6.30.03 conflict

After going to a family wedding, and then driving around the peninsula talking about my childhood, this is what I think:

I should switch to fiction. Writing from life is too difficult when the subjects are still alive and disagree about points of fact.

There is a book called Critical Fictions that serves as my moral compass on this issue. I also have good friends I can talk to, who have published memoirs and literary nonfiction and then navigated the response of their friends and family. But when it comes down to actually writing something, I run right up against my idiosyncratic notions of justice.

James has been a close friend since we were sixteen, and knows the real stories and the real people. This is what he said when I brought up the subject:

You are stuck on truth, which is real philosophy of the ethical moral variety. Fiction is something else, namely, the ontological, metaphysical sort of contemplation and assuming. Somehow I do not think you are about possibilities. Rather this other sort of wisdom: action and experience. You really care about remembering what happened; to the point of ruinous arguments over events. The problem is, though you often do not let on, you also worry, quite deeply, about what other people might think or feel about what happened. There is always doubt, and in that doubt, there are feelings - yours and theirs. And at the end of the day, regardless of what happens, you want people to feel alright. You want people to be better. That is your conflict. It is maybe also the point of your writing.

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6.29.03 r.i.p.

In the last few weeks the death toll has been horrifying. Friends are grieving over a murder; the boating accident in Seattle; and this tragic accident for the kids in Portland:

R.I.P.

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6.28.03 swanky

No luck at Value Village, though I did try on many many ugly garments. My daughter found a very swanky blue corduroy coat with a big fuzzy collar...

I bought a faux wood $1 Rolodex. Now I'll put all of your addresses in one safe place instead of losing them all the time.

Or at least pretend to.

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6.28.03 respectable

I've never cared what other people think of my appearance; I really don't even know unless Gabriel or Byron spell it out very clearly and then reinforce their observations with proof.

But today I am in a dither - my cousin is getting married tomorrow and I want to look respectable. There are many reasons for this, but the main thing is that my cousin has joined the mainstream world. This particular cousin is someone I care about, someone who grew up partly in my house. I remember holding him as an infant, and later buying his school clothes every year. I know more about his childhood than he does (he doesn't remember anything before his mid-teens). He has chosen to build his life in a certain deliberate way, and it is important to make an attempt to dress up for his special day.

I wore antique gray silk pajamas to my prom (and after spending about ten minutes at the dance, we all went out and got arrested). I wore a psychedelic peacock print mini dress and laddered tights when I received my Governor's award. I wore a bizarre brightly colored cocktail dress with huge pointy collars to high school graduation, and during the ceremony I ripped out the hem and pinned condoms to my cap to protest the school policy against HIV education.

It is true that I had a white wedding of my very own as a teenager (complete with a puffy sleeved dress chosen by my mother) with flowers in my hair. But I also had a baby on my arm and we decorated the hall with paper flowers and played the Prince song Let's Go Crazy as the processional.

My second wedding was at the 24 Hour Church of Elvis and I wore a black suit and a television news crew showed up and the officiant wore a ballgown and smacked me with her fairy wand when I refused to spin for the camera.

The last wedding I went to back home I really meant to dress up for, but accidentally wore a wraparound dress that showed not only my tattoo and cleavage but also my underthings. Stevie went along as my date and she was dressed as a boy and had garlic in her pockets. We had a lot of fun -- Stevie even caught the bouquet -- but the MC made many comments like Whoa! Talk about hitting an innocent bystander!

Sometimes I go through long stretches of wearing only black skirts and tshirts. But my normal wardrobe consists of a variety of garish polyester dresses. Even my most interesting friends find my clothes a bit on the extreme side. Perhaps a bit too, well, bright.

I used to have a whole wardrobe of blazers and other normal garments when I worked for the state, but I gave the whole lot to a women's shelter last year. There is literally nothing respectable in my closet.

The best I can hope for is locating a dress that is not held together with safety pins.

