Monday, July 31, 2006

My Family Is Fucking Weird, Vol. I

Main Idea: Lip-Sync Routines

Supporting Details: The other night, my dad and I sat around drinking gin (he with Tom Collins mix and I with tonic) while listening to Dwight Yoakam's cover of Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds" on repeat. We listened so long and drank so much that my dad finally -- and very happily-- suggested we work on a "routine" to perform at our upcoming family reunion. He even demonstrated what that routine might look like, leaping into the living room from behind the dining room wall and crooning into his alcoholic-beverage-microphone as the singing began. He then left my brother approximately five messages in the hopes of discussing the routine and the rehearsal thereof. My brother's only response when he finally called back: "I'm not sure that's an Elvis song. I think it's just a Dwight Yoakam song."

Because he, like the rest of us, is used to this shit. It's a given. Any gathering of more than two of my family members, given enough time and enough alcohol, will result in a lip-sync routine. Actually, it's probably not lip-syncing, it's probably just regular old singing. It's just that the music's so loud by that point that it's hard to tell.

Some members of the family have a standard routine to a specific song. My sister does "Tiny Dancer." She's not above being a backup singer in someone else's routine, but "Tiny Dancer" is hers and hers alone.

Other members of the family, namely my dad, will get down to just about any song they know.

The rest of us will only get in on the lip-sync action given enough alcohol and the right song.

Lip-syncing is fun. Just ask the neighbors.

I don't know what other families do on Christmas, but I distinctly remember one Christmas that my mom looked out the window and noticed our neighbors across the street laughing their asses off at my sister and I singing and dancing around to Madonna's "Like a Prayer." It was on repeat. And we were in college.

Sure, it's a little odd. But if you'd spent your childhood watching your dad twirl around the kitchen singing "Leader of the Pack" and "Poison Ivy" into utensils while clearing the table and washing the dishes, you might have developed a penchant for lip-sync routines too.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

When You're In The Water, You're In Their World

In case anyone is wondering, I won't be leaving the house between 8 and 10 PM for the next week. And don't call me either.


It's Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, and I fucking love Shark Week. I love it so much that when my brother (who also loves Shark Week) called at 7:58 tonight to remind me that Shark Week started at 8:00, he was not surprised to learn I'd had it marked on my calendar for over a month. I love it despite the fact that I am absolutely terrified of sharks and frequently have nightmares about being eaten by them. I love Shark Week even though the good folks at Discovery insist upon kicking it off every damn year with a barely modified version of last year's same damn "World's Ten Deadliest Sharks" program, which I watched a while ago between calls to and from my brother to exchange snarky "up next. . .the hammerhead" and "ooh, do you think the tiger shark is number three?" comments.

See, we already know about the world's ten deadliest sharks, because they're the same damn world's ten deadliest sharks as last year, with the same damn interviews of the same damn dorky guy from the International Shark Attack File. And yet we keep watching.

Because sharks are fucking awesome! And because we're afraid they're gonna eat us!

Some of us, namely myself, are fairly obsessed with this possibility. At one point, our refrigerator at the beach was plastered with articles we'd clipped from newspapers and magazines about how to avoid shark attacks. These articles offered such ingenious tips as "don't swim in areas where sharks are known to congregate." Eventually, my mom got sick of these inane shark attack avoidance tips and took down everything except a list entitled "What Are The Odds?," which indicates that your odds of getting attacked by a shark (1 in 3,700,000) are much slimmer than your odds of, say, drowning in a bathtub (1 in 11,000) or of being killed by an intimate partner (1 in 1800).

People love to quote statistics like this, but these people are stupid. Because here's how statistics work: some crazy statistician takes the number of people in the world and divides it by the number of reported shark attacks or bathtub drownings or intimate partner killings to get an average that's supposed to comfort me -- a girl who rarely takes baths (showers, yes; baths, no), does not currently have an "intimate partner," and spends three months out of the year in the ocean. Where sharks live!

Sure, I could stay out of the ocean, but you're talking about a girl who loves swimming in the ocean so much she once described it as better than sex. To her boyfriend. And, ten years and several intimate partners later, she stands by that characterization.

Where were we? Oh yeah, Shark Week. Bonus points for anyone who can identify the world's deadliest shark featured above. My brother is automatically disqualified, as is anyone who guesses the Great White. Everyone knows the Great White is only the world's second deadliest shark, and that its attacks on humans are merely sad cases of mistaken identity that afterwards keep the Great White up nights. Poor little sharky.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Billions And Billions

The last serious conversation I had -- or attempted to have -- with my father was five years ago. It was my summer of Carl Sagan, a summer I spent sitting on the beach reading every book Sagan ever wrote (this is not a good way to pick up lifeguards, by the way). I started, of course, with Cosmos, and was completely enthralled. However, I didn't quite understand Chapter 8, which is about special relativity.

Special relativity is tricky and it boggled my mind, but in a way I enjoyed. I remember gazing at the stars and trying to wrap my mind around the possibility that a star I was looking at right then might very well no longer exist, that the light I was seeing had traveled years to get to me and that the star it left might have died in the meantime, yet I could still see it. I was fascinated by the thought that I might be looking at something that didn't exist. I loved this concept.

My dad is a nuclear engineer, so I knew he understood this far better than I did. I was excited -- excited that I knew someone who could help me understand relativity and excited that I had something to share with my dad. He’s a science-y person who I’ve always suspected was secretly disappointed he didn’t have science-y kids. I brought him my copy of Cosmos and asked him to read Chapter 8 and then discuss it with me.

My dad flipped through the book, glanced at me, and then said, "Stick to History, Megan" as he handed it back to me.

Maybe he was tired, maybe he’d had a bad day, maybe he’d long ago accepted me for the history type I was and not the science type he wanted. I don’t know. What I do know is that it was then that I stopped trying to be close to my father or to win his affection.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Daydream Believer

I am not an outdoorsy kind of person. I do not like hiking, rock-climbing, skiing, camping, or any of your typical outdoorsy activities. That being said, there are few places I would rather be than outdoors. But I just like to sit there, preferably with a drink or a book (or both) in hand. I love love love being outside. In fact, most of the restaurants and bars I frequent were chosen primarily for their outdoor seating. Given an outside option, I will almost always take it.

As a kid, I was the kind of girl you'd find staring out the windows longing for fresh air. I am now the kind of teacher you'll still find staring longingly out the windows on particularly beautiful days. When I taught at a school that didn't suck, I was even the kind of teacher who planned her September - October and April - June lessons around the premise that those lessons would be delivered outside and who confidently left notes on her door that read "Miss [my last name]'s class is outside enjoying nature," knowing that anyone who needed me would easily find me in my usual spot.

