24 December 2008

Christmas in the Northwest

It snowed last night. Again. They've predicted another wave for this afternoon. We're way past White Christmas here, folks. Picture, thousand words, enjoy.

Holly berries

The little apple tree in the side yard.

Snow on green leaves

A lone leaf hangs on.

Bird house

Icicles over the back door

A side street in our neighborhood.

The main highway being cleared didn't help this semi truck.

And from the archives, especially for Yellow Dog Granny, who asked where the heck our snowman was, a snow goddess from Christmas past.

23 December 2008


Well, my two-week vacation has turned out to be more like house arrest. House arrest with three teenagers bouncing off the walls from cabin fever. Not a Norman Rockwell scenario here, folks. And to think, just a week ago, I was excited at the prospect of finally, just once, Christmas shopping during the day, like a person of leisure, instead of battling the mobs after dark with all the other frazzled, bleary-eyed, homicidal after-work shoppers. Sounds like a little thing, but I was really fucking looking forward to that. 

You may have heard, since we apparently made it onto the national news, that western Washington got a visit from Jack fucking Frost.

Snow doesn't bother me. I was practically born with a snow shovel in my hand. I've spent 95% of my life in big snow areas. Areas that actually have snowplows. And salt. Areas that know how to deal with snow. When it snows in Seattle, it basically shuts the joint down. Seattle has about 25 plows for the entire metro area, which is akin to putting out a fire with spit. They ran out of de-icer, and the next shipment can't make it over the pass from eastern WA.

I live north of Seattle, where there are even fewer resources to battle the white stuff. The idea of a snowplow making it even to the main roads where I live is a crap shoot, and you can forget regular neighborhood streets. Also, they don't put the blade all the way down where they do plow. They leave about 2" of snow, which gets compacted and turns to ice. They don't use salt, either. Apparently, it "damages the roads". Much like snow plow blades, I guess. Maybe so, but places like Ohio and Minnesota and friggin' Kaposvár, Hungary seem to do fine with the damn salt. Come on, how often would we even need to salt here anyway?

It started snowing about a week ago. Christmas is Thursday, and I've been stuck in the house for a week. Worse, everyone else in the PNW has been stuck inside as well. The crowds will rival Black Friday if I do make it out. Which is doubtful. More snow predicted, starting tomorrow night.

Fuck you, Jack Frost, and the cold front you rode in on. Seattle is NOT the place for this level of Winter Wonderland.

The dorky channel 5 weatherman is in his element. He's practically sporting a snow-boner every time the news comes on. He's one of those guys who fancies himself suave and debonair. He's got a 70s mustache and somehow manages to swagger from behind his big weather desk. He wears a leather jacket on-air sometimes. I bet he was a football player back in high school. I can just see him reliving the glory days with the guys over a case of Bud Light. I'd also be willing to bet he uses the term "little lady". Anyway, he's a headliner now. Forget the anchors, bitches, Local Weather Guy's at the top of the hour now. Yeah. I watch the other channel with Steve Pool and his Double Doppler Radar.

My normally cynical friend remarked that it must be so cozy being snowed in with family, "with all your babies surrounding you". Why no, as a matter of fact, she doesn't have teenagers. She, incidentally, is house-sitting for a mutual friend in a gorgeous abode perched atop one of Seattle's famous hills, with no cable or Internet access. Fantastic view, though. She's going nowhere except out of her mind.

Let me tell you, my "babies" have no interest in kicking it with dear old Mom in the midst of this frost fest. I haven't even had the nerve to suggest popping corn and bringing out ye ole board games. Male Offspring has followed the siren song of his PlayStation, cloistering himself away in his hermitage room.

Early on, there was the requisite fighting with Teen Demon about taking her car out in this mess. She is somehow under the impression that the ability to drive in snow is genetic. An inherited trait, like curly hair. Or sarcasm. After the first day or two, she quickly realized that the hills are alive with the sound of crunching metal, and left her car safely buried in the driveway. Not to be deterred, however, from the critical activity of Hanging Out, she donned her little felt boots and cute little fashion coat that literally does not cover her navel, and her cute little yarn gloves, ready to set out hiking and meet her friends. Five miles away. Yes, of course I tried to stop her. Words were exchanged, shall we say. You forget, she is over 18, and therefore knows everything. I did make her trade her faux boots for my hiking boots, causing much eye rolling and gnashing of teeth.

Then, the Bohemian, who is usually sensitive to my concerns, and whose time in DC has raised her awareness of risks to one's personal safety, hears that Main Street has been closed to traffic. Main Street is a colossal hill, or more accurately, series of hills, descending all the way down to the ferry docks. She shrieks this news to her younger brother, announcing that they HAVE TO go sledding on Main Street! It's a once in a lifetime opportunity! I, boring, mean mother that I am, crankily brought up such foolish notions as, how would they get there, what about the fact that we have no sleds, that Male Offspring has no boots, that Main Street is about five miles from our house, and the like. No matter. Once in a lifetime opportunity! Adventure! Thrills! A journey of exploration and discovery! (Yes, she actually said that to me.)

Yeah. Main Street shrouded in snow. The gateway drug to skydiving and bungee jumping.

I'm so done with snow. I just wanted to go to Zoo Lights, plan some fun outings, and have a normal Christmas shopping experience. Is that too damn much to ask? Whatever. Anyway, for your viewing enjoyment, here's a taste of the past week's snow extravaganza.

Batman & Mason playing Find Your Toy in the Snowdrift

Mason gets cold easily.

It's never too late to support your local legislators and judges.
In fall, a campaign election sign. In winter ...
... custom candidate snowboards.

Male Offspring shredding the slopes on a piece of Formica.

Little brother gives the Bohemian a push as Batman looks on.

Batman isn't the most effective sled dog.

Teen Demon gives the Bohemian a good pull.
Male Offspring rides his Judge Lucas sign down an unidentified hill.

02 December 2008

Cakes or Consequences

Occasionally, whilst engaged in the business of parenting, you get to witness your child absorbing a life lesson with no input or effort on your part whatsoever. Consequences, for instance. One of the toughest lessons to drill into a kid, right? I mean, let's face it, how far into adulthood do most of us get, still struggling with the concept of consequences? Reaping what one sows and all that.

Male Offspring started wrestling season a couple of weeks ago. Last year he wrestled in the 152-lb weight class. This year, as he's still a growing boy who drinks his milk, he's been weighing in at a steady 157 lbs, meaning he'll move up to the 160-lb weight class for his sophomore season.

Doesn't sound like much of a difference, but moving up a weight class is tough, especially when first breaking into the new class. It often means wrestling older, more experienced guys. He's been lifting the weights and practicing hard in anticipation of going up against those 160-pounders.

So today, he goes for a hydration test and a weigh-in.

163 pounds. Uh-oh. Up 6 pounds in less than a week. Shot right past his new weight class.

Think the Great Cake Fest of 2008 had anything to do with it? *

Unless he wants to jump two weight classes, and suddenly be wrestling those 172-lb boys, I'm thinking he'd best jettison the remaining cake bits still populating my kitchen.

Good luck, Son. And let that be a lesson to you. Consequences. That's right. Cake Karma. The hard truth, Son, is that cake is evil. That icing may taste sweet going down, but it's Satan's ambrosia. It will cling to your ass like a bitter conservative clings to guns and religion. It's time you knew the truth: the wages of cake is death, at least on the wrestling mat.

Welcome to the hard reality of consequences, Son. Now you understand why I can not allow Oreos into the house.