Maybe I should run out to Value Village and scramble uselessly for awhile.

Perhaps that would at least calm me down.

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6.27.03 dizzy

Yesterday was strange and amazing. Good news overwhelmed me and I had to go to bed early. Here are the highlights:

Byron came home with a cardboard box containing computer peripherals. Including a power cord that fits the laptop stolen long ago and recently recovered.

He turned on the machine, and I actually remembered the password. Of course after two years the work might be banal and irrelevant. But how often does such a felicitous event happen?

My brain went all dizzy when I saw the files, still intact, my whole lost manuscript restored.

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6.26.03 pho

We were eating pho on Broadway last night (the only veggie pho I've found, but if you know of another place please tip me off) when Anne wandered in. She was away for a few weeks attending the conference in Bowling Green and a wedding in Wisconsin.

To our mutual surprise, we apparently have many people in common. She is good friends with Beth (original editor of the Mamaphonic site, contributor to Breeder, and long-time HM community member) and also with Lisa from NoahJohn... spooky how people find each other without noticing that it has happened.

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6.25.03 crisis

I don't know where it came from but a new pamphlet showed up: a guide to surviving nuclear attacks and natural disasters. I've been staring at it for a few days, wondering if I'll have to write another essay.

Devastation is so familiar to me, so normal, that I rarely get upset when something terrible happens. My body or mind can be smashed by injury or illness and I will only sigh, never scream, never object. The last two months have been fiendishly difficult but I experienced it as a split. One part of me watched as I took care of the family, and the part taking care wondered what would eventually make me cry. Knowing I was letting tasks and favors and obligations slide, and that people would be angry with me, but unable to do more than stay calm.

One of the worst side-effects of growing up with trauma is the crisis conditioning, the dull lack of vulnerability. Nobody believes me when I say that I am upset. I cannot convey such a thing, no matter how skillfully I arrange the words. I rarely believe myself. But then, after the crisis is over, I fall apart.

When I cry it is over the casual cruelty of the days. The misunderstandings and confusion of living in a community. The friendships that have died or faded. Change, disorder, petty frustrations. Right now I am on the verge of a panic attack because I can't find the dress I want to wear. In an hour it might be something else; losing my favorite pen or the lack of organic cherries at the supermarket.

This morning as I pondered some silly thing or other I ran across this quote:

Who said you should be happy? Do your work. -- Colette

Surviving is easy. Having a good life is awfully difficult. But the hardest part by far is simply noticing all the fragile moments and beautiful quandaries.

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6.25.03 culture

We do not partake of much popular culture; the television gets two distorted channels offering a choice between Mr. Rogers and Bewitched. We do not own video games, or if we do, they don't work on this operating system. Not necessarily because I have stringent theoretical criticisms. No, I just find them boring - and therefore not worth the money and time.

The children have full liberty in only two categories: books and music. Even if I dislike their choices, they can form their own preferences.

So this week I was drafted to see Mamma Mia! If you love musical theater and ABBA, you will definitely like this show. I feel no shame in admitting that I found it amusing and fun (especially since the tickets were a gift).

I've also been listening to the new Harry Potter book on tape. I've decided that I truly adore the series. Why? Because it is essentially about bureaucracy. I've never before encountered a children's series that pays such exhaustive attention to organizational theory and governmental ethics.

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6.25.03 marriage

From the ACLU: With Canada preparing to legalize gay marriages, religious right organizations are signaling their intent to push a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as strictly between a man and a woman. And a Supreme Court decision on gay rights expected later this week will likely incite them even further.

The proposed constitutional amendment would also destroy a wide range of rights that are important to the lives of unmarried persons (whether unmarried relatives, heterosexual couples, and gay and lesbian couples). Those legal protections include state and local civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination based on "marital status" and state laws protecting unmarried elderly couples who refrain from marrying in order to hold on to their pensions.

