before telling him to get his “dumb black ass” back here. (She was white. Her child was not). Enough said.
I make mistakes, and plenty of them. At my worst, I can be impatient, innattentive, cranky, and lousy at organization. I try not to be a total dumbass though. I try to reach the side of the ladder that holds the best instead of the worst human traits. If it really is all about the gray matter and what we choose to put in it, then it seems logical to me to strive for goodness, even if it’s not always possible, than to stagnate in the poverty of mind that comes when we quit trying.
Out of New York City comes a strange holiday tale that defies the stereotypes that often fill our American landscape.
It began on the Q train, when Walter Adler responded to the greeting of “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Hanukkah” — and ended with 10 arrests and one brave Muslim student, Hassan Askari, being called a hero.
The rest of the story here: CNN.
On the other side, here’s a story that helps foster the sterotype. http://winnipeg.indymedia.org/item.php?8831S. A Muslim father in Canada kills his sixteen year old daughter for not wanting to wear a hijab. While Koranic scholars (such as those who appear on talk shows to educate the public) often say that their religion is not compulsory, the fact remains that millions of Muslim adherents believe that it is, or should be, especially for girls and women. Not only should the religion be compulsory, they believe, but so should the cultural traditions that rose from the days of Mohammed. Who could forget the story of the girls left to die in a blazing fire because they were not wearing the “proper” clothing?
Oddly enough, Mohammed never ordered his wives behind the veil. He suggested they cover their faces not to punish them for any transgression, but to punish men who could not control themselves. Those men, Mohammed said, should be denied the opportunity to look upon beauty if they could not do so with respect and reverence. His wives liked the idea and took it up. As generations passed, Mohammed’s intention became twisted by adherents and scholars both, and the veil and the abayas became mandatory in almost every region in the Middle East. Families and “vice and virtue police” have meted out extraordinary punishments, including death, to women who do not cover themselves, or do not do it “properly”. Mohammed’s original intention — that disrespectful men should suffer the consequences of their actions — has been lost during centuries of social and political upheaval and revisionism.
The Golden Age of the Middle East predated Islam. It was the age when men of reason eschewed oppression and went on to create great things, including stunning works of architecture, mathematical fiats, and modern plumbing. A society that oppresses its people and causes them to live in fear will not, history proves, give rise to new inventions, innovators, artists, and citizens who are capable of positively adding to the world’s progress. Had either Judaism or Christianity remained stuck in the past, Europe and America might never have seen their own industrial revolutions and the golden ages that sprung from new inventions. Islam, in refusing to move past its cultural place as the world’s foremost oppressor, will never move its nations forward into anything resembling greatness. And when the reign of oil ends, and the foreign money dries up, non-progressive Islamic countries will find themselves without a sustainable economy.
I’ve gotten some flak for no longer having comments on all my blog posts, but weirdly it’s not from those who would normally use the comments section, but from those who watch this site for the sole purpose of finding fault. For the old disgruntled Stern posters, a low number of responses validates any number of the criticisms they would launch at me. (Oh look, without us she ceases to exist!). When I did have a thread that was wildly popular for a minute, though, it was because I was a “media whore.” (Leave your monopoly money on the keyboard on your way out, honey?). I don’t know folks, the internet is just weird. Weirder even than life in the flesh, and that’s saying something.
I don’t have comments on every post anymore for a few reasons. First, It became too time-consuming to monitor the site all the time. Second, while about 85% of the commenters were truly engaging and wonderful, another 15% seemed only to want drama, and that was about 14% too much. I subscribe to the philosophy of reason. If you don’t like a story, or if you hate a site, don’t read it, don’t recommend it – but you don’t have to spit on it. And really there’s no blog manifesto that says you have that right. There’s no blog law that says “if someone wants to tell you they hate you, or your article, you have to give them the space to do it.” Really, I read my terms of service, it’s not there. However, if anybody really wants to tell me something, there’s a form to do that on the “About” page. Kapish? And I’ll keep comments on for posts that I think might spark good conversation.
I really am sorry I ever wrote about the media trials of the beleaguered attorney-cum-boyfriend of Anna Nicole Smith. Who knew that a skinny Jewish lawyer with one demanding, drug-dependent diva for a client would develop such a hardcore group of fans? The outcome of that experience has left a very sour taste, and a strong apprehension against ever becoming involved in an online “community” again, especially one that is high-drama. The light bulb started flickering last July, but turned a blinding shade of scary for me last week, when an anonymous disgruntled person dug up info on my past (over a quarter of a century old), and posted my ex-husband’s name on a public forum, asking others for help in locating him. This same person also began to actively campaign against me wherever she could find my link — proclaiming she would write letters to “warn” Rosie O’Donnell and Hillary Clinton about me. Too freaky.
I really don’t care if someone doesn’t like my writing, my style, or the way I part my hair — and if they want to really invest the time and energy to damn those things to hell and back — well, okay, wherever the wind blows you. But a cyberstalker is really just one step away from becoming a John Hinckley. So from now on, no more “communities”, and no more logical defenses launched in the midst of off-the-mark but so happily thrown slings and arrows.