Dec 10, 2013

Vote for Me

If I ever run for public office, it will be on a single issue: improvement and standardization of women's public restrooms.  I am sick and tired of waving my hands all around a faucet, waiting for water to emerge, only to see there is a knob that should be turned; banging on a soap dispenser that is waiting for me to hold my hand under the shoot; and feeling up the paper towel dispenser until I finally give up and dry my hands on my pants. Sometimes I start to look around for the hidden camera because I think I must be getting punked.

If I am elected, all women's restrooms will have a hook on the inside of each stall door. That hook will be large enough to hold a purse strap and a coat collar so I do not have to swing my purse onto my back, crunch my coat up around my boobs, and hold everything in place while I pull down my pants and lower precariously onto the toilet. Invariably, my purse succumbs to gravity and falls onto the floor, right between the toilet base and the receptacle for 'sanitary' products. When that happens, I just want to leave my purse where it landed and walk away.

All toilet stalls will have a fresh supply of seat covers, and manufacturers of said covers will figure out a new way to package them so the first few don't shred to pieces or come out in a clump that a woman before me has crammed back in the container.

Toilet paper.  It doesn't have to be two-ply.  I know that's expensive.  But the stuff they're using now doesn't even merit being called one-ply.  This stuff is more like half-ply or no-ply.  In fact, this is what takes us so long in the bathroom: extracting microscopic bits of toilet paper, one after the other, until we finally have a handful.  That process can take up to an hour and by then we have to pee again.

All toilets will be manual flush!  This is a nonnegotiable piece of my platform.  I am fed up with toilets that flush while I'm still unzipping my pants, flush again while I'm doing my business and a third time while I'm trying to get my clothes reassembled, still holding my purse and coat because there was no goddamn hook.

All public restrooms will have a well paid attendant who cleans and restocks about once an hour and isn't one of those who sit around next to a bowl of rosewater and a tip jar and thanks you for coming.

All women's bathrooms will have enough stalls to handle the traffic or else the men's bathrooms will be relabeled unisex for overflow.  If an establishment is small, like a restaurant, but large enough to have two little water closets, and chooses to label them both unisex, they will be severely reprimanded.  One will be for women only, the other unisex.  If I can hold it (which, I admit, is unlikely), I'll wait for the women's room because it will be cleaner and the seat will be down.

All women's rooms will have a mirror bright enough to check for spinach in my teeth.

And finally, all stalls will have functioning locks, because there is nothing worse than getting bonked in the head while you're sitting on the toilet, holding all your belongings off the floor, and leaning forward to press the door closed each time it swings open, when some other poor woman tries to enter your stall.

Thank you for your vote.  

Nov 8, 2013

I’ll Have the Pie

Are you ready for Christmas?  No, me either. But last night I decided to watch a little television to relax and veg out and what happened? I was accosted by one Christmas themed advertisement after another. Last night, November 7th, a week past Halloween, seven weeks before Christmas, and three solid weeks before my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. (Isn't Thanksgiving great?  Just food, food, more food, family, friends, and more food, including pie.) But I digress. I was saying that I'm not ready for Christmas. And of course I don't want to be ready. What kind of anal planner has the holidays under control this far in advance? 

But Glade Air Fresheners is ready. They're already running an ad with a multiracial group of girls singing about peace. Because when your kitchen smells of fish or your living room reeks of eau de chien, your mind immediately goes to the end of war for all time, right? Sniff, sniff. Sniff, sniff.  Yeah, I think that's garlic and will there ever be peace in the Middle East?  

Walmart's running ads with garlands and red ribbons in the background and then, to make sure you get the main point—presents—they show a woman sitting on Santa's lap. That's a little creepy. And Walmart's also partnering with Wheel of Fortune on Secret Santa-themed shows. Again, kind of creepy.  Who are these secret gift givers and where are they hiding?  Will one pop out of the wheel in an elf suit?  Or peek from behind the bonus board to whisper hints? Try C. I think there's a C.  Maybe an A?

