Saturday, December 6, 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.

For the first month after Leah's birth, she stayed home with Gillam and Jane when the other two children came to spend afternoons with Myra and Ginny. She slept, mostly, and when she was awake, she was easy-going, seldom cried, intensely responsive and alert. When Myra did have a chance to spend time with Leah, she discovered this child reminded her strongly of Gillam in the way she pressed against whoever was holding her and made a strong effort to comprehend communication.

“None of the three have an overt resemblance to each other, but you can tell they're siblings, all the same” Myra remarked to Ginny.

“They all have hybrid vigor, I think” said Ginny.

“Leah's built like a bratwurst. I guess that's Jane's mother's side.”

“Well, Jane said she looked like that as a baby. She said Leah's hands and feet are large, she expects her to turn out tall” said Ginny.

“Big and smart. With Gillam's wide grin and broad brow.” Myra was very happy about the future of this child.

David was extremely interested in his new sister, in comparing her abilities to his own and seeking commentary on how advanced he was – feedback he lacked in comparison to Mimi. He was gentle in his usual David way. Mimi, on the other hand, had to be watched like a hawk to keep her from aiming aggression at Leah. Gillam and Jane were both distraught by Mimi's reaction.

“She wasn't that way with David, is it a gender competition thing or what?” Gillam worried to Myra.

“Oh, none of them are getting enough heavy gender training for that to be it” said Myra. “Not until they get out there in the world.”

“I think it's simply where Mimi is developmentally, a point where her ego is blooming and she wants all the focus to be on her” said Ginny. “David slipped in under the radar, she was only a year old when he came along.”

“She's at more or less the same place Margie was when you were born” pointed out Myra. Gillam looked alarmed. After they were alone, Ginny said to Myra “They're overreacting a tad, both of them. They're both the youngest in their sibling set and felt tormented by an older sib. Yelling at Mimi isn't working very well.”

“Well, Gin, we're not necessarily experts on it either, not with Gillam having the residue he does from how we handled things” said Myra with a pointed tone. Ginny frowned and didn't reply.

Later that afternoon, Ginny said "Dammit" as she began pulling challah from the oven. "I forgot to put parchment paper in the bottom of this pan."

"Looks alright to me" said Myra, coming to look. “Glossy and golden.”

"Check the bottom, it's charred. Well, I guess we can cut that off and make bread crumbs" said Ginny. "I have extra loaves, I was going to freeze some of this -- "

"Wait, let me have it, I want to try recreating Gaido's chocolate bread pudding and starting with challah would be a great idea" said Myra. She went to the pantry and returned with a tin of their best Dutch cocoa and a box of imported-from-Amsterdam semi-sweet baking chocolate. "I'm not sure which way I should go, the powered stuff or melted."

"Try both" suggested Ginny. "And don't forget the coffee flavor that's in there, I remember that."

"Should I make espresso and add it?" wondered Myra. "I'm worried about too much liquid, I know I need heavy cream for this, plus milk. Plus eggs."

"Use yolks instead of whole eggs, and -- espresso powder, that instant stuff Allie scoffed at" said Ginny, getting intrigued with the mystery.

Three batches later, they'd figured out how to soak the bread properly after toasting, that the challah should be cut into 1/2 inch cubes, and the obscene amount of eggs involved. The first two batches were definitely edible, and Myra saved them in the fridge for extra dessert. But the last attempt produced something she actually thought was superior to Gaido's.

"I'm going to call this Hole In The Dyke Bread Pudding" she said. "With a Y, not an I."

"Of course you are" said Ginny, washing her hands before going out to trim walkway edges and work off some of the sugar she'd ingested.

On Sunday, after sleeping in the armchair post-lunch with Leah on his chest, Gillam woke up from a nap when the two older children did. Ginny led them outside to fill a wading pool for Mimi and David to frolic in. Myra got to hold Leah, sitting on the bench in bright sunlight. After 20 minutes, Margie and Frances came through the side gate. Frances immediately pulled off her sandals and sat down in the wading pool with the kids, soaking her shorts.

Gillam grinned at their squeals, looked around at Myra and said “Not too much sun for her. Should I get her little hat?”

“Actually, I've been wanting to show something to you and Margie. Let's go inside for a few minutes.” Myra nodded at Ginny, who said “Go for it.”

Myra walked slowly upstairs with Leah, talking to her softly. In her study, she handed Leah to Gillam and kneeled by the bottom cupboard of her built-in shelves on the outer wall. She reached into the shadow where paper and office supplies were stacked and they heard a click. Margie and Gillam both gaped as the cupboard swung away, revealing a hidden compartment in the wall behind holding a large metal safe. Myra muscled it out and said “This is waterproof and fireproof. It used to be in the hollow beneath your garden shed, Gillam.”

“I had no idea this was here” said Margie.

“Yeah, well, time for some family secrets” said Myra, inserting a numeric code and turning the handle. She began lifting out a manila envelope and a heavy metal cash box.

She opened the cash box first. Gillam and Margie reacted again at the gleam of gold. “$10,000 in Krugerrands” said Myra. “Emergency stash.”

She pulled apart the clasp on the envelope and poured its contents onto her desk, four passports. She looked into each and handed one to Margie. She read its front page and was momentarily speechless, finally saying hoarsely “It's me. But the name and date of birth isn't – who's Alice Anderson?”

“That would have been you if we'd had to flee the U.S.” said Myra, enjoying herself. She held open Gillam's so he could read it.

“John Anderson” he said. “You picked the name, didn't you?”

“Yep. For an extra fee. I'm Polly Anderson, and Ginny is Sarah – we were sisters, according to these documents. Ginny is always on my ass to destroy these, because it's a felony to possess them and they're out of date now, useless. But I see them as a relic of the Bush years. A piece of history.”

“You really thought about running someplace else?” asked Margie in disbelief.

“We did. Your zayde was in on it, too. And of course the aunties, except Allie and Chris were pissed as hell about the passports. That's why we bought the place in Canada.”

Gillam was trying to digest it all. “But you sold that. To pay for our house, basically.”

“The need for a refuge is, thankfully, no longer pressing” said Myra. “Anyhow, the main piece of information I need to share with you is related: We have a pair of bank accounts in the Cayman Islands with a buttload of money shut away in them. We don't touch them – neither add or subtract, to keep from attracting notice to them. They just sit and accumulate interest. David started them, in mine and Ginny's names. If something happens to us, you'll need to find a way to get the money out of them. You can, of course, be legal and declare them as inheritance, pay the cost of that which will be considerable. Or, if it was me, after a suitable period of mourning you could take a vacation in the Caribbean and try to move the cash back to the U.S.” Myra's eyes were twinkling.

Margie wanted to ask how much was in the accounts, Myra could tell. She wasn't actually certain at the moment. Eventually, Margie said “Where's the account book?”

“Ah, well, that's the big secret. We don't have account books, only the access numbers which you'll need to withdraw money from them or, as we do, check the statements monthly online. I have the numbers memorized. But -- “

Myra took a legal pad and wrote “The Highwayman” on it. “You know that first edition you all gave me for my birthday right after my brain fart? Well, that book is on my poetry shelf, and if you open it to the last page, you'll find a small slip of paper with two strings of letters on it. These are the alphanumeric code for the accounts. Here's how it works: There are 10 letters that aren't repeated in these two words, 'The Highwayman', see – T, H, E, I, G, W, A, Y, M, and N. In the code, these stand for 0 through 9, in order. So to write 2016, it would be E-T-H-A.”

