Saturday, February 07, 2004

Friday, February 06, 2004

Tale of the Overly Ambitious Would-Be Identity Thief

Bad luck comes in threes. First, there is the cancer. Then, there is the job not gotten after 8 mos. of unemployment. Now there is the check.

Right. The check. The check someone tried to write for $15,000 on our checking account. if! The thief seemed to have overestimated our net worth by about three zeros.

Imagine my surprise...Or don't imagine it. It was a karmic thing. I never open the mail. OK, I do open the mail but not too often. Mail usually sits around for weeks and weeks. Bills--hmmmm. I used to have a special box called the 'box of doom' just for the bills. A nice box to hide them in until I was prepared to face them...This is one thing I haven't quite adjusted to as a married person. Because the boy puts the mail in strange places and it isn't just fake hidden but in fact really lost. It is sometimes months before it gets opened.

Today, for some reason I opened something the bank sent us. Normally, this would be one of those bits of correspondence that will never, ever see the light of day.

Was my spidey sense tingling? Don't know.

The bank sent us a little note to say that we were $12,000.00 overdrawn (the $3,000.00 was our overdraft protection which is basically like this ongoing loan that we continually transfer to low interest credit cards). Now that was quite frightening. I must confess that I instantly thought: What have I done? Thinking that maybe I pushed a few too many zeroes when using the debit card or something. Or I had just given most of my take home pay for the year.

This reminds me of the time when I was sailing and a friend capsized the boat. When the mast hit me on the head and I felt myself going under the water I just felt so guilty. I knew my parents would be really upset and felt remorse that I hadn't somehow evaded the giant mast that had cracked my skull.

In any case, I was ready to take the blame. But it was a check. I'm dense, but not that dense. Plus, I never write checks. The internet is my checkbook.

While we were out of town taking care of chico's family member's cancer they decided to renovate our apartment in various ways. We came home--saw the checks on the dresser. He thought I put them there and I thought he put them there.

The manager was very indignant that I could suspect one of the people who had traipsed in and out of our apartment while we were gone of stealing that check. Again, I felt guilty. How could I accuse someone of such a thing?

Well, I guess...because the thing happened? I backed down rapidly from my classist assumption that someone who is a laborer might have stolen from me. But then asserted myself to point out (a) it isn't because he worked on the apartment--it was because he was in the apartment and (b) anyone can have a crack problem. It doesn't make you a bad person. Maybe he just needs help. Just ask Marion Barry.

I messed up the crime scene. I was rooting through all the checkbooks (I have skads of check books--all useless now--and they were cool Universal Studios old time monster duplicate checks. Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy. Dang.) I never even keep track of my checks. I just grab them from a semi-full box--they are never in sequence.

The cop who came over--plump, hale and hearty with somewhat garbled diction--didn't even want to see the crime scene. Quite the disappointment. I wanted dusting for fingerprints. I wanted each one of those cardboard boxes sent to the crime lab. I wanted CSI, man.

Oh yeah, under the assumption our crime scene would be of interest we had a terrified moment when we realized the drawer with the checks was also the drawer with the weed in it. Realizing this, I hid it and husband did not see and then freaked me out by screaming: THE POT!!! in his terror that our status as crime victims would end up with our own arrest.

I mean, if you are going to steal a check it seems that you would also steal the pot. The guy just wasn't too sharp.

I hate to say it but it's the baby's fault. I don't want to say the baby's unlucky but we haven't won the lottery and if we hadn't needed to get rid of the lead and the gas leak none of this would have happened.

(Here was my evil post about how our baby could have grown up to be LeadMan! But I wrote this before I conceived. I don't even drink non-organic milk these days. Of course now I'm a total non-smoking, organic carrot eating freaked out mommy.)

Ouch. He's kicking me now! Sorry baby-cakes. Bad luck or not we still love you.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Guardian: Best of British Blogging

A call girl's blog...Here's the thing: Being a good writer and being a hooker just seems so much cooler than being a good writer and not being a hooker...and vice versa.

There's an analogy here with 'folk art' but it's imperfect and I won't bother.

I'm sure el chico will read her blog more than my blog now! The bum.

OK, who wants to help me fix my blog and make it look better. Lord knows I hate the look and I want this: but with bigger type. I want big type and little boxy thingies that will have clever categories, etc. It's not that I have better things to do than to fix this crummy template. It's that I don't know how to make it fabulous and if I spend the dozens of hours figuring it out I will eventually lose my job.

Baby's on the way and all that. Husband is unemployed, etc. Can't take chances now.

On the other hand if you can't help me or don't want to you can write to me and say: "It's fine, Miel! Looks aren't everything!" Or else you could write to me and say: "Isn't it weird that the plural of fish is fish?" I.e., say something to distract me.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Babies: The Hype

Yeah, like I said before sometimes I look at someone dumb or ugly or needlessly cruel or holding a cabinet position or kalishnakov and think--they used to be babies.

What's that say about the status of the baby? It's almost as if the baby-phase is unconnected with everything that follows. The baby is some kind of distant, barely related ancestor of the later adult although we often try to draw some kind of tie between the two.

Everyone worries about killing babies but the same people who go nuts over the fetus could care less when some adult gets the death penalty--the fetus who can't talk and who doesn't in fact know about the existence of other humans v. the adult who leaves relations and friends and acquaintances behind. The person with a name. You'd think they'd care at least as much about the adult but almost as soon as you leave the womb you're pretty much on your own. Why do babies have this elevated status?

I know I'm like a broken record but I still don't get the hype about babies. Sure, I'm altogether infatuated with my yet to be born baby. When I see a 6 mo. old reaching across the table for the cup from which her mother was just drinking in a exploratory, determined but semi-drunken way the genius of that reach just hurts. The solemn and inquisitive expression that baby has seems classic and profound in a way no other expression can be.

