Saturday, March 22, 2003

Wondering what you can do to help our troops in the Mideast (and elsewhere)? Check this great web site: http://booksfor

I've got some books, a box, and an address, now I'll be getting some filler (toothpaste, gum, whatever) and my first box will go off Monday!

And if you think this contradicts the previous posting, you're not a very careful thinker.

Friday, March 21, 2003

If Flush LImberger gets his say, I by God get to sound off on my opinion about this war, too.

I'm divided. Well, not really. It'll be great getting rid of that slimy sociopathic dictator. I just wish we could do it *before* we got rid of Saddam. [ba-DUM-boom]

No, seriously, folks, I'm relieved that we're not getting the shock'n'awe that all the news heads are so disappointed not to see. It's a GIANT relief that we're not just pulverising every single object within the city limits of Baghdad. Or however you spell it (patience; I'm on post-operative meds). The fewer civilian casualities the happier I'll be. But I have this nagging feeling that the war opened *this* way instead of with shock'n'awe because the generals just said, "To hell with that; we can achieve the same end *this* way without 100s of 1,000s of dead."

Even if this war is over tomorrow, we'll still be left mopping up not only Iraq but our own newly ragged, filthy reputation amongst our traditional allies--not to mention the love & joy we'll be getting from Muslims and Arabs all over the world. Way to diplome, Dubya. Not that you care.

I think Lileks ( has a great idea: attach Palestine autonomy to the autonomy of women in Saudi Arabia. Can't have one without the other. It'd be darned interesting to watch what happened after *that* one got signed, wouldn't it? [sigh] That's one of the things I can agree with Lileks about; otherwise I fear we're on different pages, though not different sides.

But I am sure getting tired of hearing that disagreeing with the Occupant of the White House makes me un-American. How ignorant is THAT? And on the other hand, it's heartening to see that several rallies have been held here in Omaha that were publicized as NOT pro- or anti-war, but PRO-OUR GUYS OVER THERE. *That's* something I can get behind, too, and it's encouraging that people from all points of view are not letting Dubya Et Al sucker them into the All-or-Nothing straw man B.S.

But it's sad because the people of this nation deserve so much better than they've got in the White House.

Blow it out yer barracks bag, Lush! [Oops, forgot--you don't have one, do you? You didn't serve in the military.]

Sunday, March 16, 2003


If you use Paypal, you'd better get educated about the latest email/spam/scam going around. Complete details are at the site linked below; Speculations ( editor Kent Brewster details what to look for when you receive a notice like this in your email.

Anatomy of a Really Convincing PayPal Scam by Kent Brewster. Spread the word, this is *very* helpful info!

Friday, March 14, 2003

I dated a man for a year and a half during my junior and senior years in collge. (I'll call him Jake.) I loved him with all my heart. He loved, me, too. He worked all over the middle of the USA doing construction for a prefab house-building company. This is how much he loved me: On Friday nights, after 60 or 80 hours of working, instead of riding with his crew-mates all the way back to his hometown forty miles up the road from where I lived, he'd have them drop him off on the highway two miles from my house in town. He'd walk all that way lugging his week's laundry in his duffle bag, along with his lunchpail and sometimes even a small gift for me or my son. He'd arrive at our door exhausted, sweaty, grimy, but with a big grin on his face. On Monday morning, I'd drive him out to the highway with a bagful of clean clothes and a pailful of sandwiches and fruit, and drop him off for the crew to pick up for the week.

I would have married him in a heartbeat, but he was chronically insecure about money, and was saving it as fast as he could, and I was a poverty-level single parent college student. I didn't want to get married before I'd got my degree, anyway. Finally, his financial insecurity led him to leave the state, to move halfway across the country to work for a friend of his who was launching a big-deal new food-processing equipment company. This was the death knell for our relationship, because he was not a long-distance communicator, and I was insecure about love. I'd go for weeks without hearing from him, meanwhile sending him letters, tapes and cards daily. When I'd finally break down and call him, he was always amazed that it had been so long since he'd written or called me. I went through hell. The "friend" was turning out to be, as I wish I'd seen before, a lying sociopathic asshole, and was using and abusing Jake. But you couldn't tell Jake that; after a lifetime of grinding poverty and exhausting manual labor, he couldn't give up the hope that this was his ship coming in at last. Finally, when eight weeks went by and I heard nothing from him, I called him up and more or less gave him an ultimatum: a call a week, or a letter, or I'm finished. I can't stand this. When he equivocated, I told him finis.

Then I went through a year and a half of more hell, the hell of having dumped someone I truly loved. But I would not tolerate playing second fiddle to his friend/employer's nefarious tune. Jake called me once, about a year after I'd graduated from college and moved back to my hometown. Just making sure I was all right, he said. It was a short conversation.

A few years later, I met the man who is now my husband. I'd recovered from the college-years trauma. We started a life together, and I was madly in love with him. We had ups and downs, but since I'm still married to him now 18 years later, I guess we've done well, and though the colors of our love have changed, they are just as vivid now as ever. Anyway, when we'd been married about 3 - 4 years, I got a phone call from my best friend from those same college years. She knew what I went through after Jake left, and after I'd broken up with him. She was calling to say he had called her wanting to get in touch with me if I wanted to. She said "He's got MS. I could hardly understand him on the phone. He gave me his phone number to give you so it would be up to you to call or not, but if you're going to, my advice is: Do it soon."

