01 December 2006

A Very Important Holiday Message from My Friends the Bummers

I love Al and Scooter.

Hi girls.

So before I talk about my evening, or even my day, allow me a holiday vent.

I hate that song by Band Aid, "Do They Know It's Christmas". Positively loathe it. Hate the synthesizers, hate the whole thing. But what part do I hate most? Well, the Do They Know It's Christmas part, actually. There won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time/there won't be gifts or ribbons/ Do they know it's Christmas time at all?


Seriously, can't even tell you how mad this song makes me. I know that's a little over the top, but it really irritates me. No, much of Africa and other "underpriveliged" parts of the world do not know it is Christmas, because they do not practice Christianity and thus they do not care and wouldn't practice even if they knew it was Christmas.
Love, Allison
PS, Of course there won't be snow in Africa. It's the subsaharan tropics. Get with it.

23 November 2006

How Not to Be Seen

See, now, in my opinion, this is just bad marketing.
From the home page of White Pine Press:
A note to our readers:
From the classic writers if Asia to contemporary voices from around the world, White Pine Press is your passport to a World of Voices. We publish literature which explores the world of ideas and cultures. The cultures that make up the Amercan mosaic and celebrate the diversity of the world. You can travel to these places without leaving home, no driving, and no crowded airports with security checks. We invite you to become an ambassador to our World of Voices. You can support us by purchasing our books at your local embassy (bookstore) or from us; joining our email list to receive our monthly newletter featuring new titles and special discounts; by purchasing our signature edition items; or by becoming a friend of the press.
Dennis Maloney

And I'll leave it at that.

27 October 2006

Why My Job Is Impossible

This is in the foyer as you enter the North Hudson Center, where I teach Basic English II and III. It was like this for approximately three weeks before somebody else noticed and fixed it.

And they wonder why they have to over-register my classes every single semester.

13 October 2006


Yesterday I had the dubious pleasure of meeting the hairiest, most enormous spider in the galaxy.

There I was in the kitchen, eating a ham sandwich (shades of Mama Cass) before heading out to teach my evening class. Not really paying much attention to anything. I'm not sure where it came from (the ceiling? one of my houseplants? the moon?) but I heard something hit the floor.

That's right, heard it hit the floor. Jonas, who has a habit of sitting near my feet when ham sandwiches are involved, took a few steps.


I looked over, expecting....I don't know. A large cat toy. A mouse. A bird. One of the other cats. T-rex. Something of substance that would freak poor Jonas out if it hit the floor and made that much noise.

And there. It. Was.

It was the size of a quarter. A big, black, hairy quarter with legs. A fast quarter. I am told that I made the girliest sound anyone's ever heard out of me before asking calmly for someone with bigger feet to come step on it, but I'm rather proud because I did not actually jump up onto the chair and go full Homer-Simpson-scream, complete with wagging tongue.

I'm usually in charge of killing spiders in my household, by default. We had a deal: I don't get near multi-pedes, and he doesn't do spiders. Hey, marriage is a compromise, right? Let me tell you. If this had been our house, I would have signed a peace treaty with the sucker and given him sovereign domain over his half of the kitchen. But I'm at my folks', so I did what any self-reliant woman would do in my situation: I hollered for my daddy.

Now, frequently I will talk to bugs while I am escorting them out of the house so they don't become a cat-snack, and when outside I respect that I am a guest in the bugs' house and act accordingly.

But if something has eight legs and its own zip code, all bets are off.

08 October 2006

Life in the EZ-Pass Lane

I am developing an ever-deepening relationship with my Honda Civic Hybrid. As the weeks pass, we spend more and more time together. Some of my friends are starting to talk. It's pretty intense, this renewed closeness. We haven't spent this much time together in almost a year, when I used to drive down the Taconic every weekday morning. But then, we were always on the go, back and forth and up and down over the hills, to work and back, running errands, visiting family. Now it's different. Sometimes we just sit, quietly, and watch the sun rise over the blocked-off express lanes of Route 78. Other mornings we sing together while I sip my coffee, waiting my turn in the Turnpike traffic. Everything matters more these mornings, even our destination.

In the afternoons it's off to the library, or--on Thursdays--a trip to the Pineys, to a sweet little idyll where the students are fresh-faced and witty and speak a language I understand. Sometimes the afternoons fill me with dread, but once my car and I set off, it disappears and we're together again, just the two of us and occasionally the Indigo Girls or Rory Block.

