…but I have no jokes today.
Archive for May, 2007
Mrs I. Marrett of Brisbane, Australia writes:
“All I decided was that Daoism matched quite well with how I thought about the world
“(pokes out her tongue!)”
To which the Yatima Organization replies, maturely: Yeah, well nyerny.
Anent recent discussions of Harry Harlow, Mr A. Swartz of San Francisco, California writes to recommend Robert Karen’s Becoming Attached. It does sound fabulous – but it’s not in the San Francisco Public Library! Or the Mechanics Library! The Yatima Organization grumpily resigns itself to actually buying a book.
Time for a Kiva update! Faalevela Robertson, who runs the store in Samoa, has repaid 8% of her loan. Randomly, it turns out that Marcio who I know through work is a co-investor in Faalevela’s business: I find this ultra cool. Meanwhile in Kenya, Sarah Mukuhi Ndungu is kicking it out of the park! She has already repaid 20% of the money she borrowed in March to buy a dairy cow. HOT DAMN, WOMAN.
So here’s the thing about Krishnamurti. During the Great Not Getting Into Oxford Tantrum of ’93, my mother, who let’s not forget is Awesome, arranged for me to spend a week at the beautiful Stroud Monastery on a hill in the bush north of Sydney.
At that point Stroud was still run by the Poor Clares and by Wendy Hope Solling, Sister Angela, a delightful lunatic who built the mud brick cabins by hand after recovering from breast cancer. At one point she’d died on the operating table. God sent her back with this message:
“Death is dancy, darlings. There’s light and flowers and the most glorious music and we’ll all just be dancing and dancing!”
This all took place before I realized I was a sardonic supporting character in the movie of my life, back when still I thought I was the tragic female lead, so things were about as bad and crazy as they could be. I used to fall asleep with my hand on the earth wall so I wouldn’t float away in the night. Naturally I desperately wanted Sister Angela to like me and to See My Potential, so every time I opened my mouth it was to say something banal, unintentionally offensive or outright idiotic.
And naturally there was another woman there, much much older – probably about the age I am now – extremely cute, funny as hell and originally from California:
“A little nowhere place called Ojai. Spelt Oh jay ay eye, but pronounced Oh hi! You’ve never heard of it.”
“Just read a novel set there,” I said snottily. This was true, but I’m buggered if I can remember the title or anything else about it, and my Google-fu fails me.
“Oh really?” she said kindly, tactfully shifting her attention back to Sister Angela. “So anyway there are these two Great Ironies that define my life. First is that I spent twenty years trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, meditating. I’d sit down and there would just be this huge, vacant… nothing.”
“Darling, that’s what you meditate FOR.”
“Of course! And it took me twenty years to work that out. I know, right? And THEN, I’ve spent these twenty years travelling – Tibet, Nepal, an island out in the Hebrides where I worked on an oil rig, and the whole time I have been looking for the teacher who will make it all make sense for me. And eventually I give up and go back to Ojai, and THAT’S when I meet Krishnamurti…”
Sister Angela, laughing: “He’d been there all along.”
“Half a mile from the house I grew up in, yes.”
We fade out on gales of laughter and larval Rachel scowling bitterly into her bread pudding.
R: My sister decided she was a Daoist after reading (wait for it)… can you guess?
D: The Tao of Pooh.
D: At least it wasn’t that fucking quantum mechanics book, what was it, The Dancing Wu Li Masters.
R: No no no no! …that was my Dad.
Yeah, so my race plan totally included Julia keeping me up all night and me being way too tired to function today.
There’s another race in three weeks; I’ll do that. Today, Carnaval.
Since Jeremy’s been away I have replaced batteries, found and plugged in lost cables, reinstalled shortcuts on the TiVo remote and sticky-taped any number of things to other things to which they should adhere. It is, in fact, rather empowering and he’d better come back soon or risk obsolescence.
The DVD is still displaying black and white images, but I kinda like it. It’s sort of steampunk and I am suddenly All About The Steampunk.
R (singing): Once there was a girl called Claire, you could take her anywhere.