I mention this because today was one of those heartbreakingly beautiful days on which it pains me to remain inside. The sky was bright blue with big puffy white clouds, there was hardly any humidity, and the water temp was 70 with an onshore breeze. And I had to work. Inside.

I spent the day expounding on my theory that nobody should have to do anything when the weather's this nice. It's a theory I genuinely subscribe to. In my ideal world, a beautiful day would mean a day off for everyone. I know it's totally unrealistic, but I think on a gorgeous day the world should just stop so that everyone can enjoy it. The lady at the pizzeria pointed out that this is impractical. "My mortgage company don't see it that way," she lamented. I tried to explain that in my world, her mortgage company is sitting on the beach too, so it's kind of a wash. She didn't seem convinced.

So I went back to the bookstore and immersed myself in Calvin & Hobbes for the rest of the day. If I couldn't be outside, at least I could be among like-minded cartoon people.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

When He Stopped Bothering To Fake It

Okay, this is old news, what with it having happened in April, but I somehow just stumbled upon it now. We all know the president's a fucking idiot, but at least he used to try to pretend not to be. Now he's pretty balls-out about it. He thinks it's endearing. Heh heh heh.

Gone are the days of "I'm the commander — see, I don't need to explain — I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being president."

I guess another interesting thing is that, these days, you don't even have to know anything.

Go And Meander No More

During the summer, we get new books in the bookstore almost daily. Today brought two I enjoyed: The Rough Guide to Blogging and Johnny Depp: A Modern Rebel. From the blogging book, I learned that I've been doing this all wrong.

Blogs that focus on a niche tend to attract like-minded enthusiasts. A blog that meanders from personal life experiences, to cell phone reviews, to the state of the film industry, will read more like a journal.

Crap! I meander all the fucking time, although I never review cell phones (?!) or discuss the state of the film industry.

The Johnny Depp book was much more enjoyable. Meaghan and I flipped through it together for almost an hour, ooohing and ahhing. I didn't actually learn much from it because we only looked at the pictures, but I was reminded of how incredibly fucking hot Johnny Depp is.

See? Hot. Ever since 21 Jump Street, incredibly fucking hot.

So that's it. No more meandering. From now on, it's all Johnny Depp all the time.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Two Confessions In One

I dye my hair. Actually, I pay someone else to do it for me, so maybe this is more like three confessions in one. Once, when I was young, my hair was the color I now pay someone to dye it. But in high school I started noticing a gray hair here and there, in college I started noticing several more, and by the time I was 22 I had what I considered to be an unreasonable amount of gray hair for a 22-year-old. My friends assured me you couldn't even tell I had gray hair. They were lying.

I know this because one day, as I was doing some grocery shopping, I realized that the guy stocking the produce section kept looking at me. Not looking at me like checking me out, but looking at me like he was confused. I caught his eye and he said, "I'm sorry I keep staring. Do you mind if I ask how old you are?," to which I replied, "22." "Yeah," he said as if that settled it, "you have such a young face but then you have all that gray hair." "You don't talk to women much, do you?" I huffed, and then I went straight home and made a hair appointment.

This hair-dyeing thing takes a while too. You have to sit there for about 30 minutes to let the dye sink in, or do whatever it does (I think it penetrates the hair shaft, but that was really just an excuse to use "shaft" and "penetrate" in the same sentence, because, really, why should cheesey romance novelists have all the fun?). Anyway, I used to take a book with me to the hairdresser so that I'd have something to do during the penetration portion of the procedure. Then I discovered Glamour magazine.

I subscribe to several publications: Rethinking Schools, The Believer, and occasionally Utne or Mother Jones. I'll often pick up a random copy of National Geographic, Time, or Newsweek. All of which is to say, I'm not really a Glamour kinda girl. No one I currently know would describe me as glamorous, nor could that term have been accurately applied to me at any point in my life. Cute, maybe, or crunchy, but definitely not glamorous.

Glamour bills itself as the magazine "for young women interested in fashion, beauty and a contemporary lifestyle." I'm not even remotely interested in any of that shit. If you looked at my Friendster profile, you know that I hate both electricity and modern conveniences. And although Glamour offers me to the opportunity to vote for things like my favorite naked actor, I'm not the kind of girl who even has a plain old favorite actor, let alone a favorite naked actor.

None of this, however, prevents me from enjoying the hell out of Glamour magazine while I'm getting my hair done. I once even bought my own copy (make that four confessions) after I skimmed through an article at the hairdresser entitled "This is the Year You'll Get a Great Body." Unfortunately, as it turns out, getting a great body requires that you actually do something (only 15 minutes of something, to be fair to Glamour), and I'm not nearly that displeased with the body I already have.

I had a hair appointment last week and I was looking forward to my Glamour fix. But, horror of horrors, Glamour wasn't in the magazine rack. My hairdresser noticed my distress, but mistook it. "Most of that's smut," she apologized, "let me get you something better" and handed me Gourmet. I sort of read the Gourmet, but mostly I glared at the other women when they weren't looking, just in case one of them had my Glamour. Gourmet wasn't bad, in fact, it had some pretty good recipes. It's just that none of them were for how to get the most out of your little black dress, 12 little things that make sex so much better, or how to eat like a man and still look like a woman. By which I mean that it sucked.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

You Can Run, But You Can't Hide

My younger sister Laura, who is both a high school guidance counselor and a recovering die-hard Republican, and I just had a conversation about how No Child Left Behind is destroying public education.

Laura: Yeah, all because of that stupid George Bush.

Me: Who you voted for. Twice.

Laura: I didn't vote for him twice!

Me: Liar liar pants on fire.

Laura: No, the first time around I voted for Clinton.

Me: That's interesting. Because the first time around Clinton wasn't running.

Laura: Well I voted for Clinton when he ran against the first Bush.

Me: No you didn't. You couldn't vote then.

Laura: Of course I could.

Me: (mentally counting back) It was 1992. I couldn't vote then.

Laura: Well, I voted ahead. I think the first time I could vote I voted for Clinton. And then I voted for that Kilgerry guy.

Me: Kilgore?

Laura: Yeah.

Me: Great. He ran for governor of Virginia. Last fall. And he was crazy.

Laura: Well, who ran against Bush the first time?

Me: Gore.

Laura: Oh yeah. I definitely didn't vote for him. Who ran against him the second time?

Me: Kerry.

Laura: That's right, I said Kilgerry. Yeah, I think I voted for him.

Me: Liar liar pants on fire.

Laura: Okay, so I'm not as smart as you and Brian (our brother)! Big deal!

