Saturday, February 2, 2008


David Letterman is increasingly on fire with his political commentary. The returned writers are giving him gold. In his monologue on Thursday night, he said "So we find out today that John McCain has been endorsed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. (pause) Arnold indicated his approval using primitive sign language from his cage."

Later, in honor of it being Gunner Dick's birthday, he read Top Ten Things Overhead at Dick Cheney's Birthday Party:

That's nice -- a card from Osama
He must be happy -- he's sneering from ear to ear
MMMMM! Chocolate cake with Lipitor frosting
Dick, you don't look a day over 93
Hey, his daughter is making out with Condoleeza
Instead of a pinata, we're gonna beat a Gitmo inmate
How about a rousing chorus of "For He's a Miserable Old Prick"?

(Guess which one of the above was MY favorite?)

And from two nights earlier, Dave airs NBC's "promotion" of American Gladiators plus the State of the Union Address (this has appeared on other blogs, but is too funny to not share here in case you've missed it).

("Regionalism and Religiosity" from Strange Maps)

Rummaging through Strange Maps (which I've plugged here before) turned up a couple of gems this week. The first, copied above, is a map of Regionalism and Religiosity of the United States. This is a must-have for activists, analysts, and cultural commenters alike.

The second map, designed by David Michael Miller, I would have sent immediately to my little brother Bill, a blues musician who had his own band (Bone Dance), had just appeared on an anthology album before he died, and whose favorite joke was to drawl during a performance "I'm dyslexic, and when I went to an abandoned crossroads in Mississippi to sell my soul for a blues career, I wound up signing it over to Santa."

The map, Birthplaces of Mississippi Blues Artists, was fascinating to me beyond the blues aspect. Much of my ancestry came through Mississippi, and likewise African-American history in the U.S. always leads back there (or South Carolina). Strange Maps has this to say about the map:

"Mississippi is the poorest of all states, but fortunately also has a happier distinction: It’s the place where most of the quintessentially American music genres originated, from blues and jazz to rock ‘n roll. An amazing accomplishment for a state that has under three million inhabitants, but it’s worth noting that most of the musical history of these genres was written by Mississippians outside of their native state. This is due to the Great Migration following the railroads north to Chicago, an exodus that continued throughout the first half of the 20th century. This mainly black exodus was caused as much by plummeting cotton prices as by the contiuned disenfranchisement of former slaves. It resulted in Chicago’s status as the capital of jazzs and blues music (and Detroit as a major centre for soul)."

("Birthplaces of Mississippi Blues Artists" by David Michael Miller)

My friend Mara in Seattle has sent me a sneak preview of vedic astrologer Joni Patry's predictions for 2008 before they appear at her website, Galactic Center. I'm including them below for your edification.

Predictions 2008

This will be a miraculous year for change and transformation. The planet will never be the same after these transitions take place on planet earth this year. It is a time of new beginnings. This is a year of many turning points. Planet Earth is an extremely volatile place to be. The duality has never been more obvious. But the quest for truth and humanity is on the rise. Consciousness is changing. Spirituality is a focus. This is a year of awakening. We are merging with the awareness of the Great Seers.

The Presidential race will predominate the year. There is a definite shift in the type of leadership needed for our country. People want truth. The government will create a better world to live in. This year, there is the changing of the guard and this will disrupt the status quo. The economy will be on a rise this year of 2008, but be prepared for the bottom to drop out in 2009. The transitions in the change of administration will create chaos in the economy for the USA.

Planet Jupiter in the sign of Sagittarius indicates spiritual awareness. The aspect of Ketu to Jupiter gives an interest in mysticism and metaphysical subjects. We all need to know why we are here. Jupiter in Sagittarius produces religious fanatics, who fight for their causes. Righteousness and justice face off on the political scene. The physical world is out of balance and is creating havoc on humanity for the abuses to this physical planet. Over population and greed are what have fueled the world and the planet will reverberate and shake due to this. Planet Uranus will oppose Saturn causing a huge wake up. There will produce more natural disasters than ever before. Mars opposes Pluto/Jupiter indicating explosions of anger. When there is a profuse amount of anger in this world, planet Earth begins to shake producing major earth quakes and destruction. The injustices in this world will surface. Injustice produces the rise of anger, producing a very volatile condition for this planet.

Expect the unexpected! There will be very strange and violent attacks. People seem to be losing their minds. Between 02/26 and 3/14 Uranus will cross over the eclipse degree point that occurred in September indicating massive explosions and shake ups.

Saturn and Ketu in Leo are fiery and dry, producing destruction with fire. Next July and August, Mars and Saturn will be together in Leo, producing a condition that is excessively hot and dry, creating an environment for fire and war. August is especially dangerous around the time of the solar eclipse. Earth quakes and extreme weather disturb the planet.

The time around the elections looks very turbulent. Uranus opposes Saturn indicating sudden changes that awaken a new awareness. The political shift to a new administration will be a surprise and will immediately create a new feeling and direction. Expect the unexpected!

The economy seems to be improving amongst all the chaos. Mars is the indicator of real estate. Jupiter and Pluto aspecting Mars indicates a shift in direction of the real estate market. Values will begin to rise creating a strong surge in the market. Changes in the economy will be positive for productivity with the real estate markets worldwide.

The American government will take charge, and make huge changes that improve the economy dramatically. Changes in laws and regulations produce more prosperity. Jupiter is the indicator of prosperity and being in Sagittarius gives it great strength producing a prosperous world.

Groups preaching prosperity through spirituality will predominate, and take over the world in a storm. People are looking for the mystical seeking out the miraculous. This is the true awakening in the world NOW. The defining point here is the need for ego gratification, or true spiritual enlightenment. Inspirational leaders who are in it for the greed will make a major fall, and their ulterior motives will be revealed. But those who inspire others to achieve their highest good will shine.

Proof of other worlds and aliens will change perception and consciousness. This will be the real turn about. The government cannot deny this anymore.

All these realizations are birthing a new consciousness on the planet. Spiritual organizations with the need to change consciousness will grow and begin to awaken a new world.

(Sand sculpture by Jim Denevan)

By way of Everyone Forever (a wonderful place to track down what artists around the world are doing), I discovered the work of Jim Denevan. His bio reads "Jim Denevan makes freehand drawings in sand. At low tide on wide beaches Jim searches the shore for a wave tossed stick. After finding a good stick and composing himself in the near and far environment Jim draws-- laboring up to 7 hours and walking as many as 30 miles. The resulting sand drawing is made entirely freehand w/ no measuring aids whatsoever. From the ground, these drawn environments are experienced as places. Places to explore and be, and to see relation and distance. For a time these tangible specific places exist in the indeterminate environment of ocean shore. From high above the marks are seen as isolated phenomena, much like clouds, rivers or buildings. Soon after Jim's motions and marks are completed water moves over and through, leaving nothing." Two of his pieces appear above and below.

(Sand sculpture by Jim Denevan)

Hillel, the nondenominational Jewish organization which has been the main source for Jewish community on college campuses, has just released a professional resource guide for Jews on campus, the first ever to be published by a Jewish student group.

"The resource guide is designed to help Hillel professionals reach out to and engage the LGBTQ Jewish student population and provides tools for welcoming and working with this growing population."

D'ror Chankin-Gould, editor of The Hillel LGBTQ Resource Guide and Senior Jewish Campus Service Corps, stated "There exists a common belief that religious groups are not open to the LGBTQ community. This guide is helping Hillel break down barriers and cultivate an inclusive, welcoming home for all Jewish students."

The guide is available for reading and download at the Hillel site. It's a damned good resource, including the glossary in which each term is differentiated as being pertinent to gender identity, sexual orientation, or both.

(Wetlands planting by the Earth Conservation Corps, Anacostia, Washington, DC)

Last year I saw a PBS documentary about the Earth Conservation Corps, an extraordinary group of inner-city youth, black and poor from Anacostia, Washington D.C.'s blackest and poorest neighborhoods, who are working to clean up the "forgotten" Anacostia River, one of America's filthiest rivers. During the course of filming the documentary, one of the most energetic and charismatic of these young men was killed, a victim of random violence. I'll never forget how his colleagues individually and collectively dealt with his senseless loss, and found their way back to their underappreciated work.

Now I discover that Holly Jones has written a series of dispatches from working with and observing this group, available online at McSweeney's as Dispatches from the Anacostia.

The documentary was recently re-broadcast as part of Bill Moyers Journal and can be viewed there, as well as more information about the ECC and Anacostia. You can also read directly about the Earth Conservation Corps at their website, and, if you got it, send some money their way.

I, of course, haunt Liza Cowan's new blog, See Saw, for all the forays it offers into culture, history and art. My Google cache would reveal recent searches for Dolley Madison, Charles Eames, mourning jewelry, and a look-up for the meaning of "synecdoche" [A figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole (as hand for sailor), the whole for a part (as the law for police officer), the specific for the general (as cutthroat for assassin), the general for the specific (as thief for pickpocket), or the material for the thing made from it (as steel for sword). From the Middle English synodoches, from Medieval Latin synodoche, alteration of Latin synecdochē, from Greek sunekdokhē, from sunekdekhesthai, to take on a share of : sun-, syn- + ekdekhesthai, to understand (ek-, out of + dekhesthai, to take).]

This week there are some photobooth artifacts of Liza herself, at ages 13, 20, and 25 or thereabouts. These accompany the opening this week of Nakki Goranin's show at Pine Street Art Works titled American Photobooth. I have to confess, I've become a bit obsessed with the gorgeous old woman and her dog whose image is used on the PSAW ad above. I really want to know who she was, and wish I had the chance to know her. I've actually dreamed about her, and had imaginary conversations with her (while sneaking morsels from my plate to her bright-eyed little pooch).

