8.31.2005

righteous fury

It's very easy for me, sitting here in blue-skied New York, to feel absolutely no connection to Katrina. I don't know anyone in New Orleans, I don't own a car so the gas hikes don't affect me, I don't really even have that much vested interest in the state of Louisiana as a conceptual entity. This isn't the sort of thing I care about. I'm far too selfish.

But reading coverage of the storm, and the devastation, and the hundreds and thousands of people whose homes and possessions have been destroyed... this is getting to me. I am sitting at my desk at my job where I am paid to do something that is, at the end of the day, really quite useless. I go grocery shopping. I sleep in my bed. And there are people who don't get to do that right now, because an act of God has torn them out of their daily lives and into a horror story. The worst part is how passive it all must be - in our nightmares, in movies, the action is constant and the disasters are instantaneous. But these people who are trapped in the Superdome (and who are now being transported, trail-of-tears-style, to the Astrodome in Houston 350 miles away) and the folks who are camped out with friends and with strangers and in the woods and on dry ground... they had the action already, and they're now dealing with the horror of the aftermath. Imagine it - you're forced out of your home by a category 5 hurricane and the gushing floodwaters of a broken levee, you make it out alive, and now you have to wait. Just wait. It's a Sartrean hell, watched over by an absent God.

And then you get the people who are trying to find someone to blame. From Salon:

a group calling itself Columbia Christians for Life alerts us to the fact that a satellite image of Hurricane Katrina as it hit the Gulf Coast Monday looks just like a six-week-old fetus.

"The image of the hurricane ... with its eye already ashore at 12:32 p.m. Monday, August 29, looks like a fetus (unborn human baby) facing to the left (west) in the womb, in the early weeks of gestation (approx. 6 weeks)," the e-mail message says. "Even the orange color of the image is reminiscent of a commonly used pro-life picture of early prenatal development."

And in case you're not getting the point, the e-mail message spells it out in black and white: "Louisiana has 10 child-murder-by-abortion centers," the groups says, and "five are in New Orleans."

But why would God single out Louisiana? Other states have many more abortion clinics, and Louisiana and the other states hit hardest by Katrina all voted for the pro-life president of the United States. It didn't add up for us at first, but the Columbia Christians for Life have an answer for everything. God has already punished California with earthquakes, forest fires and mudslides; New York with 9/11; and Florida with Hurricanes Bonnie, Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne and the early version of Katrina.


Part of why we were all able to rally together after 9/11 was because we had an enemy - it was easy to define an "us" when we had a "them" to contrast ourselves against. We gave blood, money, clothing, and time - because in a way, it made us feel like we were doing our part to show our attackers that we take care of our own. It wasn't just sympathy for the victims - there was vindication written all over every action. But there's no "them" to get back at here. There's just water and an empty sky. It's hard to rally the indignation and the fury necessary to take something from our own unscathed lives and give it to people who don't carry symbolic weight. But the truth is, if we can't sustain the "us" even when "them" doesn't exist... we're not much of anything.

Give and give and give.

8.25.2005

the story of my life: a play in one act

me
editorial department. helen speaking.

crazy lady
hello thank you for answering. what did you say your name is?

me
helen

crazy lady
well i read about your company in my local newspaper, The Connecticut . . . I mean The Hartford . . . I mean it was in the paper, you were in the article about prenatal nutrition which was advocating a certain vitamin regimen for mothers and children. So the thing is is that when i was pregnant my doctor didn't put me on a nutritional plan, he was smart enough to just recommend iron tablets. But still i followed a plan as it was outlined in a nutritional catalog. And I took those supplements like they suggested, and when I was pregnant and then when I was done with being pregnant it all worked out for me.

me
Okay...

crazy lady
it was Richardon's nutritional catalog, that was published from the 1960s until someone bribed them and they stopped publishing it in 1987 because it was too smart, too good you know. Which was fine by me because i stopped taking the supplements in 1984, but i called the catalog company but they don't have any more left in stock, so i called the Federal Trade Commission and they weren't very helpful either.

me
I don't think we publish-

crazy lady
You know I've had a very hard time tracking down my medical records. They were scattered - out in the Hollywood Hills, at the Center for Hollywood Development - and my doctor here has some, but also there is this guy, he's a security guard at Henri Bendel's, and he has some of my medical records too, I don't know how.

me
I don't think -

crazy lady
He must be a retired doctor or something, you know how they let the doctors keep their records if they're photocopied. So my medical records are in California and here and this guard at Henri Bendel's has my DNA, which is a concern to me because if it were to get in the wrong hands, well I have a very violent history.

