Monthly Archives: December 2009


Really, screw 2009.

“I’ma push old father 2009 down on the front lawn as the reaper makes
for him, and sit on his legs to make sure that skinny sumbeeyotch with
the scythe actually gets the job done. Then I’ma cut off his head and
his right hand and take out his heart and bury him face down at a
crossroads with a stake through his heart. Then I’m gonna re-route a
stream to pass over his gravesite so he’s always beneath running water.
I want to encase this decade’s final resting place in cement, inside
which I’ll put a nuclear waste container. I want to invent universally
understood pictographs to ensure that nobody ever, ever, ever opens
that vault too. I want 2009 to be dubbed “the year we don’t speak of”
for all time, like that Egyptian pharaoh that everybody got so mad at
that they went in after they’d killed him and hacked up any statue
bearing his likeness and chiseled out any mention of his name ANYWHERE.
That. I am that level of OVER IT about 2009.”

It won’t ever top 1999 (gaaaaaah) or 2007 (eeeghgghhghh) in terms of suck for Mr. A and me personally, but 2009 was an epic disaster for just about everyone else I know. I said to a friend shortly before Christmas that I felt like some kind of harbinger of doom, that everyone around me had some sort of personal apocalypse going on. Deaths, divorces, illnesses, breakups, layoffs … this is the kind of year you want to put in a box and sit on until it’s smothered and starved, and then bury the box to make sure it’s dead.

I hope, I hope, I hope for 2010, but I don’t have any resolutions. I have plans, projects that have been in the works for months that I want to see come to fruition this year: a new book, big plans for the ferret shelter, fixing up my house because we’ve been deferring maintenance for years and THE CEILING IS FALLING DOWN, maybe a retirement ceremony for the Saturn of Love should she make it through one more winter for us. But these aren’t resolutions. The only resolution I have is to give 2009 a good hard kick if I see it stirring, knock it out cold again.

What about you? Any resolutions or plans?


Surreal–And Not Like Salvador Dali


Gee, who knew thatKarl Rove was actually projecting when he accused Democrats of wanting to offertherapy to terrorists

Anyway, if nothing else, 2009 was the year the Bush presidency officially ended. Sure, we’re going to pay — for a LONG time — for eight years of monumentally epic stupidity, but you’ve gotta start somewhere, and sending this clown out to pasture was step one.

Happy 2010…

Let it be resolved…

It’s the time of the year to make New Year’s Resolutions.
Most of these things don’t work, primarily because people pick hard stuff. Quit
smoking, lose weight, fix the country’s health care system… Y’know, stuff
that’s both good and important and yet is likely to fail.

One of the things I used to tell the kids when I taught the
research and thesis class was that if you wanted to have successful research,
you needed to have several hypotheses. The first one is the “Water is Wet
Hypothesis.” Basically, you are simply applying logic and theory to a set
of data that, unless you ended up sneaking into Bizzaroland, should work pretty
easily. The second one is the “Let’s Extend the Game Hypothesis.” In that case,
you’re stretching a bit, looking for a new way to apply the theory or moving
the theory into a new area or applying the theory to a new population. It’s new
and expansive while being fairly safe. The third one is the “If Wishes Were
Horses Hypothesis.” This is where, if the world were full of win and unicorns
and ice cream grew on trees and didn’t make you fat, you would substantially
augment/alter the theory through your findings on this hypothesis. In short,
don’t count on this panning out, but if it does, that’d be awesomesauce.