*At least I hope it was the Great Cake Fest of 2008. If not, that means it was the Thanksgiving food. And I've been eating that mess like a mo'fo for days.


It seems I was mistaken. The lesson on consequences did not have quite the lasting impression as I'd hoped. Oh, he did learn about the consequences of eating multiple cakes on top of Thanksgiving leftovers. He learned a right hard lesson when he stepped on the scales that first day back to practice.

For about a hot minute.

Then he lifted some weights. Then he rode his bike from his high school to the neighboring high school for the required early-season hydration test. Probably 10 miles, round trip. Then they wrestled. Then he weighed himself again.

159 lbs.

I'm sorry ... what? What is there, a tapeworm in there? Who gains six pounds in less than a week, then loses four of it in a few hours? So apparently, he's fine. Good to go. Ready to wrestle.

Brat. Mark my words, Son, in real life, there are consequences. Serious consequences. That's right. Consequences for cake. Mark my words.

27 November 2008

Sixteen Cakes. I Mean Candles.

Today Male Offspring turned 16. He was born on Thanksgiving Day. He was overdue, and a big baby, so I'd been wanting him to just get on with it already or start paying rent. We'd been invited to Thanksgiving dinner at a friend's house. For the first time in my adult life, I didn't have to cook! Or do dishes! I was bursting at the seams, had a gait like a defective Weeble, but I was about to be pampered! The night of the 25th, I told the future Male Offspring to hold off until Friday. The whole feast and no-dishes thing really had me going.

Later that night, I felt the first contraction. I spent Thanksgiving day in a hospital bed. At least the ex and the girls smuggled in some food, but I wasn't much into it at that point, after five hours of back labor from my just-shy-of-9-pounds bundle of joy.

So that's how Male Offspring made his grand entry on Thanksgiving Day. And I've been (mostly) very, very thankful for him ever since. Love that kid.

Sixteen years old. It was weird when the girls hit that number -- The Bohemian because she was the first, and Teen Demon because she was the first to drive. But it's weirder when your "baby" hits 16. I don't have kids anymore, I have young people. Next year, I won't have a single Child Tax Credit left. It's an odd feeling.

Teen Demon made him a chocolate cake with a big "16" spelled out in chocolate sprinkles. That was in addition to the multiple cakes, cookies, and brownies that accompanied him home from school. There was a donut cake, a miniature round cake, a giant cake with some kind of food-color-swirled glaze, a heart-shaped cake, and the aforementioned cookies and brownies. "Hey, where'd this cornucopia of cakes come from?" I inquire. I'm informed that they were kindly provided by his "awesome friends". Namely Sophie, Kristen, Hannah, Lindsay, Trinity, Sylvia, Hailey, and Kiahna.  

His cynical aunt queried, "Ask him did any boys make him a cake."

See, this is what Hungarian schools do for a kid. Seriously. In Hungarian school, students moved together as a class from 1st through 8th grade. Like a cohort. For the first four years, Male Offspring and his classmates were even in the same room, with the same teacher. In 5th grade, you get different teachers for each subject, but you still move as a group to each subject. Classmates are seen more as cousins than as potential love interests. Crushing on a classmate? That's one step away from incest. Eeew. By the time 7th and 8th grade roll around, students look to the other classes for their crushes and to their own class for support, friendship, and bickering.

There was none of this "Girls have cooties!" or "Boys! Eeeeew!" business. Male Offspring used to go to sleepovers at his little friend Viktor's house, where half the attendees were girls. No big deal. Girls and boys changed for gym class together right there in the classroom. Even in 8th grade, the Bohemian and her classmates would change into their dress clothes for choir performances all together. Zsuzsi has pink panties? Who cares, she's like your sister, dude. The kids watched out for each other. It really was similar to familial relationships.

Fast forward to 2003, when a very un-American Male Offspring hits US school for the first time in his life. Being a naturally social and adaptable kid, he makes friends easily. Since he was unaware that girls have cooties, he made friends with girls too. The other boys started to notice. In 6th grade, he'd hear from guys he thought were his friends, smirking, "Dude, are you gay or something?" He kept being nice to the girls. They thought him adorable.

Fast forward to 2005. Middle school. The guys, exchanging their smirks for scowls, no longer threw around the G-word. The girls thought him really adorable. Once, I was sitting in the stands for a wrestling match, and heard a gaggle of girls behind me.

Oh.My.God. He.Is.So.Cute.

Yeah, but he's super sweet! It's so funny he's like, a killer wrestler!

Ohmygod, I KNOW!

Is he coming out yet?

Okay, seriously? We have to yell, like, really loud, so he'll see us.

Ohmygod, I know! It's going to be so funny!

He'll be so surprised by our sign!

Ohmygod, I KNOW!

How cute, I think. Young crushes. Poor guy won't know what hit him. Back to the match. Male Offspring's turn, he's out on the mat. Suddenly, the gaggle of girls behind explodes into a cacophony of girlness.


Oh. Oh! Is there another Male Offspring on the team? There is not. I turn around to see them furiously waving their glittery sign at my son. Then they're looking me, wondering why this white lady is staring at them. "I'm his mom," I tell them. They blanched. (no one ever suspects I'm his mom. I get to hear all kinds of interesting tidbits that way.)

Fast forward to the present day. He still has tons of girl friends (as evidenced by this year's cake-fest), and has had three serious girlfriends since 8th grade. Well, as serious as it is at that age. He's kept his head about him, for the most part, and continues just to be a kid who's very sweet to young women. Which they find adorable, lord help me.

That's what Hungarian schools will do for a kid. Being handsome, sweet, smart, and living in a household of women doesn't hurt either. Lord help me.

So the boy fell hard via sugar crash last night. He said it felt like everything just slowed down. Like the Matrix but without the badassedness. You don't feed an athlete's body that many cakes with no repercussions.

Happy Birthday, Son. Still thankful for you.

22 November 2008

Generation Text

I've probably mentioned Teen Demon's documented addiction to text messaging. When I say addiction, I mean in the literal sense. Last month the girl had 10,000 messages to her credit. Even the US Texting Champion only runs about 8,000 per month. On the rare occasions her phone malfunctions or runs out of juice, she displays classic signs of withdrawal: anxiety, shaking hands, irritability, inability to focus, clammy skin, the whole bit.

It was the facial tics and repetitive hand motions that made me consider an intervention.

She sleeps with the thing under her pillow, for 24/7 access. I'm pretty sure she and her friends will become the next Borg Collective, phones melded to skulls, unable to make a move without the input of the Collective. I once asked her if nighttime texts couldn't wait until morning. After all, if it's an emergency, they'll actually CALL you, right? Anything else probably doesn't warrant waking up at 3:37am. Her eyes about popped out of her head. "Yeah, right!!" she scoffed, clutching her phone possessively. "I wouldn't be able to sleep!"

But seriously, is it really crucial to see, "OMG im so bored. r u sleeping?" before you wake up in the morning? It's like when she was four and thought she'd miss something after going to bed.

Teen Demon is always on the go. Even before she left for college, a goodly portion of our relationship was predicated on texting. Now that she's at college, she's stepped it up to the next level. Things that would be discussed vis a vis in most mother-daughter relationships are presented to me on a handheld LCD screen. That tinny alert from the depths of my purse could be anything.

Like these:

So im thinking of getting a tattoo.

So i don't actually need to pass math to graduate.

Nose piercings r so cute.

Going to a hookah bar.

I'm getting my belly button pierced.