("Snow at Inokashira" [Inokashira no yuki], woodcut on paper by Kawase Hasui, 1928)


Friday, February 1, 2008


Another continuing excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. If you are already a familiar reader, begin below. The action in the story resumes immediately after my post of yesterday. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up.

June 2004.

After another couple of minutes of crying, Ginny sat up and wiped her face savagely. "Wow. You really are thrown."

Myra said flatly "I feel out of rope." Her chest didn't seem to be moving when she breathed.

Ginny said "Nancy told me our success hinged on the fact that we took turns. But sometimes we both want a turn at the same time, I guess."

Myra didn't answer.

"I'm scared at how often that seems to be happening" said Ginny, almost to herself. She licked her lips and looked at Myra with some fear still on her face, but less. "Myra, will you come sit here beside me? Can you do that much?"

Myra registered the shift in Ginny's tone, the increased softness. Feeling lightheaded, she crossed to the bed and sat down.

Ginny said "I remember how when things are this tough for you, touch can get through. So I'm going to put my arm around you, here. Let my warmth seep into you."

Myra didn't press against Ginny, but she didn't move away, either.

"You've been the Little Engine that Could the last coupla days, huh, sweetheart" continued Ginny. "Allie, and Gillam...And now I've done something that breaks all the rules, and I can't explain why. Great vacation you're getting."

Myra said woodenly "I know this is just plain female conditioning, we always internalize, but I keep trying to see what I've done to make things happen."

"We're both trying to land on that square" murmured Ginny. Then, shaking her shoulders out, she said "You got any theories you're working on? About how you single-handedly created all this difficulty, I mean?" She was smiling, now, but Myra still didn't look at her.

Myra said "My mother...Mama did her best, she tried to live up to the housewife and mother role of her generation, like most women after the war. But she was married to someone who was simply never going to assume real responsibility for others. And the thing is, she stayed married to him. I can, and do, understand that she didn't see an alternative. Still, there was an alternative and her failure to see it left us...well, dead and dying."

"You're not dying" said Ginny swiftly.

"We all are" whispered Myra. Ginny turned and put both arms around Myra, trying to match her breath to Myra's.

"Wow. That bad. And -- I think I can see it now, here I go off acting crazy about money, passing on horrific values to our daughter, after -- well, since the New Year it's just been one damned thing after another, hasn't it? So suddenly, maybe it really is true that I'm not there for you, not the woman you thought I was, and you're sticking around in a situation you need to leave, too? Is that it? Are you wondering if you need to leave me?" Ginny was doing her best to keep the dread out of her voice, as she voiced her worst nightmare.

Myra didn't answer.

"Okay, then. Well...It's not enough for me not to take a turn, I've gotta get creative here..." Ginny rested her forehead a minute on Myra's shoulder. "What would Allie do, I wonder?"

Myra stayed motionless, but a flicker passed over her face and Ginny saw it. She swallowed, pitched her voice lower, and in a spot-on mimicry of Allie, Ginny said "You not settling. She not you daddy."

Myra looked at her in momentary shock, then burst into crazed laughter. Ginny joined her, feeling blasphemous. They fell backward onto the bed, Myra turned toward Ginny as they went through waves of hysteria. Myra kept saying "I cannot beLIEVE you did that", and this eventually changed in tone. Myra's voice trailed off and she pulled back to look Ginny in the eyes. She said abruptly "He was alone, Gin. Out beyond any human reach, in the cold dark, fighting for his survival, and I didn't even know it was happening."

Finally, she cried, as Ginny had cried the day it happened. It was the lynchpin, and all the backlog behind it seemed much less formidable now that had been removed. Ginny pulled Myra onto her and listened.

Eventually they were both silent, close and calm again. Ginny whispered "I will figure out what's up with me, as fast as I can."

"I know that. I just forgot for a bit."

"One thing I know, in addition to everyone else, I'm worried about Daddy now."

"Yeah, me too, Ginny. Let's get him to come for another visit this summer, okay? In Seattle."

After another silence, Myra said "I know I should offer you a turn now, but I still feel whipped, Ginny. Physically, I mean, not emotionally."

"S'all right. I think I should call Nancy and see if I can get her to help me puzzle this out. I'll take my cell into Margie's room and you can get a little nap, maybe?"

"Bless you." They kissed, and Ginny left the room.

The next thing Myra knew, she was waking up with Gillam shaking her, saying "We brought you this most awesome pork curry dish, it's so hot it makes your eyes run." Everyone was in the room, including Ginny, who winked at Myra and said "Nancy was home."

Myra went to the table and sat beside Ginny to eat. As she opened her plastic tableware, she said "Listen, you kids, I have a special project for you later, after Allie and Edwina go to bed. It's a surprise."

Allie grinned and said "Wonder what it's for."

On the way to the airport, Edwina drove and Allie was in the front beside her. Margie squeezed in with Ginny and Myra rather than the boys, and once on the freeway, Margie said to Myra, "I heard Allie say something to Edwina clothes. How much they cost, and that you didn't know. Mom, I kept all the labels, I can take them back tomorrow and get something like the boys did -- "

Myra grabbed Margie's hand and said "No way Jose. That outfit was made for you, I want you to have it."

"But -- do we have the money, really? I mean -- "

"Margie, we have money coming out our ass" said Myra.

"But we give it to the Fund, and other places. Where will this come from? Not the chicken kitty, please tell me not that" said Margie earnestly.

Years earlier, Myra and Ginny had begun an annual donation to an international group which bought farm animals for poor people subsisting in rural areas of underdeveloped countries. They did this right before Christmas, and the children were an equal part of the decision-making, figuring out who got a cow, goats, ducks, or chickens. They'd begun calling it the chicken kitty. Two years ago, Margie had come home with news of a project that also funded water wells for areas which had no clean water, and they had allowed her to oversee this addition to the family budget.

"No" breathed Myra, "We'll never cut back on that. Most likely it'll come out of savings -- I mean, we won't put as much into savings this year. But it'll be fine, Margie, I promise."

Margie still looked worried. "But -- this trip has so many extra expenses, do you want me to maybe not do Outward Bound?"

Ginny leaned over and said "This is why we have savings, for special events like weddings and emergencies. Your education expenses are figured into the budget already. When we get home, I can show you the accounts, you can see dollars and cents, it's fine, Margie. It's what people do for extraordinary circumstances, and our Allie and Edwina getting married is about as extraordinary as it can get. You'll be dressed appropriate to the occasion, that's all."

Myra, squeezing her hand, said "I'm impressed as hell to hear you talking this way. I can remember when you hated us for not buying you everything ever made for Barbie and My Little Pony."

Margie finally grinned and said "Oh, that -- yeah, I still hate you for that."

Allie began chuckling, revealing she'd been eavesdropping.

It was enormously exciting to see Chris and Sima again, away from home. When they revealed they'd not had dinner, they all went out to the Bagdad Cafe where Sima raved about her turkey burger and Kennebeck fries, and Myra let the kids have carrot cake. Back at the hotel, Myra carried her Cliff bags into Gillam and Carly's room, waved Margie to follow her, and returned ten minutes later closing the door behind her. The six women talked for a couple of hours. When Allie and Edwina finally turned in, Chris barged into the boys' room to find out what the secret was.

"We're making a pair of decorated brooms for them to jump at their wedding!" said Margie, displaying her half of the project. Ginny immediately wanted to join in, but Myra tugged her back, saying "It's from the kids, not us."

The next day, as a big noisy cluster or sometimes splitting into smaller bands, they roller-bladed through Golden Gate Park, rowed boats at Stow Lake, visited the DeYoung Museum, rollicked around the Sutro bathhouse ruins, tried every machine at the Musée Mécanique, and crowded into the Camera Obscura. The latter held Ginny spellbound, and she said to Myra, "I wonder if we could put one of these on our roof. There's a section that doesn't have solar panels."

Myra began laughing as Chris squatted down to examine under the lens, seeing how it was constructed. "You've asked for it now" she told Ginny. Ginny hunkered down beside Chris and said "I'm serious, do you think we get glass ground in this parabola?"

They had a late dinner at the Hard Knox Cafe where Allie negotiated the soul food menu with her little booklet from the hospital. She checked her blood sugar at their table before ordering. Margie was fascinated with the process and kept asking Allie to let her give her one of her insulin shots. Ginny muttered "Every mother's dream, a kid who's proficient with syringes."

That night, alone in their room finally, Ginny and Myra had a good talk that left Ginny sleepy and Myra wired. "I'm going to sit over here at the desk and try writing, will the light bother you?" asked Myra.

"No" said Ginny, her eyes already closed.

Myra read through her notebook and began putting down ideas on a sheet of yellow paper. After two pages, she fished through her pocket for quarters, grabbed the room key and let herself out the door silently, heading for the alcove by the elevators where she'd seen a Coke machine earlier. As she rounded the corner from their hallway to the bigger artery bisecting the hotel, she was horrified to discover Carly and Gillam walking her direction, from the elevators. They froze in disbelief, the color draining from both their faces.

"What the fuck are you doing out of your room?" Myra hissed. They didn't seem to be able to speak.

"Have you been out of this hotel?" she demanded. Gillam said "No, I swear. We -- there's a fitness center that's open all night, we went to check it out."

"Get back to your room instantly" she ordered. She marched behind them. Closing the door, she said "No TV, lights out. Don't you dare leave this room again." She crossed to the adjoining door and returned to her and Ginny's room, leaving the door open.