She checked their faces for comprehension. “So, to solve the code on that slip of paper, all you need to remember is the poem title. And, by the way, also the code for getting into this safe: It's five digits, beginning with right because Hebrew reads from right to left, and the way to remember it is G-I-N-N-Y. Which translates to 43997.”

Gillam burst out laughing. “You're diabolical.”

“If we'd had to figure this out on our own” began Margie, but she stopped and said, “You know what? I bet I would have cracked it, eventually.”

“I bet you would have too” said Myra. “However, now you don't have to. So, our most precious papers are in here, with copies in the safe deposit box at our bank. And the file right there, full of essential papers for quick emergency grab. “ She began putting the passports back in their envelope.

“Are you, uh, worried about something coming up? Is what why you told us now?” asked Gillam, a furrow in his brow.

“Nope. Just been meaning to for a while. Since you're both all grown-up now” said Myra. Margie bent to help her lift the safe back into its hiding place.

When they came back downstairs, Jane was sitting up on the couch, wiping her eyes. Gillam kissed her and Jane said “Is she hungry?”

“Probably. If you're ready.”

Myra said “By the way, what I just showed you is of course something you can share with your partners.” Jane looked at Gillam with raised eyebrows and he sat beside her as Myra and Margie went outside. Frances had gotten a plastic bucket and was in wild water fight against the team of David and Mimi. Anthea was hiding in the cherry tree, and Ginny was also out of range, weeding the roses. Margie and Myra looked at each other. Margie went to grab the hose, while Myra returned inside to set towels by the back door.

At the following Sunday dinner, Margie said “The last tenant is moving out next week. Renovation on our new house will begin your birthday week, Mama.”

With a dimple, Ginny said “Are you planning to put a gate between your back yard and ours?”

Allie and Chris were both laughing. Margie said “I bow to the inevitable. But we want our own set of controls for the security system. I already talked to Aaron about it. I need a different set-up, anyhow, for insurance bonding.”

She toyed with her salad fork and said quietly to Frances, “Are you ready?”

Frances squared her shoulders and said “Kick it off.”

“We have three pieces of news” said Margie. “The first is that when we move out of our apartment over the store, we want to offer it to you, Carly and Eric. At a bargain rent and a permanent lease. It's already zoned for business, so if you want to set up the second bedroom for PT clients, you could get a head start on your own clinic. There's even parking during the day.”

Carly's eyes locked on Eric's. A slow grin spread from one to the other, and Eric said “We accept. Joyously.”

Carly jumped up to hug Margie, and Ginny intercepted him for a little jig, shouting “Right next door! Right next door!”

“It like a tractor beam” said Allie so quietly that only Edwina and Myra heard her. Myra retorted “You keep resisting, I see.”

They all celebrated for a while. Margie told Carly he could repaint or decorate however he wanted. Ginny leaned to Eric and said “Bunny visits just got a whole lot easier.” Carly stole David from Jane's lap and said “I'll be right outside your gate, buddy boy. We can dance whenever you want.”

Eventually, Sima said “What's the other news? Not as good as this, of course.”

Margie giggled. Frances said “I signed the contract for my cookbook. It's a done deal, except...They want that painting you did of me, Ginny, for the front cover, not my portrait on the back. They want to name it 'Forged By Love: The Cuisine of Carminati's'.” She looked dubious about this development.

“I'll be thrilled to sign any release you need” said Ginny.

“Yes, but – It's not traditional for a cookbook to feature a first-time chef author instead of one of my signature dishes. The draw is supposed to be my food” said Frances, disappointment in her voice.

“Well, it will be” said Ginny. “No, wait, that's not completely accurate, is it? The truth is, a Ginny Bates on the cover will get your extra interest and sales. But your recipes will more than deliver, Frances, you know what. And from Margie says, most celebrity chefs take years to get the kind of face and name recognition you're getting a head start on. You deserve it, and you'll live up to the promise. You earned this by hard work.”

Frances breathed deeply, struggling to take this in, Myra could see. Margie said “I told her she needs to redesign the menus and pizza boxes, to show the book cover and play up her name even more. And then up her prices on the pizza.”

“We're already at capacity” protested Frances, “I can't make more product without expanding the ovens.”

“That's why we charge more for what we're already making” said Margie. “We'll prorate it for the in-store pizzas, so the teenagers don't suffer. But folks ordering delivery will be happy to pay for the prestige of a Carminati hand-tossed, brick-oven pie from the author of the biggest new cookbook of the year.”

Ginny gave Margie a high-five. They have no mixed feelings about making money thought Myra. She looked down into Leah's face, at her collarbone, and thought You be a poet like me, okay? I'll leave you enough to support you.

After a few minutes, Myra broke into the discussion to say “I've been counting how many books this table full of family is responsible for giving the world. I've got eight in print with my name alone on the cover, if you don't count the chapbooks, plus five kid's books with Allie and the two seed books with Allie and Ginny. Allie has seven more kid's books and the three graphic memoirs, so far. Chris has her massive tome, and Edwina, you've got four, right?”

“Five. But one's out of print.”

“And now Frances, that makes -- “ Myra was beginning the mental math but Frances, the numbers whiz, instantly said “32.”

“Hot damn” said Allie. Mimi immediately repeated “Hot damn.”

“Language” said Gillam.

“Point taken and appreciated” said Allie. “I should have said 'Hot diggity'.” Mimi got a mulish look on her face and refused to meet Gillam's eyes.

“And this time next year” said Ginny, “It could be at least five more. The new Cally Basa Seed book, plus Myra's memoir trilogy, and Allie's current effort.”

“Frances will have a second cookbook ready by then, too” said Margie.

No pressure thought Myra. And I have no idea how to shape my memoirs into publishable form.

Ginny was about to raise her glass for a toast, when Sima said “That still leaves one more announcement from you, Margie.”

“Yes, it does” said Margie, her face suddenly illuminated with glee. She tried for a casual tone as she said “We got civil unioned this week. Me and Franny.”

What?” roared Allie. “You mean, like married?”

“Civil unioned” said Margie, but laughter was bubbling out of her. “Frances asked me, and we just did it.”

Jane was on her feet, yelling “You did it, you did it!”

Myra met Ginny's eyes. They gave each other a thumb's up, and Margie saw it with pleasure.

“Way to go, pizza girl” Edwina said to Frances.

“Well, we were going through all these hoops, getting document after document to make things right between us, and I realized I didn't have the one piece of paper I wanted most, with both our names on it” said Frances. “I fall more in love with her every year. I wanted it recorded somewhere, how I feel about her.”

Myra felt tears burn her eyes, surprising her. She discovered she was on her feet, her glass in hand. “I don't know what to say, except to quote our darling Carly who remarked in this same room, many years ago: We few, we happy few. Although, thanks to Jane and Gillam, our numbers are not quite few any more.”

“We few, we happy few!” echoed Ginny, coming out of her chair. They all stood, toasting one another, Mimi splashing juice from her glass. When they sat again, Jane said to Margie “If you're not gonna have a wedding, you have at least let us throw you a reception.”

“After the house is ready!” said Margie jubilantly. “We can register for new stuff to furnish it.”

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Friday, December 5, 2008


See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

In light of the (likely unconstitutional) removal of civil rights for a single class of individuals passed as Proposition (h)8 in California, Join The Impact has hit the ground running, stomping, and doing high-kicks. Their mission statement includes : "Our mission is to encourage our community to engage our opposition in a conversation about full equality and to do this with respect, dignity, and an attitude of outreach and education. JoinTheImpact, as an entity, will not encourage divisiveness, violence, or disrespect of others and we do not approve of this."