The problem with most of the resolutions is that they fit
into the third category. If you have been chain-smoking Luckies without the
filter for 40 years, chances are the calendar turning over to a new year isn’t
likely to be the key ingredient to helping you quit. If you’re thinking that
telling the Whopper guy to hold the mayo is going to help you drop from a size
80 to a size 8, you’re either Jared from Subway or you’re delusional. If you’re
trying to fix health care without popular president and a majority in congress
and… Uh… Wait… Yeah, OK…

The point is with this year, I’m applying the simple premise
of my research class to help me feel like I’m doing better on the resolutions. Tick
a few items off the list and I won’t be feeling like a failure if I don’t hit
the trifecta. Below is a list of the resolutions I’m making, using those three
key categories. Feel free to use the comment portion to add your own grouping
of three…

Continue reading

Listomania: The Decayed Decade


Note: This post was initially written for my blog and it has a few inside NOLA references but I’m too busy (lazy?) to hyperlink and explain them so just go with the flow. Happy New Year, Adrastos

Lisztomania is a best forgotten “bio-pic” about Franz Liszt directed by the master of excess, Ken Russell. Its theorum was that Liszt, the leading concert pianist of his day, was the first rock star so he was played by Roger Daltrey. I love Roger to death but this is the sort of disastrous casting that no movie can survive.

My feelings about the Aughties are akin to my feelings for Lisztomania, I’m glad it’s over but there were some good bits as well. So I’m succumbing to the Listomania that’s racing through the blogosphere like a virus at a dormitory. I have two lists: the things I *liked* about the first decade of the 21st Century and those I disliked.

The Top Five Things I Liked About The Aughties, in no particular order:

1.Good Teevee Shows: The Aughties was when movies for grown-ups fled the big screen and found refuge on teevee. There were some of the best shows ever on the boob tube, most of which could be found on cable. Here are a few of my favorites:The Wire, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, 30 Rock, Top Chef, Project Runway, Survivor, Mad Men, Dexter, Foyle’s War, Battlestar Galactica and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares to name a few. Unfortunately, good sitcoms were harder to find than dramas so there’s only one on my short list.

2.The Blogosphere: I started blogging 4 years ago and love it. I’ve also made some very good friends, both real and virtual, and come up with some pretty darn good nicknames. My favorites are all New Orleanians: Renee Gill-Pratfall, Cynthia Windy-Lewis and last but never least, Mr. Gloomy Pants. 2009 was a rough year for me but one of the few highlights was being invited to join First Draft. Thanks, Athenae

3. The Spread Of Good Food: I grew up in a food oriented family. My mother was a great cook and we lived in a proto-foodie place, the San Francisco Bay Area. I now, of course, live in foodie heaven, New Orleans. But the gospel of good food has spread hither and yon and it’s now possible to get a good meal in previously unheard of places like the United Kingdom and not just the ethnic joints either. I kid you not.

4. The Entertainment Value Of New Orleans Politics: There are times when I pinch myself over how truly ridiculous NOLA politics and politicians are. As a citizen, I’m semi-horrified but as an online satirist, I’m thrilled. Special thanks to C Ray, Dollar Bill, Oliver the Actor, Veronica White and Kaiser Ed Blakely. I couldn’t have done it without you guys.

5. The Rise In Citizen Activism:The 2008 election was thrilling because of how passionate and involved people were after we blew it in 2004. The internet fueled the wave and it started rolling after Bush launched his war in Iraq and crested in November, 2008. It even came to post-Katrina/Federal Flood New Orleans, which was a pleasant surprise in a city best known for its laissez faire attitude about its corrupt and inept guvmint. Of course, in 2009 the energy seems to be on the Right but wingnuttery is good for the satire biz.

The Top Five Things I Disliked About The Aughties, in no particular order:

1. The 2000 US Presidential Election: Or as I like to call it, prelude to a bummer. The sturm and drang on the GOP side gave us a hint of what was to come. I came to feel very badly about my apathy in that election season, not that being more engaged would have made a damn bit of difference in the Gret Stet of Louisiana. I voted for Gore and thought he’d be a much better candidate than President but I had a bad case of Clinton fatigue. Besides, I thought at the time: the other guy is Poppy Bush’s doofus son, how bad can he be? We all found out.

2. Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood: It ripped our lives apart in New Orleans. Dr. A and I were among the lucky ones BUT the impact of that period remains strong. I’ve heard folks from other places talk about Katrina fatigue. We’ve got it too: one can’t watch a Saints game on teevee without a gratuitous, and usually incorrect, Katrina reference. I’m also tired of talking to tourists who think the French Quarter was underwater because of piss poor press coverage, which brings me to:

3. The Decline and Fall Of The MSM:I came of age in the 1970’s when the American media did some remarkable work but those days are long gone. The MSM is now characterized by sloppy and lazy reporting and by a general cluelessness as to why it’s in decline. Bob Woodward is the poster boy for the decline: he’s gone from an outsider who helped slay Nixon administration to an insider who fluffed the Bush administration.

4. The Coarsening/Dumbing Down Of The Culture: In this instance, I’m referring to a general lack of consideration for the other guy and not just what passes for the arts. It impacts every aspect of daily life: people seem to be getting ruder, coarser, stupider and more selfish every day.

I hope I don’t have a creeping case of old fartism but it seems to me that people have an increasingly hard time distinguishing between how you act in public and in private. And that makes life both harder and dumber. In lamenting dumbassery in the Deep South of his day, H.L. Mencken once referred to it as the “sahara of the bozart.” I think that’s an accurate description of life in the US and A in the Aughties.

5. Greed:The selfishness I referred to above reached its apogee in the 2008 economic meltdown. We’ve gone from a country that used to make things to one obsessed with the stock market and every type of financial gimmickery imaginable. My late mother was a realtor and the main thing I learned from her is that no one should EVER agree to an adjustable rate mortgage. She thought they were a scam that would come back to bite you-as she put it in her Midwestern way-in the hinder. She was right: we have a country full of foreclosed houses and miserable former homeowners. The only ones who made out like bandits were, uh, the bandits. At the risk of further coarsening the culture: greed can go fuck itself.

Finally, I’m feeling listless so my listomania is listing. In the immortal words of Jeff Probst, I got nothing [more] for you.

Not the COURTS!

Dear God, this is madness!

I’ve been reading as much as I can (a killer migraine that set in after a weekend of too much booze and coffee and tension and too little sleep finally knocked me on my ass Monday) about this underwear bombing nonsense, and how this somehow proves BUSH ROOLZ OBAMA DROOLZ or something.

Because having a thwarted terrorist attack on your watch means you suck at thwarting terrorist attacks. Obama being president makes us such a nation of pussies that Americans managed to stop this moron from lighting his balls on fire by kicking his ass on the plane.

And now we can’t try this or any other fuckwit who pulls something on a plane because that will give the terrorists what they really want: an episode of Law and Order?

I’ve been waiting for eight years for the judiciary as a whole to stand up and say, “Enough with casting us as either useless or completely fucking useless, you power-crazed lunatic military fetishists,” but I have a feeling that’s a train not coming. Am I getting this? I’m still kind of drugged up.


Local Republicans

So awesome:

“Mr. Martin will no longer be recognized as a legitimate Republican
candidate by the Illinois Republican Party,” state party chairman
Patrick Brady said in a statement.

You mean he was recognized as such up til now? I guess this wasn’t enough:

“In federal court filings from the 1980s related to bankruptcy
proceedings against him, Martin called one federal judge a ‘crooked,
slimy Jew, who has a history of lying and thieving common to members of
his race.’ He also expressed sympathy to the perpetrators of the

Then again, he did receive 34 percent of the Republican vote in his U.S. Senate primary campaign against Steve Sauerberg –in 2008.

I really love this state a lot.



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Soon, each one of us will be taken

By dark powers under this ground

That drove us here, that warped us.

Not one of us got it his own way.

Nothing like any one of us

Will be seen again, forever.

Each of us held some noble shape in mind.

It seemed better that we kept alive.

W. D. Snodgrass, 1926-2009

p>2009, I won’t miss you much. What a long, hard, greedy year you were.

At least, that’s how it seemed to me these past few months, though I guess that’s just
another construct, personalizing one span of time, the most recent of
so many. Like one year is that different from any other. People die every day, notable or not, andothers getborn.

Struggle, strife, glory and celebration, a continuum. Maybe you gave as good as you took away, 2009.

A toast to all of those gone, to all the newly arrived, and to each of us somewhere in between. And to Athenae and the rest of you, the First Draft family, thanks for making this digital gathering place so warm and bright.