At least she admits that smart people don't vote for Bush.

Oh, and PS, I love my sister, so I'm not making fun of her in a mean way. She just proofread this and laughed her ass off. And as she proofread, I said, "You voted for Kilgore?!" But she didn't. "I just combined some names," she explained.

Teaching As A Subversive Activity

"Think as I think," said a man,
"Or you are abominably wicked; You are a toad."
And after I had thought of it,
I said, "I will then, be a toad."
--Stephen Crane

Lulu, my buddy in the blogosphere, recently did a post about the crazyChristian home schooling Duggar family. Her post made me laugh, and the Duggars gave me ammunition for an argument I frequently make about both home schooling and private schooling: they should be illegal.

Students belong in public school regardless of their parents’ political or religious beliefs. The mission of public schools is to educate citizens for participation in democracy, or at least that's what Jefferson said. The mission of home schools -- and to a somewhat lesser extent private schools -- is to insulate children from the other so that they don't stray too far from their parents' values. If the motto of public education is "Question Authority!," the motto of home and private education is "think as I think."

Democracy does not work with a citizenry that's unwilling to question authority. In fact, questioning authority is at the very heart of democracy. If parents are permitted to teach their children at home or to send their kids to schools that discourage students from questioning authority or thinking for themselves, democracy suffers.

When I taught Government, I used to post what I called a "better world tip of the week," a thing that, if everyone did it, the world would be a better place. Occasionally it would be 7:15 on a Monday morning and I wouldn't be able to think of one and the kids would be coming into the classroom and I would just write "Question Authority!" on the chalkboard. Again. "Can we question your authority?," my kids would always ask. "Go crazy," I'd respond, "question yourself silly." And they'd question my authority all week long. It was great. I like to think that a lot of those kids are out there somewhere, grown up and questioning authority (but in a nice way).

Can you picture the Duggars conducting morning lessons in the face of "Question Authority!"? Can you conceive of how they might explain to their 16 kids, while the chalkboard shouts "Question Authority!", that homosexuality is something for which its practioners will eventually burn in hell? Try instilling the message that women should be subservient to men with "Question Authority!" looming over your shoulder. Imagine arguing that the president is always right and that real patriots don't ask questions while the ghost of Jefferson flits about, whispering, "Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear."

Indoctrination (or, as the Duggars call it, "training") is not education. And accepting what other people tell you without thinking about it yourself first is not learning. I have a quotation posted in my classroom: "Teach the young people how to think, not what to think." (I can't remember who said it, nor can I find it through Google.) Public schools, although they sometimes fail at the task, at least attempt to teach kids how to think, while home and private schools are largely focused on making sure they transmit what to think.

It was through public school that I learned there were points of view other than those of my parents. Public school teachers invited me to consider whether the US was justified in dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, whether Atticus Finch should have represented that black guy, whether Bill Clinton would be a better president than George Bush (part one), and whether the Rolling Stones rocked more than the Beatles. It was in public school that I discovered both Ayn Rand and Karl Marx, and through public school that I decided I love a radical named Thomas Jefferson best.

In short, public school changed me. It made me better than I would have been otherwise. Not because I abandoned my parents' conservatism (although that is a bonus), but because I learned to think for myself. My sister attended almost all the same public schools that I did and also learned to think for herself. It just happens that she thinks like my parents.

I'm aware that public schools are not without their problems, and that some private schools -- especially in urban areas like my own -- are a lot more academically rigorous. But one of the purposes of education is for people to learn tolerance and acceptance. I’m not sure how one learns to tolerate differences in religion, culture, or ideas if one never has to examine those differences. If I shielded her eyes every time my (hypothetical) child encountered something that was contrary to my own beliefs, how in the world would my child ever learn to get along in a world full of differences? And are my beliefs so lame that I have to make sure they're not challenged?

Plus, don't you feel sorry for these kids? They seem like nice kids, right? Kids who deserve to grow up normal. Send them to school, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Message From My Hairdresser

When I got home from work today I had a message on my machine from my hairdresser:

Hey Megan, this is Terri from Complements. Listen, give me a call when you get in, or, om, call me at home at [her phone number]. I got this gun lighter [?!] here for a week and I think you should hook up wit him, have a drink. Just give me a call back. Bye.
So the next time anyone wants to give me shit about driving an hour and a half in the off-season to get my hair done, I can remind them that my hairdresser is a hell of a lot cooler than the average hairdresser who merely cuts your hair.

And if anyone knows what a gun lighter is, please enlighten me.

Update 07.20.06: I listened the message again (sober) and it turns out my hairdresser didn't say anything about a "gun lighter." What she said was "I got this guuuuuuuuy that's here for a week. . ." My hairdresser's from The North -- sometimes I can't understand her. More importantly, the guuuuuuuuy is not a house-guest or even someone she knows. He's just a guy who came in to get his hair cut who she thought was cute. When he asked what there was to do around here, she suggested she had the perfect girl to show him the town and called me. However, in trying to sell him to me, she mentioned that he was "very corporate America," so obviously I won't be calling him. Plus he might be a serial killer who just happens to enjoy a good haircut.

Know Your Audience

The bookstore I work at during the summer recently opened its third location on a part of the beach that gets more year-round, local traffic. This means we now have a store with enough regular traffic to support carrying magazines. My friend Meaghan was working at the new location yesterday, and I swung by to meet her for drinks after work. Together we perused the magazine section, which is extensive. We have a ton of magazines on all manner of subjects.

“Hey, do we have porn?” I asked Meaghan. “Just gay porn,” Meaghan replied. “Whoa, I was only kidding!” I said as Meaghan pulled several plastic-wrapped magazines off the shelf to show me. The first few looked like regular old magazines that just happened to have hunky naked guys on the front. The only way you could tell the magazines were geared toward gay men and not straight women was by their headlines (“Big Balls and the Men Who Love Them,” for example). But the last one Meaghan showed me made me blush. “Oh my GOD!” I gasped, covering my eyes, “why do we have this?” (For the record, I’m a bit of a prude – a couple engaged in heterosexual intercourse on the cover of a magazine would have elicited the same response.)

Here’s the conversation that then ensued:

Meaghan: Bill [the owner] thinks we need to reach out to the gay community.

Me: By selling them porn?!

Meaghan: Apparently.

Me: Isn’t that just perpetuating the stereotype that gay guys are nothing but sex-crazed deviants?

Meaghan: Pretty much.

Me: Wouldn’t having a gay and lesbian literature section be a slightly better way of reaching out to the gay community?

Meaghan: I’ve already had this exact argument with Bill and gotten nowhere. It’s like arguing with him about the Women’s section.

