Saturday, November 29, 2003


Had an Urban Tribe Thanksgiving and every year I think this is the perfect holiday for it. Christmas is overwhelmingly filial; you have no choice but to give in and spend it with those who share your genetic code--no matter how much you long to spend just ONE year in your city to go to your Christmas Eve services, to decorate your own tree, to plan your own parties and spend the day drinking as much egg nog as you want in your own bed.

Bitter? Yeah. A little.
It's Saturday and not that late and I'm home. Alone. A long weekend, alone.

Frustrated? Yeah. A little.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Interesting how one region can be so lovely and so creepy, all at the same time. Last weekend I managed to escape the city--to spend it in another city. I know, my logic is faulty, but hiding in Manhattan for one night then spending the rest of my short holiday in the damp environs of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont was the perfect antidote to being totally stressed out at work and feeling rather ... amorously neglected.

Things noticed along the way...trees were more bizarre in New England, twisting in Ichabodian ways along roads...driving the Vermont 8 at night will give you a stress headache ... Vermont has as much road construction as any day in Illinois ... Stockbridge, MA is home to the Norman Rockwell museum (which has a lovely exhibit from 3 women illustrators at the turn of the centry) as well as the bizarre Shrine of Divine Mercy (the original site of an English 'mission') ... The Anchor in New Haven is pretty cool and you can drink all night on $20 ... Harlem is more beautiful than you think.

I couldn't live in New England, but the Berkshires are lovely. I'd go insane during the winter, isolated behind ash trees, but staying there for a month to write wouldn't be so bad, perhaps. I'd be uncomfortable around the frosty New England 'fences make good neighbors' attitude, but the anonymity and strangeness of the place could be comforting. Lovely and creepy, attractive and forbidding. Pish tosh.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

11.19.03 - This Morning's Dream or, Why I Was Late for Work

I lived in a small Ann Arbor-like town, full of mulberry bushes and swing sets. I went to the local college and developed huge crushes on gorgeous unavailable men who were invariably gay and studied in the German or Art History departments. I shared an apartment with a strawberry blonde plump girl named Julia, who looked like she stepped right out of a 1950s primer on appropriate female comportment. Ice wouldn't melt in her mouth, not a hair was out of place and her ponytail never swung.

Two Japanese schoolgirls lived across the hall from us in our big Victorian house. They were fascinated by the States and hung out with us to talk about boys and dating and show us pictures of the cute boys they'd stalked on campus. Julia never really participated, just smiled quietly and never dished. Being boy-crazy, I thought she was strange.

We were walking down the street one afternoon and the weather turned dark. The two Japanese schoolgirls excitedly murmured to each other and thought it was the perfect time to visit the beach. Julia and I didn't think that was a hot idea--big waves, lightning, drowning. But this appealed to their Japanese sense of adventure--this is what America was about: gigantic weather patterns.

They ran off in the direction of the beach as the wind began to kick up and Julia and I headed home, passing Rupert Everett along the way. He wore dark pants and a charcoal turtleneck, a dark cap covered his hair, but those sloe eyes and that jaw...who could forget a face like that? So I forced Julia to hang around and watched him laugh and sign autographs. Daringly I walked up and asked him to join us for a drink and some company. Julia was silent.

So the weather grew worse; we passed the beach and saw the two Japanese schoolgirls kneeling in the surf, praying as waves pounded all around them. The wind and waves lifted them high into the air, plunged them back into the sea, but it's like there was a bubble around them; they bounced harmlessly from crest to crest. Then, the sea parted a little ways around them, and the storm raged just a few feet off from where they knelt. Then, it was all over.

Squealing, they jumped up, clapped their hands and danced in a circle, yelling 'we saved the town, we saved the town!' Silly girls. Rupert, Julia and I walked on, strolling past the now wet and glistening houses. We came across the two dominatrices who lived a couple of blocks away from our house; in their customary black leather, they swung from harnesses and trapezes on the roof. The dark haired one, Emma, folded her topless self into a circle and swung around horzontal bar, the pink tips of her breasts winking at us. The blonde one cheerfully waved at us and Rupert said, 'hm, impressive.'