L8r, im in court now.

Court sucks!

College has so many parties!

If you just went by her text history, you'd wonder just what kind of wild, delinquent hooligan I've raised, here. Anyway, I was thinking recently I should be compiling these nuggets of history. Like a baby book, only more stressful. Those are among the more traumatic memorable communications, but hundreds more are forever lost from the memory stores of my brain.

Here's today's entry from the compendium of treasured communications with a loving daughter:

I'm thinking about getting a motorcycle license. It's only $125.

Like I don't have enough to worry about with two of the little devils off to college. My reply? "Tuition is a better investment. Especially since you live in the rain capital of the universe."

Welcome to text hell. I'll keep u posted, LOL. L8r!

13 November 2008

Go In Peace, Cadbury.

Today was a sad day. Our rabbit, Cadbury, died today. He was eight years old. The Bohemian got him for her 13th birthday. (I was thinking her 12th, putting him at nine years old, but she says 13th, and her memory on these things is better than mine.) What's really sad is that she's due to come home next week. Teen Demon said it's probably better that the Bohemian didn't see him sick. I guess that's true. He was a funny rabbit with a distinct personality.

He was acting sick yesterday. He wouldn't eat - completely unlike him - and wasn't hopping around. He drank a little chamomile tea last night, and today I fed him some with a syringe, but he really just didn't want anything.

This morning I wrapped him in a towel and took him outside. I just had a bad feeling. We sat in the sun for a while, and I held him his favorite way - cradled like a baby. He was just so still. I think he liked smelling the fresh air and being in the sun though.

When I picked Male Offspring up from school, he went straight to see how Cadbury was. That's when we found he had died. He just looked like he was sleeping. It was almost like he waited until after he'd been outside and cuddled one more time.

It's times like this when it's really nice to have a son. He called his big sister. He got the shovel, chose a place in the yard under the trees and near where the rhododendrons, bleeding hearts, and bluebells bloom in spring.

We buried Cadbury with his hay, his toy rabbit that looked just like him, some of his food, and some lavender sprinkled over him. The son arranged big rocks over the top in a circle. We each said things we liked and remembered about Cadbury, and said goodbye.

The Bohemian with Cadbury at about two years old.

Cadbury shaking open his treat box, as a much-younger Male Offspring looks on.

Scratching an itch

Santa Rabbit with Teen Demon

Bad (but clever) Rabbit!

Moving day, heading back to the States. The kids had marked items (Go or Stay) for the movers. Teen Demon wanted to make sure the movers knew that the rabbit was definitely in the "Go" pile.

Cadbury jumped up on the back of the couch. The Bohemian, age 15 or 16.

Rest in peace, Cadbury. You were good, bold, funny, and loyal. We'll miss you.

12 November 2008

This Old Motherfucking House: Episode VI

Episode VI: Tank Trouble

Illustrative purposes only.
At least I think it's Episode VI. I haven't named them all in sequence, so those of you thinking there have been at least six episodes of This Old Motherfucking House, you would be correct. Had I known it was going to be a friggin' series, I'd have started naming them in sequence from the get-go.

First off, I'm home sick today. Not at death's door, but feeling crappy just the same. So I drive Male Offspring to school in my pajamas with the full intention of returning to my nice warm bed. Upon my return, I hear water. NOT good. It's the toilet tank, overflowing. This is infinitely better than the lower portion of the toilet overflowing, trust me. At least it's clean water. But still, it's not doing my subfloor any favors. This happened a few weeks back, but I hadn't really had any problems since taking the tank lid off and yanking up part of the toilet's innards. Apparently my toilet was just biding its time. Waiting for a sick day. A rainy, cold, sick day.

Long time readers may remember the son and I installing this toilet not long after purchasing TOMFH. (You know, right before the housing market crashed. Yes, still bitter.) New toilets are not supposed to cause problems.

So who knows how much water flowed out of there before I got home. Also, the tub was partially full of water. Not sure how that relates to the toilet tank overflowing, since this shit never happens when I'm actually home, but there you go. So I take the plunger, go out to the back yard, where the grass is growing to jungle-like status due to the never-ending rain and my still-broken lawnmower (I was going to get it fixed until I had to pay for the new roof), open the overflow pipe and plunge the hell out of it until I hear the requisite loud sucking sound that is the water flowing freely.

Kind of reminded me of the sucking sound of consumer confidence draining out of our economy. Or the value being sucked out of our houses. Or the jobs draining out of the market. Or the Republicans draining out of the legislative and executive branches of our government. Yeah, let's stick with that one.

I think the pipe is starting to get those damn roots again. Fuck. Like I need a big ol' root growing into my pipes. Always leads to trouble.

AND, I still haven't changed the furnace filter for this winter. I've been putting that off as long as possible. No, I am not looking forward to skulking down to the dark maw of hell that is my crawl space, nor am I looking forward to skyrocketing electric bills. All hail the fireplace and my $50 Costco heater. Also, I've decided we're going back to our European habits - the dryer has been off limits except for extreme emergencies. No son, "But I like the black sweatshirt better than the brown one" does not qualify as an emergency - hang those clothes up to dry.

Hey, it adds up. Just like turning off lights and not running the water when you brush your teeth, right? I figure with all these little efforts, I can have the roof paid off before I have to buy my first walker or dentures.

Oh, and I think our rabbit is sick. When it rains it pours.

Thank You, All Who Serve.

Today is Veterans Day. Last week I went to a veterans panel at work, made up of students and staff who are veterans, and one staff member who is a veteran's mother. I was not on the panel, but all the veterans had to stand up and be recognized. Yes, even after all this time, it felt good to know that people are appreciative of those who have served, more so during this current climate of polarization this country has come to. It means something.

One of my colleagues is a Vietnam vet. He talked about how different it was, returning home then, from how it is now. It was hard to hear him talk about it, a man I know and respect, but it was good to hear that those returning from service today are largely supported, respected, and welcomed by their countrymen. At least we've come that far. (The lack of support and care from their government after returning is another topic for another day.) I'm a veteran, but I never had to serve in a war. Those who have, and those who are serving in harm's way right now, deserve our highest admiration and respect, whether or not you agree with the current administration's actions. One of my most fervent hopes for the new administration is increased support for our veterans and their families.

One of the younger vets on the panel talked about the red poppies worn by many on this day, the meaning behind it. Willym wrote about that very thing on his site. Please take a minute to read it.

08 November 2008

President-Elect Obama. What It Means.

I just like saying that. I still can't say it without my throat closing up a little bit. Yes, We Did, and all that. I have so much to say about this historic event, yet I can't seem to write anything of import.

It's too big, too much. I can't make it fit into words. And I kind of don't want to. Maybe later, but right now, the thought of trying to express what this means to me, to my children, let alone the country, Black America, the world ... I can't fit it into words yet. Not really. I mean, I can write this post about how wonderful it is, where I was that night, how I felt, but the bigger picture? How to express that?

When it was announced, all the stress and adrenaline I'd apparently been holding for months just fell away. Like I'd imagine a body would feel after running a marathon. I could not get a hold of myself. It was too big to fit into feelings, let alone words. It hasn't completely sunk in. I still find myself on the verge of tears, just hearing bits of the speech on the radio, or looking at pictures online, the faces of people's reactions -- Jesse Jackson, ohmygod, did you all see Jesse? What this must mean to him and Andrew Young and all the people who were there during the civil rights years ... I can't even think about that without my heart feeling off beat.

