Monday, October 30, 2006

Let the dead bury their dead

I know it's Monday and I should be toiling away at my job, thinking about bringing home a large rasher of bacon, double-checking the kids' Halloween costumes, deciding what to do about the brand new fake fingernails I bit off in a weekend fit of pique.

For some reason I am perseverating on the subject of death, especially the death of a child. I watched an interesting film last year about how Americans handle the dead bodies of their loved ones. I, of course, had never questioned how we do things until I saw this film and realized that we are one of the only cultures that whisks away our corpses, tags 'em, drains 'em, pumps 'em full of some other liquid, gives 'em a bad hairdo, an even worse makeup job, dresses them in their least favorite outfit, sticks them in an incredibly expensive and garish casket and dumps 'em in the ground really really quickly. In short, we turn our dead over to complete strangers, nearly instantaneously, and by the time we lay them to rest, still firmly in the denial phase, they bear no resemblance to the one we've known and loved. We give ourselves no real opportunity to grieve, to come to terms, to "give up" the body and take hold of the spirit.

Other cultures allow the deceased to take up residence in the living room. Propped up, perhaps, in their favorite chair, dressed in their normal clothes. Friends, colleagues, family are able to hang around, to view the body, to hold the hand, stroke the hair, feel the pain and the loss. I understand that after a few days, as the cheeks and eyes have become sunken and there is no sense of life whatsoever, those of us left behind are able to make peace with the fact that this body IS NOT our little boy or girl or father or mother or sister or brother. This is, in fact, a shell. An earthly vessel. We have time to grieve the loss, to let go of the body and embrace the spirit.

Of course, the funeral business, just like the wedding business or any of the other "ritual" businesses that are so ingrained in American culture, doesn't want us to consider anything besides the norm. Five thousand dollar caskets are expected because, after all, we loved Uncle Joe and want only the best for him. What a fucking scam.

Note to anyone who knows and loves me......When I die, please choose a very simple pine casket, perhaps lightly distressed just for effect, dress me in my flannel pajamas, put my hair in pigtails. Give people a few days to come by to look at me, hold my hand, tell me how they've loved me, how they've hated me, whatever they'd like to say.

When everyone has had enough time to comprehend that the body is not me, that I'm waltzing with Jesus, or dirty dancing with Satan, or whatever people do in the afterlife, dump me in a hole that you've all dug together in the back yard. That would make me happy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

My Fellow Tribesmen

KILL BUSH? Worry about Karl Rove? Fix Afghanistan? Remove the homeless from public libraries? Wow, you guys have a lot of mental energy! I am starting to feel like maybe I'm not part of the tribe. I'll agree that the world has a few issues, but nothing like the nightmare occurring at Chez Walden right now.

My resident bachelor and I decided recently to spice up our lives by adding some color to the house. We planned to paint three archways in the living and dining rooms in bold colors. After much cajoling by him (I tend to like beiges and grays) and many hours spent at Sherwin-Williams, we settled on Martha Stewart's Old Copper Kettle (kind of a turquoisey thing) and Russet Rose. [A little background info....ever since I explained to the bachelor the ins and outs of "insider trading" and how rich people do it all the time and how retarded it is that it's illegal, he's been slightly obsessed with Martha. He understands the steep price she's paid to appease the common man and is grateful for her selflessness.]

So, we got our supplies and taped everything off and yesterday was paint day. Here's where it starts to get ugly. I was happily painting away, picturing myself in Morocco riding a big sexy camel, when not one but two of my children, at separate times, came up to say, "Cool, Mom. Looks like La Casita." Eeeeeek! Not at all the look I'm going for! Talk about pinking shears through the heart!

So during my day today, instead of traveling to Washington to kill Dubya as I'd planned, I've had to call in my faux finish people, wait for them to arrive and fix the mess that I've created. I'm sorry that I'm letting everyone down. I promise, if George W. shows up at my door I'll give him a good slap, I'll pull his hair. If I'm feeling really plucky, I'll give him an Indian burn. But right now I have to call and cancel the rainbow awning. Mea culpa.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


I sometimes read what I've written the night before and wonder why I have any friends at all. What a bloviator I am. I think that I have Multiple Personality Disorder (which is nothing to be ashamed of, Sybil). I feel like I'm writing from the heart and the next day I wake up, full of hope and good cheer, and I think "Who is this weird, arrogant, angry person who's taken possession of my body and mind?"

The truth is that I have small boobs and a big butt; I'm way too old to be a MILF; I barely make ends meet every month; my hair looks terrible every other day; I love my kids' cute little school and all the lovely and caring teachers that adore my children and tell me as much every chance they get. I'm not overly fond of government control and I don't like the war but, if the truth be known, I don't even hate Dubya nearly as much as I should. I think he's sort of sweet and boyish and he's married to a very nice woman which elevates him in my eyes. He loves his cute daughters and gets along with mom and dad and cares about his siblings....all the things that I strive to engender in my children.

