Saturday, November 15, 2008


From SomeECards
I received an e-mail today from Democracy For America inviting me to participate in a "for fun" game of choosing who I would appoint for cabinet positions in the new Obama Presidency. I went to their website and made my selections for Defense Secretary, Secretary of State, Attorney General and Environmental Protection Agency.

However, I was struck by the extreme limitations of the choices presented. I'm not sure if this list was compiled by DFA alone or if it's based on what the Obama transition team has released as those under consideration, but either way, it's not good news: It's 67% white men. As a woman, as a resident of a state with a non-white majority, I found this incredibly depressing.

Of the 34 unique names listed (some of the women were repeated in more than category, as it common with tokens), 28 were male and 6 (17%) were female. Of the 34, 28 or 82% were white (except for one candidate whose race/ethnicity I don't know). Of the people of color, 4 (11.5%) were African-American males, 1 (3%) was an Hispanic male, and one female was possibly a woman of color -- no apparent Asians or Native Americans.

Reality -- which may have a well-known liberal bias but this is not a liberal Presidency, clearly -- if it were represented in these choices would show 51% women. This is an appalling gap. Likewise, our real population diversity in America is 66% non-Hispanic white, 15% Hispanic, 13% African-American, 6% "some other race" alone, 4% Asian, 2% multiracial, and 0.09% Native American/Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.

I was not able to document class background of these candidates, but given the biographies I did read, they are overwhelmingly educated at expensive, elite schools and/or come from economic privilege.

I don't know about you, but I voted for Change. Not tokenism as usual (now that we made one historic change), not paucity of imagination, and certainly not the tired old argument of "we just couldn't find any qualified candidates who weren't white men".

For all of you who argued "I support women in leadership, just not That Woman" or who argued "I'm not racist, I believe in civil rights", well, now is when you get put your ass on the line. Agitate for diversity and chances given to those who are absolutely out there but not being listed. We never needed fresh thinking more.

Here's the list of names provided, along with gender and racial status:

Ian Bowles -- white male
Carol Browner -- white female
Wesley Clark -- white male
Hillary Clinton -- white female
Richard Danzig -- white male
Tom Daschle -- white male
Artur Davis -- African-American male
Christopher Dodd -- white male
John Edwards -- white male
Dan Esty -- white male
Patrick Fitzgerald -- white male
Robert Gates -- white male
Al Gore -- white male
Chuck Hagel -- white male
Richard Holbrooke -- white male
Eric Holder Jr. -- African-American male
Tim Kaine -- white male
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. -- white male
John Kerry -- white male
Dennis Kucinich -- white male
Jonathan Lash -- white male
Richard Lugar -- white male
Ralph Nader -- white male
Janet Napolitano -- white female
Mary D. Nichols -- female, unsure of ethnicity or race
Sam Nunn -- white male
Deval Patrick -- African-American male
Colin Powell -- African-American male
Jack Reed -- white male
Lisa Renstrom -- white female
Bill Richardson -- Hispanic male
Kathleen Sebelius -- white female
Jim Webb -- white male
Anthony Zinni -- white male

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]


Friday, November 14, 2008


Here's another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.

August 2015

Myra asked to have her birthday dinner at Carminati's, and a long row of tables at the back were pushed together to accommodate the clan because even the massive party booth, with its plush black leather, didn't have enough room. One of the other diners in the restaurant that night took surreptitious photos of the celebration which appeared on the internet within days. Myra was incensed because one of them was a clear close-up of Mimi.

Ginny spent the week before their trip to the Gulf Coast giving Mimi lessons in how to blow out her nose. Eventually Mimi got the hang of it, which would help not only in dealing with the air pressure pain on the flight but also with future colds. Jane thanked Ginny effusively and said “Wanna try your hand at potty training?”

“Sure” said Ginny, not realizing it was a joke. She bought potties for all their bathrooms and began asking Mimi at random moments if she thought she might need to “go”. Mimi didn't have a clue what she meant until Ginny began taking her to the bathroom with her when she went. They sat side by side on their respective thrones, Ginny describing how she relaxed her muscles. After three days, Mimi more or less accidentally peed while on her potty. Ginny leaped from her own toilet and began dancing a jig. Mimi immediately joined her, which necessitated a clean-up later, but the idea was planted.

Mimi began accompanying everyone around her to the bathroom when they went, pounding on the door frantically if it was shut. Intermittently she succeeded in her own voiding, and this meant she got to do “the potty dance”: She stuck her arms out on either side, bent down at the elbow in a sort of muscle-builder pose, and hopped from foot to foot with a deranged expression on her face. This was a hilarious hit, and the entire family got into the habit of doing the potty dance after a trip to the toilet when Mimi was around.

Hence, their flight to Houston was a mixed bag. Mimi was able to blow out her ears and enjoy gazing out the window. She went to the bathroom with Gillam and they did the potty dance in the aisle, to the entertainment of other passengers. David, however, despite being nursed by Jane, was clearly in deep pain and wailed not just through the flight but for an hour afterward. Myra kept apologizing to Jane, as if it were somehow her doing that the trip decision was made.

Once on the beach highway, David fell asleep and didn't rouse even during their stops for groceries, Margie's rental of a sea kayak, a trip to the tackle and bait shop, and Myra's indulgent foray with Mimi through the “beach crap” store. He did wake up when they sat down at the table in Gaido's, and he appeared not just back to baseline but actually more content than usual. Gillam speculated it was the “ocean ions”. Myra secretly thought it was his Texan ancestry coming to the fore.

At their beach place, Myra felt her usual pang at missing the old farmhouse but, for the first time, it was drowned out by the sensation of laying down memories for a new generation. Mimi was in sensory overload. Myra looked around the pure, inviting Ginny-colored walls of each room, the open tile floors and shafts of light pouring in every window, and fantasized about coming for longer than a week when Gillam's children were older – maybe a month or, dare she dream it, even the entire summer.