I was on the phone with the Bohemian when it was announced. The networks were counting down the seconds to release the Western states' numbers. We were wondering how long we'd have to wait, contemplating (cynically) whether there would be vote tampering, whether there would be problems, when all of a sudden my phone erupted in my ear, exploded, as the students at Howard University reacted to the news that Barack Obama would be the next president of the United States. At that moment it flashed across the TV: Barack Obama, projected winner. It happened so fast -- it took a few moments for either of us to realize it was real.

Hearing those Howard students, even just over the phone, had me laughing and crying at once. I will never forget that. The Bohemian said people were pouring outside, literally dancing in the streets.

Then Teen Demon called, Teen Demon who is not given to exuberant displays of emotion, called laughing and shouting and so happy, caught up in a student mob that was parading around campus and through surrounding neighborhoods. Later she sent me a video of students breaking into an impromptu version of the Star Spangled Banner. As a former soldier, that song still gets to me anyway, but to hear young people spontaneously singing on their own, reacting to the election of the first African American president; that means a lot more than hearing it at a sporting event or a parade. It meant something.

Male Offspring was at an election party at the high school with the debate team, and when I picked him up, he was practically bouncing out of his shoes, said he needed something to focus him (of course, he was referring to driving us home) because he was so hyped up from the excitement. Hugging him, I could only think about President-Elect Obama's mother and grandmother, how proud they would be, and how their son/grandson has made the future a different place for my son.

Earlier that night, I had been a little sad that we'd all be in separate places, but then I thought about how this election was so much about the young people this time, and I wanted my kids to have that memory, to experience this in crowds of young people who helped make this happen and who are our future. What I heard in my daughters' voices that night, what I saw in my son's face, means more than I can explain. It is too big to fit into words.

You go, President-Elect Obama. I'm proud and honored to have you as my president.

06 August 2008

Hate, Murder, and Small Town Football

On July 12, Luis Ramirez was viciously kicked and beaten by at least six white teenagers in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. The attack left him bleeding, convulsing, and foaming from his mouth. He died of head injuries two days later, the imprint of his crucifix still indelibly stamped into his chest by an attacker's boot. He was 25 years old.

Three of the attackers were finally charged for the crime on July 25th. Colin Walsh, 17, who punched Ramirez in the face, causing him to fall and hit his head, and Brandon Piekarsky, 16, who kicked him in the head after he lost consciousness, were charged as adults with homicide, ethnic intimidation and related offenses. Derrick Donchak, 18, who apparently chased Ramirez down and tackled him, was charged with aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation and related crimes.

Luis was engaged to Crystal Dillman, with whom he was raising three young children. Luis supported his family by working two jobs: one in a factory, the second picking strawberries and cherries.

Despite the fact that there were eyewitnesses to the brutal attack -- including a retired police officer and Arielle Garcia, a friend of the couple who went to school with the attackers and named them to police -- it took two weeks for charges to be made.

Each of the eyewitnesses heard racial slurs directed at Ramirez throughout the fight, yet town officials were not convinced that the attack was racially motivated.

Retired Philadelphia police Officer Eileen Burke, who lives on the street where the fight occurred, told The Associated Press she heard a youth scream at one of Ramirez's friends after the beating to "tell her Mexican friends to get out of Shenandoah, or you're going to be laying next to him."

~The Morning Call

Now, you all know my dad was a cop. Cops, in general, don't go around telling tall tales about racially motivated attacks in their communities. They'd prefer that racial disputes never happened, regardless of their personal views on anything. They are not prone to go around crying wolf about this, trust. So if a cop says this attack had racial motivation, guess what? Most likely, she's not saying that just for the hell of it.

The investigating officers, though, were not so keen to listen to witnesses, even those who could actually identify the perpetrators. Check out Democracy Now's interview with eyewitness Ariella Garcia. She went to school with the attackers. Knew them by name. Saw where they ran.

The police, however, decided to stay and search her husband's car for guns. Her husband is also -- you guessed it -- Latino. So instead of going after the white attackers whom an eyewitness named and pointed out the direction of escape, the police stayed to search the witness's car for a nonexistent gun, and rough up her Latino husband a bit.


Shenandoah is a small coal town of 5,000 about 80 miles from Philadelphia. All six of the young men who carried out this crime were on the high school football team.

I went to high school in a small farm town of about 6,000 in southern Ohio. Football was big doin's, let me tell you. Friday night lights, baby, nothing like it. Of course there's high school football where I live now, and I'm at most games because of the kids. But here, it's just a high school thing. Most fans not directly connected with one of the high schools are more interested in the Seahawks or the Husky-Cougar college rivalry.

Small town football though, that's different.

It's a community thing. The whole town comes out, every Friday. In my town, there was the fish fry early in the season, second only to the county fair as far as social events. Later in the season, even the smaller surrounding towns would turn out on Fridays to watch us march our way to State, game by game. Our football team was the pride of that town. Hell, the county. Those boys got free tickets at the local movie theater, and free pizza slices at the Wig-Wam, so named to match our high school's mascot, the Indians. (I know. That's another post.) Anyway, our football players were local heroes. If they got caught driving too fast while cruising on Saturday nights, the cops - whom we all knew by name - would issue a stern warning with an admonition to "pay that off with a win this Friday, y'hear?"

The basketball team enjoyed notoriety too, but there's just something about football in a small town. The marching band, the lights, the crisp, cold air, moms and dads reliving the glory days in their own letter jackets from 20 years back. In a small town, thing is, all the adults graduated from that same high school. They all knew each other back in the day, and they know everybody's kids and grandkids now. They all remember sitting in those stands or riding the away-bus. When the town turned out to that field on Friday night, there was connection. Pride. History. Shoot, you didn't even need to go to the class reunion; just show up on Friday night.

I don't know that I can even properly explain what football means to a small town. Truth be told, I'm not sure I can fully understand it, seeing as how I wasn't "born and raised". I think that's one reason my parents were still seen as "the new folks", even years after we'd moved there, and sis and I had long left home. Not being raised that way, they didn't quite get the thing about Friday football. They didn't have any kids on the team or the cheer squad or in the band, so why would they go freeze their butts off in the stands? Didn't they go to all my concerts and watch me sing? Daddy could watch the Bengals on Monday night from the comfort of his own chair. Real football. They thought it was just a high school thing.

But it wasn't.


So, back to Luis Ramirez and the young men who killed him. As I read different articles and the comments to go with them, all of those memories came rushing back. Folks in Shenandoah are not only reeling from a brutal murder in their town, they've also been blindsided with the fact that it wasn't a bunch of thugs who did this.  Hell, it wasn't even the white trash who live in that sorry shack out yonder on Route 24 past Pine Ridge Road, no, these were football players. The good boys. The quarterback even, who's off to college come fall.

Seriously people, this is a big fucking deal in a small town.

So it didn't surprise me that the charges were so long in coming. It didn't surprise me to read that the beating was not recorded in that night's police log. Yes, I'm serious. "Standard practice", according to police. It didn't surprise me that "despite the witness statements, Borough Manager Joseph Palubinsky said he doesn't believe Ramirez's ethnicity was what prompted the fight," or that the police chief doesn't think it has anything do with racism either. (AP)

I have reason to know the kids who were involved, the families who were involved, and I've never known them to harbor this type of feeling.
~Borough Manager Joseph Palubinsky
From what we understand right now, it wasn't racially motivated. This looks like a street fight that went wrong."
~Police Chief Matthew Nestor
I think any time there's a fight, and any time you have one ethnic group fighting another, there's going to be racial slurs. I've seen that since I was a kid on a playground 20 years ago, but they never called it ethnic intimidation until very recently.
~Roger Laguna, Walsh's lawyer

All quotes from the Associated Press
A street fight that went wrong? Really? Boys will boys. I wonder, Mr. Laguna, if school-yard scuffles would have been called "ethnic intimidation" in your day had someone died on the playground?