Tell us about your year: what you celebrated, what you lost, what you won’t be sorry to leave behind, what you’ll miss the most, what you’ll remember forever.


The Unanswered Question

I haven’t been following the Christmas Day underwear bomber wannabe story that closely. I’m numb to wingnut hissy fits, lies and fear mongering; it just doesn’t irk me as much as it used to. In short, I’m an irk shirker…

There is, however, a pressing question for the underwear bomber guy that needs to be answered: boxers or briefs?

The Tom Benson Premature Celebration Blues

I’d hate to be an NFL placekicker. You’re out there all alone and if you miss everybody notices. That’s what happened to New Orleans Saints kicker Garret Hartley last Sunday. He missed the winning kick against the previously pitiful Tampa Bay Buccaneers who proceeded to make the Saints walk the plank in OT.

There’s dismay in Debrisville after two straight home losses and I get no kick out of either cocaine or blaming the kicker so I’ve decided to blame the owner. Why the hell not? NFL owners are usually wealthy GOP donors who receive corporate welfare from the state. Saints owner Tom Benson is a classic douchebag: a car dealer who lived for many years in Texas. Benson also proved himself to be a world’s class conclusion jumper this weekend whilst Hartley was missing the field goal:


This premature gesticulation *almost* takes the sting out of the loss. Almost.

But something else *has* taken the sting out of losing to the lowly Bucs. The Vikings have lost 36-30 to Da Bears so the Saints will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. It also pleases Cheeseheads everywhere and this is a pro-Cheesehead blog, after all. Yay, cheddar. Go, gouda.

Internet Friends


Just a quick note to thank you for all your kind words about my grandmother. My family has been reading your comments and is immensely comforted by all the good thoughts being directed our way.

I get infuriated by the usual stories that pop up about how the Internets are ruining our ability to communicate with one another in any meaningful way. I’ve gotten to know so many wonderful, kind, generous folks through the blogs and whenever I’d talk about any of you to the family, it’s never, “this random dude who I don’t even know if he ‘s a real dude or not said this the other day,” it’s “my friend said this.” You’ve given me and mine a whole other network of support and warmth at a time when it was really, really needed. Thank you again.


Some Fantastic Place

Athenae’s beautiful tribute to her tough and feisty grandmotherupon her passing *really* touched me. I’m not one for tears but it turned on the waterworks. Partially, I suspect, because Dr. A and I spent Christmas Eve and Day with an elderly relative who now lives in a very nice retirement community with options called St. James Place in Baton Rouge. Louise chose to move there last year after living on her own just became too much after her husband Eddie’s death a few years ago. The good news is that she really likes it there and it’s full of retired educators much like herself, which makes visiting her quite interesting.

Christmas dinner was surreal because we sat in the dining room with a Jewish couple from New Orleans who moved to St James after their house was flooded when the London Street canal crapped out back in 2005. Mr. Levy is a retired businessman whose longtime avocation, art, is now his passion and he’s damn good. Our meeting, however, was a bit disconcerting as he greeted me with a booming “Merry Christmas.” I was startled and said: “Did I hear your name correctly? Levy?” He shrugged and said, “So, I’m a gentile one day a year?” I love people who answer a question with a question, it makes me feel right at home…

Obviously hanging out with octogenarians gets you thinking of your own mortality and of those you care about. My parents are both dead but they lived to their mid-80’s so I may too. I somewhat dread the thought of being a cranky old man but now that I think of it, I’ve always been a bit cranky so it will be hard for anyone to tell the difference. Hell, pondering my own mortality makes me crankier than hell since I don’t believe in an afterlife. I only hope I’ll be more like Jack Lemmon inGrumpy Old Men than Walter Matthau. If I turn into Matthau I may put out a contract on myself…

Where is all this going? I’d like to postSome Fantastic Place; a song written by Difford and Tilbrook after the death of the person who introduced them. Said introduction led to their long and fruitful musical partnership in Squeeze. I’m not sure what kind of funeral I want but I’d like this song played at it: I may not believe in an afterlife but it never hurts to hedge one’s bets. Besides, I *do* believe in a good melody and SFP has got that in spades.