The truth of the matter is that my life is a daily grind, just as yours is. My lofty goal each day is to stay on track, to keep a whole lot of people sane and healthy, to counsel them and love them and instruct them and pray for them. To cook and clean and do laundry and pay bills--to try to work in a little exercise, a little charity work, an occasional shower. My nights are filled with homework and sporting events and bathing, toothbrushing, Halloween never ends. Nor do I want it to.

I am my best self when I am giving to my family, my community, loving my people and my God. It's hard for me to care that much about the war, about poverty, about abortion. I don't have a lot of spare time to think, less even to act. So, late at night, I let my alter ego come out and say whatever she'd like. I get up early to make breakfast and send the kids off to school and when I read what she's written I think to myself, "Please shut up and make me some coffee."

Friday, October 20, 2006

MILFs and the state of public education

Yes, I know. I'm lucky. I was born under a lucky star. I have my health and my wealth. I have a big house, two fantabulous cars, and six exceptional children. I recently won the Filling the Deep End of the Gene Pool award. "Oh my goodness. I am so honored. I'd like to thank the Catholic Church, especially Father Foxhoven for his guidance during my difficult teenage years." I have big boobs, a small butt (think upside down pear), and I'm generally considered a MILF, my daily affirmation. If you don't know what a MILF is then (A) You don't know any high school boys or (B) You don't watch WEEDS.

My point? I am supposedly part of the elite....the people who have NO WORRIES....NO HEARTACHE....GOOD HAIR EVERY DAY. We wake up each morning and weep tears of joy at our good fortune. We drink mimosas before school and feel compassion for those who have less. "God, why? Why, oh why, isn't everyone as blessed as I?"

Speaking of school. I am in a district with an incredible curriculum. We have a college prep program, Gifted and Talented programs, Science and Math Olympiad programs, Music programs, Advanced Placement programs that can get our kids into Stanford quicker than you can say "Will that be MasterCard or Visa?"

So what is my gripe? Well, the Ninth Court of Appeals recently ruled that when we turn our children over to the public school system, we check them at the door. THEY are in charge of MY children. My dynasty. They determine what my children learn, both in and out of the classroom. THEY? Who are they? Do THEY live on my street? Play golf at my country club? WHO THE FUCK ARE THEY?

Here's who they are. THEY are the administrators who allowed a troubled little girl, out-of-district-but-we-do-like-to-be-inclusive, push my perfect baby boy off the top of the slide and break his arm with absolutely no punishment. THEY are the principal who suspended my perfect baby girl for writing a clever cartoon about how girlz can deal with pesky boyz by spraying them with freeze spray and framing and hanging them in the hallway--something about a specific threat against a named individual. THEY are the government fuckheads who make my perfect darlings walk through the halls with "safe hands" clasped behind their backs so they can't threaten anyone. THEY are the counselors who called my children in during my very amicable divorce without my permission to tell them about how uncertain their futures are now that their parents have split up.

I am one of the fortunate individuals who has options. I can move my children to another school within the district. I can change districts. I can move to a private school. I can home school. Actually, I've opted to do several of these over the years. But since I pay my property taxes and abide by the Constitution, I would rather bitch. Bitch about government overstepping its bounds. Bitch about social engineering. Bitch about the NEA. Bitch about revisionist history. Mostly I want to bitch about people--people who control people. The unluckiest people in the world.

Monday, October 16, 2006


Do you remember the good ol' days when we were reckless and free? Unencumbered by good sense and family responsibilities? When we were able to get together with friends on a sunny day, have some hot wings and cold beer, and play a dangerous little game called Jarts? Yard darts, lawn darts, whatever you recall, were steel-tipped weighted mega-darts that one hurled gleefully into the air toward a yellow plastic circle across the yard. It was truly a "team" sport because everyone at the party had to pay close attention to the action to avoid being impaled in the temple. The wayward dart was most likely tossed by the belle de jour in a polka dot sundress (oh! how we laughed!)...the "new girl" once again brought by Ashton Chase, our friend with connections to Chase-Manhattan. Dammit, Ashton. Stop it. Think about us for a change.

We were the only people with a kid at the time...a preschool-aged boy. I know for a fact that one of his fondest childhood memories (oddly, he remembers this in slo-mo) is of 6 adults dropping full beers in unison and racing across the yard to body check him into a fence to save his life. Kind of a boozed up backyard version of Swan Lake. Without the tutus. Well, except for Ashton.

