Monday, September 26, 2005

Same Old Same Old

Oh, what can I tell you.

It feels like everything and nothing is happening all at once. The hurricane didn't touch us, or maybe it whispered in our ears, maybe the trees swayed a little more forcefully than they normally do, but not a drop of rain fell, not a single power line came down, there was no need for the five 12-packs of bottled water that now languish in the living room. Austin is full of people, though, seeking shelter from both storms. Friday night we went out to dinner with friends to a Chinese restaurant on the north side of town (fantastic, by the way -- I've finally eaten a good Chinese meal in Austin) which was packed to the gills with Houston folks. One guy told me he had driven for 16 hours, which meant he left home at 3 in the morning or so, and had just pulled in for dinner. It's usually a 2 1/2 - 3 hour drive.

In the middle of all of this my father was outfitted with a shiny new pacemaker. Seems to be a growing trend in my family. Both my parents now sport one, which I guess means I'm a likely candidate down the road, unless they come up with something even better by the time I'm eligible. He's fine, it's no big deal, but somehow it is a big deal, too. Parents, know what I'm talking about. All that jazz.

And somewhere in D.C. my sister is maybe in jail tonight, having gone there with the intent of doing civil disobedience and getting arrested. There was no plan for a phone-call chain, so I have no idea what's happening. Hopefully it all went well and she got herself arrested, as planned.

People call and say "how are you? what's new?" and again I have this feeling: Everything. Nothing.

We're having record-breaking heat. I'm working. My printer is on the fritz again. We had pasta for dinner. All hell is breaking loose in the world.

What's new with you?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Here She Comes

Lovely Rita's on her way. I went to the supermarket last night to stock up, along with 75 million other people. The stockers were coming into the store with forklifts of water, and watching bemused while throngs of people descended upon them, unloading the packs of bottles before they could get them onto the shelves. There wasn't a single D battery to be found in the store, and I didn't have the propane tanks to refill, so we may be completely out of propane. Hopefully the gas will stay on, even if we lose the electricity. It's a little exhausting, contemplating the arrival of another hurricane, but at least we're not down in Galveston or Corpus. My friend Sharon and family packed up and left League City and headed for a hotel in Waco yesterday. I hope they get to return to a dry house. Brian's grandmother is safe in San Antonio. Our friend Kathleen was supposed to have a gallery showing this weekend in Galveston. Her paintings are still there, in the gallery. Watercolors. Who knows what will become of them. It's weird having this much warning, this much waiting. Strange to look out the window at a perfectly calm, blue-sky day, and think about that monster storm churning in the Gulf, heading straight for us.

Hold on to your hats, everyone!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

The second season of Nip/Tuck is now out on DVD, and we've been happily putting the babies to bed, grabbing our pints of ice cream*, and settling down on the couch for long stints of TV goodness. I know of no other show on television that has such a sublime combination of the profound and the schlocky, the comedy, the drama, the soap opera. It's sex and death, every single episode. Sex and death. Plus Famke Janssen!

Tonight, the famous Uchi, finally. I've been waiting to go to this restaurant for months now, and tonight's the night! A farewell party for Jason, who is going off to the wilds of California and leaving us here, crying in our sake.

*This pint of Cherry Garcia was shamefully short on cherries; I may need to send a disgruntled letter. Is it a short-changing trend, or just a bad pint? Shame on you, Ben and Jerry.

Friday, September 09, 2005


It's hard not to point fingers and lay blame right now. It's impossible to hear the stories of trauma, violence, victimization, neglect, and death, and not get angry. I finally was forwarded the email (you can read it here on the daily Kos) which is making the rounds, essentially accusing the mayor and governor of dropping the ball, and claiming the president and the dept. of Homeland Security to be faultless, a sort of chain-of-command argument which, under the circumstances of Katrina, frankly doesn't hold water, if you'll forgive the expression.

The sermon last Sunday was a bit disjointed, as was to be expected from our Louisiana-native priest. He talked about grief, and we are surely all grieving, and he talked about blame, and we are surely all blaming. It's in our nature to do so. I think what makes this whole thing so difficult, in part, is that this is not the story we want to tell ourselves about ourselves, and about our country. We want the story of people pulling together, not turning on each other, and while it's true that a tremendous amount of people pulled together, saved each other, got out, and survived, it is also true that we failed each other in so many ways, on so many levels. The thought of a hospital evacuation having to halt due to sniper fire still leaves me feeling cold and numb.

People across the country are pointing fingers at the Feds, the mayor, the governor, even the victims themselves. Here in Austin, people (at least on one email list I subscribe to) are getting seriously riled up about the Red Cross's handling of the volunteer effort, the lack of efficiency, the people wanting to help but being turned away, the inability to find places to take donations. My own email suggesting patience while the Red Cross tries to respond to the overwhelming number of would-be volunteers and donors was met with hostility. I backed quietly away from that argument; this is not the time. People are angry, frustrated, grieving, blaming, even blaming the relief organization, so determined are they to find fault and point fingers.