I’d like to dedicateSome Fantastic Place to Athenae and her family as they simultaneously mourn and celebrate a life well lived.

Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – “Ah’m a-seecedin’!” Edition

Good Monday morning, everyone! Having grown up in Texas was an unparalleled experience. Having been my Father’s sole ranch hand, even more so. Splitting my time between riding fence and riding in a school bus gave me a perspective that not many get to experience, and straddling Bubbaland and the rest of the world was always a balancing act.

I was exposed to the best of Texana (self-reliance and connection to the land), and the worst (Sundown Towns and hard bigotry served up with a soft smile) every single day. This is why the wingnuttia meme of Texas secession hits me especially hard. Having said that, I’m ready to suit up and pry open a big ol’ bubbling drum of secessionist slime.

Who’s with me?

Avoiding A Train Wreck: Texas Secession ^| 12/22/2009 | Darrel Mulloy

Posted onTuesday, December 22, 2009 12:45:51 PM byPatriot1259
…the federal, rather central, government is a train wreck that is on
its way to happen, and we, all of us, are passengers on that fated
train. Like passengers on a train headed too fast for a curve in the
track, we can (at least most of us can) see the impending danger in
front of us, and most have a strong suspicion that we will not survive
the coming wreck. We are also afraid to jump off of the doomed train
for fear that we will be hurt when we make our exit. There may be rough
ground outside and we may suffer pain and injury. It seems we would all
rather take our chances with a train that we know will most likely take
us to our end. Such is the human condition.

(Excerpt) Read more

1 posted onTuesday, December 22, 2009 12:45:52 PM byPatriot1259

Yowza! Of course, the fact that U.S currency would instantly become worthless in Texasland (I wonder what the new currency would be worth, and what it could be redeemed for?) , all truck traffic and trade would cease, and our ports would be embargoed initially (while the U.S. Armed Forces waited on their next orders) doesn’t seem to worry the Secessionist Shitheads. Even worse are the “Let’s you-and-them fight” types kibitzing from the safety of their own states.

To: Patriot1259
In a New York minute…(I’d join, if I were Texan) I’m sorry to
have used a euphemism mentioning such a corrupt and immoral state,
second only to Illinois and California.

2 posted onTuesday, December 22, 2009 12:50:41 PM byGaffer

p>To: Patriot1259

I want off the train. SECEDE!

5 posted onTuesday, December 22, 2009 12:57:37 PM bybroken_arrow1 (I regret that I have but one life to give for my country – Nathan Hale “Patriot”)

div class=”ecxa2″>To: ConservaTexan

agreed.. I hope a movement begins in that wonderful state for secession.

8 posted onTuesday, December 22, 2009 1:00:56 PM byChuzzlewit

Oh, sure – there’s the odd Real American:

To: Patriot1259
If I were going to fight bleed and die for something, it would not be
to secure the liberty and freedom of a single state, it would be for my
entire country.

4 posted onTuesday, December 22, 2009 12:54:45 PM bytexan75010

But most at FR are all for playing Jenga with the Republic:

To: texan75010
You have to start somewhere.
You have to have a secure place to launch an offensive.

9 posted onTuesday, December 22, 2009 1:03:43 PM bymyself6

Oh, really? Now these mental midgets have made the leap from defying the Federal Government to attacking it?

I’ll see your Ft. Hood and Ft. Bliss – and raise you aMalmstrom AFB. Besides – who are you gonna pick for a CIC? Goodhair Perry? Heh.

To: Patriot1259
W for president?

10 posted onTuesday, December 22, 2009 1:03:51 PM byIke (My idea of election reform – blue fingers in Philadelphia!)



And just as the insanity is winding up to 10,000 RPM :

To: PGR88
“How to get TX citizenship???!”
You won’t as the Republic of Texas will actually have strong immigration laws and tough border security.
As far as we are concerned the people swimming over the Red River, Sabine River, or Rio Grande will all be the same.