To this day, writing those words sends a heavy heat of shock and horror through me, and my eyes fill up with tears. Then, it was even worse. Guilt, pain, horror, despair, all filled my body for days. Of course I told my husband what was going on, after the girlfriend called. He expressed sincere sympathy, and the subject was dropped. I went around in a fog, trying to hide the depth and intensity of my emotions from my husband. After all, this was a *past* lover, someone I'd recovered from before I met my husband, and my loyalty was by right and moral, owed to my husband. Besides, I didn't want to hurt his feelings by showing how devastated I was over the bad news about another man. It took me several days to decide to call Jake.

My girlfriend was right. I could hardly understand him on the phone, but with patience and caring we got through the conversation. He apologized for having left me adrift all those years before. I told him I'd long ago forgiven him for that and hoped he'd forgiven me for breaking up with him; he said he never blamed me. He'd left his "friend's" employ, having finally figured out he was getting screwed, and gone to work for the Post Office. He'd worked for them for a few years when he was diagnosed with MS, and apparently the disease progressed rapidly after that. He said his church and his P.O. co-workers had been a great support system, and his elderly mother, now widowed, had moved out there to take care of him. When we hung up, I believe it was in a spirit of mutual love and concern.

After that, my pre-occupation deepened. I have too good an imagination; hearing his voice had summoned up memories of his physical presence: his walk, his touch, his smell, his body. Knowing what MS was doing to him tortured me. But still I couldn't say anything to my husband, especially not these sensual memories. And the thought that I could have been married to Jake, and might have had to *be there now* going through it with him, tortured me more: a big part of me was hideously relieved that I didn't have to do it. Imagination was bad enough. I wrote to him about once a month, cheerful little note cards with short reports of current events in my life and expressions of warm regard. His mother would write back thanking me and saying how they cheered Jake up.

After a couple of months of this I took the whole thing to my AA meeting. It all poured out, all of it, along with about a gallon of tears. When I finished I looked up and my friends' faces were full of concern and a few were crying. One of the newer guys leaned forward and said, "Man, you must be one wonderful person. Nobody I ever dated would ever have wanted to talk to me under those circumstances." My jaw dropped; I didn't feel very wonderful, I felt like a piece of shit. One by one all my group spoke, as they always did. Even those who didn't address my situation, had something profound and moving to say. It helped. One of them said, "I think your husband would be more understanding than you think." I couldn't believe that; I feared losing him more than losing my life, and it seemed just too risky. I'd try to work through this grief myself, and not bother him with it.

A few days later we went out to eat at one of those "blue-hair cafeteria" places. Jake had been with me all day, and by the time we sat down I was near tears, but fighting them desperately. This makes me smile now, but I really thought I'd kept a pretty good poker face. But as I unwrapped my silverware, my husband leaned across the table and said, "I don't know why, when a love affair ends, we think that's the end of love."

No one has ever said anything kinder or more loving to me.

About six months later Jake's mom responded to a letter with the inevitable: Jake had died in his sleep. He rests, of course, in a treasured place in my memory.

The human heart knows no boundaries.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

It occurs to me that I do some rather odd things, sometimes. I wonder if I'm the only one, or whether they're really very normal for a human being.

This first occurred to me the other night when I was reading Stephen Jay Gould's Eight Little Piggies. I got to the end of one particularly lyrical and elegantly logical essay, and mourned his death anew. There I am, a middle-aged, highly educated woman alone in bed, hugging a *book*. "Whot?!" I thought, "Whyever am I hugging this inanimate object? What possible good does it do me? Isn't this strange?" And I think I thought a few more miscellaneous things about the way a middle-aged woman's mind starts working. And I turned over and went to sleep.

Then I was cleaning out my Yahoo email box, and I found several really old, outdated messages from someone I only hear from occasionally, but whom I really really like in a cyber-pals sort of way. They were months old. "Why on earth did I keep these?" I asked myself. (Yes, I talk to myself a lot, but that's not middle-age, I've always done that.)

The contents of the messages were trivial. Then it came to me: they're mementos. I like the person very much, and kept the emails because she sent them. I also keep greeting cards, but eventually they are tossed, in my periodic fits of cleaning ruthlessness. These emails are the electronic equivalent of treasured greeting cards. But they're not cards, not even e-cards. They're really just a certain assemblage of electronic nits residing on a hard drive on the Yahoo server somewhere in cyber-land. They're not even in my *house*! But the person who caused them to be organized in that precise order, and uploaded to that server, is special to me, so I don't erase these equally-electronic nits giving me access to them through my e-mailbox, and they cause that particular pattern of light-and-dark to beam out of my computer monitor to be seen by my eyes and perceived and interpreted by my brain as a message from her. Could anything be less warm and fuzzy? Good grief! I think this is downright WEIRD.

But I bet I'm not the only one. So what's being co-opted here? Are we being trained to think like computers? Or are we appropriating the detritus of Cyberville and -- loaves-and-fishes-like -- turning them into paper letters and greeting cards in our minds? To comfort ourselves in the absence or loss of our friends and loved ones.

At least Eight Little Piggies is a *physical* object. And it's a hell of a lot cuddlier than an electron.