She especially loved the look of the great room, the egg-yolk tint of the walls, the soft sofas and chairs covered in blue-and-white marine canvas, the cook's choice kitchen with a 20 foot elevation view of the Gulf from the sink. The massive old square table Ginny had found in Galveston, big enough to seat four to a side, always held in its center a cluster of salt and pepper bowls, condiments, blue glass butter dish, green glass vase with flowers or grasses cut in the dunes, and a terra cotta plate heaped with shells and other beach gleanings. Once they settled in, the table also always held a bright red pitcher filled with ice and water, sweating onto plate, and often a matching container of tea or lemonade; a bread board with a fresh loaf under its glass dome; and a wide wooden bowl full of fruit.

Myra and Ginny took the “mother bedroom” automatically, with its pale green walls and king bed. Allie and Edwina took the other king bed in the back west bedroom with rose walls. Jane and Gillam moved themselves and the babies into the front west bedroom with two queen beds and aqua walls. Margie helped Eric and Carly push together two twin beds on the sun porch with its poppy red walls, and stashed her own gear next to a twin at the other end of the porch. She said she wasn't sure if she could take the heat out there, however – she might sleep on the couch in the central-air-cooled great room. At any rate, she added, when they needed “connubial privacy” she'd make herself scarce. Carly went brick red and Eric, laughing, said he would hang one of his giant socks on the doorknob, which made Carly turn away in mortification.

Even before Ginny set up her easel, sun screen and baby hats were applied for a family stroll on the beach. Mimi could not stop screaming with delight, and David looked like a white-haired Buddha in Gillam's arms. They found and stashed wood for that night's campfire. Gillam stripped down to boxers to carry Mimi in her diaper out to chest level. They could all hear her shrieks clearly over the surf. Jane, watching them, turned to Myra and said “I get it now. Look at him. He's still that little boy in the painting. We have to do this every year.”

Back at the house, Ginny and Allie began setting up the porch while Myra, Carly and Eric organized the kitchen and groceries. Edwina plugged her computer in at the desk in her bedroom, and Margie installed hooks to hang her kayak underneath the 12-foot clearance between the ground and the first floor of the house, between two of the concrete pillars which builders had promised would withstand any hurricane surge.

Gillam pulled out the inflatable plastic pool Myra had bought despite Ginny's comment that it was “ridiculous to buy a pool at the beach”. He blew it up and set it in the shade under the remaining live oak tree before filling it with water. He dumped all the toys Myra had bought into it, stripped to his boxers again and sat down in the cool clear water. Mimi, who had been tottering around the yard, stared at him in dawning delight.

“Come on in” he said. She clambered over the side, tried to float without much success, but once she discovered she could sit with water almost to her chin, she began an endless series of experiments with plastic containers. Jane stripped David to his diaper as well, applied what she called “SPF Mole People” all over him, adjusted his hat, and handed him to Gillam. Jane later said it was the first time she heard a clear laugh come from David. She went upstairs to sit on the porch with a book and a tall glass of ice water.

The kiddie pool became an ideal way to coax Mimi away from the beach proper and clean her of sand before naps or meals. She was equally enamored of the campfires, singing loudly in Jane's lap, making up words when she didn't know the lyrics. David, too, was transfixed by the firelight, the sunshine, the constant availability of several adults. Ginny set a bassinet beside her easel and she put him there for his naps, a small fan blowing across his bare skin. He went to sleep watching her paint.

“I should have done this with our two” she said to Myra. “No reason to keep them from seeing what I do up close and intimate.”

The next morning at dawn, Margie was packing a breakfast of biscuits, boiled eggs, and Texas Ruby Reds while Allie assembled fishing gear and Edwina filled a giant thermos with coffee. Gillam staggered out of his bedroom with Mimi, heading for the bathroom. When they came out, he said “She insisted she had to potty” as he did a stuporous version of the potty dance with her. He added “I think maybe she heard ya'll, though.”

“We tried to be quiet as we could” apologized Allie. Mimi said to Margie “Going? Where?”

“Fishing” said Margie. “We plan to catch fish in the ocean.” She turned to Gillam. “I'll take responsibility for her if you think it's okay for her to accompany us.”

He looked groggily at Mimi. Margie added “You and Jane could sleep in as long as David lets you.”

“Okay” said Gillam. “Let me get you clothes for her.” Margie added a bottle of milk and a banana to the breakfast bag. She shouldered it and Mimi once she was dressed, trailing after Allie with poles and Edwina with lawnchairs.

They returned just past 8:00. Ginny was already painting, and Myra was sitting down to biscuits and gravy. Allie said “Mimi done brought us beginner's luck, we got a haul.” Mimi, smelling a little of fish guts, was handed to Myra while Allie began battering and frying fillets and Margie put away gear.

Edwina made fresh coffee and elaborated. “She wanted to do whatever we were doing, a perfect little mimic. That simian DNA which serves babies in such good stead, I guess. She even took a sip of my coffee.”

“Don't tell Gillam” said Myra. “About the coffee, I mean.” Mimi reached her fist toward Edwina's cup and Myra laughed, offering her some juice instead.

“She got pissed when we wouldn't let her handle a knife during cleaning, but Allie gave her a head to play with for a couple of minutes. Until she tried to suck on it” said Edwina, giggling at Myra's grimace of revulsion.

“She one of us” said Allie, putting a sizzling piece of fish on Myra's plate. “We gonna take her every morning.”

Carly and Eric joined them in a few minutes, drawn by the aroma, Myra thought. Gillam and Jane didn't emerge until 9:30, looking rested and already sunned. Mimi, in the kiddie pool with Margie, yelled up to them “I catch fish!”

As a result of her early starts to the day, Mimi began sleeping through the afternoons, as did her baby brother. Jane and Gillam relished their down time, reading, taking walks, or Gillam stretched in the Adirondack chair on the porch listening with eyes close to Jane playing one of the pennywhistles she'd brought along. Carly and Eric swam and horsed around for hours, helping keep an eye on Margie in her kayak beyond the breakers. Margie later confessed to Myra she would have been reluctant to venture into those waters without a spotter. She said the dolphins were curious to the point of intrusion, and there were far more shark spottings than she would have guessed.

“So, no taking Mimi out kayaking with me when she's older. Not until she's way big” said Margie with tight lips. Myra mentally compared this with the reckless Margie they'd grown up with, and thought parenthood wasn't seasoning only Gillam.