Me: Don’t get me started.

Because we’re talking about a man whose Women’s Studies section includes Dr. Laura’s The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands (which I always put in Humor); an entire shelf full of books devoted to looking good, with patriarchy-busting titles such as How Not to Look Fat, Dress Your Best, Makeup Makeover, and What Not to Wear; and nary a copy of The Feminine Mystique.

At least he got the gay community some porn. I’m stuck with Put on Your Pearls, Girls.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Summer Love: 92°, 94% Humidity

While 92° heat coupled with 94% humidity may not seem appealing to you, the only way to fully enjoy a gin and tonic (Tanqueray, with extra lime, please) is by sitting in the oppressively sweltering heat on a deck overlooking the ocean, wearing as little as possible and occasionally lifting the hair from your neck or holding the glass to your forehead to cool yourself. It's especially nice if you're ordering doubles and the waiter's charging you for singles.

In Response To A Letter To The Editor, Vol. III

To the Editor:

Carl (letter, July 9) thinks it is un-Christian to oppose gay marriage after he and his wife witnessed their gay neighbor care lovingly for his partner dying of AIDS.

As a longtime Christian, I support the proposed amendment to the Virginia Constitution banning gay marriage because Jesus made it very clear that he came not to abolish the Old Testament, but to complete it.

Opposition to sodomy in the Old Testament is clear enough, including a commandment that says it is an abomination for a man to lie with a man.

In our day, we also know from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta that sodomy is the chief means of spreading the HIV infection, which causes AIDS.

It is a severe distortion of the truth to say that Jesus approved of sodomy because he approved of the Old Testament commandment to love one's neighbor as oneself.

Gay marriage is nothing more than an attempt to exalt sodomy to the level of lawful intercourse between man and wife. All young men should be warned that sodomy is much more than sterile intercourse; it is potentially lethal and always dangerous to health and well-being. [Carl] is my witness.

--Leland, Norfolk

To Leland:

Ah, Leviticus. Such a lovely book. That's the one that says slavery is okay but wearing clothes made of two different fabrics isn't, and that it's also an abomination to eat shellfish, right? Yep, it is. I checked. Slavery - Lev. 25:44, Clothing - Lev. 19:19, Shellfish - Lev. 11:10-11. Oh, and I also found this: "You shall not oppress your neighbor." (Lev. 19:13)

So I can see how you would be confused.

I'm no biblical scholar, but I'm pretty sure that when Jesus said to love our neighbors as we love ourselves he meant it. And I like to think that God sent his only son not just to die for our sins, but also to make up for what a dick he was in the Old Testament.

You can follow the teachings of Christ, or you can stick with the vengeful God of the Old Testament, but you really can't have them both.

Now, on to the business of sodomy. (There's a sentence I've never uttered before.)

First of all, nobody said Jesus approved of sodomy. Mr. Hansen was simply pointing out that it's none of your goddamn business how your neighbor likes to get it on, you're just supposed to love him as you do yourself. That means your neighbor gets to have the same rights as you. It's a logical extension of the love thy neighbor commandment. I know logic is not your strong suit, so just trust me on this one.

Secondly, what we know from the CDC is that unprotected sex, both hetero- and homosexual, is the chief means of spreading HIV. According to the CDC, "Through 2004, of all cases of HIV infection in the United States reported to CDC, 34% were attributed to male-male sexual contact, 14% to injection-drug use, and 20% to heterosexual contact." I'll give you that 34% is slightly higher than 20%, but certainly not high enough to run around calling sodomy the "chief means of spreading the HIV infection." I'm sure you didn't mean to, but you're coming dangerously close to that very un-Christian argument that HIV is God's way of punishing gay people for their supposedly aberrant behavior, and that they deserve this punishment. Only Pat Robertson and his American Taliban pals are still making that argument.

Thirdly, gay marriage (or, as people who aren't bigots like to call it, same-sex marriage) is most certainly not "an attempt to exalt sodomy to the level of lawful intercourse." Sodomy was exalted to that level three years ago when the US Supreme Court ruled that laws banning sodomy were discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional. Same-sex marriage is about equality, plain and simple.

And lastly, Leland, I encourage you to look up "sodomy" in a dictionary. You seem to use the term as if it's interchangeable with "gay sex," but sodomy ain't just for gay guys anymore. You may have even enjoyed it yourself on occasion. And if not, give it a try. I bet you'll like it.

--Megan, Norfolk

Monday, July 17, 2006

Basic Instinct

My cat is quite possibly the friendliest cat in the world. She loves me best, but she also loves strangers. When someone knocks on my door, she runs to the door and sits there meowing until I let them in, at which point she rubs up against them and flops down at their feet waiting to be pet.

Today, however, she took one look at the air conditioning repair man and darted behind me, peeking at him around my legs. He began speaking and she bolted downstairs where, minutes later, I found her cowering under the bed. And she's a cat, so it didn't even mean anything to her that what Mr. A/C had said, while leering at me, was, "So. . .are you all alone here?". She just has an instinctive fear of creepy guys.

Imagine if we all came equipped with that feature. And imagine if we could deal with creepy guys just by hiding under the bed until they went away.

For the Record, I Don't Stand With Israel

I don't stand with Hezbollah either, but I don't stand with any state whose idea of self-defense involves dropping bombs on civilians to the tune of 200 or so casualties (and counting).

Our cowboy of a current president thinks that "what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over." Of course, if they got the US to get Israel to stop doing this shit

photo credit

photo credit

that would probably help.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


There are some really pretty clouds outside right now that I'd like to take a picture of. Unfortunately, I dropped my digital camera on the floor the other day and broke it. This would be the digital camera my parents gave me for Christmas after I, um, dropped my previous digital camera (which they'd given me for Christmas) on the floor and broke it.

This raises an important question: if I tell my mom, will she be mad or will she buy me a new camera?

It's a Canon PowerShot A520, Mom, but I wouldn't be opposed to an upgrade. Oh, and see if they make a bubblewrap version.

How The Virginia Senate Race Is Shaping Up

A headline in today's Virginian Pilot reads, "Allen enjoys 16-1 cash advantage over Webb," which is pretty much all you need to know to figure out who's gonna win this one. The article mentions that Larry Sabato of UVA's Center for Politics thinks that "if national Democrats and party activists in the internet blogosphere don't pour large sums into his campaign quickly, 'this race is going to be over.'"

I don't know that I'd call myself a party activist, but I am out here in the internet blogosphere (as opposed to the other blogosphere?), so I encourage everyone to click here and pour large sums of money into Webb's campaign. Quickly. Otherwise this race will be over. Then go here and vote for PAC for a Change to throw its support and its money behind Webb (avoid the temptation to vote for Bob Casey instead!).

