Thursday, September 25, 2008

I have no words for this. Please, when you get to the bit about Iraq and Afghanistan, national security and our soil (which is after the bit about Putin and his head-rearin') and tell me if little bits of your brain didn't start exploding and then tell me that you didn't fall onto the floor convulsing, wherein, after regaining consciousness, you didn't crawl immediately into the pantry and begin drinking. Heavily. 


I've been consumed with much in the world--tangible, terrifying, pressing--and my brain has been sluggish, slow, suspended. I listen like a furtive junkie to NPR, rifling through the virtual pages of the New York Times, devouring The Forever War, balancing one foot on the urgency to act and the other on preemptive defeat.  

In my tiny town on a river in New Hampshire I drive along the water, looking at the loveliest homes, reassured by the blue Obama Biden signs cropping up like some kind of lush fall bounty. It settles me, it insulates me, it quells the panic that lives easy inside me. 

When I drive to the barn though, out of town and along the lake towns, out onto the interstate and back into distant, unconnected areas, the urgent gnaw returns and the number of McCain Palin signs snake the roadways like thick vines. I keep my mouth quiet when the plumber comes by and brings up offshore drillin' and at least we'll have someone in the White House who's real people, even if she is a woman--no offense, I mean. And I cannot understand how so many of the people immediately around me, the people who will need federal assistance this winter to heat their homes, the people who cannot afford to fill their gas tanks, the people who cannot pay their medical bills, who cannot afford health insurance, people whose homes are being foreclosed --because of an administration of undersighted, myopic, unilateral greed-- the people who are most disenfranchised by the current and unbalanced powers of our country today are its staunchest supporters. 

I see how Obama misses the mark in places like this. His eloquence, his manner, his intelligence, the way he says his words work against his most desperate and deserted constituency. I see how people in places like this think to themselves, well shit, Sarah Palin's husband is a hunter and I'm a hunter, and that's really good enough for me. I don't need no high-fluenting, fancy-talkin' President. I need someone who's gonna understand me. And that means, to many, shooting deer, going to church and not giving a fuck about Russia. Because, in their dire disconnect they miss Joe Biden unequivocally defending the money in their pockets, saying--under no unclear terms--that people who have more need to start paying more, not less, than those who don't. Bottom line, end of story. What they do hear is Sarah Palin--screaming, shrill, lacking all composure--proclaiming that's not patriotism. Raising taxes is about killing jobs and hurting small businesses and making things worse.

But I have to agree with Dooce. If I have more money than you and you need to heat your home or pay your medical bills or put gas in your car to drive to work because you make something barely over minimum wage then take my fucking money and goddamn you Sarah Palin for saying that's not patriotic.

I am no great political commentary. This is not a political blog, nor will it ever be. I will be the first to admit that I have checked the fuck out internally over the last eight years because paying too much attention to the country I lived in caused a kind of desperation and rage in me that was often untenable. I am, if anything, more of an anthropologist than critical analyst. Listening to our President whisper the words freedom made me want to claw my way through an eighteenth storey window and jump. Standing by, powerless and bewildered, to watch something akin to the economic Patriot Act about to be passed to the tune of seven hundred billion dollars (the weight of which will be allocated equally between the rich and the poor, thank you Sarah Palin) creating the inalienable, non-transparent right of the Fed to manage it, to save some of the world's wealthiest individuals without the time for insight, foresight or careful consideration is astounding to me. It is beyond my grasp and when the guy comes by to fill dirt into the holes in my backyard, driving his truck up with his McCain stickers and then works for something like 16 hours of hard manual labor and tells me he ruptured a disc last year but couldn't afford to go to the doctor, I want to rip out both of our eyeballs. Because I cannot pay him enough to fill holes with dirt to go to the doctor, but I am certain that if he has his way in this election, neither will his political candidates.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I had a photo to put here, made up of horse ears and yellow leaves, a thick black mane and enormous feet, red maple leaves--flamboyant, gaudy, lovely--and the bluest sky, riding the ridge-line for hours in the new crisp of fall, bundled up in sweaters and gloves and an orange hunting vests, but it was lost in a glitch of uploading and battery failouts. Even still, it was every bit of bliss.