At night, Gillam drained the kiddie pool and hung it on a pillar, avoiding its use as a biodome over a new fireant metropolis. Midweek, he and Jane made a kite with Mimi and they flew it on the beach. Carly, Eric and Margie joined them with home-made kites of their own. That afternoon, when Myra made a run to town for milk and supplies, she bought a cowpoke hat for Mimi. They didn't have a visit to the Long Branch Saloon that night – Mimi was still too young to appreciate it – but she knew it was somewhere in their future.

Myra discovered she could write at the table in the great room most of the time, no matter what bustle went on around her, with the exception of her grandchildren soliciting her for attention. She remembered reading that Jane Austen had written all her novels at a busy dining table in the midst of her demanding family, and for the first time she understood how that might have been possible.

It was more heartwrenching than usual when they had to pack and leave. Mimi cried and David joined her without actual comprehension of departure, Myra thought. After Gaido's and Mimi's first exposure to chocolate bread pudding, the trip to the cemetery left Myra sobbing at David's marker when Gillam knelt and put his baby son's hand over David's name.

After sharing a shuttle back to their neighborhood, Margie dumped her bags in Myra and Ginny's foyer and said “I'm going to see Frances at the store, I'll be back for these later” as she rushed out again. Myra felt a second grief when Jane, Gillam, and the babies left them for their own house. Carly and Eric had already been dropped off. Allie said “Well, I'll stick around a while. Our fridge is bare and I remember you got some barbecue from you birthday stashed in your freezer.”

“I'll go raid the garden” said Ginny. Edwina went into the kitchen to start a pot of rice, while Myra read the housesitter's note and tried to track down the odd smell in the living room.

They were sitting down to eat when Margie returned, slamming the front door.

“You hungry?” Myra called out, but her voice trailed off as she saw Margie's face. Margie threw herself into a chair and snapped “Imani's here.”

“What? A sneak visit?” said Edwina.

“More than that. Frances has hired her as her sous-chef” said Margie, picking up a stalk of celery and breaking it in half but not taking a bite. There was a white line of rage around her lips.

“Oh for shit's sake” said Ginny. “Without asking you?”

“She said Imani didn't tell her she was coming, but once she got here, it all came together. She decided she needed to tell me in person instead of over the phone.” Myra could tell Margie didn't believe this story.

“Well, she needed help bad. I mean, we all on vacation and she here working her ass off” said Allie calmly. Everyone turned to look at her reprovingly. Allie pointed her fork at Margie and said “Imani being in her kitchen ain't the issue, and you know it. If you want a different kinda set-up outside the kitchen, you better ask for it.”

For a few seconds, Myra thought Margie might pass out from a convergence of emotion. Eventually, she stood stiffly and said “I'll think about that, thanks so much for your support.” She strode to the front of the house. They heard bags thud against the door on her way out.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.

To see the rebuilt beach house post Hurricane Ike, check here.


Thursday, November 13, 2008


Here's another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.

June 2015

David was a striking-looking baby. His shock of white hair rapidly gave way to spun gossamer fuzz, but his eyes were Gillam's deep brown and his skin was Jane-pale except for the usual Bates red cheeks. He was short and narrow in build, but his arms and legs were wiry strong, much like his grandfather Anton. He was clingy to Jane and cried or fussed much more than Mimi had.

Mimi met him calmly and accepted her parents' explanations of who he was, then promptly forget it all and had to be reminded often. She was in one-year-old solipsism that left her agreeable and ready to exploit whatever adult resource was at hand, so demonstrations of jealousy were limited to her shock at seeing Jane nurse another baby. When she asked to nurse as well, Gillam explained in every way he could that David was limited only to breast milk, while Mimi in her advanced state got to eat pudding, pie, bananas, broccoli – he listed all her favorite comestibles, and asked if she wanted to give those up in order to return to only Mommy's milk. Mimi, quite logically, didn't see why she should have to choose between the two, but eventually was bribable. She still had bottle sessions in the arms of both parents, anyhow.

Gillam finished his teaching semester the week after David's birth, and had already turned in his thesis, so he was able to spend June with his babies. Jane was exhausted for weeks. After David's naming ceremony and the departure of Jane's parents, she began taking long naps every afternoon. Gillam would join her with David in the crib beside him, getting up when David awoke and began fretting.

Myra and Ginny would walk over and get Mimi right before Jane lay down, taking her back to their house for play and, eventually, a shorter nap of her own before dinner. Fortunately, Mimi seemed to interpret this as a special treat being offer to her rather than isolation from her parents because of David's new demands. At least one afternoon a week Margie showed up to have adventures with her. When Mimi went home with her parents and brother for dinner, she was full of new ideas and they were rested, a beneficial combination.

Tuesday nights became the family night to gather at Carminati's for dinner, because it was the restaurant's slowest night of the week. After tense back and forth between Frances and her mothers-in-law about whether or not the family meals would be comped, a deal was struck. Frances would charge the going rate, because otherwise her kin would feel inhibited about what they ordered and the wait staff would suffer in percentage tips. Desserts, however, would be free, and the restaurant's discount purchasing rate would be extended to Gillam, Myra, and Carly's menu planning. In addition, there was always some kind of leftover that Frances brought home and Margie shared around.

Margie dropped a hint to one of her friends who was an art critic, and a small article about Ginny in a local magazine mentioned that Tuesday nights, all of her talented family could be found living it up at Carminati's. This drew fans and curious foodies. Myra, Ginny, and Allie were generous with conversation and autographs.

In addition, Ginny had donated to the restaurant the long coastal scape which Frances said reminded her of Italy. It hung illuminated in pride of place in the center of the long dining room, protected by glass which frustrated amateur photographers. Eventually, Frances used a shot of the dining room in publicity which highlighted the painting, drawing even more clientele. She was working 12-hour days, but the place did well from the outset.

She had less luck with staff. Her family's fame was irrelevant to aspiring cooks, who hoped to shine up their own resumes by working with an established chef, which Frances was not yet. And despite the lavish tips given out by Myra and Ginny, waiters and pizza delivery personnel came and went. Seattle's food industry had a lot of good jobs to offer. Frances took off Sundays and Mondays, when the restaurant was closed, but spent much of Sunday in hard slumber and much of Monday going over accounts with Margie or talking to food sellers.