I'm not crazy about Webb, but he's a hell of a lot better than Allen, who's a dyed-in-the wool, George W. Bush Republican. So please, give Webb your money. Even if you're not a Virginian, you should still care about this race. Allen's making laws -- and they're crazy-ass laws -- for you too. Plus, he speaks only in football analogies. It's infuriating.

Of course, if Allen loses, he might pursue that bid for the presidency he's always kicking around, so it's kind of a double-edged sword here. Fuck and alas. Or maybe losing your Senate seat to a guy who once worked for Reagan but now calls himself a Democrat ends any hopes of ever becoming President. I don't know.

Vive La France, Wherein I Affectionately Fry Steve

My friend Steve, a fellow Social Studies teacher, throws an annual Bastille Day party. Technically, Steve and his wife Jen throw the party, but I'm pretty sure she's just in it for the beer. It's Steve who talks about Bastille Day all year long, and Steve who included pictures of Bastille Day parties past in the French Revolution powerpoint he shows his World History students.

You know you're at a teacher's party when:
A) the party is in celebration of Bastille Day, and the hosts aren't French;
B) the first thing you see upon arriving at the party is not the alcohol but a little table containing "Hello, my name is" stickers;
C) when it comes time to sing the French National Anthem, your host distributes self-made handouts that include the lyrics to said anthem, in both English and French, AND a little flowchart containing a brief history of the French Revolution.

Anyway, the party was lots of fun. I should know, what with having been the last to leave. It may also have been the only Bastille Day party in history at which guests could Vive la Resistance! by doing jello shots.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

No Boys Allowed

Technically, boys ARE allowed, I just don't think they'll find much of interest here today. Also, boy or girl, if you're looking for something funny or political or both, check back next week. This one's serious. And long.

Yesterday I worked with Kate, a recent high school graduate who will be attending NYU in the Fall. She was telling me about how she got a Facebook and has already started meeting other people who'll be attending NYU. "Wait, what's a Facebook?," I interrupted. She tried to explain it to me. "Oh, so it's like a MySpace?" "Sort of, but for colleges," she said and kept explaining. "OH, so it's like a Friendster?" "What's a Friendster?," Kate asked.

Kids these days.

So Kate got online and went to Friendster, which didn't help much since we couldn't see any Friendsters. I never got into Friendster, nor did anyone else I've ever known except my ex-fiancé and his group of friends(ters).

I typed in the ex's name for Kate. His Friendster profile came up. Kate looked at it and said, "Yeah, that's pretty much like Facebook." (why she couldn't have just shown me her Facebook and saved us all that trouble is beyond me) Then Kate asked, "Your ex-fiancé has a friend named Osama bin Megan?" and the next thing I knew we were looking at this.

For those who don't feel like clicking on it, in a nutshell, it's a fake profile of me that my ex-fiancé created. And it's not nice.

I showed it to my friend Meaghan this morning. She read it, saying "oh my god" every few seconds and glancing at me to see if I was okay (I was). "He called you a shrew," she said, amazed. "And a bitch," she continued, shaking her head. "Don't forget harpy," I added. "Wow," said Meaghan finally, "I'm surprised."

The funny thing is, as I explained to Meaghan, I'm not surprised by it. Hurt, yes (even two years after the fact). Surprised, no. Meaghan was surprised that I wasn't surprised. "It's typical," I sighed, "I would never have said it then, but on some level I knew my fiancé was emotionally abusive." Meaghan sighed too. "God, I hear ya, girl," she replied.

Meaghan and I worked together almost every day the summer before I was supposed to get married. Simply by virtue of spending so much time with me, Meaghan was probably the only person as clued-in to my emotional state that summer as my guardian angel Dave (although I never sat in her living room and contemplated taking my engagement ring off and throwing it across the room, as I once did in Dave's). Shortly after I called off my wedding, Meaghan initiated a separation from her husband, who she described today as "a drunken bastard." We talked about our similar experiences, and what I think is a fairly common experience among women, maybe men too.

"It scares me sometimes what we put up with in relationships and never even mention to our friends."

"We don't mention it because we know deep down we shouldn't be putting up with it."

"And maybe we're afraid our friends will tell us something we're not ready to hear yet. "

"Emotional abuse isn't physical abuse, but GOD it sucks."

"I remember feeling frantic when he'd get like that. Not frantic for my safety, but frantic about placating him so that he would stop screaming and saying horrible things."

"I remember cringing, mentally curling up into a little ball, and thinking 'if I don't say anything or do anything or even look at him, he'll stop. He'll have to.'"

"Why didn't we talk about that? We were going through basically the same thing at basically the same time and we never said a word."

"What could we have said to each other that would have made us get out?"

"How does this happen? I mean, we're two fairly intelligent, independent women who don't need a man around to make us happy. What the hell?"

Meaghan and I couldn't come up with an answer to that question (plus we were supposed to be working), but we did agree it wasn't a question unique to us. In fact, I know exactly zero women who are stupid, and I know very few women to whom that question does not apply.

So what gives, girls?

Oh, and PS to the ex: If you're gonna base half the mean stuff you say about me on a made-up love for Little House on the Prairie, at least have my picture be of Laura Ingalls Wilder. You'll still look pathetic, but not as pathetic as a guy who bitched endlessly about Laura Ingalls Wilder and then posted a picture of Holly Hobbie. Laura Ingalls Wilder certainly never carried a parasol. She was a pioneer, for the love of god. On, you know, the prairie.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Are You Fucking Kidding Me?!

I teach an AP class, for which my students take an AP exam. I told them when they took the exam that they'd get their scores back sometime over the summer. That sometime was apparently today, judging by the number of emails, voicemails, and text messages I got today from kids about their AP scores.

How do my students have my cell phone number, you might be wondering? One of my favorite students, who we'll call Georgia because that's her name, offered to fix something on my cell phone for me. Thinking how nice of her that was, I stupidly agreed. Georgia did fix the something on my cell phone, but she also called her own cell phone from it, thus giving her my number. She promised not to give it out, and even reported deleting it from some of her friends' phones after they stole it from her. But I guess peer pressure has prevailed.

By the way, if you think this knocks Georgia off my list of favorites, you are totally mistaken. I think Georgia could murder someone and I'd still love her.