Sadly, they have made the game of Jarts ILLEGAL. I don't know who "they" are. Whose job is it to troll back alleys, looking for young people having fun, and then steal our toys and jump up and down on them in black Gestapo boots while we hold our blankies and our beers and sob aloud at the spectacle? Yes, them. They took our darts and our plastic rings and left us with no way to amuse ourselves.

That's when we starting smoking pot. Dang it! They've got us here too. Not only have they made our harmless little substance illegal, they've made pretty little glass sculptures with rubber hoses and small pieces of very thin paper off limits as well. What a bunch of fuddy duddies. Puh-lease. Let us have our fuuuuunnnnnn! We are functioning members of society, doctors and lawyers and brokers and developers and financial analysts, all of us. Now we can't smoke pot and play jarts in the privacy of our own yards? Well, then we quit. We are all going to go on welfare and stop paying our mortgages and and mowing our useless lawns and wasting our time volunteering with the PTA.

Actually, I have a better idea. I was on eBay this morning trying to buy a set of illegal lawn darts and I noticed that, instead of the $14.99 I remember, a used (vintage) set of crappy darts is going for more than $200 (and are to be used for nostalgic display purposes only). And, pot. Well, we all know what a nice sticky bud of Wowie Maui is going for these days (okay, I've dated myself and revealed that I don't actually smoke pot but I still like it conceptually). Perhaps we should walk away from the rat race and make our fortunes selling reasonably harmless illegal things! Yes! We could each play a role in the family business. I, the CPA, could count the beans and file the tax returns (oh, wait, tax free! ha!). Tad, the broker, could invest the profits and set up retirement accounts for each of us. Ashton, the banker, could fund our start up costs. Betsy, the attorney, could get us out of trouble and Dave and Tim, the doctors, could act as money launderers. Chris, the developer, could find us a place to grow our inventory. The only thing we need is a horticulturalist to help us with the hydroponics. Horticulturalists? Any takers? Why don't we know any horticulturalists? Dang.

Come to think of it, I think we'll start manufacturing and selling yard darts as well. At $200 a pop, it won't take long until we we're ready to retire en masse and move to gentler climes. Sipping mai tais, swimming with dolphins, playing limbo. Just like the good ol' days.

I hope they outlaw beer pong as well. Bora Bora, here we come.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

A rational assessment

A guy friend of mine said to me not long ago, "Even when I'm falling in love I'm still aware of the rational assessment I am making." Really? I'm sure I'm wrong but it seems to me that rational thought and love are polar opposites...unable to understand each other...mortal enemies even. Isn't love supposed to be an affaire de coeur? Isn't the rational mind supposed to be balancing the checkbook in the next room while the heart pursues its passion?

I picture my friend in a hip martini bar clutching a clipboard. He carefully approaches each possible "love recipient" with his Rational Assessment Rubric. On a scale of 1 to 10...Physically fit? 8. Clear skin and decent teeth? 7. Reasonably fashionable? 8. Correct eye color? 9.

Next, the home visit. Good floor plan? 8. Interesting decorative touches and finishes? 6. Acceptable lighting? 9. View? 9.

If the assessment is going well, a document inspection follows. Please provide bank and mutual fund statements for the past three years and any other relevant financial information that might help me make my decision. Hmmm, looks quite good. Yes! I'm in love!

After the initial test is passed, I wonder if the score is adjusted periodically. Uh oh, a little thickening at the waistline. Minus 2. Small inheritance from Aunt Edna. Plus 1. How low do the numbers have to fall before it becomes a rational imperative to fall out of love?

I may be mistaken but I thought love was supposed to be unconditional. I thought that to be loved was to be known and accepted, supported, trusted. I believed that it was as much about giving as receiving. Isn't love supposed to be a sanctuary...a safe haven? This "rational" love feels about as safe as the time I walked on a tightrope drunk in the dark over molten lava (CU-Boulder, 1982 Spring Break). It's something that I might be able to pull off for a minute or two...certainly not for a life time.

I wonder where my concept of love became so twisted. I think it may be traced back to my days spent in parochial school, memorizing Bible passages, learning that a function of the Holy Ghost is to remind us of what we've learned in case we should need it at some point. Maybe that's why I keep waking up with 1 Corinthians 13 on my mind. Love is patient, love is kind....Love does not brag and is not arrogant....does not seek its not provoked...does not take into account a wrong suffered. Love bears all things. Love believes all things. Love endures all things. Love never fails.

I imagine that many, if not most, relationships are based on mutual self-interest. I know that I've been a party to many such relationships myself. Indeed, a very rational assessment is made at the outset. Perhaps all along the way. Maybe every single day. And there's nothing wrong with that if it works for both participants. I think we should call these relationships what they are ... friendships, partnerships, pacts, contracts, arrangements. But I hope you'll agree with me--we should reserve the word love for something more sublime.