Margie, on the other hand, had endless energy. She resurrected friendships from high school and made happy new connections with coworkers at her University job. She threw herself into redecorating their apartment over the restaurant, asking Ginny to show her all the best second-hand stores. Ginny kept marveling about Margie's sense of style and design, telling Margie she was really teaching her mother new tricks.

One evening a week, Margie went to Allie and Edwina's for an alone dinner with them. She often went out dancing with Carly and Eric on Saturday nights, and she frequently had solo lunches with either Chris or Sima. When Ginny wasn't painting, Margie came over often around 9:00 in the evening on weeknights, bringing a dish from the restaurant that couldn't be served again. She and Ginny would create an extended “nosh”, as they called it, sitting at the table to pick morsels from various containers and talking in a steady stream about endless topics. Myra sometimes joined them, although this was her best writing time.

One night, she went downstairs to discovered they had keyed open lids on three different kinds of imported sardines and herrings. There was an assortment of olives and capers, a jar of marinated artichokes, thin slices of red onion (presumably for Ginny alone), a lilac bowl of baby radicchio, a pale blue bowl of grape tomatoes, and a breadboard littered with crumbs from roughly sliced pumpernickel. Both Margie and Ginny's faces glistened from sardine oil in the pool of light from overhead. Their matching grins and relish at talking over each other, with full mouths, made Myra's heart clutch. Now Margie was next door as well. They just needed to find a place for Carly.

Ginny reached out her hand to grab Myra's, pulling her to the chair beside her. “Want some nosh?” she asked.

“I think so. Have those greens been drizzled with fish oil?” asked Myra.

“Uh...yes” Ginny admitted. Myra got her plate, fetching mayo and leftover pork loin from the fridge. She made a half-sandwich, created a salad from tomatoes and artichoke hearts, and poured herself a cream soda. “My version of your Sebastopol feast” she said.

“My recalcitrant shiksa” Ginny said affectionately. “Listen, we were discussing whether or not it would be cruel to try to fly with the babies. We didn't get to the coast last year, and I don't feel right about leaving Gillam and Jane here while we go without them. David will be almost three months old the last week of August, and our rebuilt place has all the conveniences of home, plus air conditioning. Shall we pose it to the harried parents?”

Myra opened her sandwich again and put on a smear of Ginny's mustard, then took another bite as she thought about it. “Only if everyone else who might want to go can get the time off, too” she said.

“Well, we have to count Frances out no matter what” said Margie. “Until she gets a second-in-command who can reliably take over for her, she's shackled to the store.” Myra thought it was adorable how Margie and Frances referred to the restaurant as “the store”. It seemed very immigrant-ish of them.

“At the rate I'm going, I'll have enough canvases for another show near the end of the year” said Ginny. “Hopefully we can clear the checks before tax time.”

“I don't understand how you keep selling so well despite the radical shift in our economy” said Margie. “I mean, not to diss your work or anything -- “

“No, I get it” said Ginny, swallowing a sardine whole. Myra looked away. “It's because my stuff is pleasing to the eye, and people understand it. So it sells privately, to folks who have enough money to buy art but want it to have personal meaning for them. The bottom fell out of the commercial market, it's true, but I never sold well there anyhow.”

“A little too gritty, not fancy-farty enough” said Myra.

Ginny looked at her appreciatively. “Exactly. You've got mayo at the corner of your mouth. Other side. What about you, what's your prediction with the memoir?”

Myra sighed. “I'm up to 800 pages, which is definitely two volumes. Except – I probably need to edit them separately. But I'm not at a stopping point yet. Only up to the Bush years.”

“Which is also our adolescence” said Margie, a question on her face that Myra chose to ignore.

“Well, we've already broke even with the women's history trio, and my god, Poppyseed is all the rage” said Ginny.

“Yeah, if I just wrote kid's books, I'd do all right” grinned Myra. “Speaking of which – I have a rough draft of the Cottonseed book, could I show it to you and Allie next Wednesday when you get together?”

“Let me see it first” said Ginny. Myra understood it wasn't about literary review, it was simply to reinforce her role as Myra's main girl. Myra nodded.

“Mimi turned to me this afternoon and said, clear as a bell, 'I have a need, Aunt Marchi'. I almost fell over” said Margie.

Myra and Ginny cracked up. “And what was her royal need, then?” asked Ginny.

“We were walking up to the west, but she wanted to go back to the store, where we'd already visited Frances, because she was hankering for another of those little rounds of fontina that Frances gives her. She rolls them in hazelnuts that've been dusted with powdered sugar. Mimi literally gobbles them” said Margie.

“What did you tell her?” said Myra.

“I suggested we wait until later, perhaps another possibility would cross our path” said Margie. “And it did, though not edible: We found a small green lizard on a tree trunk; it was blowing out a red pouch on its neck.”

“Anole” said Ginny knowledgeably. “That's either a territorial or mating display. Listen, tomorrow if it's clear, I'm keeping her in the yard with me because I promised to keep Welsh as well for the afternoon.” Eric's rabbit had become a favorite visitor for Ginny, who funneled greens his way as she weeded and talked to him in a steady murmur.

The following afternoon, Ginny left for Eric and Carly's apartment to retrieve Welsh while Myra walked over to pick up Mimi after lunch. As they re-entered her yard, Myra heard the strains of “Garry Owen” from a loudspeaker on the street.

“Listen, Mimi, you know what that music is?” she asked. Mimi raised her dark eyebrows and said “Mommy?”

“No, but good guess. Come on, let's see if we can catch it.” Myra hustled them out the front gate and flagged down the ice cream truck at the corner. She showed Mimi all the confections painted on the side, then chose a fudgesicle for them to share. Mimi was extremely impressed with this new information about the world. They sat on the bench by the pond, trading licks, Myra insisting she hold onto the stick but allowing Mimi's chubby fists to clench over her own hand, already smeared.

Ginny came out the back door with carrier and set Welsh free before joining them. “Nothing for me?” she asked.

“Didn't know you'd be back in time” said Myra. “Here, you can have some of ours.”

“No, thanks” laughed Ginny. Mimi said “Here, ours” and tried to shove the fudgesicle toward Ginny. When that didn't work, she looked down at Welsh and said “Bunny? Ice cream?”