Anyway, I just retrieved a voicemail from one of my least favorite students, which said

Uh, hey Miss [my last name], this is [least favorite student], I just wanna let you know that I got a 1 on that thing [the AP exam], so uh, thanks for all the great teaching this year. You can call me back if you want, I'll prolly call you later.
You know what, buddy? There was great teaching this year. You were just ordering pizza during it. It probably didn't help that you did a grand total of ten homework assignments over the course of the year, or that you copied your classwork assignments from one of your buddies when you bothered to turn them in at all. Remember how you spent every single class goofing off and then failed almost every test? (And, sidebar, remember how the entire administrative staff had to have a chat about sexual harrassment with you after you wrote "you are my dream woman" and "I'm your daddy" on the papers you'd turned in to me? How do you think they would react to your CALLING me?) You are not exactly a stellar student, which is why, minutes before the AP exam, I took your bet (for an A for the year!) that you'd get above a 2.

So far, this student is the only one I know of who scored a 1. You get a 1 for writing your name on the paper, by the way. I've gotten lots of news of 3s and 4s today, even a few 5s (the highest possible). But you know what? It's the 1 I'll focus on. Instead of sleeping tonight, I'll lie awake thinking about what I could have done to reach this kid, to interest him in the subject, to make things meaningful enough that he would have done his work, to give him some sort of sense of accomplishment, no matter how small. I'll beat myself up for betting him he could score above failing rather than believing in him and encouraging him to do his best. And I don't even like this kid. But it's what teachers do.

And why we get paid so much.

Attention Bookstore Customers

When I ask you if you want a bag for that, you're supposed to say no. You're supposed to pause for a moment and ponder the small ways in which we're all destroying the planet. I'm only asking if you want a bag because I've already determined you don't need one. If you did, I would just place your purchase in a bag without asking.

I mean, when you reach into a purse the size of a small country to pay for your one postcard, it seems you would also notice that there's plenty of room for the new postcard in there. Imagine how silly you look walking around carrying a gigantic purse while holding a bag full of one postcard.

Likewise, if you're only buying one book, you don't need a bag. You can just carry the book around. You'll look cool, hip, literary. People will think you're smart. Unless, of course, you just bought a Nicholas Sparks book. In which case I would've given you a bag, no questions asked.

And while we're on the subject, if you're buying a book for each of your twelve children, all of whom want their own bag, it's time to have those big talks about sharing and karma. You get one bag. Your kids can take turns holding it or -- better idea -- go bagless. Let each kid carry his/her book, and explain to them how environmentally unconscionable it is to place each item you purchase in a separate plastic bag. That will also afford you a perfect opportunity to talk to them about peak oil and to start planning your vegetable garden.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Sign Of Things To Come

A very nice old man came into the bookstore today and asked me to help him pick out books for his two-year-old twin grandsons. One of the boys, he said, likes Thomas the Train books and the other enjoys the Pottery Barn catalog. "It's the pictures or something I guess," said Gramps, slightly bemused but otherwise not too terribly concerned.

We settled on a Bob the Builder book for the Thomas the Train twin (branching out a bit) and Hop on Pop for the Pottery Barn kid. Because, really, what the hell do you do with a two year old boy who likes to read the Pottery Barn catalog? If I'd had it handy, I would have offered him my Ikea catalog -- a bit of a step down from Pottery Barn, sure, but a lot hipper and way more ethical. And all the while, Gramps was chuckling and describing to me how the twins couldn't possibly be more different. No shit, Gramps. You had me at Pottery Barn catalog.

After we got the twins taken care of, Gramps asked me, "Do you have anything on the French and Indian War?" and explained that he was a reenactor. "Of the French and Indian War?!," I blurted out, "I didn't know anyone reenacted that one." "Yeah, the Civil War guys get all the glory," he replied sadly.

Amazingly, we did have something on the French and Indian War, two somethings in fact, right there on the Revolutionary War shelf of our Military History section. (The history buff in me often thinks about overhauling our extensive History section, organizing it chronologically by war and alphabetically by author, but other history buffs always seem to find stuff I didn't even know we had, so I figure something must be working for us.) While I hunted for French and Indian War books, I learned a lot about said war from Gramps. Mostly that it's a shame the way History teachers just gloss over the poor French and Indian War.

Since I'd developed sort of a soft spot for Gramps by this point (how can you not heart a guy who reenacts the freakin' French and Indian War and has not yet realized his two-year-old grandson is gay?), I didn't mention that I am one of those glossy History teachers.

Here's the extent of my coverage of the French and Indian War in 11th grade US History classes: "So, it's called the French and Indian War not because it was fought between the French and the Indians, but because the English fought it (on behalf of the American colonists) against the French and the Indians. Over beaver hats." Then I go into a bit about historiography, which nobody finds interesting but me, and I end with a brief reminder that waging war is not cheap. This leads me to the question, "So let's say you're England and you just fought this long-ass, expensive-ass war to protect your colonists in the New World. How are you gonna get that money back?" "Uh, tax the colonists?," someone inevitably guesses.

And there you go, we're on to the Revolution and considerably more fun. There's no beaver hats, but at one point all these pissed off Bostonians dress up like Indians and turn the Boston Harbor into a nice cuppa tea. What's not fun about that?

Monday, July 10, 2006

A Bonus BONUS Post For Patrick*

I'm not sure which my dad likes more, garbage night or the subsequent garbage day. For as long as I can remember, the man has been obsessed with what he calls garbage night, the night before the trash is picked up. Even as a child I can remember him hurrying around, emptying the small trash cans in all the bathrooms or opening the refrigerator, shaking nearly empty bottles and saying things like, "It's garbage night. Who wants to finish this ketchup?"

This has always struck me as odd because, you know, they'll be back to pick up the trash again next week. Couldn't the ketchup bottle wait until then?

I once asked my dad some variation of this very question. He seemed genuinely amazed that I didn't get it and explained, very seriously, that he didn't want the garbage men to be disappointed when they came to pick up our garbage. Other neighbors might fill their trash cans only halfway or three-quarters full, but my dad would be damned if he was going to treat our garbage men that way. As if tossing less than a full can of trash into the truck would be disappointing to those who actually have to lift the suckers.

Same deal with recycling, only considering some of the things stored in recyclables, this finishing things thing of my dad's can get interesting. I distinctly recall the Labor Day weekend of my 16th year, when my dad and I were charged with closing up the beach house at the end of the summer. In addition to all the cleaning and packing and ketchup-finishing, my dad also took it upon himself to finish every open bottle of liquor in the house, which was no small feat. Although he had to sleep on the floor that night to minimize the spins and probably found his throbbing head the next morning fairly disappointing, you can bet your ass the recycling men were not disappointed by a meager recycling take.