You've likely seen the Marc Shaiman video they're promoting, "Prop 8: The Musical", which has a star-studded cast including Jack Black, Allison Janney (get yer CJ fix here), Margaret Cho, Neil Patrick Harris, Maya Rudolph, John C. Reilly, Kathy Najimy, Andy Richter, Rashida Jones, Craig Robinson, Lake Bell, Sarah Chalke, Jenifer Lewis, and Nicole Parker. (Embedded above.)

Join The Impact has also joined forces with Day Without A Gay, a nationwide strike and economic boycott by all gays and lesbians and their allies scheduled for Wednesday, December 10, 2008. The plan is to:

STRIKE: call in gay, shut down your business, or just take the day off.

BOYCOTT: don't buy anything, spend money or support the economy.

PARTICIPATE: Volunteer and/or organize a protest in your area.

Their press release states: "Our community contributes $700 billion a year to this economy (the same amount as the bailout), yet we are not given equal protections under the law that every citizen deserves. As such, it is time we make a stand. During the largest shopping season of the year, we ask that you do one very important thing: Don't Buy Anything! What would happen to this world if the LGBTQ community didn't exist? Why is it that we continue to contribute to an economy and government that does not contribute to us? Let's answer these questions on December 10th."

Join The Impact is likewise organizing Light Up The Night For Equality on December 20, 2008. Their call to action states "On December 20th, we ask that you join us again for a nation-wide demonstration that will make an impact on the private sector. Candlelight vigils will be held at commercial centers in cities across the country in remembrance of the rights that once were for 18,000 marriages, and in honor of the rights that one day will be again - for EVERYONE."

** Please take to your local commercial district -- be it a shopping mall, outdoor financial center, you name it. Check your city page for the time and location of your event.
** This will be a peaceful demonstration in the spirit of the holidays.
** Dress alike. Wear the same t-shirts or signs pinned to your coats. You can make or buy a "2nd Class Citizen" t-shirt, but the message is optional.
** This will be the culmination of our National Food Drive for Equality. (Through this event, we will work to reach out not only to those who have worked alongside us, but to organizations and individuals that fear us and oppose our cause by donating to faith based food pantries.)

** Hosting peaceful candlelight vigils
** We will stay silent unless asked a question, we will not yell, instigate, or bear signs. Instead, we will let our shirts do the talking and our candles pay our respects. Bring candles (battery powered if you'll be huddling inside).
** Singing and/or silence encouraged...chanting is not....keep it peaceful and in the holiday spirit.

Find a LUTN event in your city.

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]



Interior of mother polar bear's den, photo by Stephen Kazlowski
(Interior of a mother polar bear's den after she exited it from hibernation -- Photo by Steven Kazlowski from his new book The Last Polar Bear: Facing the Truth of a Warming World.)

The Natural Resources Defense Council has issued a press release celebrating an environmental victory on November 21. A U.S. federal appeals court blocked Shell Oil (Royal Dutch Shell) from drilling in Alaska's Beaufort Sea, ruling that the Bush administration's approval of this plan to drill next to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was illegal. Specifically, the court said the Minerals Management Service had failed to conduct a proper environmental review. Indeed, the government's own experts predicted that drilling in the Beaufort would cause at least one oil spill -- there is no known method for cleaning oil in this icebound sea. The administration has been requested to do further study and disclose the "significant harm" which could be caused by drilling.

Native Alaskan Nupiat people in this area rely on fishing and hunting for bowhead whale in this region. Polar bears in ANWR will also benefit from this ruling. For further information about this and other environmental struggles, check out the Natural Resources Defense Council website.


November 21 was also the eighth annual ULS (Use Less Stuff) Day, aimed at reducing (and hopefully eliminating) the stream of trash Americans pump into the environment, particularly oceans. This waste stream is exacerbated during the holidays when, according to Use Less, "Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year's holiday period than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week." To aid in stopping this trend, Use Less Stuff has published their online 42 Ways To Trim Your Holiday Wasteline.

Plastic debris in ocean, source unknown One company,, has already announced it intends to phase out plastic clamshells and has introduced 19 products with what it calls "Frustration Free Packaging". The key piece of information here, however, is that "frustration-free" means dramatically reduced wasteful and petroleum-based packaging. Their goal is to eventually have all their packaging fall within these guidelines. For more details about their practice and intent, check out Frustration-Free Packaging FAQs. Let's hope this catches on with other manufacturers and distributors.


President-Elect Obama and Vice President-Elect Biden have stated their intention to create a White House Office of Urban Policy. In response, software company Front Seat has begun the website Obama Urban Policy, to allow us a place to offer our feedback and suggestions.

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]



Glass float in a pond
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.

Spring 2016

The next morning, Myra got up to the alarm and joined Jane, Gillam, and the kids for a Pike market run. She held hands with David, which left Jane and Gillam free to chase Mimi. When she got home, Kip's truck was backed into their driveway, and Ginny and Kip were loading irregularly shaped black rocks into their wheelbarrow.

“What's up?” she asked. “More building?”

“When I went out the pond, right after you left bed, there were fingerlings in the shallows” said Ginny happily. “They're reproducing! So I called Kip, and we decided to create some safe habitat for the babies. This is volcanic stuff, light but full of crevices and crannies. You need help with the groceries?”

“That would be nice” said Myra. Ginny pulled in one collapsible cart, filled to almost overflowing, and Myra got the second.

“I'll put stuff away, you can go back to Kip” said Myra.

“Okay, but after you're done, come out. I don't want to do the float without you” said Ginny.

Myra kept glancing out the window as she stashed staples, sorted and repackaged items for the freezer, and mixed a large pastry dough which she wrapped and stored in the fridge. Ginny had taken their paint roller extension pole and fashioned a loop of string at the end which she would feed through a hole in one of the new rocks, lower it gently to a stable position on the pond bed, release the string and remove the pole. There were still small clouds of silt appearing on the surface, but it was definitely less traumatic to the wildlife than lobbing in the rocks would have been.

Kip was preparing a few new water plants in ceramic pots, and when Ginny was done, Kip used the same lasso technique (less skillfully, Myra thought) to slide the plants into a couple of bare spots left by winter vegetation die-off.

Ginny appeared at the back door and said “Do you have any fishing line, or should I go borrow some from Margie?”

“Uh...I do, there's a spare roll in the camping gear.” Myra accompanied Ginny outside, where the float box had been cut open and sat on a bench. Ginny peeled back the cloths and bubble wrap, carefully lifting the glass globe into the air. Myra gasped uncontrollably.

It was about the size of a cantaloupe, a pearlescent white shot through with veins of gold, claret, and abalone blue. Myra could see into it dimly, and she realized the gold was suspended in the glass itself. “Leaf” said Ginny succinctly. “The other colors are slender glass straws persuaded into that adhesion by processes it would take me an hour to explain.”

“Let's just call it magic” Myra said. There was a dimple on one side of the globe, and Ginny showed her where a tiny hole existed between an overlapping frond and the surface of the globe itself – enough to thread a filament through, she said.

She had already determined the depth of mid-pond using her string and pole tied to a large rock. She cut fishing line that length plus six inches of play, tied it around the same rock and to the globe, and then stopped, wondering how to proceed.