Myra leaned over to allow him a sniff at the fudgesicle. He declined to partake as well. Ginny went to check on the Ichiban pear tree which Carly and Eric had planted for David's birth. Myra and Mimi finished their ice cream, every third lick being offered to Welsh, who seemed to appreciate being kept in the loop. Or maybe he was staying close to the bench because there was a raptor in view. Myra tilted her head back to examine the sky above them, and Mimi followed suit, nearly toppling backwards.

“Let's wash your face and hands with the hose” said Myra. “Then we could sit on my meditation bench to air dry.”

Mimi loved what she referred to as “metating”, staring at the sculpted whale shark sailing the back wall of the barbecue area. She liked to lie with her head in Myra's lap, watching clouds and shadows, whispering an occasional thought or question. It frequently led to her drifting off, which Myra thought was especially likely today, once the sugar crash hit. Ginny ambled toward the veggie beds, and Welsh hopped after her.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. There are some really creative folks out there. As usual, those from little gator lead the pack.


Monday, November 10, 2008


Bill Barnett, circa 1965, age 8, Dilley, Texas
Today my little brother, Bill David Barnett, would have been 50 years old.



Here's another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.

(May 2015)

Mimi's first birthday fell on a Sunday, which meant the entire day was given over to family celebration of her arrival. Myra thought Mimi wouldn't have noticed this as especially different from many other days except for Mimi's introduction to cake. Gillam made her a gingerbread single-layer cake and set it on the floor atop a new plastic tarp. The rest sat around the edges to watch her demolish it. She had so much fun, it didn't appear as though much of it actually got swallowed by her. When she was done, they went for a swim to wash off the crumbs. Eric took the tarp outside and shook it into the yard, where birds finished the cake appreciation event.

The following Saturday, Myra had skipped going to Pike with Gillam for several reasons: She'd been up writing until 3:00 the morning before, Mimi and Jane wouldn't be accompanying them because Jane was too gravid to do much on her feet these days, and Frances' wholesalers were offering deals that she funneled to her in-laws' households throughout the week. Ginny in particular was being supplied with extraordinary fish, fresh from the boat, on a regular basis. Not to mention the pastas and cheeses.

Myra got up at 11:00, put on sweats, and grabbed a bowl of cereal on the way to her desk. Ginny had started a painting and already had a sheen of moisture over her back and chest. Myra kissed her on the shoulder as she passed by and licked the salt from her lips appreciatively. She stopped as she remembered to ask Ginny "Hey, there's a paper-wrapped package on the top shelf of the fridge, did that come from Frances?"

Ginny focused on her after a few seconds. "Um...yeah. Calamari. I know you don't like to cook it, but we could ask Carly and Eric for dinner, they have that recipe of Eric's."

"Okay." Myra sat down as Ginny walked to her worktable to refresh a pigment. Half a minute later, Ginny said "What?"

"I didn't say anything."

"No, it's Gillam. They're at the pool, and he's waving at me -- oh, god, something's wrong."

Myra bolted down the stairs as Ginny was pulling on pants and a tee-shirt. As she slammed through the gate, she scanned for Mimi, and felt like she began breathing again when she heard her crying, sitting on the grass several feet away from the pool. Jane was sitting on the steps at the edge, bent over but her hands on her back, and Gillam was supporting her. Myra picked up Mimi and said "What happened?"

Jane gave out a gasp and Gillam said "I -- She said it felt like a contraction, a really bad one. It lasted half a minute and she couldn't stand up, I had to pull her to the edge. I dumped Mimi over there."

"It's better now" Jane said, pain thickening her voice. "But it was like major labor for a minute there. Plus, I think my water broke. I felt warmth gush out of me in the pool."

Ginny reached Myra's side. Myra said "She may be going into labor." Gillam said "We have to get to the hospital, Mom, will you help me get her up?" Ginny moved one of Jane's arms as Gillam all but hoisted her from the pool. Jane said "I can walk. It really is subsiding."

"You're not due for a week" said Ginny, voicing what they were all thinking. Myra followed them into the house. Jane sat down in a dining chair as Gillam rushed to the bedroom for towels and clothes. Jane said "I swam some hard laps, maybe I strained a muscle."

"Is the pain positional?" asked Ginny.

After reflection, Jane said "No. At the moment, it's like the memory of an ache. I feel like I need to pee, and I tried to let it go in the pool but I don't think anything came out. Of my bladder, that is."

Ginny picked up the phone and said "Which number is the speed dial for her OB?"

"Hand it to me" said Jane. Mimi had calmed down and Myra carried her into the bedroom to grab a towel and clothes for her as well. Gillam began drying Jane's legs as Jane reached her doctor's office and was put through to a nurse. By the time she hung up, it was clear she was being advised to go to the hospital. She said to Gillam "I haven't finished packing my bag yet, will you do that? There's a list inside it. Plus whatever you'll need."

He wavered. "I'll yell for you if she has another contraction" Ginny said. He returned to the bedroom. Ginny said "Who should we call?"

"My parents, I'll call them" said Jane, reaching for the phone again.

"Mimi's with us" said Myra. "What about Lucy, should I call her? Or Thad?"

"I'll do it in a minute" said Jane. "Mom? I'm heading for the hospital, can you two fly here if this is really labor?"

Ginny looked in the pantry but they had plenty of baby food and diapers at their house. Ditto cat food. Beebo was at Myra's feet, and she said to him "You're gonna come stay with us for a couple of days, big bro. More kittens on the way." Mimi looked at her questioningly. Myra said "They haven't had lunch yet, they always eat after swimming. You wanna take Mimi so I can make them some salad and sandwiches?"

"I'll do it" said Ginny. She filled a thermal bag with a quick meal and set it by the front door. Gillam emerged from the bedroom with a duffle, dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved jersey, his daypack already on. Jane had gotten on a bra and top while talking to members of her family. He helped her stand and dress her bottom half, while Myra and Ginny looked away. As Gillam bent to tie her shoes, Mimi began clamoring to go to him.

"She smells an exodus" said Ginny, trying to distract her. Myra asked him "You have cash in your pockets? Your cell? All the insurance info?"

"Yeah. Will you call Carly and Eric for me, and the aunties?"