She found her chest was heaving. Her adrenaline had spiked -- she didn't need caffeine now. She thought about waking up Ginny, but instead returned to the desk and, after a minute to calm down, began writing. The light from Gillam's room went out in another minute.

She didn't get to sleep until 1:00. Ginny woke her briefly, getting up to whisper an order for tea and fruit to room service. Their knock at the door woke her again, and this time, she was kept from drifting back off by Gillam and Carly coming nervously into their room, sitting at the table with Ginny.

"We wanted to talk with you about what happened" Carly said with a tight voice.

"What do you mean?" asked Ginny, holding her cup in mid air.

Myra sat up blearily. "I caught them roaming the halls last night."

"You what?" yelled Ginny.

"I just wanted to say, it was my idea, I'm the one who convinced Gillam to go look at the health club with me" began Carly.

Before Gillam could protest, Myra said "You needn't throw yourself under the bus for him, Carly, you're both in dire trouble."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Ginny said to Myra.

"You were asleep, and I had them under surveillance" said Myra, walking tiredly to the table.

"For shit's sake, Gillam, why would you go to the health club in the dead of night?" said Ginny, slapping at his hand as he nervously reached for a banana.

"We just wanted to see what it was like" he said. "There were people there working out, so we came on back." An evasive note in his voice made Myra suspect they didn't come directly back.

"Do you have any idea at all what kind of risk you took?" she said, resting her cheek on her fist. She took a sip of Ginny's tea.

Carly and Gillam shook their heads stiffly.

"This is a building full of nothing but strangers with bedrooms and soundproof walls. I know gay men have the rep of being child molesters, but the fact is, it's overwhelmingly straight men who prey on kids. Most of them are married or have girlfriends. It's not about the gender of who they go after, it's about the power imbalance. Still, the myth of queers being pedophiles does mean that real pedophiles out there are more likely to visit San Francisco, in hopes of coming across runaways and other vulnerable kids. And they're just as likely to be in this hotel as anywhere else, class stereotypes to the contrary. You were meat on the move in an environment full of carnivores." Tiredness made Myra more blunt than usual.

Carly, his cheeks like parchment, said again "But really, it was my idea. It's something Truitt and I always do, when my family stays at hotels. I didn't know..."

"Then we'll have to inform your mothers about your behavior" said Ginny.

"Please don't" begged Gillam. "We'll do anything, but don't tell them!"

Ginny was going to argue, when Carly said "Pat will go ballistic, she's all tough love now like she invented it, and she'll punish me by not letting Gillam come stay with me when we get back. And he's going to help me find friends, maybe, in Olympia..." Carly's voice broke.

Before Myra could process this, Ginny did an about-face. "All right, I won't tell them. But you have to swear to me you'll not do it again, ever, and make sure Truitt understands it as well. You idiots."

Gillam grabbed her hand, babbling "Thank you, Mama, you just don't know how -- "

"Go back to your room and pack, you two. Myra and I need to talk" said Ginny shortly.

After the door was shut, Myra said "I don't think they should get off that easily."

"We can still some up with something" said Ginny. "But I'm all out of slack for Pat Prewitt and her parenting style, I don't want Carly getting trounced the way she'll do it."

Myra finished Ginny's tea and poured a new cup, thinking. "You and Patty have really drifted apart, haven't you? Is it the move?"

"Oh, partly" said Ginny, irritation still in her voice. "Her acting like every straight woman I've ever known. Plus Edwina and I connect a lot more deeply -- shallow of me, I know, but friends do sometimes move on."

Myra wanted to drink Ginny's second cup of tea. Instead, she stood and said "I'm going to shower. Should I see if Margie's up first?"

"Might as well" said Ginny, picking up the banana she'd denied Gillam.

After they were dressed and in the process of packing, everyone else doing the same, Carly and Gillam returned to their room, carrying their bags.

"Did you do one last look for stuff you left behind?" asked Myra automatically. Gillam turned and went back to his room. Carly, hands shoved into his pockets, said "I really appreciate getting to be with you on this trip."

"Good to have you" said Myra distractedly. She wasn't sure how to carry the broomsticks in a concealed manner.

"It's the best time I've ever had" said Carly softly. Myra looked at him then. He went on, "I mean, when we go somewhere, my family, it's either lots of stuff like ski lessons and mini-golf and amusement parks, or it's in the room with TV and we're supposed to pipe down. But the beach, we just got to go, you know? See what there was to be seen, no schedule. Like at your house, but bigger."

"What do you mean, at our house?" said Myra.

"We're not second-class citizens there" said Carly. "I mean, even our chores matter, you know? You guys don't have a maid or anything, so everybody's work has to happen to keep things running. It's just -- I know Gillam says he's going to have a lot of kids, and I'm not sure yet if I will, but if I do, will you be their grandmas, too? My kids, I mean."

Myra sat down on the bed, staring at his face to make sure he was sincere. Ginny had abandoned the armoire and crossed to him, hugging him close from behind. "You betcha" she said fiercely.

"I'd be honored" said Myra. "And -- Carly, when I think back over all the times Gillam has misbehaved, done something dumb or out of bounds, pretty much every time he's been with you. It used to bug me, but I've come to understand it's a good thing. You are a good thing in his life, you bring him a chance to break out. I hope to keep both of you safe and sane as you have your escapades, and any help you can extend along that line would be much appreciated. Still, I want you to know, I get what you do for him."

Carly's grin was huge, and so was Gillam's when she turned and saw him. She added "But we're not done with the consequences for last night. Today, however, we have a wedding to attend."

They had a creole breakfast at Brenda's near the Civic Center. Watching Margie sprinkle powdered sugar on a plate of beignets, Myra whispered to Ginny "If she spills tabasco on that shirt, or tears her skirt, I'll..." She couldn't finish the sentence.

Ginny said "I'd warn her about it if it wouldn't just make it more likely to happen."

All of their finery was dazzling. Chris was wearing a crimson tunic, Myra's favorite color on her, and for this occasion she was displaying her elk-tooth necklace on the outside of her neckline. Myra couldn't decide if Sima's silk shirt was green or grey, it shifted in the light.

However, most eyes were drawn to Allie and Edwina. Allie's agbada was made of aso oke material, hand-loomed in a dark green trimmed with silver lace. Her damask cap was silver, and her pants went from balloon to a tight fit at the ankles. She had declared it the most comfortable clothes she'd ever worn.

Edwina's gbarie top was of kente cloth in ochre and deep purple. She had on a kofi cap of eggplant-colored kuba, and her pants were the same style as Allie's but in eggplant George fabric.

Gillam had the video camera, and at the last minute Margie had persuaded him to slip her Walkdyke into his jacket pocket, sans earphones.

"What do you need that for?" asked Ginny.

"You'll see" grinned Margie.

Carly was carrying a shopping bag with the broomsticks hidden in it. Margie kept asking the time of their ceremony, and Allie kept saying "11:20 Pacific Standard Time" with a laugh.

Copyright 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Thursday, January 31, 2008


Literally hot off the presses, this section. Another continuing excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. If you are already a familiar reader, begin below. The action in the story resumes immediately after my post of yesterday. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up.

June 2004.

When Myra later remembered the next 36 hours, it was as a series of Things To Get Done interspersed with naps. All she really wanted to do was sleep. Instead, she drove back and forth to the hospital, got folks fed, and watched each of the three kids for signs of difficulty.

She managed to get Carly alone and talking for a bit; he didn't cry but he did express worry that maybe he was to blame for what had happened to Gillam. She helped him reason his way out of that, and once he did, the fear of almost losing Gillam set him into severe shakes. She put her arm around his shoulders and let it roll on through him. He stopped being pale and polite after that, which was a good sign.

The day after his marathon swim, Gillam claimed every muscle in his body was in agony. Ginny forced fluids through him and, after lunch, coaxed him down to the motel pool with Carly and David. Roughhousing led to swimming, and eventually his groans dissipated.

Margie went to the bookstore next to the hospital and returned with a stack of volumes on how to deal with diabetes, including cookbooks that Myra wearily read through before going late that afternoon to the "living with diabetes" training session with Allie and Edwina in the hospital's endocrinology department. She wrote detailed notes because she didn't trust her brain to take it all in at the moment.

When she got home, after visiting hours, David, Margie and Carly were all piled onto David's bed watching something with a canned laugh track that set her teeth on edge. Gillam was curled away from them on his bed, sleeping soundly. She felt his forehead, then lay down behind him impulsively, pulling him back into her as if he weren't approaching her height. He sighed but did not wake up. Within a minute she, too, was asleep, despite the racket; he smelled of chlorine and pepperoni pizza but underneath it was his trademark vanilla. In the middle of the night, she woke up, still with her shoes on. The room was dark and quiet, and if it hadn't been for Gillam, still in her arms, she would have been confused about her whereabouts. Carly and David were both asleep in David's bed.

She got up and went into the adjoining room. Margie was in bed with Ginny, her legs sprawled and covers tangled, Ginny trying in her sleep to hang onto some share of the bedspread. She bet Margie had talked Ginny into unconsciousness, just like she used to when she was six. Myra took a piss, brushed her teeth, got the spare blanket from the closet and draped it over Ginny, then went to the other bed and stretched into it gratefully.

It was an early start the next morning. Myra bought ropes and a small tarp on the way to the hospital because they'd have to tie their luggage and cooler on top of the SUV once Allie and Edwina joined them. When Allie was wheeled out to the curb, she stood up easily and wrapped herself around Gillam, who gripped her tight. They stopped at the produce stand on the way home. Once at the beachhouse, Myra dumped all the salads she'd made for lunch two days earlier in a bucket and sent Carly to spread it in the dunes near a crab colony.