Damn. I don't know about you, but I'm not feeling real confident about justice being served here, people.

Neither did it surprise me to read the horrible, hateful comments following the local articles, though in fairness, they were balanced by plenty of folks who were horrified by the blatant racism and cruelty, shocked at the hate that's crawled out into the light for everyone to see.

That's another thing about life in a small town. Things can seem fine on the surface, especially if you're white. Underneath though, it's very, very carefully balanced. As long as everyone acts right, life goes along just fine. Folks are friendly. And if you're making big yards for the football team, it doesn't much matter what color you are. Whoo-eee, that boy sure can run, cain't he? Only color anyone sees when you're driving down the field with that ball tucked under your arm, is the red and white of that uniform.

Until you start dating Judge Hapner's niece. Then it matters a whole lot. Folks see color real quick then.

I bet a lot of people in Shenandoah truly do not understand how this possibly could've happened in their community. They're good-hearted, well-intentioned folks who have never had to see things any other way because life has always gone along according to their way, and they don't even know it. I can well imagine how this has torn through this little town.

I also know there are plenty of people there who know exactly why this happened. People of color who have to be hyper-aware of their white neighbors' approval and comfort level every day of their lives. You can bet they're under no illusions. But there are also people who left comments like these in the local paper's accounts of the story:

TNT: Nothing he did in the U S was legal! Now my taxes are going to investigate his death and prosecute his assailants > Parasitic even in death!

Mary: Illegals...the name says it all ...goodbye and good riddance!! Those kids did us a favor, too bad they will have to face unpleasant consequences

Deer Hunter: Follow the leads of the good Sherrif and Hazleton's honorabe American leader. Nobody wants these illegals in town. Nobody! ... They have no rights. They are in your town and are bleeding it dry. Shenandoah residents should legally carry cocealed weapons to protect themselves, their property and their young women.

Tina: If these children were such cold blooded murderers they would have killed him there he died later on, yes because of the injuried these kids inficted on him, but they did not intend to murder him, it was an accident.

ddd: These boys are not cold blooded killers it was just an unfortunate mistake. Yes they must pay for their actions but if you knew them and their parents you would not be making such harsh statements against them.

John: Every city in America has a bad section. It usually has a high amount of minorites. When minorites move into a predominately white, safe and quiet town like Shenandoah, people are only assuming the worst because their reputation speaks for themselves.

Dakota: heres my 2 cents the big question ...Does his being illegal mean he deserved to be beaten to death.... YES!!! HAHAHAHAHAAH!!!!
~Comments from articles in the Pottsville Republican & Herald

You get the idea. Tip of the iceberg. Many seemed to regard the death as secondary, with Luis's immigration status firmly establishing itself as the real topic of discussion. In a nutshell: if he weren't here illegally, they wouldn't have killed him.

Again, other commenters did talk about how much more difficult the immigration process is now and how it's not really possible to "do it like our grandparents did" any more. Some local commenters even brought up globalization and US corporate colonization as the real issue behind modern immigration. These commenters condemned the beating and the boys responsible; they called it out as racism and were candid about the ongoing racial tension in their town. I was somewhat relieved to see a number of comments in this vein.

In the end though, it comes down to the fact that people were justifying murder of a human being because they disapproved of him being in the US. A man was killed by some angry racist teenagers with Town Hero complexes, and the biggest discussion point was the dead man's immigration status.

There's something very very wrong with that.

29 July 2008

House Apologizes for Slavery & Jim Crow

The US House issued a formal apology today for slavery and Jim Crow.

So everything's fine now. Move along, nothing to see here.

My gut reaction: Gee, mighty white of them. An apology. That helps.

On the other hand, they can either apologize or not apologize. It's not like the choice is apologize or ... go back in the magic congressional time machine and just nip that nasty little horror in the bud before it starts. Oh, and while you're back there time traveling, guys? Don't colonize. Just don't colonize this time around, mm-kay?

Unfortunately though, that's not the choice. The choice is to apologize or not. And we will not be able to move forward to address the system born from that "peculiar institution" until we publicly acknowledge our part -- as a nation -- in slavery, and the fallout that still affects our nation today. So let me put my disgust and cynicism aside for a minute and say yes, I'm glad they apologized. It's a step, as they say.

After stumbling across this news online, I made the mistake of trying to find out more. Inevitably, there were a whole lotta online comments. Those in the "against" crowd, predictably, had the same tired arguments. Like these:

I believe the blacks owe America an apology for tearing our moral, economic and social fabric. The illegal immigrunts can join them.
My ancestors owned slaves and I have no desire to apologize for the actions of my ancestors. In fact, I think that the federal government should give me reparations for the lost assets caused by emancipation and the confiscation of my ancestors' lands as a result of the War of Northern Aggression. How about that?

Wonder what the black folks in Africa think of the living conditions of blacks in America? They might say you were done a favor.
How many times do these people have to be apoligized to? They were apologized to at the end of the Civil War, they were apologized to during civil rights movements, again during the intergration of schools and all other places. I never owned slaves and neither did my parents. I don't think anyone alive today was ever a slave. It seems to me that the race card is being played only by the African-Americans who just want more and more free handouts from the government. I am sick of it.

Tell all those a-holes to vote to drill for oil and forget about the apology.

I haven't done anything to apologize for. Blacks have got it made here in America and they know it. Everything gets handed to them. They work for nothing and I'm sick of it. Like someone else said here, where are the "thank yous" from these people.

These people couldn't care less about equality, they want DOMINANCE!

Who gives a rats-rear what happened to the slaves over 150 years ago. Where is my apology from them for me having to listen to this bullsh-- on a daily basis living here in Atlanta? . . . Get over it. The Civil War is over. Get a job. Get a life and stop throwing slavery up in my face. You may not like what you hear if you don't. Idiots...

We are going to make a black man king of America. When is enough enough.

You White people better wake the hell up or youll be the next American 'negros'.... Im not apologizing and I'll laugh at the faces of these inadequate and inept beings and hope it ****es them off enough so I can practice my second amendment against them. What a glorious day that will be!!...

You get the idea.

So the argument of the day is -- say it with me, boys and girls:
I didn't own slaves, my grandparents didn't own slaves, I had nothing to do with slavery!

Any time the subject of race relations comes up, so too does this argument. Even "nice white people" use this one. I used it too, back when I believed myself to be colorblind. Why, I remember when the Bohemian was a four-year-old little tyke, and we were reading My First Book of Africa from the library. Everything was fine until we turned to the double-page spread of a slave ship cut-away. I was not prepared to see my daughter go very quiet, touch the pages with her little fingers, and ask, "But ... who would do that to people, Mommy?" So, in trying to explain this atrocity to my four-year-old daughter, my African American daughter, I heard myself saying, "... but Mommy's family didn't believe in that. Remember, Mommy's family came from Norway? Well, they settled in the North, they came much later, after slavery was over." Then I launched into how lots of white people were abolitionists, lots of white people fought against slavery, not all white people's families were slave owners ... ad nauseum.