"Of course." Myra was watching Jane finger-comb her wet hair, trying to see a change in her expression. She shifted her gaze to Jane's belly: Yep, there'd been a subtle alteration in the shape of her mound. What did they call it, the baby dropping?

"Hey" came Margie's voice from behind them. "I went to your house to mooch a lunch and everybody was gone, the back door open. What's up?"

Jane suddenly said "Oh, shit, another one" and Gillam dropped to his knees beside her. Jane leaned forward on the table as Myra said "Looks like labor."

"But it's early" said Margie, instantly worried. Jane moaned softly and said into Gillam's face "It's sharp, but not as bad as the first one. This feels like the real deal, boyfriend."

"Should I call an ambulance?" he asked.

"No, no. It's already winding down. How many minutes was that between the two?"

"I don't know" Gillam said. "At least ten, I think."

"Okay. When I can stand, let's book it" said Jane.

"Who's going with you?" asked Margie. "You need a third person." She looked at Myra, who said "We've got Mimi."

Margie put her hand on Gillam's arm and said "Then I'm going. You can kick me out when Jane's sister gets here, but I'm not letting you do this alone."

"Okay" he said, his eyes on Jane. At her signal, he helped her stand and they headed for the front door. Margie shouldered bags and said to Ginny "Will you call Frances at the restaurant? I'll let you know any news as soon as I can."

Mimi began crying and Jane stopped. Myra walked Mimi over to her parents for a goodbye hug. Gillam said "We'll be back with a new baby for us all to love. You have fun with your grammas." Mimi watched them leave but didn't melt down. Ginny said "I'll turn off lights and lock up here, if you'll take her and Beebo home."

Myra paused to say "I think this is it, Gin."

"So do I."

At the house, Myra put Mimi on one of the living room floor mats with a basket of toys and got the phone to begin calls. Carly and Eric decided to go to the hospital as well. Allie said "We'll be over for dinner, but call us when you know anything. Gillam never dropped a hint about whether it's a boy or girl?"

"No, but Jemima told Ginny once that she never had morning sickness with her girls, only the boys. Since Jane didn't have a lot of puking with Mimi, and it's the same with this one, we think maybe that means it's a sister. Al, there's call waiting, I gotta go."

It was Margie, saying "They've put a monitor on her and assigned them a birthing room. Her doctor's on his way. Nobody's too concerned, seems like, all the tests so far are normal. But the nurse I just talked to thinks it's definitely labor."

"How's Gillam?"

"Steadying out" said Margie. "Jane's sitting up and chatting. Gillam ate one of the sandwiches, said it had too much mustard."

Myra laughed. "I'll tell Ginny, that's reassuring."

"If they don't kick me out, I'm staying for the whole thing" Margie said in a near whisper.

"Let me know and we'll shuttle over some clean underwear for you" said Myra.

"Tell Mimi she'll always be my favorite" Margie said. "I gotta run."

Myra made another round of calls with the update, then made lunch for the three of them. Afterward, she settled on the mat to play with Mimi while Ginny returned to her painting. Dinner would be pizza from Carminati's, she decided.

Ginny was still painting the following morning at 4:15 when Gillam called to say she had a new grandson, much smaller than Mimi at 6 pounds 5 ounces, with white-blonde hair and a narrow face. He and Jane were just fine.

Myra was asleep on her daybed, Mimi in a crib nearby. Ginny, tears streaking her cheeks, shook Myra's foot as she asked "What's his name?"

"David Anton" said Gillam. "We'll call him David." She could hear the ear-to-ear grin in his voice.

"We'll be there when visiting hours start" said Ginny. "I'm prouder of you than I can express."

"It's all Jane" he said. "Start up the drums."

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Sunday, November 9, 2008


Emma Goldman mug shot 1901 Chicago (Emma Goldman after being arrested in Chicago, September 10, 1901)

Here's another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.

December 2014 - May 2015

By the end of the year, Jane had managed to finish her Master's thesis. They gave her a roof-rattling cheer at Gillam's birthday party, for making babies, getting degrees, being (still) a newlywed, moving to a new house, and, as Myra put it, dealing with a coven of inlaws, and making it look easy.

Mimi coped with the loss of breastfeeding, partly because she had always had bottle sessions with her dad as well, but it took Jane a long time to stop producing milk and she remarked several times on the emotional loss she felt. Ginny was particularly sympathetic with her.

The third week of February, Frances and Margie's bid on Aux Delice was accepted and the search began for an architect and contractor. Ginny didn't recommend the ones they had used for their own renovation. Margie did the lion's share of handling the daily aggravations once construction began, via cell phone from Portland and frequent weekend trips to Seattle. Frances's bosses did not punish her for becoming a competitor instead of a partner, but they immediately began training her replacement and she was slowly frozen out of the hierarchy. She spent her spare time testing recipes, running down wholesalers and Italian importers in Seattle, and interviewing possible staff.

Frances decided the new restaurant's neighborhood would support a made-to-order, fresh-ingredients pizza delivery business, so one corner of the space was set aside for a brick oven and a small pizzeria separated from the main dining room. She planned to install tables that doubled as old-fashioned video games, plus a big-screen TV with a Wii set-up, and hoped it would become a hang-out joint for teenagers, plus a safe adjunct to stash kids whose parents wanted a grown-up meal to themselves in the main part of Carminati's. She asked every member of her in-law family to name their top three choices for pizza toppings, and used this to construct an innovative but popular menu.

Margie told her mothers “The pizza end should make money right away, while the rest of the business builds.” They wound up taking out a loan for the renovation, but managed to get enough credit on their own without having to ask Myra and Ginny to cosign, which made Margie flushed with pride. Part of their success came from Margie landing a part-time job with the University restoration department, facilitated by Edwina's recommendation. She planned to start her own business at some time in the future. For now, she needed the benefits and financial respectability of an established employer.

The commercial contractors moved efficiently. Ginny decided it was because almost all the work was interior, and the mechanicals were mostly in place already. By the end of April, Margie and Frances were able to move into their newly-painted two-bedroom apartment above the restaurant. Margie began her new job and Frances spent all day downstairs overseeing the final work on her kitchen. The grand opening was scheduled for May 5th, because May 6th was Jane's birthday and they wanted to have her and the rest of the family come for cake.