While the trailer AC was making it livable again, Allie sat on the porch with ice water and everybody had a turn at telling their story, what they'd seen and felt. Edwina was on the arm of Allie's chair, and when she finally let go of her grief, Allie handed her glass to Ginny and pulled Edwina into her lap. Everyone felt better after that.

Ginny wanted Gillam to stay cool and hydrated, which meant no roaming the beach today. Allie and Edwina retired to the trailer, and Margie seemed to be at loose ends, so she and boys pulled an old Risk game from the shelves and started a game of world domination that would last for hours. Myra made tuna and salad for lunch, trying to memorize carb values from a chart in the cookbook. When it was stashed, she walked out onto the porch where Ginny and David were back at painting and announced "I'm going to bed. Until I feel like getting up again."

Ginny looked at her keenly and said "Do you need company? Are you okay?"

"I don't know what I am, except tired. I'll come to you when I need something, I promise."

"Okay, angel, I've got it covered. Thanks for the meal." Ginny kissed her and, a little awkwardly, so did David, murmuring something in Yiddish that Myra knew meant the equivalent of sweet dreams.

When she woke up, it was twilight. She vaguely remembered rousing from consciousness briefly to a shout from the kitchen of -- Yakutsk, was it? She was sweaty and her bladder was about to burst, but after hitting the bathroom, she felt immensely better. She opened the bedroom door to a cheer and Margie scraping out a chair for her from the table where everyone was already eating.

"Ceviche, chicken tacos a la Gillam, tomato basil mozzarella salad a la Margie, and toast made from that sourdough you found" announced Ginny.

"Hot damn!" said Myra, handing her plate to Carly to start around the table, asked for some of everything. Once Myra had a few bites in her, Allie waggled her eyebrows at Edwina, who nodded with a huge grin. Allie leaned back in her chair and said "We have an announcement to make. Me and Edwina, here."

Myra and Ginny stopped chewing, their faces bright with joy.

"We gonna get married. In San Francisco. Next Sunday, and you all invited" said Allie, staying smooth until the last word which came out as a shriek. Eating did not resume for half an hour after that. Dessert was watermelon on the porch, but Edwina and Ginny were at her laptop searching for hotel rooms while Allie called Chris and Sima, and Carly borrowed Myra's cell to call his mothers. Margie already had a promise from Ginny that they could shop for "wedding clothes" in San Francisco. Gillam turned to look at Myra, who said "Absolutely, you and Carly both", and Gillam said "Could we go to Castro Street? I mean, they have the absolute latest styles for guys, Zayde, we'll find you something fresh."

Myra held back her laugh and said "Of course." David, however, said gently "I am truly torn, but I think I can't share this glorious event with you. I have things with, in Denver."

Ginny and Myra looked at him, then each other, and Allie noticed it. She said "We'll miss you, and I know you'd be there if you could."

"Make me a video? Of everything" he pleaded, and Gillam said he'd film a whole movie of it.

Wedding talk dominated the rest of the night, except for a recurring joke between Gillam and Carly that involved saying "Peru, Siam, Ural and Madagascar" to howls of laughter. Myra asked why it was so funny, and Gillam tried to explain -- "See, he'd only fortify places with four letters in them, we thought, and then, kapow!" She laughed with them, not comprehending but thrilled to see all three kids back to normal.

Before going to bed, Myra opened the laptop and went to her favorite fat girls' clothing site. "I can have it express shipped to the hotel" she told Ginny, who was draped over her shoulder, pushing Myra to order the very best. Despite Ginny's prodding, Myra finally chose what caught her eye the most, a deep teal rayon tunic with Mandarin collar and double-button frog closures in glossy magenta, over wide-leg pants in a coordinating teal batik.

"What about you, wanna order from here?" asked Myra.

"No, I'll take my chances there" said Ginny. "The only hotel that had rooms available to match Edwina's specs was the Hyatt on Union Square, and I remember there's a AgnesB store somewhere in the area, I love their tops."

"You put the rooms on our card, right?" asked Myra urgently.

"Yes, and the rental van, when she wasn't looking. I know, I know, we'll use public transpo in the city. but the van is still cheaper than the airport shuttle for all of us twice."

On the way out of Texas, Allie and Edwina bypassed dessert at Gaido's, saying they needed to go look at something. Myra thought it was just a ruse to remove Allie from temptation until later, when Allie showed her the matching bands of abalone they'd bought at a touristy stand. "Until a friend of Edwina's can make us real rings" said Allie.

At the cemetery, everybody pulled beach stones from their pockets to put on the Bates family markers, including Carly who must have been coached by Gillam. Carly lingered in front of the grave for Sam, David's brother, so long that Myra realized he was crying quietly. She could only guess about his emotions. On the walk back to the car, she maneuvered herself beside him and said quietly "Having you with us this year makes it a complete family gathering. I hope we'll never have to come without you again."

Margie claimed the plane seat next to David, and they all had enough time on their layover at DFW to walk him to his gate. He was trembly at the goodbye, and Myra whispered "Now that we're in the know, you call us, call Ginny, and talk about what's happening, okay?" He nodded.

Margie moved in next to Allie and Edwina for the flight west, chattering on about the reception they'd need to have once she got back from Outward Bound. She turned out to have a great deal of information about modern wedding planning, what was trendy and "green". Ginny remarked sotto voce to Myra "Looks like we've deprived her yet again, marriage-wise". Myra giggled and said "Let's just hope she shoots her wad on this one, Allie can handle it."

Because of time zones, it was not quite dinnertime when they reached San Fran. They checked in, Myra and Ginny in a room between Margie on one side, Gillam and Carly on the other. Margie was thrilled to have her own room and a declared it "opulent, just opulent!" Allie and Edwina were on the same floor but at the end, in the Hyatt's version of a honeymoon suite. The room on the other side of Margie was reserved for Chris and Sima, would arrive Friday after dinner, the next day.

"Can we eat someplace besides Fisherman's Wharf, for once?" grumbled Gillam. "Like, North Beach, some real pasta?"

"It's up to Allie and Edwina" said Myra. "This is their show. And Allie's diet -- "

Gillam looked instantly stricken. Allie said "There are places with both pasta and seafood, plus bisteca, let's look in the phone book", motioning him to the desk with her and Edwina.

"Tomorrow we go shopping!" said Margie, almost hugging herself in glee.

"You go with her, I'll take the boys?" Myra said to Ginny.

"Mm. Yeah, except I have to get something for me, too" began Ginny.

"Oh, Mom, I'd love to do that with you!" interrupted Margie.

Ginny grinned at her, a trifle skeptical. "Okay, but I'm not buying a bra. And, Margie, you'll be heading to Outward Bound only a day after we get back, if there's things you need for that, we should get them here as well. REI, I guess."

Margie's eyes were practically twirling at the extended shopping ahead. Allie, returning to their cluster, said "We've got reservations in an hour. Listen, Edwina and I will be gone tomorrow to the Oakland, the store we want is over there. We're also getting our hair done. I think we'll take the van, is that all right?"

"Good idea. I know this is the best fun in the world, but I want you to stay rested, and tell us what you need, okay?" said Myra. "And speaking of hair -- I'll see if I can get Gillam into a place on Castro Street, with the allure of 'guy' styles and all."

Gillam said "No length taken off. But they could shape it, I bet. I could look like Johnny Depp."

Myra rolled her eyes at Allie.

The next morning after breakfast, Margie postponed her foray with Ginny long enough to horn in on Myra's attempt to find dress shoes in a store on Union Square. After several cracks from Margie about dykes and sensible shoes, Myra finally made a purchase she could live with and the expeditions split up, Ginny whispering "You keep an eagle eye on those two."

Myra whispered back, "Remember that old joke about 'How do you separate the men from the boys on Castro Street?'" When Ginny looked blank, Myra said "With a crowbar." Which didn't crack up Ginny like it did Myra.

Myra had a blast. They ate lunch at Orphan Andy's, their booth drawing all eyes in the place but the boys focused on their double-cheeseburgers and hand-made chocolate shakes. The attention continued in the small clothing stores, and Myra was glad to see Gillam and Carly both enjoying the regard of men who never crossed a line with them. They had enough time to cruise through Cliff Hardware, where Myra outspent the boys. She splurged for a cab back to Union Square because rush hour had begun and they had so many packages.

Everyone else was already gathered in Myra and Ginny's room. Allie and Edwina were still being exclaimed over by Ginny and Margie, and the new arrivals joined in, Myra asking permission to touch the elegant dangling extensions of Allie's hair bejeweled with beads of aquamarine and tiny bells of real silver.

"You jingle!" Gillam explained.

Edwina had a stunning Senegalese twist. Myra breathed "The two of you are so beautiful, I can't look away!"

Allie kept giggling deep in her belly. "Where's your new clothes?" asked Myra.

"Surprise for Sunday" said Allie. "But Miss Thang here been chompin' at the bit for you all to get back so's she can show off what she and her Mama hauled in."

Myra looked at Margie's excited face. Margie swept her hands at the boys, however, with a Vanna-like maneuver and said "Oh, no, ladies first."

Gillam stuck his tongue out at her and Ginny sighed. Carly didn't hesitate, grabbing his bags and saying "I'll be back in a sec" as he headed into their room. Gillam followed him.