Something changed in our little threesome by the time we reached my house. Rupert was wearing a simple white buttoned down shirt and gray slacks. His hair was shorter and he wore glasses. Julia was brighter and actually bounced up the stairs, her ponytail swinging. When we reached our door, she turned and said, 'There's something we have to tell you. Rupert wants me, not you; we're sorry. We never meant for this to happen. He's moving in.' Instantly, I burst into tears: when did she become such a bitch? how could she do this to me? she didn't even like men! They smiled sadly at me, holding hands, and Rupert kissed her cheek and said, 'For her, I'm willing to be straight. And to wait. were just a little fast for me. You'll find someone.' He sounded doubtful.

Their coupled happiness was too much for me; I stormed around the apartment, packing my things while Julia bleated her protests and I was so infuriated (though I'm vaguely aware that I shouldn't have been) I pushed past her and stomped out. I walked the two blocks to the dominatrix house; Emma still spun on her bar and the blonde one just swung back and forth. 'They kicked you out, huh?' she said. 'We knew it. She was just too goody goody. Live with us.'

'I can't swing. I don't go topless.'

'Eh, who cares? We got room.'

And that's where I live--with the topless, circus dominatrices and I heap scorn on Julia and Rupert whenever they pass.

Friday, November 07, 2003


I was going to make a list of my erstwhile estate and who gets what, but the brevity of the list and the paucity of my bequeathments made me depressed, and I figured no one would want to read that anyway. I mean, really, who wants to get my books, journals and Victorian porn?


A friend emailed me and said she had similar feelings about her family and money. We both grew up working class women of color in California and now find ourselves in positions different from those of our parents. Rather than take direction from our families we are walking away from them, deliberately making different choices--and sometimes they see that as an indictment of them. Her mother is upset she won't take advice about buying a house; my dad tears up when I tell him he needs to plan for the future. Both events make us uncomfortable and slightly ashamed. It's funny, my friend said that we can write about race, sex and class, but we hardly write about money.

My sister was telling me about that new show on MTV about the dumb blonde socialites. She was so disgusted by it (yet captivated by its car-crash-like spectacle) I had to laugh when she said, Rich people really are stupid, aren't they?

There's class resentment in my sister's disgust, yes, but her feelings are also about money. (I know how unclear that thinking is and if I wasn't at the office, I'd clarify that.) These moronic girls have more money than they will know what to do with--and they will do nothing with it. (Ok, vast generalization, but point to a debutante who's done something good for society and I'll show you a Republican who belongs to the NAACP.)

For me, my sister and my college friend (a professor now on the west coast), money means ... what? For my sister, it probably means her kids will be able to go to college, they'll have access to a good job perhaps, and will achieve a comfortable level of stability. It's the dream of the middle class--stability and comfort. For my friend...I don't know. It could mean that house. For me, it means doing unto others.

Money--*significant* amounts of it--means redressing some things. Scholarships for poor black kids. Scholarships for single parents wanting to go back to school. Comprehensive sex education in our communities of color. Yes, it could also mean traveling a lot and making sure my dad has a nice pillow for his old age, but when I think about having lots and lots of money (and I do) I think about the women I see in the morning, walking their kids to the Catholic school a few blocks away. They come from the women's shelter down the street; it's housed in a tall square Baptist church and women, silent, battered and too young, yet too old-looking, walk their kids to school.

We stand next to each other at the bus stop--their hair wild, socks and tights not matching, I in my office shoes and coat. And I feel guilty because I have and they don't and they should and then I wonder why I'm not doing anything significant about it. Which, in my rambling way, brings me back to those Opt Out women. And I wonder if their compacency is really so different from mine.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Random things...
Writing this blog is like tossing a bottled letter into the sea; it seems that HTML tags are needed to post my email address on the side...alas, I am HTML dumb so I'll just give an address here, if anyone would like to drop a note (and if anyone absolutely hates anything PLEASE be civil): or, alternately, use whichever email address you already have for me.