Kay Jewelers isn't being left behind. They're pushing gifts of jewelry under the tree this year, because what woman doesn't want her boyfriend to propose in front of her whole family while she's still in her bathrobe? Nissan's ad has Christmas trees in the showrooms and they seem to only be selling red cars this time of year. Sorry ma'am, powder blue isn't available until Easter. Disney takes it a step further and suggests contacting your travel agent to spend the holidays in the Magic Kingdom where no doubt you'll encounter Mickey and Minnie dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

And those aren't all the Christmas commercials I saw in just two and a half hours. Best Buy, Bank of America, in fact, probably all the commercials from now until December 26th will feature holly, fir, mistletoe, Santa, reindeer, and piles and piles of presents.  

I know this is by now an old lament.  The Christmas season has been marching ever earlier on the calendar, ruining the fun for kids and adults alike.  If one quarter of the year is devoted to hyping shopping in the wrappings of made-for-TV movies, feel-good pablum, and various interpretations of the holiday, from the very religious to the very secular, how damn special can it be?  Now, I'm not religious and never was, but I remember the almost-impossible-to-stand anticipation of Christmas morning after just a few weeks of hype.  It was painfully delicious. It was special.  This nonstop barrage is just downright annoying.

Funny, it's Hanukkah that's right around the corner; it starts super early this year, in November, the day before my favorite holiday.  Did I mention pie? 

Oct 22, 2013


I don't know about you but the recent government shutdown really got me riled up.  The first three days I was completely obsessed, glued to the TV.  I wanted to know the play-by-play as each occurred and not wait for the evening news.  I only did chores and tasks that allowed for watching the news at the same time: ironing, cooking, paying bills, pretending to clean.  If I couldn't simultaneously watch our national monuments and parks being cordoned off or listen to the pundits speculate on how long the strong-arming would last, that chore had to wait until my own personal shutdown was over.

Of course, after a couple of days it was necessary to go out into the world again to buy provisions but those first three days were solid shutdown.  Then it stretched on and on. And on. The fun parts were soon over, like when Michelle Bachman, who had just voted for the shutdown, thrust herself into the war memorial demonstration and declared, "You can't close America!" Or when Michelle Bachman stretched the skin wide around her eyes and declared, "We're not blinking." Or when Michelle Bachman...hey, wait a minute; I sense a pattern.

Now the shutdown is over and our budget is passed for the super long, super secure and reassuring period of roughly three months.  What then?  In the post-Christmas credit-maxed period for middle income and low income Americans, Tea Party Republicans may again decide to hold the government hostage and cause billions of dollars of loss, putting people out of work and causing ripples of lost income and commerce to large swaths of the economy yet again.  Maybe they got enough of a whooping in the polls to prevent another shutdown but we'll see. Ted Cruz's numbers went up in his bid for president, so he came out ahead. 

I don't think I'll ever understand the concept of the antigovernment government rep. It's like a frog complaining about the size of the pond just before he leaps in and starts swimming.  It's like a carpet salesman decrying the loss of hardwood floors.  It's like a queen complaining about the cost of supporting the royal family.  I can't tell if the antigovernment folks are disingenuous or if they really don't understand what government does.  A lot of them seemed genuinely shocked that the federal government runs national parks.  Sort of like those Obamacare protesters with the "Government keep your hands off my Medicare" signs.

I'm glad the president hung tough.   At the beginning of the shutdown, I heard Chris Matthews say on The Colbert Report that no one fears Obama and not being intimidating is a problem for any president.  I think Matthews was right at the time...there were several points in his first term when he seemed to be the caver in chief.  But Obama's refusal to deal with extremists holding the government hostage put a healthy fear in those who want to do him and his agenda harm.  He's not perfect but he sure played it right this time.

