Some Last Thoughts on the Judge

img_0408Earlier this week, I heard a few things on NPR that gave me a slightly altered perspective on Brett Kavanaugh: Someone who knew him at Yale said he was always the one standing by the keg hoping to get the girl. “He never got the girl,” this person added.

A friend who also knew him from Yale spoke of how surprised he and his friends were  to learn at graduation that good old Brett had done quite well, a fact he attested to last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Through his whole student career, Kavanaugh said, (rather inelegantly) “I busted my butt in academics.”

And, as we now know, he also partied. Fifteen times in his testimony he spoke of beer. “I drank beer. I liked beer. I still like beer.” He wouldn’t answer when asked if he had ever had so much to drink that he blacked out. With a face contorted by anger at the presumption of this question by Senator Amy Klobuchar, he said, “I don’t know Senator, have you?”

So here’s a man about whom it can be said that he worked hard, and he partied hard.

Perhaps in his mind, as in many of our minds, he thought that the one thing justified the other. Many prosperous Americans seem to feel that because they work hard, they richly deserve the fancy car, the ski vacation in Aspen, the great rambling house surrounded by wide green lawns, and never mind that others in this country also work hard; work at two, even three, jobs and stand at bus stops in both the dark of morning and the dark of night. Only these others know that they can never let loose and party hard because of the silent judgment directed toward all those who have less, especially if they are people of color or people otherwise judged as ‘other’. Think of the still closely-held belief that reveals itself in that old American taunt, “If you’re so smart why ain’t you rich?” That tells you what we value in this culture all right. The accumulation of wealth is the primary measure of a person’s worth.

Still, my mind keeps returning to this image of that 19- or 20- or 21-year-old boy who was said to stand so often by the keg hoping to get the girl and ‘never got her’. He told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he was virgin in high school and “for many years after.” I’ll admit I laughed out loud in my car on hearing that last week but maybe it was true. I dare say many of us were virgins in high school and even stayed that way for one or two years after but not for ‘many years’. By the age of 19 or 20 most of us had begun seeing ourselves as adults and were getting about the business of living. But to believe that in the self-indulgent, feel-good 80s Brett Kavanaugh was still clinging to his virginity for the ‘many years’ he speaks of? That strikes me as unlikely.

I know the Senate may well cast their vote to move the nomination forward before I get these scattered thoughts posted. Still, I had to set them down. The Judge’s notions – as well our own notions of what we are entitled to – expose dark trends in our possession-loving American hearts. We want what we want and we’re sure we deserve what we want. And that’s the best way I can state it at the moment.

What Did YOUR Mom Do All Day?

I spent all weekend fixing things, or trying to, so today I’m dressing up as my mother and meeting my friends for coffee in the living room… My friends are all  imaginary so I won’t have to clean up much.

See how pleasant we all look? I’m the one with the dark hair.

style model 60s

  • We may play a hand or two of cards after this.
  • Or discuss silver polishing techniques.
  • Or the best way to keep your girdle from riding up.
  • Or if we feel really daring , maybe we’ll talk about that new Magic Fingers gizmo you find these days at the Howard Johnson Inn…

The kids are playing stickball outside, we think. Johnny sassed his little brother earlier but we’ll have to wait for Father to come home to deal with that since after all Father Knows Best. Or, er, Ward Cleaver maybe, the Beav’s dad…ha ha.  A little irony for you guys today! In truth my hair has never looked as tame as the hair of the lady on the left.

Here’s how I really look today, a fresh two inches of rain having fallen on my little head  last night.

Photo on 6-10-13 at 11.35 AM

Truth in advertising ha ha! And while I’m telling the truth I should admit I borrowed the photo on top from a Chock Full O’Nuts ad in a magazine.

Let’s Talk About This

chainsaw warning labelLet’s talk about all the stupid warning labels out there, like this one on the left.  Or, “Do not take internally,” it will say on your spray deodorant, just in case you thought you’d start using the stuff as mouthwash.

You see these ‘Don’t Take Internally warnings everywhere: On your sunscreen. (Really? You don’t want to try swallowing it for a nicely bronzed set of lungs?) On your cleaning products… It seems so crazy – though come to think of it, my neighbor did just report to me in a text message that she recently sprayed some those famous foaming bubbles into her face, instead of the toilet.  “You know the kind that sprays blue and turns white when everything is cleaned?” she texted me. Well I’m here to tell you it really does spray blue.. even on your eyes, face and teeth!”

You see it on hair coloring. – though come to think of it again, I did almost tint my insides a trendy Autumn Glory once in a dyeing mishap so comically awful even a shameless revealer such as I am cannot tell the story….. Well, maybe if you got me drunk.  And if I were on my deathbed.

And you were dying too.

I made cookies last week from the kind of frozen kit school kids are always hawking door-to-door.

  1. “Preheat oven to 325,” the instructions read. OK, easy enough.
  2. “Bake 10 – 12 minutes.” Got it.
  3. “Do not burn cookies.”

‘Do not burn cookies?’ It might as well say “Listen, just stop now. Baking is beyond you.”

