Archive for August, 2012

August 16, 2012: Mexicans, Welcome

          I steadfastly refuse to take responsibility for anyone else’s lack of reading comprehension. No apologies. Learn to read.

          A couple weeks ago I wrote, in this blog, that I hate anti-immigration reform propaganda. I’ve since received a half-dozen emails calling me unsympathetic to the plight of the Mexican, and a racist, and worse.

Huddled masses, be gone no more m’lady.

          Because some of you misunderstood. My message was pretty simple: I am for immigration reform. I think Mexicans—and all other people—should be welcomed into this country, where they might improve their lives. That’s what America still claims to be: a place of opportunity for the “tempest-tost.”

          I’m not proselytizing, merely clarifying. Don’t let me get all Emma Lazarus here.

 Thing I Hate Today: Free verse


August 15, 2012: Takei It Away

Not an asshole.

          I don’t normally re-post things, but there’s a quote I’m sort of in love with that’s been making the rounds lately in social media circles.

          The saying of this lovely thing has been attributed rather widely to the actor George Takei, but I’ve also seen credit given to Morgan Freeman and Alyssa Milano (!). Regardless of who said it, and in the event that you’ve missed this fine sentiment, here it is:

 “I hate the world ‘homophobia’. It’s not a phobia. You are not scared. You’re just an asshole.”


Thing I Hate Today: No time to garden

August 14, 2012: The Waiting (RIP David Rakoff, Part Two)

I never met him, but David Rakoff and I got off to a lousy start.     When I was first signed by the literary agency that’s still waiting for me to finish my current book project, my agent sent me Rakoff’s first book, Fraud, with a short note attached: “Love your manuscript, no changes, but worried that you’re not so sympathetic to readers. Read David Rakoff for example of how to be dark but still sympathetic.”

I phoned my agent. “Why does every character in every book have to be sympathetic?” I snarled. “I’m not going for sympathy here. I’m not sympathetic.”

“Read Rakoff,” came the reply.

I did, and I saw my agent’s point: in essays in which Rakoff griped about hiking a mountain in cheap shoes and his horrific experiences as a 22-year-old cancer patient, he managed to be both curmudgeonly and compassionate at the same time, by tempering his whining with some gentle (but still snooty) insights into the human condition.

Read Rakoff.

David Rakoff: “The Waiting”:–2

Thing I Hate Today: Sitting in the urologist’s waiting room for an hour

August 13, 2012: Handsome Pretty Handsome

Some days, you just have to give in and embrace the joys of the Internet:

Thing I Hate Today: There’s no such thing as fat-free anything that tastes good

August 12, 2012: If You Believe in Miracles

            This afternoon, at my parents’, I was making lunch and trying to think of something I could pinch off another blog post about when the doorbell rang. I opened the door to find two elderly women, both clutching bibles, standing on the front porch.

            “Oh, dear, did we wake you up?” the Caucasian granny asked. It was almost noon.

“No,” I replied. “I always look rumpled and sleepworn. Can I help you?”

“Well,” she said, “Bertha and I are visiting our neighbors today to ask if they believe in miracles.”

“I don’t,” I said, “But my husband does.”

Bertha leapt in. “Well, if you have a few minutes, we’d like to speak to you about the good word of the Lord.”

“I’d like nothing more,” I lied. “But I’m putting lunch on the table and my father gets grouchy if his soup goes cold.”

“Oh, what a blessing,” the white woman said. “How old is your father?”

“He’s 90.”

“Well!” Bertha exclaimed. “The Lord has kept your dad going a good long time! Praise Him!”

“Yes,” I said, “It is definitely Christ who has been keeping my parents going. And now, if you’ll excuse me, today is The Lamb of God’s day off, and my Cream of Celery is burning.”

Your humble servant.

Thing I Hate Today: Those Styrofoam soda-can-cover things

August 11, 2012: Gay Gay Gay

Another entry from my teenaged journal:

May 11, 1977

Dear Agnes,

I can’t believe it. Joan Crawford is dead.

I was walking out of Typing this morning and Missy came up to me and said, “Did you hear about Joan Crawford?”

I thought Miss was going to be a total bitch about it, maybe make some snotty comment about Joan being old or that her death doesn’t matter because she wasn’t a member of Kiss, but she was actually kind of sweet about it. She offered to walk me to my next class, but I told her I was just going to go home.

When I got here I lit a candle and read the first three chapters of My Way of Life, which is Joan’s book about how to live graciously. Mom played “Autumn Leaves,” from the Joan movie of the same name, on the piano for me. She didn’t even complain about me coming home in the middle of the day when I told her why I was here.

I feel bad for Joan’s kids, Christina and Christopher. But Bette Davis must be screaming with joy today.

A bib necklace and a half-dozen wiglets. Now, that’s class.

Thing I Hate Today: Anti-Immigration Reform propaganda

Friday, August 10: Perspective on a Whiner (RIP David Rakoff, Part One)

David Rakoff: Au revoir.

It is Friday morning. I have a toothache. My laptop is behaving oddly. I am on deadline with an essay I don’t feel like writing. The morning news claims temperatures will reach 115 degrees today, and I have errands to run.