Ginny pulled garments from a bag, saying "Margie, I'm not putting these on again today, I'm just going to show them on the hanger". She'd found an AgnesB cotton short-sleeved jersey with form-hugging ribs in pale celadon, and balloon-legged silk pants which darkly reflected the late afternoon light. As Myra exclaimed over the pants, Ginny opened one of the Cliff bags and said "What are all these tchotkes?"

"Pretending like I'm 20 again" Myra laughed.

The adjoining door opened and Gillam glided into the room. After a long dramatic pause, Carly made a second entrance.

Gillam was wearing a silk turtleneck in rust and peach paisley, tucked into bisque-colored linen slacks and topped with a caramel suede jacket. His shoes and belt were of a matching suede.

"Oh, my god" said Edwina, "You look absolutely edible!"

Myra murmured to Ginny "I'm pretty sure that's what the guy who waited on us thought", but Ginny didn't smile.

Carly pushed himself in front of Gillam, giving a runway type of whirl. He'd chosen a crisp white tuxedo shirt with French cuffs, triple-pleated black gabardine slacks with a cuff, a single-button black velvet jacket, gleaming black patent leather shoes, and, to the delight of all the artists, a brocade tie decorated with pink poodles and purple hotrods.

"Too cool" cried Myra, sending Carly's grin even wider. As everyone oohed and aahed, Myra said to Ginny quietly "It wasn't a pricey place, and the boys were very budget conscious, Carly especially was worried about us paying for things, but even so, it added up. Gillam's jacket was $125 all by itself. The total is over $600, is that all right? I figure this will last him all year."

Ginny gave her an unreadable look. "Don't worry about it for a second, Myra. They are both gorgeous, and loving it. I notice Gillam's hair is the same, though."

"Yeah, he didn't like the looks of the one place that could take walk-ins, said it was too 'military'." Myra's voice had returned to normal level. "So I told him he has to wash it before Sunday, and we'll get by with that."

"I'll wash it tonight, maybe it won't be all poofy by Sunday" said Gillam. His chronic complaint about having to wash his hair was that it made it "poofy", although Myra had never been able to get a coherent description from him of what that meant.

"All right, girlfriend, you're on" Ginny said to Margie, who dashed into her room and shut the door firmly behind her.

"Where did you go with her?" asked Myra, sitting down on the bed and leaning against the wall.

"A list too long to recite. But, eventually, she found what she wanted at Saks and Neiman Marcus" said Ginny tiredly. Gillam and Carly were busy swapping jackets and shoes. Gillam put Carly's tie on over his turteneck, which Edwina declared a "hideous clash".

When Margie finally emerged from her room, Myra sat bolt upright. Her daughter looked years older, and casually rich. For once, her black hair didn't seem inappropriate, tucked sleekly behind her ears.

Ginny stood up and said "Allow me to announce. I've learned enough fashion terminology today to give me a cameo role in 'Pret a Porter'." As Margie began an elegant stroll, Ginny declaimed "Madame's geometric matelassé wool and silk jacket with doublestand collar accents the ruched bodice tank underneath with sequin accents. Her full-pleated skirt in gold velvet has a dropped waistline and is lined in silk. Rising almost to the hemline are black patent and suede boots with platform heels and a perky gloss bow on the instep. Her unmentionables shall remain unmentionable, but rest assured, they are equal to the rest of her ensemble."

"Mother of god" said Myra, gaping. "I don't even know half those words you just said."

Gillam and Carly clearly felt upstaged. Edwina reached out to touch Margie's jacket longingly, then opened the front to look at its lining. She did a double-take and said "Is that an Armani label?"

"Yes" burbled Margie, "the shoes are Marc Jacobs, the skirt is Ralph Lauren and, glories, the shirt is a real Versace!"

Allie stiffened, her grin fading noticeably. Edwina exchanged a glance with her, then looked noncommitally at Ginny. Myra, however, was focused on Margie alone, saying "You look like a movie star, honey. I can't believe you know how to dress like this. It sure isn't something we passed on to you!"

"Oh, Mama, I'm so glad it's okay with you!" gushed Margie.

"Okay, why wouldn't it be okay? It's simply the most spectacular outfit ever" said Myra, turning for affirmation from Ginny.

But Ginny's face was now looking -- what was that expression, worried? Allie cleared her throat and said, "Okay, let's protect our finery and go change before dinner. I say we walk down the street to that Thai place. Come directly to our room when you're ready, okay, kids?"

As the younger folk left, Allie said to Ginny, "How's about we stay gone for a while and give you two some room to talk? We'll bring you back takeout in time for us to drive out to the airport and meet Chris and Sima's plane."

Ginny said in a low voice, "Yeah. I guess that would be a good idea."

Myra looked confused. Allie kissed her cheek as she and Edwina left.

"What's going on, Ginny? What did I miss?" said Myra, reaching for Ginny's hand. Ginny stayed out of reach, looking her in the eyes finally.

"Allie's savvier than I knew" she said flatly. "Margie's clothes -- the total was over $6500, Myra. That Versace alone was thirty-six hundred."

Myra thought she must be mishearing. "Thirty-six hundred. Dollars? You can't mean dollars, not for a shirt!"

Ginny sat down in the chair, clasping her hands and nodding dully.

"Six thousand five hundred dollars?" Myra voice had gone very high. "That's more than we spend on her in a year, that's most TWO years' worth of clothes. You spent -- I don't believe it, Ginny. Did she guilt trip you in some unimaginable way?"

"It wasn't Margie. I mean, yes, she wanted it, but I'm the one who made the decisions. Just this once, I said yes to designer labels." Ginny was too scared to be defiant.

"But -- why would you DO that, Ginny? Without calling me, at the very least, we both had our cells with us? We don't make that kind of purchase without discussion, not ever. Are you trying to buy her love, are you playing her against me?" Everything seemed equally possible and impossible to Myra at this moment.

"No. I -- I don't know why I didn't call, Myra. It wasn't until we were on the way back that I realized I should have. I just -- I don't know why." Ginny looked away, out the window.

Myra's disbelief was slowly sliding into anger. "Is this because I want to buy gold, are you trying give me tit for tat? Or -- are you somehow trying to say now that you're earning four times what I do each year, you should have more control over our money?"

"NO, Myra, for god's sake, no. I mean, I don't think so. I told you, I don't know what happened!"

"Well, that's not fucking good enough! If you're going to become Helen Shapiro Bates at the drop of a hat, revert to the worst side of your class background once you get away from me and in the right store, I need something more than your goddamned 'I don't know!'" Myra stood up and strode toward the door to Margie's room.

"Don't you dare walk out on this!" hissed Ginny. "And leave Margie out of it."

"Fine boundary for you to draw NOW!" said Myra. She opened Margie's door and looked in. "She's gone, I wanted to make sure. Allie had the brains to get them out of range."

"Before you went off on me, you mean" sniped Ginny.

"What the FUCK did you think was going to happen? When were you going to tell me, were you going to try to hide the Visa bill and pay for it with a sales check you never told me about? What other lies do I have to wonder about?" Myra was now frankly screaming.

Ginny's face transformed from anger to fear. "This isn't about secrets, Myra. I didn't mean to deceive you, I was going to tell you as soon as Margie was out of earshot, I swear."

In spite of herself, Myra reacted inside to the terror now in Ginny's expression. She had almost never seen that look, and never aimed at her reaction. She began drawing deep breaths, and went to the window to lean on the sill a minute.

Her voice back under control, she said to the glass "I'm completely freaked by this, Ginny."

"I can tell." But neither of them laughed.

"I wish we were at home. It's been ten days since we saw Nancy, we don't have meetings here, I don't have my study...Plus we've been through one too many near misses, I'm not coping, really...Is that what it is, Ginny, is this your way of losing it?" Myra turned and looked at Ginny.

Ginny leaned forward and put her head in her hands, her shoulders beginning to heave. "I don't know, Myra. I'm so ashamed, I've let you down again, I'm afraid you're going to change your mind about trusting me!"

Myra didn't cross to her immediately. She said "I guess, at the moment, I'm afraid of that too."

Copyright 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I made cornbread stuffing with broccoli florets and two cod filets for dinner tonight. Well-fed, I took the Online Jeopardy Contestant quiz, 50 questions with 15 seconds to answer each. We'll see how I do if they contact me in the future. It was a lot harder than watching it on TV, even without having to buzz in or phrase it in the form of a question. I also didn't have Dinah beside me chirruping inquisitively every time I shouted out an answer.

My number one choice for Presidential candidate dropped out today -- no, NOT Guiliani, you scalawag, I meant John Edwards. I'm disappointed, mostly at the treatment he received for talking about issues no one else is, but I still have two grade A candidates to choose from and I'm contented with either.

I bring this up particularly to contradict the hydrophobic spew of so-called pundit Dick Morris, who announced on Faux News today that Edwards' supporters "are those that can’t decide which they don’t like more—a black or a women getting elected". Yep, that sums me up to a T -- me who wouldn't object if all U.S. property got returned to people of color and at least 80% of ALL positions of leadership were held by women.

As a momentary aside, I seriously don't understand how these sorts of people get named "pundits" or why their opinions are ever sought. It's clearly a WBC (White Boys Club) for the most part, and they of course always choose each other -- you don't even have to watch Survivor to know that. But why do we let them get away with it? I remember in the early 70s, there was a commercial for some product which was introduced by "celebrity Rula Lenska". The first time it came on, my mother, the queen of pop culture, turned to us and said "Huh? Celebrity? Have any of you ever heard of her?" I guess she was the forerunner of Fabio and Ryan Seacrest alike, Gumby figurines they can pose however they want.