I needed to justify it. I needed to remove myself, in my daughter's eyes (and my own), from that horrible history. It was important to me that she know that I, and by extension, she, had nothing to with this. It was those bad white people what did that. The racists. Not us. Not me.

Here's what I didn't understand: it is not about individuals. It's about a system. It's about laws.

Let me be clear -- this is about the legalized system of oppression put in place by our government, not about whether individual white folks owned slaves or not. If you think we became a superpower so quickly because we're just that good, think again. We got here by stealing Native land, working it with free human labor, and enacting laws to back it up. No start-up costs, no overhead, just pure growth and profit. That's what put us on the fast track to superpower status.

Here's what else I didn't understand: if you are a white person in the United States, you and your family have benefited from this system.

It doesn't matter whether Grandpa Beauregard's granddaddy owned slaves or whether his house was a station on the underground railroad. The laws were on his side. Grandpa Beauregard, if he so chose, could read. Go to college. Live where he wanted. Get a loan to buy land, a house. Pass that property down to his children who then start off a little bit farther ahead in life than he did. And Grandpa Beauregard likely wasn't worrying about being lynched, either.

Land and education. White folks had access to it, Black folks were legally excluded from access. Property equals wealth. It appreciates and is sold for profit or passed on. Education equals opportunity and increased wealth. It raises the probability that your children will also be educated. Now, would you rather be the great-granddaughter of the guy with access to the land and education (not to mention better health care), or the guy who didn't have jack shit and wasn't allowed to build it? Which side of that system would you choose?

Oh, please. Don't even play like you're hesitating.

Which brings us to our next recurring theme: They just need to work harder and quit expecting handouts. Nobody gave me a handout; everything I got, I earned with hard work and effort.

I'm sure you do work hard. And I'm sure you believe no one ever has given you anything. Did your grandparents pass property on to your parents? Did your parents go to college? Do they own a home? Do you? Do people really believe that two men -- one black, one white -- both equally motivated and working equally hard, would get the same results while operating under the legal confines of this system in 1910? How about 1940? 1960? Today?

What about the 2000 Housing Discrimination Study? They sent out 4,600 pairs of testers, separately, in 23 US cities. The testers were identical on paper, but one was white, the other black. Consistent preferential treatment for white testers occurred 21.6% of the time.

Now ... if you rented an apartment tomorrow, you'd have no way of knowing if a black applicant with your same qualifications had been turned down the day before, would you? You'd have no way of knowing that you'd just benefited from a racist system, would you? You didn't choose to benefit from it, you didn't put it in place, you may even be outraged by it; but that doesn't matter. You'll sign that lease thinking you got that apartment solely on the basis of your good credit and consistent work history. But did you earn it? Did you earn it any more than the black applicant who was told it "wasn't available", or who was quoted a price $400 higher than yours?

And did we really work for everything we have? What about unearned wealth?

[As of 2002], 24% of whites receive an inheritance, just 11% of blacks do so. Among those who get an inheritance, whites receive $115,000 on average compared to $32,000 for blacks.15 And these figures do not reflect the gifts children receive during their parents' lifetimes.
To illustrate the significance of these disparities, whites on average are more than twice as likely as blacks to be able to provide a healthy down payment on a home even in the nation's most expensive housing markets or to pay tuition for four years at almost any college or university for one child from an inheritance.

~Gregory D. Squires,
Reintroducing the Black/White Divide in Racial Discourse

Okay, I know some of you are like, "Shoot, I never got $115K, or even $30K, you're crazy!" We're not talking about individuals -- everybody has a story -- we're talking about a system set up to benefit some and oppress others over time.

My own story, you all know: I'm a single mom, three kids, money problems, yada-yada. But even with all that, I've benefited from a system that has historically been better to my family than families of color. My dad lent me money to put down on my house. Without that, I never could've owned a home. And without his college education and occasional loans from his parents when he was young, he probably wouldn't have been in a position to loan me that down payment. No idea how I'm going to pay him back now that the market has tanked, and I can't imagine ever being able to help my kids like that, but I'm in the house. I was approved for a loan, even though I probably shouldn't have been. (excellent credit, shit for income, but hey, white! Just don't let Citimortgage see the kids.)

How about this one: Okay, things may have been bad after slavery, or even in the '50s, but now there's affirmative action! Now I'm the one discriminated against! Where's my apology? A white man can't get a job these days!

Right. Check out the 2005 Princeton University study in which they had white, black and Latino men with comparable résumés apply for jobs. You know what they found? Employers would hire a white convicted felon before they would hire a black man with a clean record. Yes. This was 2005, people. That playing field is not level.

And then there's the always-dependable: Slavery ended 143 years ago! It's over! Why can't they just move on and get over it?

Yes, technically slavery ended in 1865. The system did not magically change with that announcement, though. Matter of fact, new laws were put in place to strengthen the system! Slavery was over, but it gave birth to segregation, unequal education, Jim Crow, sundown towns, redlining, and lynching.

Michael Donald was lynched in 1981. This was during my lifetime, people, not ancient history. It was my 15th birthday to be exact. Of course, I didn't know that at the time. I was obliviously blowing out my candles in small-town Ohio, comfortably deluded in the belief that slavery was over and things were fine now, the day 19-year-old Michael was hung from a tree in Alabama. In 1998, James Byrd Jr. was chained to the back of a truck and dragged for miles until he was decapitated. One of the guys who did it had a tattoo of a black man hanging by a noose. In 1998. Just ten years ago! This was during my youngest child's lifetime, people. 1998.

And the President vetoed the Hate Crimes Act just last year. Slavery might be "over" but the fallout poisons our country to this day. Is a lousy apology really too much to ask?


Today's apology is not about whether individual white people owned slaves or not. It is about our government acknowledging that the racial inequities existing today are a direct result of slavery and the legalized system of oppression that came from it.

It's about how that system has affected people over the course of generations.

It's about facing the uncomfortable reality that some people continue to benefit from this system today -- whether we choose to or not, whether we consider ourselves racist or not, whether our people owned slaves or not.

Judging from the last four statements from our online commenters above, it's also about fear, power, and not wanting to shift the existing arrangement. Usually the people wanting to keep a given power structure in place are the ones sitting on top of that structure. Just sayin'.

That's why this apology was so long in coming, and why some people feel so threatened by it.

21 July 2008

Beelzebub's Minions

There is a nest of bees under my back deck. I use the term deck loosely, as it brings to mind an elevated structure that one can actually get under. The only thing that fits under my deck are dog toys. I often find myself in the prone position, scraping out a rubber ball or bone from under the "deck" with a rake. You can imagine the difficulty this presents in addressing the bee problem.

A friend of mine has a deck. Her husband built it. By himself. It's huge, overlooks their yard, and could be featured in a magazine. You know those pictures with the flowers pouring out of the pots on the deck in a cascade of color? Like that. Also planted by said husband. He also trims the gorgeous tree with the dark purple leaves that create a canopy over a portion of the deck, and he handles the grill action, also located on the deck. Yeah. If you're going to have a husband, folks, find one of this guy's brothers. They're in California. I asked.

Could you imagine what a different experience life in This Old Motherfucking House would be with someone possessing those mad skillz in residence? Neither can I.

So anyway, bees under my deck. Porch. Whatever. These bees are vicious. I consulted The Internets to see if the feared Killer Bees had made it up to WA state. (They haven't.) No, we have a strain of regular old bumblebees, Bombus Vosnesenski, which, according to The Googles, spend their lives merrily droning from bloom to bloom like hairy, diminutive Goodyear blimps. Under normal circumstances, they're all about the pollination, and are not vicious.