And then there are the evening drives home. These are more carefree, with the windows rolled down and the songs pouring out onto the highway as I contemplate whether I will grade papers before my bath, or just dive headlong into my pillow for a few brief hours of unconsciousness before I rejoin my true blue companion. It is nights like this I understand what it is like to be a dog, with my head out the window in the night air, my ears flopping in the breeze, trying to stay awake and stay between the lines but at the same time giddy with a sense of refound freedom: tomorrow I can sleep in until 6.

06 August 2006

Lucky Eddie

I was the only kid in the church who wasn't scared to death of him, his gravelly voice and his slow, stern way of pronouncing things. Everyone's horror was 6th grade CCD, because Father Nester taught it. There could be no goofing off.

Because my parents loved him so, and because my dad decided while Father Nester was our pastor that he was giong to study to be a deacon, we had a really strange, close relationship with him. On rare occasions that we went out to dinner and he didn't wear his collar (this is a guy who ALWAYS wore a black suit jacket with his collar and shirt, and hardly ever even wore a short sleeved black shirt. He was seriously Old School.) the waiters always thought he was a great uncle or a grandfather. Essentially, that's what he became.

He was at the wedding, and Robin took several wonderful shots of him (I'll check and see if I have any on the computer, because they're truly great). This is the guy my husband and I stopped by in the limo to bring to the wedding reception on our way from the church--the one I ran up the stairs to meet. He's been in the nursing home (fortunately they have a priest wing) for the past couple of months, because he's getting goofy....the medical term is dementia, but apparently the legal term for people who run or inspect nursing homes is "goofy."

Last night at 1:30 we got a phone call from the nursing home--my dad is his legal power of attorney, since he's outlived most of his family except a few nephews in St. Louis and California--saying he'd fallen, and they were taking him to the hospital. And that was all they could tell us. 4:30, when we'd finally all just gotten back to sleep, the doctor called from the hospital and told us he'd hit his head, and my dad gave him some permissions for procedures (can we do an MRI? can we give him oxygen? what if we need to do surgery? does he have a living will, what are his resuscitation wishes, etc etc....all covering their bases.) He hadn't broken his hip again, but he'd whacked his head pretty hard. Again, that's all we knew. So we went back to bed.

My dad just got back from the hospital. He is alive, but prognosis is not good.

He's got a pretty large subdural hematoma on the right side.....and a couple of other little bleeders. They don't know whether it resulted from the fall, or caused the fall. It's hard to tell. They decided not to operate, because they're not sure if they can stop the bleeding, and even if they could it wouldn't make him any better. He's conscious, but sleeping (quite possibly related to having been up in the middle of the night, and who knows how conscious he was through everything.) They have him on oxygen, and they're going to move him from ICU tomorrow, and wait and see. Watch and pray.

He was talking to my dad last week about how he doesn't like where he's staying, and he wants to "sneak away quietly, like a pussycat," to live somewhere. I only hope that's what he's doing now, and that he's going home. This man has a faith that has been sorely tested. He entered the priesthood relatively late, in his thirties. Before that, he was married, and lost his wife. He was an alcoholic for a number of years, but has been in recovery for longer than I've been alive (which explains the constant cups of coffee). He's the only father my mom has known since her own father died when she was five, and the best father figure my dad has had, even though his father lived until 1996. He's my second grandfather. But if there was ever any doubt in this man's mind or in his heart that there was a God, and he was a loving and gracious God, and that this God had a son who could make everything all right, he never showed it to anyone. Even his dying is a lesson he's teaching with slow, patient dignity and a quiet sense of humour. I can guarantee you that the first thing he's going to ask if he wakes up is, "Will someone take me outside so I can have a butt?"

I'll miss him when he goes. Chesterfields and all.

26 July 2006


I loves me some Mikey. We spent many long hours together in his hospital room throwing butter pats on the ceiling, skate-boarding on his IV pole, and sticking oranges when he found out he was diabetic in high school. That's how they teach you to use syringes--they give you a bag of syringes and an orange. Good times. They took them away when we started playing darts with them. (In return, Mike showed up on my hospital doorstep with a pint of my favourite Ben & Jerry's, his beloved Tigger slippers, and hours and hours of taped X-Files episodes when I had cancer. He let me keep the Tigger slippers, which made me cry. He graduated high school wearing those things. They were legend.)

