Oops, I did it again

15 10 2009

Yes, it’s been out of hand for awhile.

Years, actually.

The endless searching, the belief I found The One, the infatuation, the comfort, the dissatisfaction. . . and the search begins anew.

No, I’m not talking about men (or women); it’s all about the bags.

I admit it: I am a bag whore.

Not handbags, not purses—oh no. Backpacks and book bags, with the occasional duffel thrown in.

It started in college. I didn’t really need a bag (or sac, as I would say when I lived in Montreal) in high school; I kept pens and whatnot in my locker, and simply carried my books under my arm. If (ha! when) I went out, I simply tucked my driver’s license and cash in my pocket, along with a house and/or car key.

But in college, well, no lockers. So I needed a bag—truly. I may have started with a backpack, but I think the first was a book bag, navy, canvas, with a large inner pocket, two smaller pockets,  a zippered flap covering those pockets, and a slot in the back for a magazine or newspaper. The strap was cotton, no cushion. I can even picture the store where I bought it, in the little mall by the Southeast dorms on the Madison campus.

Did I mention I still have this bag, complete with red anti-apartheid ribbon still wrapped around the strap?

There were more, of course. I’d go back and forth on the flap vs. no-flap, and between bags and backpacks. More pockets, fewer pockets; expandable, trim; large, medium, small; rugged, lightweight; easy access, security. A bag for every preference. Almost all of which I still own.

That I was (still am?) a hiker only added to the bag fetish: What was suitable for the trail was not so much for the library, and vice versa. And then it was about day hikes vs overnighters, frame vs frameless, more pockets, fewer pockets. And then the panniers for my bike. . . .


Yes, I know there is No Perfect Bag, only the best bag for the occasion.

But still. I yearn for the bag which combines security for my wallet and keys with easy access for everything else, which is durable and lightweight, which has just enough but not too many pockets, which allows me to be organized and flexible and never ever ever hassled by the bag itself.

That I keep my bags (and no, I don’t know how many I own) helps me deal with my restlessness. When I tired of my 15 (or so)-year old Land’s End bag, I could switch to my five-year-old REI bag. But then I thought, well, I’m kinda in a backpack mood. But the packs I had. . . sadly, no, nothing was quite right.

I’ve had pretty good luck with the SwissArmy bag line (yeah, I know: brand-loyalty-is-for-suckers, but that’s simply a caution against mindless repurchasing, not experience), but couldn’t find one to fit my current needs: smaller, decent wallet security, good main space, with enough-but-not-too-much secondary space. I checked Staples (two of them!) and then an obscenely expensive bag store on Broadway and Ninth (?). Hell, I even popped over to KMart to peruse the packages.


I gave up, bought my Cortland apples at the Greenmarket, then headed to Target for cat food (and Oreos, if you must know).

And then I found it. A ‘woman’s’ bag, i.e., a bag meant for a smaller torso, in disgusting pink and reasonable blue. Not too big, not too small, juuuuuust right. And inexpensive, to boot.

So another infatuation begins.

If only I would spend as much time looking for dates. . . but then again, I don’t suppose I could just pile old boy- or girlfriends in my closet until I was ready for them again.

Baby, it’s cold outside

13 10 2009

I may have mentioned once or twice my. . . displeasure with summer.

Displeasure, hah! Fear, loathing, hatred—you know, the normal responses to sun and heat.

But fall, ah, blissful fall: crisp air, brisk winds, long nights, prelude to winter and all its bluster.

Who could hate the impending onset of weather which chases you down the street and into your apartment? Which welcomes your boots and mittens, gives way to your willingness to test yourself against its cold?

Winter: time of laughter and ease.

Unlike summer, which teases you outside and seduces you into believing the sun is your friend. The sun is not. It tolerates you in June, turns contemptuous in July, and, along with its collaborator, humidity, tries to kill you in August. The only way to survive is to hunker down in a dark space in front of a fan or air conditioner.

Winter respects its denizens; summer mocks them.

What set off this (rather pedestrian) reverie? The heat in the apartment has kicked in.

I don’t even have radiators, but the steam knocks so horribly in the bathroom pipe that it’ll wake me up—and has already freaked out Jasper. (Bean, used to noisy heat, barely stirs in her sleep.) Still, the sound signals the onset of warmth, the invitation to cozy up with. . .all right, I don’t have a companion, but a book or a cat. With a whiskey.

Waiiiit a minute, you might ask: You spent how many words bitching about the heat of summer, how it traps you inside, and here you are rhapsodizing over. . . indoor heat?