That one seemed to me the most insulting set of instructions yet – that is until last Saturday when the mail brought from my sister Nan in Florida an envelope.

It contained no letter but only the instructions that come with one of the many electric appliances  we ladies use on our hair.

“Keep cord away from heated surfaces,” it said about this curling iron.

OK, fair enough.

“Do not touch hot surface of the appliance,” it said, which seems, you know, kind of obvious.

“Never drop or insert any object into any opening” it went on, and I’ll admit that one struck me as a little strange. Don’t try using this curling iron as a what, a piggy bank?

But the instruction Nan had highlighted with yellow marker was the best one of all.

Regarding this red-hot electric-cattle-prod of an appliance it actually said, “Do not use while sleeping.” How would you manage that even if you wanted to? is what I wonder. So do manufacturers include all these warnings because care for us? Because they worry about us, more than a roomful of brand-new parents? No, ladies and gents. It is because they don’t want to end up in court  here in frontier-town America, where instead of the six-gun the latest weapon is – can anyone doubt it? – the lawsuit.

Hooking Up

“Follow the Bouncing Body-Part” I should have called yesterday’s post. Don’t they have some amazing ways of dancing these days though. And how on earth do people hear each other at the noisy clubs? How can they even begin to size each other up when all they have to go on is what meets the eye?

Or maybe the point really IS to just the quick ‘hook-up’, a phrase that always sounds  very painful and fish-hook-like –  with a barb on the end to wound you in your tenderest parts -and also sadly mechanical, like those long, dull docking sequences from The Empire Strikes Back.

Neil Paumgarten wrote a piece for The New Yorker earlier this summer about online dating sites, sites that one handsome, single friend just told me he wouldn’t dream of using since in his mind they smack of “desperation”.

Boy is he wrong. As Paumgarten put it,  “The process of selecting and securing a partner, whether for conceiving and rearing children, attempting motel-room acrobatics or merely  finding companionship in a cold and lonely universe” is really “consequential. 

“Lives hang in the balance. And yet we have typically relied for our choices on happenstance – off-hand referrals, late nights at the office, or the dream of meeting cute.”

College campuses and cities  meanwhile he calls great “habitats of abundance and access” when it comes to meeting possible partners  “but as people pair off, and as they corral themselves, through profession, geography and taste, into cliques and castes, the range of available mates shrinks. “We run out of friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends. You can get to thinking that the single ones are single for a reason.”

Which is nonsense of course. Few people are single because they deserve to be. My Great Aunt Mame used to say it about pairing off: “For every old sock there’s an old shoe.” All people really need is the help of the complicated algorithms so painstakingly perfected by sites like e-Harmony and and OK Cupid. You need the pre-sorting that they do. How are you going to avoid getting in too deep with a Tea-Party-when you’re a Socialist, if the best you can do is read lips at some noisy club?

As for Joe Nichols here, well we all know this: getting a girl out of her clothes thanks to alcohol is pretty much the last thing any woman wants to remember having done the morning after, however coyly cute Joe looks singing about it. 

Everybody’s Birthday

Here’s a great postcard that my college roommate sent me several years ago now. I could never mail it to anyone – I could never part with it! – and now I know why: This funny old-time card,  the work of the very clever Ashleigh Brilliant, is perfect for today.

Because July Fourth is everybody’s birthday, right?  I know we’ve been setting off fireworks around here since Saturday. (Calm down; they’re legal in the state where I’m spending the weekend.) And tonight, just as the loons are starting to whoop, we’ll drive into the village and see how the pros do it.

Take a look at Ashleigh’s website and support small business by ordering some cards for your own special occasions. Then take two minutes and watch this trailer from the great Barry Levinson’s great 1990 film Avalon about the man who immigrates to America and lands in Baltimore on a day just like this day 97 years ago.  And here’s to a great Fourth for everyone – ND a great year upcoming for our big loping good-natured country, just now coming out of its long adolescence. After all this living I have done I still can’t think of a place I’d rather live.

Workin’ 9 to 5

It’s Saturday and I feel LAZY. Slept late  today – ‘til 7:30 as against 5:10 – and went to bed last night with no t’s crossed and no i’s dotted, very unlike me.

One minute I was reading Jane Eyre on my bed, fully clothed my meager four ounces of wine at my elbow and the next I was sound asleep and dreaming all kinds of racy ancillary adventured for old Jane to get involved in.  Then it was I-don’t-know-what-time and I was under the covers, mostly clothed and drooling, the wine still untouched beside me.

I get so tired as the week goes on. We all do. I look at the traffic report on TV mornings and there we all are in our cars hours before dawn, inching along toward work. I go out in my own car and there we are waiting at bus stops, in snow and rain and air so cold it makes your fillings hurt.

The French have it knocked. They’ve got free this, free that, 6 weeks of vacation and nobody goes in to work ‘til 9 or 10 in the morning and then they’re out at the cafés nights laughing and smoking their brains out and drinking the good red wine.