She was a very fine girl called Claire, you could take her anywhere!
Once there was a girl called Jules, she broke all the rules.
She was a very fine girl called Jules, she bro-oke all the rules!
Once there was a dad called J, when we saw him we said yay!
He was a very fine dad called J, when we saw him we said yay!
C (singing): And he liked to play games and puzzles with me!
R (singing): Once there was a mum called Rach, nothing rhymes with Rach.
She was a very fine mum called Rach, but nothing rhymes with Rach.
C (singing): And you like to work.
R (surprised): I like to play with you as well!
C: Yeah. But you like work.
R: Yeah, I guess I do.
C: Blood is red so I like blood.
ETA that this was in the context of a raspberry macaroon; no preschoolers were impaled in the making of this joke. Although we did run into an awesome geek zombie flash mob at 5th and Mission garage. They had signs saying “I can has brayns?”
Mr S. Lee of San Francisco, California writes:
“I’d just like to point out that distance running is pretty nerdy. It’s what band kids do in spring.”
The Yatima Organization greatly esteems its readers.
Reading Deborah Blum’s Love at Goon Park, the biography of Harry Harlow who did the experiments on baby monkeys with cloth and wire mothers. Don’t follow that link if you don’t want to be upset. Like the book, it’s every bit as harrowing as you’d think it would be.
Blum’s a bit florid with her scene-setting, to put it mildly.
“There are obvious physical differences between Stanford and the University of Wisconson, starting with water. The Madison campus overlooks a tree-rimmed lake rather than the sharp edge of the Pacific, a vista pretty rather than breathtaking…”
Um. What? While I’ve been to a bunch of Larry Lessig talks and suchlike at The Farm and toured SLAC and kept Noah, the Swedish Warmblood of my soul, at Glenoaks Equestrian Center which is actually on leased university land, I cannot definitively say that it is impossible to see the Pacific Ocean from Stanford. There might be sea glimpses from the Dish or something. But I’m pretty sure there aren’t because there’s a small mountain range in the way.
Anyway what Blum is doing really well is establishing a connection between, on the one hand, the early 20th century’s growing understanding of the mechanisms and vectors of communicable disease; and on the other, a truly diabolical movement in psychology which discouraged kissing and cuddling kids on the grounds that “overmothering” would make them weak and whiny. Chief among its proponents was the pioneering behaviorist John Watson, and Blum makes the very interesting point that when he was a kid his mother dragged him along to revivalist meetings, which he loathed. The Wikipedia entry adds that Watson wasn’t as extreme as he’s been painted and that he retracted or qualified some of his more outrageous claims, but the damage had been done. My mother, in hospital for an appendectomy some time in the 1940s, was only allowed to see her parents for an hour once a week, a deprivation that still makes tears start in my eyes.
I wouldn’t have wanted to have children then, with well-meaning and implacable patriarchs having ill-founded and ungainsayable opinions about how I ought to treat them. One of my mental images of myself as a mother is a memory from some wildlife documentary or other of a lioness with her cubs. The cubs clamber over her and chew her ears. She catches one at a time and licks them. If they get too boisterous she swats them with her paw; undismayed they gambol away. Every morning the girls climb in bed with me and we reenact this idyllic savannah scene, then hunt and kill a gazelle. When they’re ill and especially when they’re feverish, my instinct is to hold them as if I could regulate their body temperature with my own. We read books and watch TV in affectionate heaps.
It’s attachment parenting in its simplest form; and attachment parenting as a socially accepted trope traces its lineage directly to Harlow. He did the appalling monkey experiments in order to demonstrate the importance to young mammals of unstinting physical love. So I owe him a deep debt of gratitude, even if those pinched, anxious baby monkey faces will haunt me always. And now, because I have suggested that cruel experiments on animals may sometimes have redemptive social effects, Salome is going to put me in a cage, clamp my head in place and hacksaw into my brain.
Not only am I running a third race on Sunday, I have a race plan. Jamey’s right. I’m turning into a jock.
