Saturday, March 28, 2009


Lulu Embraces a Domestic Art

We're in a strange phase here at the Casa de Lulu y Su Esposa: glad that our guy is in the White House but impatient at the endless nattering that goes on about him. As I mentioned a post or two ago, my retirement is in the hands of the most odious of institutions, and each new mention of Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers reminds me of all the other horrible sounds in the world, all hideously recorded in our conscious and unconscious aural vocabularies.

My spouse can't bear full newspapers in the house very often. I don't wanna be a consumer. What's an American to do?

I quilt.

Those of you who've never met me, say Oh, Lulu is a quilter. Those of you who've known me for years say, "You whaaaaaat?"

When I was a kid, I only took the Home Ec I was forced to take--you know, when the boys were off taking Shop. I got a D and never finished the fucking apron.

When I graduated from college, my mother gave me a sewing machine as a grad gift. I was incredulous (such a nice, grateful daughter). I was afraid that she was trying to turn me into Tricia Nixon. I never used the machine. It finally froze when its lubricants solidified.

So you see, this is all new. But then, what is life for, if not challenging stale assumptions?

It began innocently enough. We were looking for a better bed for the Maddie-dog. Last time I bought something online. The zipper to the cover broke the first time I washed it. The egg-carton foam sagged after a while. We looked around here for a bed, didn't like anything, and decided to go to the local fabric store in search of good, thick foam rubber and cloth. We'd stitch something up.

I'd bought a little sewing machine sometime around the end of my consuming period, an off the wall purchase if ever there was one. I pulled if off the bookshelf to whip up the bed.

Lo and behold, it was kind of fun. So I finished the bed and went back to the fabric store for
another project. Decided that a warm cape for spouse's mama made sense, since she's in a wheelchair and sleeves are a drag. Made the cape. Here's a picture of it on her 95th birthday. She actually likes it very much. She just belongs to a very strict cult that absolutely forbids smiling for photographs. You can see that her daughter escaped the cult.

Then to the quilts. My good friend Susan and I had flirted with learning quilting last year. I've been drawn to the fellowship of women passing on this art for some time. Saw Bridget Fonda's film, The Quilters of Gee's Bend and was really touched. Somehow Susan and I got discouraged and we bagged it. This year I got some books from the library and struck out on my own and along the way bought a better sewing machine on eBay. So now I rotary cut and sew away. A friend at the library steered me to a quilting group at the senior center down the hill.

Last week I finally went down there with my many blocks (as they are called), about a dozen of which I'd sewn together. I emerged a couple of hours later with all of them separated by a seam ripper after some instruction by a very nice woman named Mary in Squaring the Block. I now must Square the Blocks before I sew them together again.

Whatever. It's fun or it's learning, right?

I will make this first project as a new bedspread. Then, after I've gotten some skills, I'll make a couple for some very long-time friends. After that, who knows? I look at quilting magazines and read quilting books and marvel at the longevity of interest and the skills that come from such an enduring relationship to the art. For me, I can't imagine. A couple of months ago I didn't even sew. Mama, I say to the heavens, I hope you can see this.

For now it's just fine. I'm all for Obama finding his feet without my constant criticism. Can we all remember that he's in his first weeks? I get all these angry emails from friends (mostly forwards) criticizing his every move and non-move.

We don't talk about that down at the Senior Center. We talk about Squaring the Block.

That's something I can be responsible for.

Monday, March 23, 2009


If Anybody Is Trash, It's Tammy Bruce

Okay, okay, I'll admit that I don't know Tammy Bruce from a hole in her ass.

But she was just quoted on the Huffington Post as referring to the Obamas as "trash in the White House."

I guess she and Rush and Ann and company are just par for the course these days. After all, they have their jobs and their snotty books and their sad little attempts at humor, most of which boil down to name-calling. It's a substitute for wit.They're insulated from the current downturn, so what do they do? Take shots at the people who are trying to deal with the problems and keep the people's spirits up.