Take action to oppose writing discrimination into the Constitution. Click here to get more information and send a free fax to your Members of Congress:

Act Now

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6.24.03 rehabilitation

John went in for elective spinal surgery on May 5. The surgery took twelve hours, and he came out in good shape. But then a spiral of infections and illness started. He was in a coma for awhile, and nearly died at many points.

The doctors told us to give up hope, to make funeral arrangements. Byron started to write a eulogy. At what we assumed to be the final crisis, Byron flew to Colorado.

Nobody wanted to believe this could happen, that someone so gentle and wonderful could exit life without preparation, but all evidence indicated that it would no matter how hard we resisted. His friends, and their friends, and many hundreds of strangers, did the only thing they could to help a pastor and therapist: they prayed.

I drove around and around the city in a fog of confusion and let all my work and the normal responsibilities of life slide to the point that our phone was shut off while money sat in the checking account. Everything was a jumble of uncertainty. Byron was devastated.

But then John opened his eyes, and moved his arms. Eventually he was able to cover his trach and talk. He said don't give up on me yet. Within hours he had a telephone in bed with him, calling everyone to make sure they were okay.

Yesterday he was finally moved to a rehabilitation facility. The long work of healing has begun.

We are amazed and thankful.

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6.22.03 shot

Gabriel came with his daughter and the weekend was filled to bursting with fun games and conversation. I took him to Uwajimaya and we wandered in a daze admiring all the lovely lovely food and then back at home I made yellow curry and pad thai.

Last night around midnight we were watching Jeeves and Wooster in the basement and the phone rang. I raced up the stairs in case it was an emergency but missed the call. It was my Portland friends, Bob and Stevie and Marisa and probably others, a chorus of voices, calling to say that they love me.

I missed them all with a sharp jab and I was standing in the dining room, ready to burst into tears with longing and regret, when I heard a shot in the alley. Everyone in the house shrieked and Byron came racing upstairs to say he heard something hit the house.

The last time I heard a shot that close to my home was fifteen years ago, when the neighbor shot his dad. The time before that was the day the other neighbor killed himself and the bullet missed my bedroom window by inches.

I found my expanding titanium death club and patroled around the house, turning on all the lights, to scare away any possible intruders.

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6.20.03 proof

Ever wonder what Byron actually does? People ask me and I just shrug... I know he is a logician, and proves things, but the rest goes right over my head. Those smarty pants at The Economist evidently get it. Here is an article that explains the field in general, and the specific tool he makes (Static Driver Verifier or SDV):

Knowing Right from Wrong

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6.20.03 joke

Throughout my entire life I have never enjoyed nor approved of jokes - try to tell me one and you'll get the same baleful stare I use when people come to my door with a scam.

The only joke I ever memorized was this:

Why did the monkey fall out of the tree?

He was dead.

But this year I have definitely mellowed, and while my daughter was doing animal rights work in the spring I picked up a new joke:

What did the buffalo say to his son when he left for college?

Bye, son.

Get it? Ha ha ha....

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6.18.03 rural

My best friend from junior high likes to take pictures of mattresses she finds on the street. She also has a web site about living out in the woods with her kids and some chickens:

http://www.livingitrural.com

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6.16.03 obligation

Wedding invitations just keep pouring in. I'm not sure why, but it seems like all my cousins are getting married this summer. Maybe it is a conspiracy.

Formal events require an appropriate response; my pesky concerns with consumer culture have to be set aside. This weekend, we went to the Bon Marche.

Byron generally feels that a trip to the mall is a form of pure torture, not only on the environmental level (we both tend to sneeze a lot) but also on the cognitive level. The whole family freaks out when subjected to flashing lights and tottering displays of china and silver.

Of course we didn't know any better and went to the store on a sale day and had to batter our way through crowds. Luckily two of the happy couples registered so we could huddle in a corner and read their lists and then just ask for the desired item. But I had to figure out what to get for the people who didn't register, and that was quite a challenge. Can't say what I picked out in the end, but we left the store with the task entirely complete.