Not bad for a beyond-last-minute, post-sugar-crash dinner. I bought Italian chicken and bell pepper sausages at Good Life; Claire grabbed strawberries. I roasted the sausages and steamed the last of the broccoli over a pan of wholemeal penne. Sliced the sausages and tossed everything together. It tasted really good. Diced the strawberries and squeezed an orange over them for dessert. Claire demanded seconds.
Had an AWESOME dream about zombies attacking Arndale, which I will never learn to call the Forestway Shopping Center. They had zombie vehicles, which were welded together out of scrap cars and trucks, very Burning Man DMV. I was among the last handful of live humans, fortifying ourselves in a corner office. My character’s name was Feisty Sidekick. The actor who plays Stan in the US version of The Office was there, too. His name was Black Stalwart.
ETA: Hmm, you think maybe the zombies were my bad memories of the place where I grew up? And Feisty Sidekick is my conscious mind, panicky and overthinking everything? And Black Stalwart is the part of me that looks death in the eye and doesn’t flinch? Come ON, subconscious. This is shabby, meretricious work. MUST TRY HARDER.
Last year I was idiot enough to invite the wrath of evolution by bragging on my blog. Well, funny thing about that. The specific claim was that I didn’t spend a lot of time second-guessing the choices I make as a mother. Then Claire turned four and all entropy broke loose.
Example: we spent yesterday morning at baseball practice in the Excelsior. Baseball is followed by a small art class. Claire made a very fine lizard mosaic, and was then given a polysterene bird. She coloured in the pieces and we slotted them together. She loved her bird and kissed its beak. Cut to: lunch at a nearby tacqueria. Cut to: Claire back in the car, howling, because her bird has lost its tail.
In my defense I did walk and then drive slowly along part of the street where the tail was lost. Didn’t find it, obviously, and we were meeting Jamey and Salome at Maker Faire so we had to go. She sang a small sad song on the drive down (“My bird is sad, she has lost her tail”), and I indulged in all kinds of foolish hope that this creative act would turn out to be therapeutic. But when we got to San Mateo she began sobbing in earnest. We drove for about ten minutes to the sound of her unchecked grief. It was gut-wrenching.
What should I have done? I thought of asking Salome if Claire could have the tail from Milo’s bird; but this morning Milo’s bird got caught in a breeze and Jack went galumphing after it and caught it. Claire, of course, saw that bird and thought it was hers and started off crying again. Then I felt like a crap parent because Jack saved Milo’s bird and I didn’t save Claire’s.
But it’s not my job to protect her from every tiny little thing. Is it? One deal I made with myself when I decided to have kids was that I would never lie to them, not even to spare them pain. So dead dogs aren’t in heaven, they’re just dead. And now Claire thinks about death a lot, and asks me not to die, and for the first time I really get it, that death is a concept so huge most adults don’t ever wrap their heads around it, and so for her this is all really, really hard.
But the alternative is condoning lies by omission, at best. And my visceral revulsion over lies is a reaction against my old church, where everyone lied about everything all the time. (Although oddly enough they, too, would have insisted that dogs don’t go to heaven.) The little lies were all committed under the umbrella of the big lie, as it were. The big lie was the minister claiming to speak for a good and just God while taking girls into dark corners to rape them in the mouth. I was okay because if he’d lifted a finger against me I would have told my Dad. I want to raise my girls with the same magical protection, a caul to keep them from drowning in lies.
But. But. But. Who the hell am I to decide when to protect them from small griefs and when not to? When to move heaven and earth to recover a toy, and when to shrug and decide that it’s only two inches of polysterene? How can I seriously believe that regular exposure to small griefs will help them cope with the big ones, when they come? Do I believe in a kind of emotional immune system? Am I completely insane? And even if there’s any merit to my ludicrous theories at all, will I protect them from anything except an eighties-era suburban Sydney Anglican church? So that if they happen to time-travel back to Forestville in the days of acid wash …they’ll be perfectly safe?
Also, I miss Jeremy.