The second reading on Sunday was from Romans 12:9-21, and included the famous "Vengeance is mine..." quotation, but ended with an even more powerful statement, one that has stayed with me all week.

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

I'm doing what I can. There is much to be done here in Austin for our 5,000 or so new residents. Some of them will be staying permanently, some moving on. The school-age kids have orientation today and will start full-time in the Austin public schools on Monday. I'm heading back over to the Red Cross tomorrow to sign up for another shift at the Convention Center. I want to find Dotty, and Curtis, and David, and baby Gerald. I want to see how the family of 24 is doing. This time I'll fill my pockets with trinkets for the kids, and I'll bring in some magazines for the adults to read.

"Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers."

Monday, September 05, 2005


“When can I go to school?” was the first thing 12-year-old Curtis said to me, after he’d stepped off the bus and I had taken his bag. Not “where are the cots?” or “do you have any water?” The second question was “do they have basketball teams here?”

It was a long night, I carried a lot of bags and babies, and heard a lot of horror stories. Took a lot of people to triage, people with swollen feet they could barely walk on, people in insulin shock, people severely dehydrated. Women came in who had been gang raped in the Superdome. Dotty and Ron told me of their two nights spent on the floor in the shopping mall, which became overrun by looters and where they feared for their safety and their lives. She saw a woman who had been beaten to death with her own wheelchair, babies dying, bodies in dumpsters.

I listened.

People got off the bus tired, drunk, dazed, angry, scared. Some were happy to be there. Many were grateful, saying that we were the first people who had treated them with any kindness in days. There were groups of 24 who had stayed together all the way, groups of 12, groups of 13. They had suitcases and garbage bags full of clothes and shoes, their only remaining possessions. Some were barefoot.

Baby Gerald, five months old, was there with his mother, brother David, and sisters Kiere and Lisa, all of them tired and dirty, stinking of urine and wanting beds. David got a new asthma inhaler and a prescription for antibiotics for his brewing ear infection while I held sleeping Gerald, a perfect, fat little cherub, totally oblivious to the chaos around him. The family ate their burgers and fries and the mom gave out their medical history. When I had finally gotten that family to registration, I needed a new shirt. They would soon have showers and clean clothes, but who knows how long it would be before they had beds, walls, privacy, normalcy.

Between midnight and 8 a.m. Sunday we unloaded probably 60 Metro busses with 30 people on each one. As I was leaving, we heard of three more planes coming in with 575 more. More came throughout the day. And today there are signs up still on the highways, directing refugees to the Convention Center. When all is said and done, we’ll have 7,000 refugees in Austin needing help, jobs, schools, money, homes, cars, child care, and comfort. There’s so much work still to do. Happy Labor Day.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Music Meme

It's Meme Week in the Big City! Somebody STOP ME!

Here's how this one works: go to Music Outfitters, type the year of your high school graduation into the search function, select the top 100 most popular songs, cut and paste it into your blog and then bold the ones you like, strike out the ones you hate, and leave alone the ones you don't care about or don't know. Tim sent me this, having come across it on drublood.

Guess the year:

1. Careless Whisper, Wham!
2. Like A Virgin, Madonna I don't know, I can take her or leave her, but this song is so funny, "touched" is so obviously substituted for "fucked," that I'll bold it for sentimental reasons.
3. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Wham! I've lightened up on George M. & co. since back then. I hated Wham! with a passion in high school, but now I tolerate it for the most part...except for this song, which just gets right under my skin.
4. I Want To Know What Love Is, Foreigner
5. I Feel For You, Chaka Khan Uh huh. Best song of the top 100 I'd say.
6. Out Of Touch, Daryl Hall and John Oates
7. Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Tears For Fears I never want to hear this again, for as long as I live.
8. Money For Nothing, Dire Straits
9. Crazy For You, Madonna
10. Take On Me, A-Ha Take me on. Take on me. Was it a grammatical exercise, or what?
11. Everytime You Go Away, Paul Young Utter dreck. Made funnier since the book of Mondigreens came out, Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy, with the line "...You take a piece of meat with you."
12. Easy Lover, Phil Collins and Philip Bailey
13. Can't Fight This Feeling, REO Speedwagon
14. We Built This City, Starship On rock and roll? Seriously? Wow.
15. The Power Of Love, Huey Lewis and The News
16. Don't You (Forget About Me), Simple Minds
17. Cherish, Kool and The Gang
18. St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion), John Parr
19. The Heat Is On, Glenn Frey Bad, bad, bad.
20. We Are The World, U.S.A. For Africa This song plagued anyone unfortunate to be alive with working ear drums this year, and the year after -- I think it was released at Christmas-time, but I could be wrong. It followed us everywhere. It was piped into our houses, our supermarkets, our playgrounds, our coffins.
21. Shout, Tears For Fears
22. Part-Time Lover, Stevie Wonder What the hell happened to Stevie?
23. Saving All My Love For You, Whitney Houston
24. Heaven, Bryan Adams
25. Everything She Wants, Wham!
26. Cool It Now, New Edition
27. Miami Vice Theme, Jan Hammer
28. Lover Boy, Billy Ocean
29. Lover Girl, Teena Marie (weird, huh? I don't remember either of them.)
30. You Belong To The City, Glenn Frey You belong in the trash.
31. Oh Sheila, Ready For The World
32. Rhythm Of The Night, Debarge
33. One More Night, Phil Collins
34. Sea Of Love, Honeydrippers
35. A View To A Kill, Duran Duran
36. The Wild Boys, Duran Duran
37. You're The Inspiration, Chicago Chicago, Foreigner, this was the year of the truly sucky supergroups that would not fucking go away.
38. Neutron Dance, Pointer Sisters
39. We Belong, Pat Benatar Come on, you know you love it.
40. Nightshift, Commodores
41. Things Can Only Get Better, Howard Jones whoa oh ohohoh whoa oh oh oh oh oh oh...great lyrics.
42. All I Need, Jack Wagner ...are some earplugs.
43. Freeway Of Love, Aretha Franklin Maybe Stevie and Aretha were playing an elaborate practical joke on us all.
44. Never Surrender, Corey Hart
45. Sussudio, Phil Collins What did it mean? Who gives a shit?
46. Strut, Sheena Easton
47. You Give Good Love, Whitney Houston
48. The Search Is Over, Survivor
49. Missing You, Diana Ross
50. Separate Lives, Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin
51. Raspberry Beret, Prince and The Revolution
52. Suddenly, Billy Ocean
53. The Boys Of Summer, Don Henley
54. One Night In Bangkok, Murray Head This song is so...odd. But sort of endearing.
55. If You Love Somebody Set Them Free, Sting
56. Obsession, Animotion
57. We Don't Need Another Hero, Tina Turner
58. Material Girl, Madonna
59. Better Be Good To Me, Tina Turner
60. Head Over Heels, Tears For Fears
61. Axel F, Harold Faltermeyer
62. Smooth Operator, Sade
63. In My House, Mary Jane Girls
64. Don't Lose My Number, Phil Collins
65. All Through The Night, Cyndi Lauper
66. Run To You, Bryan Adams
67. Glory Days, Bruce Springsteen
68. Voices Carry, 'Til Tuesday
69. Misled, Kool and The Gang
70. Would I Lie To You?, Eurythmics
71. Be Near Me, ABC
72. No More Lonely Nights, Paul McCartney
73. I Can't Hold Back, Survivor
74. Summer Of '69, Bryan Adams
75. Walking On Sunshine, Katrina and The Waves
76. Freedom, Wham!
77. Too Late For Goodbyes, Julian Lennon
78. Valotte, Julian Lennon
79. Some Like It Hot, Power Station
80. Solid, Ashford and Simpson
81. Angel, Madonna
82. I'm On Fire, Bruce Springsteen Bruce at his smokiest, achiest best.
83. Method Of Modern Love, Daryl Hall and John Oates
84. Lay Your Hands On Me, Thompson Twins
85. Who's Holding Donna Now, Debarge
86. Lonely Ol' Night, John Cougar Mellencamp I loved him back in the Cougar days.
87. What About Love, Heart
88. California Girls, David Lee Roth
89. Fresh, Kool and The Gang
90. Do What You Do, Jermaine Jackson
91. Jungle Of Love, The Time
92. Born In The USA, Bruce Springsteen
93. Private Dancer, Tina Turner
94. Who's Zoomin' Who, Aretha Franklin Oh, Aretha. Why?
95. Fortress Around Your Heart, Sting
96. Penny Lover, Lionel Richie
97. All She Wants To Do Is Dance, Don Henley
98. Dress You Up, Madonna
99. Sentimental Street, Night Ranger
100. Sugar Walls, Sheena Easton

1985, a very, very bad year indeed. I think it's best if we just forget the 80s, and move on already. I could have added even more strikethroughs, but enough already. I wasn't listening to the radio that year, anyway, so I only had to contend with most of this crap when I went out in public. I remember being mostly obsessed with the Talking Heads (not ONE song on this list???), my boyfriend's band and some other local Boston bands long since forgotten, The Clash, The Police, The B-52s, and Elvis Costello.