“Maybe float the globe in the shallows, and use something like a rake to scoot the rock toward the middle. The globe will follow” suggested Myra.

It worked, and the resultant appearance, even with the pond clouded with silt at the moment, was breathtaking.

“We didn't talk about whether this was a good idea” said Myra. “I'm not taking it back now, but what happens if it hails?”

“I run out here and reel in the float” said Ginny. “And the other consideration is thieves, but if they break in through our security, I don't know if they'll be looking at the pond first thing.”

“This whole installation is an absolute jewel of our existence” Myra said, kissing Ginny and saluting Kip. “I wish I was Wart and could go spend an afternoon in those watery mysteries.”

“Better be sure you're as big as the leviathan in there” laughed Ginny.

Anthea and Franklin had been extremely attentive observers during all the activity. Now Anthea wandered off toward the cat sand box behind the shed, and Franklin came to refresh his claim to Ginny's ankles.

“I bought cooked lobster at Pike, and I'm planning to use most of it for tomorrow's potluck, but I could make you two some lobster rolls for lunch, if you've worked up an appetite” said Myra. Kip waited for Ginny's invitation as well before accepting.

After lunch and Kip's departure, Myra decided she could set aside the rest of the day for writing. Before she had gotten into her stride, however, Ginny wandered in and lay down on her daybed.

“So...we also haven't talked about the whole Roger thing” Ginny said.

“Yeah. Do we need to? I mean, is there something left unsaid?”

Ginny motioned for Myra to come lay beside her. When Myra did, Ginny said “That comment you made about how I must be asking for people to hit on me. It's bothered me.”

“No, that's not what I said, Gin. I didn't say you were asking for it. I said it was interesting to me how it keeps happening. I know you're not seeking it out, girlfriend. You're constitutionally monogamous, it's easy for you.”

Ginny lay her head on Myra's shoulder and said “More, please.”

“More about what?”

“Whichever direction you want to go in” said Ginny.

“Well...I think you like have some things settled for all time. Like me in your life. And painting at the center. And the friends you do have, few but solid. I think it frees you up for all the other creativity and uncertainty you love, like growing things from seeds, or what pigments to grind for a particular painting, or the endless flexibility of life with children. It's a point of balance on the fulcrum, not a place where you want experimentation – your sense of partnership, I mean.”

“I agree with you, Myra. Are you saying you're different from that?”

“Not substantially. I'm a homebody and parent to the world, and I need that solid ground, too. Writing is like time travel for me, I can't return if I don't have a fixed compass point.”

Ginny leaned on her elbow to look at Myra's face and say “I want to be your true north. Always. I need you to never doubt me.”

“I don't, Ginny. Way back when, sometimes I'd get scared that you'd discover you didn't really love me, after all. But as long as you did love me, I've never doubted your constancy.”

“I loved you before you loved me, Myra.”

“Well, I know that now. We're safe as houses now, Ginny. What I meant by my questioning was how on earth it is that folks who must, on some level, be able to see where you are anchored still think they want to try to unhook your mooring. It's similar to how all those women who knew I was not able to commit still wanted to be the one who magically transformed me. Too many folks out there spend their lives chasing the patently unavailable, you know wat I mean? To quote Mimi.”

Ginny looked thoughtful. “Because it's about power, not real intimacy.”

“Our cultural inheritance from the ancient Greeks, I guess. Here, lie your keppe back down. The fact is, Ginny-O, I'm the one who's maintained more emotional attachments outside this relationship than you have. If you count the women I started us off with as family.”

“Allie, our second wife” giggled Ginny.

“Oh, fuck” said Myra. “Fuck,fuck, fuck. I promised to go over there and help her troubleshoot their breaker box, to see if she really does need to call in an electrician. I should be there by now.” She sat upright, almost tumbling Ginny to the floor.

Ginny began laughing hard. “Proving your point about my tenuous status, is that what you're trying to do? No, go on, I'll vacuum and mop while you're gone, the floors are grotty.”

After she heard the front door shut and Myra's car pull out of the driveway, Ginny lay back down and pulled the quilt over her. Franklin came to look at her questioningly, as she began crying, hard sobs wracking her chest. He kneaded her back briefly before giving up to go watch the geckos some more. When she was cried out, Ginny washed her face thoroughly and decided to start a soup for dinner before cleaning. Something Myra would love – broccoli cheese. With pancetta bruschetta for her, olive tapenade for Ginny. She headed outside to cut fresh broccoli.

The following evening, at singing potluck where Myra brought lobster pot pie in lemon cream sauce, chicken florentine pot pie, and beef/pork pot pie in wine gravy, she pulled Gillam aside afterward to ask “That underwater video camera you have, would it be safe to use in a dirty water environment?”

“What do you mean by dirty, toxic?” He looked alarmed.

“No, just not a swimming pool.”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Will you let me borrow it a couple of days, then? And show me how it works.”

The next day, while Ginny was leading Dance Class with the grandkids, Myra pulled out the paint roller pole again and taped a loop of plastic rope to the end. The rope was tied through the handle of the Gillam's video camera. When the dancers had to take a break, catching their breaths and getting a drink, Myra said “Follow me out to the pond for a scientific exploration.”

“Today's not Science Day” objected Mimi.

“Every day is science day, if you have an inquiring mind” replied Myra. David was already out the back door, and Mimi followed them, if only to criticize some more.

Myra stood by the waterfall and asked Ginny “How deep it is here? This is the deepest part, yes?”

Ginny said “Four feet six inches, give or take soil build-up on the bottom.”

“Wat are doing?” asked David. Myra responded by turning on the camera and dropping the pole into the pond below the cataract. As David ran that direction, Ginny grabbed his shoulder and swung him onto her hip, saying “You can see better from up here.” Mimi hooked her hand to Myra's side pocket and peppered her with questions as Myra slowly circumnavigated the pond, raising and lowering the pole as the depth shifted. She made three complete circuits, one at the bottom level, one mid-deep, and one just under the surface. Then she pushed the pole out to the float and taped it from all sides underneath.

Lastly, she finagled the pole back into the grotto. At that point, there was a big splash and ripple which rose to the surface. Mimi screamed and David pushed back against Ginny's chest.

“The leviathan was disturbed” Ginny said ominously. Myra lifted the pole from the water and, after detaching the camera, panned all their faces before turning it off.

“Lemme see, lemme see” chanted Mimi.

“We have to dry off the camera very thoroughly before opening it to play back the tape” said Myra. She led her entourage back into the house, setting Mimi on the counter to watch. Once the tape was extracted, gratifyingly dry, they scrambled for the living room where Ginny turned off all the lights and sat on the couch, a grandchild on either side, as Myra loaded the tape.

It was an adrenaline-producing set of footage, from the beautiful green-blue jets pouring down under the waterfall to the prisms of reflected light from the float. They saw innumerable fish of various sizes and species. In the pitch black of the grotto, there was a shimmery flash which, on several playbacks, could not be nailed down except for an impression of size, but Ginny declared it to be the leviathan. They also discovered a small water snake living on a ledge above the entrance to the grotto, which turned Ginny's face grim. Myra promised to look it up and make sure it wasn't venomous.

They were still rewinding it and making up stories about the fish, whom Mimi was trying to name, when Carly and Eric arrived to pick up the kids for Jane and Gillam's date night. The uncles sat through it again, duly impressed. After they left, Myra copied the tape onto a minidisk, used computer software she'd hardly touched to convert this into an online file, and downloaded it to her blog, where it became an overnight sensation.