Got mail from my immigration lawyer on Tuesday morning. Spent the rest of Tuesday and all day Wednesday filling out forms, making photocopies, having our pictures taken, being inspected by an immigration doctor to make sure we weren’t leprous, psychotic, sexually deviant, syphilitic or tubercular and getting vaccinations against measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, pertussis, diptheria and some others I forget.
Today after Jeremy left for the UK I went to pick up our signed, sealed medical certificates. Our immigration doctor’s offices are in the heart of Chinatown. We had awesome Vietnamese for breakfast there the other morning, so today for lunch I just wandered into the dim sum place next door and pointed at things that looked good. I probably ate pig snouts and snake rectums, but it tasted wonderful and came to about $4.
All documented up, I walked three blocks from sunny, noisy, scented Chinatown through the hellish Stockton Street tunnel to my lawyer’s hushed office above Tiffany’s overlooking Union Square. I don’t write much about the immigration experience here because it’s an exercise in ritual humiliation that routinely makes me cry. I just wanted to emphasize that contrast: from the cramped grey examining rooms where Cantonese grandmas applying for family based petitions must in fact have to worry about testing positive for TB, to the godlike abodes of the calm collected professionals who will organize this bewildering mass of information for you, provided you can pay the substantial fee.
I have a theory. Nothing in America is not about class.
For those of you who are keeping track, we’ll be filing more-or-less concurrently for our I-140 and I-485, and if everything goes according to plan, we’ll be permanent residents in let’s see seven nines are umpty-ought, carry three and divide by the number you first thought of, what does that come to, right, maybe never.
It doesn’t do to invest too much in the process.
Reason it all had to be done in such a rush is that J, as noted above, has gone to England for ten days. I’m being very calm about this. It’s not the end of the world. I know that. It’s just a very high cliff, with the world’s ocean falling off in an unceasing torrent and far, far, far below, a glimpse of giant turtle.
“I didn’t say debtside, I just said bedside.”
“Oh, I misheard you! Debtside is funnier.”
“What about buyside?”
“I have my finger on the pulse of investment banking.”
“An excellent debtside manner.”
Things have been a little rough lately. I was cranky with Claire last night. We ended up in my bed, side by side, reading. I rolled over and lay with my back to her for a while. Then I felt her little hand in mine.
I looked over my shoulder. She squeezed my hand and gave me a radiant smile.
“I love you Mama,” she whispered.
“Can we be friends forever?”
“And can you not die?”
Looong pause. All I could think of to say was:
“Not for years and years and years…”
The great thing about being married to a very smart man is that he understands things without having them spelled out to him. Of course, the really annoying thing about being married to a very smart man is exactly the same thing.
R: Had nightmares.
R: Dreamed I was running around with a Brazilian boy in a favela outside Rio. Then the walls started oozing ectoplasm, so we flew away. As we took off I woke up with an ugh!
J: The favela being straight out of that Yann Arthus-Bertrand book we were looking at last night?
R: Yes. So I got back to sleep and dreamed I was trying to catch a bus, but before you could get on the bus you had to be accepted by the people who were already on it. And they kept turning me down.
J: So that would be the FOO bus.
R: …what of it?
J: Your dreams are so adorably literal.
R: What about the ectoplasm?
J: We TiVoed Ghostbusters.
Nope, no sleep.
Brunch, then sprawling in the sun on the warm pebbles at Rodeo Beach, cheese and tomato toasted sandwiches at the Depot Cafe in Mill Valley, home to nap (the small people, not the big people). Dan came over to look after Jules while Claire had a date with me and Jeremy. We browsed at Kinokuniya and had sushi at Isobune.
I was 22 years old the first time I tasted raw fish. Claire eats masago like it’s candy.
Now she’s watching Howl’s Moving Castle. I’m going to make fruit salad.
Oh! And last night when we went to see the Slavoj Zizek film, I said to the ticket agent:
“Three adults for Perverts please.”
A pretty boy nearby overheard me and squealed:
“It sounds so cool when you put it like that!”
“Oh yes, we are definitely For Perverts.”
“And there’s three of you!”