Walking out I realized that the candy counter is gone. I stopped, mouth open with shock. Buying Swedish fish was an important part of the shopping ritual of my childhood. How very sad.

Byron was still grumbling about the hideously crowded store when we stopped at a 711 for water. I realized that I had been at this particular strip mall before, during a break from a Society for Disability Studies conference. Could that be right? It was either SDS or something like SDS. My brain went fuzzy like an old television with a broken antenna, and I held up one finger and started to recite all the reasons why the Bon is not simply annoying but also in violation of federal law.

ADA compliance takes up a phenomenal amount of my available memory given that I haven't worked in the field since 1995.

Driving through Renton I started to tell stories about my old colleagues, and realized that I never gave Jendle a wedding present even though I went on her first date. The etiquette deadline has definitely passed on that one.

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6.14.03 addiction

Susie and Pam came to visit (from, respectively, Providence and NYC) last night and we caught up on all the news. Susie is going to finish her PhD after taking a break, but move from literature and culture studies to historical analysis of OSHA. Very nifty; made my heart beat a little faster. Pam is still working in union organizing but has been offered a spot in a PhD program.

It is good to have friends who share a deep and abiding addiction to matters of public interest.

We talked for a long time about how no matter where we go, whether it is strolling down the block, going to a bar in Brooklyn, or getting arrested in a war protest, we are always surrounded by people who went to school in Olympia. They told me that one of their friends came to my housewarming party; I couldn't verify this fact since I didn't know most of the people at that event.

Conversation touched briefly on a mutual friend who dropped all of us abruptly years ago. Everywhere I go, someone asks have you heard from K? and the answer is always no. But I think that she'll know us again eventually. There are too many of us to keep track of and avoid.

Susie and Pam were surprised to find that we live in a proper grown-up house. It is true, we have turned our backs on the squalor of youth. There are no punk posters anywhere to be seen (though this is mainly because they were destroyed in the move). Someone else made this house a home, and we are trying to be adequate caretakers.

This morning we are moving the records downstairs. I think we are going to turn the teen lair into an old-school rec room. It already has a plastic grape chandelier and industrial bingo machine, so we might as well throw dance parties.

Here is a really interesting site with links to good stuff including a discussion of:

Lustron Homes

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6.13.03 revisions

I need to cut the Speak Out story (topic: violence) down by half - from 7,000 words to 3,500 or less. But what to cut? Even if I lop off the happy ending the piece is too long. Plus all the separate bits fit together too well to pluck one out without mangling the whole theme.

Sigh.

Finally updated my alumni information. The grad program apparently dropped the one thing that made the whole thing fun - the thesis. What is graduate school without a thesis? Just a series of seminars.

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6.12.03 crash

This morning I realized I was out of not only milk for my coffee, but also coffee, so I had to venture out. Couldn't find parking near the good coffee shop, and since I wanted cherries from a store on yonder hill I pushed forward to find another cafe.

Sitting outside, sipping my hot beverage, I was admiring the gloomy gray day and thinking about the ethical implications of literary nonfiction when a huge gust of wind swept through, lifted up the heavy wood and canvas sun umbrella, and brought it crashing down within an inch of my face.

It happened so fast even my twitchy central nervous system couldn't respond, and I just sat there in shock. A nice fellow came rushing to help me and I whispered thank you, I'm fine and then dashed away.

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6.12.03 ten

One of my undergrad friends wrote to invite me to her tenth anniversary.

This means two things - one, I'm really old now. Two, it has been exactly ten years since Byron was my roommate and I evicted him.

Ah, memories.

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6.11.03 definitions

Eliminating archaic and obsolete usages, here are a few definitions:

Liberal

1. a) Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry. b) Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded. c) Of, relating to, or characteristic of liberalism.

2. a) Tending to give freely; generous: a liberal benefactor. b) Generous in amount; ample: a liberal serving of potatoes.