25 posted onTuesday, December 22, 2009 1:46:59 PM bytrumandogz (The Democrats are driving us to Socialism at 100 MPH -The GOP is driving us to Socialism at 97.5 MPH)

Some killjoy comes along and spoils everything!

To: Patriot1259
I think Texas secession is a fine idea.

But before anyone goes and gets all excited over the possibility, ask
yourself this question: am I, personally, willing to shoot and kill an
American soldier or Marine?

And will my handgun be any good against an Apache attack helicopter, drone, or APC?

Don’t ask such a question lightly. Put yourself in the situation where
you, with your own finger, have to pull the trigger on a man wearing
the uniform of the United States armed forces — a man with a family,
who speaks the same language you do, watches sports on TV, has a kid in
college. Can you do it? Can you live with it afterwards?

At the same time, ask yourself how you would feel about seeing your
town occupied by troops and placed under martial law. Imagine every
newspaper, television network, and major website in the world aligned
against you. Imagine your kids going hungry, spending their days in
hiding, dodging bombs and bullets. Imagine no gasoline at any price.
Imagine no cars, no motorcycles, no trains, no buses. Imagine no
electricity for months on end. Imagine no meat, no fresh vegetables, no
a/c, no heat. Imagine no antbiotics when you get cut on a barbed-wire
fence or perforated by a bullet. Imagine eating garbage, wearing rags,
crouching in the cold rain by a dark roadside planting homemade bombs
while guys in dry clothes hover overhead in their Apache helicopters
with night vision cameras, their machine guns ready to chop YOU into
hamburger meat.


Imagine being a terrorist. Because if Texas ever did secede from the
United States, and you supported that secession, that is exactly what
you would be, by law.

And you know how Emperor-for-life Dubya feels about terrorists…

I’m not saying that we should forget the idea. What I’m saying is let’s
be damned sure we have a realistic picture of what it would be like if
it ever happened. Secession would mean war — with the whole United
States military (and probably a lot of foreigners) versus Texas. It
would not be some Red Dawn fantasy, complete with heroic music, teenage
girls in tight jeans firing machine guns, and John Milius on hand to
guarantee a happy ending.

It would be like Iraq, only YOU would be the Iraqi. Think of everything
the Army did to the Iraqis during the war. Now think of it happening to

Again, I’m not saying secession won’t someday be necessary. But I am
saying that we ought to think damned seriously about what Uncle Sam did
the last time we tried it.

29 posted onTuesday, December 22, 2009 1:51:13 PM byB-Chan (Catholic. Monarchist. Texan. Any questions?)

And evenmore seriously about how it turned out.

Well, that’s enough secession silliness – more after the Jump To End All Jumps.

Tagged , , ,

Her Things Should Keep Her Marks


She washed the dishes. He dried. That’s how I knew what love was.

My grandmother, Bernice Helen Kosterman Zens, died tonight at 6 p.m. at the age of 91. I can tell you the outlines of her life, the things we always tell the newspapers: three children, eight grandchildren, a home, a nursing career, a life, a story of fight and survival. She was tough, all 91 pounds of her soaking wet. She loved gardening and hated pets. She was as devout a Catholic as anyone I’ve ever met. And she was stubborn as the day is long and wouldn’t do a damn thing she didn’t want to do. I get it from somebody, after all.

I have the outlines, and then I have what reminds me of her: Her old stovetop percolator, birthday cards with spidery unreadable handwriting, and a collection of photographs in which she scowls with a look that would freeze your blood if you took it seriously. She hated being photographed. Just hated it. She’d cover her face with her hand or hide behind a cousin.

She thought she was hideous. In my entire life I’ve never thought anyone was more beautiful.