I am training again--as if I were ever some kind of expert, as if my muscle memory and strength will ever return--in dusty, fenced in arenas, over rails and on the bit, on a tall, eager gelding--my aids (hands steady! legs back! heels down! hips aligned! back straight! fingers closed! elbows bent! head forward! chin level!) a humbling and messy approximation of what they once were. My body is weak and sore and unconditioned, my mind is stubborn and determined, my heart is full and as I come in around the long side one more time--asking him to bend not holding him up with our hands--turning this big brown horse into the jump, it occurs to me in rapid clear fashion that this is what joy is made from. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The tiny, immaculate shoe store is on the corner of Via Gregoriana and Via Francesco Crispi in the Spanish Steps district of Rome. Light spills golden from all sides and I enter gingerly: feet dustied from walking in flip flops, black cotton dress damp and clingy, well worn and unwashed. We are in Rome without warning and I have not packed appropriately. We have dinner reservations in a few hours and I have to my name a see through sun dress, short cotton shorts, bikinis and flip flops. I do not even have purse, using instead a cotton mesh bag that looks as if I might be employing it to carrying fish. If reservations are required, so certainly then are shoes. 

Andy sits on the supple leather couch while I pick through the choices, working in stilted dialect with the petitely glowing sales girl who picks up the shoes and lays them out before me. I try on each, walking the narrow perimeter of the floor plan. We are in a part of the city that is most like Madison Avenue and while these little shoe boxes are set off a bit from Prada and Bulgari we are still in very deep and the numbers on the bottom of each shoe reflects it. 

Andy asks me which ones I like most, these, I say, but they are crazy expensive. He says, well do you like them? Yes, I nod but shrug my shoulders and say but these are cheaper pointing to an uglier pair that don't do quite so much for my draft horse ankles. But those look better, he affirms, you should get them. I wiggle nervously and bite my lip. I walk back and forth in them two more times, a small parade for an audience of two. Get them, they look fantastic, he says, hands me a silver card and walks into the back to look at a pair of Italian sneakers. I don't have my wallet on me. I don't even have a purse to put a wallet into. I take his card and hand it to the sales girl who smiles at me.

Most American women are too stubborn, she says, grinning like a cat. Most American woman want to do it all themselves, they think they are too big for a man, too important, they can do everything. They would never let a man buy them shoes, say. That is what they think, American woman. But not you, she smiles at me again, swiping the card through the reader. I can tell, you are more like us. You are more like Italian woman. She holds out her hand, palm up, fingers curled, as if she were holding a fruit that is ripe. Italian women, we think instead that we are in control of our men completely she tightens her hand ever so slightly and that we keep them around to do as we choose. Italian woman, she can always choose. She hands me the slip to sign. I stammer something about just not having a bag to carry my wallet in and it's not that it's just that I don't have a purse and and and.

She smiles again, her green eyes alight, takes the slip from my fingers and places the receipt into the crisp paper bag. I think you are like Italian woman, I think you could live here in Roma, no? 

lonely planet
Until recently I never travelled. Abroad or even domestically. My mother rarely travelled (though I suspect it was on her list of things she was fated to miss out on in life), airfare from Hawaii was expensive, hotels and rental cars were often insurmountable. I left for college without even visiting. It did not matter. I had a scholarship. It was where I was going. 

Until recently I had spent a miserable month in the home of Dutch family who despised me in Amsterdam, had travelled to Thailand on a lark and with the modest blessing of a tiny "inheritance" and had been to Greece. I slept in hostels and rationed food money, took trains and buses and carried the weight of my belongings strapped to my hips and back. I came back with empty bank accounts and filled up credit cards and had to wait to get my pictures developed until I had enough money. I was still using cameras with film, digital seemed too far from reach.

Until recently I could barely rent a car domestically, none the less in Costa Rica, India or Italy. Until recently there was money only to go home every few years and even then with the help of my parents. Until recently time there would pass without me, each part of my family aging in huge chunks, our lives changing without one another. 

Much has changed and for it I will be forever grateful. Much has changed, the least of which being I am now some kind of professional and for once in my life am conceivably solvent. Much has changed and I pause to acknowledge it, standing at the window, looking out onto the city of Rome, in a clean bright hotel room with luggage I don't have to carry. Much has changed and it amazes me, still.

Friday, September 5, 2008

lost at sea                                                                 

I miss the ocean so much sometimes I think it will be the end of me. 

Back from a week in the Ionian sea with an Israeli sailor and the kind of life I could only dream of ever being able to do more than peek into occasionally. En route now to Italy, where I have never been before and I want to tell you all about the biggest laundry bill I've ever seen in my life (three. hundred. dollars. oh. my. god) and  all sorts of else but I am swoony and land sick and already very much miss the ocean (I know, I already said that) and can't type. I tried to keep a log but ran into a few difficulties that I'll try to revisit later, when my head is screwed back on properly. 

Until then, here are some pictures (click on the albums)