3. Not strict or literal; loose or approximate: a liberal translation.

4. Of, relating to, or based on the traditional arts and sciences of a college or university curriculum: a liberal education.

Conservative

1. Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.

2. Traditional or restrained in style: a conservative dark suit.

3. Moderate; cautious: a conservative estimate.

4. a) Of or relating to the political philosophy of conservatism. b) Belonging to a conservative party, group, or movement.

5. Tending to conserve; preservative: the conservative use of natural resources.

Okay, fair enough, but if you look around -- which would you say your political representatives (and media barons) are, completely separate from known party affiliation?

The truth is that an alarming number are neither liberal nor conservative but instead a variation with the prefix neo attached, which makes them:

Radical

1. Arising from or going to a root or source; basic: proposed a radical solution to the problem.

2. Departing markedly from the usual or customary; extreme: radical opinions on education.

3. Favoring or effecting fundamental or revolutionary changes in current practices, conditions, or institutions: radical political views.

Which is of course fine and dandy. I'm a radical too - a radical pacifist, first and foremost, and not afraid to admit it in mixed company.

The thing I value higher than any specific political idea is honesty. I can canoodle all the livelong day with true conservatives and all sorts of liberals. I've even been known to kiss a few Republicans in my time. But let us be clear. The policy initiatives of the Bush administration are not conservative in the classic sense, and we need to snatch back the word before it is mangled any further.

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6.11.03 recalcitrance

One of the many things I love about Byron is that he shares my fundamental recalcitrance about going to the doctor. Neither of us go to the various specialists who are in charge of our illnesses, not even when we run out of the medication we have to take. We prefer to remain in a state of crisis, using emergency extensions until the pharmacist cuts us off cold. Two years ago he was on his way to a European junket with the Swedes and needed an inhaler desperately, and just happened to talk about it at full volume during a pre-school picnic. One of the many doctors in the group finally relented and wrote the prescription. Which he has been using ever since. But it totally ran out and poor Byron had to go to the doctor.

He came home with a new note: Byron must have relaxation twice/day.

Ha.

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6.11.03 sanctuary

I haven't been to Colorado in two years - crazy. I used to go for a month every summer. I really miss the mountains, and my in-laws, and the Cooper Street clan. Plus the new Dolly Ranchers tour schedule is very tempting. Looks like some of the dates will be close to One Railroad Circus performances. I could fly to Denver, drive to Santa Fe to see the band and circus friends, and go to Chimayo again.

That would be lovely. Except of course I'm flat broke at the moment. But maybe that will be rectified in the next day or so.... I certainly hope so since I don't even have enough spare change to go to the laundromat. We don't have a pair of clean socks between the four of us.

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6.11.03 glossy

There are few things as pleasant as spending a morning reading glossy pop culture magazines (and no, I don't feel defensive about this habit). Today I picked up two pieces of trivia:

John Cougar Mellencamp was born with spina bifida.

Morrissey was a long-distance runner in high school.

I'm surrounded by an army of green plastic soldiers, toys that have never been allowed in the house but snuck in under the banner of teenage irony. I've been playing Fugazi for days on end and Byron points out that I currently like all the tunes he liked in high school, and no music he likes now.

He wonders if I'll revert to junior high next. Quite possibly, yes.

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6.9.03 summer

Summer is my least favorite season. I hate the sun; bright light makes me sneeze. I break out in a rash if I'm outside too long, and because of that pesky skin cancer thing I have to stay covered up. Everyone else toodles around in shorts and tank tops but I am in long sleeves and long skirts and black tights. I've been living dangerously this year -- I simply will not wear gloves.

The only major benefit of the season is the fact that cherries are in season for a few days. I love fresh cherries.

The birthday party went spectacularly well. The kids raced around Kubota Gardens in their costumes and managed not to fall off the waterfall. Anne hung out for awhile and we gossiped about small press luminaries and after she left I lurked in the shrubbery to hide from the sun. I was outside for five hours, easily a record for me on a sunny day, and the temperature was above ninety by the time I packed up teenagers and headed home.