I mention all this because I received an email from my dad today with the subject line "garbage nites." After nearly ten years of living on my own, during which I have almost always remembered to put out the garbage on garbage night, I thought to myself, "Jesus Christ. Please tell me he is not emailing me to remind me when garbage night is." He wasn't. He was emailing me to tell me he'd noticed a lot of scrap wood lying around outside on his last visit to the beach and he thought it would be a great idea for me to "please take a few pieces of the scrap wood that is on the ground behind the house and put it in both of the garbage cans every garbage day so we can slowly get rid of it all."

It is obviously killing my dad that A) there is something lying around that he could be systematically getting rid of, B) he has two perfectly good garbage cans just languishing here in their relative emptiness, and C) his daughter is totally wasting the garbage men's time with her triflin' one trash bag a week.

What he doesn't know is that the recycling men are almost always thrilled with my weekly offering.

*Patrick, by the way, is my favorite student I never taught. He will be a junior at Colby next year. As a freshman he was named Colby's Most Wonderful and Awesome New Student, or something like that. Patrick is indeed both wonderful and awesome.

Things I've Recently Said To The Newspaper

I tend to talk to the newspaper while I'm reading it. Mostly I say things like, "Are you fucking kidding me?!" and "Oh my fucking god" and "Jesus fucking Christ" and "what a fucking idiot" and "fucking Israel." Occasionally though, I say something first that actually relates specifically to what I'm reading.

Like this morning, when I noticed these headlines about how Operation Enduring Freedom is going: "Baghdad street violence leaves at least 60 dead" and "Five more soldiers charged in rape, killings" and "Documents detail widespread corruption in Iraq police force." I said to the newspaper, "I guess this is what Bush meant when he stood under that 'mission accomplished' banner three fucking years ago in his cute little flight suit, or what Cheney meant a few weeks ago when he said that we're making 'significant progress' in Iraq. Jesus fucking Christ."

Or yesterday, as I read a story about the Senate race in Virginia in which George Allen, the incumbent, supports a constitutional amendment banning flag desecration and the challenger, Jim Webb (aka Anybody but Allen), doesn't. The article quoted one Raymond Walker, who (according to the Virginian Pilot) "said he likes Allen's views on the flag. 'Some of those people who are burning the flag ought to get in a submarine and have two depth charges dropped on them,' said Walker, a retired 23-year Navy man. 'That'll change their minds.'" To Mr. Walker I said, "Go ahead buddy, why don't you round up the handful of people who have ever burned a flag in protest (four this year and three last year, for example) and take them down in a sub and drop two depth charges on them. I'm sure that will totally change their minds about freedom of speech. You fucking idiot."

Or also yesterday, as I read a recipe in the "Gracious Living" section (only in the South will you find sections of the newspaper entitled "Gracious Living") for fried corn cakes. "Oooooh, that sounds good," I said, and then -- and I am not fucking kidding you here -- I cut the recipe out.

Why Working In A Bookstore Is Not Very Lucrative For Me

Week of 07.03.06 - 07.09.06

Books Bought or Ordered

The Electric Michaelangelo by Sarah Hall
The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell
The Brothers K by David James Duncan
River Teeth by David James Duncan
How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
The Rug Merchant by Meg Mullins
Candide by Voltaire

Books Read

The Electric Michaelangelo by Sarah Hall
Citizenship Papers by Wendell Berry (abandoned)
The Rug Merchant by Meg Mullins

PS: Nick Hornby writes a monthly column, entitled "Stuff I've Been Reading", for The Believer magazine which always begins with a list of books bought and books read. So I kinda stole that from him. He actually tells you stuff about the books though.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Summer Blogging: Relocation and New Rules

Relocation: Although my profile says I live in Norfolk, VA (which I do), I spend my summers in Corolla, a resort beach town on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I'm a teacher, remember, so I have my summers "off." (By the way, teachers have their summers off the same way everybody else has their weekends off: we don't work and we don't get paid.) So anyway, my parents built a beach house in Corolla about 20 years ago, and I've lived there every summer since. It's like having an entirely different life for two months out of the year. I wake up whenever I want to, sit on the beach all day, and drink fairly good wine every night. Oh, and occasionally I work, but only two or three days a week, and even then it's at a bookstore so it hardly counts as work.

I mention this relocation because I imagine some of my posts throughout the rest of the summer will involve bitching about tourons (tourists + morons = tourons) and I don't want anyone to be confused.

Also, in your head you are probably pronouncing "Corolla" like you would the car. You're going to have to stop that immediately. "Corolla" is pronounced "Cuh'RAWL'uh."

New Rules: No more blogging on Fridays. It's just not gonna happen. On Fridays I'm either working or preparing for weekend guests or getting drunk earlier than usual or some combination of the three. Also, no blogging on Sundays. I'm gonna try this thing where I don't even turn on the computer on Sundays. Just to see what that's like.

So there you go. Happy summer.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Okay, I Get It!

My cat does not like to be picked up. She just doesn't. She's all kinds of affectionate otherwise. She runs to greet you when she hears the front door open, rubbing up against your legs and purring and rolling over so that you can pet her tummy. And if you enter with your hands full, say of groceries, and you cannot give her the bellyrubs she requires, she'll run in front of you and roll over until you have fulfilled your tummy-petting duty. But don't scoop her up. She fucking hates that.

I'm usually pretty good about respecting her kitty indendence because, you know, I like it when people respect my Megan independence. I try not to scoop her unless I'm weighing her fat kitty ass to see if the kitty diet's paying off.

Today, though, something went awry. Something spooked her and she scratched the shit out of me, in three places, trying to get away. And it fucking hurt. So you know what? No more scooping. We'll both be better off that way. I mean, I'll be a little lonely, but Luna will be in hog heaven.

Typha latifolia, Te Amo

When I was a kid, I had a serious thing for cattails. Every day after school I went over to this marshy field (which is now a soul-sucking McNeighborhood with a wicked bad mosquito problem) to pick cattails and bring them home to my treehouse. I recognize now that this was ecologically irresponsible ("take only memories, leave only footprints," etc.), but at the time I found it pretty enjoyable. Enjoyable enough that I kept doing it even though it constantly got me in trouble. Because, as I recall, I had some sort of elaborate cattail project in the works that involved shredding the cattails and hoarding the resulting cattail-down in my treehouse.

I think I was probably planning to make pillows. As a kid, I was all about making pillows out of shit you shouldn't make pillows out of. My mom once caught me stashing a shopping bag full of dog hair under the grill after I'd brushed the dog. "What the hell are you doing?," she asked. "I'm saving this dog hair until I have enough to make a pillow," I responded, as if it were the most normal thing in the world. "No. No, you are not. That's disgusting, and it will make you allergic to dogs," announced my mom, snatching my dog hair from me and throwing it in the trash. Her argument didn't make much sense to me: a pillow made of hair from the dog that slept on my bed every night was going to make me allergic to dogs? Really?