I also recall one demented evening right after high school graduation when I went back into Mike's room to get something I'd forgotten, after starting the car and taking off my shoes (I drove barefoot in high school. Actually, in high school I did most things barefoot), and I didn't bother to turn the light on because I knew where whatever it was, was......and I knocked over his sharps bucket.

So there's me, whining at the top of my lungs, "Miiiiiikeeeeeeeey! I just dumped a big bucket of syringes on the floor and I can't reach the light switch!!!!!!" and then standing perfectly still in the middle of the room until he heard me and came inside. Where he proceeded to turn the light on and stand in the doorway and laugh his ass off at me.

Mike is also the friend whose father once went to Chincoteague Island in his red VW bus and came back with an auctioned wild pony where the seats had been. True story. We have pictures.

24 July 2006

Runs With Carrots

Yesterday I was accused yet again of being a veritable font of useless information. This, when Mom and I spontaneously broke into "The Battle of New Orleans" at the dinner table.

The reason for this is that just as we sat down to the second course, Rocky from next door got out and was seen bolting past our house. Sadly, Rocky is not a poodle, or even a boxer, or for that matter a boxer whose last name is, in fact, Marciano. Rocky is a horse. A miniature horse, to be sure, but still nearly as tall as I and weighing a shitload more, as horses do. So, being me, I immediately kicked into mom's moccasins and ran to the fridge to get a bag of carrots and went to head him off at the pass, as Hedley Lamarr says.

The pass turned out to be the railroad tracks.

Actually, he was being a good little horsey and after his head-up, look-at-me, I'm-running, ha-ha, I'm-free-you-fuckers! was heading as fast as his little hooves could carry him back to Marciano's barn. Sadly, no one told him there were two layers of fence preventing that. So I cornered him down the embankment along the first layer of fence, where he looked like he was about to roll his eyes and charge at me, being of course the big bad stallion that he is (not), whereupon he promptly got a look on his face that said, "You have come equipped with those orange crunchy things!" And walked over to me calm as you please and stuck his horsey little head into the pocket of my shorts, where the bag was. So I grabbed his halter and walked him up and down and up and down and up and down, because there was no way he was standing for any of this holding still business, while the idiot stable hand who'd let him escape in the first place went to go get a lead. He also came back with Barbara, who looked at me and calmly said, "Oh good, finders keepers." Um, no. No thank you, Barbara. Really. But very funny.

So while they were discussing how best to get him back to Point A, Rocky and I looked at each other and said, "Really. Well, we got down here," and I held a carrot back behind me with one hand and the lead with the other (because I had tried this with no lead and the only thing that happened is Rocky stepped on the back of mom's shoe and I thought, "This could get ugly,") and the two of us tromped right on up the embankment and onto the railroad tracks, and then had a lovely stroll home again. I was sorely tempted to bring him to the back porch and say, "Mom, Barbara said I could keep him!" but then realised that Mom was in control of both my wine glass and my legal domicile at the moment.

How does this relate, you ask, to "The Battle of New Orleans"? Because mom asked where I went when I followed Rocky and how did I get him out. And after pointing out "the same way we got in there" we both said, "I ran through the briers and I ran through the brambles......." etc.

Dad was about to hide under the table.

The postscript to this is that after my run this morning (not chasing anything, thank you very much) when I went past the barn, Rocky stuck his head out of his stall and tried to stick his head down my running shorts, thinking I might have more of those orange crunchy things.

Ever been frisked by a horse, even a very short one?

08 July 2006


Every time I cut mangoes, I think of Samira's father. Ramesh was a round little Indian man, stereotypical in a lot of ways, jolly but also very soft-spoken, and he spoke quickly and decisively, always sure of his opinions. A few years ago he had a stroke the week of his son's wedding that put him in an irreversible coma. (Next week is the anniversary of his death, which gratefully came before the family had to make any decisions about withdrawing life support and feeding)

It was Ramesh who fed me my first mango. It was a little underripe, and so was tart and green and had that strange tingly flavour that green mangoes have. When I demurred at being served the second half of my mango, he castigated me mockingly, "You don't like mangoes? Shame on you! What kind of Indian woman would you be?" This, of course, made us snort with laughter, since we had to constantly remind Ramesh that the reason his wife and I are so pale is because we're both white.