Jane's due date was May 30th. Gillam had spent the spring semester working hard on his own Master's thesis, and was able to turn it in right before Mimi's first birthday. Later, when Myra looked back on that spring, it seemed like a second year of feverish activity, mostly her supporting her children's endeavors, with islands of peace where she wrote her memoir, Ginny painted, and Mimi crawled around on the floor chatting in what was increasingly comprehensible English.

At the dinner where they celebrated Frances and Margie's purchase becoming final, Gillam was sitting with Mimi in his lap. She mucked through the food on their shared plate with both her giraffe spoon and her left hand. Bibs were inadequate; he simply made sure they both had on washable clothes and spread a towel under the chair.

“At least she's not a picky eater” observed Ginny, as two different colors of drool emerged from either side of Mimi's mouth – a combo of broccoli and liver, from the looks of it.

Mimi grinned her way, then paused with a look of concentration on her face. Myra, sitting beside them, heard the liquidy squish and small grunts which portended Mimi's dumps. Gillam felt it as well as heard it and said with a trace of embarrassment “She takes such glory in squeezing it out.”

“It's one of the few physical activities she can do completely unassisted” said Jane, laughing. “She should be proud.”

“But why does it happen so often at the dinner table?” said Gillam. “Making room, or what?”

“You used to give a big smacky sigh of relief after every b.m.” said Ginny down the table. “Wait till potty training, when you have to come look at every turd and exclaim over it like it was solid gold.”

“I hate to think you have memories of me doing stuff like this” said Gillam.

“Maybe you could at least not share them during the meal” Margie said to Ginny.

Allie and Chris were both chuckling nonstop. After a minute, Myra said “Speaking of embarrassment and sharing...”

“Oh, god” said Margie.

“No, this is more theoretical. And it's a question for everybody here. I've reached the point in my writing where I'm covering the period of time after I moved to Seattle. I'm beginning to writing about, well, you, Allie, and Chris and Sima. I don't feel particularly shy about telling all when it comes to my exes, and I've had a blast pulling the scab off my family of origin. But now...I'm starting to feel an internal censor wanting to edit what I say. And, sheesh, when I reach the point of life with Ginny – I don't quite know what's ethical, here.” Myra looked around the table.

There was a long silence. Mimi stopped eating, staring at the faces closest to her for clues as to what emotional shift had just occurred. She craned around to look at Gillam, who said “Not so funny when it's our secrets on the line, huh, Mimi my own.”

Ginny said “I don't want you writing about our sex life.”

Margie snorted incredulously, and Myra said “You mean, more than I already have?”

“What do you mean? What have you told?” demanded Ginny.

“I write about it in metaphor all the time in my poetry” said Myra.

“Oh, that. That's okay” said Ginny.

“I can't believe you're pretending like there's some sort of boundary about how you share the oingo-boingo free-for-all you call your sex life” began Margie. Chris reached over to give her a high five.

Myra interrupted with “The issue here is not really about sex. It's about all the other intimacy we've created, all of us, between us. I read an essay by Dorothy Allison where she said 'Your story is yours alone, nobody gets to interfere with how you tell it', and I agree with that in principle. But I don't want to violate trust in the name of pursuing my art.”

Ginny narrowed her eyes and said “I remember having a discussion along these lines not long after we got together. You told me hands off when it came to your poetry. But that was about my father, as I recall. I guess it's different when it's people you respect more.”

There was another long silence. Myra said “Now that's just over the fucking line” at the same instant Ginny began “I take it back, I know you respected Daddy”. They stopped together, looking at each other's face. Ginny went on “Old crap. I wasn't fair. I do know what you're saying, Myra.”

Myra breathed in and out twice before she said “Good. Because I especially need your friendship here.”

Mimi began eating again, with Gillam murmuring in her ear. Allie said “Well, we weathered all the Skene speculation. Not to bring up another sore point.”

Skene was fiction, in every pertinent respect” said Myra, trying to keep defensiveness from her tone. She'd asked for this discussion.

“What about Skene?” asked Jane. Margie said to her “That three-way relationship in it, everybody assumed that meant Allie was doing it with my other moms.”

Jane turned red. “Oh. You're right, when I read that as an adolescent, I did think...oh, god, I'm sorry, I didn't know any of you then.”

Allie leaned over and patted her hand. “It all right. They was hotties, all three of 'em, and I probably got some good from being confused with the one they all thought was based on me.”

“Back to sex again” muttered Myra. Chris said “Why don't you give us an example, then, of what you're feeling squeamish about telling?”

Myra looked at her steadily. “Well...that month you stayed with me. After the hospital. It changed my life, that month. In huge ways, and for the better.”

A third silence swept the table. Ginny said quietly “I don't even know about that part of your life.”

“Just me and Allie and Chris do” replied Myra.

“And me” said Sima. “I wasn't there, but I've heard it.” Myra felt a flood of relief at this news.

Edwina leaned forward. “Myra, you can either try to take care of us around this, give us advance warning, let us review and edit for you, or you can trust yourself to love us as much as you do. I mean, just write it. When you're done, if you're still unsure, hire an editor you trust, follow their recommendation, and talk to us then. That's what I'd advise. Of course, I don't enter the picture until after the messiest years were over.”

Chris was still looking at Myra. She said “I would like to know what it was like for you. How you remember it. Anybody who matters to me is already aware I was out of control for a while.”

Myra grinned suddenly. “Remember how you couldn't drink from a bottle that was already opened? I kept having to buy milk and juice in pint containers.”

“I stole jelly and mayo from burger places, so every packet of what I ate was sealed” said Chris. “Nobody was ever going to slip drugs into my food again.”

“And that day you found the handcuffs in my desk drawer” said Myra. She and Chris began laughing hysterically. Carly turned to look at Eric, his cheeks pinking.

“I think you should save the rest of that story for you two later, in private” said Margie. “I vote for what Aunt 'Wina said.”

Myra looked around the table, seeing nods. “All right. You can bring it up with me at any point for talking about it more.” She handed Gillam her napkin, because his had run out of clean spots for wiping Mimi, and talk turned back to plans for the restaurant.