John Edwards, I believe, would have taken on both the wealthy elite and the corporate media, with somewhat of an insider's understanding. He was willing to utter the words "poverty" and "class", and didn't have to a cleansing palate rinse with kiwi sorbet afterward. Furthermore, he was an enthusiastic parent from a relationship which had survived the death of a child. That either makes you or breaks you (if you don't pawn it off onto someone else). I believe it had made him. Everyone always talked about his hair and his boyish grin -- the same morons who claimed Dubya looked friendly and "fit". (Dubya may have toned muscles but he still looks like shit on a stick, and his eyes are the deadest in the world except for maybe Gunner Dick's.) What I saw on John Edward's face, however, was maturity and the kind of compassion conservatives can't even acknowledge existing, the compassion that Buddha refers to: the compassion of grief.

Yes, even rich white boys can be good leaders for us. You know, in that 20% I'm willing to allot them, which is likely more than they karmically deserve. As a group, they've been running on empty for a couple of millenia.

(Image by Amelie Chica)

There's some good writing out there in Cyberia today. I'm going to snag the juiciest of it to share with you. First, over at Daily Kos, DHinMI posted in It's A Change Election a message so short and powerful, I'm copying the whole dang thing (it's homage, DH, please don't come down on me for theft!):

"Next time you hear someone extol the virtues of "traditional family values," or call on the country to seal the borders and not allow in new immigrants, or declare that we need to go back to the good old days (that often weren't very good), there's something you should remember. Something that demonstrates the profound changes in this country since the 1950's, before the civil rights movement and the feminist movement helped to greatly advance the cause of equal opportunity for ALL American citizens, something that demonstrates that we will not go backward, that America has irreversibly changed, and that we have changed for the better:

"Never before in the history of the United States of America have the voters and delegates of a major political party had to choose their nominee for President from a field that did not include a white male.

"We may or may not win this election, but in the greater social and cultural conflict fought out in this country for the last 50 years, we have won. Democrats liked all our candidates when John Edwards was still running for President, and we still like our candidates now that we no longer have a white male to choose. We are not threatened by having to chose between a woman and a man of color. We not only accept this as our current American reality, we embrace it as our future. WE are the party of tolerance. WE are the party of diversity. WE are the party of solidarity. And WE are the party of change."

("Blue Rudder", photo and copyright © 2007 by Liza Cowan)

Over at Digby, Dday in The Legitimate Change That Should Come From This Primary explains in easily understandable language why our current primary system is BROKEN:

"If 1-2% of all voters can whittle the field down to two candidates, and deliver a nominee on the Republican side, we have a serious problem and everyone knows it...It needs to be reformed in a big way. The fact that Florida broke the rules, moved up, delivered no delegates on the Dem side, but obviously succeeded since they PICKED THE REPUBLICAN NOMINEE, should tell you something. We need a spread-out process and maybe earlier conventions to end this bad front-loaded system. It's terrible for democracy."

("Field Labor #5", woodcut by Michele Ramirez)

Back at Kos, Markos himself delivers two excellent commentaries on anti-Hispanic racism playing out in this election. First, in Bashing brown people to the electoral abyss, he begins with quoting Tim Dickinson's article in The Rolling Stone, Blame Pedro:

"Back in 2005, when Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee fought against an 'un-American' and 'race-baiting' proposal to deny undocumented workers access to health care and other government services, he declared that the bill 'inflames those who are racists and bigots and makes them think there's a real problem.' Impugning the piety of the bill's state-senator sponsor — like the governor, a Baptist preacher — Huckabee quipped, 'I drink a different kind of Jesus juice.'

"That was then. Today — with the nation bogged down in a disastrous war, oil prices at $100 a barrel, climate change cooking the planet and the economy veering into recession — the geniuses vying to lead the Republican Party have decided what's really wrong with America: Mexicans. Even the Rev. Huckabee is chugging the GOP's nativist Kool-Aid: In December, the same man who two years ago called on America to 'be a place that opens its arms, opens its heart, opens its spirit to people who come because they want the best for their families' unveiled his 'Secure America Plan,' which would target 12 million of these good folks for mass deportation 120 days into his first term.

"The immigrant-bashing had the desired effect, winning Huckabee the coveted endorsement of Jim Gilchrist, leader of the Minuteman Project border vigilantes. Gilchrist — who, in a nod toward moderation, clarified to Rolling Stone that his group does not believe that undocumented workers ought to be 'mowed down with machine guns at the border' — has high praise for Huckabee's plan. 'It appeared to me that I had written it myself,' he says. 'It was that strong.'"

Markos goes on to explain how and why racism came out from under its partial wraps in the Republican camp.

In a second post, Immigration issue killed Romney in Florida, Markos quotes Simon Rosenberg:

"According to the exit polls Mitt Romney and John McCain tied 33% to 33% among the 89% of the Florida voters last night who were not Hispanic. Among Hispanics, who where 11% of the Florida GOP electorate last night, the vote was 54% McCain, 24% Rudy and 14% Romney. So it was the vote of Hispanic voters who put John McCain over the top in Florida, and gave him the most important win of his fight for the GOP nomination.

"Thus, John McCain, the candidate who championed immigration reform, may have had the nomination delivered to him by those Hispanic voters he has been fighting for. And Romney, who has led the anti-immigrant crusade in the GOP field this year, saw this strategy explode on him - as it has virtually every other Republican who has invested in it - last night."

If you ask me, the explosion wasn't big enough.

In a related story, Alternet reports:

"The National Council of La Raza, which includes nearly 300 affiliated organizations, will launch a new initiative on Thursday titled 'We Can Stop The Hate,' aimed at curtailing the influence of CNN's Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck as well as MSNBC political commentator Pat Buchanan. In addition, the organization is petitioning for Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee to renounce the endorsement of Jim Gilchrist, a cofounder of the Minuteman Project, an anti-immigration group."

This is a good place to remind us all that when we are addressing the lies and malignancy of hate speech, "la raza" translates to "the people", NOT to "our race" as the xenophobes are prone to claim.

("Tuberculosis Ward, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island 3", photo by Stephen Wilkes)

Also at Kos, BarbinMD reports on today's Justice Department oversight hearing in The Nuremberg Defense, including a chilling exchange between Sheldon Whitehouse and current Attorney General Michael Mukasey. Thank g*d there's SOMEBODY in our government who understands that "I was only following orders" is not a defense. Check it out.

("Rhino in Fog" by Geert Goiris)

Other enjoyable reads right now include:

Jesse Wendel's insider understanding and predictions concerning the WGA strike, along with a definitely provocative video from Speechless, at "We've Got Everything We Need".

Kat at her new blog BitchCraft has been grabbing my attention with her musings on the disturbing youth of figure skaters, and defense of the "healthy choice" that divorce can be.

LaDoctorita at Unconventional Beauty outlines another example of Nobody Listens to Women, Part 2.

To close, a little Judy Grahn, from her book Confrontations With The Devil in the Form of Love:

I only have one reason for living
and that's you
And if I didn't have you as a
reason for living,
I would think of something else.



Continuing excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. If you are already a familiar reader, begin below. The action in the story resumes immediately after my post of yesterday. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up.

June 2004

As Myra came into the waiting room, she saw her family clustered in chairs at the far end, David now with them. She made the OK symbol with her hand, walking toward them, and saw Margie's shoulders go down in relief. When she reached them, she filled them in.

"I want to go see her now" said Margie.

"Me too" said Ginny.

"Okay, but Margie? First of all, you need to be 18 for this, so act accordingly. Second -- Ginny will have to come back here, but if you want to stay with Allie and Edwina, here's my request. Edwina is in charge of decisions for Allie, and I think they'll honor that. But if there's any crap aimed her way, you're her ally. You know what that means? And you call us on my cell for any reason at all."

Margie nodded seriously. She and Ginny headed back the way Myra had come.

Half an hour later, Gillam was seen by a doctor who took blood and did a few tests, then declared him fine. Gillam had drunk down two bottles of Gatorade and needed to use the bathroom. Ginny returned and said Margie was going to stay with Edwina.

"I told them we were going to go find a motel and we'd call them when we were settled in, make plans for the evening to swap out being with Allie" Ginny said.

"Sounds good" said Myra. They found a Ramada Inn nearby, with a pool, and rented adjoining rooms, one with a small fridge and microwave. Myra asked the desk clerk for a good Chinese restaurant that would deliver, and once in their room, as Ginny called Margie and Edwina to give them their location, Myra ordered an array of dishes, enough for a second meal they could store in the fridge.

Gillam got into bed in the room he was sharing with Carly and David, while Carly turned on the TV and began exploring local cable. When the food arrived, Myra took them in plates, but Gillam was sound asleep and she left his on the bedside table.

Ginny called Patty to tell her what had happened, using the motel line. After she was off, Myra called Chris at work and talked to her for a while.

When she hung up, she glanced at her watch and said "It's only 4:30. It feels like midnight to me."

"I need a nap" said Ginny. She turned to David and said "If you want to rest in here, away from TV land in there, you're welcome to the second bed."

He accepted, and stripped down to T-shirt and boxers to get beneath the covers.

"AC" murmured Myra, as she and Ginny curled into each other.

"Is your cell plugged in?" asked Ginny suddenly.


"I'm going to check on Gillam one more time" said Ginny, sitting up.

"Okay, good idea" said Myra. But she was asleep by the time Ginny returned.

Some time later, Myra woke up because Ginny, spooned back into her, was jerking and making a strange high sound. Myra said "Ginny? Gin?" and finally shook her. Ginny went stiff, sat up on her elbow looking over at David's bed with the covers pulled down but him not in it, and then rolled over to face Myra, her face crumpling into a wail.