A few months later, Samira and I were visiting her grandmother in North Jersey. Mangoes were in full season now, and we brought some with us. Ramesh had introduced Carolyn to mangoes, too, when he first married her daughter. We brought a plate of the fruit into the living room to snack on with our iced tea, and after a while we noticed Carolyn hadn't had any. We asked her if it was still too green for her, and she got a piously outraged look on her face. "It's not how Ramesh cuts them!" Of course, when we got home we were instructed on Ramesh's Official Particular Way to Cut a Mango So that Carolyn Will Eat It.

I brought mangoes to the funeral home instead of flowers. I knew Samira and her mom would know why, even though I felt stupid piling the three fruits onto a table filled with huge arrangements of lilies. Sure enough, when Carolyn was wheeled into the viewing area, she clucked her tongue at my handiwork. "That's not the way Ramesh would have done it," she said softly, moving the mangoes into the casket with him for cremation.

28 June 2006

Look! Green Box!

Once upon a time, a very very long time ago, in a land far far away called "Putnamistan," I was recently engaged and feeling particularly homesick for bulk ginger snap granola from my local non-co-op co-op as I wandered the aisles of the local Stop & Shop. This was before I discovered that the Mrs. Green's that was such a pain in the ass to get too off Route 9A had a (larger) sister store by the Mega K-Mart in Carmel.

Anyway, there I was perusing the natural foods section, which is actually quite substantial for not being a Wegman's. Soy milk, check, Van's vegan wheat-free waffles, check, bizarre flavours of goat's milk yoghurt I wouldn't be caught dead eating, check. Expensive dog food, check. Whole grain bread at an unholy price from The Baker, who goes to my dad's church and sometimes gives him day-old muffins and rolls for free, check.

And then there was the cereal aisle. I beheld with wonder the 26 different flavours of Kashi, and the Barbara's Puffins with peanut butter flavour or the cinnamon flavour or the gorilla flavour, and the boxes and boxes of flax flakes. And there it was. Nestled all by itself, up on the top row next to the Peace Cereal brand Vanilla Almond Crisp, was a shining green box. Of Ginger Snap Granola. Six of them, in fact.

Astonishing. I climbed to the top shelf after a few unsuccessful jump-tries and got myself some of this organic goodness (with HEMP!, according to the box). In retrospect, I should have gotten all six. Because when I went back the next week for more, it was gone. Never. To. Be. Seen. Again. Anywhere. Not at Stop & Shop. Not at Mrs. Green's in Mahopac, Carmel, Briarcliff, or Mt. Kisco, because I checked them all. I even looked in the crummy neighbourhood A&P, which of course never has anything, and charges a fortune for the privilege.

I decided sadly I must have been imagining things, and that I'd had a week of imaginary bliss with that tangy ginger zip, probably related to the euphoria of the nearly-married. I'd have to have Mel send some up from Whole Earth if she ever got there.

This morning, on the advice of my sister (the reference librarian, which is a clinical term for "chronic web-surfer who gets paid for getting dressed and going to an office to do what I do all day in my bathrobe") I looked on their website.

And behold, fellow seekers!

I'm so glad I wasn't hallucinating. Because I hate when I do that.

21 June 2006

Groundhog Day

Have I mentioned recently the utter destruction that some cute little nibbling bunnies wrought onto my gorgeous Romaine lettuce???? Off with their heads!

Actually the bunnies aren't the problem anywhere except the garden. It's the groundhogs. My dad was cussing at them again last night. Actually so was I. There we were, on the front porch drinking white wine before dinner, watching the little fuckers waddle across the yard, and I was yelling, "Yeah, that's right, you better run! Yeah, you! Don't look at me with those beady little eyes, I'm married to a man with a wall full of shotguns, and he looooves to eat groundhog! He'd be more than happy to come down here and blast your head off with his .22, you furry varmint!"

Which I know I've mentioned to my dad before in just such reference, but last night he looked at me quizzically (or maybe it was drunkenly) and said, "He is? I mean, he does?"

My educated response came via Bill Murray in Caddyshack: I cocked my finger at the groundhog in question and fired. "Au revoir, gophere."

My dad again: "I don't think we should. I mean, those people," he pointed vaguely with his wineglass in the direction of the horse farm across the street, who also now own the two other houses on this side of the road that share our circular driveway, "are like, animal activists and stuff. You know, they buy lots of horses and put them in little cages all day. Plus they have little yappy dogs." (are you kidding? this is even more of a reason.)