You’re clearly missing the point. It’s about an attitude, a set of possibilities, of the ability to carry one’s warmth outside and thus the freedom to move about, unlike in summer’s tyranny, which makes no allowances for bringing the cool with you.

Oh, never mind. You’re a summer person, aren’t you?

Closing walls and ticking clocks

11 10 2009

It was my twenti-mhtph class reunion last night.

I didn’t go.

But I did get to talk to folks who were at the reunion. T. called me amidst it all, then passed the phone to one person after another.

It was very loud.

I’m not sad I wasn’t there. I managed to miss all previous reunions, and, unlike in previous years, I wouldn’t have minded attending, but a trip back to SmallTown just was not happening.

B. filled me in a bit, today. I try to remember to call all of my friends and family members on or near their birthdays; B.’s day fell on a mad grading day, so it wasn’t until this weekend that we managed to connect. Anyway, she noted that a lot of people looked much the same as they had, some of the guys had gotten fat, one woman looked really, really old, and one of our classmates had gone completely around the bend.

Cameras-in-the-forest, president-not-born-in-US around the bend.

Everyone else seemed to have retained his or her sanity, however, and even Mr. Alternate Reality apparently entertained more than he offended. (It also apparently helped that another classmate basically served as his minder.)

So we’re halfway to the end. Does this make us old, or young? We are, thank the gods, no longer teenagers, but are we old? We ache and dye our hair and talk about our health, but we still have hair to dye and health to discuss, and we’re mobile enough that we can generate aches.

We’re forty-xmpthish: One lifetime down, one to go. Does that seem like so much more or not much more?

Who knows. It’s all we’ve got.

It’ll have to do.

One thing leads to another

9 10 2009

It’s happened again.

I finish one novel, wait, start another one. Then a new set of characters pushes into my words, and the new idea is set aside as a completely different novel unfolds.

I don’t understand it, but I go with it.


So the President has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

I’m among those who wonders a bit about this, but I have a hard time seeing a downside.

This nearsightedness would apparently disqualify me from a career as a pundit, insofar as the bright lights of blovi-nation have deemed this as ‘having no upside’ (Mark Halperin, Time), as damaging (Mika Brzezinski), and a couple (George Packer, Mickey Kaus) suggesting he turn it down.

Yeah, because that would accomplish. . . what, exactly?

I’m not much of a nationalist, which, depending upon one’s definition, may mean I’m not much of a patriot, but why are all these ostensible America-Firsters so opposed to having something good come to US president?


Biter Boy still bites. Not as often—not nearly as often—but even as he nears the end of teething (all four adult fangs are now in) he chomps more than he should.

Oh, and he knocked over his first plant this morning. Pissed me off, led to some, mmm, yelling, but as I was plopping the plant back into the pot, I remembered that Bean and Chelsea had their own bad encounters with their leafy co-inhabitants.

Jasper is also in full bathroom-fixation mode. Into the sink, sniffing the faucet. Running into the tub after I open the door after a shower, to watch the water finish its slow slide down the drain. And every time he hears me use the facilities he runs to inspect the process—sometimes to mildly distasteful results.

I should note that his fascination is strictly observatory: he does not appreciate forced participation in bathing.


I hate grading. Have I mentioned that?

That’s the one, big, drawback to working at a community college: no teaching assistants on whom I can offload the papers.


I’m not much either for Twitter or Miley Cyrus, but jeez Louise, even I took note that Stage Dad Billy Ray is pushing for her to, uh, what the hell’s the story? Oh, yeah, she shut down her Twitter account, and Mr. I-Miss-the-Limelight is begging for her return.

Excellent idea, ’cause I’m sure the SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD girl doesn’t have enough to do, what with going to school, starring in a t.v. show, promoting an album, and whatever else an over-scheduled future-rehab patient does.

Now that’s some fine parenting.


Your socialist-feminist-pomo-cranky blogger is. . . looking for corporate work.

Baby needs a new pair of shoes.


C.’s got a new post up at SoundofRain about moving on, hashing out, and forgiveness.

I haven’t yet responded because I don’t know how to respond. Moving on? Check. Hashing out? Check—sometimes. Forgiveness?

Have I mentioned that I can move on?


Newsflash! Migraines suck.


EmH has a post responding to a question I asked: Why support a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians?

Haven’t yet responded to her (grading: grrr), but it’s a certainly a reasonable position, one to which I am resigned.

Still, even this resignation is studded with uneasiness, insofar as I don’t see how the two states can actually be accomplished without massive—and forced—resettlement. Ethnic cleansing, in other words.