Say what you want about us Americans, I think we’re  the hardest-working people anywhere. So me falling asleep sitting up? And the two EMTs seen sacked out below?  Well it’s bound to happen sometimes, right? 😉

The Gift-Laden Tourist

Speaking of  ‘and all I got was this lousy T-shirt’ what’s this new custom where you’re supposed to bring everybody presents when you go away? My parents never did that, maybe because they never went away except for a yearly business trip to New York when they’d send us kids a postcard of a hotel with an arrow pointing to some room on the 27th floor.

Me I’m just back from Italy where I bought nothing but the meals I ate (which come to think of it stands in great contrast to the last time I went when our foodie kids had us practically sewing ten-pound hunks of cheese and cured meats into the hems of our coats.) Truth is I can’t stand all that trinket-buying. It’s just so wasteful! And mindless!  I mean did you really want a hand towel with the Royal Family on it? Does your kid really need a Sea World T-shirt?

As the lawns grow ever stiffer with cold you can feel us getting closer to the mass delirium of holiday shopping. Yet the happiest people I know these days seem to be the ones who have a kind of lottery at the holidays and give their one person the coolest thing they can come up with for under 25 bucks.

Maybe my family will do that this year, buy our little ones a bunch of cheap little gizmos and spend the rest of the time playing board games and shooting the breeze. Keep it simple as the man said. Let our home be our mast and not our anchor. Because otherwise, think about it:  who’s gonna dust all THIS?


Is this what it feels like to be a dancer? To have these long strong legs and then … flowers growing up out of your torso?  I just spent two riveting hours watching  Hubbard Street Dance Chicago do their magic and as you can see in this super-short clip they’re not really naked the way they seem to be in that photo I used in yesterday’s post. (I mean seriously: who could dance with no clothes on?) On the other hand they’re not overly clothed either – not in the way dancers used to be in their tights and super-snug bodices, the men in those bulging codpieces that made the girls all blush and look away. This troupe dances with bare feet and bare legs, and the sound as they land is soft, delicious, like the footfall of a fawn. When I watched them swaying together I thought “Here is what we’re meant to be: sea anemones caught up and moving to the rhythms of  some invisible tide! But how can  regular schlubs like us possibly learn to move this way?

Then I found this clip of the dancers on YouTube and saw that we ARE like them: David and I look just like this when he tries to make me go back in the kitchen and clean that messy drawer filled with the duct tape and pizza coupons, the dried-up gluesticks and the cat suppositories. It’s the same thing exactly! I too dance away, go limp, pretend to pass out! He too picks me up and drags me back! So art really does imitate life, right down to the drier lint swirling around at their feet. It’s a wonderful thing.


Here are the streets of Winchester today. Just kidding ha ha. This really is Venice but Winchester is hot on Venice’s heels with the waters rising and rising, hiding entirely the eyebrow-shaped arch of the bridge by the Post Office, coursing fast toward our Upper Mystic Lake and on out to the insatiable ocean.

When the floods of two weeks ago receded, they left a sorry sight: a thousand plastic bag parts clinging to tree branches even ten and twelve feet off the ground. The improvised neighborhoods outside Tijuana are strewn with this same harvest. So are many barren hillsides in Israel where Palestinian people have set up their woefully inadequate tents and lean-tos. If extra-terrestrials touched down for a quick tour of the planet they’d report us as a strange and warlike people drowning in our own waste.

We’re spoiled of course as Americans. When word went out last night that the people in certain communities should not flush their toilets for at least 12 hours they stood saucer-eyed reporting this fact to the TV reporters. We never think of what we leave behind; we’ve never really had to, with the services that have come to feel like ours by right.

I took the above picture just a month before Venice was once again flooded and in the days after saw an account of that most recent event in a British newspaper. In reporting the story, it described two American women, suitcases on their heads, trudging across St. Mark’s Square in knee-high water and – what else? – sobbing loudly.

This Is Peacekeeping?

The Titan Missile Museum here in Tucson is a mighty eerie place with its recurring theme of how enlightened the U.S. was with its Peace Through Deterrence program. That’s the program that basically said  “If you even think about hitting us first your sorry cities will be ash within 30 minutes of the time we push this here button.” I guess I’ve just never really understood how we kept the world safe for future generation when wait, weren’t WE the ones who killed all those people on the Japanese mainland on two lovely August mornings? And, as the museum keeps saying, wasn’t this newer bomb six hundred times more powerful than the ones we dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

I actually began to feel sick touring the place, which can ALMOST seem sort of harmless with its padlocked metal file cabinet holding the day’s secret ‘code ‘ and its fat padded pipes like you had in the basement of your built-in-1930 grade school. But then I kept wondering how the other visitors could bring their small children to a place where in the waiting area before the tour you have to watch repeating images like the one above; where the minute the video starts you see this classically horrific footage of a building exploding into flames. (It must have been within 17 miles of the blast, poor building.)

I taught high school for most of the 1970s and I have to say: I took one look at the film below and suddenly understood why that whole generation of teens born in the 50s seemed to want nothing more than to get stoned before lunch and stay that way for the rest of the day.