I am sitting in my dining room, feeling sorry for myself, when I receive an email from my friend Nathan, who’s writing to tell me that the writer David Rakoff has died. He was 47, and had battled cancer, off and on, for more than half his life.

I want to cling to the perspective that this dreadful news brings. So it’s hot outside today, I tell myself. At least you’re not dead. Nothing. I try this one: Lots of people get toothaches—and you’ve not had one before. That doesn’t work, either. I go for the big guns: And so you haven’t finished the manuscript your agent is waiting to see. Yet you’ve never had cancer.

That one works, but just then I drop my pen and it rolls across the floor and out of my reach, and I have to get up and walk all the way around the table to pick it up, which ruins my entire day, all over again.

I decide to think about David Rakoff. I have read all three of his books, collections of the delightfully dark essays he published in esteemed journals these past several years. I didn’t take to Rakoff’s darkly complex stories about himself at first—usually a good sign with me, because if writing is too facile, I get bored with it. But the more I think about David Rakoff, the worse I feel—for him, because he’s dead, and for myself, because I won’t get to read any more of his essays. And because I’m the sort of person whose day is ruined by having dropped my pen on the floor, a feeling I’m just barely wise enough to be ashamed of.

I write back to Nathan. I tell him about how horrible I am because a writer I admired is dead and I’m feeling sorry for myself because I’ve just discovered a tear in the sleeve of my dressing gown.

And Nathan writes back, “You sound like David Rakoff! Don’t be ashamed. He wouldn’t want you to be. He’d want you be funny and cynical and write something good.”

I’ll try, Nathan.

Thing I Hate Today: Death

August 9, 2012: Cutting Remarks


Do people use cookie cutters anymore? I have a big round box of them in my kitchen cupboard, but I never use the fucking things. I like to bake, but I don’t know that I’ve ever read a cookie recipe that included the direction, “Using a star-shaped cookie cutter…”

Every couple of months, I think about pitching the whole lot—the bell-shaped one; the giant heart-shaped one; the goofy Santa one that punches out pancreas-shaped cookies, or that would if I ever used it. But I never do. Because I know that a few days after binning the whole mess, some recipe I’m attempting will call for “a 3-inch flower-shaped cookie cutter.”

 Thing I Hate Today: Donald Duck

August 8, 2012: The Return of Knitty Knittenburg

          My spouse has knitted us a sweater. It’s gorgeous. Also it weighs 47 pounds and is made of $293 worth of wool.

          I can’t wait for winter.

 Thing I Hate Today: The word “blitz”

August 7, 2012: You Must Be This Sick to Ride This Ride

Sometimes, Mom likes to flip through my husband’s iPod. Fourteen demerits!

          My mother flunked another ALTCS exam.

          The Arizona Long-Term Care System (ALTCS) is the state’s version of Medicaid. ALTCS offers minimal financial support to people who don’t want to shove their old people into a nursing home. Every six months or so, I prevail upon them to give my parents another go. ALTCS’s answer is always the same: my parents have “too much money” and aren’t sick enough to be given any real assistance from them.

          The deal with ALTCS is that, once you’ve gone broke by “spending down” your life savings, you qualify for up to 20 hours a week of in-home care. Twenty hours. A week. And that’s only if you’re what they call “full-care,” which means you can’t walk or feed yourself or stand unassisted. People who are screwed up enough to qualify at all, but aren’t “full care,” can usually count on about 12 hours a week of paid in-home care. And any other services you may have been receiving from other government aide programs is automatically canceled once you go on ALTCS.

          In order to score even this paltry amount of “help,” an old lady with Alzheimer’s, like my mother, has to score 60 points or higher in an ALTCS assessment. Mom’s newest score is a 58.

          “But she’s incontinent!” I reminded Steve, the nice man from ALTCS who came to the house recently to interview my parents and find out if they’re infirm enough to get some paid help. “She wears disposable briefs and thinks Lyndon Johnson is doing a fine job in the White House!”

          “Yes,” he replied. “But she changes her briefs on her own, and she dresses herself and feeds herself and when I arrived she was playing Solitaire. That’s negative five points right there, just for the card game.”

          “She has dementia!” I countered, hoping for a couple extra points just for being adamant. “She had colon cancer a couple years ago! She can’t tell the difference between her underarm deodorant and an Airwick solid!”

          “Your father mentioned that he has a big family,” Steve said, hopefully. “Maybe you could get them to pitch in and help!”

          I stared at him for a really long time, but his head just refused to explode.

          “Look,” Steve finally said with a friendly smile, “it doesn’t really matter anyway, because at this point your parents still have too much money in the bank to qualify for services, even if they were more incapacitated.”

          “But if I spend all their money in order to get the teeny bit of help you provide, I won’t have any money to pay for help the rest of the time,” I reminded him—just as I’d done the last time he was here. “You realize I’ve been taking care of these people for five years, and as they get older and sicker, I’m going to need more help. Right? How am I going to pay for that? The extended care policy pays for one hour per day of in-home care—and that’s after we’ve paid for 90 consecutive days of full-time care!”

          “Well,” Steve said, as he stood to leave, “and now you know why so many old people end up in nursing homes.”

 Thing I Hate Today: Red tape