I’m not one to state (to continue the hygiene theme) that ‘we’ should wash our hands of the whole thing, but I wonder if the continued (over?) involvement of everyone and her mother in Israel and Palestine’s business doesn’t simply make it easier for Israelis and Palestinians to avoid dealing directly with each other.

Not that there’s any way to keep everyone’s mother out of this.


I have a decent, if complicated, relationship with my parents—a situation which I’d guess would describe most adult kids’ relationships to their parents.

Perhaps that’s why I find this site, My Parents Were Awesome, so poignant.

Yeah, they once had lives that had nothing to do with us. Lives with their own complications.

And the beat goes on.

Jane says

4 10 2009

Do you know Jane?

‘Jane’ was the name of the underground abortion service in Chicago in the late sixties and early seventies; it wound down after the Roe decision in 1973.

As told by Laura Kaplan (who was a part of Jane) in The Story of Jane, a number of women in the Chicago area put together a not-for-profit and completely illegal service, one which they eventually expanded to include pap smears and female health education. Although a few members were eventually busted (somewhat by mistake), they operated for years with the knowledge both of police and various ‘legit’ medical professionals.

That such an underground service existed is not a surprise. What is stunning, however, is how completely fucking radical these women were. They initially relied upon various sympathetic and/or mercenary doctors to perform the abortions, but eventually learned how to do them themselves.

You got that? These women received training from a guy who received training from a doctor—and went ahead and performed not only D&Cs, but also vacuum aspiration, and, eventually, second-trimester abortions.

I’m as pro-choice as they come, but even I blanched when I read that. Fucking hell, I thought, second-trimester abortions done in apartments and hotel rooms?!

But they were good. One woman did die—a death which led some members to drop out, and to a great deal of turmoil for those who remained—but her death was almost certainly the result of an infection caused by  abortion attempts performed elsewhere. Upon realizing the extent of her infection, Jane members told her to go immediately go to the hospital; she waited more than a day, then died at the hospital.

Kaplan describes the meeting following the woman’s death:

As details of the story were recounted, a numbness spread throughout the room. They had founded the service to save women from dying and now the very thing they were trying to prevent had happened.

That was the whole point of Jane, to save women; even more, to give them a way to save themselves.

It wasn’t simply about making safe, inexpensive abortions available to women, it was also about women—both Jane members and those who used their service—taking responsibility for their own lives. Jane set up training for their members, and provided counseling for the women who came to them. They didn’t have moral qualms about abortion itself, but they were careful to ask anyone who seemed uncertain if she really wanted to go through with it. The decision, and the responsibility, lay with the woman herself.

Kaplan is not a deft storyteller, but she is an honest one. She details the egos and tensions, the difficulties of involvement with an underground organization, the conflicts with other women’s liberation organizations, and all the varieties of risk taken by Jane and the women they helped. All of these women shared desperation: the women (‘participants’, not patients) who came to Jane for help, and the members of Jane themselves, to help all who asked for it.

It was, in fact, that desperation to save women from unsafe abortions that led Jane to take over the operation itself, and to end up inducing 2nd-trimester miscarriages. If we don’t do it, they worried, what will happen to all these women?

There’s so much more to The Story of Jane. I used it in my ‘Women and Politics’ course I taught this past summer as a way not only to foreground reproductive issues, but also the issue of underground, anarchist, or DIY politics. Does underground work affect politics above the ground, or does DIY simply let the above-grounders off the hook? Or is the effect on ‘normal’ politics less the issue than the creation of one’s own politics?

I’m still chewing over those larger political issues. But when it comes to abortion, I wonder if Jane didn’t have the right idea. I’m a big fan of Planned Parenthood (see my links list), but they are at the forefront of putting abortion and contraception firmly within the medical sphere, i.e., within the sphere of specialization and  licensure and, most importantly, women-as-patients.

Jane insisted that abortion was something that women participated in, not that it was something done on or to them. This is your body, they repeated over and over and over, this is your life. In this context, the notion that women should have some idea of their own genitalia—a kind of mirror-empowerment which, honestly, always kind of put me off—seems less woo than utterly practical. How can you take care of yourself if you don’t know what you look like?

I know, there are both hospital-based and free-standing women’s clinics, not a few of which are also interested in patient or client education. And, frankly, autoclaves and medical education seem to me very good things.

But what about responsibility and liberation and solidarity? What of a woman’s (or any) emancipatory movement premised upon the simple declaration that you can and must free yourself? Jane was not encouraging women to bust out into chaos, but to recognize themselves as full human beings, and to inculcate a sense of responsibility not only to themselves but to those around around them.

With liberty and justice for all. Pretty fucking radical, huh?