Now my dad knows I'm an animal activist too. "I like little furry creatures," I reminded him. "But I'm also a realist. And when something is eating the goddamned foundation of your outbuildings and tunneling under your front porch, you are entitled to blow its furry little head off. It's the way of country life. When ranchers start losing sheep, they're allowed to shoot wolves, which are a protected species. We're talking about groundhogs. Large furry rodents in paper bags, with bad teeth. Trust me. No one will miss them." As a matter of fact, the very reason we have so many groundhogs this year is that our next-door neighbour finally died at the ripe old age of 94, and isn't around anymore to drive around on her tractor and shoot them with her .22. Or, for that matter, poise outside our front porch tunnel with her shovel and a Hav-a-Hart trap and bonk them over the head when they come outside to investigate the shiny new toy.

Seriously. She did this. We called her "Killer Miller." Granny Get Your Gun.

My dad by this point had stopped drinking and was staring at me in rapt attention. I don't know, maybe it was horror that his granola-crunching hippie daughter was advocating the cruel ending of a life at the same time she was cutting full-page Amnesty International ads out of the NY Times. Or maybe it was pride that I'd finally gotten some sense in my head. (Blame it on marrying into a family of hunters, where "vegetarian" is a euphemism for "bad aim.")

"So, does your husband really have a .22?" He finally asked.

"Of course he does. Don't be silly. And that's probably the best choice for this task. But I really think he'd rather use the 30-30 with the night scope. Or maybe the 1917 Mauser his grandfather brought back from World War II," I mused.

As I got up to email him about this, my dad called after me, "Tell him to bring his biggest stock-pot, too." Then he laughed, the kid from Brooklyn making a hunting joke. He didn't notice the expression on my face, because I was already inside.

Because, you see, in my husband's family, they actually do eat groundhog.

10 March 2006

Indian Style

One of the things I dread most about moving is the vocabulary. I've just recently come to terms with Mahopac and Oscawana and am even trying to make my peace with Shawangunk--and now I'm faced with Tulpehocken and Manatawny, not to mention remembering that Schnecksville is different from Schwenksville. Lord help me.

24 February 2006

It Must Be So Tiring to Be Holier Than Thou.

I found this on abctales.com a while ago, and was incensed enough, I'm pretty sure, to write the author, rip her a new asshole, and direct her to the Stolen Childhoods website in hopes that she would get a clue. Sadly, I doubt it worked, but she is at least no longer active on the board.

Of Stolen Childhoods, and Unfair TV Programmes

By ritawrites
from the ABC set GURUWRITES

I am convinced it is a Judeo/Christian thing. Come the year end, come the time for yuletide, when we will witness how the rich west shamelessly displays its throw-away wealth, you suddenly get flooded with media tearjerkers about the "those poor sods in those dark third-world holes". It almost seems to be a self-flagellation trip. Or maybe it's just a culture-thing that cannot feel happy about feeling happy - where happiness is measured by how much you can spend - without feeling guilty. Anyway, this year, it seems they have gone for the most tear-jerkers of all - those poor children, overworked in sweat shops, child labourers working in stone quarries, living in horrendous conditions - which according to one media sage, Aaron Brown of CNN/Newsnight, displays the shortcomings of a cultural indifference to such a sorry plight for their children. (I don't know how these obviously mediocre no-brainers like A. Brown make it to such positions as they end up holding, but I guess it's the very sliminess they display that puts them there), as if to say that the parents in Asia and Africa don't give a damn about their children and produce them only so that they can send them to work in stone quarries and horrible sweatshops.

Anyway, coming back to the point, this year it's these guys who've made a documentary called 'Stollenchildhoods' that everybody, beginning with dear bleedingheart Aaron Brown, seems to be getting all frothed up about. Oooh, look at those poor eight and nine year old boys in Philipines "tricked" into shrimp farming! Aaaah, look at those girl children carrying all those heavy loads in those stone quarries of India, "collaterals" in the unfeeling country of their birth. And so on and so forth. It's all heartrending stuff, there's no doubt about that. And it's important to highlight children's plight around the world. And watching the programme (Newsnight on CNN) I was waiting for the lugubrious crocodile tears to dry, and for them - experienced news guys - to get to the 'root cause' of the problem. Why such children exist in the world, in the first place. Which they finally did, in a round about way, after they had exhausted lachrymosing themselves hoarse about the "cultural" thing - poverty.