My adopted bro' is an Irishman, and as such, he spends too much time in front of the television watching jerks like Tammy Bruce and Rush Limbaugh. He likes to argue; debate is in his blood. To his credit, he balances out his argumentative streak with Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow who are more in harmony with his ideas. He is only too happy to analyze everything, to take nothing for granted. He's what a good, engaged citizen should be, if a good, engaged citizen can stand all the noise around his spirit.

I can't. I had enough fury in conversations with conservative relatives in the bad old family days to last me a lifetime. I invoke my ancestors, the ones from that nation of mute Swedes. I simply withdraw. I've heard those arguments and more, when Limbaugh and Bruce were still pissing their panties.

But in my own little cave, I haul out the Photoshop and stick old Tammy Bruce right where she belongs: in her own, personal dumpster, bonding with sour milk cartons, moldy pizza boxes, and loose coffee grounds while she exercises her Second Amendment right to plug her fellow rats.

Tammy Bruce, I don't watch TV, so I'll probably never collide with you. But you are one pathetic, lying sack of shit.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Safe in the Loving Arms of AIG

For the past 19 years I have lived in Vermont with varying degrees of enthusiasm, the greatest of which has been in the most recent three years, thanks to my peachy library job.

it's clear that I am going to have to move on. It breaks my heart.

You see, like so many of my fellow educators, I invested the principal part of my retirement accounts with --dare I say it?-- AIG.

It wasn't AIG at the time; it was VALIC, or the Variable Annuity Life Insurance Company. It was like getting your auto insurance with Horace Mann: just what teachers and administrators did. That or go into real estate, at which time our most astute colleagues would check listings during their prep periods and bolt from the parking lot exactly one half hour after the end of school.

I did the VALIC thing, having a sum deducted from my paycheck before I could run off and spend it on some foolishness. I was Investing In My Future.

A few years back, AIG, which had been behind VALIC all along, dumped the V-facade and renamed our accounts in the holy name of AIG Retirement. Wasn't that a great idea?

So now you know. I will probably have to work the rest of my life: now in the library (yay), and eventually, if I don't act quickly, probably some goddam Big Box store. So I'm packing now.

I'm going to live on the palatial estate of one of those AIG executives. I can vacuum the pool and clean up the poodle poop on the acres of spacious lawn, not that I should have to do anything. mind you. I just like to keep busy.

It's the least these guys can do,
feed me their beef Wellington and lobster newburg table scraps and let me bathe in their pools. They have crapped away my money, (I lost $20 grand in the last quarter alone) and spent vast sums on salaries they didn't deserve, not to mention the infamous bonuses. I can set up a little tent and invite other retired educators to join me in a cheery little city. Welcome to Liddyville! We'll buy pretty tents out of our piddly pensions: green, blue, yellow, red, and orange. Oh, it'll be so gay! In the evening we can sing Woody Guthrie songs and make school banners out of our old t-shirts. Let your colors fly!

It doesn't seem that any of the zillions allocated to AIG are meant for the likes of me, so I've decided to be a boil on the ass of one of its executives. I hope not to be alone.

Please pass this on to any similarly unfortunate retired educator. The more tents we put together, the prettier our collective canvas rainbow.


Friday, March 13, 2009


Tear-Jerk Time

Michelle Obama makes me cry.

I'll rephrase that. Whenever I see Michelle Obama, I get tears in my eyes. She doesn't make me do anything. But it does happen on a regular basis.

I have to admit that my health has been the pits for the past 5 weeks. No sooner did I begin to recover from a long bout of asthmatic bronchitis than I was hit with a truly evil stomach flu. So I've been rather vulnerable and blue.

Not that my tears are sad tears. I am just so moved by this woman, who seems so authent
ic. Connecting with military families. Paying her loving respects to the people hardest hit by the shenanigans of the last years. Showing up to serve the homeless, to participate in service days. She's a one-woman statement of the values we need to see, and her warmth and compassion are palpable.

Her personal story includes loss, outsider experience, and hardship met with a serious work ethic. I often feel that her husband's upbeat, transformative philosophy has been as healing for her as it promises to be for the nation. There's still something vulnerable in her aspect in unguarded moments. She is taking to the First Lady role in ways that I've never glimpsed before.