The week between Carminati's opening and Mimi's birthday, Myra spent long hours going back through all of her notebooks and journals, creating a timeline which frequently contradicted her own memory and what she'd already written. She was making most of her notes in longhand on a yellow legal pad, and her thumb joint frequently ached. Sometimes her neck did, too. She stood up to stretch and walked around the corner to take a break, sitting at Ginny's worktable while Ginny matted a few drawings and photos. Her brain was too tired to even think about lunch.

Myra said "You know how Margie gasses on about there being a Bates-Josong archive someday? I'm beginning to think I want to organize it myself. Like, collate my notebooks with your painting log, for example.”

Ginny waited to answer until a tricky cut was made. "Is this connected to your memoir?”

“Yeah. You know me, I can't just leave a piece of writing undocumented, I keep wanting to put footnotes with regards to my own damned life.”

Ginny laughed. “An annotated autobiography? Only you, Myra.”

“Like, today I was reading the notebook page that was our first talk that day on my couch -- the one about me not being Jewish, you remember that one?"

Ginny grinned at her. "And about monogamy. I sure do remember. We laid some pretty solid foundations with our earnest conversations back then, didn't we?"

"God, Gin, I was so young. So idealistic."

"Like you aren't still, Myra Josong. And I don't think the monogamy agreement was idealistic -- in those days, the ideals ran in other directions. We were just being practical -- saying, 'here's what I can handle, how about you?'"

"True" said Myra, rubbing one thumb with her other hand. "I built an entire universe on the promise that I'd be your only girl."

"Have you ever wanted to revisit that decision?" said Ginny, giving her a sideways look.

"Never." Myra was emphatic.

"Me neither." Ginny stopped and kissed Myra's forehead. "But have you ever -- not wanted to actually go be with someone else, but, you know, have desire come up?"


Ginny looked at Myra directly.

"Desire in the sense of it just kinda crossed my mind? Like, a feeling somewhere inside me, flitting through?" asked Myra.

"If that's how you want to define it" said Ginny, putting down her T-square and leaning against her worktable, arms folded.

"Then, yes. I've had my -- sparks, I guess you'd say." Myra was too tired to notice Ginny's stillness.

"Care to give me a name?"

"Only if you promise not to make fun" said Myra. At this hint that it wasn't someone in their inner circle, Ginny's face relaxed a little.

"Try me" said Ginny.

Myra did notice that was not a promise, but she went on. "Okay: Jasmine Guy."

It took Ginny a second to register the name. "Whitley?"

"Don't make fun" warned Myra. "And -- I don't think of her in that role. I mean like she was as Roxie in Dead Like Me."

Ginny was laughing but keeping her opinion to herself.

Myra went on "And, turns out, she is a lesbian."

"Yeah, unlike Doris Day" teased Ginny. "Anybody else?"

"Cheryl Chase" said Myra.

Ginny drew a blank on that name. Myra prompted "The founder of ISNA."

"Oh, her. Yeah, she's a looker. Okay, that makes me feel a little less worried about you" said Ginny. "That it?"

"No, but you won't like the next one: Staci Haines."

Myra was right. Ginny immediately scowled and said "I knew something was going on between you two at that conference, she was fucking hitting on you, wasn't she? And you swore to me it wasn't -- "

Myra interrupted her outburst. "I didn't lie to you, Ginny. There was no flirting, zip. She did not make any hint in my direction. And I didn't realize I had any -- residue, shall we say, on my end from that profound, amazing connection until some time later, so calm down."

"That amazing connection as incest survivors, you mean. The kind of connection you can't have with me. Do you have fantasies about her?" demanded Ginny.

"Fuck, no." Myra giggled at her choice of words. "I don't fantasize about anybody but you. And not even you, most of the time -- don't have a need, reality is too fulfilling."

Ginny refused to let herself be appeased yet. "Have you dreamed about her?"

"Not that I remember. Sheesh, Ginny, do we need to drop this topic? I'm a little too fried to wade the swamps at the moment."

"Only if we're done with your list" said Ginny.

Myra sighed and closed her eyes. Ginny poked her shoulder and said "Who?"

"Bani" said Myra, opened her eyes wearily.

"Bonnie who? NOT my ex!"

"Bani from Sri Lanka, Claire's friend. That time we visited her on the East Coast."

Ginny's face showed recognition, then outrage. "That time Claire and I went for a walk on the beach that night, and you two stayed behind on the porch? Did something happen then?"

When Myra hesitated again, Ginny stood upright and said "Myra, if you laid one hand on her I will burn this house down with you in it."

Myra was shocked. Her eyes went glinty brown, and she replied "That's over the line, Ginny. Take back any kind of threat. Immediately."

Ginny looked away, only partly abashed. "Okay, I'm sorry. You know I don't mean it."

"Then don't say it." Myra breathed in and out, and said slowly "Of course I never did anything, you idiot. But -- we were sharing pretty deeply, and she asked me flat out, 'Are you monogamous?'"

Ginny began to open her mouth, and Myra answered her before she could speak.

"I told her, and I quote, 'Blissfully so'. And not long after that, I got up and walked down the path to meet you two coming back."

"But you were attracted to her?" said Ginny harshly.

"Not per se. Just later, when I was going over in my mind, trying to figure out what had happened, I realized there was some sort of -- something going on inside me. Not desire as I name it, which only makes sense to me with your name attached to it, I mean, my god, Ginny, you really need to put this into perspective -- "

But Ginny was walking away, striding with angry slaps of her feet toward the stairs. She said "I'm going to weed." Ginny's version of massacre. She went down the stairs two at a time, which scared Myra, they were at an age when they had to safeguard their hips. At the bottom of the second flight, Ginny's voice floated up to her saying "Just for the record, my list includes Toshi Reagon, Annie Liebowitz and Emma Goldman." The door into the backyard slammed.

Myra wiped her face with her hands, then swung the chair around and noticed that one of the geckos was right next to the glass wall of her habitat, apparently watching her. Myra could not tell if it was Rix or Wildfire; only Ginny could tell them apart. She said to the gecko "Emma Goldman is dead. So why is that the one that makes me the most insecure?"

After half a minute, she said "Don't tell her I shared that with you", pushed herself upright and headed down to the kitchen for lunch.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.