There wasn't any time to languish before Stella and Al showed up to escort us to a going away party. Rich and Emily are moving to Astoria and Rich pointed out that they will be there in time for the Goonies twentieth anniversary. I wandered around their house admiring the view of the I90 bridge and talking to people. Al told me all about some communication training he had just done and our conversation rolled around to the whole question of violence. He looked surprised when I proposed the theory that human nature is inherently malevolent and that sometimes people kill each other just because they want to.

On Sunday we wrangled teenagers for hours, hung out with the neighbors for awhile, walked on the beach at Fauntleroy, and then took the ferry to pick up the boy. It was a boat I haven't been on recently, and there were historical society photographs hanging above the tables. I nearly cried when I saw the picture of the Booth Drug lunch counter; my grandmother used to take me to lunch in Bremerton before the downtown died, and I do miss swiveling on the vinyl stools. Rounding the corner, I was astonished to see a picture from 1943, a row of girls in swimming outfits celebrating the naming of a new warship, including my very own grandmother.

I tried to go out on deck to enjoy the sunset but my skirt kept blowing up around my ears.

This is what I want to know: whatever happened to horseshoes? Nobody plays these days. Also, do you remember culottes? None of my stylish friends have revived that phenomenon, and I sincerely hope it does not occur to them.

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6.9.03 spam

I know the fellows who invented email spam -- or to be more fair, the boys who wrote some of the first scripts that created the phenomenon that is now known as spam. I'm not going to out them. I hope that they are not being cosmically punished for their deeds because they are nice boys and didn't know that their actions would make so many people suffer.

This is my daily reality - seven hundred or more messages to sift through, ninety percent of it junk mail. I can't rely on filters or the assassin programs because lots of submissions wouldn't make it through the net. Especially with the new book coming together, I have to scrutinize everything that comes in... and my eyes are rolling back in my head before I've been at the computer more than an hour.

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6.9.03 eugenics

This is all happening too fast for me to comprehend, and I've been thinking about the ethics of genetic testing for twenty years:

Scientists in Chicago, Illinois, have announced the birth of a baby who underwent genetic testing as an embryo to screen for a disease that might not show up until adulthood, if at all.

More

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6.8.03 heck

My favorite song is still Honey though I can't decide if I like the Jim Nabors or Bobby Goldsboro version better.

It is time again for What the Heck Fest, in tandem with Shipwreck Days. This festival is easily the best one I've gone to in the last ten years (certainly more fun that those I've put on myself), and I encourage everyone who can make it to buy the full pass:

Knw-yr-own

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6.8.03 cake

My daughter had her birthday party this weekend, because everyone will be away on holiday when the actual day rolls around in July. The party was a two day extravaganza of a sleepover and a costumed picnic.

On Friday night, while we slept, someone broke into the house and stole the cake.

This will eventually be an amusing anecdote, but I'm not laughing yet. It isn't as bad as the time my manuscript was stolen; but it is extremely creepy no matter how you look at it.

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6.7.03 work

In the last few weeks I've made friends with two new people - and figured out after the fact that both have books coming out from Soft Skull.

Last week, a friend of mine from Colorado wrote to say that he is doing a new book -- with Soft Skull.

KTS wrote to say that his roommate is doing an internship -- at Soft Skull.

This morning Johnny Thief (the tattooist and punk poster boy wonder who illustrated Breeder) wrote to say that he once tattooed the Soft Skull logo on a Soft Skull founder.

These facts have been gleaned without effort; if I actually talked about my work I would probably pick up new examples of strange coincidences. Last night we went to a barbecue and the husband of the Seal Press editor asked me what is new and I said oh, nothing much.... and wandered off to listen to Himsa gossip.

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6.6.03 tubes

Uh-oh - My horoscope contains the Kafka quote History is made out of the failures and heroism of each insignificant moment.