But I have more impressions of her early life than facts. She didn’t believe in looking back. If you’d grown up poor, one of 11 children during the Depression, you wouldn’t look back, either. Press her for stories, and she’d distract you with a game or a cookie, but those childhood hardships left their marks, like old healed-over burns, or long-gone limbs that itch and ache in the night. We joked that she would save the dust bunnies under the bed in case they could be of use some day. She washed and folded used tinfoil, bread bags, mended socks until they were more mend than knit. She grew carrots and beans and rhubarb in a huge garden and canned everything in sight. The root cellar could have withstood a siege of years. It was funny to kids growing up with comparative plenty, but: nothing was wasted.

She lived like that, too, wasting nothing. She was a nurse in a Chicago hospital between the World Wars, when the city was growing up and outward, straining its boundaries and the patience of its populace. She spent her days treating poor and orphaned children, stepping over drunks in the skid row gutters to get to work and then going out to give those same drunks a sandwich on her lunch breaks. She returned home, after a year, having gone the farthest from her small town that anyone in her family had ever gone, and married my grandfather, because he was kind and caring and endlessly patient, and they bought a small house near her sisters and their husbands. And for 49 years they did the dishes together. He worked in factory and she kept the house, but this he did: He helped with the dishes.

I spent every Wednesday night after school with them, doing homework in their living room and listening to them talk low in the kitchen, over pots and pans and cups and saucers. Every night, no matter how bad the day had been, no matter what was going on with their kids or grandkids or in the world or on the moon, they washed the dishes together. Come ruin or rapture. They stood beside one another and worked together, and it doesn’t look like much, written out like that.

But love is a choice. All love is a choice. All love is work. When people say relationships are work, what they usually mean is that there are times when relationships, especially marriages, are drudgery, misery that must be endured, but that’s not what I’m saying when I say it. Relationships are work because you share a common task to which you put your hands, and work like that, in concert, is meaningful and joyous, fulfilling, a reason to get up in the morning and smile every day. “Marriage in Spanish iscasarse, to build a home with,”Jacob wrote once, “you build a cabin, and live there together.” You are building something together. A house. A home. A family. And you do it like this, two by two, night by night, at the sink. She washed. He dried.

When she moved out of her house five years ago, I wrote about it, and them:

… there, he’d protect you, she’d comfort you, give you that smile that split her stern face and lifted you up out of your shoes, it made you that happy, you felt that loved.

Five houses down from a church, on the east side of the block round the corner from the bakery and the Italian restaurant and the dime store. A brown-sided bungalow with two dormers in front where each Christmas he hung baby dolls against tin foil wings, Joy to the World written above them. The Lord is Come. Joy, joy to the world, and the warm Christmas mornings you walked over, presents piled in paper bags.

You’d go upstairs, up the curving staircase past the window that let into a crawl space where your baby things were stored, and into the bedroom your mother and aunt had shared long ago. It was yellow, with desks beneath dormers and a door that led to the attic space.

Her wedding dress hung from the ceiling in a plastic sleeve, ghost of a love story, with your mother’s many bridesmaids’ dresses you loved to play in hanging behind it, 1970s green chiffon and bright blue velvet. Tins she used for Christmas cookies, ice skates, old watercolor paint sets and board games you see now at antique markets and think of buying. Spider webs. You hated spiders. She’d catch them and throw them outside. You wanted them squished.

You played with her old jewelry boxes; on the bookshelves there was a book from the 1950s about beauty that said tall girls should stand up straight because slouching was useless and only made them look slovenly. You always stood up straight after that. People ask if you’re a dancer and you think, something to thank her for that neither of us even noticed she was doing, putting that book where you, awkward teenager, would find it.

They were the best grandparents anyone could have had. He died the year after I got married, after complications from heart surgery took him down. The last day he saw me, the last day he was really coherent, he said, “You were a good granddaughter. We had fun.” The last time I saw her, a few weeks ago (too long) she said to one of the nurses, “This is my great granddaughter.” The nurse thought she meant it literally. “No,” she said, “this is my GREAT granddaughter.” Those are the things I think about when I can’t sleep and I’m wishing I had done more, spent more time with them both, been a less willful, selfish brat, been less of a burden, been better or kinder or smarter. Those are the things they remembered, and those are the things I will try to remember, too.