“You found a way to be Wart, after all” remarked Ginny.

“And safe from the lev” said Myra. “I think we have no fear about those kids deciding to try swimming in the pond any time soon, not after that.”

For Mimi's birthday, Margie gave her the dollhouse her grandfather David had bought for her when she was two, holding back some of the more delicate furniture for when Mimi was older. For David's birthday, two weeks later, Myra gave him a pink tutu almost identical to the one Gillam had worn obsessively as a toddler. David was enchanted, and Gillam, redfaced, could not stop laughing.

On June 21, the first day of spring, Jane gave birth after 13 hours of labor to a short, chubby girl with hazel eyes and light brown hair whom they named Leah Margaret. Ginny and Myra wept on each other's shoulder when they heard the name.

Mimi's reaction was “We already have a daughter, no more in dis house.”

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Thursday, December 4, 2008


Stacks of poker chips
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.

Spring 2016

David became an increasingly sunny baby as he began speaking more and, especially, gained mobility. Jane occasionally called him Dah-veed, the Hebrew version of his name, and this caught on among the rest of the family. It was particularly how Ginny came to refer to him, probably to differentiate him from her father, Myra thought. He was still much shorter than Mimi had been a year ago, but he was very strong for his size and surprisingly deft with his coordination.

As Mimi approached her two-year mark, however, she came into the power of “no” and, like all who developmentally discover their first alternative to being a doormat, she experienced it as a rush no matter how her family mediated it. She began by responding, when asked to do a certain action, with an airy “Not right now”, which was said with such charm the adults laughed and let it slide a few times. Possibly this was a mistake, possibly there were no changing the course she was on. “Not right now” inevitably became a scream of indignation, and Mimi began to wage rebellion and discord in every arena she could. As Gillam remarked, “Newly realized power combined with no maturity at all – it's like living with a two-foot-tall Cheney.” The only person not targeted for her outbursts was David, whom she treated as an ally.

Ginny went off to Pilchuck where her nightly calls home to Myra were full of new terminology and concepts which sent Myra to online research after they hung up. She was exhausted by caring for the grandchildren alone each afternoon that week, and wondered how Jane did it every morning: It was her main career at the moment, Myra decided.

The Thursday she was at Pilchuck, Ginny called home during an afternoon break, sitting somewhere outside, Myra could tell from the birdsong.

“Got news and a question” said Ginny.

“I got news, too – the pear tree is in full bloom” said Myra.

“Excellent” said Ginny. “Listen, I want to buy a glass globe made by one of the visiting blowers this week, it's indescribable. I'm thinking about floating it in the pond, using a filament anchored to the bottom if I can figure that out.”

“Wonderful idea” said Myra. “You don't ever have to ask me about bringing art to the house, you know -- “

“It costs $3500” said Ginny.

“Oh. Wow. Well, and it'll be a joint expense, that's what you're saying?”

“Yes, Myra. But if you want me to claim it as my own, I will” said Ginny.

“No. I trust you. I'm a little wary about floating that much money in the pond, however” admitted Myra.

“We'll talk it over when I get there” said Ginny. “I'll be just in time for shabbos dinner, there's an exhibition here I want to stay until the last minute for, can you defrost challah for me this week?”

“Sure” said Myra. “So that's your news and question, what else has gone on today?”

“Uh, no...That's the question and a second question, I guess” said Ginny. “The news is – you know that guy from Sedona, Roger, who's been my buddy all week? The new friend I was hoping to collaborate with?”

“Yep” said Myra. “The guy who does ikebanas, which has nothing to do with real flowers as you've explained it.”

“Yeah. Well, he made a move on me last night” said Ginny.

“Holy crap. Like, what, tried to kiss you?”

“Lunged my way but I smacked him a bit sharpish in the windpipe, I thought he was maybe falling on me” said Ginny. “Anyhow, turns out he's completely misconstrued all my artistic fervor and friendliness.”

“Ah, Ginny, I'm sorry to hear that, I really am. I thought he was smarter than that, from what you've said” commiserated Myra.

“I did, too. But apparently he mostly hangs out with women a generation younger than us, for whom lesbian is much more vague” said Ginny.

“Well, and if he watches porn, he's been warped by that definition, too. Which, come to think of it, is part of what has warped the younger generation of feminists as well. But it does raise the question, how come you keep attracting folks who think you're on the market, huh?” mused Myra.

There was a long silence. “What do you mean by that?” came Ginny's voice, high and strained.

“Oh, not any kind of accusation, I swear, I was just wondering – oh, listen, Gin, here comes the grandkids, I have to get off the phone. Call me back later if you want, okay? Go for the glass, sweetie. Love you.”

Ginny did not call back later and Myra was busy all evening making stock – veggie, chicken, fish, and beef – to freeze for quick use. Chris hung out with her, talking about grammar as a whittler of culture.

The next day, the family gathered at Jane and Gillam's waited half an hour past sundown for Ginny to arrive. She rushed in with ruddy cheeks, apologies, and new hand-blown wineglasses for Jane and Gillam in pale green flecked with gold melted into interior layers. She chose the chair next to Myra for the meal, and they kept leaning against each other, kissing lightly at intervals.

After clearing the table, Ginny asked David if he wanted to be her poker partner. He clambered into her lap happily and tested his hand-eye coordination skills to limit by stacking chips, to Ginny's steady murmur of “Now, what color is that one?”

“Yeyyow” he declared.

“Not quite. More purply, don't you think?”

“Purpul. And dis is yeyyow.”

“Well, on the greenish side of yellow. Here, what color is this one?”


“Bonzai! Nope, not in the mouth, it makes them all stick together. Okay, here, we've got our cards, let's have a look. Hmm. Should we open or fold? And if we open, with this many chips or this many?”

“Open! Dis minny.” He stood on Ginny's thighs to push their chips into the center. Four seats down, Mimi was likewise advising Margie, which Chris complained tossed out the window all hope of rationally assessing odds.

Once the flop was revealed, Ginny said softly to David, “Now, what colors are those three cards in the middle?”

“Red, red, and byack.”

“Absolutely right. That first red card is a heart, and so is the second one. Which means anybody with two hearts in the hole is feeling antsy right about now – though they couldn't have known these would come along, eh? The black card is a club. The only face card showing is a king of hearts. Now, your Daddy, sly boots that he is, raised us a small but solid amount, which means he had something worth pushing about. Because Gillam is a steady player, not given to bluffing – except, of course, for that occasional wild hare when he catches us all off guard. The question is, does he have a king that's making him stay in the game? What is he holding, I wonder?”

“I go look” offered David.

“Not on your life, buddy” said Gillam.

“Okay, Dah-veed, let's assume he has kings. Which means that's what we need to beat. Let's look at our cards again – no, not in the mouth. What shall we do, fold or bet?”


“All righty, then, put these in the pot, will you?”

Gillam called their bet and raised again, which David decided they should call. The turn revealed an ace of spades, bringing forth more betting from Gillam and a call from Allie.

Ginny said “All right, beautiful boy, do we call it a day or do we sing 'take me to the river'?”

“Ribber!” said David, pushing their chips in.

The final card was the queen of hearts. When Ginny turned over a heart flush, Allie expostulated “You opened with a goddamned 3 and 7 of hearts?”

“Worked, didn't it?” grinned Ginny. David was gleefully raking in their chips, sending half of them to the floor. He slid off her lap to laboriously pick them up. Mimi said “I come stack those for you.”

“No!” shouted David, trying to hurl himself back into Ginny's lap.