But I digress. Back to the cattail story.

When you shred cattails, they become downy, like very dense dandelion fluff. Perfect for pillow-making. But also perfect for getting blown out of the treehouse around the yard and stuck to everything. "Goddamnit, Megan!," my Navy dad would yell, "no more cattails!," as he climbed clumsily (sometimes in uniform) up into the treehouse he'd built to confiscate my cattails while I looked on sadly.

Poor cattails.

And poor Dad. "It's just nature, Dad," I'd admonish while he'd secretly wonder how this little nature girl, who'd begged him to build her a house in a tree so she could get away from it all, came to be his daughter.

Crap! I digressed again!

Okay, so, cattails. . .cattail down. . .messy yard. . .yelling.

Despite the yelling, I loved my cattails. I kept bringing them home and I kept getting in trouble. Eventually I stoppped with the cattails, either because I had moved on to dog hair or because my marsh was getting plowed over for a new development.

I haven't really thought about cattails in a long time. Until today, when I was out and about with my mom and we stopped at a place that had cattails growing along the side of the road. "Ooooh, cattails!," I exclaimed. "Mmmhmmm," my mom replied skeptically. I think she was hoping I wouldn't take them home to make a pillow. "I'm gonna take a picture," I added excitedly. "Jesus Christ," she said, shaking her head and rolling her eyes and no doubt recalling my former affinity for cattails.

Oh, and I tried to take a picture of a nearby chicken too, but it ran away from me like, well, like a chicken.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

That Crazy Axis Of Evil Is At It Again

Okay, I don't get it. I know I'm supposed to get it, but I don't. And so I must ask. . .how come we're allowed to have nuclear weapons but North Korea (or Iran) isn't? And why, after BushCo defied the international community with its preemptive war on Iraq, do those bastards think they have any credibility when they bitch about North Korea's Fourth of July fireworks display and how "this just shows the defiance of the international community by North Korea"?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not at all a fan of nuclear weapons. I'd prefer that nobody had them. But I don't think you get to run around calling other countries evil and whining (or, you know, dropping bombs) when they try to develop the same weapons of mass destruction you've been stockpiling for half a century.

That's just me though, and I know there's a lot of complexity and nuance to this whole president thing, so I may be missing something.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Public Service Announcement

A sheriff's deputy just drove through here waving to everyone as he passed and repeatedly playing this announcement over a loudspeaker:

May I have your attention please? This announcement is a courtesy of the Currituck County Sheriff's Department. Fireworks are illegal if they explode or leave the ground. Violators will be prosecuted. Thank you for your cooperation.
A necessary reminder, given the propensity of drunken tourists to set off fireworks in the driveways of the houses they've rented for the week, and the propensity of said fireworks to accidentally set things on fire. A necessary reminder, and a much nicer one than my brother's annual 4th of July announcement to the neighbors, delivered angrily and loudly from the upper deck with Budweiser in hand:

Fireworks are illegal, assholes!

Happy Independence Day

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. "
--Thomas Jefferson

Monday, July 03, 2006

Pick Your Poison

As I emerged from a beautiful, bathwater-like Atlantic Ocean late in the afternoon on Saturday, I glanced up the beach to see my mom walking toward me carrying only her beach bag and a chair, no beach umbrella. Over the last five years, my mom has had various bits of herself scraped away as skin cancer creeps slowly over her body. After decades upon decades of sun-worshipping, she has been warned by doctors that any further exposure to UV rays will only add to the sun's damage. Her beachgoing children go to great lengths to ensure that she is appropriately sunscreened, umbrellaed, and floppy hatted. So, when she sat down next to me on Saturday my immediate response was not a cheerful, "Hey Mom" but a scowling, "Where's your umbrella?"

"I've decided I'd rather die of skin cancer than Alzheimer's," my mom answered matter-of-factly, but in a tone that indicated she'd clearly given this a lot of thought. I thought about it for a few seconds myself before I said, "Fair enough" and I then allowed her to sun herself for the rest of the day, even helping her to time her flips for an even tan (30 minutes on the front, 30 minutes on the back).

Because, you know what, Alzheimer's is a bitch. Skin cancer's no picnic either, but given those two options for my mom (or, let's be honest here, for myself in 30 years or so) I'll take skin cancer all the way. Every single person on my maternal grandmother's side of the family has had Alzheimer's -- including my grandmother, who died a couple months ago no longer knowing who anyone was, and my grandmother's sister, who is like a second grandmother and who was escorted home by the police yesterday after going for a walk and being unable to find her way back.

I don't want this to happen to my mother. I can't bear the thought of reminding her who I am every time I see her. Or later, of reminding her who I am and realizing she cannot place me, that she has no recollection of ever having had a daughter named Megan. I do not look forward to agonizing over whether she can best be cared for by an institution or by myself and my siblings. It will break my heart to watch as she struggles to call up information she knows she should have and knows she used to have but that now eludes her. I do not wish to register my mom with the National Alzheimer's Association as I would a pet whose wandering off I fear, nor do I wish to live in very real fear of her wandering off.

So, if my mom wants to lie in the sun all summer long and tell me the same stories over and over again, I'm going to let her. At least she knows who I am, and at least she's wearing SPF 30.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Overheard At The Corolla Farm Market

Rather Rotund Northern Man: (perusing the pastry selection) Yeah, I'll take a banana cream pie.

Farm Market Employee: I'm sorry, sir, we don't have any banana cream pie.

Rotundo: Whaddaya mean you don't have any banana cream pie? All these pies and you're out of banana cream pie?

Employee: We're not out of banana cream pie, sir. We just don't have any. We just have fruit pies.

Rotundo: Banana's a fruit.

Employee: Sir, we have peach pie, apple pie, rhubarb pie, blueberry pie, and a mixed fruit pie.

Rotundo: Well I'm looking for a banana cream pie!

Mrs. Rotundo: How about a peach pie, honey? You like peaches.

Rotundo: (to his wife) I don't want a peach pie. I want a banana cream pie! (to the employee) Listen, you better tell whoever owns this place that there's a lot of city people that come down here and we want our BANANA CREAM PIE. You're gonna lose a lot of business if you don't have banana cream pie!

Employee: (suppressing a giggle along with the urge to punch him) I'll be sure to mention that, sir.

Rotundo: (to his wife as they walk away pie-less) What the hell kinda place doesn't have banana cream pie?

And so it goes until Labor Day. Which is really too bad for the Rotundos because that mixed fruit pie is fucking awesome.