Unless you are close to their nest. Seeing as how their nest is located right at my back door, they're getting a might testy.

The other day, several of them had targeted me for annihilation. After busting out a few ineffectual Bruce Lee moves I didn't know I had, I somehow made it back into the house. Damned if the little bastards weren't furiously flinging themselves up against the glass door, still trying to take their ounce of flesh from my hide. The next day, The Bohemian got stung on the cheek, and Mason got stung on the leg.

The Internets advised bee dust, applied with a bee duster at dusk. My hardware store didn't carry these items, so on the advice of some guy sporting a buzz cut and a red apron, I settled for wasp and hornet spray. I'd thought to go for this foam stuff instead, but Mr. Aprons insisted that wasp and hornet spray was the weapon of choice. The can claimed a 27-foot directed stream. This, as you may have guessed by the name, is intended for wasps and hornets, which tend to build their nests up high, like in the eaves of your house. One can stand well back, direct a stream of potent potion at the nest, and run like hell before they know what hit them. Bumble bees, however, tend to nest down low, like under a board or a cheap-ass, low-rider, wanna-be deck.

The only way to hit this devil's brood would be to settle into the prone position on the opposite side, shine a flashlight under there with one hand to mark my target, let loose with the 27-foot directed stream (which, given the size of the "deck", would be reduced to about six feet), deftly get to my feet and make like a gazelle back over the nesting site without falling on my ass before they swarm me.

I wasn't really feeling this plan, being nowhere as nimble or quick as I was before moving here and getting my fat on. Also, according to The Googles, these guys can lock on to the flashlight beam and use it to hone in on one's ass like a squadron of pixie-sized stealth fighters, so I'd need to have the presence of mind to turn off the flashlight during all this. Better yet, just drop it, like deploying chaff and flares to draw the little bastards to a false target.

Regardless, I needed some protection. Not owning a bee keeper's suit, I made do with what I had lying around the house.

I dug out the camping poncho I'd once bought during a miserable, rainy "summer" vacation on the lovely Washington coast. In lieu of an apiarist's veil, Male Offspring kindly provided the protective headgear seen to the left.

Grabbing my flashlight and Mr. Aprons' aerosol can of death, I went to do battle. I stretched out on the grass, clicked on my light, and -- surprise -- my "deck" was apparently built over what used to be a small concrete porch. My beam reflected back at me from a concrete barrier wrapping entirely around the area where Beelzebub's minions had made their land claim.

I'd underestimated the enemy.

They'd chosen a fortress from which to make their stand. This would be close-in, hand-to-wing combat, requiring me to stand over their entry point and aim the stream directly down between the narrow cracks of the deck. Miraculously, my aim was true and I made it back in with no stings, being closer to the door and having avoided the prone position.

This morning, I found my weaponry was deficient. Mr. Aprons clearly needs to refine his pest eradication skills. The bees are not resting in peace, but are plenty pissed off. Instead of waking to find a field of wee casualties, I found instead a whirling dervish of frenzied, collective rage. Berzerker Bees, if you will.

I'm going back this afternoon for the foam.

15 July 2008


Do you all remember The Rat? If not, click and go read -- absolutely essential backstory for today's tale of intrigue.

What? You think I don't see you trying to skip ahead? Please, I can hear the heavy breathing from here. You probably read Cliff Notes as a kid. To quote the Brady Bunch dad, You're only cheating yourself Bobby; and cheaters never prosper. In fact, sometimes they end up divorced with an ex-wife who suddenly develops a penchant for voodoo dolls. That's right, Bobby. Think about it.

I'll wait.

Okay, so the other day I come home from work, open up the fridge to grab a beer, and come face to face with ... The Rat. Like you didn't see that one coming.

Yeah, okay, you got me. Ha, ha, very funny, son. But wait ... what's that red ... holy scalpels, Batman! The Rat had been stitched up like a grisly FrankenRodent! It's true. The Rat was sporting an I-incision with bright red stitching, complete with decorative beadwork. Apparently, my eldest and my youngest spent the afternoon in a study session reviewing Male Offspring's freshman biology lab notes.

Here are the gory details. My kids are nothing if not creative. And twisted.

Warning: This presentation is intended for mature audiences and contains disturbing elements of extreme violence, blood and gore. Animals were definitely harmed for this presentation. Procedures not carried out by licensed medical personnel.

09 June 2008

The Never-Ending Story

Cloudy and 52* with light rain this morning here in Seattle. Looks like the rain and chilly temperatures will be continuing throughout the week, so don't put away those umbrellas yet!

It's apparent to me that weather announcers here in the Puget Sound region are either 1) from here, and this seems normal, 2) are getting paid obscene amounts of money to chuckle and sound cheerful, or 3) are operating on heavy doses of Prozac.

Theoretically, they could also be sun-hating, fun-sucking vampires.

There's pretty much no other way to explain how a person can actually chuckle and engage in light banter about this situation. Like it's normal. Since moving here, what's become normal for me is to flip obscene hand gestures toward my radio and loudly curse it while driving through drizzle in my always-on heated car seat.

My personal reaction to this morning's weather report was to grab the plastic butter knife in my desk drawer and start sawing away at my wrists, but it wasn't very effective, and the weather gods apparently don't give a shit that I'm about to flip the fuck out because it's still raining.

They're probably up there chuckling too.

So I tighten my winter scarf (thanks Tony), turn on my sunlamp and check my email to take my mind off things. Oh look, some friends have written -- let's see what RG has to say, he's always good for some conspiratorial bitching. What's this? Oh ... it's a link to Boston weather ... looks like folks are getting sunburned and having sweatfests there. Thanks, RG. That's fucking great. Hope you had fun at your softball game. Sun, beer, and hot guys ... this isn't helping, goddamnit. Watch it buster, or Cheery Radio Bitch won't be the only one on my short list for a healthy bitch slap.

At least he took up a "sunshine collection" for me on his site. It's not working, but hey, it's the thought that counts, right?

06 June 2008

Salt in the Wound...

Also, this morning I attended a staff meeting in our coldass conference room where I had to take my blanket (yes, we keep blankets at work here), and learned that a colleague who has been on sabbatical for the last academic year is not coming back.

She's staying in Costa Rica.

Hide the sharp objects people, I'm about to hit my limit.

You Wanted a Rant?

Still raining this morning in the Seattle area, we're expecting a high of 56* today, with clouds and continuing showers throughout the day.

I am about to snap here, people. I'm am seriously feeling fucking foul. As in a weird version of claustrophobic, no joke. Like I'm on the verge of suddenly breaking into a full out scream and running until I pass out or hit sun.

I think we all know which would happen first.

I'm not kidding. I wonder if I'm skirting around the edge of a panic attack. I've never had a panic attack, but if it's something like you want to jump out of your skin and the whites of your eyes are visible and there's a scream stuck in your throat which keeps you from breathing, then that's it. How stupid would that be? "Seattle area woman's panic attack resulted from excessive rain." Right. I handled divorce and all other kinds of shit, but no, it's the never-ending, wetass grey that's about to put me over the fucking edge. How lame is that. I don't need anti-depressants, I need some sort of sun pill.

I know you all think I'm extreme on this subject, but come on -- we are exactly 14 days from Summer Solstice, and we were arguing about turning on the heat last night. If it weren't so goddamned expensive here, I'd seriously have it on at least 10 months of the year.

I was watching Candy Crowley on the news last night. It's the middle of the night there in DC.