“Here, Mimi” said Margie, “You can rearrange our dwindling resources. See if you can alternate each color, first a green, then a purple, then a yellow.”

Myra bent over and rescued the chips David had abandoned. Ginny said to the table “I surely did miss you all this week. Did you miss me?” She was looking at Mimi.

“No” said Mimi in a hard tone.

“Oh, fiddlesticks, you whined every afternoon about how lonely you were for your bubbe” said Myra severely.

“Did not” said Mimi. David patted Ginny's cheek and said “Bubbe” softly.

I missed you” said Margie. “Listen, everyone else knows, the inspection of the house next door turned up a minor plumbing issue and a recommendation for a new roof. We've put in a counter-bid, either they repair it or come down on the price.”

“Have you heard back?” asked Ginny.

“Not yet. It'll probably be better for us to the roof ourselves, we need to reconfigure a couple of the interior walls anyhow” said Margie.

“But you have to give your tenants three months to move out, which means you can't start work on it until then” said Ginny.

“True. Well, we'll see” said Margie. “In the meantime, Frances's cookbook is at the publisher Allie's agent recommended. And I'm about to be handed a 14th century Japanese map to restore.”

“Can I come look at it?” asked Eric.

“Any of you can, as long as you put on cotton gloves and a breath mask” said Margie.

Edwina said, “Hey, I saw in the paper that the Alvin Ailey dance troupe is coming to town in a month. I know David's attention span is miniscule, but I'd be willing to walk him outside for breaks if you think we can try taking him.”

Jane and Gillam looked at each other. “I don't think Mimi would like it -- “ began Gillam.

“What? I would, too!” shouted Mimi.

“But maybe you could take just him, and we'll find another treat for her that night” finished Gillam.

“What treat?” Mimi was scowling. “Can I have it now?”

“No, it's a month away. After your birthday” said Jane smoothly. “Have you decided on what kind of cake you want for your birthday?”

Tonight her choice was strawberry chocolate. Which brought up pleas for more dessert, and tears when the answer was no.

Once the blow-up was over, Gillam waited another 15 minutes before announcing “Okay, it's bath time.”

Before Mimi could erupt again, Margie said “Oh, yay, could I be the one to play with you two this bath?”

Mimi looked at her suspiciously. Carly jumped in, saying “Me too, I want to play, too.”

David was already sliding off Ginny's lap. Gillam grinned and said “Have at it. You can use our big tub down here.”

Margie went upstairs to get pajamas while Carly began running the water. Gillam called after him “Use the lavender bubble stuff, it helps 'em sleep.” Eric took over Carly's hand and Myra walked around to assume Margie's place.

A few minutes later, bare-assed Mimi and David emerged to do a brief potty dance before Margie herded them back into the bathroom. It was another three-quarters of an hour before they all returned, the children wet-haired and shiny-faced, for goodnight kisses.

“Daddy tells us a story and Mommy sings us a song” announced Mimi. “Just them.”

Gillam stood tiredly and pulled Jane to her feet. Myra slid over to take Gillam's hand instead of Margie's. Grown-up poker settled in with serious faces and edgy betting.

When the parents came back downstairs, Jane was still humming “Lavender Blue, Dilly-Dilly”. She put on water for tea and returned to set the baby monitor on the table. Gillam booted Myra out of his chair, commenting “I have visibly fewer chips than when I left, what did you do, go hogwild?”

“Come sit with me again, sweetheart” urged Ginny. As Myra snuggled beside her, she said “You haven't told them about your boyfriend yet.”

Ginny looked irritated, but she recounted the episode with her now given-up-on friend Roger. Chris thought it was hilarious. Margie said “As if you'd possibly be looking for guys, with that haircut you wear. I can't believe you two still cut each other's hair.”

“We get what we want that way” said Myra. “And you're a fine one to complain, with your generation preferring a style that looks like you slept with a neurotic cat who sucked on your hair all night.”

Ginny cracked up. “Just watch, when Jane and Gillam's kids become teenagers, our 70's dyke do's will have come back into fashion and they'll all be doing it.”

Jane shook her head quietly at Margie.

Carly said to Gillam “Listen, when they pottied, David's poop smelled weird.”

“Yeah, I noticed he was gassy when I was holding him for story time. I'll give him rice cereal and applesauce for breakfast, see if we can ward off another bout of diarrhea” said Gillam.

Jane brought a large pot of tea to the table, and as she poured milk into her cup, she said “Gillam and I are talking about setting up a surveillance system in the kid's bedrooms upstairs. At least while they're little and using the hall up there as a main play area. With me alone downstairs, it would help if I could listen in and watch them. Mimi's been stuffing things down the toilet and trying to climb over the fence on the outside deck up there to get onto the roof.”

“Holy fuck” said Allie. She looked at Margie and said “Have you been telling her she can levitate, too?”

Ginny asked Jane “Are you still planning to start sleeping in that second bedroom up there, once the new baby comes?”

“Yes” said Jane. She had pushed her chair close enough to Gillam's to lean partly against him. On Monday, she'll be at 33 weeks thought Myra.

“Call Aaron” Myra said to Gillam. “He can talk you through your options.”

“Yeah, I was going to anyhow, about the idea of putting a gate between our yard and Carminati's parking lot. So Margie and Frances can get here directly. I'll have a gate in every fence, I guess” said Gillam. Allie nudged him and said something under her breath but Myra heard “compound”.

At that moment, a thin wail came over the baby monitor. Before Jane and Gillam could shift, Ginny stood and said “I'll go to him.” Gillam said “That sounds like his 'I've crapped myself' cry.”

“I recognize it, too” said Ginny. She hurried up the stairs. In a minute they heard her murmur coming from the baby monitor, “Hey, honey boy, let's take you to the bathroom.”

They all jumped a few minutes later when Ginny's voice came in a loud whisper, saying “All righty, snuggle up here and I'll tell you a story. What do you want to hear?”

“Baba Yaga?”

“I'll tell the one about when she makes paprikash and all her pots and pans start sneezing” said Ginny. After she began, David interrupted to say “Bubbe, do you have milk?”

“Not in my breasts any more, no. I did when I had babies, when your daddy was a baby, and Aunt Margie. You can touch but don't squeeze, okay?” She went on with her story.

Margie said to Jane “He does that with me, too.” Jane looked sad.

When Ginny returned, she said “I'm begging off for the night, it's been a very long day. You can split my chips among you.”

Myra stood up immediately to join her, and she heard Sima giggle. They didn't talk once they got home, or even unwrap the glass float, but went directly to bed.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild


Tuesday, December 2, 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, December 1, 2008


(First 11.5 minutes of today's press conference with President-Elect Barack Obama announcing his national security team; does not include conclusion, acceptances and press questions)

I woke up at an odd hour today, my sleep definitely out of whack, and after deciding I would not be able to drop right back off, I turned on the television hoping for more than diet tips and small claims court. I was just in time to see yet another Barack Obama press conference, this one announcing his national security team, as follows:

Secretary of State -- Senator Hillary Clinton of New York
Secretary of Defense -- Robert Gates (currently in this position)
Attorney General -- Eric Holder, former Deputy Attorney General of the United States
Secretary of Homeland Security -- Janet Napolitano, Governor of Arizona
Ambassador to the United Nations -- Dr. Susan Rice, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
National Security Advisor -- General James Jones, former Commandant of the Marine Corps, former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe and former Commander, United States European Command

A transcript of this press conference is available from the Chicago Sun-Times here.