Wow, I thought, now I will get to hear what solutions they have to get rid of this terrible blight in our world - stolen childhoods - as in what the causes of world poverty are, and how the world can deal with eradicating it, so I sat up straight and strained my ears - and I heard NOTHING. Except the age-old thing - aid. As if the UNICEFs of the world are going to eradicate poverty in the world, so that every child is assured that its childhood is not stolen - HAHAHA! And then Aaron Brown and co talked about the need for education. Every child ought to be educated, they said loftily, while wiping each other's tears. And who is going to pay for that, pray? It turns out that it will take 8 billion a year to educate all the deprived children of the world. Where is that money going to come from? Silence! All I got to hear was that the onus was solely on the shoulders of the third world countries themselves. Doesn't the rich first world have a duty towards the rest of the world, which presumably it belongs to? The question didn't even come up!

And what about the real reason of the inequality that exists in the world - the skewed trade and tariff systems that creates more wealth for the wealthy countries and puts poor countries at a disadvantage? Which only ends up in perpetuating the endemic poverty that exists there. Not a word about that.

And then I really sit up straight and look between the tear-jerker images being put out. Who financed these guys, the makers of 'stolenchildhoods' I wonder. Could it be some first world
companies/businesses, or their agencies, who are afraid of the rapid economic growth of countries like India, and are afraid of the real competition that is looming, and want to put a spanner in the works, I wonder. The fact remains, while indeed it is a shame that children are robbed of their childhoods, merely shedding tears over it is not going to solve the problem. Let's talk about the real issues. Let's talk about the fact that if these children are suddenly sacked - which is the real purpose of all this hullabaloo, so that third world firms/companies/businesses don't have the competitive advantage by the lower wages they pay to children - who at least are able to eat, they would just be put out on the streets, into prostitution, crime, drug pushing, starvation. That before pushing for "eradication of child labour", let's talk about setting up the infrastructure so that they get their rightful childhoods - a good education, and the simple pleasures of play and carefree gadding about. In order to be able to achieve that, the rich countries have to shoulder much of the burden - create the schools, help in creating the employment that parents need in order for them to have the luxury of sending their children to school, and to be carefree. Which entails fairer world trade and tariff practices. Unfair world trade practices, e.g. subsidizing first world farmers, forcing third world countries to open their markets to cheaper first world goods, which wipes out indigenous businesses which cannot compete, and perpetuating the first world/ third world divide are the real causes of most of why childhoods are really stolen. Will the makers of "stolenchildhoods" and Aaron Brown and co. make a documentary/TV programme about that? I bet not.

First, let me address this diatribe overall by wondering here in ether-space if "rita" (the vegan/vegetarian/yoga-touting/guru-worshipping airheaded saint) in fact viewed the same CNN NewsNight with Aaron Brown segment for which I was present at airing in December of 2004 (in fact, he's wearing my husband's tie). Because all that she swears is not addressed by my "tear-jerking," "corporate financed" and "lugubrious bleedingheart" friends.....in fact is addressed in the film and was addressed in the segment--or as much as can be addressed in a ten-minute segment.

Now. Let me address point by point.

1. Robin doesn't give a shit about Yuletide and whether or not he needs to grub to fill a void created by his consumerism. Firstly, he's not very consumerist, being one of the least materialistic people I know. Secondly, he's Jewish. Actually, to get technical, he's agnostic, convinced by his pessimism that the God he reaches for in his work doesn't exist.

2. He and Len worked on the film for seven years. To hell with this being the topic du jour. [ed. note: though the film is complete, as of 3/07, he is still working on the problem. What are you doing?]

3. The cultural indifference is not that these children's parents don't care that this is happening to them, it's that we don't care that it's happening to them.

4. Aid and education. Have you done the research? Education is the solution to this. It's been proven. When education rates rise, this sort of thing decreases. Especially in girls and women.

4a. Aid, because it's not the third world countries' fault that they're in this predicament. It's the World Bank, the IMF, globalization. This was also addressed. You obviously weren't listening, instead being too busy tap-tapping away your little pranic musings. These countries got screwed, my dear. By us. So it damn well is our job to make reparations. And this was mentioned.

4b. Not a word about skewed trade? Excuse you?

5. Who financed Robin and Len? Robin and Len. Robin spent his entire life savings and Len mortgaged his fucking office, you twat. So don't go making assumptions. I've seen the paperwork. As a matter of fact, I'm in charge of the paperwork. You have no idea how much this cost them. Personally. Furthermore, it damn near cost each of them their lives several times over. Robin especially, more than you will ever know. How dare you, you ignorant idolater.