A lot of people will say comforting things in the coming days, especially since her death comes at the end of a long, cruel illness, about them being together forever now, about them being young and beautiful and no longer apart, as they were so terribly in the ten years between his death and hers. They may be right, those people who will say those things. I don’t know. And I don’t think it matters what I believe. It matters what she gave to me, and what I learned from her. It matters what I know, what she taught: Waste nothing. Choose your life. And work hard with someone, side by side.

What I know is that for 49 years she washed the dishes, and he dried. And that was everything.

A life should leave
deep tracks:
ruts where she
went out and back
to get the mail
or move the hose
around the yard;
where she used to
stand before the sink,
a worn-out place;
beneath her hand
the china knobs
rubbed down to
white pastilles;
the switch she
used to feel for
in the dark
almost erased.
Her things should
keep her marks.
The passage
of a life should show;
it should abrade.
And when life stops,
a certain space—
however small —
should be left scarred
by the grand and
damaging parade.
Things shouldn’t
be so hard.

— Kay Ryan


Weekend Question Thread

Understanding that there is no such thing as a truly bad gift, what’s the worst/silliest/weirdest gift you’ve ever gotten?

My favorite uncle when I was little bought me Yahtzee three years in a row. This was back when there was only one kind of Yahtzee, so we distributed them around the family for car trips and such. He was the nicest guy, he just honestly forgot from year to year, so nobody wanted to tell him and make him feel bad, but it was kind of hilarious just the same.


Saturday Blogwhoring Thread


Post away. It can’t possibly be more ridiculous than this guy.


Bless us all…

It was a pretty good Christmas in the Doc household.

The Midget woke up after about two hours of sleep to scream that there was a “Barbie THING!” in the basement and it was “GINORMOUS!” I think the internet is infecting her… She played for hours prior to our need to take a trek to the folks’ house.

The Missus got everything she wanted and didn’t even get to open all of her gifts (some stuff had to carry over to her birthday next week.)

I got enough stuff to keep the Man Cave busy this summer with refinishing projects and work on the Classic.

However, the best stuff didn’t come in a wrapped box.

My brother in law didn’t lose his job, which was supposed to happen the day before Christmas eve.

My MIL’s Christmas pageant wasn’t the epic failure she thought it would be.

We drove several hundred miles in wretched weather and we managed to keep the sleigh out of the ditches.

My SIL was lucid for the first time in a long time.

Our whole family was sick but not deathly so.

In short, we call it a win in a time in which wins aren’t all that easy to come by.

Whether you believe in Christ, Yahweh, Buddah, Krishna, Dogs, Trees or Isadora Duncan (I forget where that line came from; it’s a good movie though, I’m sure), I hope you find something good to enjoy this week. Even if the underlying reason isn’t something that you ascribe to, it’s a good time to be happy about something and since everyone else is all jacked up on happy, there’s nothing wrong with hopping on the Joy Wagon.

Thanks to all the FDers out there who make every day a joyous one for me.



Friday Ferretblogging

Merry Christmas, everybody. I wish I had something profound this year, but honestly, I’m recovering from the head cold from hell, and this fall was crazy, and all I want to do is sit wrapped in a blanket and stare at the fire. So here’s some ferrets with antlers on their heads:


Bucky: YAY CHRISTMAS! I love you! I love these antlers! I love everything! Boom de yada boom de yada!


Riot: Oh God, just get it over with and give me my treat already. You’re so ridiculous, Mom.



Yeah, that’s why we don’t send out family Christmas cards.

I hope you and yours have a warm, safe, and happy holiday.


Friday Catblogging: Della Street For The Holidays

Here’s a bit of holiday snark from young Della Street:


Della not only dislikes wearing floral stuff, she also attacked a Santa hat:


It could, however, be a case of being blinded by too much holiday hooch bling:


Finally, here’s a bit of Xmas rock-n-roll for Della Street to race about to:

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Happy Winter Solstice


Louisiana State Capitol, original picture taken December 11, 2008, slightly modified in Photoshop. Here’s to a wonderful holiday season for everyone.