Okay, got it, message received.

I'm pretty excited about the Bumbershoot workshops; even though as an adult I've steadfastly avoided the festival and have a political aversion to certain corporate sponsors, I remember going as a young teenager and seeing shows that literally changed my life. I'm a skeptic, not a cynic, and I'm honored to be part of something that helped me visualize a life outside of my hometown.

News from Denver: father-in-law had feeding tubes removed and can eat now!

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6.6.03 racing

Today is my parents thirty-third wedding anniversary.

They were teenagers when they met at a destruction derby. She didn't believe that Lavender was his last name, and I doubt he could pronounce her first name.

But my father had a cool car and my mother was a cool girl. When I think of them as teenagers, I picture the first Grease movie -- my mother would have been Rizzo and my father would have been one of the other guys, one who worked on the cars and didn't have a speaking part. That movie cuts out after the senior jamboree, but real life continues.

The weekend after my parents graduated from high school they got married at the wrecking yard. Then I showed up, the changeling, the creepy baby reciting poetry, the toddler with crazy eyes, the girl who had cancer.

Those two innocent teenagers racing cars on country backroads probably thought that life would be fun and easy, or at least normal. I have no idea how they managed to raise me and pay the medical bills and stay together all this long while. Lots of people would have cut and run. But my father sold his cars and worked endless hours pumping gas. My mother worked her way up from a hotel maid to an office job so we could have health insurance and a home.

They are not sentimental people, and they don't lament what was lost or never achieved. I doubt they will celebrate their anniversary. But I think their story is important. My parents faced extraordinary challenges and beat the odds. They're still together.

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6.5.03 toys

In my efforts to retrieve the favorite toys of my childhood, I've set myself on a course of trauma and disapointment... cause I really want all the old Fisher Price toys.

I watch the ebay auctions and some of the things my mother cavalierly handed off to cousins or threw away are selling for huge sums of money. Even when I have enough money to buy, I can't bring myself to engage in consumer culture at that level. Fifty dollars for a half-broken bit of nostalgia is beyond me.

Last night we went to Goodwill to buy costumes and my son pointed to something sitting on a broken table in the middle of the furniture section and said is that something you would let me buy?

It was a Fisher Price ferris wheel - complete with small testy carny pumping the crank - priced at fifty cents.

I swooned. Now I have the carousel, the ferris wheel, several houses and schools, and a vast assortment of cars, planes, people, and circus animals...

I even let the children play with them.

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6.5.03 fragments

My daughter was trying to teach me how to use this infernal computer. She stood next to me, one hand on my shoulder and the other wrangling the mouse. She demonstrated various tricks with iTunes and then wandered off. I didn't notice for a good thirty minutes that she had left The Joker on automatic repeat. Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah, some call me the gangster of love... over and over and over. Now I like Steve Miller as much as the next person. But thirty minutes of that song is a bit much.

I've turned on a really old Butthole Surfers album. Really loud.

Lucky thing the albums are still stacked all over the living room.

It is hard to be a hermit when my social schedule fills so quickly. I have conflicting, overlapping parties to attend all weekend. One of them is a tribute to my lively girl child, which means I should be cleaning the house, but I've retired with the vapors and I'm fiddling with newfangled technology instead.

Of all the things I've lost over the years, this is what I miss the most: my cranky old Linux machine. No software, no crashes, just me and Pine and a telnet client...

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6.4.03 advocate

Everyone should pick up the latest issue of The Advocate. B.D. Wong talks at length about becoming a father (a difficult and sad story with a happy ending).

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6.4.03 transition

Some of my cousins still live on our original family homestead, but it is a wrecking yard now.

Traditions in Transition is a multi-media project that looks at family farmers and ranchers in California, and the rich rural culture based on the rhythms of planting and harvest, grazing and round-up. This traditional way of life is endangered by development pressures, the influence of the so-called "new economy," and an urban and suburban population with little connection to agriculture.