Sep 30, 2013

I Feel Bad About My Neck

I feel bad about my neck…and my jaw and my temple and my shoulder. So bad that I have a physical therapist who periodically tries to ease my upper right quadrant into peaceful submission.  I’ve had several appointments with her and recently she started pressing the idea that maybe, just maybe, there were things I could do that would prevent my body parts from freezing up in pain. 

According to Miss Smarty Pants, plopping my MacBook Air on my desktop and hunching over it for four to five hours a day is not good for my aforementioned neck, jaw, shoulder, etc. A big word was bandied about: ergonomics. Somehow I (aren’t I the victim here?) was partially responsible for my pain.  Well, I never!

Did you know that your head is ten percent of your body weight? Every time you bend your head forward it’s like you’re dangling a sack of potatoes out front and using the rest of your body as a counterweight.  Since I often have the brain function of a ten-pound sack of potatoes this seems like an apt analogy to what I’m doing to myself.

The physical therapist gave me homework: get myself a platform to raise my computer screen up to eye level and a wireless keyboard to replace the one on the computer. With this new set-up I will become an ergonomic poster child! Using my laptop and my bad-for-me posture, I looked at platforms and keyboards online.  Then I called the Apple store and discovered that their prices were actually cheaper.  My sore jaw almost dropped to the ground. 

I drove over to the Apple store and it was, as usual, packed with energetic customers trying to buy the latest technology, little old lady customers getting lessons in using the latest technology, and much less excited customers trying to get their broken technology to work again. And there were nearly as many sales staff, all dressed in Godawful blue tee shirts, engaged in conversation with the myriad customers.  It was hard to blaze a path though all the people. If the economy is in the toilet, you would never know it from the interior of an Apple store. 

One hundred and thirty dollars later I had my assembly-required computer stand, a wireless keyboard, and instructions on setting up Blue Tooth.  It was just after I set them up and I tried to click on an onscreen option that I realized I had to reach up to use the mouse pad in the center of the computer keyboard.  My head was no longer doing its sack-of-potatoes imitation but my hand was now doing its two-year-old-trying-to-get-a-cookie-off-the-table imitation.   Seems I also need a new mouse. 

May 16, 2013

The Poetry Feedback Loop

Besides being a blogger, I happen to be a poet. 

In January, I graduated from the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in writing.  After two intensive years of reading and writing poetry, I suddenly found myself able to read whatever I wanted, from the trashy to the sublime.  I immediately embarked on four months of reading novels and nonfiction.  I read a lot of great books like Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, and Anna Karenina by Tolstoy, and a lot of above-average-quite-good-not-at-all-sorry-I-read-'em books like Are You My Mother by Alison Bechdel and The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  

But I didn't pick up one single volume of poetry in my four-month post-graduation extravaganza of reading. And guess what? I didn't write much poetry either, or at least not much decent poetry.  I even took the April poem-a-day challenge but my poems were decidedly uninspired.  

And of course my pea brain wanted to write good or even great poetry and said pea brain knew it was missing something but it couldn't quite settle on what that something might be. Chocolate? Sunshine? Puppies? Oh, (palm hitting forehead) poetry!!

Now I'm easing my way back in--I just finished reading my contributor's copy (see how I slipped that in?) of The Cancer Poetry Project 2, an anthology that features poems by cancer patients and the people who love them.  Next up is Reverse Rapture by Dara Weir, a book with more parentheses than are found in entire libraries. Then I'll turn to my shelves of unread poetry books and choose whatever calls to me, whether its David Trinidad or Tess Gallagher, Thomas Lux or Rita Dove, Jack Gilbert or Eduardo C. Corral.

I can't help but wonder if there's a metaphor embedded here; that what we take in is also what we put out; that we, as an American people, are taking in way too much of the wrong stuff—crap TV, fear, anger, corruption. The paradox is that we need to put more goodness out into the world—more friendship, considered thought, hard work for justice—in  order to then get it back, but that does seem to be the state of things, doesn't it?  Slap me before I start singing Kumbaya.  

And now, to Dara Weir.