She's very huggy, another big plus for me. Though it's been said a million times, it's amazing what a difference a hug can make. I have one library patron and volunteer, age 87, who shows up every Monday night to bring in the flags and collect a long, warm hug for his efforts. "That's my hug for the week!" he says after we finish our
regular embrace. I'd love to turn him and Michelle loose on each other. They both understand something essential.

I'll never understand the Victorian response to her bare arms. (At least we can refer to them as arms. In the the Queen V's days, they were limbs. But that's not much progress in a hundred years, if you ask me.) She's healthy, she's in great shape, and part of her advocacy is for diet and exercise. What's the deal?

I'm sure that the pastiest parts of our nation are still in shock. I can tell by the endless reactions to her statements, her little fist bumps with the Big Guy, her dynamite body, that their first up-close look at a proud, healthy, African-American woman is going to take some internal adjusting on their parts.

As for me, I've long known that systematically shutting out the worth of people unlike ourselves is a sure-fire way to miss out on their substantial contributions. I'm thankful for this time, this lady and her husband, and all that they will teach us in the next four, and ultimately, I hope, eight years.

Now where did I put that goddam hanky?


Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Family Is as Family Does

Is this Ken Starr in one of his Latent Moments, or have I simply failed to see the dental floss between his fingers?

No matter. As I write this he is no doubt getting ready for another big day in court as he works to divorce 18,000 California couples who rushed to be wed before the LDS church and a host of allied bigots rushed to make sure that an oppressed minority would still live under the tyranny of the majority.

What sad business this family values stuff is. I grew up in a family that was, but didn't. My mother worked her tail off to hold us together. My father wandered and rejected my brother who acted like a boy rejected by his dad. Both of them rejected me. We were well provided for materially but not emotionally.

When I was young, the saddest thing I could think about was being consigned to that model of family life. "If it was a job, I wouldn't apply for it," I used to say, full of lost bravado.

To me, happy families (and I do see them from my vantage point at the library--moms and dads taking toddlers to story time, entire broods showing up for family story night, during which time they write and illustrate their own adventures, volunteers telling me about the central place their families play in their lives) are an exotic breed. I gaze at them with the fascination of the outsider.

I remember when my mom, advanced in her Alzheimer's disease here in Vermont, took the phone to talk to my long-abusive brother in California, listened for a minute or two, then quietly placed the phone on the table and turned away. She just couldn't do it anymore, and now she had a disease that permitted her, after a lifetime of herculean efforts, to take her rest.

Sometimes I think that Mom needed that disease. She was an exceptional woman. She had a lot to forget.

In my adult life, having failed to fill in my application, I have nonetheless pulled together my familial impulses. They are hard to discard in their entirety. Here we are: two women who are each other's very best friends and life companions, a dog, three cats, a modest host of cherished friends.

How naive the Ken Starrs and those they represent are to think that they can legislate away the myriad forms that families take. They are protecting the children?? That's their excuse for this perfidy. As if you could, by eliminating a real option for people, force the straight ones among us to automatically become dedicated, functioning, creative, devoted family members. Sorry: outlawing one group does not ennoble another.

The willingness to surrender self to family isn't about sexual orientation. There are plenty of non-functioning heterosexual units, with lots of dazed children whose best hope is to get the hell out of there at the age of reason and to do their best to be authentically themselves. You can't force people to be devoted parents, doting spouses. What you can do is to create a society open enough to a variety of ways to be that we can all find ourselves in it in a positive way.

I don't know what the next steps will be, after Ken Starr's "victory" in the card game of the stacked deck, but I know that his courtroom "triumph" can't last. The thirst for justice has been awakened, and those who have come after my generation are young enough, energetic enough, to see this very real cause through. If careless couples can receive the respect of the state and all the rights conferred thereby, why can't they? Why should their unions be suspect? They are paying the dues with the everyday ups and downs of surrendering something of themselves to this stupefying idea of Us. Why shouldn't they be recognized for what they are?

Why not, indeed?


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