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6.3.03 fluoride

Last night I realized that my son doesn't really brush his teeth properly. He vigorously scrubs away but doesn't do it the way I do -- and I was wondering how that happened. It seemed to me that he should just know by example. But then I remembered: we were taught how to brush our teeth in school. There were film strips about oral hygiene, and frequent lectures on the subject. Not only that, but we were herded into groups and given fluoride treatments.

Standing in a block of thirty kids, crunch crunch crunching the red tablets and swish swish swishing for an entire minute, watching the second hand inch around the clock. Spitting into a white cup and then going back to class, our lips stained pink, the artificial chalky taste lingering for hours.

Dentistry was probably a more significant part of my early childhood than cancer. Or at least, required more appointments and painful procedures. My teeth were rotten, yellow, jagged fangs, the side-effect of poverty and a bad pediatrician who counseled that I should be fed apple juice instead of milk.

By age two I knew not to smile with my mouth open, and by age six my poor parents had paid for a dozen root canals and eight caps. I only pulled out two of my own baby teeth; the rest were extracted. I don't even remember the rest of it, except that frequent x-rays uncovered the cyst that nearly destroyed my jaw.

I became so fixated on my teeth that I nearly scrubbed the gums off and had to be taught how to take care without causing harm. After years of procedures and surgeries that destroyed the cartilage in the joint, I couldn't have braces to fix the crowded front teeth. I only learned to smile with my mouth open after my thirtieth birthday, when I decided that my crooked teeth are nothing to be ashamed of.

But I've never worried about my kids teeth, not once, and they have never had cavities or any other problems. They just putter along through life, and when I start a story with when I was a kid... they groan and roll their eyes.

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6.3.03 game

Byron came home from Colorado. I met him at the airport because I am currently in love with the Pacific Highway and want to enjoy all of the fine old motor hotels before they disapear. My favorite right now is the Daffodil, with a huge neon flower.

When we got home he was surprised to see the state of the yard. Summer is besetting us; we haven't found anyone to mow yet (and I'm still recovering from the kid who mowed for us in Portland stealing my computer). Some of the grass was as tall as my extremely tall son.

Byron literally has a note from a doctor excusing him from yard work. His allergies are so bad, he ends up in the hospital several times a year. But the whole family, relieved by the progress of Papa John in Denver, seemed to fall under a spell of efficiency.... I collated papers for hours, the girl made cut-and-paste invitations for her birthday party, and Byron poked around in the garage and came out with the mower.

I've never known him to mow in ten years, and he almost blew the fuses pushing the electric mower through the thicket, but he put on a mask and wrestled the yard into order. The six-year old negotiated a cash payment and then raked the whole yard as the sun went down.

After he finished raking he said That is okay, I don't need the money, if we can do family game night.

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6.1.03 proliferate

I cleaned out the trunk of the car recently, but objects continue to proliferate. My other cars all leaked (and one had bullet holes); this accumulation of stuff is a whole new problem for me to puzzle out.

This is what I found in the trunk tonight:

-Black wool scarf purchased in Florence
-Metal detector
-Enamel bedpan
-Two apple dolls
-Oil painting by great-grandmother
-Two Hip Mama tote bags
-One winter coat
-Five vintage umbrellas (one with rhinestone handle)
-The gold Doc Martens my daughter wore at age five (eight years ago)
-Yoga mat
-Twelve bottles of seltzer
-Red pail
-Pink hair dye
-Large stack of unopened mail

The most confusing item is the yoga mat. I have no idea where that came from.

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6.1.03 dress

Recently on a trip to Tacoma I found an amazing new dress - a dark polyester print of a sort of meteor shower, with huge roses splattered all over. It has a cowl neck! I'm so pleased. I haven't had a special new dress since we said goodbye to Portland and the bins.... though I had to pay $2.50 for this stunning garment, and at the bins it would have weighed out at maybe thirty cents. But oh well. I still love it.

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