me
I -

crazy lady
So I've given up on that, you know I have a very violent history. Well you know our attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, and how he is only interested in corporate things and has no interest in individuals who might be suffering problems. You know I called him to tell him about my phone bill, which for the past few months has been $300 but should only be $45 because I have the all-inclusive plan. So you know I called small claims court, but they weren't interested.

me
[resignedly] mm hm

crazy lady
so i went to the latin progressive junta on east 57th, and there's a yugoslavian there, and you know he was very helpful. i called a private detective in 197- 198- i mean in 2002 - after my husband died, becuse his twin died, he was killed by a violent russian, a moscow man, i mean russian, so i need to find out how to sue about my telephone bill

me
mm hm

crazy lady>
my family has a very serious history of violence, you know. But my medical records are scattered - in hollywood hills, in connecticut, and like i sad my DNA is in the possession of this security guard at henri bendel.

me
You realize you're calling a publishing company? [as opposed to, say, an outpatient hotline or your husband's ghost]

crazy lady
yes, because I was wondering, besides food recipes do you also publish violence and medicine and fraud recipes"

me
recipes?

crazy lady
well i only have an electric typewriter - do you need me to use a computer?

me
oh! you want to submit a manuscript!

crazy lady
yes, i want you to publish my book. I have not had the chance to have it written yet. what is your zip code?

me
[standard how-to-sumbit speech]

crazy lady
well thank you very much, you know after they started taking over my phone lines i thought that calling people would be a bad idea, but this really is the recipe - the story - i mean, my story and my husband's story. but that's really it.

[hangs up]

the inevitable onset

i bought two CDs today as a birthday present for a friend. Instead of going into some quirky nonchain music store and browsing until I fell into a cover-art-induced stupor and bought any album that has track titles which reference math or philosophy (my usual CD-buying MO, which incidentally has lead to the discovery of a terrific number of more-obscure-than-thou hipster bands, in certain circles lending me an indie credence that I really don't deserve), I did some online research, looked up the location of the nearest music store, called ahead, and had them pull out the albums and hold them for me behind the counter. Then, on a coffee break, I spent a grand total of 1 minute in the store, in which time I went to the register and paid. The end.

I did the same basic operation last week when buying new drinking glasses and a vegetable slicer (see previous entry) at Williams-Sonoma (they were on sale!), and yesterday when buying basic white plates at Crate & Barrel (also on sale, stop it). Also when buying a sweater from Banana Republic two weeks ago that I knew without even trying on that I would love.

Basically, I have become one of them. Those time-starved yuppie bastards who forgo interpersonal contact or leisurely browsing in favor of efficiency efficiency efficiency. Alas. It was bound to happen eventually.

8.14.2005

a really gross and pointless story, which isn't really enhanced by the illustrations

I got a ceramic-bladed vegetable slicer yesterday from Williams Sonoma.

The oblongly rectangular thing towards the bottom of the yellow paddle is the plastic finger guard that comes with it, which allows one to slice things without getting one's fingers in the way. This will be important later in the story. In the meantime, I used the slicer to make beautiful thin rounds of cucumber, similar to the ones shown in the photo above. The type of cucumber I sliced is known as "English Hothouse," which is a 15-inch-long, 1-inch-wide behemothic double dong of a cuke.

But the cucumber being as long as it was, I figured i could hold onto it a safe 15 inches from the razor-sharp ceramic blade and not run the risk of hurting myself. Little did I know that the slicer can burn a wicked pace, and in no time at all I had a nice pile of paper-thin wisps of cucumber beneath the yellow paddle, and a scant 2 inches of nub separating my fingers from the (did I mention razor-sharp?) ceramic blade.
Note the little nub of cucumber. Note the lovely thinness of the slices. Note that above I mentioned that the finger guard would be an important player later on. Here's where: of course I didn't use the finger guard. Of course I cut myself, deeply and grossly, in such a way that you could sort of see the inner workings of my finger.
Pleasant, isn't it? To add insult to injury (literally, hurrah), blood was splattered, psycho-style, all over my chiffon-like cucumber slices. To add humor to both insult and injury, after staunching the flow, the only band-aids to be found were of the novelty variety. Namely, band-aids that were die-cut and photoprinted to look like bacon.

At this point you might note that bacon, as an animal product, is actually composed of things that look a great deal like the inner workings of a finger. And when wrapped in the bacon band-aid, my finger actually looks way worse than the actual cut.
Fin.

To replicate my experiment, you can get the veggie slicer at Williams-Sonoma, the bacon band-aids at Archie McPhee, and the hothouse cucumbers from a grocery store. My fingers are not for sale, and this kind of hurt so I wouldn't really like to participate anyway.