I'm coming to understand the feelings about babies but not the hype. Of course, I loved my siblings when they were babies in an intense way that was a little obsessive. Separation from my sister or brother when they were babies made me cry many times. Every once in a while I think about the whammy of charm my brother put on me from the very day he was born and worry that my own baby won't have that power. Because my brother...he is astonishing. Has he set the bar too high? Does my baby have too much to live up to? I mean: I read Lacan and then spent hours putting my brother in front of the mirror to see if he reached the mirror stage yet. Virtually everything he did even prior to speech fascinated me.

So what do I mean by hype? This fact might be distorted by my perspective as a soon to be proud owner of the most baby-like of babies the newborn but there are thousands and thousands of books and websites and products and debates devoted to these little un-linguistic entities. There are ferocious debates between those who advocate CIO (crying it out) and those who claim that CIO will destroy the kid forever.

As someone who spent my infancy cared for by a variety of relatives...well, God only knows what they did. Crying it out was probably the least of the things. And I admit: I am a mess, a wreck, deeply deeply flawed. But since there's no getting to the bottom of the reasons for that I'd say it's simply better not to worry about it.

My theory for the hype is that it is so easy to project onto babies all our fantasies about how the world should be and how we might create the perfect human. The perfect family. And then of course we don't know what the hell they really want and there's very little they can tell us--and they therefore won't interfere with our fantasy.

And what happens when you graduate from wobbly walking and half-garbled sentences into coordination and articulate speech? You might as well be chopped liver. No one seems all that worried about what's going on with 11 year olds. Yet it seems that they are the more complex and easily influenced ones--what does a baby remember? Babies don't even have a context or language to put things in.

Ah, forget it, here's a poem I found

You can hide it like a signature
or birthmark but it's always there
in the greasy light of your dreams,
the knots your body makes at night,
the sad innuendos of your eyes,
whispering insidious asides in every
room you cannot remain inside. It's
there in the unquiet ideas that drag and
plead one lonely argument at a time,
and those who own a little are contrite
and fearful of those who own too much,
but owning none takes up your life.
it cannot be replaced with a house or car,
a husband or wife, but can be ignored,
denied, and betrayed, until the last day,
when you pass yourself on the street
and recognize the agreeable life you
were afraid to lead and turn away.

--Philip Schultz

Tuesday, February 03, 2004


I know, I know...Barbara Eirenreich (sp?) wrote her thing about cancer and then what's-her-name with the white head stripe also wrote her thing. You know, form/content woman. Idol to name dropping New Yorkers. Susan Sontag.

So don't think I have anything groundbreaking to say about cancer.

Someone I know has cancer. Do you remember the first time you found out about cancer? I can't quite recall the first time I found out that things don't quite go the way you think they should. I remember a puppy being run over. It had one blue eye and one brown eye. I think I was about three.

I realized the universe was not what it might have been cracked up to be. For one thing, it wasn't safe. Even for the innocent, the beautiful, the helpless. A puppy! We lived in a world in which the life of a puppy could be brutally snuffed out. What kind of world was this?

Strangely, it took me years to get over my childhood belief that I had some kind of control--some kind of causal role--in the tragedies that befall us. Well, I guess we do sometimes. But I mean--it took me years to get over the magical thinking-thing. The idea that if you just think a certain way...maintain vigilance, etc... you can prevent all misfortune.

Actually, I'm not entirely over that and may never be. But I'm partially able to recognize that there's no perfect shield one can create in life. And maybe that I'm not responsible to protect us all. (Even when I write that I realize I don't believe it.)

We made little crosses out of popsicle sticks and had a funeral procession to the empty lot where we buried him. Sobbing and wailing all the way. Better than paid mourners. No one had to tell us about cultural breast beating traditions. We knew how to act.

Finding out about cancer was a different, but related experience. Related because I should have seen the random nature of misfortune. Different because I could romanticize it a bit more.

I believe it may have been a made for TV movie that clued me into the even more startling and outrageous reality that little kids get cancer and lose their hair and then die nobly but obviously unjustly. There were several dimensions. On the one hand dying obviously would get you a lot of attention and perhaps there would be moments where you could have virtually anything you wanted. In fact, in the right set of circumstances and with the right disease there was even the small possibility one could be famous. And what might seem to an 8 year old as great and lasting fame--one's own made for TV movie--loomed large on the plus side of illness. I even envied those children who got to be in the Jerry Lewis telethon.

Our lives were so boring! So ordinary! We were the picture of health and nothing much happened. Tragedy was both terrifying and tempting. A way to create drama and excitement as much as something to be feared.

Now someone I know--someone older, not a child thank God--has cancer. I saw the power of the concept of cancer (something Susan Sontag probably writes about although I don't know squat about her book) over us. The terror we all had. But especially the sick person. I was thinking: Is there a way to reason yourself into being prepared or something? It was like I wanted to be ready--almost like Cancer was a popular mean kid and I wanted to be sure that when he came along to make me feel weak and stupid I could be cooly nonchalant. It was watching someone content and confident become frightened and powerless. I kept thinking: Is this what has to happen or is there some other option? Can I somehow talk him out of it? Can I somehow gain mastery by looking up everything about this cancer on the internet? Can I beat back the evil? What is it I'm supposed to do to ensure our eventual triumph?

This is the way I think about my fetus sometimes--I keep thinking that somehow by sheer mental focus he keeps growing. But it isn't at all connected to my thoughts. The kid's coming whatever I think or do.

The medicine seems to be working although it is hard to tell for sure. The element of luck is so strange there--will you be the 90% who get better or will you be the 10% who don't?

You want to say: But it's me. But it's my puppy. But it's someone we love. And this should make a difference.