"Oh, god, I dreamed he never came back, we never found him, we lost him to the ocean!" she sobbed.

Myra felt a chill around her heart. She held Ginny tight and Ginny cried so fast and hard, she was having trouble drawing a complete breath. But Myra could tell it was all out release. Eventually Ginny rolled partly onto her back, wiping her face with the pillowcase and gasping in several deep gulps of air.

"I often wonder what on earth we'd do without Allie, but never more than today" she said. "And I'm scared sick about her, too. Diabetes is a killer, we have to make she's okay, Myra."

"I know."

"We've spread ourselves out so far, my heart belongs to so many now, the complete opposite of how I grew up" said Ginny with another small gasp. "I used to read books about families and long for lots of people. And when I was really little, I'd have a mother there in the middle, a real mother -- remember how in Peter Pan, Mrs. Darling doesn't want to leave, she knows there's something hanging around, maybe a danger to her kids? I wanted a mother who was connected to me like that. But by the time was ten or so, I'd begun imagining myself as the mother."

"You are that kind of mother, only way more" said Myra.

"But I don't think I could -- make it, if I lost him. Or Margie. I -- " Ginny slid into a few more sobs.

"I know, Ginny" said Myra, fighting bile in her throat. She remembered the day before, how scared she'd been about snakes. We never know where the real trouble will strike from, she thought.

"Why didn't my mother feel that way about me? I'll never understand it, will I, I'll never get an answer, at the end of every goddamned Al-Anon meeting I just have to choose letting go."

Ginny sat up and grabbed a kleenex to blow her nose. After the first long honk, they both jumped when they heard David's quiet voice from the corner of the room: "Excuse me."

He was sitting at the table, a solitaire spread in front of him, the deck in one hand.

"I didn't mean to eavesdrop, I didn't realize you weren't aware I was here until -- well, you were in the middle of crying, I didn't want to interrupt" he said apologetically.

"That's okay, Daddy" said Ginny, blowing again. "But you sure got an earful, huh?"

"I did. And I know exactly how you feel" he said, not smiling.

Myra felt some relief in having shared, however unwittingly, Ginny's fear with him. She sat up against the headboard and said "These summer trips to the coast...they seem to be the axis around which our family calendar year turns, in an emotional way."

"They are for me" said David. The restrained emphasis of his tone squeezed at Myra's heart.

"Oh, shit -- we've called everybody else, but not your mother" Myra said suddenly to Ginny. "Unless you've talked with her already" she added, nodding at David.

"No, I've not called her" he said, not elaborating.

"Come to think of it -- I don't remember you ever calling her during one of our visits here" remarked Myra. "Is that -- typical? For you two, I mean? I think I've seen you call her from Seattle."

David took a long breath, and set down his deck of cards.

"I call from Seattle if we've agreed ahead of time" he said.

Ginny looked at him searchingly. "You mean -- does she not want you to call sometimes?" Myra could tell Ginny was thinking about getting angry.

David was cleaning the fingernails of one hand with the forefinger nail of his other hand.

"Sometimes, our separation from each other is...a break" he said. "An agreed-upon on break."

"What does that mean?" demanded Ginny.

David finally looked at her. His blue eyes were dark. "Helen has someone she sees. When I come down here, and sometimes on other occasions. Always with prior -- notification."

"Sees?" hissed Ginny. "You don't mean -- like an affair?"

"I suppose that's an appropriate term for it" said David in a tired voice.

"You mean she's fucking another guy?" David flinched at Ginny's use "fucking", and Myra had a wild thought that maybe it wasn't a guy.

"They say they love each other. He's married, too, and neither of them are open to divorce. But -- they've been together a long time, in their own way" said David.

"Who is it?" said Ginny, standing up agitatedly.

"Someone you've met. In our social circle. Helen calls them our friends, though I -- would not" said David. "I'm not going to give you a name. I don't think you really care, not about her feelings in this matter."

"Damned right I don't care about her feelings, but you, Daddy -- how long is a long time?" Ginny was sitting down at the table.

"Since before you were born" David said. "And -- don't worry, you're my child."

"As if" snorted Ginny. "The only questionable biology is how I came from her." She was venomous. "Why on earth have you put up with this, Daddy? Why are you still with her?"

He looked exhausted. "That's a very good question, Virginia. And I suppose the answer would depend on when I was asked. When I first found out, you were four, Cathy was 12. And I -- didn't want to lose you. Either of you. She refused for us to talk to the rabbi at the Temple, because of the possible scandal. Finally I flew down here and talked with the old reb here in Galveston, retired by then but -- he helped. And I told Mama. She was afraid of losing her connection to you girls, too. So -- I went home, we got twin beds, and -- I began keeping a log."

"For when you could leave her" said Ginny in comprehension.

"Yes. Then Cathy got married, and it was just you. And you went off to college, and during that first semester, you wrote home and said you were -- lesbian. That you intended to live that way, and we could either deal with it or lose you. It was a hard letter to read, honey. You -- I understand it must have been difficult to write, but it came off as incredibly cold. And Helen's only response was to say that it was no surprise you hated men, with me as a father" he said gently.

Ginny took his hands in hers. "Oh, god, Daddy, I didn't mean to -- I was mostly freaking out about her reaction, you know? And I was terrified you'd take her side. And that I'd lose Bubbe, too. I just poured it down onto paper and mailed it before I could change my mind. I'm so sorry, Daddy -- "

"We both did the best we could" he said. "I -- I didn't know who to talk with, at first. Not Helen, of course. And -- well, finally I looked in the Yellow Pages and found what you'd call a shrink. Someone with a Jewish name but not in our Temple, I checked his name against the membership list. He turned out to be a lot younger than me, and not Freudian. I told him I wanted to understand how I'd turned into my own father, someone you'd center your life around rejecting. I went to him for a year, once every two weeks. Eventually, I was able to go visit Mama and talk with her about it -- one of her good friends had been gay, did you know that? Florence Ruben. And I also told Cathy and Michael. They weren't at all surprised, and were very supportive, so that helped enormously. But the biggest help was when the summer rolled around and you still wanted to come to Galveston. Helen said it was because of Mama, not you. But once we were down here, you talked to me the same -- you treated me like I still mattered in your life. It's been my annual proof that I'm your daddy, the one you wanted."

Ginny was cried out, or else she would have been weeping again, Myra could tell.

"Daddy, when I saw you again, you were so sweet. I had no idea it had been -- that you had to go get help -- "

"That's what parents do" he said. "As you well know, now. And seeing Dr. Shaver was a blessing in a lot of ways. With his help, I came to terms with -- Helen. I still didn't want to split up the marriage because -- well, I didn't want you to be ashamed of me. It took me a long time to not be ashamed of myself. By the time I did, Helen and I had a routine, a habit. It was just -- easier to go on as we had been. Plus, we had the grandkids. And -- I never told you this, but I began teaching myself about lesbianism. Or lesbian-feminism, I guess is more accurate. I asked you questions, and if you ever mentioned a name or a book, I went looking for it. The B. Dalton in downtown Denver, no telling what they thought of me; I was always ordering hard-to-find things, that they kept in brown paper wrappers. But I remember at some point reading an essay about non-monogamy in some small journal, really struggling to accept the ideas in it and thinking I'd need to get past my own betrayal about Helen in case you agreed with the idea that she should have -- more than one of us."

Myra was laughing, she couldn't help it. "Oh my god, David -- don't tell me this was from Diana Press!"

"It may have been, that name sounds familiar" he said, grinning now.

Ginny was so flabbergasted she couldn't find words.

"Anyhow, it was such a relief to me when I found out you and Myra were -- faithful, to use an old-fashioned patriarchal term" he said, laughing. "I go back and see Dr. Shaver a couple of times a year, just to come up with more goals and check how I'm doing. I never told Helen about him. And that's part of the reason I've not gone to Al Anon, Ginny, though I've thought about it countless times -- but it would mean a weekly commitment, at least, and there's no way I could keep that secret from her."

"Why should you keep it secret?" demanded Ginny. "She's the drunk, she's the one who should be worried about silence."

David was silent for a minute. "I don't know, Ginny. I'm going back to see him when I get home, I can tell you that. This trip, this last six months have been something else. It might be time for me to make a change. A real change."

"Move to Seattle" said Ginny impulsively. Myra felt her chest clench up -- she began praying that Ginny not offer him a place to live with them. But Ginny didn't go that far. "Live nearby, so you can see us all the time, eat with us, hang out with the kids as much as you want. We have a great reform Temple, and Cathy's kids are grown now, but we need you still." She was all but begging.

David looked her in the eyes. "I'll think about it. I'll talk everything over with Dr. Shaver. Seeing Allie and Edwina, the kind of risk they're taking each other -- maybe I can start over, too. Not marriage, I don't mean that, but -- there's all kinds of risks available to the brave man, aren't there?"

Ginny was breathing shallowly. Myra got up and came to her, kissing the top of her head. Ginny leaned back against her.

"Does Cathy know? About Mother?" asked Ginny suddenly.

"I think so. I think there's been gossip that's gotten back to her."

"I want to talk with her about it, is that all right with you?" she asked David.

"Yes. For that matter, if you want to bring it up with Helen, I don't see why not" said David with a challenge in his voice. "But -- not Margie and Gillam. Not yet."

Ginny looked around at Myra, who nodded. "Okay. We can understand that" she said.

Myra's cell phone rang at that moment. Myra hurried to answer it.