There were bugs flying around her.

That means it's hot where she is. As in actual summer.

It looked weird. Just seeing those few little bugs flying around made me think of warm nights on my old terrace, where at 11pm the big tiles still felt warm under my feet, and my beer would sweat, and the bottle would feel good against my forehead, and I could sit in the chair in nothing but shorts and a strappy top, and the chair wouldn't be wet or cold, and the breeze was warm, not wet and cold, and I could spread out and breathe without having to pull into myself and wrap up in something. It even smelled warm there.

That was back when I owned a fan.

Anyway, I was surprised at how seeing those bugs flying around at night hit me, how foreign that looked to me now.

Such a little thing. I wouldn't even have noticed it before.

This morning as I was getting out of my car, fumbling with my book bag, purse, coffee, umbrella, and car keys, feeling my hair go limper and flatter by the minute while a big drip of water slid down my neck, I had the urge to just sit down in the parking lot and cry. "Fine! I give up! You fucking broke me, Seattle! UNCLE for fuckssake, now just bring out the goddamn sun. Please."

Of course, I didn't. But that's what I was thinking. You never know what's going on inside people, do you?

I make it into the building, feeling so foul and discombobulated trying to hang on to everything and close my umbrella at the same time that I only glare at the three flights of stairs and head straight for the Fat Woman's Sanctuary, aka the elevator. Which only makes things worse.

I'll never make it until Male Offspring graduates.

05 June 2008

A Weather Rant.

Photo Credit: Melanie Connor, NY Times

Here's what I heard on the radio on my way in to work this morning. Before caffeine. Keep that in mind.

Cloudy and showers continuing today and on through the weekend. We're looking at possible highs in the upper 50s this afternoon.

I'm sorry, did you say upper 50s, Cheery Radio Bitch? What is this, March?!

Nope, guess again. June in Seattle, kids! That magical month when the continuing rains and cool maritime breeze set your teeth to chattering. The time of year when, approaching the summer solstice and full of hope, you shed your knee socks, shave the bottom of half of your legs, paint your toes, and, like a dimwitted Pollyanna, don your kicky capris and filmy summer top ... only to see your exposed, sickly pallor break into a landscape of goosebumps.

Yeah, that little summer fit lasted about five minutes. Same as the "sunbreak" that brought it on.

And those of you from Alaska, don't even try. It's supposed to get up to 70* in Fairbanks today. I hate you. Even those of you in Greenland don't have a legitimate gripe: yes, we're at about the same temperature today, but you bitches are under "partly sunny skies", while I haven't seen so much as a sunbreak in days. So take your partly sunny and shove it where the sun doesn't shine. Oh, that would be Seattle!

Actually, you all may be interested to know that the place most similar to Seattle's weather is Iceland. No, I'm not joking. Reykjavik could be our sister city today, with 52* and overcast.

Oh wait, they have higher humidity, so it feels warmer. My bad.

And ... it just started raining. Are you kidding me?

So, with 52* and overcast -- as opposed to Seattle's 48* and pissing on my head -- Iceland's weather is a better bet than Seattle. I'm thinking Cheery Radio Bitch was working under a heavy dose of optimism with that "upper 50s" bullshit.

And you all wonder why I'm a bitch?

03 May 2008

Tennessee Principal Outs Gay Students

I woke up this morning to find this news. High school principal Daphne Beasley, Memphis TN, was tired of all the PDA happening on school grounds. (That's Public Display of Affection, for those not living with a middle/high school student. Or those of you who've escaped military influence.)

Ms. Beasley was none too pleased with the excessive PDA occurring within the vaunted halls of Hollis F. Price Middle College High School. (Middle College High School? What the hell does that even mean?) Ms. Beasley decided to take the public watchdog and humiliation route to address these nefarious goings-on. She asked her staff for the names of all student couples, in order to compile a list. All the better to keep an eye on the eager little darlings, my dear.

Problem is, she posted the list. Publicly. Teachers, students, custodial staff, la-dee-da-dee everybody could see who was joined in lunchroom liplocks. But wait, there's more! She'd also specified to the staff that she wanted both hetero and homosexual couples named, which means, of course, that The List outed some gay students.

In a high school in Tennessee.

I'm sure that made for a wonderful learning environment for the outed students. The students say they are now being "treated differently" by students and teachers. I just bet they are.

And Ms. Beasley didn't stop there. Apparently she also called the mother of at least one of the gay students, an 11th grader who'd just made the dean's list, and outed him to Moms as well.

Now, I'm all for high school kids being open with their parents. I'm reasonably sure my kids would be able to tell me should they be any version of "not straight". The Bohemian, in fact, hasn't quite nailed down what she considers herself. Whatever. Labels schmabels. But we are a progressive household in the Seattle area. There are many out gay couples in my kids' high school. I would venture to say it's not as big of a deal here for those students who choose to come out. Not that those kids don't have to deal with ignorance and prejudice - of course they do - but there is a good deal of support in this area, should a student choose to come out at school.

I'm not foolish enough to think that every family or high school environment is going to be supportive for a young gay person. The parent in me thinks yes, I'd want the school to tell me what's going on with my child, but that may not be advisable or even safe in every situation. Did that principal stop to think about the consequences of her actions in calling those parents? Did she talk to the student beforehand? Did she think about the effects on his life? You don't know how those parents are going to react. That kid could end up getting his ass beat or being kicked out into the streets. Hey, it happens, it's not that far fetched. Even if not, coming out is a big deal. How these parents experience The Big Revelation will likely have an effect on their reaction to it. I'm betting that kid would've liked to have some control about how he came out to his parents, classmates and teachers.

This student was scheduled to go on a school trip to New Orleans to help rebuild houses. After the posting of The List, he was told by a teacher that he would no longer be going, due to the possibility he might "embarrass the school by engaging in gay affection."

Are you kidding me?

What this kid wanted to engage in was some public service, being a responsible and contributing member of society, caring about something bigger than himself, building community. You're going to tell a kid who just made the dean's list and who was going to rebuild houses in a place our own president has all but abandoned, that his services aren't necessary because he has a boyfriend?
So, according to this teacher, being gay is supposed to be the negative aspect in this young man's life? What effect are those words, that rejection, going to have on this young man, on this member of our society?

You know what? This kid is not "embarrassing", but Principal Beasley's actions are. That teacher's comments are. Shame on them.

I was talking to the offspring about this story. Okay, ranting. Whatever. Teen Demon made the point that it wasn't fair to any of the kids, gay or straight. She said in her school there are kids from traditional Asian families who are not allowed to date, even in the upper grades. If those students were "outed" to their families, it could be disastrous for some of them.

Again, I'm not advocating teenagers keeping major secrets from their families, but hey, things aren't always how we wish they were. In the example Teen Demon brought up, say you've got a good student, a 17-year-old kid who has a boyfriend -- one whom she basically sees only at school -- and this kid gets "outed" simply by virtue of being "part of a couple", whether she has engaged in PDA or not, because some principal put her on a list ... that doesn't seem right.

Male Offspring wondered about kids who may be falsely identified as being part of a couple. What if the staff is wrong in their presumptions?

Seems to me that a little PDA is part of high school life. Come on, did Ms. Beasley never swap saliva by the gym lockers? Yes, there are limits, and yes, students should practice at least a minimal level of decorum. We're talking affection, not pop, lock, and dropping. If things get to that point, seems to me it still could've been handled in a more constructive way.

Seems to me the decision to come out is a personal decision, not one for the schools.