6. It's not about causing the child-labour countries to lose their competitive edge. It's about.....get this.....the children themselves. Maybe you confused deva with diva.

6a. The consequences of those children getting "sacked" as you put it? Weren't you listening? Crime, prostitution, drug-pushing, starvation? Those things already exist, because of the child labour problem. Setting up an infrastructure is what the legislation is for. Jesus. Or maybe you missed that part too. Do the words "Global Marshall Plan" ring a bell? Not even a little finger cymbal? No?

7. Fair trade? The awful effects of globalization wiping out indigenous businesses? Why yes, yes they are making a movie about that. Or should I say, another movie. The first one was called "Globalization and Human Rights." Maybe you missed it. You don't strike me as the type to watch much educational television. So I'm pretty sure you'd owe me on that bet.

And now, since you seem to have missed the actual point, let's go to the videotape. Aaron?

09 January 2006

Don't Think Twice, It's All Right

Recently Jenny sent me an editorial from the New York Times about reflection. The author seemed to think that end-of-year pondering was less than helpful. Apparently studies have shown that people who thought incessantly about their depression or analysed the relationships they were in were either no more likely to fix things, or in fact less so. However, one thing I noticed was that it never mentioned whether any action was taken towards improvement, or whether they were simply.....wallowing. I'd have to read the article again to confirm my train of thought, as its been several days since reading, and I got distracted in the midst of my own original response, but I wondered. Because there is a time when self-reflection is necessary, not for one's survival, but in order to thrive--not to act upon, not to judge, simply to acknowledge. To see things for the way they are. Whoever said the unexamined life is not worth living was on to something. Not only is it not worth living, it may in fact be unlivable. A spiritual inventory is one of the most important processes we have, a sacred ritual that empowers us and grounds us.

For me, the end of December is such a time. While for some the cycle of newness begins in the fall, when the harvest is at its peak, the traditional end of the year, when everything seems frozen and here in the north often actually is, gives me the necessary pause for reflection. Or, more aptly, for scrying on this thing that is my life. The lake in my front yard is frozen nearly solid, with only a narrow black channel of warmer current. But from our cove to nearly halfway across to Canopus Hill , the ice is a product of slow freezing: of daily fluctuations, thawing and re-freezing, that white ice crazed with crystals yet entirely motionless. As I wrote this by hand in my journal, it was also covered with a morning's fine dusting of snow. Instead of being simultaneously a reflection of the sky and a glimpse of the abundant, though wet, life beneath, the lake was blank: a perfect white sheet of paper: a movie screen.

(It was then that Robin came in from out of the snow of his short walk, and I drove him to the station in Garrison, that perfect little town carved into the cliff bank of the Hudson River, stopping at the general store for coffee and doughnuts, looking out over the falling snow above the river, the birds darting among the red thorns, talking about the normal life, the simple life, before I put him on the train with a quick kiss on the cheek and drove back over the mountain in the blinding wet snow and the magical snowy New Year's Eve twilight was gone)

This kind of reflection is more than self-analysis, while also being less than it--or perhaps by being less than it. There is second-guessing one's action, and there is meditation upon one's soul. One's actions, in a sense, are finite. One's soul is not. It is true, in both physics and human relationships, that to an extent a single action is infinite, in the sense that it reverberates and affects each thing in turn, causing re-action and new action. Soul manages to escape that, encompasses the whole at the outset, outside of time. There comes a point, one hopes, where one stops observing what one has done and begins to observe, quite simply, who one is. It's a subtle shift, one that often takes years or even a lifetime, but one that must be made to go beyond mere omphaloskeptic self-absorption into something spiritual. I hate to use the word "useful" because reflection is not a tool, which seems to be the general opinion. It is not a machine into which you put two quarters to come out with a hypothesis that can then be applied to the situation at hand. Meditation is not a transaction. In our consumer society, we often fail utterly to understand that. It's not something of which we can ask, "What's in it for me?" without being disappointed. The answer is too enigmatic to satisfy our craving for solid proof. We want results. And the answer, of course, is simply to be in it, ourselves, both feet planted firmly in this impossible existence where we set the ones we love free downriver on the current, where the road home is slippery and often treacherous, where the silent solitary beauty of snow falling on the evergreens undoes us even as we search for the meaning of small towns nestled in valleys.

Even while we search, the answer is inside us, and if we do not stop to ask for it, we will pass it unnoticed, thinking it merely another snowfield rather than the silent wonder it is.