Thursday, May 19, 2005


God, They're Good

The Bushies, I mean. You have to give them their due, especially Karl Rove, who never met a half-truth he didn’t exploit to its fullest advantage.

The Newsweek fiasco is a replay of the exclusive that brought Dan Rather down last year. Put a respected newsman together with a usually reliable source, season with just a gunpowder smidgen of doubt, and step away just in time for the explosion.

Just as Dubya blew off his National Guard service during the Viet Nam war, his administration has now turned a blind eye to the abuses of prisoners in both Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

The Bush Administration recognizes only one sacred text, the Bible. Why sweat it if interrogators at Guantanamo kick the Koran around prisoner cages? If the flush story turns out to be inaccurate, (which we will never know for sure) there are still lots of dusty, dented Korans to be accounted for. If Dubya’s military file turns out to be forged (and we’ll never know whether or not it was, since only the question was raised,) the opinions of the commanding officer were accurately represented in it, this according to his daughter.

Besides, Dubya’s rationalization for any of his previous shortcomings is that ever-popular born-again trap door: he isn’t responsible for any of his actions prior to his salvation. As for actions since his re-birth as a Christian, God doesn’t mind a little Koran abuse. It’s the Wrong Book, anyway.

Norman Mailer’s piece in this week’s Huffington Post is right on the money. Start hammering at the press’s credibility, and Rove and Co. achieve two objectives: the creation of a new non-story to replace the original story, and false justification for why Dubya never reads the news in the first place. You just can’t trust the media.


You have to admit, these folks know their way around distortion as few do.

Phew-doo. Doo-doo.

Be sure to stand upwind.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Glock Glitz


We aren’t allowed the luxury of as much time to be stupid as we were in the good old days. If the smile you send out returns to you, just track the speed of shit you emit. It’s faster than, well, a speeding bullet.

This morning the Miami Herald carried the story of Melanise “Neenee” Malone, a five- year-old girl who was killed by gunfire in nearby Opa-Locka. A resident of that town’s notorious Triangle, an area in thrall to gang violence, Neenee and her family were in the process of fleeing the gunfire that had terrorized the area for the past two days. Bullets whizzed through the windows and walls of the apartments on Lincoln Avenue while residents huddled in back bedrooms, hallways, and other spaces that they hoped would be out of the path of the bullets.

Neenee’s mom, sister, and mom’s boyfriend were waiting for the police they’d called to provide them with a bullet-free escape from the neighborhood terror. When the police arrived, Neenee’s aunt swept in with her van to scoop the family up and carry it to safety. They hadn’t gone but a few blocks when bullets ripped into the van, killing Neenee.

On the same day that this sad story carried the front page of the Miami Herald a local version of the entertainment chain New Times had dedicated its front page to the image of some cool dude in a wife-beater and a panama hat in a cut-and-run with his trusty Colt 45 government issue leading the way. “Bullet time,” the headline announced coyly: “We can’t conceal our curiosity about who’s packing fashionable heat in the Magic City.” Inside was a comparatively innocuous feature on the number of guns, licenses, and such in Miami-Dade, along with a rundown of the principal occupations of those packing the pistolas. What was awful was the fashion spread:: echoes of Pulp Fiction with an Uma Thurman look-alike angling a hip with her jeweled Baretta 92 FS, the winner of a Marvin Gaye lookalike contest hanging heavy with his Desert Eagle tucked suggestively behind his belt buckle, a suit slipping his Luger into his Bianchi Triad ankle holster above his cordovans, and once again Brandon, who it turns out is a professional gun model with his Colt pointed at his privates.

This spread has all the timing of the NRA convention in Denver just after Columbine.

Terribly chic. Kinda with it. Kinda now.

Neenee loved to dance. She had just learned how to braid hair. No telling what other interests she'd have developed if she hadn't fallen into someone else's fashion show.

Just don’t show that spread to Neenee’s mama.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


El Cancer


“I feel like a fucking Golden Girl,” I say to my friend Sheryl, at whose house I am staying. We haven’t seen each other in twelve years, a streak I decided to break when I found that she’d had more cancer, including metastasis to the liver. In the last three years, three of my friends have emerged with life-threatening illnesses. I can’t assume that we’ll all always be around anymore.

Sheryl’s house looks right out on the water where, she tells me, the dolphins swim by from time to time. I haven’t seen them yet, but I did see a Miami PD cop-boat go by. What I thought was a harbor seal turned out to be a coconut that fell off one of the palms that line the bay. . idyllic scenes that belie the struggles of my friend and others like her.