Let me begin by saying what an unholy relief it is to be able to once again face speeches from a President (Elect) with trust and interest, instead of fear and embarrassment. I know you know what I mean.

I think Obama is using this series of pressers in a number of ways. First, he's assuming power, respectfully but definitively, and it's being ceded to him by our frat-boy loser who patently cannot wait to go cut mesquite an hour north of where I live and be allowed to openly drink himself into oblivion. (Deeper oblivion, I should say.) To quote Vice President Elect Biden from today's speech, "These are extraordinary times, and that's not hyperbole". We are in death-rattle need of leadership, and watching it pull on hip boots is giving everybody except the End-Timers a chance to breathe again.

Second, he's re-educating America to expect communication, useful information, and respect from its government. Like, speaking in, whoa, complete sentences, you know? No code words, no bluster, no shoddily-concealed lies, no fear-mongering, and no "dumbing it down". I'm pained by how unusual it looks and sounds. And I very much appreciate how he is all business. These are not joking matters he's bringing to us. I'm more than ready to be around grown-ups again.

It reminds me of my second-favorite "News of the Weird" story, concerning a deputy sheriff who went to an isolated campground on his patrol and had to use the outdoor toilet there. A one-holer with a large aperture, to be specific (it matters to the story). As he was pulling back up his pants, his wallet fell from his back pocket and into the opening. However, he thought he was lucky because the offal had not been emptied in quite a while and was both at a high level and relatively thick, in viscous terms. His wallet remained on the surface in plain view, a few feet down. He grabbed hold of the side and leaned in -- money can be washed, after all.

You can guess what happened. When he splashed upright, he was up to his neck in it. He hadn't radioed in his pit stop, and no one thought to look for him for hours. He wound up spending the night standing in the crapper. When they finally found him the next day, and he had been safely extricated, one of his colleagues began laughing. Bad move: The deputy tried to kill him.

We have a long way to go before we'll feel like laughing about what's been done to our nation. If ever.

Obama is also using his professorial skills, so very evident in his campaign, to teach us how to think logically and deeply again. He is an oddity, a charismatic who is not an ideologue but instead a pragmatist. Intelligent thought and analysis is at its heart very practical. Our current rule by punditry is full of white boy sound and fury passing as intelligence, but is usually more emotion-laden than a slumber party prank phone call spree.

In particular, Obama seems to be trying to teach our media how to ask rational, probing questions, a skill few of them apparently possess. Today the press corps was obsessed with Hillary (CDS in full spate) or if Obama wanted India to bomb Pakistan for the Mumbai tragedy. He dealt with both graciously the first time, even managing to get a laugh at one reporter's expense by (gently) pointing out how the press wants to dredge up campaign rhetoric again. The second time he was asked the same questions, he was more clipped and brief, but not in that sulky, dim-eyed Republican way. He simply wasn't going to reward bad behavior, and the issue on the table was not Clinton or threats of war. In fact, when you heard Clinton's acceptance, it was extremely clear she's making herself part of Obama's administration. Her remarks were the most eloquent of all the acceptances, and the most supportive of him as a leader. But -- right over the heads of the press corps.

Watching many of these reporters try to adjust to direct, clear language, complicated ideas and responsible government is like watching Vince Vaughn discover his new girlfriend in a movie actually wants to have conversation with him: They're simultaneously resentful and intrigued. This should be fun to watch unfold.

Years ago, I had a chance to hear Anne Lamott speak at the annual Art and Soul Conference at Baylor University. She said things that literally changed the direction of my life, but when she paused to drink down a glass of water before taking questions, she gave us her personal ground rules: She wasn't interested in being attacked or disrespected, and would not participate in any form of it, even that deft academic version which leaves working class folks like me wanting to say "What the fuck do you mean?" She said she only wanted to hear honest questions, not pontifications or arguments. If someone wanted to pontificate or argue, they could write their own books, thank you. And if somebody chose to ignore her guidelines, or tried to slip one over on her, she said she would smile at him (she added it was almost always a him, because men having such a hard time listening to powerful women without arguing at least in their heads) and go on to the next questioner without reply.

It worked like gangbusters. Only one guy tried to weasel past the verbal barrier, and she did exactly what she'd warned: He and his multisyllabic quasi-harangue was left hanging as she called on the next person. We all roared in laughter, the weasel crept away, and the questions (and answers) got very, very interesting. Obama is likewise trying to give us all room to be smart, connected, and decent, to have a conversation where we may disagree without shouting each other down or scoring points off each other. We sorely need it.

Another irritating attempt at "gotcha" journalism which surfaced twice was repeating the Right-Wing derision about assembling a "team of rivals", as if the only form of governance of value is surrounding yourself with those who dare not argue with you. (We see how well that's worked.) Obama brushed by it. I wish he'd used the chance to point out that McCain tried to run his campaign on how much he disagreed with Duyba, a myth we all saw through, and that was never questioned by the right-of-center press as unworkable difference of opinion.

My other major impression of this particular press conference was jubilation at seeing 50% of the population of my nation represented among his choices. And not just sisters, but one of them a Sistah. Susan Rice's background is in African affairs, which may not be spotless but certainly bodes well for Africa being treated as a player on the world stage.

But next time, folks, can we please either have a dais for short people to stand on so they aren't blocked by mics on the podium, or, even better, raise the camera angle so we get a full view of their faces?

I'll leave the commentary on the political meaning of these appointees to others, except to say none of them would have been my choice. But, then, I'm a liberal. I'm sorry to see Senator Clinton leave the Senate. She's been a strong force for women there. Likewise, I'm sorry to see Arizona lose Napolitano as Governor. I wish Obama's team wasn't so loaded with hawks, but then he is a hawk (and definitely not a liberal), so it was to be expected. I agree that Gates isn't of the same stripe as Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, but that's hardly a recommendation, is it? Still, I'm willing to accept Obama's exhortation that he's interested in competence and effectiveness over ideology, at least for the time being.

That's another bit of job retraining he's having to bring to our government, the ability to recognize competence and effectiveness, to reward it and learn to expect it once again. What a concept.

[Cross posted at Group News Blog.]


Sunday, November 30, 2008


Toddler dancing the Macarena
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.

Spring 2016

A few days later, Gillam told his mothers he and Jane had decided to take their children camping one weekend a month. “We want them to experience nature on a regular basis” he said.

“We go out in the yard every time they visit” protested Ginny. “Their little fingers have planted half the starts in the garden.”

“Not that kind of nature, Mama. Wilderness, the real deal” he replied.

Myra looked at Ginny's face, seeing the little urban Jewish girl whose only access to outdoors was an occasional stint at Hebrew summer camp and those precious visits to the Gulf each summer. Myra knew what Gillam was talking about: Her access to fields and woods had likely saved her sanity as a child. But Ginny had made the most of what she had. She felt protective of Ginny.

“Anyhow, we bought a camping trailer and I was wondering if we could store it in one side of your double carport. At our place, it'll have to sit on the street” he asked.

Myra and Ginny walked over to look at the new purchase, a “Camping Buddy” which was basically the size of a queen bed on wheels.

“I found it on Craig's List” said Gillam. “It's the right size for our car to pull, and we'll be staying in national forests where there's picnic tables and fire pits anyhow, so all we needed was a warm place to sleep.”

“What's wrong with tents? I mean, with a good sleeping bag” said Ginny. Myra thought she heard a note of challenge in Ginny's voice.