Problematic...the Dept of Homeland Security's ramped up attack on academic freedom and post-colonial studies, the partial-birth abortion bill being signed today, the silence from the administration regarding the number of casualties, the Pentagon's rumored stealthy ramp up of the draft board, the weird flap over Howard Dean's Confederate flag comment (granted, I haven't researched this much, but it seems to me he was misunderstood deliberately--and I'm a black woman saying this), the illegal aliens and indentured servitude for WalMart, more email over my marriage stance...

Jeezy Creezy--I'm Effin' Old

As is my wont, I delayed filling out my new 401k forms until the very last moment. In a plastic envelope, the glossy brochures and pie charts and allocation charts sat on my desk. I'd take them home once in a while with the intent of reading through them, but one look at the worksheet to determine my retirement goals made me want to have a drink and so, following that impulse, I'd put aside the envelope containing my future and go down to the bar next door and meet my friend Ali for an after work cocktail.

Well, today is the deadline. I can no longer ignore the pressing need to secure some kind of financial security for my self. I have no concept of money. It's nice to have and I like having a regular paycheck, but it doesn't really MEAN anything to me. When I look at money I see only that--money.

Oh, I see bills, rent, taxes (jesus, so many taxes) and dinners and trips, but I don't see what other people probably see. I don't see value or worth in money. It's either there or it isn't. If it's not, then why think about it? If there's a sudden windfall, well, aren't I a lucky duck? Let's go out and have a good bottle of wine with dinner. I take this attitude from my father and mother, who grew up poor in South Central Los Angeles and a little village in the Philippines, respectively. They worried about taking care of their family, but they never worried, agonized, or obsessed over money.

Both were relatively free with money. Every weekend, my mom would go to the mall. Every time dad went shopping with us, he'd get something for his library or his studio or something. We were never extravagent (except I think my mother later became weirdly shopaholic-like) and my sister and I never went without. We may have been a little shabby and perhaps not in the first mode of fashion (or maybe that was just me) but we didn't go to bed hungry and we never had to complain about not having stuff. We had stuff--just not as much stuff as other people. But the money was there to get it, or it wasn't. Often, we heard and understood the words, "Our money is funny this month."

My family didn't seem to be really big on planning for the future. There was a savings account (I remember seeing the book for it) but long-term planning wasn't part of our household, especially when my dad gave up his nice city job to become a minister. Goodbye security, hello...uncertain retirement and dependence on the capricious movements of a deacon board. (Ah--I've just realized that this coincides with my mother's increased spending habits.)

The Baptist church, especially an Independent fundamentalist one, didn't really have the wherewithal to manage a pastor's future. It was assumed this person would die behind the pulpit and the church would care for them until then and while this is a fine goal, it really didn't take into consideration markets, inflation, cost of living, family needs or the basics of health care and social security--retirement. This was a serious lack. It seemed to me (and my mother) that just because this was God's vocation, it didn't mean you had to be stupid about it. It's only in the past few years that my sister and I have convinced our father to establish some kind of retirement plan.

But now, here I am, about to choose which funds I want, how much I want deducted from my paycheck, and who my beneficiary is--all without having been shown how to do this before. I am just as uncounscious of the future as my father was. Beyond the difficulty of calculating my retirement goal based on my age, Social Security benefits and income, I've realized that I've made NO plans for the future.

Who is my beneficiary? I'm single and childless; this is something I've chosen but still--who will get my 'estate'? What is in my estate? Frankly, who would want it? What will happen to me if I get seriously ill? Who will defend my interests? When I die...what will I leave behind?

These are questions perhaps too heavy for the middle of the day on a Wednesday while at the office.