Today I accompany my pal to her chemo appointment where I glimpse a sliver of that world. . The waiting room holds an assortment of men and women who await their turn for the infusion of chemicals that will keep cancerous cells from lodging in other organs. I leaf through the brochures: one is in Spanish from Gilda’s Club, which features a cartoon of the late-great in her Roseanne Roseannadanna wig. “Somos una comunidad de apoyo, sin fines lucrativos, de afiliacion gratuita, para quienes han sido tocados por el cancer.”

El cancer.

Later I will read on , “Chemotherapy is a systemic therapy; this means it affects the whole body by going through the bloodstream. The purpose of chemotherapy and other systemic treatments is to get rid of any cancer cells that may have spread from where the cancer started to another part of the body.” For now I will simply watch and learn.

Inside, the chairs resemble the ones you see in the beauty parlor. They would tilt back if there were room in the cramped spaces; underneath is a little shelf for the support of the feet of the supine. In the time that it takes to get a perm, patients can have all their cells, cancerous and otherwise assaulted by chemicals designed to keep the neighborhood clean. Like a permanent gone wrong, some of the patients will lose their hair. Several patients are perusing the Just in Time brochures that feature attractive scarves and hats for woman who have lost their hair. TLC features cute newsboy caps, turbans, and wigs as well as featherweight breast forms for “coping with radiation.”

“You’ll probably have to stand,” a nurse warns me as we head for the actual therapy parlors. “We’re pretty full up today.” Indeed, sitting in a corner is a woman draped in towels to protect her from the air conditioning that chills the room, as well, perhaps, as from the glances of strangers. She seems not to want to be seen. When I glance at her she pulls a towel over her face so that only her deep-set eyes are showing. A wizened little man sits next to her, complimenting a young nurse on her beautiful hair. “What do you do to it?” he asks, probably rhetorically. A middle-age man in an aloha shirt has just finished his treatment, and his wife, whose shirt nearly matches his, listens solemnly as the nurse answers their questions, as if sheer attention could take the fear away.

By now Sheryl is an old pro at the ritual of chemotherapy. She’s donned a camp shirt so that her tanned chest is available for easy insertion of the needle that will connect her to her various drips. She chats up the nurses, who are glad to see her, tells them about her trip to Mexico. A little blue bracelet encircles her bronzed ankle. She’s the picture of seacoast health. She relaxes as her blood samples are drawn for the preliminary tests. After a few moments we move to a more private room so that I can sit down, since everywhere I stand turns out to be in somebody’s way. It’s a while before anyone joins us. “That’s the trouble with these little rooms, Sheryl remarks. “You can’t be sure that they’ll remember that you’re here.”

We haven’t been there very long when we are joined by a thin woman with a canny smile who walks gingerly as she wheels her oxygen tank to a chair in the corner. There is some commotion about her missing medical records from the hospital and calls are made to get the necessary numbers. Behind her, her son Herb, a young Dustin Hoffman with a cell phone clipped to his belt, stands a little uncertainly outside the door while we all negotiate who will sit where. “I’ll stand guard out here,” he declares. He takes a call from someone named Mohammad who turns out to be in Paraguay. “I’ll call the bank,” Herb tells him, and joins us in the now-divided territory.

“Food. I feel like food,” Mama nudges Herb, who goes out to find her some coffee and crackers. “I’’m hungry, and my name isn’t Polly,” she scolds him. “What I’d like right now is a big juicy steak, a baked potato…” She drifts off, and we are glad for her, since she’s told us that she hasn’t slept in four days. Perhaps her meds will help her to relax. I skim a brochure from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation entitled “A Buddie For You,” while Sheryl becomes a Buddie to Mama, who’s still wide awake and clearly curious, a little scared about what will come next.

“Yes, my hair fell out,” Sheryl tells her. Her trademark glorious curls have since grown in, and she tells Mama about the scarves she wore, the salespeople who taught her how to tie them in attractive and creative ways. The Florida heat was too much for wigs, she says, but some women really feel the need for styles that look like the ones they have lost.

Ever the Buddie, Sheryl tells her about the support group she will attend later today, and which she attends faithfully. “Support group? Whaddya wanna go to one of those for?” She’s of the generation who thinks that the best way to keep family from Worry is to say little to nothing at all. Sheryl tells her about all the handy tips she’s picked up at group, the opportunities she’s had to pass on experiences of her own to people who are at the beginning of the process. Sheryl tells her to find a well-facilitated group that doesn’t let any one person dominate the conversation, that groups really make a difference.

"The survival rates are so much higher for people who go to support groups,” she tells me as we leave.

May my buddy’s experience confirm the research! May Mama learn to talk!

Petal, I love you.

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