“Two babies and a pregnant woman on the cold hard ground?” countered Gillam. “Not to mention next weekend, when we're going, is a time of year when bears are waking up from hibernation, ravenous and aggressive.”

“Gillam watched one of those animals gone ballistic shows on TV last week” said Jane with a giggle. “When he was supposed to be grading papers. He's got a bear fixation now.”

“Next weekend?” said Myra.

“Yeah, we're leaving right after school, Jane will pick me up. We'll be back by Sunday evening, though, for the singing potluck” said Gillam.

“Well, this is adorable and snug, and of course you can stash it in our driveway” said Ginny. “Take lots of pictures.”

There was only room enough for their little nuke fam in that trailer thought Myra. Not even Carly was being invited.

That evening, Ginny came to Myra's desk and said “Can you find an audio file of 'The Macarena' online that we could download to a disk?”

“I guess so” said Myra, minimizing her manuscript. “But what on earth for?”

“I'm going to start a weekly dance class with the grandkids” said Ginny, pulling up a second chair. “As long as they're prisoners of the city, might as well learn how to dance.” They laughed together and began searching.

Eventually Myra located a copy of “Mah na'vu” and the Hokey Pokey. Ginny called Margie for advice on suitable hip-hop dance tunes, and they loaded a disk with music, including cotton-eyed joe, the Blue Danube waltz, the twist, the funky chicken, and the Bristol Stomp.

“You know, children love structure. I think we should have each day of the week designated for a particular activity, like Dance Class day” said Ginny.

“You mean, like gardening day or cooking day?” asked Myra.

“Well, we're going to do those every time they're over here. Likewise art and reading. But what about special activities we don't do more than once a week?” said Ginny. She eventually painted a lovely schedule which hung in the entry to their living room. Monday was Dance Class, Tuesday was Goodwill Day, Wednesday was Puppet Day, Thursday was Science Day, and Friday was Mystery Box Day.

Ginny, on one of her thrift store scavenger hunts, had found an old wooden box that she said was used to hold glass plates for old-fashioned photography. It had sleeved holes in either side for sliding in and out the plates. She refinished it, repaired the lid, and replaced the ragged rubber sleeves with velvet. Once a week, Myra would put in two objects whose function might not be known to the children, like a cooking utensil, a specialized tool, or an item from the natural world. Each child would insert their hand into the Mystery Box, shivering a little with anxiety about possible hidden monsters, and pull out whatever they could grab. They'd then speculate about its origin and use. The other child would take their turn, and only after an hour of experimentation and fantasy would Myra reveal the often disappointing reality.

On Fridays, when the children arrived, the Mystery Box would be sitting ready on the dining room table. Usually Jane stuck around to watch part of the fun. After Mystery Box time, Ginny helped the kids make challah, and they moved on to help set up for shabbos, then making dinner with Myra.

Myra had a break on Dance Class day, because Ginny was happy to do that on her own. Puppet Day landed more heavily on Myra. Ginny of course helped make puppets, but once it was time to write the story and act it out, Ginny preferred to be the audience while Myra was dramaturg and creative writer. She complained they sucked her juices dry. Ginny was very good about commenting loudly on the story arc, which inevitably resulted in a small head popping up from behind the proscenium to grin at her before resuming the action.

Science Day often involved field trips, nature hikes, or home experiments. The new flooring beside the dining table got permanently stained on Science Day from Myra's volcano involving red food coloring and a little too much baking soda for the vinegar poured into the caldera.

Goodwill day was a long rampage through the giant second-hand store with the best toy selection. There was a set order to their journey through the aisles, with visits to housewares, glassware, kids' clothes, tools, and furniture interspersed with toys and books. David was allowed to walk on his own in every department except the glassware section, which he relished. The kids were encouraged to look for gifts for other family members, and these were brought home to be possibly touched up, then stashed in a “present cupboard” for birthday and holiday use. They were also allowed to buy any clothing item under $2 they wanted to add to their dress-up trunk.

The weekend Gillam's family was off camping, Myra discovered she didn't really miss them. Saturday afternoon, Carly and Eric came over with the bunnies for a visit. Carly said he was interested in learning more about making English-style puddings, a carbohydrate alternative to potatoes or rice.

“Let's see what the Two Fat Ladies have to suggest” said Myra, turning to her cookbook shelf.

“Oh god, Myra, every one of their recipes begins with 'fry up a pound of streaky bacon'" said Ginny. “Even the desserts.”

Carly winked at her and they continued their quest in soft voices. Eric said he was going outside to check on Dink, who was overfond of the raspberry canes. Ginny followed him and they wound up tearing out a bed of bedraggled hosta to start scarlet runner beans instead.

After the boys were gone, as Myra and Ginny were eating dinner, Ginny said “I want to go to Pilchuck"

Myra had the feeling she ought to know what Pilchuck was. Finally she confessed "Pilchuck is where, exactly?"

"I've talked about it. Chihuly's glass school. I want to attend a few days, watch the techniques, maybe talk with someone who also does painting" said Ginny with a trace of irritation.

"Oh, right. Okay, sounds good. You want me along or -- "

"No, I'd rather go on my own. It might be as long as a week" said Ginny.

"Before the next baby is born, I'm assuming" said Myra.

Ginny sighed. "Yeah, I guess it has to be. I'll check into their schedule and come back to you with dates."

"Are you thinking about taking up glass blowing?" asked Myra, half-joking.

Ginny paused for a long minute. "I'm drawn to it. Or sculpture. But starting over in a new media...I'd love the challenge, and my gut says I could find a way to retool my vision, I guess you'd call it. But any aspect of it, being a gaffer, even the stuff Flora McDonald does, involves intense physical labor that, well, I might be too old to handle. I mean, some of the best are elderly, not just middle-aged, but they started young and they have muscle memory keeping them safe." Ginny paused, looking sad. "Plus it would probably mean no income at all for years."

"Ah, Ginny" said Myra, folding her hands behind her neck. "I understand. I often feel my own narrowed routes. Because of choices I made gladly and don't want to fundamentally change, let me add."

"Well, you go to Breadloaf and I'll go to Pilchuck, and we'll reassess together" said Ginny. Myra thought But Breadloaf wasn't my idea, really.

On Sunday evening, they walked over with polenta and turkey burgers to see the newly-returned campers.

"We was in de snow, Gramma!" enthused Mimi.

"Oh, lovely" said Myra. "Did you make a snow-poly?" She had begun using the noun "snow-roly-poly" when Gillam and Margie were little, in an effort to avoid an unnecessarily gendered term, and it had gotten shortened to snow-poly over time.

"Uh-huh, and we frew snowballs at each uvver. Daddy put snow down Mama's coat. Den she sat on TOP of him and he couldint get away. She rubbed snow on his belly and he screamded, and he said his nickles were were direct" narrated Mimi.

"Oh my god" exclaimed Gillam in horror. Jane fell over on the couch, howling with laughter. Myra told Mimi "Don't be surprised if you wind up with enough siblings to form your own Supreme Court".

"Wat you mean?"

"Nothing. What else did you do?"

"We fed birds. And had hot choklit. Daddy, my hands are still cold, could I have hot choklit now?"

Gillam was not feeling generous toward Mimi at the moment. "No. Let's go wash your hands in warm water, they need cleaning anyhow."

As they headed for the bathroom, Mimi resisting, Margie said to Jane “You might want to have a vocabulary lesson with her before she's asked to make change for a dollar.” Which set Jane off again.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.