It was Edwina. "She's fine, doing steadily better" she said immediately. "They let her drink something, and she didn't bounce away or whatever they were worried about. I'm going to spend the night -- one nurse has said I could lie down on this second bed in her room to get some sleep, if my being next to Allie is bothering her. But I could use a few hours of just plain rest. Could you come now and let me drive back to your hotel, rest there until visiting hours are over?"

"You got it, Edwina, we'll spell you. Tell Margie if she wants to come back with you, she can either hang out with her Zayde and the boys or sleep in our bed" said Myra.

"I'll meet you out front, save you having to find parking" said Edwina.

As Myra put on pants and shoes, Ginny checked on Gillam and Carly.

"Gillam's completely awake, though still low energy, and Carly is tired of cable" she reported. "Daddy, will you see they all eat? And stay out of this room, so Edwina can sleep?"

"There's a coffee shop next door, we'll go there" he said. "Plus I've got these cards, I think we'll have a poker night in our room."

Myra said, "What are you doing to do for chips?"

"I'll buy a giant bag of M and M's" he grinned. "If they eat up their winnings, then I'll come out on top, won't I?"

"I'm leaving my cell with you" said Myra. She gave him a long hug, whispering "I wish I'd had a father as committed as you, and that's the truth, David Bates."

Once alone in the car, Ginny said "Wow. The waves just keep on coming in. I got a chance to clear some of it out, but you've not had a moment yet, have you, angel?"

"No. I'm on TCB mode at the moment. But I'm okay, I think. It actually helped to hear you lose it. And to hear that David has a shrink. Do you think he's going to leave Helen?"

Ginny snorted. "I have no fucking idea. I'm just trying to wrap my mind around the fact that some other man out there finds her desirable."

Myra began laughing. "Yeah, she's not warm and fuzzy, is she?"

Ginny put her hand on Myra's knee and kept it there. As they turned off toward the hospital, Ginny said "You know, don't you, when it's time for you to take a break, I've got you covered? Just say when."

"I know. Edwina needs a break, too, I'm guessing. I mean, more than a nap."

Ginny nodded. "Yeah, but she won't take it yet. Not until tomorrow or the next day, maybe not until Allie gets discharged. Then I bet she falls completely apart."

"We'll catch her. We'll catch 'em both. Just like they caught Gillam."

At the hospital, Edwina was slumped on a bench out front, her suitcase beside her. Margie was pacing up and down. She acted very glad to see her mothers.

"Are you okay?" asked Ginny, looking into her face.

"Yeah. I'm just -- everything's so weird, you know?" said Margie.

"I know. It'll be much easier tomorrow. If you can, get some rest" said Ginny. They swapped car keys for Ginny's cell and made their way to the ICU. Allie had been moved into a private room, and was sitting up in bed when they walked in.

"Wow, you look like a human being again" said Myra, relief flooding her. She sat down on the bed next to Allie. After chatting for a few minutes, Ginny said "I'm going to find a newstand, see if I can buy you something to read. And also get us dinner, Myra. Is it going to be all right if we eat in front of you, Allie?"

"Fine with me, I'm not hungry" she said.

When Ginny was gone, Myra lay down next to Allie and patted her own shoulder, saying "Lay your little punkin haid down here, sweetie pie." Allie accepted, with a sigh, curling into Myra's side.

"I can't believe it's only been one day since this morning" she breathed. "Edwina said I rode in a helicopter -- my first time, and I have no memory of it."

"When we bust you outta here, we'll put in a call to Wonder Woman and get a ride in her invisible plane, to make up for it" said Myra.

They breathed together for a while, Myra relishing the faint coconut still coming from Allie's hair, the softness of her cornrows against Myra's cheek. Eventually Myra said "Seems that everything good in my life, you've been there to either help me get it or make sure I keep it."

"BFF" said Allie. Another long pause, then Allie said "I'm worried about Edwina."

"How so?"

"Is she gonna be having second thoughts now, realizing she's hooked up with an old broke piece of work?" whispered Allie.

Myra laughed incredulously. "You mean the old broke piece of work who ran over a mile in the sand while her body was operating on no insulin whatsoever, swam out into the surf and carried in a teenaged boy? That 98-lb weakling?"

Allie said. "Well, but, I'm gonna be taking shots the rest of my life. And thinking 'bout 'Can I eat this?' Everytime I woke up, she was looked at me with this expression of -- I don't know, some kinda fear."

"We all start falling apart once our breeder capacity is over, that's the biological law. You're just adding on a new kind of recovery. And hell, Allie, of course she's scared shitless, but it's not about you being diabetic. We saw you lying all but dead on the sand, the same color as those crashed aliens they autopsied in Roswell. We didn't know but what you were gonna die on us. She's desperately in love with you, think about how scared you'd be if it had gone the other way."

Allie leaned back so she could see Myra's eyes. "She'll be okay?"

"Yeah. We'll take care of her until you get out of this joint. And then, when you do that usual Allie Billups trick of learning a new way of living lickety-split, you become Sistah Super-Needle and Ms. Carb-Exchange, she'll know what we already know -- they ain't no stopping you. TankDyke."

Allie let herself really laugh, and relaxed back onto Myra's shoulder, repeating "TankDyke."

When Ginny returned, both hands holding bags, Allie was sound asleep. Myra slid gently out from under her and placed a pillow instead of her shoulder. She and Ginny sat at the foot of the bed, where Ginny spread out their meal on a tray table.

"Pickings were a bit slim at the cafeteria" whispered Ginny. "The potatoes looked awful, and the bread was white flour colored with caramel, so I got you brown rice and some spinach. Plus what they called ground sirloin, and a giant fruit salad."

"Looks okay. Is that Sobe for me?"

"Yeah. And there's bottled water" said Ginny.

They ate in silence, stealing bites from each other. Before they were done, a nurse came in to change Allie's IV and give her more medication. The nurse, a broad black woman named Janelle, looked at Myra and said "You her sister?"

"Yes, ma'am" said Myra, wiping her hand so she could shake the nurse's. "This is my partner Ginny." Allie was awake and grinning at the "sister" line.

"You don't much resemble each other, except around the jaw" said Janelle, a little challengingly.

"We have different daddies" said Myra, honestly enough.

"Where's your wife? She's been glued to your side since you came in" Janelle said to Allie. Allie was startled, but Myra jumped in: "She took the car back to our motel for a few hours' sleep. She'll be back before bedtime to spend the night here."

"And that girl, the sweet one -- " Myra had never heard Margie described that way, although of course she was -- "She your daughter?" Janelle looked at Myra and Ginny.

"Yes" said Ginny, "But Allie was there when she was born and she's raised her as much as we have."

"What's her sugar?" asked Myra, looking at the Accu-Chek Janelle had just run.

"98. You know how to deal with diabetes?"

"Not really, but we're all about to learn. I cook for her a lot, I'll do it right" Myra said emphatically. Janelle looked finally ready to trust Myra. She turned back to Allie and said "They gonna feed you a little breakfast in the morning. If you have a good day tomorrow, they'll likely release you the day after. You caught this just in time. You don't appear to have any heart damage. You should get your eyes checked, though, soon as you get home."

"I will" said Allie, a wave of pure panic crossing her face.

After Janelle left, Allie said "Wife?"

"Edwina's told everybody she could that she's your wife. Don't you dare give her shit for it" said Myra.

"Wouldn't dream of it" said Allie, joy suffusing her face. "I told you all that first day, didn't I?"

"I remember" said Ginny.

"You wanna hear a secret?" said Allie. They moved their chairs back up close to her to listen. "You know all that hoo-ha in San Fran about gays and lesbians getting married there at City Hall? Well, I wrote to them before it got shut down by the court and I bought a marriage license. For me and Edwina. Just in case."

"Holy shit, Al, that's amazing. Did you tell her?"

"No, not yet. I mean, one of us has to ask the other one, right? But looks like maybe Edwina's taken the lead here" said Allie, her smile ecstatic.

"Can you still get married, though?

"So far. It's about to get reversed, from what I can tell, but as long as you got a license, you can go there and get hitched. Folks still doing it" said Allie. She prodded her IV site, frowning momentarily. "This hurts like the dickens."

"Listen, the magazine selection downstairs was challenging" said Ginny. She reached for the remaining bag on the floor. "But they did have Juxtapoz, big score, plus the latest New Yorker has a David Sedaris piece, and I got you Ebony, and check this out -- 'Gulf Coast Fisherman'." Allie was laughing again. "And -- " Ginny reached into the bottom of the bag -- "I found a blank book with decent paper for sketching, and some colored pencils!"

"Ahh, that's gonna make a huge difference!" said Allie. She immediately opened the book and the carton of pencils, and began testing the shades on a blank page. A few minutes later, she turned to a fresh page and started drawing in earnest. Myra picked up the New Yorker and Ginny went to clear away the remains of their dinner before sitting on the bed next to Allie and watching her with absorbed interest.

Half an hour later, Allie said "Our plane tickets here -- can they be changed to a different route?"

Myra was slow to respond. "I guess. Where you wanna go?"

"San Francisco" said Allie, still focused on her drawing. "Maybe."

Myra and Ginny looked at each other with wide eyes. They waited for Allie to say more, and after another minute she said "We'll have to get Chris and Sima to fly down from home. And I'll want to stay in a nice hotel. We'll want a few days to ourselves, after."

Myra leaped to her feet and gave a whoop.

"It ain't a done deal" said Allie, grinning at her. "I gots to ask, and we'll have to see about all kinds of details."

"You just let us know" said Ginny, kissing Allie's cheek.

Copyright 2008 Maggie Jochild.